IGFly Tupolev Tu-154M Review --
By Giorgio La Pira
It surprises me a lot to listen to comments by virtual pilots like, "hey! There is a new airplane that is impressive and besides, it's simple!" I believe that no airplane is simple, and much less simple if it's a good representation for Flight Simulator. Now, there are airplanes, and there are airplanes, and with some, you can start your Flight Simulator, load your scenery, accelerate and take-off; this is not the case with airplanes such as the B747-200 from RFP and the Tu-154M from IGFly that I analyze in this review.
This airplane is very complicated, not only because it's "old" and needs a third pilot or flight engineer to be operated, but also it is Russian and uses a different metric system with which we are not accustomed. Don't worry, I don't know Russian and I fly it.. : -). To begin to analyze this new and impressive add-on for FS I think that it would do well to look at the history of the real airplane very quickly and its production, then the model, the textures, the flight dynamics, the sounds, the panel and other information.
The Tu-154 is Tupolev's sixth commercial airliner design and is currently in widespread civil use in Russia as a medium range airliner. Small numbers of the 900 built are in military service, mainly used as VIP transports.
The Tu-154 was developed to replace the turbojet powered Tupolev Tu-104, plus the An-1 0 and IL-18 turboprops. Design criteria in replacing these three relatively diverse aircraft included the ability to operate from gravel or packed earth airfields, the need to fly at high altitudes 'above most Soviet Union air traffic, and good field performance. In meeting these aims the initial Tu-154 design featured three Kuznetsov (now KKBM) NK-8 turbofans, triple bogey main undercarriage units which retract into wing pods and a rear engine T-tail configuration.
The Tu-154's first flight occurred on October 4 1968. Regular commercial service began in February 1972. Three Kuznetsov powered variants of the Tu-154 were built, the initial Tu-154, the improved Tu-154A with more powerful engines and a higher max takeoff weight and the Tu-154B with a further increased max takeoff weight. Tu-154S is a freighter version of the Tu-154B.
Current production is of the Tu-154M, which first flew in 1982. The major change introduced on the M was the far more economical, quieter and reliable Solovyev (now Aviadvigatel) turbofans. The Tu-154M2 is a proposed twin variant powered by two Perm PS90A turbofans.
Most Tu-154s in military service are used for VIP transport, while Germany has converted one with various sensors for Open Skies treaty verification flights.
2. FEATURES (from the IGFly website)
- Tu-154M Features Highlight
Realistic flight dynamics tested with real Tu-154M pilots
Realistic fuel distiribution system
User friendly cockpit with advanced features and english tool tips (resolution up to 1600x1200)
High resolution model optimized for exceptional FPS rate
Unique surround sound systems
-- Tu-154M Features --
- Autopilot Features
Fully independent bank and pitch stabilization
Fully independent bank and pitch control with ability to specify values
Indicated airspeed and M value stabilization by pitch - M and V modes
Flight mode specified by course - 3K
Flight mode specified by VOR1 - A3I
Follow by course mode (NVU) with ability to choose automatic or manual transition to a waypoint
Automatic approach by ILS signals from NAV1 and NAV2 radio
RSBN (A3II mode) - VOR2 radial hold, ORBITA (clockwise and counter clockwise flight by circle of specified radius around beacon with indication when equal to specified radial), SRP (flight to a waypoint specified by distance and direction from beacon)
Realistic automatic throttle system
Automatic stabilization modes turn off when forced by controller (joystick), independent for bank and pitch.
Automatic throttle system deactivation when forced by manual throttle.
One button deactivation of all ABSU modes, includes automatic throttle system.
YXOD mode - Automatic "go around" mode when using automatic approach, turned on by setting throttle to "take off" mode.
ABSU power-assisted control. Fully integrated into aircraft hydraulic system.
Flight director mode works in all autopilot modes.
ABSU test on flight engineer panel.
Autopilot modes are in compliance with real aircraft modes as it possible to in MSFS.
Realistic lights and sound warning of instruments and systems failures.
Co-pilot callouts on landing altitude, take off/landing speed, gear and flaps position.
Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI/PNP)
Multimode. HSI located at co-pilot panel in real aircraft.
Taxi, landing lights release/retraction.
Inflight signal lights.
Fuel Distribution System
6 fuel tanks as on real aircraft.
Automatic/manual control of consumption system.
Fuel quantity equalizer system.
Crossfeed fuel distribution system.
Fuel quantity gauges with test option.
Pump turn on/off and pump modes signaling system
Fuel distribution system in compliance with real aircraft system.
Different start up procedures for on-ground and in-flight modes.
Full engine monitoring system.
In-Flight engine autorotation with ability to charge generators and hydro system's pumps.
Temperature dependant engine thrust
Realistic APU fuel consumption.
Hydraulic pump on APU startup.
Air bleed system.
Main power supply sources: batteries, APU generator, engine generators, external airport power supply.
Airport on-ground independent power supply.
All electric circuits indicators: 27/36/115V
All main power supply source indicators
Realistic batteries behavior. Batteries state depends on the right commutation at electrical panel.
Hydraulic system takes power from main engines or APU by default.
Ability to use electric pumps for pumped-hydroelectric storage.
Ability to use In-Flight engine autorotation power.
ABSU, rudder and flaps depend upon working hydraulic system.
Communication and Navigation
Independent COM1 and COM2 radio, can be turned on/off separately.
Independent NAV1 and NAV2. Realistic smooth distance changing. Metering system (nm/km) switching ability. Can be turned on/off separately.
Independent two channel ADF1 and ADF2 with ability to display data on RMI. Realistic frequencies. Can be turned on/off separately.
Fully controllable Horizontal Stabilizer (manual and automatic mode).
Realistic independent nose-wheel control.
Analog clocks with ability to synchronize with simulation time. Time acceleration from 1/256x to 128x.
Doppler radar, used for navigation system
Advanced sound system in Cockpit View and VirtualCockpit View modes.
Several dynmaic wing views
Virtual Cockpit (available in next update)
Opening Doors & Cargo doors
3d Flight Attendant in the cabine
All normal animations
Extended animations (pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant, flight engineer)
Highly accurate textures
Created in cooperation of real pilots of Tupolev 154M
Tested by 8 independent testers (2 real pilots, 1 flight engineer, 5 simmers)
One year of tuning
3. PURCHASE, DOWNLOAD AND INSTALLATION
All the procedures for purchase and download is done, at the moment, from the web site of IGFly (www.igfly.com). First of all you have to register yourself by creating a user account that will allow you to buy the plane, download the manuals and the textures and access the forums.
All the data processing program that is behind the web site runs perfectly, since it is a simple system of access to the forums,the servers and the magnificent anti-piracy system according to the state of your account. Because of it, to download the product (68.8 MB) you have to press a button on the "downloads" page that generates a file for you according to your account and IP, so each copy is localized in every moment. The installation is completely automatic and simple with a ".exe" file (image 3.1). After the installation (that by default includes only one texture) you can proceed to install the other free repaints that are on the site.
The model of the Tu-154M has of very high quality and is now on the level of the best and already well known list of models for FS. All the proportions have been respected and impressive animations have been generated (Image 4.1). The curious movement of the landing gear, the doors that can be opened and the flaps, present smooth movements without "stops and go". Without any doubt, the most curious one of all the movements is that of the landing gear (Image 4.2).
The single "problem" is the lack of a 3D cabin for the moment, but the team has already announced that it will be available in a short time in a completely free patch.
5. FLIGHT DYNAMICS
If you like heavy planes, this one is for you: it's not a B747, but the sensation of force in the motors mixed with that "slowness of movements" and "heaviness", but at the same time "security" and "power" at every moment you are cutting through the sky with your wings,this add-on is worthy of your interest. The Tu-154M is a 180 passengers airplane that flies like the other planes with the engines on the queue. IGFly is endeavoring to improve the dynamics a lot by using the aid of experienced, real pilots. These efforts can be appreciated by the fact that IGFly has already issued the 3rd version of the product in the span of 15 days from the original release, not to correct failures in the original version (that were few and secondary) but to improve what already was offered, listening also to the requests of their clients.
IGFly has released an extensive range of different textures that will make everyone who likes the East European companies happy.The Tu-154M has been an airplane used mainly in the countries of the former U.S.S.R (* Edited by Harrier Panels, Inc.). At the moment there are 14 different textures (Image 6.1) available, but I underline "at the moment", because IGFly said that they planned to release more than 80! All of them are freeware and can be downloaded, after login, in the liveries section. The quality of the textures is worthy of the best models for FS: since the reflections give the effect of the filth, they have taken care on the development of the repaints.
To the question "there will be a paint kit?" I can just answer what I listened from the team: a paint kit will be released only to a select group of repainters, elected by the IGFly Team. This has done because IGFly wants to maintain a high level of quality for the repaints of the model. To join this group you will have to send an e-mail to the team with the links of your best works, but I recommend you to wait for the official announcement on the forum and the site before you do anything.
The panel is, without a doubt, together with the sounds, the best thing of the Tu-154M. It's divided into several parts and screens that you can open with a little menu located on the left side of your monitor. All the panels have been designed with the aid of photoreal textures and high definition customized gauges. As I have said before, is not an easy board. The Russian is not a language that can be learned in two days, but having near you a conversion table (meters-km-km/h//feet-miles-knots), that is found on the internet or on page 12 of the manual (Image 7.1), will help you a lot.
Besides the good manual developed, IGFly has developed one more aid: the "english tooltips". If you remember, when you hover your mouse above a switch of a panel in FS, a little message appears with some information; on the IGFly tooltips you can see the name and the position of the switch (Image 7.2) that you are using.
- When we open the Flight Simulator and we begin to fly our Tupolev, we will find the main panel (Image 7.3) with the completely dark airplane (cold & dark). In this first screen we can see the typical instruments such as the altimeter, the artificial horizon, the RMI, the variometer, etc. To all this you can add pressing the buttons in the left menu , some indicators of trim and control surfaces, N1 and other data from the engines and a clock (Image 7.4). You can also open a window on the upper part (passing the mouse over) of the screen, that corresponds to the "aft-overhead" (Image 7.5). There you can find some switches like the pitch limitator, flaps and wheels levers, a part of the light system and more. Finally you can enlarge the main instruments and open a VFR view with less instruments but with more space for see outside.
- Another of the windows simulated is the "overhead" (Image 7.5), that is found over the heads of the pilots as the name indicates. In it we can find all the radio systems, (COMs, ADFs, NAVs, etc), the test systems for the majority of the navigations systems and finally, some electric switches such as "no smoking" and "fasten seat belts".
- The part of the panel that most impresses is the one of the flight engineer (Image 7.6), who no longer operates in the modern airplanes, leaving his assignment in the hands of the technology and of the computers. On this board you can find the batteries and electrical controls, APU, hydraulics and fuel systems as well as the switches for start and shutdown of the engines with their respective indicators.
This is one of the strong points of the airplane. I can just tell you that putting the speakers to half volume, you can "feel" what it is like to be a real pilot on a Tupolev flightdeck. The level of realism multiplies by a thousand if you have some good speakers and an acceptable sound card. There are some "complaints" (:-D) of customers in the forums, where you can read about the very high and deafening volume of the sounds, although it has been confirmed that they are like this also in the real airplane. A very curious (although quite normal thing in the Russian airplanes) is the constant sound of bells and notice alarms; the first few times, it is quite difficult to be accustomed and recognize the source of the alarm, but after a while you will understand the utility of them.
9. MANUALS AND TECHNICAL SUPPORT
Since the day of the release IGFly has made available two manuals to help the "pilots in training", a systems manual (Image 9.1/9.2), with conversion tables, general data of the airplane and of its performances, speeds and weight tables, etc.; and a "flight tutorial" (Image 9.3) with many images which is absolutely necessary in the first flights. Together they are about 70 pages and I recommend for you to print the pages to paper.
The technical support is absolutely amazing. The team can be contacted three ways: e-mail, ICQ or by the forums (one public for general questions before the purchase of the model, and and one only for customers). The speed and efficiency in the answers to questions/doubts is really surprising and admirable. There are two members of the team directly responsible for the technical support, although there is a lot of interventions from other members and of the beta-testers in the forums.
All the aspects and parts that compose this airplane have been carried out with a lot of work and believe me, they have obtained magnificent result. I don't think that it is necessary to continue describing the plane, just buy it now you won't regret it! ;-) (* Edited by Harrier Panels, Inc.) Although if you are still not convinced you can read the "testimonials" page, located on the site of IGFly, or take a look in the forums.
FLIGHT DYNAMICS: 4.5/5
FINAL MARK: 5/5
I especially thank Dmitriy (Chief of Technical Support of IGFly) and George Stoddard for the help.
Review & Screenshots by Giorgio La Pira
- PIV 2.8 GhZ
- 512MB RAM BUS - 800mhz
- NVIDIA GeForce Ti4600 128MB DDR with last drivrers
- HARD DISK FUJITSHU BARRACUDA 40GB only for FS
- HARD DISK MAXTOR 160GB Serial ATA
- Windows XP PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PACK 1A
- Flight Simulator 2004
Fly time: 11.5 hours
Comments by Harrier Panels, Inc.:
However lacking 3D panel (coming very soon as a FREE addon) IGFly's Tupolev 154M is definitely one of the best aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator. If you once try IGFly Tu-154M you will become IGFly's fan forever for sure.