Guest Contributor ‘PaulRix’ takes a look at the new DCS A-10C Campaign..
After a long hiatus from DCS World, I recently decided to get myself back up to speed with the sim. As luck would have it, ED has released the A10C Basic Flight Training Qualification campaign for the nominal sum of $9.99. Although this is a new module for the ED Store, the campaign was the brainchild of DCS community member Sabre-TLA and was previously available for purchase on the Maple Flag Missions website.
I think it is important to point out right at the start, that these missions are not designed to teach you anything about the aircraft, it’s systems or operations. You are expected to already have the knowledge and skills necessary to pass the checkrides There is no hand holding here. Pass or fail, it’s all on you.
Purchase and installation was a straight forward process, handled within the Module Manager tab, which is accessed on the main DCS World menu page.
The campaign consists of a series of 12 individual checkrides that test your performance with basic startup procedures continuing through subsequent missions all the way up to a Low Level two ship sortie with time on target (TOT) requirements. Briefing material is provided for each of the 12 missions, including written briefs, charts, diagrams and Mission Data Cards. The documents can be found in PDF format within your Eagle Dynamics folder :
C:\Program Files\Eagle Dynamics\DCS World\Mods\campaigns\A-10C – Basic Flight Training Qualification\
The same slides are also available as part of the mission brief within DCS World before you fly.
The full complement of checkrides,
in order consists of:
- Ground Handling.
- Takeoff and EFATO
- Fly Traffic Pattern
- Approach and Landing
- Basic Maneuvers
- Advanced Handling
- Instrument Approach and Landing
- Instrument Flight Plan Navigation
- Fly 2 Ship as Wingman
- Low Level Flight Plan
Each checkride has to be successfully completed before you are allowed to progress onto the next.
The campaign starts with a cut-scene introduction depicting your arrival at Batumi International Airport. You are riding in the back of a C130, while your examiner gives you a general brief on what lies ahead. It was hard to concentrate on what he was saying as the view of the sunrise over the Caucasus mountains was spectacular.
After the C130 lands and parks on the ramp we can end the mission and move on to the first checkride.
Checkride 1 “Ground handling” sounds simple enough. You have to fire up the aircraft, taxi around the airport, park and then shut down. You are given a thorough briefing, along with a diagram showing the taxi route and a mission data card that includes your callsign, weather and the radio frequency for Batumi tower.
I am generally a “start the mission at the end of the runway” kind of guy. After seeing the list of start up items that I had to complete, I decided I should probably go through the excellent DCS start up tutorial a couple of times. If you are new to the DCS A10C module, I highly recommend you do the same. With the campaign documentation, there is an Amplified Checklist that will also walk you through the process. I put the checklist and all the mission documentation on my iPad for quick reference.
When the checkride starts, you find yourself in a cold dark cockpit with the canopy raised. Your examiner informs you that you have 15 minutes to get the jet ready for taxi. 15 minutes sounds like a lot of time but it can slip by very quickly. Following the checklist line by line can quickly eat up your allotted time. It is much faster to develop and use a ‘flow’ when going through start procedures and then confirm that all items have been completed by running through the checklist afterwards.
As you work at bringing the jet to a ready state, the examiner jumps in from time to time with some helpful information and words of wisdom. Some of the narrative seems a little superfluous though and I have to wonder if it wasn’t added as a mild form of distraction.
Once your 15 minutes is up, or you communicate that you are ready, the examiner will assess your performance. It seems that the order in which you complete the start up items is not of paramount importance. As long as everything is covered the examiner is happy. To gain his approval, your start sequence must include all of the following items:
Battery Inverter to Standby
Signal Lights Test
T/O Trim Test
Boost Pumps On
APU Gen On
IFFCC to Guns
DTS Download All
Cycle Speed Brakes
Flight Controls Check
Pitot Heat test (On then Off)
Flight Plan Selected
CMSP and subsystems (ie MWS, JMR, RWR, DSP) On
CDU NAV selected
Rad Alt On
Ejection Seat Armed
You have to be thorough because if you miss any of these items it is an instant fail, with the examiner giving you a verbal admonishment and instructions to go and study some more.
If you pass this first part of the check you then have to follow a HMMWV on a jaunt around the airport. You will be assessed on your ability to maintain an appropriate distance behind the vehicle. This task is pretty straight-forward.
After the taxi portion of the checkride, you find yourself back at the ramp, where you are told to shut down. Oh, by the way, you have just two minutes to complete that task. Two minutes seems a just a little tight if you are going to methodically work through the shutdown checklist. Once again, I found a flow was the best approach and then quickly went through the checklist to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. You have to be thorough with this procedure too, because if you miss an item then you guessed it, checkride failed and you have to start all over again. I found this somewhat frustrating after missing a single switch on the UHF radio, which seems a little harsh. Having said that, I didn’t miss it again on my subsequent attempt.
On the second sortie you will be assessed on start up procedures, takeoff, the ability to fly at a specific airspeed, heading and altitude. You will then be told to shut down your right engine and proceed back to the airfield, land and finally, to shut down on the ramp. Once again, the briefing materials are thorough and easy to understand.
The mission starts as did the first, with you sat in a cold dark cockpit. By now, my start up flow is well practiced and I am ready to taxi with plenty of time to spare. You are told to stop short of the runway, do your takeoff checks and call Tower for departure clearance. At this point you line up on the runway and our friendly Examiner checks that you completed all of the startup procedures to his satisfaction.
If he is happy, you are told to takeoff. The assessment begins immediately. On my first run through of this mission, I was chastised for not disengaging my nosewheel steering early enough, for not pitching up enough, and for not raising my gear and flaps fast enough.
Feeling a little brow beaten, I climbed up to 6000ft on runway heading at 180 Knots.
After a turn and increase in airspeed you are instructed to shut down the right engine and return for landing at Batumi. Easy enough, Right Power Lever to idle then cutoff, fire up the APU, lose the SAS, APU Gen on and then call ATC to let them know that I’m heading home.
I was given a verbal slap for not getting my gear down early enough and for flying the approach too fast (there’s nothing like dragging it in when you have an engine out).
I am sure that he was surprised that I managed to gently touch down within the first 1000ft of the runway, as per the brief. After taxying back to the ramp you are given 2 minutes to go through the shutdown checks. I was disappointed to learn that I had missed a radio switch again. I thought would be an instant fail, but no, the Examiner must have been feeling generous and awarded me with a Q- rating (qualified with a few minor items missed).
Next up will be pattern work. I feel pretty confident that I will be able to handle that (which are famous last words!).
By now I hope you have a good feel for what this campaign is like. I would be willing to bet that many virtual pilots are not overly concerned about the mundane fundamentals of flying an airplane like the A10C. It is all too easy to jump straight into simulated combat missions. I like the fact that you have to go off on your own to learn and gain proficiency in tasks that, without a big hairy examiner looking over your shoulder, you may have just glossed over or ignored altogether. Achieving proficiency in the areas covered will provide a good foundation to build upon. That will make me a better virtual A10 driver once I start learning how to use the airplane as a weapons system.
If you are up for a challenge that doesn’t involve ‘blowing stuff up’ but one that is almost certain to sharpen up your virtual flying skills, you should give this campaign a try. I think you will enjoy it.