The first part of Aerosoft’s F-14X Megareview. From startup to shutdown – the flight and procedures are described in detail. My impressions? Excellent!
A note from the author. It’s not a quick review based on a single flight. I had the F-14 for some time before I wrote this text. I carefully planed what to show you in this flight. Enjoy my story!Today in C-Aviation.net:
- cold & dark – how to turn the F-14 on
- radionavigation – VOR and NDB
- ILS approach
To go ahead of some critics – I know that F-14 is no longer used and the chance of F-14 patrols over Baltic sea would be very small even in the nineties. But technically they would be possible. As to the airport choice – I prefer to fly from a good, payware sceneries and Szczecin (by Drzewiecki Design – look at the bottom for links) looks perfect around the warbird. Gdańsk… not so much but I needed a good looking ILS equipped airport.
I chose F-14A 90 from VF-1. This is an early version so the ordnance panel (Shift+2) offers only Air-to-Air missiles, fuel tanks and TARPS recon pod. 400+ miles is not much, I will not take pictures and I do not expect Bear bombers… TAPRS, fuel tanks and Phoenix long range missiles stay on the ground. I take only two Sparrows and two Sidewinders (AIM-7 and AIM-9 if you are not familiar with their names). It is not a standard weapons layout – just my choice – I like how the F-14 looks in this configuration. I fill internal tanks with 15979 pounds of jet fuel.I already set the Controls tab earlier. Payload on Start-up – turned on. I select weapons and fuel before each flight so it can be displayed as soon as the flight loads. Cold and Dark – checked – I will begin each flight in this state. If I am in a hurry – I can always select Ready to Taxi in Payload panel – that will engage automatic startup procedure. I do not use the Mini HUD but it is worth mentioning – it shows you HUD in the center of your view – no matter in which direction you are looking. It may come handy in a dogfight when it’s difficult to turn the head from target to instruments – it’s much more difficult in FSX then in real world. I use TrackIR so it’s not that much of a problem for me. ACLS gauge – I will be landing on an airport so I do not need the Automated Carrier Landing System gauge. VEC mode – I go for realism – autopilot will only hold altitude. If you turn it on – it will follow FSX flight plan altitude (I take Aerosoft’s word for it – I never use FS flight planner). Compressor Stall – on. My TF-30 engines will stall if not handled properly. Smoke Effects ON – checked (possible performance hit on the ground when stationary). Alternate throttle – off. It’s a walkaround for a bug that occurs only for some users – I have no problems with my throttle.
You will probably look at the Controls tab once. Then you can forget about it – everything is set.
Cold and Dark
I received the Tomcat like a real pilot would – fueled up and connected to external power source. Some indicators will be turned on as the pilot enters the cockpit.
Shift+2 opens the 2d panel. I go to “Start” tab and click the fuel and EXT Power checkboxes after confirming fuel quantity. Lights are on so – I am sure that the power is connected.
There are a few differences between Aerosoft’s and U.S. Navy manuals for the F-14A but one should remember that F-14 underwent several modifications and Aerosoft could simply use a manual of a different model / block. I will mention this differences.
Next point – Master Test. A knob and a button used to test aircraft systems. Actually – to engage automated tests of systems. The first position – off. The second – LTS. I click the knob with the right mouse button – the knob rises a little – I can turn it now (mouse scroll) and push back (left mouse button). LTS means lights. I check if the annunciator panel and other warning lights lit up. They did. Checked.Fire DET/EXT. Once again I rise the knob (RMB), turn it to Fire DET/EXT. Before I push it back I reset warning lights with the Master Caution button. All lights faded. I can test Fire warnings. They work correctly.
Then the INST (Instruments) test. I turn to INST and push the knob – it works almost as it should. Unfortunately – it works even before the knob is pushed. And the TIT indication is way higher than it should be during the test. If your follow the Aerosoft’s manual – you will not know that it’s a mistake. Only by reading the real world manual you will learn that TIT should be in the middle of the scale during this test. I check other instruments. AOA – 18 – as in the manual, wings position – 45 – OK, fuel quantity – 2000 lb – OK, oxygen – 2 – OK, fuel and oxygen annunciator lights and both OVSP – on. Everything as it should be according to the real manual. Excellent!I turn off the Master Test – the checklist automatically checks this box.
Ejection Seats – Armed
This box was also checked automatically after previous tests were completed. Ejection seats should be armed and that is a troublesome manual procedure that would be difficult to simulate on a PC. Let’s just assume that the pilot did it. If you want to find out what needs to be done – go to Avialogs.com (I strongly recommend this site!!!) and read the manual.
Canopy – Closed
I press a switch on the right side – the canopy closes.
ACM Panel – Set
Checked by default when the previous action is done. SW Cool (Sidewinder cooling), MSL Prep (Missile preparation) and MSL Mode (Missile mode) buttons are not simulated in this plane. I will get back to this buttons in the third part of this review where I describe weapons systems.
The real manual asks to check whether station indicators are showing missile indication in places where I put my AIM-7s and AIM-9s. They do. I also check whether the emergency jettison light is dark – it is.
Refuel Probe – extend / retract
I really do not know what is this action doing here. Aerosoft’s checklist requires me to extend and retract refueling probe – it should be impossible in an aircraft that is not powered up. Aerosoft’s F-14 will not extend the probe. The real world manual does not mention this action here. To go ahead with the interactive checklist I click on the probe’s switch – it allows me to check the box and go on.
Ladder Light – off
It’s still at the side of my F-14. You need to stow the ladder – to do so you will need to make a keyboard shortcut for wing fold (by default there is no shortcut in FSX). You can also click the checkbox on the checklist – the ladder will be stowed. It’s a clever idea – I do not need to remember another keyboard shortcut.
Air Source – off
It checked itself automatically. To be sure I check the right panel – it’s set (off).
Starter Air – On
Starter air connected by the ground crew. Automatically checked – I do not have any control over this. Let’s assume that there is a kind man on the ground who connected the air tube to my F-14.
ENG Crank – Cycle
I check if the starter switch works. Left. Off. Right. Off. Ok.
The real F-14 manual does not require this check – but there is no harm in checking, is it?
Emerg FLT HYD – Cycle
There is a difference between the real F-14 and the Aerosoft’s. In the real pilot should check the emergency hydraulic system but the system in Aerosoft’s F-14 works only after the aircraft engines were turned on. I simply click on the switch and check the box on my checklist.
ENG Crank – R
I am turning the engine on. At last! Switch to the right (the right engine will be started first). Click (right mouse button) – and then I wait until turbine speed reaches 18%. I can hear the sound of compressed air turning the engine. Finally the sound stabilizes and the indicator shows something around 18%.
R Throttle – Idle
I click (right mouse button) the right throttle. It moves from cut off position to idle. Engine speed rises, fuel flow indication appears (1600 pounds per hour) and a moment later the temperature rises to 660 degrees. It was a successful start. 750 degrees means hot start and a risk of fire. I’ll write more about engine fires in Aerosoft’s F-14 (search for the second part of this text).
R Eng Caution Lights
Generator and fuel pressure lights should be off at this point. In my plane – Generator light is still on. There is a difference between Aerosoft’s and Navy’s checklists. Generator should be turned on (armed – switch position “Norm”) before the engine was started. I turn both generators to Norm. The light for the right engine goes out.
To make this clear – generators in F-14 are turned on automatically. Norm means armed and ready to be turned on when the engine speed is sufficient.
R Engion Inst Check
I check engine’s indications. Speed – 63-75%. 68% here. Checked. TIT – at least 600 deg. 660. Checked. Fuel flow – 1000 pounds (original manual) or 1100 pounds (Aerosoft). It’s 1600 here. Nozzle – open. ok. Oil pressure – 30psi (original), 40-50 (Aerosoft). 40psi here. Checked. Hydraulics – 3000psi. Checked.
All values are correct or close but the box was not checked automatically. I try to check it manually – no result. I found out that in such cases I have to move the throttle a little and then retard it back to idle – and the box checks itself.
EXT Power – Disconnect
Someone disconnected external power. Thanks.
HYD Transfer – Check
Aerosoft’s manual simply tells me what to click. You should also check whether the hydraulic fluid was actually transferred – I look at the indicator and COMB needle is above 2000 psi. It should show 2400psi… It probably does – this indicator is not that precise (I mean the real indicator). Well done!
I follow the same procedure when starting the left engine.
Air Source – Cycle
I cycle through all air conditioning modes. Finally I select both engines. The checkbox checked itself.
HYD Transfer Pump – Normal
Hydraulics pump set to normal. I click its switch and close its guard.
Ground Safety Pins – Remove
Checked. Ground crewman removed front gear pins. The pins are then stowed in the front gear bay – if you wander what happened to them.
Stab AUG – All On
Stability augmentation – ACFS switches – pitch, roll i yaw to ON.
Master Test – Emerg Gen / VMCU – Check
Aerosoft’s manual does not mention what the VMCU is. If you are interested – it’s the Voltage Monitor Control Unit and the test should turn all ACFS lights on when the backup generator is tested. It’s not simulated.
Emerg Wing Sweep – 68 degrees
I click (RMB) at wings lever – 68 degrees it is.
Wing/Ext Trans – off
Fuel transfer – off.
Comm/Nav/Displays – ON
I set radios, receiver and transmitter of TACAN (T/R), turn on HUD and both screens in my cockpit. ARA-63 instrument landing system is not simulated (I assume it’s turned on all the time). I did not have to do anything by the radio altimeter.
Trim – Set 0,0,0
Standby Gyro – erect
It looks fine – checked.
Master Reset – Press
No warnings are displayed.
Master test Mach Lev
According to the manual engines should spin up to 83%. It takes (as in the real world) from several to 10 seconds. After this time the “GO” result shows up.
A “NO GO” indication happened to me several times. The engines did not spool up. I reloaded the plane and everything was fine. I did not check if there would be any problems inflight. The checklist box was checked with “no go” result…
Speedbrake – Ext/Ret
I extend and retract the speed brake…
Refuel Probe – Ext/Ret
This time it works. Checked.
Windshield Air – cycle
I switch to check both positions. Checked.
Emerg W Speep – 20
i Emerg W sweep – stow
I drag the emergency lever to 20 degrees (full front) and then click on the cover to stow the lever and close the cover. From now on I can control wing sweep using throttle hat (or a 2d panel if you do not have the throttle hat).
Flaps and Slats – Down
Flap button pressed twice. Down.
I go through the list – controls – ok; DLC (Direct Lift Control – a button on the stick) – ok, Antiskid switch to na Spoiler BK (spoiler will extend during braking), then the Master Test to Stick SW and finally flaps and slats up. Checked.
Maneuver Flaps – Down
Maneuver Flaps (do not confuse them with normal flap settings) – you need to add a keyboard command for Floats (in FSX settings) to use maneuver flaps.
Wing Sweep Mode Rocker
I check if the wings work. First – I set them manually at 55 deg (using the hat in 2d panel – Shift+3) Done. Flaps should retract – checked. Bomb mode – checked. Auto – set.
There is a short checklist. I check instruments and indicators, set altimeter (pressure), compass, nose strut, hook (extend and retract – someone will check visually on the ground)… Finally I switch engine inlets to Auto and check if the nose wheel steering is on (it is – the light is on). Last checks – turn coordinator – in the middle. Master Arm – safe.I finish my preparations setting radio on the correct communication frequency (I fly offline so it does not really matter) and navaids frequency – ADF at CHO – 375KHz and nav radio to ROE – 112.0MHz. I need to set the ADF in 2d panel – there is no ADF working on civilian frequencies in F-14 – that is why it’s only available in 2d panel. VOR frequency can be set in 2d panel of in TACAN panel – I’ll get back to radio settings later.
Engine Run-up. Parking break – set. Throttle – MIL (full military power – full power without afterburner). I get the MIL power when F-14’s throttle is in the middle of afterburner range – this animation should be corrected but it’s just a minor and insignificant detail. Apart from this – everything works as it should. Temperature and fuel flow – in correct range. Oil and hydraulic pressure – ok.
Engine run up is not required before each flight – it’s ok to just observe engine parameters when advancing throttle during take-off.
The plane is unstable and tries to turn if I do not pay attention. I feel that this effect is exaggerated. Maybe it’s not a problem with the precise controls of the real F-14 but in FSX it is may be really difficult if you do not have a high quality joystick or (even better) rudder pedals.
The real aircraft is extremely maneuverable on the ground (they had to move it around the carrier). Aerosoft’s F-14 is not that maneuverable if you use the front wheel steering only. I need to help myself with differential braking but this is unrealistic – the F-14 does not use differential braking for tight turns – the inside wheel actually turns back on tight turns! I do not know if that is a mistake of FSX limitation.
The last checks, take-off and climb
I omitted several points from the real world checklist (and the whole checklist for RIO – the back-seater). What I tried to do was to show you how the Aerosoft’s manual compares with the real F-14 handbook. There are few simplifications, but apart from these the mentioned earlier – I do not hold it against the creators of this plane. It does not make sens to add some procedures that require cooperation with ground crew or are done entirely by the ground crew. Some recurrent procedures were also omitted (for example you should check the hook before taxiing and then again before takeoff). Hardcore aviators will probably get the real manual and follow it. I do. And I am pleasantly surprised that most of this procedures can be followed in this plane even if the Aerosoft’s manual omitted them.I take-off heading east and the wind is blowing from north-east – 16 knots. This kind of crosswind does not affect the take-off. After departure – i turn to heading 110 and climb to 39.000ft. As expected – I encounter turbulence at low altitude. F-14 shakes and turns as it goes through this turbulent air before it stabilizes when reaching higher altitude. At CHO NDB I am already at 30.000ft and I turn (2g – 60 degree bank) in direction of ROE shown by the RMI needle.
At 37.000ft I am climbing slowly. Now I have time to set the altimeter (did I already mention how well all knobs turn under mouse scroll? it’s nice!). At 39.000 I reduce power to MIL – which gives me Mach 0.8 and 2500 pounds per hour (per engine). I have about 10000 lb in my tanks – afterburner already burned through 5000 lb of jetfuel.
I can clearly see Bornholm island in front of me but I still set my HUD so that it shows CDI needle – my nav radio is tuned for ROE and my nav display shows the full HSI and the course that I set. HUD in CRUISE mode shows track deviation and heading. To look at the nav display I needed to “disappear” the stick. Fortunately it’s possible in this plane.It is easy to trim the F-14 while in cruise (and in calm air) but it may be a good idea to use T/O or LDG modes of HUD to see flight vector indicator and it’s relation to the horizon.
I am cruising at Mach 0.83. Wings are back to 55 degrees.
For this part of flight I use autopilot. In the default mode it keeps the pitch and roll – it’s great when I climb or turn gently. Altitude hold mode works well and you should go through the manual to know how to use it and how to arm it – basically you climb in the default pitch/roll mode with the ALT mode armed (switch in left panel). When at the altitude – turn ALT mode on by pressing Shift+G. F-14 will keep this altitude.Unfortunately there is a problem with how the HDG mode works at high altitude – F-14 turns slightly off course and then tries to get back on course – using a sudden and strong correction. As it overshoots the desired heading – it makes a correction that is even stronger… after a moment it is banks wildly and looses altitude. The problem increases if there is a strong wind (and especially when gusts are encountered).
I have never seen this problem below 30.000ft. Generally – the higher the altitude (or the lower the IAS) – the bigger the problem…I do not fly in HDG mode anymore above 30.000ft. ALT+ROLL mode allows me to do several test and they all give good results. The F-14 A/P keeps turning at bank angles of 30, 45 and 60 degrees. When banked at 45 degrees or more in ALT mode you need to do turn the plane slowly so that the A/P will have time to compensate for the lost wing area. If done properly – F-14 will keep altitude with 150ft precision at 60 degree bank. That’s impressive!
ILS approach and crosswind landing
ILS approach in F-14 looks about the same as in other planes. It’s a military aircraft so even in 1986 version you can watch ILS cross at HUD. In this version there is a simple (early) HUD that shows only altitude, heading, vertical speed and ILS indication. The newer version shows more data (look at the screens in my next text).
It was a little shocking for me how low the landing speed of F-14 is. I am used to F-16 which lands much faster. In a Tomcat – with its large wings in full forward (20 deg) position and full flaps I can go as slow as 120-130 knots. AOA indexer is the most important indicator on approach – I just set the speed according to its readouts and I am sure that I am safe. Circle – “on speed”. Red arrow – slow down. Green arrow – speed up. Easy and efficient.
The approach may be easy but the crosswind and turbulent air may cause a lot of trouble. I wonder if that is a realistic behavior of the plane or not – the F-14 is much more susceptible to air movement than any other plane in FSX. I feel that this may be just a little exaggerated but on the other hand – it looks like some unstable F-14 approaches I have seen in the real world movies… Bottom line is – that is a demanding aircraft and I need to pay attention for what is happening around me.
I said I will add a section about the radios on this plane. Military radios are always difficult to simulate in FSX which does not support military frequencies or channels. In this case – all communication radios were tuned in civilian frequency range (118-136MHz). This eliminated the original ADF that was wired into a UHF radio. That is why ADF can be only set using 2d panel.
In case of TACAN navaids – each TACAN channel has its corresponding VOR frequency. Actually – DME channel has its associated VOR frequency and TACAN basically uses the same channels as DME. So how it works in F-14? You will set the nav radio frequency if you set the correct channel (you can look up DME channels on a chart or look for a table showing channels and frequencies). In the real world it would not work – TACAN receiver would be seeking for its channel – not the civilian frequency.
I prefer 2d panel and a simple frequency dialing, but I like the TACAN option.
ILS is wired to the first nav radio. The real F-14 has ARA-63 landing system that is different from ILS (in terms of how it works – the information pilot sees is similar). ARA-63 is not simulated.
To sum it up – I like how Aerosoft dealt with radios in this plane. If it lacks anything it’s the TACAN-frequency card in 2d panel – they use it in their Lightning.
Summary of part # 1
It’s very impressive when I take a real world handbook and operate the plane in FSX with out any serious issues. That is how Aerosoft’s F-14 works as far as I got to know this plane. I mentioned a few deviations from the real manual but I am sure that you will consider them minor and insignificant – just as I do.
I did not write a word about how the plane looks. With my screenshots you should be able to judge it yourself. What I should mention is how easy it is to operate this plane in terms of clicking on switches and turning all the knobs. I have no trouble guessing how the switch should be clicked (whether it should be with the right or left button). The scroll programming is excellent – very precise in slow motion but speeds up when I need to go through a wider range of values.
I do not know if it’s clear enough on my screenshots but I would like to add that all texts and decals in cockpit are sharp and readable. Simply perfect!
The next part – tomorrow – how to break the F-14
Come back tomorrow – I will break the F-14. If you do not know how to stall the engine or how to turn it to a great ball of fire – check my text – I will do it. I will also get into a flat spin like in TopGun…