(This review was updated to reflect new GPU framerates, HDR-enabled visuals, and a couple of other resolved issues. Date: 2/19/17)
JARDesigns have released two great Airbus products over the years. The A320, and the A330. JARDesigns are known for their incredible modeling of both systems and visuals, which make their releases highly anticipated. Today we’ll be taking a close look at the A330, and we’ll see if it’s the right Airbus for you.
The Airbus A330 is a medium to long range widebody aircraft, which can seat around 300 people (based on configuration.) The A330 offers a choice of three engines: General Electric CF6s, Pratt & Whitney PW4000s, and Rolls-Royce Trent 700s(JARDesign equipped.) The aircraft is commonly used on high-density medium length routes, but can also server medium-demand long-haul routes as well (i.e Charlotte to London, Auckland to Shanghai, Detroit to Beijing etc…)
The A330 began development in mid 1970s, under the A300B9 name. It was targeted at the growing demand for high-capacity, medium-range, transcontinental “trunk routes.” The A330 also was considered to be a medium-range successor to the A300. The maiden flight of the A330 was on November 2nd, 1992.
Air Inter became the first airline to put the A330 into regular service, between Orly and Marseille. Soon after, many Airlines jumped on board, including Turkish Airlines, Air China, and Cathay Pacific. Currently, Airbus is developing the A330neo, a more fuel efficient and comfortable model, with new and improved engines, and a newly engineered wing design.
This airplane looks pretty great. From the extensive high-resolution texturing to the high-quality 3d modeling, there’s plenty to take in. Let’s break it down.
The flightdeck on this airplane has to be the best part of this package. Like the Rotatesim MD 80, everything is 3d, and everything is superbly high resolution (with one exception.) The displays are bright, but can be a little hard to read at times. They give off a very worn but functional look. They look used, but they certainly don’t need to be replaced by the aircraft operator. I really like the dust that is used to convey the feeling that this airplane isn’t brand new, but rather in complete use.
We move to the glare shield, where we find the MCP for controlling the Autopilot. As this is an Airbus plane, you seldom need to touch the MCP, but it is still there in all of it’s 3d glory. the miniature displays are easy to read and crisp, and give off a surprisingly accurate color, and the pedestal is much the same. Things like the throttle are usually left in one position almost the entire duration of the flight, yet it is modeled extremely well.
Further along the pedestal in both directions, we find the MCDUs and the radios/aircraft configuration (flaps and such.) The MCDUs look crisp and sharp, with all 3d buttons. The colors from the MCDU may look a little overblown in some scenarios, but I leave this down to X-Plane’s lighting engine rather than their modeling.
We move back upwards, to the overhead panel, where we find even more 3d modeling, but some unfortunately lower resolution texture work. The base panel has a really odd and presumably unrealistic shine to it, which makes the rest of the overhead look weird, even though it houses detailed labeling for text elements and pretty good 3d modeling. The knobs all seem to be there, and the buttons are plentiful.
The exterior of this airplane can be summed up pretty easily by whole bunch of pictures. So that’s what you’re getting. It’s all really down to personal preference whether you like the external visuals or not. I find that the 3D modeling is superb, but every livery has to be 3rd party, because JARDesigns does not ship their own, apart from a house Airbus livery. As such, the quality of the outside also relies heavily on whether someone has made a high quality livery for the airline you want to fly as well. Thankfully, to this point, there are quite a few custom liveries, and the repaint community around this plane is strong.
The systems in this aircraft were designed to replicate the A330’s systems to a large degree, as to market the aircraft as a high-depth aircraft. I’ll break the systems down into two basic parts: Physical and Virtual.
Physical systems are anything that you interface with that directly controls the aircraft’s operations. This plane seems to have gotten the physical systems modeling down pretty tightly. Although I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the systems in relation to the real world counterpart, the systems did feel like they were for the most part correct. The airplane lacked any real bugs, which was a nice surprise.
As this airplane is an Airbus, everything is on the “Dark Cockpit” concept. Basically, if there is a light, there’s something wrong. Assuming normal operation, the overhead panel should be completely blacked out. While this might take some time for Boeing pilots to get used to, it really is quite intuitive.
Most switches, knobs, and buttons really only had two positions. Auto and Off. The airplane manages almost everything for you, a trait of the Airbus philosophy of putting as much control in the computers hands as possible.
Here’s where we really get into the meat of it. The virtual systems include the autopilot, and autothrottle systems. We’ll start with the MCDU, arguably the most important part of an Airbus airplane. While basic functions were implemented, I could not get advanced functions like holds to work. While basic functions are just enough to get a flight done, I wouldn’t advise that you fly on ATC with this plane. All of the pre-flight pages are there, and they work as any Airbus MCDU would.punch in some numbers, get back some numbers, put in a route, and calculate some stuff. There really isn’t much else to say about the MCDU.
The MCP is commonly interfaced with on other airplanes, however the Airbus philosophy means you’ll very rarely ever change something here. All of the panels just have dashes and dots, which indicates that the aircraft is managing that parameter by itself. Unless you need to get to a certain altitude that wasn’t planned, or you need to change the speed from the normal speed, you won’t find yourself touching it very much.
The last part of this trio is the autothrottle system. Unlike most airplanes, the A330’s autothrottle system is managed and engaged by the actual throttle levers. When you advance the throttles forward, you will have normal, manual control of the engine, until you hit little detents. These detents allow you to leave the throttle managment up to the computer. You can select climb thrust (the thrust engaged for most of the flight) Flex, and TOGA.
While the system makes sense in practice, the sim makes it finicky. It does not operate like the Aerosoft A320 does. Rather, you have to get the throttle placement exactly right for the plane to see it as being in a detent. This can be incredibly frustrating, as you must make very precise throttle movements.
Editors note: A keen eyed friend pointed out to me that anywhere between the CLB detent and the FLEX detent will count as being in the CLB detent, anywhere between FLEX and TO/GA will count as FLEX, and TO/GA will count as TO/GA. This makes it a lot easier to slot the autothrottle into the right detent. It’s now a joy to use in the sim, and I might even say it’s a better solution to the one provided in the Aerosoft A320.
This airplane comes with free compatibility with JARDesign’s Ground Handling program. It also comes with a loadsheet and a load manager. It also comes with a pretty nifty little gauge in the cockpit for grabbing METARS.
Unfortunately, overall the performance I got wasn’t quite up to the same level I have seen with other addons. The addon does display a warning message if your FPS is below the required minimum for the airplane to run, but the only way I could get that message to go away was to either:
A) Use only stock X-Plane scenery (no Orhto, HD Mesh or other scenery enhancements),
B) Disable the message (not recommended). Out of sight out of mind.
Without a hardware upgrade, nothing I tried could get this airplane over the FPS minimum. Upgrading my GPU from an R9-380 to an RX-480 did allow me to achieve above minimum FPS with HDR enabled. Based on my experience, this addon appears to perform anywhere from 20-30% slower than most other addons (IXEG 737, FF757/767, etc.) on identical hardware. I look forward to JARDesigns improving the framerates with their XP11 updates.
This airplane was a fun one to review. While the systems underneath are beautifully crafted, achieving satisfactory FPS numbers were required a newer GPU, and if you don’t have a GPU capable of enabling HDR, the visuals for this plane don’t look up to spec. If however, you have the horsepower to run this bird with all the settings dialed up a bit, the airplane is quite good looking. I know JARDesigns are busy working on the A319 and the A340, and I look forward to seeing any potential improvements in those.
As always, thank you for reading, I hope this helped you make a decision. My name is David Waldron, and I will see you guys in the next review.
THIS PRODUCT WAS PROVIDED TO ME FREE OF CHARGE BY X-PLANE.ORG FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF MAKING A REVIEW.