Thanks For The Visit !
THE LAST WWII BIPLANE FIGHTER OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE
By Harold "Farmboyzim" Zimmer
The Gloster Gladiator (Designation Gloster SS.37) was a British built biplane fighter, constructed by the Gloster Aircraft Company. Henry Folland designed the aircraft, being a derivative of the Gloster Gauntlet, and it was flown for the first time on September 12, 1934. The Gladiator entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1937. Portugal, one of the many countries to use the Gladiator, was the last air arm to utilize the aircraft as a fighter, and retired it from service
Both Allied and Axis countries utilized this formidable fighter in combat, having no choice but to serve into the early stages of World War Two. The Gladiator was used around the world in various conflicts. It also performed in many diverse environments from the deserts of the Middle East to the snowy, freezing weather of Europe. For a biplane, it was fairly fast, kicking up her heels at around 250 MPH. Although it was a tough old bird, it just could not compete with the performance of the monoplane-type aircraft that was being developed and delivered into service. The “Spitfire” is a good example of this.
More importantly, the Gladiator, though responsible for the downing of a few enemy aircraft, could not contend with the enemy’s newest air weapon, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Royal Air Force was extremely hard pressed to gain an advantage over these more modern, monoplane configured fighters. The age of a new type of fighter aircraft had arrived. Personally, I think the Gloster Gladiator is an excellent aircraft of its day to represent the last of the biplane gunfighter’s of the skies!
The airframe was constructed of wood and had canvas covered wings, coated with extremely flammable aircraft dope (a type of lacquer, used to stiffen and protect the canvas). Armament consisted of four machine guns, two fuselage mounted Vickers and two Lewis Machine Guns under the lower wing. Delivered in 1936 and operational in 1937, modifications and improvements to the aircraft were already on the drawing board. These design improvements were mainly in the engine type and power, the propeller (from a two-bladed wooden to a three-bladed metal fixed pitch prop), and enclosing the cockpit. Another interesting modification was the use of boot like skis for take-off and landings upon snow covered ground/runways. In those days, it was more apt to be ground however!
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm employed the Sea Gladiator, which was simply a modification of the standard Gladiator to “On-Board” operations. It included an arrestor hook, catapult points, and a strengthened airframe for duty upon aircraft carriers. Out of 98 Sea Gladiators, 54 were still in service at the outbreak of the Second World War. Approximately 750 Gladiators were manufactured from 1937 to 1940.
Installation and Documentation
Upon firing up FSX, and eagerly looking for the Gladiator in the menu, I found it, selected it, and all I could see displayed was a “see-through” model, into the interior of the aircraft. Loading up to fly the model displayed the same problem. Although this was a great way to see all the fantastic detail that Simon put into the making of this model, it just wasn’t right. After uninstalling, which was just as easy as the install, choosing this option from the “Start Menu” under FSAddon, I reinstalled the package but with the same results.
Now here’s a short story about how I was able to get everything up and running with no problems… A while back, I had to do a reinstall of FSX. I decided to put it onto an exterior drive. I did not detect any problems for
awhile, FSX just wasn’t used that much to be honest. I’m still an avid FS9 user, having both an older system, and having it “tuned up” like a fine car, but I do find myself “flying” FSX a bit more these days.
After I installed the Gladiator, I eagerly fired FSX up, chose one of the Gladiator variations, and what I saw was a model with a transparent fuselage! The exterior textures were not rendering! This effect did, however, lend an excellent view of the detail that went into the interior of the model! I fiddled with a few settings, rebooted FSX, and got the same results. It pays not to get frustrated or upset. More than likely, it is often due to something that I like to call, “Operator Headspace”. This leads us to “Support”.
This was an excellent opportunity to see how the support was at FSAddon. Going to the Forums over at FSAddon Publishing, I read what posts there were on the Gladiator. There were not many, which I took as a good sign! Not seeing anything relevant to my problem, I sent off a message to Francois Dumas, FSAddon’s “Main Man”, regarding this problem. I gave him what I thought were all the right answers to his questions regarding the problem, but with no luck. I persuaded him with a dinner and home baked apple pie, to make a “service call” to my house. Wow, a personal service call to the States all the way from the Netherlands! OK, he was already going to be in the area, but its real good tastin’ apple pie!
First things first, we ate, and then off to the office! I showed him what was going on, and the first thing he asked me was whether or not I had the Service Packs for FSX installed. I remember telling him that I had, so once again I said, “Of course I…..Um, hang on there…well I’ll be darned!” As we used to say when we were kids, “DUH”! When I did my reinstall of FSX over to the external drive, I failed to update with the Service Packs! “Obvious question” for an “Obvious Mistake”!
We went and did some damage to the apple pie while I did the updates, and ouila! Worked like a charm! Moral here… Don’t forget to do the obvious and don’t take it for granted that you DID! It’s usually the little things that grind the large wheels to a halt! We wished Francois and his wife well, and they were back on the road for more adventures! It was truly great to meet the both of them! Now, I could take care of that review…..! Being a huge biplane fan, I was anxious to get my virtual butt into that virtual aircraft! Thanks for the advice and help Francois!
There is a 28 page manual in PDF format that is installed and accessed from the Start Menu/Programs/FSAddon/GladiatorX. The manual has some very interesting information about the history and development of the Gladiator, as well as excellent pictures of real aircraft. Graphics of the simulated model are also provided with areas identified that are “click spots” for some type of function. There are some things that you need to know to fully enjoy the model, so I highly suggest reading the manual.
This is not a difficult aircraft to fly as far as the avionics are concerned. They are pretty basic. There are tips however, on the simplest of things, like taxiing, braking, and properly flying the aircraft. Pay attention to what is said about the taxiing and braking, as the Gladiator is tricky on the ground. All in all, an interesting and well written manual.
Interior and Exterior
This package includes three models of the Gloster Gladiator…
* The Gladiator Mk I (Wheels and Skis) Version powered by a single 840 hp (627 kW) Bristol Mercury IX (9 cylinder) air-cooled radial piston engine. This version was equipped with a two-bladed Watts fixed pitch wood propeller.
* The Gladiator Mk II (Wheels) Version powered by a single Bristol Mercury VIIIA air-cooled radial piston engine. This model is fitted with a Mercury engine (Bristol Mercury VIIIA air-cooled radial piston engine - 850HP) spinning a Fairey Reed fixed-pitch, three bladed metal propeller. This carried extra weight compared to the Mk I which resulted in its being only 4mph faster at 14,500’.
* The Sea Gladiator Mk II (Wheels with tail hook). A Single-seat fighter biplane for the Royal Navy. Fitted with a strengthened frame, catapult launch points and arrestor hooks plus provision for dinghy stowage (between the landing gear legs (The dinghy stowage was a feature of the full later model. This was a slower variant due to the extra weight needed for naval operations.
Seven different liveries are included in this package, representing just a few of the many air forces that used the Gladiator. I would think the repaint options for this aircraft would be numerous. There is an animated ground crew as well, working on the aircraft at rest, with her panels off. Accessing these various effects, such as the ground crew and how to remove the panels are covered in the manual.
The actual modeling of the aircraft is quite detailed. The paint jobs are both accurate and beautifully done, with loads of detail. Simon definitely has a talent for development, and has created other models as well.
Watching from the “Spot View”, control surfaces and other animated items all operate smoothly. The four machine guns that are modeled give off a very “hot” muzzle flash effect, and you can see the spent cartridges (from the spot view) fall away from the aircraft. Firing the guns is assigned to the “Smoke Key”, “I”, complete with machine gun sounds. The MG sounds do not “loop”, but can be heard with short bursts of the guns. Not that you’ll be hitting anything…it is just for the effect, but it does make for some nice, “action” screenshots.
All textures (this includes paint job, propeller textures, etc.) are created in a way that really reflects a note of realism to this model. The model is very impressive looking on the outside, and does justice to the real “Gladiator” of days gone by.
Simon’s talent extends to the interior of the model as well. The cockpit is loaded with detail. I’m not referring to the panel, which will be covered separately; I’m talking about construction of the cockpit in general. As you pan around in VC viewing mode, you may just get the feeling that you could feel comfortable sitting in a real world Gladiator. The screenshots can tell a better story here perhaps. It’s all those “little things” that make that often talked about “realism factor” a step closer to “virtual reality”. I consider some of these Gladiator models actual works of aviation art.
I still miss the 2D Panel view mode, but there are plenty of other views in FSX provided for the models of today. Just old fashioned I guess! The fact is that the Virtual Cockpits are being created in a way where they are both frame rate friendly and highly functional. This is one of those flight decks, although I did not expect the smoothness and decent refresh rates that I ended up having. A pleasant surprise for my somewhat “older system”!
Invaluable information on this model was provided by the folks at The Shuttleworth Collection, which is an aeronautical and automotive museum located at the Old Warden airfield in Bedfordshire, England. It is one of the most prestigious in the world due to the variety of old and well-preserved aircraft. Their site is a must see at http://www.shuttleworth.org/.
The photo gallery of aircraft, motorcycles, and steam vehicles is awesome. If you are reading this, and you live in Great Britain, GET OVER THERE! An absolute must see if you can make it! The staff permitted Francois access to the restored Gladiator in their collection to obtain numerous photos to reference in the making of this model.
The various panel views will offer any user one that will satisfy his or her needs. You may find that you will have to zoom out a bit in order to get a good look at some of the instruments, while maintaining visibility out the front of the aircraft, as in the screenshot 3rd from the left, top row. Avionics in this aircraft are minimal and basic, as they were back in the days when the Gladiator flew the skies.
It comes equipped with a radio and a compass. The compass to help you find your way, and the radio to call for help when you can’t! No ADF, VOR, or GPS with this bird! All the more reason to love it if you enjoy flying “by the seat of your pants”! The rudder trim wheel can be found down on the floor, near the base of the stick, which is of the contemporary British design. Above the panel, you will see a sight window, which has crosshairs that can be turned on and off from a switch on the panel.
One of the few questions that I found in the forums regarding the Gladiator referenced the gauges not rendering crisp and clear. I believe it was a problem with the graphics card the individual was using. I had no problems in any of the Panel View Modes, including the nighttime gauges, which were easily readable.
The one thing that I had to get used to was the “Vibration” of the panel/aircraft, where the developer is trying to duplicate the reality of just how much these old birds could shake. I have seen this in a couple other models as well. It is not a “violent” vibration at all, but personally, I would like to see an option or a possible patch in the future that might render this effect temporarily off, if one so wishes. Just my personal opinion on this though.
The Panel reflects an incredible amount of workmanship and functionality, and duplicates the original extremely well in comparison. Remember to look over the Manual on some of the “click spots” that will be found in the interior. There are some not so obvious places to click to enable some of the effects that are provided, and certainly worth seeing!
Bottom line on the panel is everything worked great, but on the personal note, I could have done without the “slight vibration”, but as I flew the model more and more, this was overcome by familiarity and I did not notice it as much.
From the pops of start up, to the hiccups of shut down, the engine sounds were able to put my mind into that “biplane mode”. They are unique sounds, the engines of biplanes. The internal cockpit sounds as well as the weapon sounds are rendered well. Without good sound from the model, I find it hard to “mentally” lose myself into the sim. Sounds are an important facet of this hobby, and a job well done can be handed out to this model!
The data used to configure the flight dynamics of this model were taken from original aircraft specifications and consultation with the staff at Shuttleworth Air Museum. Having never flown a “real” biplane, my opinions here are my own, based on flying other models of biplanes, freeware and payware. She sure “feels” like a biplane, the way it rolls and handles. Older biplanes cut out for a moment in loops, due to the gravity fed carburetors of the time, but this is not a factor with the Gladiator. Climb rates and general cruising seem to be as realistic as one might expect.
This is a fun model to fly! I think they did a great job trying to make the characteristics of the model, both on the ground and in the air, as close to the “real deal” as possible!
Summary / Closing Remarks
This model is an excellent addition to the ranks of payware models representing yesterday’s glorious old warbirds. The model reflects the developer’s intent on getting it as close to looking and behaving like the real Gladiator as possible. I was surprised at the rather decent frame rates I was getting with my system. Having most of the settings in FSX set to average, frame rates were hitting 18 - 20 fps.
I know I need to upgrade my rig one of these days, but it does show you that if it works well for me with my specs, it should work very well if your system is newer than mine. Reading through various forums across the web indicates that most of you are in fact running more updated machines. I do recommend this model for newer simmers to the hobby, as you are getting a quality model with a good assortment of variations and liveries, plus the fact that this is a basic aircraft and an excellent way to learn how to fly the virtual skies the old fashioned way. It is also a “forgiving” aircraft for the beginner, as it is built ruggedly as most fighters were. The avid, experienced flight simmer will also enjoy this model for its flight dynamics, a challenge for your navigational piloting skills, and also, just for its looks! It is a great looking aircraft!
The price for this product, through FSAddon is 16.00, without tax and roughly $21.00 in USD. I think you would be getting one heck of a deal at this price. It’s as simple as that!
What I Like About The Gloster Gladiator
* Overall quality of the product
* Wide selection of types and liveries
* Excellent paint jobs and VERY nice effects
* Model flew very well with no bugs
* This model is relatively easy to fly
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (SP2)
Microsoft Windows XP SP3
HP Pavilion a420n
AMD Athlon 3000+ 2.16 GHz
1 GB RAM (2 GB recommended)
NVidia GeForce 7600 GS 500 MB
(she may be old, but she's reliable!)
* The model is very affordable.
What I Don't Like About The Gloster Gladiator
* There wasn't much to NOT like, but...
* I personally don’t care for the vibration effect
* My usual comment here...no 2D Panel View Mode (I’m old fashioned!).
Prop textures look great at all RPM’s
Classic Biplane lines
It looks like a “Gladiator”!
Dutch Version with Skis
Luftwaffe Winter Version
Portugal Air Force Livery
Easy in, easy out!
All the various views included
Excellent weapons effects
Details everywhere you look
Gladiator’s Flight Deck
I wonder if it snow's a lot where this bird fly's?
Excellent animated features
Up close detail!
An agile fighter for it's time
Lit up...Hopefully no enemy around!
Various views of the interior and "outside"...