QualityWings Ulitimate 146
FSX. Join Captain Hoffen as he takes a close look at the now complete QualityWings Ultimate 146 Collection. We were waiting with growing anticipation as the QualityWings team put the finishing touches on the rest of the aircraft in this package, and some were starting to wonder if they would ever get done. Well, they showed up a few weeks ago and if you haven't taken the plunge, stay with us for the overdue ADX review of these amazing airliners.
[Note: For format purposes, images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
Nearly a year ago I received an installer from Flight1 in my download folder containing the super-nifty Avroliners from QualityWings. For me it was a must-buy. The real Avroliner quad-jets have always fascinated me, because of what they can do and with 4 little jet engines hanging under their wings.....well, I think that's just cool. When I bought it, I didn't care much about the BAe 146 variants planned for a later release, I wanted the RJ's. All that other stuff would just be extra candy to put on the cake. And I was very happy, cratering the runway over and over again at UK2000's London City Airport. I kind of forgot about the rest of the package. When the preview shots started trickling out this summer, though, I started paying attention. I am always excited about new products, especially high-quality stuff like this. Plus, I'm a sucker for a new challenge like a different FMS or autopilot. By the time they released the full package, I was more than ready for it.
The real world BAe 146/Avro RJ series was designed to be an easy to maintain, ultra-quiet, short-haul regional airliner. And even with four turbofan engines, it was relatively efficient for the time. With its steep-approach and short-field capabilities, it was the first, and until the A318 came along, largest jetliner to operate out of London City Airport. The BAe 146-200QT (Quiet Trader) and -200QC (Quick Change) were given a cargo door for freighter duty. Although production ceased in 2003, the series lives on with new variants such as air-to-air refuelers, troop-carriers, and fire-bombers being converted from the original airframes. In service around the world, and with nearly 400 airframes produced, the BAe 146/Avro RJ is considered by many to be Briton's most successful commercial jet.
The Ultimate 146 Collection from QualityWings consists of the passenger versions of the British Aerospace BAe 146/Avro RJ lines including the:
- BAe 146-100
- BAe 146-200
- BAe 146-300
- Avro RJ70
- Avro RJ85
- Avro RJ100
The Ultimate 146 Collection is the first QualityWings product for me personally, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The screens looked really good and scuttle around the intertubes was positive, so I ponied up for the package. After downloading from Flight1, I ran the installer. Having previously purchasing items from Flight1, it was easy for me to zip through the buying process, but if you are a new customer, you have to fiddle a bit imputing your info into their system......really not a big deal, though. The first thing I noticed after loading up was that QW does not include any airline liveries with the package - just the QW paint job. I think a few common airline paints would be nice to get started. Well, this gave me a chance to use the QW 146 Dispatcher to install some new liveries. Simply download the repaints from the downloads section of the QualityWings website, then using the Dispatcher, select the .qwl file from where ever you saved it and it does all the work of installing the new paints. Easy-peasy. Other paints are available out there in internet-land, but you'll have to manually install them. With all that sorted, I cracked the books in preparation for some seat time.
The QW Avro RJ is really not a"kick the tires and lite the fires" type of add-on and neither is the 146. To really take advantage of all these jets have to offer, you need to do a little reading, especially if starting from a cold and dark state. Fortunately QualityWings includes really good documentation including a dandy quick-start guide and a very thorough user's manual.
Normally I try to avoid any serious systems studying when it comes to my flight simming - I get plenty of that in real life - but the QualityWings manuals and systems modeling make it sort of fun to learn this airplane. The 146's are a bit simpler than the RJ's because there is a little less automation, which means less programming for pilots to mess with, but systems-wise, nearly the same as the newer planes.
Once you get the APU up and running, it's time for a little button mashing on the FMS. FMS operation is rather true to the real boxes and causes a similar level of frustration. QW has thoughtfully given us a choice on the amount of complexity we want to swear at.....I mean, use for our flights. Using the QW Control Panel (accessible by clicking the rudder adjust handle) we are able to select a "lite" mode which takes away some of the functionality of the autopilot on the Avro, like the "Flight Level Change" mode and changes several other things for simplified operation.
The 146 has a lite mode also, but I don't see the need for it....the autopilot is pretty straight forward in "standard" mode. According to the manual, lite mode also adds a "Start/Stop" switch to the overhead panel for simple start up/shutdown, and if lite mode is selected from the QW Control Panel, it is supposed to bring the plane to a "ready for departure" state. I couldn't seem to make this feature work...I couldn't locate the button.
I'm not sad about this, but it is a function stated in the manual so I would expect it to work in practice. And it may, I might just be too thick to make it work. Anyway, you also have several ways to get around programming the FMS in the Avro. If you create or load a flight plan using FSX's flight planner you can load it into the FMS or simply use the "GPS" mode on the Mode Control Panel to track the FSX plan......no profanity required. But it is really satisfying to set up the FMS, engage the autopilot after takeoff and watch the airplane fly the programmed SID's altitudes and routing. The 146 also has a GPS mode on the MCP. But I much prefer the "normal" mode of pushing the FMS buttons and properly completing the start procedures and checklists...it doesn't take long after you get the hang of it.
The planes fly nicely as I would expect...I have never flown a real one, but I find I enjoy hand-flying them through departures and approaches quite often. Taxiing is smooth and the speed is easy to control as you trundle about, just watch your speed in the turns. The autopilot works grand in both the Avro and the 146 and the Avro's autothrottle functions as it should....most of the time. Sometimes one lever will get left behind and you have to move it back with the group, but once reunited they all work good. The Thrust Modulation System (TMS) on the 146 is not an autothrottle system but will fine tune the throttles to a set target or selected mode if the throttles are within a certain percentage of the desired value. If outside this range, the TMS panel will give you a hint on which way to move the power. Very cool. The TMS does some other groovy magic for takeoff and descent, too.
The Avro's have autoland capabilities and it works very well. Proper approach setup is key for the autoland function to arm. These aircraft are all steep approach capable, too. Just remember to push the right button on the GPWS panel or it will squawk at you as you dive toward the runway at EGLC....and don't forget to deploy the air brakes on final, otherwise you'll be too fast.
This is where this plane shines - London City.
Cat III Autoland action in Zurich.
For those who like to tweak their aircraft...that would be me, QualityWings has thoughtfully included a whole slew of config mods without messing with the aircraft.cfg file. The manual lists a bunch of stuff that can be added to a separate .cfg file to customize it as you like. Very handy, for those of us who can't leave well enough alone.
The exterior model is very good-looking....well, fantastic really. And with the HD paint textures available, it is sometimes hard to differentiate reality from this thing. Even the dirt is done well. Just the right amount of grease and grime to make it look like it's been in service for a while. These beauties aren't fresh off the production line, they have some experience. Kinda like me. The QualityWings team has done an outstanding job with the modeling and textures of these planes.
The night lighting effects are just fabulous. I love flying this plane at night. The exterior lights are a thing to behold and the interior lights are very well done.
Another nifty feature is the QWPAS system. This system provides automatic passenger announcements for different phases of flight. If you follow the proper checklist sequence as detailed in the manual, you will hear the QWPAS system giving the passenger briefings as you go. Airline specific safety demos for the QWPAS are available in the downloads section of the QW website.
I guess my only nitpick is the airstair situation. The real aircraft could be ordered with an airstair, but not many airlines chose that option. It is included on a few of the liveries available from QW. What would have been nice is a ground services stair as an option in the control panel.
It works well with GSX ground services, but using some jetways looks a bit awkward. Again, an airstair operated by the control panel would be groovy.
The British Aerospace BAe 146/Avro RJ airliners are personally my favorite passenger jets of all time, and I was not disappointed in the least with my purchase of the QualityWings package. Being able to fly these beautiful machines has confirmed my opinion of these jets, and made me a return customer of QualityWings products....I'm really anticipating the QW 787! My only question now is: When can we expect to see the 146-200QT and QC versions? Soon please?
My recommendation on the QW 146 Ultimate Collection? A definite must-have for any tubeliner aficionado. This is the most flown airliner in my fleet, I love it.
Get it HERE: http://www.flight1.com/products.asp?product=qw146