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design is similar to the two-engine A330. The latest variants now compete with Boeing's 777 series of aircraft on long-haul and ultra long-haul routes. Airbus' new aircraft was launched in 1988 as a long-range complement to the short-range A320 and the medium-range A300. At the time, the newest long-range wide body, the twinjet Boeing 767, was at a disadvantage against aircraft such as the 747 because of the ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) problem: two-engine aircraft have to stay within close range of emergency airfields in case one of their engines malfunctions. The four-engine A340 design was an attempt to make a new-generation competitor for ETOPS-immune aircraft like the Boeing 747. During the late 1990s, Airbus believed that 4 engines were always better than two engines since they created a bigger margin of safety over the twin engine Boeing 777 should an engine fail in flight. Because of its ETOPS-immunity, Virgin Atlantic Airlines uses the motto "4 Engines 4 Long Haul," on its A340 fleet. When fuel costs rose, airlines began looking more at the 777 as an alternative to the A340. As the years went by, orders for the 777 rose, while orders for the A340 began diminishing. In 2005, Airbus had only 15 orders for the A340. Four engines were no longer considered a necessity for the long haul routes, due to the increased performance and
It was a pleasant surprise when I seen that I had received an email from the folks at Commercial level Simulations (CLS) to review their products, starting with the "Beast", the Airbus A340-600. Appropriately named, I have also heard it called a "pencil with wings"! As far as the heavies go, the A340-600 is truly a beautiful aircraft. Airbus Industries has certainly produced some great aircraft. Even the "Beluga" by Airbus that oddly shaped cargo craft that just doesn't look as if it should fly has a unique kind of beauty to it! It still amazes me to this day to watch large aircraft get airborne, and even though I know the principles of how that chunk of iron got into the air, it's still an absolutely incredible sight to behold.
CLS has produced a very nice model of the A340-600. CLS was founded in the beginning of 2005. All members have been designing for Flight Simulator for a long time so they have a lot experience in their group. The idea started in January 2005, and 10 months later, their first project was complete.
The Airbus A340 is a long-range four-engine wide body commercial passenger aircraft. Its
reliability of twin engine aircraft, except in cases such as the A380 for example. Airbus' engineers designed the A340 in parallel with the twin-engine A330. Both aircraft share the same wing and similar fuselage structure, and borrow heavily from the advanced avionics developed for the A320. When the A340 first flew in 1991 engineers noticed a potentially major design flaw in the first model: the wings were not strong enough to carry the outboard engines at cruising speed without warping and fluttering. To alleviate this, an under wing bulge called the plastron, named after the under shell of a tortoise, was developed to correct airflow problems around the engine pylons. The modified A340 began commercial service in 1993 with Lufthansa and Air France. In January 2006, Airbus announced plans to develop an enhanced version of the A340, dubbed the A340E; where E stands for enhanced, because of disappointing sales in the wake of newer longer range Boeing 777s in 2005, and the rise in fuel costs that have justified twin-engine planes as being cheaper and more economical to operate than four engine planes. In 2005, Boeing had 154 orders for its Boeing 777s, while Airbus had only 15 orders for its A340s. Airbus claims that the enhanced A340 will be more fuel efficient than earlier A340s and hopes the model will compete more effectively with the Boeing 777.
As a fairly new company, but having experienced designers, CLS is certainly a company to keep an eye on. The A340-600 is the first product from these folks that I have had the pleasure to review, and I am certainly glad that they found me! The product is downloadable, with a boxed version being planned for release in the near future. Downloading the package from their site and loading her up presented no problems and went fairly quick. A livery pack needs to be installed which is available from their website also.
The aircraft is modeled very well, with very nice detail to the exterior. The paint jobs are fantastic, and look great in a screenshot, that is if you can get this aircraft to fit onto your monitor! Various airlines from around the world who utilize the A340 are represented in their choice of liveries, along with a custom CLS paint job that looks really quite nice for a "house" livery. Control surfaces are all functional, with appropriate sounds. There is a little less detail in this product than in some higher costing add ons, which we'll discuss shortly, but these minor items do not detract from the overall
"flight experience". The exterior also includes more than 60 individual contact point definitions and damage profiles throughout the aircraft, allowing for some realistic damage if you tail drag or flop it down a bit too hard on the runway! Sparks and smoke will be the tell-tale sign that you need some practice! The modeling of the aircraft is also very smooth and not "blocky" in appearance. In reading through the support forums, there were some problems that folks were having with the operations of the aircraft, and for the most part these issues were addressed and resolved. One example of an unresolved problem is that of the auto-brake system not functioning upon landing. It was stated in the forum that this is an
MSFS 2004 type bug that other aircraft sometimes will also display. If the landing is not smooth, it will "disturb" the auto-brake function. In the image to the right, I had the auto-brake engaged, and although the landing was a bit off center, it was as smooth as a baby's butt, but still no auto-brakes. I personally have not had this problem before, but have found that other simmers have experienced this in other aircraft. Overall though, I think the aircraft looks great, and the flight dynamics are especially, I want to use the word accurate, but again, not having flown an A340 (wishful thinking once again!), I can only compare this product to others, and it rates way up on the list for how it handles.
The panels are a simpler version than that of a more advanced model, and they tell you that up front. For example, the FMC works, but in a limited capacity. It uses the MSFS 2004 Flight Planner and Fuel and Payload options (the MSFS Fuel and Payload function not being the worlds most accurate BTW!), instead of being programmable while in the aircraft. I liked how the panels were set up, but found that some of the labels on various buttons or switches were a bit tough to read. I tried viewing the panels at various resolutions, but with the same effect. Most of the switches and buttons have a purpose, but you will also find the typical "eye candy" that serve no purpose. I want to emphasize here that this is not a complex model; it was designed to be user-friendly, and be fun to fly, not a chore! Included in the product is configuration for an easier flight dynamics profile, if you just want to hop in and zip around the skies without having to worry about fuel or weight. With just a few "minor" (Ha, easier said than done probably!) adjustments, this could be a first class panel configuration. Don't get me wrong here. I think that overall the panels look great, as well as the looks of the flight deck. Night panel lighting was also very nice, and gives that feeling of being in a warm flight deck at night!
I was very impressed with the MFD's and the loads of information that can be displayed regarding various operations and functions of the aircraft systems. The glass panels were very readable; it was just the smaller panel buttons that were a bit tough to make out. I know I've commented on my eyesight in the past, so I asked my eagle eyed wife to take a look. She thought the panels also looked very realistic (she knows these things through osmosis!) but came to the same conclusion on some of the smaller buttons and switches.
I have really enjoyed this product! If you look through their forum, you may come away with the notion that this product has some flaws. Let me say this in their defense... take a look at other product forums and I think you may notice that this is not a perfect world after all! You will find those that will complain about the FMC, but they forget that they are purchasing a simpler flight model, not an advanced package that takes a good deal of "simmer skill" to operate. This product offers enough of a challenge to make it enjoyable for the advanced simmer, yet it's functions are designed to make it perform well for the beginning to intermediate level simmer (with some help from the forum). I want to remind all of you that to create these models, it takes skill, talent, time, and an enthusiasm for the hobby of flight simulation. For the price of $23.95 Euro, or about $30.00 USD, this is an attractive package to own! The bottom line is that if you are expecting an exact representation of the Airbus A340-600, you'll be a bit disappointed. However, if you are looking for an affordable, decent quality aircraft add on of the Airbus family, and you already own an Airbus or two, I'd check this one out if I were you! For more information on this and some other very fine products from CLS, visit their website at www.commerciallevel.com . For more information on the Airbus family of aircraft, visit the Airbus Home Page by clicking here.
Although I now know how to use an FMC, it was kind of nice not having to program an entire flight data base into the FMC. You may have some problems figuring out the panels and the FMC if you have never flown this type of product before. It's not that the operations of this model are complicated; it is that the manual (in PDF format) is not very comprehensive in how to operate the panels and other various systems. Functions of the panel, in particular the auto pilot, I think could have been covered a bit more than it was, but if you are experienced, you should not have any problems with the operations. The topic of the manual has come up in the support forums at the CLS site, and just about all your questions can be answered there. I do believe that more work should have been done on the manual to make this product just a tad more user friendly for the newcomer to the heavies. To make the manual "printer friendly", the large images of the various liveries of the A340-600 which are quite nice, BTW!) could have been done away with. Sorry CLS, but I'm a manual freak! I wouldn't let the manual keep you from buying this product though, since, as I have stated earlier, the product ssupport forum is very helpful, and these days it seems that forums are the best and most effective way to get help on any product.
Other features of this product are a cabin and wing view. You must reconfigure your panel config file to be able to utilize the cabin view, and the instructions are in the forum on how to do this. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out, for its simple enough and well explained. There's not a whole lot to see back in the cabin, and looks basic, but again, you're buying this model to fly, not be a passenger in! I know it's a nice touch to the model, but I could never figure out the appeal of a virtual cabin area. To each his or her own though! There's as many reasons for these kinds of things as there are simmers in the world today! Workable cargo and main exit doors are also modeled.
The sounds were well done, with some interesting background ambient noise in the flight deck area. Was that some glassware jiggling around back there? The engines have a decent sound to them, but if you pay close attention, you might notice a bit of a loop effect. Not too bad though. I liked the realistic sound of the flaps being activated, very nice. The looks as well as the sounds of the landing gear were also very well rendered. Lots of detail on the gear, with smooth operation. In a couple of the screen shots below, you can also see that the night lighting is rather pretty. Did I say "pretty"? I meant to say it looks great! Yeah, that sounds more "manly"!
Commercial Level Simulations
Airbus A340-600 "The Beast"
Reviewed by Farmboyzim