There are at least two schools of thought when it comes to flight simulator add-on products. One is they should be fun and a joyful experience. The second is they should be as accurate as a simulator can be. Unfortunately, for some in the latter category, it won’t be a joyful experience if the product is flawed technically.
This is my first experience with Wilco products and my first impression was quite good. A Belgian company, the authors have produced many outstanding products since they began in 1997. The Bell/Augusta Tilt Rotor for both FS9 and FSX is their latest offering and is a plane in the forefront of aviation technology. Looking very much like an Osprey, the Tilt Rotor is a hybrid aircraft, part helicopter and part turboprop giving it the capability of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL).
The Wilco Publishing Tilt Rotor comes with a 20 page (printable) Adobe portable data file (pdf) complete with specifications and flight operation instructions. At only 44 feet in length and 15 feet high, this is a relatively small airplane for short flights and carries only 6 – 9 passengers. The Pilot’s Guide is divided into chapters including: Introduction, Specifications, Configurations, Exterior Walkaround, Cockpit Guide, Interiors, Basic procedures, Cold cockpit start up, Flight prep and taxi, Flying the Tilt Rotor, VTOL operations, VSTOL operations, and Shut Down, and you will find all the information necessary to easily become proficient in this aircraft.
The FSX version is a 100 MB executable file while the FS9 version is around 36 MB and will install all the components into the proper folders in your simulator subdirectories. By the time you get to page 4 in the Pilot’s Guide, you will have all the information needed to make sure your system is configured properly; retrieve frequently asked questions and or product support if necessary. This is also where you will find a Quick Start Guide, Engine Start Up procedures, information on the 2D and 3D cockpits, as well as how to access the flight display instruments in the 2D view.
Of special note is the link to www.wilcopub.com (or included with the CD if you purchase it that way) to videos on start up, VTOL and VSTOL takeoffs, VTOL landing, cruising at altitude, approach, and landing. The FSX version also includes several missions designed to illustrate the flexibility of the Tilt Rotor in the flight sim world.
With certification due for 2010, this simulation puts you at the controls of a Tilt Rotor well ahead of real-life pilots. Much of Tilt Rotor’s technological data is still classified and unavailable to the developers so some of what you get is a guesstimate at best.
As I stated, my first impression was very positive with this well designed, well-modeled plane. Before reading the manual, I just climbed into the cockpit and gave it a go. I was surprised at how easy it was to fly and how responsive it was to the stick and throttle controls. The virtual cockpit views are extraordinary and the flight instruments are exceptionally well designed and pleasing to the eye. The Tilt Rotor comes in Executive transport, Search and Rescue for Coast Guard and Police duties (FSX only), Medical evacuation and Air Ambulance (FSX only), Military fast personnel transport, Military Ground support “Gun-ship” (FSX only), and Short-haul airliner.
Dominating the instrument panel are three large computer style screens. These are “state-of-the-art” glass cockpit arrays. Two identical PFDs and the central MFD for navigation, flight planning, and systems management. The GPS is in the center console and standard electrical and hydraulic controls in the overhead panel. Each variant has its own character in the cabin layout with an animated female passenger in two of them. The pilot and co-pilot are also animated and provide for some realistic views of the cockpit from outside the plane. Wilco designers did an amazing job in the cockpit layout and it makes for a very enjoyable flight to sit in the pilot’s or co-pilot’s seats or when toggling between two overhead panel views and three cabin views. The graphics rendering is very well done and you almost have that “new car” feeling when you first climb into the virtual cockpit. Due to the design of the plane, there are cutaway sections in the lower front you can see through similar to a helicopter. I must admit to wanting to stay in the virtual cockpit it is so pleasing and well done.
The designers also provide a very good 2D layout with all the instruments in your plane of view including airspeed indicator, altitude, autopilot, and GPS. By entering a shift plus alpha keys 1 through 6, the arrays and gauges appear in just the right spots for flying by instruments.
No disappointments here either. The graphics of the Tilt Rotor are superior from all angles. A bevy of outside views may be toggled between providing a full 360-degree view from just outside the aircraft. The tail section view is probably the best for following highways at low altitude while I was very pleased with two of the front views of the animated pilots. It goes without saying that the Tilt Rotors themselves, called nacelles by Wilco, are powerfully impressive indeed. The two Pratt & Whitney PT6C-67A Turboshaft engines housed in the nacelles provide a maximum cruise speed of 275 knots with a service ceiling of 25,000 feet (7,500 meters) and a maximum range of 700 nautical miles.
You may be pleasantly surprised as I was with how easy it is to get the Tilt Rotor into flight. Its powerful engines do not disappoint and the rotor transition from semi-vertical to horizontal is really quite easy and intuitive like using the flaps in conventional aircraft. Flight in the airplane mode is just as you would expect from any turboprop with banks and turns under both manual and autopilot performed smooth and effortlessly. The transition back to approach and landing is a different story, however. If you have lots of helicopter experience you will easily translate your knowledge into the Tilt Rotor. If not, you’ll be a bit lower on the learning curve on landings. While not impossible by any means, it takes some practice to make the adjustment. In the virtual cockpit and flying by the seat of your pants, I am confident you will enjoy this airplane immensely. Besides it can go where no conventional aircraft can allowing you to take off or land virtually anyplace.
Taxiing on the ground is easy too once you get the hang of it. You should not be surprised that you have to use the parking brakes on the ground or you will automatically roll forward. A nice safety feature is the rotors will not move to the horizontal position while on the ground since they would hit the tarmac and be destroyed. For ground maneuvering, you select VTOL position for the nacelles and joystick movement fore and aft (thus tilting the rotor heads) to move the aircraft forwards or backward. “Rudder” inputs will turn the aircraft left or right.
In addition to the clicking of switches, retracting and lowering landing gear, tilting the rotors, as well as opening and closing outer doors, the turboprop sounds, seem very authentic too. Wind noise and motor roar are also quite vivid and realistic.
Pros and Cons
Wilco produced a truly unique aircraft in the Tilt Rotor, one that’s fun and easy to fly. It didn’t try to design the “end all” complex aircraft of the future. There is no FMC for example so it isn’t overly technical or require a master’s degree or many hours studying to learn to fly.
I discovered an interesting quirk while flying using instruments on three separate flights with the flight planner and may have uncovered a minor bug while doing so. My typical flights are between ILS airports like La Guardia, San Francisco, Reno, JFK etc. On these flights I was very surprised to find the Air Traffic Controller sending me in a heading opposite to the one that would take me to my destination. Slightly confused, I tried running the program as Administrator and tried two other saved flights to determine if I was doing something wrong. Each time the results were the same. In the GPS mode, the Tilt Rotor knew where to go and tracked correctly but in the NAV mode it did not. The ATC was conspiring against me sending me in the complete opposite direction I wanted to go.
While the documentation states the flight controls work in the virtual cockpit that was not my experience when it came to the autopilot. While the buttons on the VC will disengage the autopilot; I could not make any adjustments to the course, altitude, heading or anything else on the autopilot unless I used the 2D version which was very responsive.
If you appreciate aesthetics and like things that look great, you’re going to fall in love with this product from Wilco Publishing. If you expect perfection, you may be a tad disappointed because I don’t think all the bugs have been ironed out yet so expect an update for the Tilt Rotor. At $40, this is a fair price for a fun filled simulator experience with a cutting edge aircraft.
What I liked
The graphics of the 3D cockpit
What I didn’t like
The ATC’s lack of compliance with the flight planner