If Peter Hager were a film director then his films would be noted as “Auteur” which is noted as “A filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie.”
Even closer than is that Peter’s films would be very similar to the great Stanley Kubrick who made meticulous and heavily researched cinematic events that everyone went to see but couldn’t really understand and were usually noted as “Brilliant but flawed”…
Another comparison is that on first sight Stanley’s films were very cold and not very assessable, it was not until you had seen them countless times that they opened up and you could then finally “get them” so to speak and with that you then filed them away as the work of a “genius”.
Airbus A321 – Peter Hager
And so it is the same with Peter’s work, they are so methodical and quite cold to use when you first find yourself going in there, another point is that of accessibility, I don’t think anyone can access these products and make a summation of their capabilities within just a couple of days. We usually here at Chaos get together and then make up our viewpoints (usually pretty close to each other) and then make the review pretty quickly on our assumptions and the feel of what the product is trying to say and deliver – but in Peter’s case it doesn’t quite work like that as you need time to peel away the layers and go deeper in to the systems and only then can you finally bring out the feel of the aircraft- which is just like watching a “Kubrick” movie over and over again.
So if I wrote a quick review I would also be out of touch with the product because it would be the wrong viewpoint and in reality you really need months of sector flying to get really in tune with this aircraft.
Other factors are significant as well; we are already up to ver3.0 and it has only been released a few weeks, so any points of interest that you point out as an issue is usually already been rectified, and take the note that this A321 is not fully “X-Plane10 compliance” either in that Peter states “when they fix X-Plane10 then I will update my products”….
The Airbus A321 is also a complex character to define as well. If you have bought the huge Airbus A380 from Peter you will notice a lot of similarities between the two as the same approach is very close.
The first thing to note is that the basic file is based on Torsten’s FBW QPAC A320 system, and Torsten has worked on this aircraft with Peter to bring even more in to the basic systems. So if you have flown the QPAC A320 you will certainly feel that aspect of the flying and mostly through the Autopilot as the A321 does go through the FBW motions very similar to the QPAC A320 – so in so many ways it feels like the A320 because of this.
But also it feels like the A380 in another aspect. If you fly the A380 regularly what you will note is its incredible flying characteristics, I have also watched a lot of You Tube A380 Takeoffs/Landings to see how they are done in the real world but if jump straight onto the A380 from Peter Hager and you will be astounded as it is so uncanny in its duplication of the event, takeoffs are excellent, but landings are extraordinary if you are willing to get the numbers just right; and that is the point of Peter’s products.
And so it is with the A321, it isn’t jerky like the QPAC version but slightly heavy and even ponderous in its movements and that movement could even be called as slow. But it is so spot on at every point in the flight cycle that you feel the gravitas of the aircraft, I will note that first impressions are not the right ones and in fact like I have noted it feels very cold and bland – and so those first impressions are irrelevant as it can take weeks (and weeks) even to get to this a certain point of feeling and to be totally in tune with this aircraft.
More is the point that you can tune the A321 in a different way which is through its data and to access that you will use, besides the QPAC plug-in Peter has also written a SASL plug-in to add in even more features.
To access this you use one of the two pop-ups displays.
The MCDU is like your main workplace panel, and it is here that you adjust your flightplans and set your perimeters of the flight and you will find yourself opening and closing it at will.
You can just take a default FMS plan and fly the route quite happily…
… but If you have the last version of Torsten’s A320 you can like with those enhancements adjust the flightplan to be even closer to the actual flight cycle of the Airbus.
Peter takes it a further that Torsten’s version (a lot further). If you worked your way through FLEX, The “At’s” (At or Below/Above), FAF (Final Fix Approach) Waypoint “Flyby, overfly and my favorite – “Flyby waypoint with pointy angle!” plus V speeds, minimums; then you can simply go for your college degree with Peter’s “Cost Index, Alternate Company Route, Flight Numbers, Lat/Long, Cruise Flight Temp, FLP SLT, SLT RETR, CLEAN, Trans Alt, Thrust Red/Acc and all the rest.
You can set up the MCDU through every flight phase “ (Performance) TAKEOFF”, “CLB”, “CRZ”, “APPR” and “GO AROUND” phases, complicated? – Yes it is.
And so all this data input affects the performance of the Aircraft through the various stages of the flight cycle. So you mostly spend two hours on the ground for each hour in the air just programming (Inputting) the systems and that is something that you can’t learn in a few days – the bonus (thankfully) is that you can save the results for the next flight.
Peter does go extensively through all the procedures in the manual, but I suggest take it a step at a time and work through each portion as you understand it and then see its reactions on the flight cycle – and mostly at the start just do some (many) sectors to get the feel of everything at a basic level, then only later should you start adding in the various levels.
They are noted as pages; besides the above “Phase” pages there is also the “RADIO NAV” page and “F(LIGHT)PLN”, A/C Status, INIT pages.
All these are set out as the “Function” keys.
One thing important to note is that when you set your NAV 1 freq (X-Plane Default) is that make sure the ILS freq on the Radio NAV (RAD/NAV) is set at the ILS setting and not just at the NAV 1 setting as that is where the system takes the freq from, If set up correctly it will show up on cue in the FD.
You can also select the ECAM from the pop-up and also the transponder.
Finally on the main pop-up is the brake switch and it is the same as the setup for the QPAC A320 version and of which to note that you need to release the brakes here and unless if you don’t “then you are going nowhere”. Also the A321 uses the same Torsten version for steering and when you turn the rudder the steering moves very fluidly, but you have to be ahead of the steering because if you are not it then over-steers as the movement is slower than your actions – when taxiing you have to get used to this slow fluid function and it takes some practice to get right.
The second pop-up panel is to adjust the sounds.
No doubt one of the highlights of this aircraft is the sounds, they are excellent through-out all their ranges and just cannot be faulted, I love the quietness of the cabin to the screaming IAE engines outside and the engine start-up is also very well done – and with the pop-up panel you can adjust the areas you want. there is a sonic sound as well as you move around the aircraft, it is not as prominent as the Carenado versions but it is still there.
And here again the QPAC A320 is a good starting point as many items noted in there is duplicated in the A321.
The overhead panel is pretty similar and functions basically the same way, the excellent switchable ECAM is the same with an only a few (but very detailed) variations and overall you will find the same data and instruments are very similar. But you will note everything is far more detailed on Peter’s version on the PFD (Primary Flight Display) and the NAV displays, one thing I really liked is that you can set the Pilots/1st Officer NAV displays to different views, Torsten used a variation of the zoom but here you can have what you like…
There is great additions like warnings in “Mode Change – Range Change” on the NAV display, in fact anything noted in orange is “A failure, of which the flight crew should be aware, but does not for immediate action” all major items which differentiates the A321 far more from Torsten’s displays.
The overall design is very similar to the A380 and the detail is simply so really good, the engines (thrust reversers) and their fan blades are all simply (Perfection?) excellent work
and there is a lot of detail all along the fuselage.
All the landing gear is breathtaking in detail and all the way down to the wires and springs and you can’t ask for anything better.
Wings are again also excellent with great detailed flap design and lifting devices but no wingflex.
The cockpit is as Chip noted is only in 2d and not a VC (Virtual Cockpit) that is noted as a coming add-on extra ($15.00?).
My personal view is that the product should have been released with the VC as part of the sale (even at a higher price) as the A321 feels incomplete (as does the A380 also without the VC, it is available now but not when the aircraft was released), those grey side cockpit renderings are not the place for a US$50 product.
No doubt the 2d rendering of the panel is very, very good and very well created and the night lighting is excellent except for the cockpit windows which are simply a flat grey…and the out of alignment landing light in X-Plane10.
And annoying as well as so much work has gone into such great detail on most of this aircraft only to be faced with flat grey inside and outside (at night) around the cockpit.
but X-Plane is far more and certainly now very competitive than it was a few years ago in this area to accept these items (oversights?) – you have to just simply look at the DDEN Challenger 300 at US$20 less and its outstanding quality and any Carenado product to see benchmarks, But don’t get me wrong this an excellent product.
Another thing I don’t buy is I don’t do “eyecandy” and it is only looking in one direction (usually through the windscreen) that really counts.
I agree that great systems and the incredible level of flight management is really what this aircraft is about…
But I also think that if you want a procedures product then it is also to follow the procedures from go to woe and that also includes opening cargo doors and passenger doors, chocks, flight tags (Built-in airstairs) and the many things that are becoming the normal now on premium products.
If that comes at a higher price then I would certainly pay the extra for such features and it would be a requirement if Aerosoft release their Airport Enhancement Services (AES) product for X-Plane.
As noted there are to-date four liveries:
British Airways (default)
All are excellent and very hard to choose from.
And an important note; if you download a livery you have to insert the “objects” file into the livery to make it work and each one weighs in at 232mb, this is important because the A321 will be Peter’s first product that will have a paintkit (don’t ask me when it will be released as I don’t know) and the expected avalanche of liveries to follow, And that is also going to make it a very big file in your “Heavy Aircraft” folder – with only four liveries in there – I am already over 1gb in file size!
I will note finally a few things, if the data is not entered into the flightplan then I find the auto-mode a little fast, dropping down from FL340 it barely dropped below 300knts, It is very clever to watch, but at 120nm from TOD (Top of Decent) I was still too high (6000ft) at 20nm out and so had to loop around and adjust the speed down manually (220 knots) to get ready for a 1800ft ILS landing, I also could get the landing speed as low as 150knts were as the auto-mode kept it at around a fast 180knts.
Going down through the flaps in manual mode you find the speed does not drop until the flap is extended, worse is the hold between Flap “3″ and “Full” and this creates a significant nose drop, by pushing the speed (manual) you can make it drop the speed manually, but sometimes it won’t drop…I found the QPAC A320 did the same thing.
And another strange item is that when you load a FMS flightplan into the MCDU, you don’t get the red line on the NAV display, but then line up on the end of the runway and it suddenly appears!….and note also there is no “EXCUTE” to file the flightplan in, It is executed at the point you press the Auto (Push away) above the Heading Button.
I certainly (like Peter Hager) recommend having a set of rudder pedals or a yaw joystick to use with this aircraft and certainly for taxiing around the airport, a throttle is vital as well as the thrust setting inputs are so small and doing so on the keyboard is not going to allow you to get the best out of the flight characteristics.
I flew the A321 in both X-Plane9 and X-Plane10 and the framerate in XP9 was around 30-40 frames but in clear air around 60frames, I got 60frames in XP10 but the average with the heavy cloud was around 20frames, annoyingly the 2d cockpit stuttered in Xp10 as I was landing at Nice to 6frames but this is becoming a Mac ATI chip bug…pain, I hope it will be fixed in 10.10 b1.
The coming VC will add-on around 15frames onto those figures, but in clear skies I found it not very framerate hungry and at times saw those clean 60-65frames so I would say at the basic level the A321 is not a framerate hungry beast, but put anything with it (Clouds or heavy custom scenery) then it drops away very significantly.
Brilliant, and if purchased you will get years out of the aircraft because it is so deep in complexity that you have or need to use it regularly to find something deeper in all those settings and use those adjusted flightplans to fly it as close to the flight cycle of a real Airbus A321 as possible, It is really a totally automated aircraft that you will spend hours telling it what it should be doing automatically.
It is accessible as well if you know Torsten’s version well, you can throw a fms plan in there and still fly it to a point-to-point destination without going very deep into the data; and I can still find I can give some human input in takeoff and landing and set the speed far lower than automated numbers and still get a great landing.
The strange thing is that its personality is so mixed, and so it is a bit of QPAC A320 here, and a bit of A380 there and it has its own bits of difference in there as well (sounds and feel),
And more to the point that like a Stanley Kubrick film the more you see it (and use it) then more you see the greatness behind the genius, It flies, moves and looks magnificent and the coldness falls away as it draws you back time and time again in you wanting to go from here to there.
I will when the Virtual Cockpit is released do another review on the A321 and see how far those performance differences change and see where at what stage (X-Plane10 compliant) the A321 is then all at. You can’t review such a large file in just a few posts and certainly not this A321…it is just that sort of aircraft.
Airbus A321 IAE engine version : EUR 39.90
Purchase is available from -> Peters Aircraft
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