Any aviation enthusiast - particularly those of us here in Oz - will know that 2010 will be a very sad year, with the demise of the magnificent F-111 looming day by day. But as Dave Tonks finds out, the ‘Pig’ proudly lives on with the new KC F-111 sim from Alphasim.
I was stationed at Amberley as an Aircraft Handler in Army Aviation and saw the first F-111 touch down in 1971. And for the past 10 years or so I’ve lived on a hill not far from RAAF Amberley airbase. As such, I have a real attachment to these magnificent aircraft and will definitely miss their presence in the skies of Australia. I should add that I made time to see the recent arrival of our first F-18 Super Hornets at Amberley too.
Alphasim (purveyors of a wide range of excellent aircraft for flight simulation) have given us a terrific version of the F-111, albeit for FS9 (2004) only. Like a lot of software developers, the amount of work involved in upgrading FS9 aircraft for FSX was simply not cost effective, so no upgrade to FSX was ever on the cards. Enter one Karol Chlebowski, a self-confessed F-111 fanatic and a man who could not sit idly by and ignore this state of affairs.
Problem was, Karol is not the sort of bloke to do things lightly – as such, what he has managed to achieve with his modifications of the F-111 are nothing short of amazing. In fact, this short review has no hope of covering the intense amount of work he has put into his modifications, so all I can hope to do here is to inform all F-111 fans of the basics.
Any fan of the Alphasim F-111 will be aware that even though the original package is quite good, it did lack certain features. There was no Autothrottle for a start, and certainly no question of one of the major technological features of the ‘Pig’, TFR (Terrain Following Radar). And there was no sign of features such as flares, rockets, bomb drops (with accompanying ground blasts including shock waves) etc. There was a dump and burn feature, but Karol (as is typical of his approach to these things) decided it could be done better.
Another thing Karol was not happy about was the lack of liveries and some of the colour schemes – his dislike of the “duck egg blue” colour included in some of the default liveries spurned him on to find a colour as close as possible to the real thing, and his success in this area encouraged him to do more work on liveries and weapons features. The end result is a total of 59 liveries for FSX, with a multitude of weapons systems, all reproduced with the highest level of accuracy possible under the circumstances. All this from a bloke who is self-taught and has, for the benefit of the flightsim community, spent countless hundreds of hours in the pursuit of perfection for his beloved F-111s.
The end result is nothing short of staggering, and I am at a loss to fully explain the degree of functionality and accuracy he has developed into the Alphasim F-111. For me, the huge factor is being able to fly the Pig in FSX – without the work done by Karol this was never going to be accomplished to this standard, and as a freeware developer he deserves real credit for his efforts.
Karol has overlaid four MFD (multi-function display) screens over the standard gauges, with each of the screens having buttons across the bottom for different displays. These include AI, Nav Data, Frequencies, Nearest Airport, Target Data, Fuel, Engine, ADI and Radar. Apart from the screens and the huge information they provide, there are a lot of other nice touches too.
For instance, Karol’s cockpit enhancements include switches for flares, rockets and bomb drop. For the weapons to function correctly you will need another file from Simviation titled ‘Weapons Package’, and although this is a little fiddly to get loaded and running, the end result is spectacular.
Some of the functions of the MFDs are truly amazing. Take, for instance, the screen directly in front of the pilot – clicking NRST (nearest) gives a list of airports, with the closest at the top of the list. The list can be adjusted for runway length, so if you need a minimum of 5000 feet to land you can enter that data and the list then shows only runways over 5000 feet in length. Each entry shows the ICAO code, runway length, distance, bearing to steer, and whether it has an ILS or GPS approach.
Clicking on YBBN highlights the code in yellow and brings up trip data at the bottom of the screen. YBBN also appears in the bottom right button, and clicking this gives trip and destination data, including runway numbers and lengths, surface, distance, bearing to steer and elevation. There is also an ICAO function as well, so you can input any airfield around the world and get the same data.
I have spent many hours on this modification and have barely scratched the surface of what is there and how it functions – be prepared to put in some time with the F-111 to get the most of all of Karol’s terrific work. This article has to be dedicated to him; the work he has put in will give a lot of simmers a great deal of enjoyment. You will, of course, need the payware Alphasim F-111 for MSFS 2004, and once that is loaded into FSX you will need Karol’s modification files from Simviation.
Some of the features Karol has used came from other developers and he has given them full credit in his documentation. Long live the Pig!
Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com to discuss this review, ask a question, or just to say g’day. And if there’s a particular sim you’d like to see reviewed in Australian Flying just let me know.
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