Boeing vs. Airbus - Part 1
Simulation Software Workshop Airbus A310
Blonde or brunette? Red Sox or
Yankees? David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Tastes great or less
filling? These are just a few examples of the many great,
pressing moral issues of our time. Even in the aviation field
we have an enduring example of a great divide: Airbus or Boeing?
The topic recently came up on our forums and it was immediately
clear that people have very distinct, and I daresay, unshakeable
opinions of the two big aircraft manufacturers. Whether based
on fact, opinion, hearsay, national pride, or just simply
liking the way one looks over the other, people can be vehement
in their defense of their choice and relentless in their attacks
on the competition. With all of that in mind, I thought it
would be interesting to write an article on the topic as it
relates to our hobby. It just so happens that the Flight Simulator
2004 community has the perfect products to evaluate.
the first part of our five part series I'll look at one of
the contenders in the widebody category of aircraft: the Simulation
Software Workshop Airbus A310. All of the software developers
in this and subsequent parts of this series have created ultra-high
realistic simulations of their respective products. Please
note that these articles are not exhaustive reviews of each
product although we will certainly be looking at each aircraft
Originally, my intent was to do side-by-side
comparisons of the products to allow for a direct comparison
between the major features of each aircraft. However, the
more I delved into the systems and features of each I realized
that my intended approach was flawed. For the sake of continuity
and focus I've elected to take each product in turn (randomly
selected by a toss of the coin) and present them individually.
We will lead off with the SSW Airbus
A310. A widebody aircraft that has been around since the early
80s, the A310 is a very close brother to the A300 aircraft
introduced in 1974. While the A310 has many very interesting
and modern design features, it is in fact not far removed
from the competitors (Boeing) in functionality and design.
It has a traditional yoke and is not flown by "proxy",
meaning that it is not a fly-by-wire aircraft like the A320.
The A310 pioneered the use of composite materials in secondary
structures and the aircraft comes in several variants, including
passenger and pure freight models.
Be warned that the SSW A310 (or any
of the aircraft featured in the other parts of this series)
are not aircraft that you will be able to hop into and drive
around the sky without having done some reading (trust me,
I tried!). The SSW A310 comes with a multitude of individual
PDF manuals (12 if my count is correct) that cover everything
regarding the A310: auto-flight, ECAM, electrical, fuel, hydraulic,
flight instruments, etc., The SSW product is unique in that
it has attempted to replicate each and every system and sub-system
down to the nth degree. In fact, the PDF manuals read much
more like actual aircraft flight manuals than software manuals,
which can be a mixed blessing. I suspect a novice user would
sometimes find the highly technical manuals a bit overwhelming.
Credit goes out to SSW though for putting everything in the
Being one to accept a challenge, I
entered the A310 cockpit without even peeking at the manuals
confident that with my good working knowledge of aircraft
and systems that I would figure most things out on my own.
After 50 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to get the APU started
I relented and printed out the PDF checklist which certainly
cleared up much of my confusion. SSW has written an excellent
tutorial PDF that takes the new aspiring A310 pilot from a
dark and cold cockpit through an entire flight to shut-down.
It is essential reading and is laid out nicely, even using
graphics to point out switch locations and features.
Moving on from the documentation I
opened up the SSW A310 Load Manager. This is done prior to
entering Flight Simulator and allows you to configure the
aircraft to your liking, with one notable and glaring exception.
You can choose the class layout (all economy, mixed first
class, etc.,), where the passengers will sit, and the cargo
loaded below in the cargo hold. Each movement of one variable
changes the CG, ZFW (Zero-Fuel Weight), Gross Weight, and
all of this is quite handily plotted in real time on a graph.
The one disappointing omission is that you cannot click on
the Fuel tab and simply load what fuel you desire, instead
you have to import the fuel required from a saved flight plan.
I would have preferred an easier way to just upload fuel and
We have our aircraft loaded, now it's
time to fire up the sim! I have a very mid-range computer,
so I run FS2004 with medium terrain, scenery and detail settings
with the exception of the aircraft. Frame rates for the SSW
product, and in fact all of the products, were outstanding.
My first look at the A310 was very cool.
The 3D external model is just incredible.
The paint, reflections and attention to detail far exceeded
my expectations and I was instantly hooked. I have to admit
a certain fondness in my heart for the "look" of
the Airbus series of aircraft. With long, upright landing
gear and those huge high-bypass turbofans slung under the
wings, the A310 is a sexy critter. (Boeing fans will be happy
to know the 757 is my all time favorite however!)
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