Flight Factor A320 Ultimate

One of our resident real world Airbus A320 pilots takes the recently released Flight Factor A320 Ultimate for a test flight, wringing it out in ways only an actual Airbus pilot could think of….

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So. Here we are. Flight Factor’s A320. I was in two minds about getting it, to start with, in much the same way a farmer might be in two minds about getting Farming Simulator Gold Deluxe, or whatever, for his after work entertainment. But I was also unremittingly curious. A friend of mine on a Discord channel got it the first day it came out, and swayed me to decide to obtain it myself. Of course, real life situations prevented me from getting it immediately, and when I finally did, I had scarce a chance to actually try it, again because of real life.

So, let’s start.

Here it is, while we walk out to it on the north military platform of SPJC, Jorge Chavez Intl., Lima, Peru…

Up the steps, here’s a view from the entrance of One Lima…

And a look back towards the aft galley. Oooh arrr…

And into the busines end…

Okay, straight off the bat, we are EFB certified. Also, someone left the sliding window open. As on the real thing, moving that little latch, on the lower sill, unlocks the window and allows it to slide forwards, in and closed, with a characteristic “ratchet” clicking sound that is accurately reproduced.

The aircraft is all cold and dark, with the GPU connected but not online yet. Also, I can’t help noticing that Lima seems to be hosting a visit from VF-161…

Now, I do have normal procedures that I will follow, roughly (despite there being a checklist on the EFB; I will look at that some other time), but there will also be a few things that I will want to test on the module. Okay, it will not be an exhaustive study, at this point, and once again, I will not perform these in a “reinventing the wheel” fashion. I will therefore use a few of the non-normal procedures out of the ISATM (In Service Aircraft Technical Manual), which is the main reference for company test flights.

Switching on the batteries. There’s that funny, though perfectly logical, quirk that it has of the second battery’s OFF light coming on when you turn on the first one…

I then deviate from the normal power up to test the fire switches on battery power only. Hold on a second. Two things here. It is mostly right, but when on battery power alone, only half of the lights on the Fire PB should light up…

And, on both of the Engine Fire PB tests, only AGENT 1 SQUIB/DISCH PB should light up. It is correct on No. 1 engine, but on No. 2, the AGENT 2 SQUIB/DISCH PB lights up (which is not right, but what is right is that only one of the AGENT lights should light up on battery power alone, albeit the wrong one for ENG No. 2)…

Small, knit picky detail. I’m not bothered. After a brief moment of being on battery power only, the ISIS initializes as it should. All other screens remain off…

Good enough for the moment, I check that I’ve got the GPU available…

And engage it. The bus transfer contactor “clack” is, indeed, very satisfactorily represented. All little things that make you feel at home in the office. Several PBs light up, and a further check of positioning the Annunciator Lights switch to TEST, lights up the whole Christmas tree…

Except those on the RCDR, OXYGEN and CALLS panels on the OHP, and the door lights on the pedestal. None of these are actually working in the simulator model (yet, I suppose)…

That radar control panel, incidentally, is completely INOP at the moment, too.

The DU’s go into their SELF TEST as the DMCs and units get power (very convincing of some great research)…

And the MCDUs initialize to the AIRCRAFT STATUS page (correct!), in which we can see that we have CFM56-5B4 engines. This is good news to me, I would have been slightly uncomfortable with IAEs. Also, it can be seen that I am using a slightly more up to date Nav DB than the stock one, though not the exact current cycle. My friend tells me (he looks at the forums much more than I do) that FF is still working on the DB side of things…

Because the ADIRUs are off and not providing any aircraft position data yet, we immediately get a NAV TCAS FAULT in the MEMO section of the E/WD. This is spot on. Also note, the Oxygen amber REGUL LO PRES warning on the lower ECAM SYSTEM DISPLAY screen. I cannot do anything about getting rid of that, unfortunately, as the OXYGEN panel on the OHP is INOP as yet…

 

After the DU self test, the screens display as they should. Again, as there is no power to the ADIRUs yet, there is no display of attitude or air data. It is time to test the screen transfer feature. Here it is in a standard configuration…

Here, I transfer the Lower ECAM (SD) to the captain’s side ND. Note the right most rotary switch on the SWITCHING panel…

And the PFD/ND transfer button…

Works well. This module is looking all primed up for practicing Abnormal Procedures before each six monthly simulator recurrent. So, back to the Normal Procedures flows. All white lights on the OHP out (which is basically press in all the fuel pump PBs). All the FIRE PB tests work correctly, with the audible CRC, once the electrical system is all completely online (both AGENT lights and all lights on the PB itself)…

All ADIRUs on to NAV, one at a time, left, right, center (for 1, 2, 3 respectively), waiting for the ON BAT light test to go out before selecting the next successive one to NAV…

Once done, on the MCDU INIT (A) page, enter the flight’s data, and hit the ALIGN IR key…

Continuing with Normal Flows, you eventually get to the MAINTENANCE PANEL, up at the right/back of the OHP. This was worth a look, so I ducked out of the normal flows again, and to some surprise, almost all the guarded PBs worked! Here are two being tested. The BLUE hydraulic pump override, and the No. 1 FADEC GROUND POWER. Normally, these two systems have their own sequence of coming on automatically as you progress through a normal start up, but the Maintenance Panel allows you to turn them on independantly (you wouldn’t usually even touch them on a normal flight, so attention to detail is again commended)…

Here is the evidence that they work as they should. Note, No. 1 engine FADEC is alive (no amber crosses, as on No.2), and the BLUE hydraulic system is pressurized, with the electric pump on…

Next, I wanted to check something on the PRESSURIZATION system. As most things Airbus, this is almost always automatic. The two CPCs alternate between 1 and 2 each flight (notice SYS 1, here). But there is a way to change from one to the other. Up on the OHP panel, there’s a PB to select MANUAL pressurization mode. Pushing this to MAN, waiting 10 seconds, and reverting to AUTO, will change the CPC in control of pressurization (ie; in this case from SYS 1 to SYS 2).

Also, while I was here, I wanted to check the VENTILATION EXTRACT OVERRIDE. Pushing that in to OVRD, will change the AVIONICS VENT from open configuration to closed configuration (on the ground). The results will be seen on the CAB PRESS ECAM page. The two little “doors” (INLET and OUTLET) will transit from open to closed. Here goes.

Everything as it started…

MAN press mode for 10 seconds, and EXTRACT to OVRD…

Check? Hey, how about that!

Notice that while I was performing these “checks”, I was also continuing to fill in the flight plan on the MCDU. I use the DIFSRIP method described in the FCTM (there are others who use an alternate “C” sequence, which is equally acceptable). I filled the Flight Plan page out with a departure from RWY 15, ATATU1F SID, linking to the AUATU1 STAR, back to RWY 15, ILS V. For the Alternate, I used the ASIA5F SID, linked to the GEBED2 STAR to Pisco (SPSO). In the Secondary Flight Plan, I concocted a OEI Quick Return, shortening, ATATU1F at PELIK by linking it to LOBUS for the RWY 15 ILS V. Here are a few screens of that, with the ND in PLAN mode (as it should be during input of a flight plan), so you can all see the shenanigans I was up to…

A lot of detail and screenies have been suppressed here, or I will never end this post! Everyone knows how to fill in an MCDU flight plan, anyway.

Then I hard tuned the RAD NAVAIDS. This is done because the Airbus has an autotune function, and if you don’t hard tune them, the FMGS might suddenly decide to tune a different radio than the one you require for a STAR during the execution of that STAR. Not a good thing. However, here I discovered another small discrepancy with reality; when you clear out a hard tuned NAVAID, the associated CRS is also automatically cleared. On the module, you have to clear both. It does not delete the CRS automatically…

No worries, however, as long as you know about it. Next it was onto the INIT (B) page, to enter weights. The EFB provides you with the Weight and Balance Load Sheet…

Which you just check, and enter into the MCDU…

Now, some of that data on the INIT (B) page that can be edited IRL cannot be edited here on the sim. But again, it is not gravely important stuff, just things like manually adjusting ALT TIME and MIN DEST FOB, which some company SOPs for certain airports and routes require a manual edit (particularly, for ETOPS/EDTO operations). Again, not too bothered.

Finally, it is time to finish off the MCDU preparation inputting the PERF data. As I have the real RTOW for Lima, I used my data straight off my iPad. Whether there is a function, therefore, to provide the player with V1, VR, V2 and FLEX for a given airport, conditions and configuration, I do not know. In any event, these figures shouldn’t be guesswork, so there must be something, somewhere, to help out the player who does not have access to any RTOWs…

After this, there was the scan of the EFIS control panel and FCU, setting QNH, ND range and mode, VOR switches on, and initial altitude…

Closing the doors, setting the parking brake, and removing the chocks, finally, I was ready for start up.

Now, in the two previous short flights I have done, I did the normal start up, with APU bleed. This time, I’m going to pretend the APU is INOP, and see if the module can be started using the External Pneumatic Source (for No. 2), and then the Cross Bleed (for No. 1). Here’s the OHP AIR COND configuration for that procedure (PACKS OFF, Engine Bleeds OFF, X-BLEED OPEN)…

Before start checklist, down to the line, Beacon ON, check thrust levers at idle, and below the line. Connect External Pneumatic, ENGINE MODE SELECTOR to IGN/START…

“Starting No. 2”. Engine 2 Master ON. The starter valve opened. It’s spooling! Yeah!

Started a treat. There was a usual PACK 1 OFF / PACK 2 OFF ECAM caution, which is normal and can be cleared with this supplementary procedure start (even if it did happen a little quickly). Check that the GEN engaged, then remove GPU and External Pneumatic.

Now configure the OHP AIR COND for the Cross Bleed Start (PACKS ON, supplying engine bleed ON, receiving engine bleed OFF, X-BLEED OPEN)…

Get a check on the area behind, advance the the No. 2 thrust lever to obtain at least 30 PSI at the starter valves and “Starting engine No. 1”…

Success again. I was truly impressed, however there was no time for sitting there admiring things. I finished the procedure; thrust lever No. 2 to idle, ENGINE MODE SELECTOR NORM, BLEED No. 1 ON, X-BLEED AUTO.

Then the after start flow. Speed brakes ARM, Rudder trim, press for 0.0, Flaps 2, THS to 24.4. After start checklist. Clear left, clear right. Ready to taxi…

Wait. Stop. There is something else I want to test before we roll. Flight Control function and hydraulic sources. So, GREEN and YELLOW hydraulic system pumps and PTU OFF…

Check the HYDRAULIC ECAM page to see that this is the case (some ECAM Warnings and Cautions going off there, too, on the E/WD, but the AIR COND warning is a bit weird, considering I’m only disabling hydraulics. Still WIP, I suppose)…

And then check FLIGHT CONTROL ECAM page. Unsupplied servos for the primary flight controls show up amber, as do the unsupplied spoiler actuators (which are G,Y,B,Y,G, same on both wings, easy to remember). Move the side stick around and check control movement. Then Flaps. I set CONF 1. Slats and flaps hydraulic supply is also easy to remember, it is in alphabetical order from front to back, B,G,Y. Like this; BLUE exclusively for slats, GREEN as dual redundancy actuation system for both slats and flaps, and YELLOW exclusively for flaps. Note, with GREEN and YELLOW offline, only the middile spoiler extends, and only the slats retract to CONF 1 + F. The flap position becomes amber because it cannot move, being unsupplied…

More of the same with the other systems…

PTU check…

It all checked out perfectly. Then I checked the Nose Wheel Steering. On this sim module, it turns out to be on the GREEN system, like the older A320s. All of them on our fleet have the NWS on the YELLOW system, except two older A319s, which have it on GREEN, like this. I don’t really have an idea what serial number this module represents, but in any case, either system for the NWS is acceptable. Now, if they had put it on BLUE, I’d raise an eyebrow. I turned all the hydraulic systems back on, enabled the PTU again, cleared out the ECAM of any residual cautions and warnings, and checked the STATUS “NORMAL”. Good to go, again.

Taxi to holding point RWY 15…thus far I’ve had a great deal of fun going through this module!

Editor’s Note – We’d like to thank @Cygon_Parrot for his fantastic insights into the Flight Factor A320 and how it measures up to reality. If you’d like to continue reading and get some airborne impressions, feel free to join the conversation where this article leaves off: HERE!

Flight Factor A320 Ultimate available: HERE

Laminar Research X-Plane 11 available: HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notable Replies

  1. oops! I see I wrote my little float down memory lane in the wrong spot. Great write-up @Cygon_Parrot. And by all accounts an amazing module.

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