Abacus Systems Vickers Super VC10

For Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004

By Nigel C. Martin (20 May 2004)

 People of "senior" years will have a pang of nostalgia and a wry smile when the very words VC10 are mentioned. Why? Because this aircraft was one of the most beautiful, and sophisticated for its time passenger aircraft of the "new jet age".

This beauty was designed way back in 1954 by the far-sighted Vickers design office developing the concept of jet powered aircraft after the success of the Jet Turboprop Viscount and the Vanguard about to enter service. An early development study produced a Vanguard with a gently swept wing and rear mounted engines attached to a Caravel-style tail unit. This was known as the Vanjet VC10. This would have looked well...interesting. I wonder how it looked and flew?

B.O.A.C. was under considerable pressure to buy British (and rightly so!), however their eyes where on the Boeing 707 to cut the story short, In March 1957 B.O.A.C. issued a formal requirement of their needs. In May 1957 35 VC10's were ordered. The Vickers Type 1100 made its maiden flight on June 29th 1962. After numerous changes or tweaks, certification was issued 23rd April 1964. The rest is history.

Those who live near an RAF station will only be too aware of the tanker variants still in service. But for us mortals, this majestic commercial aircraft is a thing of the past. Applause goes to Abacus Systems Ltd. for the introduction of this wonderful beast for fellow simmers to enjoy and experience what it might have been to fly a VC10.

For those who are used to buying "packages" off the shelf for many reasons, one certainly being the ease of installation, this purchase option (purchase on-line) is a little bit of a curiosity, oh yes and cheaper (£14.95)

Access the web site,  this can be found at www.vc10.com. This provides you with an easy and clear method of purchase. Abacus has stated that when additions become available these will be listed so we can access these as free downloads, or upgrades. These elements may be later added.

Select what you want, and download the program, (only available for FS2002 and FS2004 A Century Of Flight). A cautionary note, the file is a hefty one so broadband is an advantage. If not (like me) it will take a little time but it worth the wait. Or great excuse justifying that broadband option!

The step by step process is simple: download the file, install, open aircraft file menu and presto, there it is showing you some great variations to select from. A small selection is BOAC BEA, African Airways and RAF tanker versions. Other users included RAE Bedford Sultan of Oman Royal Flight, BUA (later British Caledonian), Laker Airways, Air Malawi, Ghana Airways and Gulf Air, to name but a few. Some more color schemes on their way? It has to be said the BAE Bedford scheme would look fantastic!

As eager as ever, I selected the BOAC option in daylight conditions. Wow what a beauty! I was very impressed with the attention to detail, all the elements are there to be seen. Of note, external aerials low-pressure turbines in the engine nacelles, the undercarriage, and flaps, spoilers and ailerons are very impressive.

Great cockpit detail can be seen from the exterior and the color schemes are beautifully rendered, as well as the reflections and shadowing, very convincing. You can select the open/close exit option, a nice sequence of the cabin doors opening on the port side. Bit of a drop me thinks from the door to the ground!

I really do have to mention the rotating beacons (found top and bottom of fuselage). They actually rotate--very nice detail, no strobe's here! If you select dusk or night you are treated to these beacons rotating the red light in a very realistic way. And when you select forward thrust the tail jet vents glow! A word has to be said about the landing lights. These are housed in the wings and nose oleo leg. While the effect is very convincing I thought the directional beam from the nose wheel oleo leg was a nice attention to detail.

When viewed from above the wing lights have a diffused edge with the oleo leg light having sharp edges...yup that's the detail you can expect! Oh yes, as you ascend, the landing lights gradually disappear and the rotating red beacon continues, as it should be.

On first glance, you will notice the low pressure turbines (front) do not appear to rotate with the engines running, Do not fret, the VC10 had engine guards forward of the low pressure turbines, if you look you can see a rotation effect behind the said guards.

From an exterior perspective I was saddened to see the noticeable absence of any crew sitting in the cockpit. I appreciate a small point, but when you experience the superb nature of this aircraft graphics, it is somewhat surprising this element has been omitted, or over looked.

OK on to the cockpit, or the "office". We have all been using glass house technology "festooned" in the modern passenger aircraft, well guys be set for a treat analogue interments! Yes real dials that turn...joy on joy.

You cannot help but be impressed with the "feel" of the cockpit, a real yesteryear look and it seems accurate in the general cockpit layout.

The elements are well laid out and easy to understand. You have a number of option buttons: ATC, autopilot, GPS, throttle block, etc. Located at the lower left of the panel (very nicely done, easy to understand and use), there are two arrows up/down located above the clock mid panel which offer you a very useful virtual seat height adjustment for better view upon landing. One of the virtual cockpit options (activated by a button on the panel) flattens the view out of the cockpit. I guess possibly useful but I have never used it, the other VC view options are in my mind far more effective and impressive.

The yoke is very nicely represented (you have an option to make this disappear if you wish to gain an unhindered view of the instruments). The rudder pedals are also represented, however in certain views (virtual) the base of the control column and the rudders appears to float.

With the massive array of instruments and switches which are live and you can adjust are simply too many to mention but an overriding impression of accuracy and suburb detail will be evident, if at times a little difficult to deciminate. The efforts of Abacus Systems to reproduce faithfully the "bits and bobs" are noted and extremely well done. To use autopilot, auto-throttle, etc. will need a little reading up, but worth it!

A note here, you must oh must, access the readme file which you will find vital to get the best of the layout and enable you to get the best from this aircraft. The virtual cockpit is worth a good study, the engineers, or 3rd officer's post and jump seat positioned behind the captain's position, these have been reproduced extremely well. That said I am more interested in what is happening out the front.

Flying the aircraft, well, select full power and hear those Conways come to life. A little more 'roar' may have been nice at full throttle, but with those beautiful flaps extended, leading edge and fowler and wheels a turning you approach rotation speed, nose up, a quick external view reinforces the wow factor. Positive rate of climb, gear up--this retraction sequence looks good. You are in the sky, where this bird belongs, well actually no, the VC10 looks fantastic on the ground or airborne!

The inputs were moderate and the aircraft responded accordingly. At times I felt the response, i.e., sharp turns or climb was too fast for an aircraft of this size but a minor point really, however it has to said the VC10 had an "clean wing" so the aircraft was agile. A very nice effect is that once a turn is selected it takes time to settle back, not that awful "flick" back to straight and level found on some offerings.

After going downwind and continually choosing the external option to marvel at the steed, I requested from the tower (Bournemouth England) permission to "full stop landing" gave myself a long final, tune in on the ILS. I was referred to as "Speedbird Heavy" - how nice was that!

Unlike modern passenger aircraft that have the engine power of a space rocket, this bird likes a gentle and predictable approach with minimal engine inputs to control height. Lined up over the threshold, throttle back and flare, raise nose and touch down!

Spoilers out, select reverse thrust, you will hear a lovely note from the Rolls Royce Conways, (note, unlike the modern fleet, you will not notice reverse thrusters, vents towards the rear of the engine cowlings expel gasses top and bottom). Again pity about the lack of smoke! [Smoke has been added since this review - lots of it!] Once selected provides a great sound and accurate stopping run. Ground handling is a treat, no major problems, and just does its job and looks great.

However, a minor groan--the engines of this period were not exactly environmentally friendly. They were smoky! Upon landing there are some smoke effects from the wheels but I would have liked to see some smoke from the engines at or near full throttle. This small detail would have very welcome and add greatly to the appearance. [This and many enhancements have been added to our simulation over the last year]

In conclusion, there are some spectacular freeware offerings off the Internet from numerous dedicated web sites, so the commercial developers have to offer us something special. While there are small observations made that would have well-rounded the end result, it does not in any way effect the beauty and majestic lines of the Vickers VC10. Coupled with the versions and color ways on offer the price asked for this trouble free (as far as I could tell) princess of the skies represents a great buy, for those who want to 'fly' an aircraft adored by their crew and passengers alike.

I applaud such developers as Abacus Systems for offering us a most interesting aircraft from the past coupled with great attention to detail both internal and external.

Is it worth the money,? Yes a resounding yes! It has to be said I have a love affair with the VC10 so I admit to a slightly biased view point, but I am sure you will, like me, keep this offering on the aircraft menu for some time to come.

Nigel. C. Martin