Wednesday
Oct142009

Review: Aerosoft's Discus Glider X

From FSBreak 37.

Product Information:

  • Fully professional development (over 20 months).
  • Ten high detail models (for example just the VC of the BT model has 146384 polygons, more than double of what FS2004 could compile) using all the FSX options.
  • Highly advanced flight models that are accurate even in spins and other no standard attitudes.
  • Over 100 non standard sounds (like flying with open windows, side slips, pending stalls etc) all triggered by FSX variables and conditions using Aerosoft Sound Control.
  • Full working water ballast system.
  • Two Static ports (with selector) to avoid problems when using the auxiliary engines.
  • Dozens of non standard animations, up to elements that move under high G load.
  • Very realistic flexing wings created with a new technology.
  • All instruments accurate, including TEC and NETTO variometers. Not like this simplified gauges in the default glider in FSX.
  • Real usable yaw string that will make coordinated flight a lot easier.
  • All models include a highly realistic C4 Flight Computer that allows then pilot to calculate ideal speeds and routes.
  • Includes a licensed copy of Winch X! .
  • Designed with full support of Schempp-Hirth, SDI Variomers and the SOAR online glider community.
  • Includes a FSX manual (English) and the actual 'real' manuals for the gliders and C4 Flight Computer (English and German)

Click for more information on the Discus Glider X from Aerosoft.

Written review by Eric:

Introduction
This product sparked our interest because at the time there were no payware gliders for FSX, so we were naturally intrigued when the Discus Glider X finally made its appearance.

We are not extremely knowledgeable in Gliders, so we are all entering the Discus with fairly clean slates when it comes to how a glider acts, and how it should fly.

As you would expect from any commercial payware, the installation process was very straightforward. Included is a copy of WinchX, a freeware program that improves FSX’s default winch system. Without WinchX you can not winch any aircraft with an engine, which poses a problem with towing two of the three discus models which have small onboard engines.

WinchX installs automatically after Discus Glider X does, and no additional configuration is needed.

Aerosoft also recommends two additional freeware programs, Cumulus X and Sim Probe which both improve the way FSX calculates thermals. It would have been really nice if Aerosoft were able to include these two programs the same way they did with WinchX – But this could be due to technical or licensing reasons. The install process for these two programs does require some configuration, but everything is outlined in their respective ReadMe files.

The Model
Three main models are included:

  • B – A traditional glider with no motor.
  • BT – A glider with a small motor included. You will still need to use something like WinchX to get airborne, but the motor can be deployed for getting you between thermals, or to get a little extra boost when you’re a little short from the airport.
  • BM – A glider with a larger motor included. This motor is powerful enough to take off under it’s own power, and does not need a winch to get airborne. However, with WinchX you will get to your desired altitude much faster than using the motor. The documentation mentions that the “BM” model is very rare, and only 10 of these models were actually made.

It should go without saying, but don’t expect much from either the BT or the BM motors... It is a glider after all, and the motors are only designed for getting you back to the airport in one piece.

The motors are activated via a switch in the cockpit, and specific instructions must be followed to start the motor. These procedures are outlined in the product manual, and differ between the BT and the BM models.

I found the flight model itself to be truly “as real as it gets”. A lot of attention was put into creating a realistic flight model, which is extremely important in a glider as you are relying on a true to life glide ratio, and control surfaces performing as they should. The Discus Glider X has been flown and real Discus pilots have verified the flight model.

Testing the model, you can tell when the glider is performing well and when it isn’t. If you jerk the rudder left or right, you will almost feel the jerking motion in your chair as the glider violently jerks, and then side slips. It is a similar situation to the Ailerons and other control surfaces.

One thing I would love to do if given the opportunity is to fly this model with a good quality force feedback stick. If force feedback is supported, it will nearly take the amount of realism over the edge... The model behavior is so well, it is a shame that when you feel the aircraft struggling you aren’t able to feel it in your joystick.

The Sound
I would normally put the sound under “The Model”, or just stick it in a sentence somewhere... But I think the attention to detail in the Discus Glider X is deserving of its own category.

This model includes more than 100 non standard sounds. Going back to the previous section, when you make hard movements on the control surfaces, in addition to feeling it in the behavior, you can HEAR the glider slipping in the air, and it is all integrated perfectly with the aircraft model.

Considering a glider is designed to be flown without an engine (BT and BM models can obviously be excluded) you aren’t listening to the buzz of an aircraft engine... You’re hearing the wind over the wings, and your rudder, ailerons, and elevator interacting with the air racing by. The combination of the excellent flight model, and the Aerosoft sound system is a perfect match.

The Cockpit
Believe it or not, a glider is a lot more advanced than you’d think! They can have sophisticated flight computers, and gauges not typically found in your standard C172. In addition to all of the instruments, the Discus Glider X features a fully functional ballast system.

The model (B, BT, or BM) you choose dictates which virtual cockpit layout you get, and which gauges you get. But overall, you get the following gauges with the Glider X:

  • Compass
  • Airspeed Indicator
  • Altimeter
  • C4 Competition
  • PDA/GPS
  • TEC Variometer
  • Electrical Netto Variometer
  • Engine operation switch/Hobbs meter/RPM Meter
  • Yaw String

Without going into each and every gauge, I will just mention that they are all very well modeled, and look realistic in the Virtual Cockpit even zoomed and at high resolutions.

The C4 Competition flight computer can surprisingly be a very complicated instrument; Aerosoft actually includes the actual manuals from the manufacture, which can be followed with this gauge.

The last gauge I will touch on is the compass... I know you’re probably laughing right now, asking Who Cares! It’s a compass... But I think that such a simple instrument is usually overlooked in most payware models, and the one included in the Discus Glider X is phenomenal. The slight movements of the aircraft are reflected in the vertical and horizontal movements of the compass while in flight... And frankly I’ve never seen anything like it in FSX – You really have to see it to appreciate it.

Documentation
As with every Aerosoft product, the documentation is overall pretty good. It goes into the functions of most of the more advanced instruments and gauges with the model – Which for anyone not familiar with some of the specialized instruments for gliders will need to read to understand what their purposes are.

Aerosoft provides basic “Getting Started” documentation – Which is about 15 pages of material not counting copyright and title pages. This is well labeled, and has many screenshots, which I found very helpful. Also provided are full flight manuals for the “B” and “BT” models, C4 Competition Flight computer, and WinchX.

However, one item missing altogether in the “Getting Started” documentation is any information on the Water Ballast system. The Flight Manual probably includes information on this – But you will have to find it in the 177 pages. There is also very little information on the C4 Competition computer system in the “Getting Started” documentation, just a paragraph on what the computer is and its basic function. While the full manual IS included, it could be a little overwhelming for new pilots.

There is also a pretty good Easter Egg in the documentation... Nice!

Nitpicking...
In my testing of the Discus Glider X, I did notice one item that could be improved on. This is in no way a deal breaker... But I think it should be mentioned..

Cabin reflections not in sync with what they should be!
See below, the reflection looks great, right?

 

Now if I take out the GPS/PDA, the reflection does not show this change:

...Nothing major, but it would add a little extra bit of realism if the reflection textures were refreshed for major changes – Such as the PDA and the pilot (The pilot can be toggled off and on depending on your preference). I don’t expect a different set of reflection textures to be made for every single movement in the VC (Such as moving the throttle or ballast lever), but for major changes like those mentioned above, it would be a nice addition.

Taking a couple steps back though, this model has been in development for 20 months, and the flight model was completely re- written several times... So if it comes down to putting extra time into the flight model, or the reflections, I would choose the flight model. But it would be a nice change to put in a service pack maybe? If you’ve made it this far though, and you’re interested in the Discus Glider X, don’t let this tiny bug get in the way.

Overall...
Overall, you have to ask yourself if you are a glider person or not. If soaring through the skies, riding the thermals with maybe a little bit of aerobatics tossed in sounds like a great time to you, then I would recommend the Discus Glider X without hesitation. If you have been interested in the default glider included with FSX, you will find this to be MUCH improved and a more realistic aircraft.

After flying the Discus Glider X for a few days, I went back to the default glider included with FSX – The difference is night and day. After flying this model, the default glider feels completely disconnected from the control surface, and the cockpit to be very basic at best.

I would recommend some great scenery to go with it though. A unique experience with a glider is that you have almost a full range of vision. Unlike a small GA aircraft like a C172, you don’t have the engine & prop in your vision, nor do you have the wings or passenger seat. You have uninterrupted vision from the front, side to side, and vertically. If you’re looking to explore a massive scenery expansion (Like Tongass Fjords, Switzerland Pro, Orbx FTX, etc) this glider is perfect to do that. You are able to get lower, slower, and closer than you can with any other aircraft out there.

There are a few small things that in my opinion could be tweaked (Such as the basic documentation and the reflections), and would keep me from giving this a “Perfect” rating... But it is still 99% there.

Pros:

  • Top notch flight model
  • Detailed, and real to life VC and instrumentation (No 2D Cockpit)
  • WinchX is almost necessary, and included with this
  • Sound system = Excellent
  • Overall, good documentation is included
  • No performance hit noticed, FPS friendly

Cons:

  • Basic documentation could have been more in depth about the C4 Competition, and does not mention ballast system at all.
  • Reflection issue

System Reviewed on:
Intel Core 2 Duo 3.06GHz
4GB DDR2 RAM
nVidia GeForce 8800 512MB
FSX & Windows 7

Thoughts from Danton...

Soaring in Australia
Eric, Brendan, and I take the Discus up for a joint flight around Ayres Rock in central Australia.  After winching up from the nearby airport, we circle around Uluru and then race back.

 

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Cross Country Innsbruck to Salzburg in Austria Professional X
Flying the Discus BM model, I make the cross country trip from Innsbruck to Salzburg, beginning with a long winch tow. Despite having an engine, I take advantage of thermals and ridge lift to gain the range I need for the journey. I start to get some sense of how the C4 computer works in conjunction with the GPS and a flight plan, at least to the point of estimating my altitude at my destination to know when I have climbed high enough. The Alps are beautiful, but I am glad my glider has an engine.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer


Salzburg City Scenery in Austria Professional X
I return to Salzburg for some more gliding in the non-motorized version. Crossing the Salzach River, I pass over the Altstadt or “Old Town,” which is UNESCO World Heritage Site. The addon scenery is very nice. I dump my water ballast and make my way towards the Salzburg airport. On final, however, I am a little high and fast, so I deploy my speed brakes. They do the trick and get me into the proper glide slope. When flying the Discus, I recommend following Aerosoft’s advice of setting the throttle level to control the speed brakes, giving you much finer control.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer


Miscellaneous
I found two additional visual curiosities with the Discus. First, when panning inside the cockpit, some views show the pilot after what appears to be an extremely close shave. Second, in the unfortunate event of a crash, even the non-motorized Discus B sometimes explodes in a fireball, causing you to wonder whether the ballast tank may have been filled with avgas (although the attached screenshot doesn’t really capture the occasionally huge conflagration).

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer