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Part II – the JARDesign JD332

Introduction

We’re pleased to offer you part II of another flight with the JARDesign JDA330. Bruce Knight has created a fictitious flight within the USA, one that is flown usually by smaller Airbus aircraft such as the A320. I have tried to write this from the perspective of an airline pilot, although I have never actually done that.

Loading the Aircraft into X-Plane 11.41

As I first loaded the Jar Designs A330-200 (known throughout this article by its ICAO abbreviation of “A332”), to familiarize myself with the product, I noted that I got a green text telling me to download the Ground Handling add-on, with a link to it. This green text goes away once you have it installed in Resources / Plugins. As mentioned later in this review, as well as by Angelique, the plug-in is free for this aircraft only- a registration must be purchased if you wish to use it with any other aircraft. Use of the Ground Handling plugin without registration for any other aircraft will crash XP11. Incidentally, when downloading the aircraft from the X-Plane store, there is an option to download the XP10 model as well.

I also got a flashing red message on my screen telling me that my frame-rate was too low. When I launched the XP11.41 frame-rate counter I found my fps to be greater than what was being reported by the red text. Since this is very annoying, I was pleased to discover that by going to the MCDU MENU page (on the MCDU) has an item to remove the red text.

Preliminary Information about our Flight

So, to the setup to the flight test for this review: American Airlines used to operate an exclusively Boeing fleet. Then in 2012 / 2013 the airline purchased US Air, which was a predominantly Airbus fleet, and included 15 Airbus A330-200 and 9 A330-300 aircraft. Although the airline has more recently purchased Boeing B787’s to begin to replace the aging B767’s, the A330s are too new to be replaced at this time and continue to fly.

There are newer “NEO” versions of the A330 now in early production by Airbus- apart from the better engines there are also aerodynamic improvements that are due largely to a re-designed wing. The original A330 series shared the same wing with its cousin –the A340- and so the wing was never optimized for a twin jet. Incidentally, American now operates a fleet of 944 aircraft in total, making it the largest commercial fleet in the world, including the largest A319, A320 and A321 complement world-wide.

The Wikipedia article linked here gives the details of the total fleet.

This fictional flight represents a flight from American Airline’s Charlotte, North Carolina, hub (KCLT) to Atlanta, Georgia, the largest hub of its main competitor- Delta Airlines. While airlines in reality only fly smaller aircraft to other airline hubs, this simulated flight has an A332. I have downloaded and installed the American Airlines livery from the Jar Design site, and am using the KCLT freeware scenery by XFiber, as well as the Nimbus KATL pay-ware scenery package (which I reviewed last year).

Pre-flight Planning

Flight Dispatch
In this hypothetical flight, we would get our flight briefing in the airline’s dispatch area, airside in the KCLT airport. The dispatchers are mostly located in the airline’s headquarters at the Dallas- Fort Worth airport (KDFW), in Texas, and we would communicate with them on computer monitors. We would go through the anticipated payload (passengers and freight), the weather at the departure and arrival airports as well as along the route, NOTAMs for the airports, the need for an alternate, among may other related items.

We would ensure that our EFBs had all of the required charts and information for the flight, and view and discuss the status of the aircraft- are there any “squawks” (maintenance issues) that have been reported by the previous crew, or discovered by the ground engineer.

The ground engineer will have computer diagnostics on the aircraft and ensured that from her perspective it is airworthy. She will have done a specialized walk-around, looking for specific issues that only an engineer’s eye can find, and will greet us on the flight deck for a final confirmation that all is OK. The fuel loader will have received the request for additional fuel load from the dispatcher.

This is a a very simplistic overview of the pre-departure work that is required to occur for every flight, and the flight dispatcher will stay with is, virtually, as we fly the aircraft- she will employ “flight following” to watch or progress and be available for us to talk to in the event that something needs unforeseen attention. Flight dispatchers require an FAA license which is very similar to an ATP license in the knowledge that they are tested on.

Planning for an Alternate
So- back to the flight. We need to first look at weather- the departure airport so we know what performance we will need to take off (FLEX temperature, V speeds, etc.); then any expected enroute changes to weather, and finally the destination airport and the alternate if required.

We see that the Charlotte weather is for Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC), with some high cirrus at around 40,000 feet but otherwise clear. Winds are out of the north at 15 knots, gusting to 22. We see from Airport Operations that runway 36 Center (36C) is being used for westerly departures. However, Atlanta KATL is completely different- the forecast for our arrival is as follows:

KATL 260001Z 30013KT 3SM -DZ BR BKN006 BKN010 OVC020 12/10 A2987 RMK AO2 WSHFT 1545 SFC VIS 5 RAE40DZB46 SLP112 FROPA P0001 T01170100

You may wonder why I have highlighted some of the textual weather for Atlanta KATL. Once again, this is specific to the US (which I believe is unique in the world, although I also believe that most countries have similar regulations for consistency). We are on an instrument flight plan (required for most Part 121 operations regardless of weather, and required for any operations above FL 180, as mentioned before).

An instrument flight plan requires that we have an alternate airport defined on our flight plan- unless the weather at the destination airport for a period of 1 hour prior to our planned arrival time to one hour after meets a certain standard. This standard is that we will need at least a 2,000-foot ceiling and 3 statute miles of visibility. Anything less than either that ceiling and/or the visibility requires an alternate. Also note that the default is that we require an alternate- we are only excused of doing that if the weather conditions allow, as we saw above.

Back to that weather for KATL. Looking at that high-lighted text, we have a broken layer at 600 feet AGL, and also another one at 1,000 feet AGL. (We also have an overcast layer at 2,000 feet). Since a” ceiling” is defined as either a “Broken” or “Overcast” layer (but not a “Scattered” layer), these two bolded items describe a ceiling that triggers the need for an alternate.

Several things to note about alternates. Some runways at various are charted as “N/A” for alternates, it’s on the approach chart for the runway. We also need an instrument approach, unless we know that at our arrival the weather will be VMC all the way below the Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA) of the route we fly to the runway. Then there are weather requirements that apply to make that airport eligible to be used for an alternate. This article from Bold Method provides a very good description of the regulations and operational practices regarding alternates.

As well as the weather and the charts for the planned alternate, and the runway length and condition (which are all legal limits), there are operational considerations too. Is there a restaurant and a terminal area for all of these passengers? Can the airport handle an aircraft of this size? To get around these operational issues, an airline usually tries to divert to one of its hubs.

From KATL, the closest American Airlines hub is back at KCLT, or otherwise would be at KDFW which is further away from KATL. As we know the weather forecast is clear at KCLT, then we would file KCLT as our alternate and we would then have our operations people generate a flight plan from KATL (using the same runway that we will be on approach to) back to KCLT. Our fuel reserves need to allow for a diversion to the alternate (worse case, which is having to climb out after being close to landing- say at minimums), plus a reserve of 45 minutes.

That is the bare minimum, and most airlines require a higher reserve which may include holding for 30 minutes (in addition to the 45 minutes reserve). The captain also can request an even higher reserve, since his/her say is final to the operation of the flight.

We get our flight plan from Dispatch, which is: KCLT-BOBZY4-TNSLY-LEAVI-OZZZI1, with a distance of 226 miles, and a cruise altitude of FL240.

Walking to the Aircraft
As we arrive at the gate, we see the aircraft is surrounded by ground vehicles attending to the aircraft’s pre-departure routines. I am fascinated by the cargo loading and watch an LD3 container being loaded onto the Cargo Loader, lifted up to the cargo deck height, and pushed into aircraft’s forward cargo hold. This is accomplished within the sim by the Jar Design Ground Handler addon.

As Angelique had mentioned before in our Part I JD330 review, it works as a freeware add-on for the JD A330-200 only, if you try it with any other aircraft without paying for and registering, the addon it will crash XP11. We walk out to the aircraft on the jetway, approaching the main door (1L), and I get ready to inspect the Airworthiness Certificate (AC), mounted on the left doorframe. The FAA requires that is be placed in a location where anyone who is on the flight can look at it.

It’s often interesting to see what the date of manufacture was for an aircraft using the AC. I’m not sure how and where different manufacturers place the AC, in order to be in compliance with this regulation, but I have often seen the AC in “shrink-wrap” mounted on the right side of the main passenger doorway (1L). More than once I have invoked curiosity in boarding passengers behind me- they see me reading the AC and then think they need to read it themselves, but have no idea of what it is!

Preliminary Cockpit Setup

In the bottom left of the screen you will see two green boxes- one is “GPU” which will power up the aircraft with engines off and all the rest of the flight setup not yet done, or “HOT START” which is essentially an “engines on” start. Note that it appears as though the selection in XP11.41 for the aircraft state at startup is ignored. I then get the message “System Created”. I have selected the “GPU” option, which gets dismissed from the bottom left.

I can still select the “HOT START” option at this time, however after several minutes any remaining menu in this location will disappear- even if you have not yet selected anything. Note that the “GPU” option can be done through the Settings feature in the MCDU MENU (below), if you inadvertently miss this step. I have now moved my position in the left seat to center on that seat and be between the PFD and the ND. The default position is slightly to the right of this.

I check the overhead panel, with the GPU selected through the menu at the bottom-left of the screen, as mentioned before. As you will note further below, not even the batteries are turned on, only the GPU- and in that regard, only the left GPU (there are two external power feeds to this aircraft). What would have been nice to see is the batteries turned on as well (after all, we are trying to simulate external power being applied by the ground engineer), and the position lights turned on- they should be on any time the aircraft is powered up.

I discuss the aircraft with my fellow pilot, who has been waiting for me. She has, since boarding the aircraft, run diagnostic tests on the complex computer systems, checked items such as warning / notification lights, checked the onboard maintenance log for any issues (there are none), as well as check the data file that is written to by the computer systems to ensure one of them hasn’t reported a situation during the prior flight that we need to investigate.

She has also done her own walk-around and ensured that complex items such as the landing gear struts are OK, and that sufficient lubrication is available for these moving parts. There is a myriad of other tests that she has performed as well, and she has talked with the ground crew (who will load the cargo and administer push-back) to make sure that they have no concerns. She also makes sure that the fueler has the correct amount of fuel required for this trip (we did this with the dispatcher before walking out to the aircraft), which was then electrically sent to the fueler as well as the ground engineer, and to our EFB’s.

Yes- it certainly does “take a village” to get a complex aircraft such as this ready for departure! We are now seated in our respective positions in the cockpit. We sign acceptance of the aircraft from the flight engineer, say “bye-bye, thanks and have a great day”, and she is off to get another aircraft ready for flight.

Looking at the overhead panel, some initial items need to be taken care of. We see that the battery switches are turned off, so we turn all three on (two for the aircraft systems and another for the APU). While we are at the batteries location on the overhead panel, we also check the individual main batteries by turning one of them off and watching for how much of a voltage drop there is in the other.

Unlike the A320, where each of the two main batteries is has its own voltage display, in this aircraft there is only one voltage display with a switch to show any one of the three batteries. We also note that only one external GPU power input to the aircraft is turned, so we turn on the other. If there’s two provided, there may be a reason for that!

One of the items that will take some time to stabilize is the bank of three ADIRs (Air Data Inertial Reference Units). We turn each of them on, waiting until the “On Bat” indication has turned off prior to turning on the next, in the order 1-2-3. Having done all of this we now ensure that there are no warning lights in the ADIRS assembly.

I now start to check the overhead panel switches, starting on the left side, from the bottom to the top. While some functions are not modeled (and I say that because I don’t get a mouse “hand” when I hover over them), others do give me this mouse function- such as all of the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) switches. I look further up the left side of the overhead panel and find the APU fire test, it’s activated by pressing the button to the left of the red windows, labeled “Test”. There is a warning sound and the red alarm indicators show.

Down into the center overhead panel, working my way up the top again. I check that our Nav lights are on (power is applied to the aircraft), I also switch the standby compass light to on (if we need to use this it will be some form of emergency, so better to take care of the light now). I find and check the engine fire test (one button tests both engine fire systems). I do note some system functions to the very top of the overhead panel (such as the “Leak Measurement Valve”) appears to respond to a mouse click, but I have no idea of what these functions are- only to say if I was a real A332 pilot I would need to know exactly what each and every function does.

I ensure that the Emergency Lighting is armed, and note that the manipulation of knobs do not respond to the mouse-wheel (as is common in add-ons)- they need to be dragged, as was common in earlier versions of XP10. Finally, I zoom out and show the entire overhead panel, to illustrate what the overall panel now looks like. Note that I have not yet turned the Fuel switches on.

The MCDU Menu and Ground Equipment

I also note that the option to have a “Hot Start” is still available to us (in the bottom left of the screen). Now, on to the MCDU, our window to the soul of this beautiful aircraft. Firstly, the Ground Handling and Doors, where we need to go first to the MCDU page “MCDU MENU”. A look outside also shows the GPU unit under the nose of the aircraft. We then move to the MCDU home page, where we see the configuration of the aircraft (which engines, etc.), as well as the valid dates for the navigation data.

There is also an item “PERF FACTOR 0.0” on this MCDU home screen although I have no idea what it is telling me- once again the lack of documentation that Angelique wrote about is evident here. This is the first check we do in the Multifunction Control and Display Unit (MCDU). Now I choose the button “MCDU Menu”, which shows a list of menu items. The first item I am going to choose is Ground Handling, which gives a list of functions that can be enabled or disabled. I note that although I have confirmed, and seen, the GPU that is providing power to our aircraft, the GPU item in the MCDU is not enabled (green). I now enable it, although it is there anyway- a slight inconsistency.

I now enable the Loader (cargo loaders, there are two large container loader and one smaller loading ramp that enables me to manually load parcels into the aft compartment). I’m also enabling all three of the catering trucks, although note I am not enabling the Fuel truck yet. A fleet of cargo loaders and catering trucks heads for our aircraft, and positions themselves to load their respective items.

The truck body elevates on struts to reach the main passenger deck of the aircraft, while the corresponding door is still shut (2R). A ramp slides out of the catering truck to reach the aircraft, at the bottom of the door, and the door opens to allow the loading of the catering items. The cargo loaders are also in position and the aircraft cargo doors have been opened.

I now look at the MCDU menu item “Doors State”, and see that the three right doors on the passenger deck, and the three cargo hold doors, are all in amber indicating they are open. I didn’t open the doors, they opened in response to the various loading vehicles being in place to commence loading. I now dismiss the catering trucks in the Ground Handling menu (they are white when dismissed), they back up from the aircraft and then drive away.  Once again checking the Doors State menu item on the MCDU shows the three doors on the main passenger deck are now closed (they are green again). Once again, this all happens as part of the dismissing of the catering trucks. I now dismiss the cargo loaders.

Refueling
While a refueling operation and passenger boarding might commonly be done while the cargo loaders are still loading, I have purposefully done these as separate items- which we will now proceed to do. So, back to the MCDU Menu, where I select “Ground Handling”, then ‘Fuel” (which goes from white text to green). The fuel truck has been summoned.  Moments later, when the fuel truck has driven up and connected the fuel hose to the aircraft refueling point, I get a pop-up. I can refuel, or defuel, with this pop-up.  I also check outside to see the fuel truck in position.

The current fuel load is 12,000 Kg, so I decide to load a further 1,000 Kg to make 13,000 Kg. I press the “Inc” arrow and the “Pre-selected” counter increases at 1,000 Kg increment for reach click of the “Inc” button. After 13 clicks I show 13,000 Kg of fuel ordered (note the value in the “Preselected” box is not how much I am increasing the fuel quantity, it is the total that I want). I now press the “Refuel” arrow, and the “Actual” fuel counter increments to my requested 13,000 Kg. I now deselect the Fuel Truck in the Ground Handling page, it turns white again and the pop up disappears. Refueling is done.

I am now back at the MCDU menu, where I select the “Door State” menu. I open the 1L door for boarding, and it turns amber on my MCDU screen. Shortly after I hear the sounds of passengers talking and placing their carry-on items into the overhead bins. (Incidentally it’s a repeating loop, and a portion of the same loop is used by Flight Factor in their B757 and B767 aircraft). I now hear a chime, look down at the audio switcher panel, and see “ATT” on the “CAB” (cabin) indicator.

This brings up a pop-up menu, however these are communications from me, not the FA, so they are not relevant to this call- I hear the FA say “The passengers are cold, please turn up the heat”. (I note that the cabin temperature knobs are mid-way in their range, but also know that I have not yet started the APU, nor the engines, either of which will provide air conditioning cooling or heating to the passenger and flight deck areas). The “ATT” notification on the CAB indicator has gone out.

Programming the MCDU

The INIT A page
I leave the passengers boarding, and turn my attention to the MCDU. Here’s where the magic truly happens in one of these Airbus aircraft. Let’s see how the Jar Design A332 performs.  I go to the INIT page- it’s one out of multiple pages, I know that because of the left/right arrows at the far right top of the MCDU screen. These arrows also tell me that I can change pages by selected the horizontal arrows. It’s possible to request a Company Route, but I decide to do things manually and enter “KCLT/KATL” into the scratch pad of the MCDU (it’s in white). I now transfer that string into the “FROM/TO” box at field 1-Right (1R). Using the same method of entry, I enter the flight number (3L), the Cost Index of “20” (5L), and my flight level of 240 at 6L.

Note the field 6L shows a temperature at that flight level of -32.5. It’s calculated from the ambient air temperature at the airport with a standard lapse rate to my entered flight level. But temperature lapse rates don’t always behave according to predictions, and I know from my “Winds and Temperatures Aloft” data that my temperature will be -36. I enter into the scratchpad “/-36”, using the forward slash prefix to place the data into the right-most field.  I then show this as having been accomplished. I do need to come back to this page to select the “ALIGN IRS” button (3R).

So, I now want to try a few more things on the INIT A page. Usually, any alpha-numeric characters that are in blue are editable- that’s all of the fields on this page (fields that not editable are usually in green). Say I wanted to change the “LAT” (Latitude) figure (airport gates usually have a very accurate latitude / longitude sign facing the pilot): I enter a new value into the scratch-pad of 3521.7, and try to enter that into the LAT field (4L), but I can’t do it.

OK, that doesn’t work. I see in field 6R, named “TROPO”, the altitude (36098) of the beginning of the Troposphere. I now try and enter a new value into this field, but also cannot do so. In doing this review I have researched online for the operation of the MCDU for this aircraft, but also recognize that different makes and models, including software revisions, are likely in these aircraft, and because I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the MCDU operation, I may be trying to do something that I shouldn’t be able to.

The INIT B Page, including Fuel Reserves
So, now let’s turn our attention to the INIT B page. This deals with weights, fuel and the center-of-gravity (CG). The “Zero-Fuel-Weight-CG” (ZFWCG) is already entered for us, and had we been in a real aircraft we would have a load sheet that we would use to enter this.  Here it’s done for us. If we simply click on the “Zero-Fuel-Weight” (ZFW) and BLOCK (fuel) buttons at 1R and 2R, they get populated for us as well. Once again, we would normally be doing this manually from a load sheet and dispatch documentation. After these fields are entered, two things happen:

1. The title of this page goes from “INIT” to “INIT FUEL PREDICTION”, and:

2. A bunch of fuel numbers appear to the left. Some are in blue so should be editable, some are in green so should not.

Note also the Take-off Weight (TOW) and Landing Weight (LW) fields at 4R and 5R.

If I go back for a moment to the MCDU Menu, I can click on the menu item “LOAD AND FUEL”, and I get this nice load sheet, with a CG envelope. This is where the data that got entered into the INIT 2 page when we clicked on the MCDU fields comes from. I could adjust weights and passenger figures from here. You will see at the upper left our flight number as entered into the MCDU as well as the departure and destination airport ICAO codes.

Back to the INIT FUEL PREDICTION page.
I’m going to play with some of these fuel numbers. What we want to do is keep our eyes on the bottom left fuel figure (it’s in green so we can’t change it), it shows after all of our reserves and trip/taxi fuel how much is left remaining at our destination. It’s called “EXTRA/TIME”, and is actually extra fuel and how much additional time that fuel would buy us- say if we got put into a holding pattern for a long time.

Note that the initial values are 08.7 (thousands of Kg of fuel) /0127 (1 hour 27 minutes). If this sounds high, we haven’t gotten to the alternate yet!! So, I first go to edit the “TAXI” field at 1L. By default, it has 0.2 (thousands of Kg) entered, and I enter 0.3 into the scratchpad. We then enter that into 1L. That works, and the EXTRA/TIME fields change to 08.6/0126. So far so good, I’m making sure that the fuel planning figures on this page actually change to what they should be if I make edits to fuel allocations for reserves and other items.

Next down the left side is the field TRIP/TIME. This is trip fuel and the time the system has calculated for us to make that trip. It’s not editable, nor should it be. The next field at 3L is RTE REV / %. This is the amount of reserves we would like to make for the trip- maybe the head winds are worse, or we are kept at a lower altitude. It defaults to 5% of the route itself, but is editable. I enter “/10” to give us a 10% reserve (once again that forward slash places my value of 10 into the right most portion of the field).

I could have selected an actual fuel amount to act as an additional reserve, and that would have calculated the” %”. So, enter one and the other calculates its value. And the EXTRA/TIME field at 6L changes as well. Good!

The next field down is how much fuel we want to assign to our alternate. We haven’t yet entered that so it’s at 0, and it’s not editable- obviously. Now we drop down to FINAL / TIME. This is assuming we make it to the destination airport but have to hold above it- so an additional reserve. It defaults to 30 minutes- I’m changing it to 45 minutes (note this is not the “45-minute reserve” that instrument flights need to have). I could enter a fuel amount but chose to enter “/45” to get the time field for 45 minutes.

We note that the EXTRA/TIME fields decrease every time we make an additional commitment to fuel for something else. We also note that the landing weight (LW) does not change- this needs to conservatively predict our landing weight, and it has a maximum critical value, so even though we have just budgeted for additional taxi fuel and reserves time, our route of flight is the same- for now it’s just direct from KCLT to KATL. So- next, let’s change that, let’s build an actual route.


Entering a Flight Plan
We now go to the F-PLN page in the MCDU, click on our departure airport and it leads us to a runway selection and a Departure Procedure (DP). We know from the KCLT operations that 36C is being used for westerly departures, and our DP will be the BOBZY4 SID, with the TNSLY transition. Changes are first written into a temporary flight plan (in amber), which we then move to the actual flight plan- in green.

Now we program the arrival. This is normally done in flight, but the route is so short and we know the weather conditions at KATL, so we decide to proceed and enter it. Similar to above for the departure airport, we enter the arrival runway of 26R, and the STAR OZZZI1.

We give the STAR entry point the transition of LEAVI, and the STAR exit point and transition to the approach of ZELOW (note that 26R is the outer runway of the pair of 26 runways, outer runways of parallel pairs are usually used for arrivals since they allow for the maximum separation of distance between the other landing runway; and the greater the distance separation is between landing runways the more options for parallel approaches there are).

As I work through entering the landing runway, the STAR- and it’s entry transition, then the exit transition for the STAR which is also the entry transition for the approach- you get to see all of these waypoints and procedures on the MCDU in yellow (below), while the unselected options for arrival are shown in blue.

Finally, we scroll through the flight plan and find one discontinuity which we eliminate with the CLR button on the MCDU. Interestingly, we could (and should) now select the PLAN view on the ND, and we could scroll through the flight plan ensuring that it is accurate. We now go back to the INIT FUEL PREDICTION page, and re-check the EXTRA/TIME field. It has changed again, and is now at 07.7 / 0117, a slight decrease from entering an actual route, and the Land Weight (LW) has also dropped from 172.1 to 172.0.  So far so good. We also remember to align the IRS units on the INIT 1 page.

But- what about winds and their effect on this flight plan, as well as adding an alternate? That’s where we go next. I don’t profess to be anything of an expert on MCDU programming- my expertise in real life doesn’t extend much beyond setting up a GNS 430/530 or G1000- so I searched online through some aviation forums where real airline pilots discuss such matters.

I have entered wind into other simulation products, but one never knows if it’s a work around or for real. I came to the conclusion that I can either insert wind information into the INIT A page, or in one of the vertical revision fields in the F-PLN page, and even more amazing- the MCDU knows if a particular waypoint is on the climb, cruise or descent phases and will spawn a daughter page related to the phase of flight for my wind entry.

So, looking at the JD A332, we first see on the INIT A page that there is indeed, a button at 5R labelled “WIND” in white. Great- but it doesn’t do anything. So, I tried a vertical revision filed for one of my flight waypoints, but the wind entry key that I expected to see there is missing. So, I came to the conclusion that it is not possible to enter wind data.

Entering an Alternate Airport
So, now to the Alternate. You may recall that we decided to fly back to KCLT if we need to divert- it meets our legal needs for an alternate in that there an (many) instrument approaches, the weather is good- a way above alternate minima- and the runways are large enough to accommodate our aircraft- after all, we just came from there!

It also meets our operational needs, as it has a large enough terminal complex to accommodate our passengers, restaurants, etc. It also is one of our primary hubs, so we can rebook passengers if necessary, to other flights. And it’s close- but not so close that it has the exact same weather- it’s almost the “sweet spot” of alternates.

So- how to enter an alternate. It’s done through the INIT-A page on the MCDU, at key 2L, and we also can enter a company route for the routing to the alternate, if available. Once again, the flight path details from KATL to KCLT are so simple that we will enter it manually. But first we need to enter the ICAO code for the alternate- which is of course KCLT. The MCDU field has “NONE” populated in it, and it’s in blue, so this looks promising. I enter “KCLT” into the scratchpad and click on MCDU key 2L.

Yes! I now see KCLT in blue in field 2L. Before we enter the route to the alternate, let’s take a peek at that field EXTRA/TIME in the INIT FUEL PREDICTION page (right arrow to it from INIT A. We should see the fuel remaining and extra time amounts decremented by the calculated amount related to a direct path back to KCLT- but unfortunately it hasn’t changed.

So- let’s go enter a route to the alternate. What should have occurred by entering an alternate into INIT A is a change to the F-PLN function, where as well as KATL being the end of the flight, there should be an additional field- also “KATL”- but in blue, which we can now commence entering an alternate flight plan which is essentially appending the primary flight plan.

I show next the end of the flight plan, which is unchanged from before- those fields in blue are the missed approach waypoint (which can be changed if ATC gives us an alternate missed approach, or we just decide to go to another alternate). Long story short, the alternate function does not appear to do anything other than allow us to enter the ICAO airport code into the INIT-A page at 2L.

While I write about these missing functions, I should make one important point clear. I am trying to enter functions that- while being realistic for an Airbus flight- are advanced in nature. With that said- those functions that are modelled are very well done. Rather than call the MCDU “not totally functional”, I would lean towards calling it “a simplified approach to the MCDU, excellent for someone who is learning how a MCDU works”. Adding to that is the way that data is automatically populated into fields, so a user does not need to go looking where to find it.

The PERF Function and NAV-RAD Page
There are two places that we need to enter data and then we are done with the MCDU. Firstly, the PERF page. Firstly, I work down the right side of the TAKE OFF page within the PERF function- we get directed to that page as it is the pending phase of the flight. We see on 1R the chosen runway 36C; at 2R a field where we can enter “TO SHIFT”, being if we are not using the entire runway- in this case we are, so we leave it blank.

At 3R we enter flaps at “2”, at 4R I enter a value for the “FLX”, being the engine thrust de-rate for takeoff- we “trick” the engines by giving them a higher temperature than what we actually have outside, and the engines then emulate what performance they would have at that higher temperature. I believe that this is also calculated for us on the load sheet, so I try just clicking on it- and I get 45 degrees. Working our way down the left side- at 1L we click on the field to give us the V1 speed (it populates 135 knots), then the same for Vr (rotation) speed and V2 speed- which are calculated to be 138 and 142 knots respectively.

Now I go back to the right side- at 3R we had entered “flaps 2” before-= but we also need to enter the elevator trim position for takeoff- Airbus calls it “THS”- so we simply click on that key. It populates UP 1.9, and changes the flaps position to “1”; and the trim wheel now starts moving itself to that “1.9 Up” position. I believe that the trim wheel is unable to be moved until the engines are running in the real thing- but it’s a simulation.

Looking at the trim wheel we do indeed see the right amount of trim for this take-off. Finally, I click 6L, where the load sheet populates Thrust Reduction and Accelerate altitudes. The system enters “1,728” and “2,728” to the fields respectively, which is adding the airport elevation to these values. I should add that I have tried manually entered altitudes into those files and that appears to work. I also click on 6R, being the Engine Out Acceleration altitude, and it populates with 2,728.

The Secondary Flight Plan function does not work- and I know of other Airbus simulations where the same occurs. I believe it takes a lot of additional programming to have a second flight plan entered- I assume that the basic design of XP11.41 allows for just one flight plan at a time so any secondary flight plan would require development outside of the basic X-Plane structure. But if we had that secondary flight plan, we could use it to return to KCLT if we had an emergency beyond V1 (which is the take-off committed speed).

Next, we enter the NAV RAD page. All of the frequency and radial fields are blank, except for the ILS identification code and frequency. When they are blank that allows the computer systems to automatically load frequencies for us. Looking up where the ILS station I-DQG is, it’s on our takeoff runway 36C at KCLT. Why do we need that?

More about that as we line up for takeoff, because I want to show you some fun stuff on our takeoff roll that needs this ILS frequency tuned (our takeoff runway). So- we’re done with the MCDU. Not much more to do before our taxi out. Incidentally, this model has an excellent active checklist for ensuring that tasks are carried out correctly for various phases of flight. I haven’t shown much of the checklist function- but remember- checklists are meant to retroactively check that important tasks are completed, and are not intended to be a list of items to do proactively.

Let’s now go look at our doors. We had opened door 1L to board passengers, we still hear a lot of noise back there so maybe they are still getting seated. The ECAM switch is by default at APU, so we select DOOR. We note that- sure enough- the only door in an amber color is 1A.

We now look at our current METAR for our departure- we click on “Update” on the CPDLC (Controller-Pilot data Link Communications). Well- maybe this product is too realistic- I expected to get my XP11.41 weather, which I forced to VFR with a cirrus layer at FL 400, and winds out of the north- but I’m getting the real time METAR- very nice if we wanted to fly with real weather that is current, which we would if we were trying to emulate a real flight. Kudos Jar Design!

We also hover our mouse over the ALT button, and scroll with the “mouse-wheel” to set our cruise altitude of FL 240. We double check that we have this knob in Managed Mode, which is achieved by pushing the knob (a way of remembering- we push the knob to give the aircraft control- Managed Mode, and we pull the knob towards us to give us Selected Mode). We also check for the dot in the “LVL/CH” mode (Level Change).

Preparing for Pushback

I love wing views. There’s something about an aircraft’s wing that demonstrates both elegance and elegance and technology. Of course, some people who have little interest in aviation may not see these qualities! The first shot below is a left wing shot, showing (courtesy of World Traffic 3) some other company aircraft alongside us.

The texturing on the wings is amazing, and while the flap/slat movement in XP is largely about correctly changing the airfoil more than a visual representation (we have all seen large gaps in slat/flap assemblies that we know are not real), we get fidelity in both of these areas here. The daylight outside is starting the fade as the afternoon moves into early evening- my favorite time to fly!

I also show a Tower view, and we see our aircraft (the A332 with position lights on), and we see a SWA B737 start its takeoff roll on runway 5. (We know that runway 5 traffic can interfere with that on our assigned runway for takeoff, so we make a mental note to take care).

APU Start and ECAM
We have started the APU, first by pressing the APU Master- then after we see on the System Display (SD) that the APU flap is open (“FLAP OPEN” appears on the display), we started the APU. A closer look at the SD (which will automatically switch to APU when we first engage the APU Master switch). We see in the first shot below that we have used 0Kg of fuel, the APU GEN insert shows “0%, 0V and 0Hz”, being the load on the APU generator, the voltage generated and the AC frequency respectively.

At the bottom of the SD, on the left, we see TAT (Total Air temperature) and SAT (Static Air Temperature). In the center we see the time (also reflected on the chronometer in the shot), and at the right our Gross Weight (GW) and Gross Weight Center of Gravity (GWCG). The APU generator is developing power, as we have “113V and 399Hz”,  but the BLEED is still at 0PSI, as we have not yet turned on the APU Bleed switch on the overhead- but when we do, we now see that we have 35PSI air pressure.

Why do we see that the generator is still at 0% load? Simple- we still have the GPU’s connected to the power bus. The representation of the ECAM system on this model is good- there is some automatic switching but I don’t believe it’s entirely accurate. For anyone that wishes to look further at the A330 ECAM system, here’s a link to that.

We have our radio is tuned to ATIS, with Ground in the standby position (I tried to find the Ramp Control in XP11.41, but it doesn’t appear to be listed- it’s actually the Ramp that we talk to for pushback and taxi through the gate area). We confirm our squawk from our IFR Clearance is correctly entered into the Transponder.

Doors Closed and Pushback
You may recall that we have one door remaining open- the main passenger entrance 1L. As we get close to pushback and departure, we now want that door closed. We could close it, as we opened it, by accessing the Door item in the MCDU MENU page on the MCDU, but to add some realism, we can have the FA close it. We click on the CAB (cabin) communication call button, and up comes a simple menu.

The item we want is the top green one- “Close the Doors”. We then place our signs to the takeoff position, both for Seat Belts and No Smoking (the latter is used for messaging to the FA, as smoking is never allowed in the aircraft- but it used to be many years ago). We hear the preflight safety briefing begin in the cabin. We now get a call from the FA “The doors are closed”, and I check on the Door ECAM to assure that they all are securely closed (not shown here). We now go back to the MCDU MENU page, and click on 4L which calls the pushback tug. A green mouse-like shape (I call it the “green mouse”) also appears to the left of screen.

The tug arrives, as we see through the front window, and a “+” sign appears on the green mouse.   Once the tug is connected the “+” shape turns to solid green in the top center of the green mouse, and we get a chime and a notification on the INT button (ground staff). Clicking on the call button spawns another menu, and we are asked to confirm pushback clearance. Clicking on that green menu item tells the ground staff that are cleared, so now they tell us the aircraft is secure and ready for pushback, and ask us to release the parking brake.

We do so, and the FO repeats to me that I have done it, then I click on the “Brakes Released” menu item. I also now press the chronometer timer- the one on the chronometer itself that will start a timer for what is termed “Block Time”. Now I get a green button the center of the green mouse, with four arrows surrounding it- by pressing on an arrow I will move the aircraft backwards, ahead, or turn it left or right (the arrow direction refers to which way I am turning the tail of the aircraft). Clicking multiple times on an arrow will speed up the movement. Very cool!

We now show our pushback completed, and we dismiss the tug and the ground crew through the MCDU MENU page at 4L. We take a glance through the left cockpit window to make sure all is clear for our taxi to commence. We start engines, then when ready to taxi we call Ramp Control for clearance and tell them that we have the ATIS.

They tell us “Give way to company A319 entering the ramp area to the left, monitor Ground Control on Point-9”. (A small sidebar here, in the US most Ground frequencies begin with ”121”- in this case it’s 121.9, so ATC abbreviates this to “Point-9”, or sometimes “Decimal-9”).

The Flight

Taxi to the Active Runway
We show our left wing shot with the company A319 passing us, as commence our taxi out. We then get called by Ground Control “Expect runway 36 Center, taxi to and hold short of Runway 5 via Echo 16, Echo”. We show us on taxiway E, approaching the hold short line for Runway 5 (which is active today).

We are told to monitor Tower, who tell us to “Cross Runway 5 without delay, taxi to and hold short of 36 Center”. A right wing shot now- we have set our flaps and checked our controls. As we approach 36C we are told to “Line up and wait, Runway 36 Center, aircraft on 1-mile approach to Runway 5, another aircraft will be landing on the left parallel “. As we line up, we see the aircraft arriving for Runway 5.

Take-off
Tower calls us “Winds from 330 at 17 gust 22, fly runway heading, cleared for takeoff Runway 36 Center” (our altitude clearance is 4,000 feet and was given as our initial altitude in our Clearance obtained back at the ramp). We start a second timer- this one activated by the CHRONO button on the FCU. The chronometer now shows the two timers (block time and departure time), and this departure timer is also shown on the ND in green. We commence our takeoff roll, and note to the left an arriving aircraft on 36L.

I show the PFD below, with a message on the FMA. This is usually read out by the pilot-flying (PF), and repeated and confirmed by the pilot-not-flying (PNF). In this instance it tells us “MAN FLX 45”, “SRS” AND “RWY” in green, along with “CLB” and “NAV” in blue- items in blue are ones that will replace those in green once another flight mode is entered- in this case the climb-out.

But the ones in green are interesting- “MAN FLEX 45” means that a thrust derating to an equivalent of 45 degrees is being used. “SRS” means that vertical guidance will be related to indicated airspeed, and the pitch of the aircraft will be adjusted to maintain a speed of V2+10 knots or greater, either to the PF through the flight director or via the auto-pilot if selected. “RWY” indicates that the ILS localizer beam is being used to guide the aircraft down the runway, which is useful if visibility is not good.

While the aircraft is being flown manually while on the take-off roll, the “RWY” function is fed to the PF through the flight director. So- that’s the reason why the ILS radio is tuned to the localizer of our departure runway- mystery solved.

We check our checklist to ensure that the take-off / climb tasks are all complete. By now we are talking to Departure who Vectors us back on our flight path and clears us up to 10,000 feet,  then at 9,000 feet we get handed off to Washington Center who clears us up to FL210, then to Atlanta Center who clears us up to FL240, our cruise altitude. Another wing shot, this time the right, showing the Appalachian Mountains to the north, and an external shot of our aircraft as we climb out, looking south. We turn our seat belt signs off to allow for passengers to get up and stretch, as well allowing the FA to commence a very short cabin service.

Cruising at FL240, passing the Appalachian Mountains
I show an external shot of the aircraft with the sun highlighting the excellent textures, and with the Appalachian Mountains in the background. These are a major mountain chain in the US paralleling the eastern seaboard, and extend from the St. Lawrence waterway in the north to just north of Atlanta to the south.

So, from this vantage point, we are looking at the southern end of the mountain chain. The culture in this mountain area is known as “Appalachia”, with legends of moonshine whiskey as far back as the Prohibition days. A link to Wikipedia tells us more about the culture and geology of the area.

Here is an error, I show that I can switch to the INIT-B page while the engines are running. I believe that is incorrect, although I am not an Airbus pilot! Another issue- I can activate thrust reversers in flight- something that is usually interlocked with main landing gear strut compression from the weight of the aircraft.

Programming the MCDU for a “Direct-To”, beginning our Descent
A nice shot from the cockpit of a banking turn to the left on our flight path. Atlanta Center now tells us to fly direct to WINNG, it’s a waypoint on the STAR into KATL, and to be at 12,000 feet and at 250 Knots at WINNG also. We program the MCDU for the “Direct-To”, and then show an attempt to enter that speed and altitude constraint into the MCDU at WINNG.

However, I get a “NOT ALLOWED” error. It could be that constraints for Departure Procedures, STARs and Approaches are not allowed in this aircraft, I’m not sure. So, we go another route- we dial in 12,000 feet into the ALT knob on the FCU, and pull the knob to select “Selected Mode”. This is somewhat like FLCH in a Boeing, where the aircraft now just looks at the altitude to get to and the speed commanded, and as we are descending our engines will go to idle. Any speed or altitude constraints are ignored now that we are out of Managed Mode.

We also now pull the SPD control on the FCU and reduce the speed to 250 knots. You see outside that we have entered that stormy weather pattern in the Atlanta area. As we expect to be handed off to Atlanta Approach shortly before we descend further, we get the current ATIS at KATL.

As we approach WINNG, I check the PERF page on the MCDU to see if I have any notifications on the APPR (Approach) phase. This should self-activate when we pass the DECEL point on the flight plan, if the aircraft is at or below 7,200 feet AGL and in a lateral managed mode (NAV or LOC, not HDG or TRK). When I select the APPR Phase page (by using the horizontal arrows), I see a prompt in blue “ACTIVATE APPR PHASE”.

This allows me to manually set the Approach phase without the above criteria, at any point on the descent or approach. What this does is to slow the aircraft to approach speed, and will allow an ILS or RNAV approach to be flown with computer guidance. This is important, since if the Approach phase is not activated when glideslope / glide path intercept would normally occur, the aircraft will not leave its current altitude.

I also show the speed brake partially extended as I slow to 250 knots at 12,000 feet prior to WINNG, and the pop up ND screen that shows the STAR waypoints ahead- we are now stabilized at 250 knots and at 12,000 feet as required for ATC (interestingly, note on the ND that 250 Knots indicated KIAS is 300 knots True airspeed KTAS). A look out of the front cockpit window shows that we are barely above the cloud tops, I’m glad we filed an alternate as we don’t know what to expect as we descend through the cloud deck.

The RTE page on the MCDU shows that we have passed WINNG, now close to to OZZZI, which is 10nm ahead, and our destination runway is KATL26R, a distance of 60 nm still to go, and also gives us the Estimated Fuel on Board (EFOB). At this time, we get handed off to Atlanta Approach, who tell us “Descend via the OZZZI One STAR”. Note- if we are simply cleared to the OZZZI One Star we cannot leave our current altitude until we are cleared to another- we are simply cleared to the Lateral route.

However, a “Descend via” clearance gives us both Lateral and Vertical clearance through the STAR. The altitudes we can descend to with this clearance are not the MEAs that are shown on the STAR, but rather altitudes to descend and maintain, or to be at an altitude or higher (or lower). These are usually in bold on a charted STAR. For instance, as shown below, the altitude to descend to at CALLA is 9,000 feet, so we set the ALT on the FCU to 9,000 (never rely totally on computers!).

On Approach to KATL
I now use the ND pop up to show the altitude constraints in red, which is very useful when the “Descend Via” clearance is used. I now populate the APPR phase weather, although I would have expected a notification to do so by the time I got this close to KATL.

I now manually activate the APPR PHASE, since ATC is slowing us down (note that by using Selected Mode for SPD we can over-ride the commanded speed if necessary), and I check the NAVRAD page to ensure that our nav radio is tuned correctly to the ILS 26R approach at KATL. As we descend through 5,000 feet, we can see the ground appearing intermittently, through the broken layer below us. Once again, the ND pop up is very good for situational awareness.

An external shot of our aircraft on approach, the nose-up attitude is due to the slower speed in the Approach Mode. Another wing shot, with flaps set to Full, and the right engine. At around 1,600 feet MSL we see the “runway environment”- the list of items, one or of which we need to go lower than minimums on approach. This is at around 600 feet AGL. Getting closer to landing, we see the approach lights immediately ahead as we cross the Perry J Hudson Parkway. We exit the runway at the high-speed ramp, as we taxi to the ramp. Welcome to Atlanta!

Finally- if anyone would like to watch a you-tube video of an A330 from pushback to takeoff, here is an excellent link.

Summary

I really enjoyed making the flight planning, the pre-departure procedures and the flight itself. The Ground Handling add-on really brings the pre-departure airport environment to life, and adds some very good realism. When combined with Auto Gate and/or World Traffic, it’s close to the real thing!

On an aircraft as automated as these Airbus planes are, most of the pre-flight work is done through the MCDU. I have never programmed an MCDU in reality, but based on what I know and learned from others it is close to being accurate. It doesn’t have some of the advanced functions, but for a simple flight to a destination without needing an alternate or a secondary flight plan it is very good. The “load sheet” function, along with the auto-populating of weights and performance data is nice.

I found that the aircraft behaved as I believe an A332 would. Something I liked, if you do not Activate APPR Mode prior to glideslope / glidepath intercept, the aircraft will not descend below the altitude set in the FCU. I liked the BSS sound pack, which to me greatly increased the immersion.

As of this writing, the product has a retail price of 60.95 USD. More information can be found at the X-Plane Store page.

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email Angelique.van.Campen@gmail.com or to Angelique@X-Plained.com.

With Greetings,
Bruce Knight

 

 

Add-on: Payware JARDesign JD330
Publisher | Developer: X-Plane.Org | JARDesign
Description: Realistic rendition of A330-200
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 322MB (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Bruce Knight
Published: January 23rd 2019
Hardware specifications: - iMac late 2017
- Intel i7 4.2 GHz
- AMD Radeon Pro 580 8192 MB
- 32GB 2400 MHz RAM
Software specifications: - Mojave (10.14.5)
- X-Plane 11.41

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