A new day, a new challenge, a new review but this time not the PMDG MD-11 but Sky Simulations MD-11/MD-10. Should I compare these products together or not, are they of the same "real simulation" level? No. None of that!
Of course, they have something in common and that's they both represent the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, but that's it! The Sky Simulation MD-11, and the free downloadable MD-10, are of a total different kind of FSX/FS2004 model than the PMDG MD-11. The amount of simulated systems and in-depth programming can't be compared with the PMDG, but it should not always be like that.
The Sky Simulation model is a less complicated model which doesn't need as much background knowledge, no need to dig into more then 1400 pages of documentation like with PMDG, no problems struggling to understand the FMS (Flight Management System) and more of those tiny things. What's different is the price, not a little, but a lot. The Sky Simulations MD-11 costs you no more then €24.99 (± $31.50US) and for this money you get the FSX and FS2004 versions including a free MD-10 model. It all sounds promising so why spend more time here. Let's quickly start with the installation process but first a look at what the makers of Sky Simulations write about themselves?
Here is a very small extraction of the Sky Simulation website; "Sky Simulations proudly presents the SP3 (Service Pack 3) of our Mc Donnell Douglas MD-11 . Based on user requests, we've finally released the Service Pack 3. This are some of the characteristics of this package:
Here's one more question, "will this review of the Sky Simulations MD-11/MD-10 be compared with the PMDG MD-11?" The answer is NO! No, because of one main thing and that's the price and simulated systems. As said before, the Sky Simulations model costs €24.99 compared to the PMDG model, which cost - FS9 and FSX versions - €89.99. Sky Simulation offers you a free model of the famous MD-10. Ok, the MD-10 is not so much different; the cockpit is the same except for the external model. For example, the MD-10 doesn't have winglets. Remember, the MD-10 external model is just a DC-10.
Anyway, the PMDG MD-11 offers you a highly realistic Auto Flight system, including a 100% full operative/simulated FMS; while the Sky Simulations doesn't offer a real simulated FMS but just a light version, and even then, it's not that easy to handle the simulated MCDU. See it as the light models from CLS. In other words, when you want to fly straightaway with the MD-11/MD-10, then this is a good choice. If it really offers what may be expected from a payware model, then that's what you will read in this review.
Good all days … McDonnell Douglas
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
The MD-11, the world's only modern large wide-cabin tri-jet, offers a highly sophisticated flight deck and advanced automatic system controls that substantially reduce pilot workload. In service with customers in all parts of the world, the MD-11 was produced in Long Beach, California, at the Douglas Products Division of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes until February 2001. A worldwide network of subcontractors and suppliers supported the assembly line. The MD-11 was available in four models -- passenger, all freighter, convertible freighter and "combi," where passengers and freight are carried on the main deck with additional freight carried below the deck. An extended-range (ER) feature was available on all versions. Seating capacities on the standard airplane vary from 285 in a three-class arrangement to 410 in an all-economy configuration.
The extended-range version of the MD-11, equipped with an auxiliary fuel tank and operating at a higher maximum takeoff weight of 630,500 pounds (285,990 kg), has a range of approximately 8,225 statute miles (13,230 km). Three engines -- General Electric CF6-80C2, Pratt & Whitney 4460, and Pratt & Whitney 4462 -- are offered to power the MD-11, providing maximum efficiency in their thrust class. The advanced flight deck features six cathode ray tube displays, digital instrumentation, wind-shear detection and guidance devices, a dual flight management system that helps conserve fuel and a dual digital automatic flight control system (autopilot) with fail operational capability. Computerized system controllers perform automated normal, abnormal and emergency checklist duties for major systems, reducing flight crew requirements from three to two persons. Industry-standard interlinked wheel-and-column controls enhance crew communications and situation awareness at all times.
The MD-11 was launched on Dec. 30, 1986. Assembly of the first unit began March 9, 1988. First flight was on Jan. 10, 1990. Certification occurred Nov. 8, 1990, with first delivery on Dec. 7. For comparison, the MD-11 is 200 feet 10 inches (61.2 m) long, or 18.6 feet (5.66 m) longer than the earlier DC-10 tri jet, and carries about 50 more passengers.
McDonnell Douglas MD-10
The MD-10 program was started by MDC (later Boeing) and FEDEX.
Press release of the Boeing Commercial Company "Boeing rolls out first MD-10 Freighter for FedEx".
LONG BEACH, Calif., March 19, 1999 - The Boeing Company today rolled out the first MD-10 freighter during ceremonies held at the company's Long Beach facility. FedEx is the launch customer for the MD-10 conversion program.
"MD-10" is the designation given to modified DC-10s that incorporate the Boeing Advanced Common Flight deck (ACF). The MD-10 instrument panel layout is identical to the Boeing MD-11. Additionally, pilots can receive a single certification to operate both airplanes. "This is an important day for the MD-10 program," said Joe Gullion, president - Boeing Airplane Services. "The MD-10 is a great example of how Boeing Airplane Services can help our customers make affordable, high-quality improvements to their commercial airplanes."
FedEx launched the MD-10 program in September 1996 with an order for 60 MD-10 conversions. FedEx later increased its commitment to the program and currently has 79 orders, with options for up to 40 more MD-10s.
Theodore L. Weise, president and chief executive officer of FedEx, said, "The MD-10 will provide us with a cost-effective solution to our cargo carrying needs. We expect to get many years of service from these airplanes." FedEx operates a fleet of 26 MD-11s and is scheduled to receive three more from Boeing before production of the tri-jet ends next year. In addition, FedEx is purchasing a number of used MD-11s. The MD-10 program is managed by Boeing Airplane Services, a new Boeing business offering engineering retrofit packages, avionics upgrades, passenger-to-freighter conversions, interior reconfigurations, recovery and repair services, and airplane performance improvements for all Boeing commercial airplanes. Boeing Airplane Services also provides technical consulting and general contracting support for airlines.
The MD-10 flight deck employs state-of-the-art avionics systems provided by Honeywell Air Transport Systems of Phoenix, Ariz. The new cockpit will feature six 8-inch-square liquid-crystal displays, operated by a Honeywell VIA 2000 computer system - similar to those found in newer airplanes such as the Boeing 777 and 717. The new cockpit will enable the MD-10 to be flown by a two-person crew, in contrast to the three-person crew required to operate the original DC-10. The MD-10 is scheduled to fly for the first time later this month and will enter a flight-test program expected to last for 10 to 12 months. Two other FedEx MD-10s will enter the flight-test program later this year.
Installation and documentation
Before starting with the installer(s), it's a good habit to inform you about which files are available for download at the Sky Simulations website. First of all and apart of many others, there's the main FS9/FSX MD-11 installer (SKYSIM_MD11DLD.exe), followed by the MD-11 FS9/FSX livery pack (SKYSIMMD11_LP.exe). Additionally, there's a separate FS9/FSX MD-10 file (SKYSIMMD10.exe) for download available. These three are the minimum to fly the MD-11 and MD-10 aircraft. As you can see, the installers for the MD-11/MD-10 aircraft are for both MSFS platform. The standard Sky Simulations livery pack offers additional textures, but many more can be downloaded via our AVSIM library.
Ok, let's start with the installation. You need to start with the SKYSIM_MD11DLD.exe file. The installer works without any problems, after choosing which MSFS version you want, and the automatic FS9/FSX detection, the process continues and before you know it, you're ready. Keep in mind since it's an "online" validation process, that you need a valid Internet connection, which verifies your key code. What you've got is the MD-11 with 12 liveries and some more things.
can be found via the Windows Start button, followed by Sky Simulations Software -> Mc Donnell Douglas MD11 SP3 - The Big D. Here you will find three Acrobat shortcut files;
More about these documents in our next chapter. This means there's no shortcut related to add-on programs like a load Manager or Fuel Planner and also no Uninstaller. Ok, the uninstaller is not really a problem since it's available via the Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs and apart of that, there are many other professional stand-alone uninstallers available.
Next step is the installation of the livery pack (SKYSIMMD11_LP.exe); it offers us the Flight Simulator version we want and it also automatically detects the correct location of the MSFS version. Finally, the installer adds 7 more liveries. . I don't understand to be honest why those 7 additional liveries are not packed together with the base MD-11 installer. Anyway, added to the list of 12 liveries are; World Cargo, VarigLog, Thia Cargo, Martinair Cargo, JAL, Gemini Air Cargo and Finnair Santa Claus.
We continue directly with the last installer, the MD-10 package (SKYSIMMD10.exe). Basically, this installer offers you only one big difference, it offers you the custom made FedEx MD-10. The cockpit is the one of the MD-11, while the aircraft model is the MD-10 and only for FedEx, thus a freighter version. Unfortunately for this add-on package; no Start shortcut folders, programs or manuals are created.
Just a small word about this add-on MD-10. This was a retrofit cockpit upgrade to the DC-10 and a re-designation to MD-10. The upgrade included an Advanced Common Flight deck (ACF) used on the MD-11. The new cockpit eliminated the need for the flight engineer position and allowed common type rating with the MD-11. This allows companies such as FedEx Express, which operate both the MD-10 and MD-11, to have a common pilot pool for both aircraft. The MD-10 conversion now falls under the Boeing Converted Freighter program where Boeing's international affiliate companies perform the conversions.
As previously written, the basic MD-11 installer comes with three Acrobat files. Let's look a little more in-depth at these manuals and what they offer:
Is this all or is there more? This is all as long as it's related to the MD-11 installer but there's more on the Sky Simulations website. On the website you can download the "Flight technique" Acrobat file.
In the prefix of this manual they point out "on this manual you will find a compressive explanation of the flight technique of the Sky Simulations MD-11. However it does not replace the reading of the operations manual. Please take a time to read and understand the Operations Manual before reading this manual. As this manual is intended to provide you the flight technique of the Sky Simulations MD-11 we will advocate on the functions and operations of the aircraft. We assume that the user can elaborate a flight plan through the Flight Simulator FLIGHT PLANNER. Nevertheless it does not mean that the knowledge on the flight planner would be a requisite to operate the MD-11."
Looking in detail at the manual it seems it's a kind of tutorial but without any departure/destination airport given. Surfing any further to find a kind of real tutorial leads to nothing. This means we need to live with the Flight Technique manual. Curious about this "Flight Technique" MD-11 manual? Great, this one and the Speed Table handbook are free for download via the following links;
it's time to combine the external model, animations and textures (FSX and FS9) together. Ok, first the animations. Wow! So many things to simulate like opening most of the passenger- - ok, not strange - and cargo doors, tail cone for the necessary maintenance inspections and APU, all kind of cargo loaders in position, a pushback truck, even a ground engineer with headset! All together a pretty impressive view but what about the model itself? Is it really as real as it gets?
Before my critical look starts, I think it's a good idea to start first with a walk around check and see if we can find some snags or problems.
Via a separate control panel, lots of things can be controlled like the passenger and cargo doors, positioning the GPU (Ground Power Unit) at the nose gear and the aircraft maintenance mode. With these animations, the engine cowlings are opened and the tail cone goes down for inspection. On the above screen shots - lower middle one - you can see this control panel including the other animation options like cockpit window opening/closing, cockpit door movement, ground services and ground crew etc.
The overall look of the models is good, including the more detailed items but not every part, like the MLG (Main Landing Gear) and NLG (Nose Landing Gear), is offering very sharp textures. Speaking about textures, not every part of the textures is well done. The best and directly visible part is the inner side of the foldable tail cone. The inside seems black and also the engines thrust reverser cowling/construction is black on the inside. It seems - unfortunately - something is forgotten!
Screen shots have been taken in FS9 so it should suggest that the FSX version is better or different. The only problem is that I don't own a graphics adapter which is DirectX 10 compatible, so some features are not shown. Anyway, looking to the FSX model - below - it seems to me that there's not that much difference. The overall look is also good, details are sometimes missing but you could ask yourself, are close-up screen shot fair or not?
I don't know, but what I do know is - also applicable for FS9 - that the pressure bulkhead (I hope) just behind the tail cone doesn't offer any details. The same with the main landing gear doors; the inner part of those doors while open offer textures without too many details. Unfortunately, this could be better unless the textures are on purpose of a lower quality because of the frame rates. Let's have a look at some additional FSX external model screen shots.
Just another example; the programmers offer sliding side cockpit windows. I honestly like this but at the same time I'm wondering if all those extra things don't influence other more important close-up details. Let's put it as follows: I prefer more detailed textures than having all those funny animations. Remember, this is my personal look at all those things, while I know that others like it and give them a more realistic feeling of what is happening on their platform.
Ok, I have come to the following conclusion; the overall look and impression of both the FS9 or FSX models are good but the tiny "sharp" details are missing, apart from some black "missing" textures.
MD-10 external model
Is there really a need to write something about the additional MD-10 package? Why not, it's free of charge and it shows a different model.
Ok, the difference is not that much, but still worth writing something about it. As said before, the MD-10 is based on an old DC-10-10 or DC-10-30 and with the retrofit package implemented; the cockpit is transformed into a MD-11 look except for the external model. One thing which is totally different is the absence of the winglets. Currently FedEx - headquarters based in Memphis/Tennessee - owns along with many other models, 58 Boeing MD-10-10's and ten MD-10-30's.
One directly visible difference between the MD-10-10 and MD-10-30 is the center gear fitted on the -30 model and this brings me to the simulated Sky Simulation model. It seems that only the MD-10-10 is created / simulated. Why, because of the absence of the center gear. See for more details the following three screen shots
One additional note related to the center gear and the belonging flight deck CTR GEAR light.
When there's a center gear installed - only for the simulated MD-11 (and the not simulated MD-10-30) - you will find on the center instrument panel, just above the LANDING GEAR handle, a separate CTR green/red light. Like with the simulated MD-10-10, which has no center gear, this light should not be installed, however, it is. This means the simulated cockpit is not modified for small differences like the missing center gear, which is a shame. By the way, the used GEAR POSITION lights in the real MD-11/MD-10 could differ from the ones simulated in these Sky Simulation models. After some searching at the Internet and into my private collection, it seems that a Martinair Holland MD-11 has got the same GEAR position light units as the Sky model except that I don't see the amber indication as on the Sky models.
Cockpits (MD-11) and cabin/cargo compartments
2D cockpit (FSX/FS9)
Since it doesn't make any difference which MSFS model I use, I chose first the FSX version. The 2D cockpit is based on digitalized photos but this time I have to admit that the quality is not as high as I had hoped for. This can be seen in the upcoming screen shots. It comes with a few subs like the overhead panel, pedestal, FMS MCDU (Flight Management System - Multi Control Display Unit), enlarged PFD, ND and EAD (Engine and alert Display), EIS (Electronic Instrument System) control panel, External Function Panel and a sub panel left next of the FCP (Flight Control Panel), known as the BARO-RA Panel.
As can be seen on the screenshots, the panels offer an average quality and in some conditions, the quality could be higher. The pedestal offers lots of good items while the overhead panel seems a little too dark. Also, the left hand side of the glare shield doesn't look that sharp or is it fuzzy? Further, not all the buttons and switches are working. This means not all of what's possible is simulated. What I already mentioned earlier in this review, when changing from engines - GE CF6-80C2 versus PW4460 Series - type, the EAD (Engine alert Display (the display unit next of the ND) should change its indications to EPR (Engine Pressure Ratio) on the top, followed by N1.
This is not the case with this Sky Simulations model. Probably most of the flight simmers have no idea, but when you think of a payware model, you may expect it to offer these small things; like correct engine parameters belonging to the corresponding engine model/type.
The FMS MCDU is a light version, which means it doesn't offer a real simulated FMS. During our test flight we will go a little deeper into it and see what it really offers and if it's useful to work with. The fact that the documentation doesn't offer a flight tutorial makes this more difficult but we'll see this later. When digging into it, it seems there are more things not really correctly simulated or located. For example, below the DIAL FLAP pointer on the pedestal, there's no GEAR HORN OFF knob.
The circle with text around it is there but the button itself is missing. Then there's the ANTI SKID/AUTO BRAKE control panel mounted above the ATC CP (Air Traffic Control Panel), which is in reality mounted before the throttles or thrust levers. Apart from this, there's normally a BRAKE indicator included which is missing as well.
Ok, now it looks like nothing is correct and that's not the case. The 2D cockpit and thus the VC as well, gives an impression of the MD-11/MD-10 cockpit but don't expect it to be as detailed and in-depth simulated as with the PMDG MD-11. Unfortunately, you can't compare a lemon with an apple or a Volkswagen with a BWM!
Finally, some words about the difference between the 2D of FSX and FS9. As can be seen on the three screenshots, FS9 offers in total four different wing views. FSX offers it as well, but here via the FSX menu "Views".
that's it so far about the 2D cockpit. Let's go quickly jump into the VC or 3D cockpit.
Virtual Cockpit (FSX/FS9)
This cockpit is a combination of digitalized images and handmade panels. The overall look is good although certain parts are not really sharp, not well aligned or totally incorrect. Oops, that doesn't sound good but also applicable to this VC, the overall impression is good, but for a payware model I expected more.
Why may I expect this? For the simple reason that these days more and more freeware VC's are released, together with a very high quality. A good example of high quality freeware Virtual Cockpits are the Project Opensky Boeing 777 version 2.0 or the Embraer ERJ145. For sure there are others as well, but this is just to give you an example of what's available.
My first impression is ok, although I had hoped for a better finishing touch. This "missing finishing touch" could be expressed the best in the following way; we know already that the FMS MCDU is a light version, so not fully simulated, but the MCDU's, mounted in the VC pedestal, offer a totally different image then the 2D FMS MCDU. On one of the screenshots below you can clearly see the separate inserted 2D MCDU offers the real simulated indication, while the 2 MCDU's in the VC show an actual flight plan, which is no more then a static image.
Just a small detail of inaccurate CDU presentation. it's also a little disappointing that most of the instrument panels are good while additional cockpit elements like the seat, arm rests and belts etc. are not sharp at all. By the way, I just said something about the MCDU's; the third MCDU on the pedestal - behind the ENGINE START switches - is also showing a "static" image.
But there's also good news and apart from this good news, it also depends on your critical look; I know I'm very critical but that's my job as a reviewer. While surfing around, I must say that the glare shield with the FCP (Auto Flight Control Panel) and its knobs, selectors, buttons etc. are well designed and they really show a 3D image. This means, unlike with others, even closely looking at it, all the buttons, selectors and switches show a certain depth.
Well done, but there's also a down side. Most of those switchable elements don't work or do something which is not like the real MD-11/MD-10 flight deck! More about this statement later during our test flight to KLAS. In other words, the overall operation of the VC is good, not every system can be selected but that's not different than with the 2D flight deck. However, some textures could be of a higher quality or need some modifications.
By the way - before closing this sub chapter - there's also something strange with the LANDING GEAR handle knob. It depends a little on your viewing angle, but sometimes a part of the knob disappears completely. Just another snag!
What I said before, a few things need the attention of the programmers and I sincerely hope that a fourth Service Pack can solve these things. Like the MCDU; either the same input is shown here as the 2D MCDU or make it blank, but not something what isn't possible to show on an operative one.
Virtual Cabin/Cargo Compartments (FSX/FS9)
It was not really my intention to add some screenshots of the passenger or freighter configuration, but for some reasons I did add them here. The Sky Simulation MD-11, and also the MD-10, don't offer high quality passenger and/or freighter areas. As can be seen on the lower screenshots, this is all what's available of a passenger configuration. What you see is just the galley area behind the cockpit and that's it. By the way (snag?), the DOOR textures are of a low quality and there's again a small misalignment. Looking at the cockpit door from the galley, there's written the following text "CAUTION STEP" but unfortunately it's a mirror picture. I know, it's just a small problem but all these small problems we've seen so far gives me the impression that there's not really a final check or a beta testing period done which could solve these things.
Ok, back to our virtual areas. Furthermore, we can see the lower cargo and upper deck freighter areas. As with the passenger area, not many details are available. Ok, when the lower and upper cargo doors are opened, there's indeed a visible area but the linings on the doors and cargo compartment itself are of an average quality.
Do you want more? I'm personally not interested in these areas but again, that's a personal opinion. Most of the time these areas are left over and according to the programmers because others do it as well, they think they need to create it as well. I prefer a good and realistic looking cockpit or flight deck and if money and time plays no role, then developers can decide to add and create these areas.
This concludes another sub chapter. Although all these 2D and VC pictures where all taken in the MD-11, the MD-10 is exactly the same. Not because it's like that but because the real MD-10 retrofit package was made exclusively for FedEx to swap pilots between the whole MD fleet, which consist of DC-10, MD-10 and MD-11 planes. In clear and understandable English, this means the cockpit is the same although the outside is different.
Flight Technique manual, test flight and offered sound (FSX)
Before I begin, I'm sure it will fly but the question is; is it flying like a real MD-11 and/or MD-10? that's the question and for me a challenge to find out although I don't own an active MD-11, MD-10 and not even a DC-10 ATPL certificate, but I do what I can.
I've decided to make a flight from KSEA (Seattle) to KLAS (Las Vegas), create a flight plan with the help of the default FSX flight planner and use the Sky Simulations "Flight Technique" manual to guide me through the panels and procedures. Regarding the flight planning and FMS, remember, this MD-11/MD-10 model doesn't offer a functional FMS MCDU so see it as a light FMS version. It offers you some flight information, and aircraft data, but that's it.
Is that a problem that the model doesn't offer you a real FMS MCDU? That depends on what you're looking for and what your skills are. When you want to fly a good looking add-on FSX/FS2004 model, but don't want to have all the trouble of FMS MCDU programming, then this could be a good choice. When your goal is to "fly as real as it gets" then I can tell you that this Sky Simulations model won't offer you that because of the absence of several simulated systems like the absence of a real IRS, offering only a light FMS, not real simulated EPR engine indications and many more things.
One note related to the MCDU and the aircraft load system. Since the simulated MCDU offers only values in lb's, take care that your FSX/FS9 is set to work with lb's and not with kg's. I really don't understand why the MCDU is not able to calculate with either lb's or kg's. Ok, it's written in the manual but there's no caution related to this!
Another item to check during our test flight is the tail tank C.G. (Center of Gravity) control. There are hardly any aircraft that have a TRIM TANK stabilizer system installed. Airbus was the first one in the world with a CG controlled horizontal stabilizer fuel tank. It was fitted on the A310-300 Series. This was a kind of test bench - also on a modified Airbus Industries house model A300-600 - for the current A330 and A340 models, apart from other Airbus models. As said before, the MD-11 offers a TRIM TANK CG system where the primary purpose of tail fuel management is to improve aircraft cruise performance by maintaining an AFT Center of Gravity.
Ok, it's time to do our walk around check before jumping in the third seat of the flight deck. After our walk around check, where it seems that everything looks well, I'm facing one thing which is also described in the Flight Technique Manual - hereafter referred to as the FTM - ; at start up of FSX/FS9, followed by selecting the Sky Simulations MD-11/MD-10, the aircraft comes up with running engines - ok, that's not really a big deal - , IRU selectors still in the OFF position, the EMERGENCY LIGHT switch OFF and the EMERGENCY POWER switch also OFF. That isn't logical to be honest. When the engines are running, I assume that the previous checklist items are completed and then all those previously mentioned items are done. Ok, just a small misalignment with the real world to my opinion.
the FTM in my hand, I try to follow the step-by-step procedure.
Unfortunately, I'm facing the second problem; page 4 starts with
a cold and dark configuration while the Sky Simulation MD-11
comes up during loading with an "engine running" configuration
as mentioned before. I know, it's not a problem since it's easy
for me to switch OFF the engines, but it was far better when
the user was able to select a particular configuration, like "Cold
and Dark", "External power connected", "APU
running and electrically connected" and last but
not least "Engine
While following the steps to be taken, I'm running into trouble again. This time on page 4 it's written that I need to power up the aircraft with either the ground power or the APU. it's not so clear what must be done. it's because I've got real big airplane experience but otherwise, I'm lost!
On page 5 I need to select the EICAS OIL page (it's not EICAS but EIS Alerting … Electronic Instrument System) where I can check the RPM and EGT indications. How can I check those things when there's no EXT PWR available??? Ok, it's a little too far out but the real APU indication is N1, EGT, N2 and OIL. Not a big deal but it seems to me that many things are not simulated as they really appear in the MD-11.
Let"s go on with the rest. Page 8 tells the assistant pilot to switch ON some exterior lights like the NAV(igation), BCN (anti-collision or red TOP/BOTTOM light) and WING & RUNWAY TURN OFF lights. For the TURN OFF and BCN lights, I've got no idea why you have to switch them ON. there's no need for this at this moment, so - again, sorry for this - unrealistic! BCN lights are in general by most airliners, switched ON when the flight crew wants to start the engines and the WING & RUNWAY lights are switched ON upon taxiing.
Following the FTM flow, I'm playing around a little bit with the simulated light FMS MCDU but because of the simplicity and hardly any link with a real simulated MCDU, I'm quickly lost. It could be that I've no clue about CDU's or MCDU's but with this unit I'm confused. Irregular it seems that the buttons on the MCDU, like the MENU and F-PLN, don't work at all, or suddenly they work or during a next attempt they work in the opposite direction. Opposite means pressing the MENU button gives me the FLIGHT PLAN page, while pressing the F-PLN button gives me the MENU page. By the way, it seems to me that the numeric and alphabet keys, as well as all the LSK (line Select Keys), are not operative. Inputs or changes are made within the display screen, while the mouse pointer changes to a hand with either a "+" or "-".
Ok, I'm not going to pinpoint every item of the FTM. it's time to request start-up clearance including pushback and taxi. After all the things are set and my FSX/FS9 flight plan is loaded into the MD-11, I'm ready to go. Brakes released and here we go, to the designated runway. While I'm performing the last checks within this MD-11 flight deck, I found out that some buttons on the EHSI Control Panel don't work. See more details on which buttons are working on page 58 of the Operations Manual. What I don't understand is why here it is written EHSI (Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator), while it should be ND (Navigation display) and at the same time the PFD (Primary Flight Display) is - luckily - named correctly and not the EADI (Electronic Attitude Direction Indicator). Very confusing when the wrong names are used!
I'm ready to line up, double check every item and here we go. The necessary speeds - V1, VR and V2 are presented on the PFD so that's settled and doesn't give me a headache to think about. Just before commencing the TO, I need to select the separate Auto Pilot (AP) and Auto Throttle (AT) buttons on the FCP, but to be honest, I'm not agreeing with this.
Ok, selecting it or not is not the issue. The issue is a separate button for the AP and AT? As far as my knowledge goes, this hyper modern aircraft offers an AUTOFLIGHT button, which controls both the engagement of the AP and AT. This means unfortunately again it's not really simulated in this MD-11/MD-10 model. Anyway, I'll continue my climb via the controlled Auto Flight system until I've reached cruising altitude. During this climb I'm interested in checking one thing and that's known as AUTO SLAT extend. Auto slat extend means that while your slats are in the retracted position, they will automatically extend just after the activation of the stall warning stick shaker. Unfortunately after several attempts, it seems that there's no AUTO SLAT extend simulated in this aircraft model.
Ok, I'll decide to leave it like it is and continue with my flight. Because the flight takes a few hours, I've got enough time to monitor the flight deck and see if there are other things that need my and your attention. Just a few other things; the FUEL DUMP system is not simulated, the FIRE handles on the overhead panel - only in the VC mode - are not working/simulated, altitude indication on the PFD is per feet so something like 23202, 23203, 23204 etc. which is unrealistic and not even important for a pilot to know every 1 foot change, the ND (according to Sky Simulations the EHSI) shows a flight plan which we've programmed via the default FSX/ (FS9) but it doesn't show me the TOC (Top of Climb) nor does it show TOD (Top of Descent). I've also got the idea that the simulated ND (EHSI) is a pure default MSFS image and not representing the real MD-11/MD-10 Navigation Display. All together so far, many disappointments! Unless you're looking for an uncomplicated MD-11/MD-10 add-on aircraft, then it could be the right choice.
While still in cruising conditions, there are two things I want to bring to your attention;
According to the FTM page 20, we need to perform a trick that must be done when the tail fuel tank is filled. The reason for this trick is that it's very recommendable to manage the fuel for a proper CG position for landing. I don't understand this since this automatic fuel operation system should do it by itself. In my personal opinion, there's no need to do this manually unless it's faulty; but when it isn't, the tail fuel tank should empty into the respective tank via the automatic system during the descent under specific conditions.
The other item is the FMS MCDU. While reading the operations manual, starting at page 86 up to and including 105 you will find all about it, so that should be enough. The only problem is that the LSKs (Line Select Keys) of the MCDU don't work. Also numeric- and alphabetic entries can't be made. That means inputs or changes can be made via the UP and DOWN arrow as well as swapping between pages via the NEXT-PREVIOUS page buttons, which are all on the MCDU. What I said before, the manual tells you all about it but it's not always - compared to real simulated CDU's or MCDU's - very clear and during my flight I didn't have the feeling of it adding much more to the aircraft model.
While approaching KLAS, we also jump for a moment into the darkness. Yes, that's the advantage of flying with FSX or FS9. With a few clicks away, you suddenly fly in the darkness, like I did. A few screenshots are taken which can be found above. That being said, I noticed another button on the glare shield which is nice but at the same time I've got my doubts if this is standard MD-11 installed equipment. I'm talking about the presence of the HUD (Head up Display).
It could be that there are MD-11 operators who have this, but looking and surfing on the Internet could not convince me. Anyway, even if it's not installed in real life, it's still nice and a good looking add-on and if it works. But I wasn't convinced so after digging again on the Internet, looking into real MD-11 manuals, I found out that this button/light unit is in reality used by the (E)GPWS (Ground proximity Warning System).
it's normally divided into (MD-11 Operation Manual) "an upper part (BELOW G/S) and a lower part (G/S INHIBIT). The amber BELOW G/S illuminates to indicate corrective action required due to excessive deviation from glideslope. Light accompanied by GLIDESLOPE voice warning. G/S INHIBIT will illuminate when the switch unit is pushed and the warnings are inhibited."The absence of this light unit in the Sky Simulation model tells me that this system is not installed or at least, the warnings are not shown in any kind of light.
it's time to descend, doing the necessary preparations as well as entering the ILS frequency. While I'm working in the flight deck and bringing everything to a good end, you can enjoy the nice outside screen shots I made for you. Lining up with runway 25R of KLAS, we've made a soft and successful landing.
Finally this test flight has come to an end but with some not always good feelings. Many systems are not simulated as I had hoped which resulted in a higher workload then expected. The cockpit bitmaps, as well as the outside textures, are good but the lack of in-depth simulated systems disappoints me. If this statement and my personal opinion are correct, that and others can be found in the summery part!
Finally some words about the offered sound. it's for sure that the default MSFS sound files are not used. Apart from human voices, the sound used in the MD-11/MD-10 is of an average quality. Sound levels related to the MD-10-10 engines, which should simulate the General Electric CF6-6D Series, are not correct.
The sound folder of the MD-10 points to the MD-11 folder, which represents a hi-bypass engine, fitted on the MD-11. Purposely, I write "a hi-bypass engine" since it's not clear to me when checking the sound folder, which engine is simulated; either the General Electric CF6-80C2 or the Pratt & Whitney PW4400 Series! Unfortunately, my conclusion is that the recorded engine sounds are not as real as it gets. It doesn't mean it's bad, absolutely not, but it doesn't represent what it should be.
MD-10 test flight KMEM (Memphis Intl.) - CYVR (Vancouver Intl.) - (FS9)
there's really a need for me to check this Sky Simulations models on Flight Simulator 9. Why, I'll tell you in a minute.
With this in mind, I've decided to jump onboard of a non scheduled FedEx cargo flight on one of their MD-10-10F freighters from KMEM (Memphis International / Tennessee, USA) to CYYR (Vancouver International / British Columbia, Canada). The reason to make an additional flight in FS9 is because Sky Simulations offers both platforms, and compared to FSX; FS9 is much more FPS friendly. Furthermore there are still much more sceneries, airports and other improvements available. As written before, I've chosen for the MD-10 version, which also gives me the possibility to check if the cockpit is different. Ok, that's it for the intro; please hold me tight, here we go!
The weather conditions at KMEM are not that good - building storms - but for an ex-DC-10, modified to a MD-10 version, this should be no problem. Our cargo containers are loaded, everything is saddled so we're ready to start our engines while the ground engineer monitors from his nose gear position as all goes well.
I've noticed that the flight deck is more or less the same as its newer MD-11 brother but there's at least one big difference and that are engine FUEL S/O LEVERS. These are still from the old DC-10. don't forget, although the cockpit seems 99% the same as the MD-11, the mounted engines are still the old fashioned CF6-6D series. I could almost write down, steam driven General Electric ones, but that's not fair.
We get a pushback from our location while engine 1, 3 and 2 are started. This procedure is more or less the same and if you want, you can use the FS - Ctrl+E - command. I wrote it already, Sky Simulations doesn't offer any MD-10 related manual or checklist, so I do what I can but if it's correct, I don't know.
During taxiing from the freighter terminal to our runway, with building storms selected, all sliders maximum and BluePrint Simulations KMEM installed, I noticed an average of 16-18 FPS. An average value I should say. Let's hope when we're in flight, this figure goes up a little bit. Since we're very close to the runway, taxiing is done in a view minutes. Ok, not really two minutes but no taxi time of 15 to 30 minutes, which is not unusual in the States at bigger airports.
Clearance received, all checks done with the MD-11 checklist - ????? - and we will line up with the runway. Double check again and here we go. Nice and gentle the aircraft liftoff and climbs to our initial altitude of FL110. During GEAR retraction I found something related to the GEAR GREEN/AMBER lights, which is by the way also applicable for the FSX MD-11/MD-10. With the GEAR handle selected UP, the gear indication lights are amber and show TRANS. With all the experience I have, I've never seen GEAR UNLOCK/GEAR TRANSIT lights in amber. I've seen amber GEAR related lights but those are in general related to the GEAR DOORS, so here's something incorrect since these lights should be RED (GEAR UNLOCKED/GEAR TRANSIT).
Anyway, looking around in the VC and 2D cockpits, I see another difference - applicable for the FS9/FSX MD-11/MD-11F models - and that's the MCDU indications (picture IV below, yellow squares). It seems that only on the MD-10-10F (FS9/FSX) the VC MCDU doesn't offer a static image, no, it offers the same and real updated info as can be seen on the 2D MCDU. Ok, still it's a light FMS MCDU but it's at least synchronized.
While monitoring the pedestal, there's something else that needs our attention. Applicable for both FSX/FS9 versions, mounted before the thrust levers we will find the AUTOBRAKE selector, ANTI SKID switch and a "black hole" of the BRAKE PRESS INDICATOR (picture IV light blue square). Missing indicator? When you check this in the 2D pedestal view, you won't find it. Here you only find the AUTOBRAKE selector, mounted on a total different location and the BRAKE PRESS INDICATOR is also missing. Confusing! Sorry, I found something else and that's the DIAL-A-FLAP indicator. it's working in the 2D version (both for FS9/FSX) but in the VC it's a black stripe, so there's nothing here at all and it's thus not clickable or adjustable. Oops, another failure, glitch or snag?
Let's first have a look to some screen shots of the FS9 MD-10-10F, which is by the way the same as the FSX version.
Not shown on one of my MD-10 FedEX screenshots, but on the overhead panel - RH lower side - there should be installed the ENGINE STARTER VALVE selectors/knobs/lights. In other words, the Sky Simulations MD-10 VC does offer this, but the 2D cockpit doesn't offer it at all.
Because of this (ENGINE STARTER VALVE controls), I would like - no, there's absolutely a need to - to hi-light this, which is a difference between the MD-10 Virtual Cockpit and 2D cockpit. Unfortunately, I need to do this with some screenshots since pictures say 100 times more than lots of words, so here we go again. The four screenshots below are from the FS9 model, but there's no difference with the FSX version.
I noticed something else in the FS9 VC/2D cockpit, but also applicable in the FSX versions is the DIAL-A-FLAP indicator with knob. This knob and indicator right next of the FLAP/SLAT handle seems to be functioning in the 2D cockpits (MD-11/MD-10) however, in either aircraft model this option doesn't work at all in the VC cockpit. Just to give you an idea what I'm talking about; it's not marked with a square but visible in picture IV. First of all, there's no indicator scale at all in the VC pedestal and the knob itself doesn't rotate. The mouse pointer stays a mouse pointer when you hover above the wheel/knob. it's a shame that this option doesn't work in both cockpit versions.
One last remark is the presence of the weather radar or let say, it looks like this however, the operations manual - page 58 - speaks about terrain. Ok, to make it clear; it's not really a weather radar but the terrain is shown when the WX button is pressed. Confusing or not, I don't think so, since you need to read the manual before flying!
While in cruise, it's nice to have a look outside and at the same time flying this MD-10 by hand. I've got the feeling that the flight characteristics are different then the default FS9 aircraft but if those flight dynamics are real, that's something I can't answer either. All flight controls seems to work well together so that's ok for me. As we're approaching northern Wasington, it's time to start our descent and via the Seattle area as we fly towards the coast to make a nice turn to runway 8R. It looks like it's winter time here. Since we don't have overcast cloud conditions, we can look through the clouds and the only thing I see, is white, white and even more white. Oops, I'm sorry, I mean snow!
Our descent is going fine, but I need to monitor the aircraft IAS (Indicated Air Speed) as well as the altitude. When the aircraft V/S is too high, it could result in an increase of my IAS, so therefore it could be necessary to extend my speed brakes, but here's something you have to keep in mind. it's valid for both Flight Simulator versions and that's you have to watch out for an extreme sensitive V/S (Vertical Speed changes rapidly +/- 2000 feet/minute due to speed brake action) when we retract or extend the speed brakes.Before returning to our test flight, there's one issue and that concerns the fuel system. it's a little confusing, but it seems there's a big difference between which fuel tanks are installed according to the FS9/FSX menu - Aircraft - Fuel and Payload - namely a LEFT, CENTER and RIGHT tank while the overhead panel shows us the same tanks as in the MD-11. This means the MD-10 overhead panel has got switches/selectors for a LEFT (tank 1), CRT (tank 2), RIGHT (tank 3), UPPER-LOWER AUX and the TAIL tank. I believe this isn't really correct and it's not only applicable for this FS9 test flight model, but it's the same as with the FSX MD-10.
I'll decide for an unknown reason to disconnect the AP (Auto Pilot) and fly the remaining part of the flight by hand. Not really that difficult since I'm already below the overcast and while approaching Vancouver area, the weather seems a little better then it was before. Leaving Seattle behind me, flying on a HDG of 300° towards VICTORIA VOR (YYJ), catching NDB NANAIMO and then making a gently right hand turn for ILS 8R CYVR. Although I do believe the ILS is working, I'll also tune for NDB SEA ISLAND, which lies in-line with the localizer of 8R and around 0.6NM out of the touchdown point. Great, GEAR DOWN and LOCKED (that means three green lights although the CTR gear shows green as well but the aircraft doesn't have any CTR gear), flaps/slat in landing configuration so I'm and my MD-10 are ready to land. The ILS is picked up and before we know, I'm back on solid ground. We taxi to the cargo ramp, which is on our right hand side and not far from the runway.
This concludes our FS9 test flight to CYVR. Because of the higher FPS during flight - 20-24FPS - it was a pleasure to fly this FS9 model. I know that this FPS is also applicable for the MD-11/MD-11F, since the cockpit is the same except for a very small amount of changes. I did mention it already; there's no flight tutorial so you need to do it all by yourself, and also because there's no specific manual related to the MD-10, it could be a problem for beginners.
Does it also mean I've found every snag, glitch or whatever you call it? No, I don't think so, but this is already more then enough and it gives me enough to think about if it's really the State of the Art product as they write on their website.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Let's put all the things together. After spending several hours in the MD-11/MD-10 flight deck, I'm coming to the following conclusion; the external model with simulations looks good, although certain textures seems to be missing like the inside of the tail cone and thrust reversers of all engines.
Ok, when you don't select the maintenance mode, you won't see it but since this option is built in, you will see it. The offered livery package is ok but not that much, so when your favorite airline is not there, you need to look further and hopefully you will find it. That the MD-10 only comes in one livery, there's nothing wrong with that since FedEx is the only operator who requested a retrofit package for the older DC-10 Series. That Sky Simulation didn't create/simulate a DC-10-30, I don't know, but I can't change that and it's not really a big deal.
While spending hours and hours in the 2D and VC cockpits I can only say those are uncomplicated flight decks. You can start, taxi and fly away, but in-depth simulation of the real aircraft and auto flight systems, you won't find here. Therefore don't compare it with the recently released PMDG MD-11.
Sometimes I'm disappointed in the simulated aircraft systems but on the other hand, can you expect that of a product like this in relation to the price. Added to this, it's an easy aircraft to handle which is nice for beginners and probably even intermediate flight simmers. If you want more, this is not the aircraft you're looking for. I know, this is a very personal expression, which is always the case with reviews. I think with all the special notes in the review you should have a good impression of what the Sky Simulations model is offering.
Although the sound part in this review is very limited, the product and reordered sounds are, especially for the engines, not as real as it gets. If the sound files are real, I can't judge, but I can tell you that all the offered engine sounds - CF6-6D, CF6-80C2 and the PW4400 Series - are the same and that's far from reality. In the real world, every engine has its own characteristic sound but is it important to you? You can only answer that yourself! I can speak for myself and with my real aviation experience, I'm disappointed.
Finally the FPS (FSX); this is and stays always a difficult item. For this I did install again the PMDG MD-11 and compared it with the Sky MD-11 and the results surprised me. The actual FPS counter depends on so many things as we all know but when the FPS shows with the PMDG model even higher values, I need to conclude that the Sky Simulations model, which doesn't have complicated simulated systems, stresses the FPS more then expected.
All of this, in case you didn't notice, is checked in FSX but it tells me enough. Remember one thing, I don't own a brand new PC so therefore my frames are not always that high, but when a PMDG MD-11 offers me inflight with building storms selected between 13-18 FPS, while the Sky Simulations MD-11 is somewhere between 9-12, I think no more words are needed! Looking at the FS9 FPS issue, then these values are higher but not exceptional, which can be found during my nonscheduled flight from KEMEM to CYVR.
Last item for this summary is the price. it's a competitive package for 25.00 € or around 31.50 US$. For that you get the MD-11 with a few liveries, and the free of charge MD-10 with only the FedEx livery. Is it worth your money?
Normally I don't have any problems writing down my own ideas, but this time I do. it's not my favorite model but that's because I've had a very good experience with the PMDG MD-11. Ok, the PMDG is much more expensive, but you really get a MSFS MD-11. My opinion is that when you're looking for a simple simulated model of the MD-11/MD-10 and accept that certain aircraft systems are not correctly or not at all simulated, then you could think of buying this version.
With all the things I found during my ground and flight hours in the Sky Simulations cockpits and external model, I think it's not difficult to say that this model can't compete with the PMDG model. Can it compete with another add-on payware model? The only vendor who I can think of that can compete with it is the CLS Douglas DC-10 collection, brought to you by Just Flight.
I know, it's not a MD-11 but read further! Although Commercial Level Simulations doesn't offer the MD-11, they offer the complete DC-10 Series, which are the -10, -10F, -15, -30, -30F, -40, -40F and special versions like the KC-10 Extender and KDC-10 Refueler. Apart from this, the 2D and VC cockpits are at least the same, an excellent external model with realistic recorded engine sound but more importantly, they offer a free update to replace the light FMS for a real operational INS (Inertial Navigation System). That, together with a great manual and didactical flight tutorial, you're in.
What I Like About Sky Simulations MD-11/MD-10
What I Don't Like About Sky Simulations MD-11/MD-10
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