Part I | PMDG Cloudmaster or ……
Douglasaurus Rex, Liftmaster or Cloudmaster … what is this …. Douglasaurus Rex, Liftmaster or Cloudmaster?
Actually, Douglasaurus Rex was a nickname for the DC-6. For sure, Liftmaster is the official name for the DC-6A thus the cargo/freighter version. As far as I could find on the Internet, the DC-6B thus the passenger version didn’t have a nickname. Perhaps the chosen PMDG Cloudmaster name covers them all. Whatever the real nickname was, we’re dealing here with the PMDG Douglas DC-6A and DC-6B Cloudmaster models.
PMDG Simulations is the software licensing arm of PMDG (Precision Manuals Development Group.) PMDG Simulations handles all transactions, customer interface and technical support, etc. PMDG is well-known of their high quality aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, X and Prepar3D from Lockheed Martin, but now also available for X-Plane. Their first launching aircraft for X-Plane is the Douglas DC-6A and B. The company’s history goes back to 1997, whereas current owner and CEO Robert S. Randazzo started with its own FS2004 aircraft. After that, PMDG grew quickly with the publication of many aircraft models. Now, we’re facing the birth of their first high quality X-Plane 10 aircraft and you and I, we’re all looking ahead on how it’s made and how does it fly. It’s my task to find out all the ins and outs of this remarkable old-fashioned historical Douglas DC-6A and B.
Table of Contents
I didn’t know before what to expect and how much “words” I needed to explore the PMDG Douglas DC-6A/B, but as of this writing, I’m now half way and wrote already 8000+ words. Therefore, I’ve decided to add a table of contents – handy isn’t it – and to split this review in Part I and Part II.
Just to be sure … you’re now reading Part I. Ok, here’s the table of contents for Part I.
But First …. What do you get?
– The Packages
– Mac OSX installation and ……
– Windows installation and ……
– What is Installed?
– The Common folder
– The DC-6A and DC-6B folders
– The documentation folder
First Impressions, right?
– First this … the simulated Aluminum Skin
Icons and Popup Windows
– Ramp Manager
– Fuel and Loadout Manager
– Artificial Flight Engineer
– Maintenance Manager
– Realism Options
– Scenarios Manager
– PMDG toolbar
Ready for a DC-6B Walk-Around Check?
A Quick DC-6A Comparison
The Old-Fashioned Nerve Center
Powering Up your DC-6B
First Test Flight
End of Part I
So we’re dealing here with a historical aircraft and therefore it could be that many simmers don’t know who or what a Douglas DC-6 for aircraft is. With that in mind, I think it’s good to offer you some Douglas DC-6 background information before even starting with this review. The following information is taken from Wikipedia since there’s not much information left about this Douglas aircraft.
The Douglas DC-6 is a piston-powered airliner and transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1946 to 1958. Originally intended as a military transport near the end of World War II, it was reworked after the war to compete with the Lockheed Constellation in the long-range commercial transport market. More than 700 were built and many still fly today in cargo, military, and wildfire control roles.
The DC-6 was known as the C-118 Liftmaster in United States Air Force service and as the R6D in United States Navy service prior to 1962, after which all U.S. Navy variants were also designated as the C-118. The United States Army Air Forces commissioned the DC-6 project as the XC-112 in 1944. The Army Air Forces wanted a lengthened, pressurized version of the DC-4-based C-54 Skymaster transport with more powerful engines. By the time the prototype XC-112A flew on 15 February 1946 the war was over, the USAAF had rescinded its requirement, and the aircraft was converted to YC-112A, being sold in 1955.
Douglas Aircraft Company modified the design into a civil transport 80 inch (200 cm) longer than the DC-4. The civil DC-6 first flew on 29 June 1946, being retained by Douglas for testing. The first airline deliveries were to American Airlines and United Airlines on 24 November 1946. A series of inflight fires (including the fatal crash of United Airlines Flight 608) grounded the DC-6 fleet in 1947. The cause was found to be a fuel vent next to the cabin cooling turbine intake; all DC-6s were modified and the fleet was flying again after four months on the ground.
When it comes to its operational history; in April 1949, United, American, Delta, National, and Braniff were flying DC-6s in the United States. United flew them to Hawaii, Braniff flew them to Rio de Janeiro, and Panagra flew Miami-Buenos Aires; KLM, SAS, and Sabena flew DC-6s across the Atlantic. BCPA DC-6s flew Sydney to Vancouver, and Philippine flew Manila to London and Manila to San Francisco.
Pan Am used DC-6Bs to start transatlantic tourist-class flights in 1952. These were the first DC-6Bs that could gross 107,000 lb (49,000 kg), with CB-17 engines rated at 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) on 108/135 octane fuel. Several European airlines followed with their own transatlantic services.
The DC-6A/B/C subtypes could perhaps fly nonstop from the eastern US to Europe, but needed to refuel in Newfoundland or somewhere else when westbound against the wind.
Actually, Douglas designed four variants of the DC-6:
First there was the basic DC-6,
Another model with a longer-fuselage (60 in (150 cm)) higher-gross-weight, longer -range versions – became the DC-6A with cargo doors forward and aft of the wing on the left side, with a cargo floor;
A third variant was the DC-6B for passenger work, with passenger doors only and a lighter floor;
And finally, you had the DC-6C convertible, with the two cargo doors and removable passenger seats.
The DC-6B, originally powered by Double Wasp engines with Hamilton Standard 43E60 constant-speed reversing propellers, was regarded as the ultimate piston-engine airliner from the standpoint of ruggedness, reliability, economical operation, and handling qualities.
Just to clarify this in case you missed this …… the modeled PMDG DC-6 Cloudmaster package covers the aircraft types DC-6A and the DC-6B. Besides the dedicated DC-6 Wikipedia site, I would suggest to have a look to Ruud Leeuw his dedicated DC-6 site (https://www.ruudleeuw.com/dc6.htm). It shows you what’s all possible with a DC-6 and what Douglas all did.
But First …. What do you get?
I could of course start right away with doing my walk-around check, all the necessary cockpit preparations and fly away and test the aircraft, but in particular for those simmers who don’t own the PMDG Cloudmaster, it’s just as useful to inform what you get when you buy either the Mac OSX or Windows model.
You either go for the Mac OSX or Windows Cloudmaster package. Because of this, you don’t have the option to buy a combined Cloudmaster package that offers both the Mac OSX and Windows models. This is, as far as I know, different then with other developers. I sincerely hope that PMDG will consider in the future to offer a combined Cloudmaster package that has both OS aircraft. On the other hand, I must be honest to myself too, when you’re a Windows simmer, you most likely will never use the Mac OSX package and the same implies for a Mac simmers although he/she has the possibility to create a Apple bootmap drive/partition with Windows on it. I personally think, knowing quite a lot of Mac and Windows simmers, that most Mac OSX simmers won’t use a Windows aircraft too besides their Mac OSX X-Plane package.
That said, you either decide in advance that you need a Windows or Mac OSX Cloudmaster package. Is it difficult to find out which package you need? No, I don’t think so, even I could find it out myself. See for this the following PMDG website screenshots. Perhaps one small remark that I even didn’t see while ordering; the PMDG header of the last 2 screenshots shows me that I’m dealing with the DC-6B however, when installed, I have a DC-6A (cargo/freighter) and DC-6B (passenger) model.
Mac OSX installation and ……
Once you paid and downloaded the package, it’s time to install, right? I started with the Mac OSX package. The first thing I noticed – and this could happen also on your OSX – on my iMac with my System Preferences – Security & Privacy – General tab having set to Allow apps downloaded from: Mac App Store and identified developers, that I got an OSX message that the PMDG_DC6_XPL_MAC.pkg can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer. Not really a big issue to get out of this, but keep in mind that when you leave the security level as it is by default, OSX will allow you for this developer to open the package by bypassing it for this time. Once you click the indicated button, the installer starts.
Windows installation and ……
Basically, the Windows installation isn’t much different. Of course, Windows has its own way of installation, but also here with Windows 10 Professional and having the security level left as it is, a warning if you want to install this package from an unknown developer. Again, just as with Mac OSX, you can adjust the security level or move on and agree with it. The installation is done in no-time and before you know, you’re standing next of the DC-6 Cloudmaster.
By the way … which DC-6 Cloudmaster version are we dealing with in this review? This review is based on DC-6 Cloudmaster package version 1.11.0045 from 27 June 2016.
I didn’t mention anything so far about a serial number that is needed to activate the aircraft. Right, that’s the first thing that’s asked when you load X-Plane and either DC-6A or B. Keep in mind that for this “online” activation you need an Internet connection.
What is Installed?
Yes, that is an interesting question.
Both OSX and Windows use an automatic installer. After the installation, you’ll find a dedicated PMDG aircraft folder with in it, logically, a DC-6 folder with the following sub-folders:
The Common folder
This folder offers, sound logic isn’t it, common items for the DC-6A or the DC-6B. This folder deals with the on-screen popup windows for the aircraft configuration, introducing failures and more. More about these DC-6 icons and popup windows later.
The DC-6A and DC-6B folders
The DC-6A (B) are the actual aircraft folders with no liveries. The Freighter version (DC-6A) comes with a PMDG house livery which is also the case for the passenger model (DC-6B). I thought that the passenger version also had a PAA (Pan American Airlines) livery, but this sub-folder is empty. Knowing PMDG, for all their aircraft models, liveries are always available on their website besides those who paint and upload it somewhere else.
Side step …. additional liveries and/or a paint-kit.
No panic I would say. At the PMDG site under menu Downloads – Paint-Kits, you’ll find a paint-kit for the Douglas DC-6A (B). Via the same way, you’ll find additional liveries for the aircraft models DC-6A (B). Go to Downloads – Add-on Liveries and you’ll find them.
As of this writing on July 13th, I found the following official PMDG DC-6B (passenger) liveries:
– American Airlines (N90726)
– Ansett ANA (VH-INS)
– British Eagle (G-APXX)
– Canadian Pacific (CF-CZS)
– Icelandair (TF-ISC)
– KLM (PH-DFI)
– Namibia Commercial Aviation (V5-NCG)
– Northwest (N577)
– Olympic (SX-DAD)
– Pan American Airways (N6518C)
– Pacific Coast Air Museum (RT-131594)
– Red Bull (N996DM)
– Scandinavian Airlines (LN-LMS)
– United Airlines (N37564)
– UTA (F-BGSL)
And here’s the list for the DC-6A (freighter) liveries:
– British Eagle (G-APXZ)
– Everts Air Cargo (N151)
– Empress of Suva (ZS-MUL)
– Northern Air Cargo (N2197F)
Looking to the list., I sincerely hope that somebody can and will paint a Sabena livery. No no, I’m not a Belgium citizen, but Sabena was one of the important DC-6 operators in those days.
The documentation folder
This is fun since it offers the simmers 2 flight tutorials. For an historical aircraft like the DC-6 I could say more than normal that these tutorials are included. I can tell you, I’m very pleased to see this. Further on, this “documentations” folder comes with:
– a POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook)
The POH is quite big and offers all the ins and outs of what can be found in the cockpit. For those who are familiar with PMDG products, they will recognize the extensive manuals from PMDG. The POH not only offers instrument- and system description and operation, no, it also offers recommended operating procedures, emergency procedures, extreme weather operation and fuel tank layout. Not an unimportant item of the DC-6 Series!
You’ll notice that the DC-6 has a GNS 430 installed, weird or not? No, it isn’t weird or misplaced. Yes, I know that in the old days there was no Garmin GNS430, but those DC-6 still flying around and even those flying in the bush, need to have such equipment on board according to FAA and/or local Aviation Authorities,. That could be the GNS430 or the GNS 530 which is in most cases also what’s installed in real. So is it weird … not at all. It’s realistic!
The Introduction manual is, as the name suggest, to introduce you with the PMDG DC-6 aircraft. Since the DC-6 is not the same as a GA aircraft, neither it’s the same as a modern jet, the introduction manual offers the first ins and outs you need to know from the aircraft. Think about general aircraft information, general cockpit overview and what is installed. But the beta team would like to give you some background about certain systems and how to handle them. Further on, display or X-Plane settings are also discussed, and the previous quickly highlighted popup windows. Popup windows controlled via icons on the screen offer you a ramp manager, load manager, an artificial flight engineer, a maintenance manager, a realism option popup windows, a scenario manager. Some of these aren’t new when you’re familiar with other X-Plane aircraft, but the scenario manager is even for me new although I can remember this from my FSX/P3D time. But for now, for X-Plane I haven’t seen a scenario manger before. According to PMDG “it allows you to save and load flights in their entirety, which is a function that people have been requested for quite some time. You can save up to three scenarios to load at a later time.”
And finally, starting at page 59 there’s a section related to “using included PFPX profiles”. Only problem is that PFPX (Professional Flight Planner X) from flightSimSoft.com isn’t available for Mac OSX. As far as I could find, it’s only for Windows and not even for Linux. Besides that, I got the impression that it’s not available for X-Plane at all, but when looking closely in the Aerosoft manual I found this “In addition, PFPX is able to provide routes in formats compatible to numerous FSX, FS9, Prepar3D and X-Plane add-ons.” And that’s good news for those simmers who own and use PFPX actively.”
Some words about the tutorial flight files.
According to PMDG “The main purpose of Tutorial #1 is to familiarize the user with some of the features of the PMDG DC-6 while on a shorter flight, using the GPS.
Tutorial #2 will expand upon this concept by including cold and dark procedures, and VOR to VOR navigation.
Finally, Tutorial #3 (will be released in a future update) will be a much longer flight to include the VOR to VOR navigation and much more involved fuel management. In order to concentrate on flying the aircraft and the techniques discussed in the tutorial, the first two tutorials will be flown without weather.”
I would like to add one thing to this; it doesn’t mean that you can jump right away in the DC-6 by only using the tutorials. I know it’s so easy and yes, after a quick look into each tutorial, it could give you the idea that you can master the DC-6 without studying the POH and introduction manual.
The manuals are included, be happy that they are and take your time to read them. You can think that you can master this aircraft without reading a POH or introduction because it has no complex flight management system or EICAS/ECAM or EFIS, but believe me, even old-fashioned systems like in the modeled DC-6 aren’t always easy to understand and to master. Just a thought!
A special livery ……
Some words about a special livery. I couldn’t resist not to mention the following although the introduction manual quickly highlights it too.
Funny is, while I did an intensive search on the Internet, that the Namibia Commercial Aviation livery does have a lot of similarities with the Douglas DC-6B Air Force One Presidential aircraft although I must say immediately that “Harry S. Truman replaced the VC-54C in 1947 with a modified C-118 Liftmaster, calling it the Independence, the name of Truman’s Missouri hometown.”
That said, the C-118 Liftmaster was the DC-6 name for the United States Air Force service while the R6D was used with the United States Navy.
First Impressions, right?
What can I say … gorgeous!
Not only because I like historical aircraft, but also the way it is modeled. Even tiny details are visible. Keep in mind that the larger the aircraft becomes, the more complex it becomes to have all these tiny details included. The more polygons the developer uses, the more FPS (Frames Per Second) are needed to see and fly this baby.
First this … the simulated Aluminum Skin
Ho ho, hold on.
I first would like to highlight something about the simulated Aluminum skin and the way it looks like. For sure you and I will search the Internet and look for real old dated photos of the DC-6A and B. I looked around for the DC-6B and then for the KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines or in Dutch Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij) and AA (American Airlines). Finally I found a couple of photos and noticed that aircraft color schemes are totally different then we know these days. These days aircraft, from small to big, have paint everywhere; from top to bottom, from the nose till and including the tail. That said, the belly of most of the airliners is painted too; either it’s light grey, white or another undefined color.
But in the old days of the Douglas DC-6A and B series, the painting was quite limited and the majority you see on those airliners, is just the Aluminum skin. But what’s the matter or problem with that? When you see all these real photos (see a couple below), is seems that the Aluminum skin reflects to you as a mirror does, right?
But why bringing this up?
When you look to, for example the AA or KLM DC-6B aircraft liveries, none of them have that high polished glossy look. You can play a little bit with the external lighting to get a shiny look, but that’s it. You could ask yourself the question “Could this not be better” or is X-Plane 10 not capable of providing high glossy Aluminum skins? Although Laminar Research tries to implement this in X-Plane 11, right now we’re still with X-plane 10.50 (although still in beta), so what’s possible and what’s not. I contacted some good friends who are skilled Photoshop or PSP artists and asked them what’s possible. Basically speaking “dynamic glossy Aluminum skins” isn’t possible with X-Plane 10, but in a limited way you’re able to play a little bit with the Alpha file, embedded in the NML file and adding undulation in the NML file.
One small detail in case you start comparing the modeled propeller cone with real pictures. Let’s go for an example; the American Airlines DC-6Bs. You had DC-6B models with clearly visible the Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic Propeller hub (upper screenshot below) and some flown around with just a cone (lower screenshot below). In case the DC-6B had a cone, then you had underneath this the Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic Propeller hub. The latter with the cone gave it a more aerodynamic shape.
Photos copyright by Jason McDowell and Sterling E. Weaver
Icons and Popup Windows
I could start right away with my first walk-around check, but before starting with the walk-around check, some words about the PMDG icons with popup windows.
On the left hand lower side of your X-Plane screen, you find six PMDG icons (toolbar), identified as (from top to bottom:
– Ramp Manager
– Fuel and Loadout Manager
– AFE (Artificial Flight Engineer)
– Maintenance Manager
– Realism Options
– Scenarios Manager
Although the PMDG manual highlights every popup window, I still find it worth to bring a couple of things to your attention.
With the ramp manager popup, depending on which DC-6 you’ve loaded, you’re able to add/remove external items or making aircraft access possible thus using ground equipment. Further on, with one click you bring the DC-6 in a particular electrical state (cold and dark, ready for start or ready for taxi) and finally, adjust the cockpit lighting in case you don’t know where to find all the rheostat lighting knobs.
What to expect and how all the external equipment and stairs look like, that’s something you can see on the following screenshots. What I like, and remembers me to the good old days when I work as mechanic and ground engineer with Martinair Holland, the way the ground equipment and stairs are modeled. All old-fashioned. All looking as it was in those days. Yeah, you could expect this, but between expected something and actually doing something is a big difference. That’s what I’ve learned in these years. By the way; you won’t find a GPU (Ground Power Unit), but that’s’ explained later how to get this external object in view.
I think the “aircraft state” selections and the different “cockpit lighting” options speak for themselves.
Fuel and Loadout Manager
As the name suggests, you’re able to add/change the amount of passengers, baggage/cargo load and the fuel quantity. There’s a summary on the right hand side that offers all individual weights and of course, there’s a “Save fuel & loadout settings” button to save your changes, but I’ve noticed a couple of things.
When you click the “Save fuel & loadout settings” button, I expected that either the button changes color to indicate that the values are loaded/saved or that a message tells you that your data is stored. None of this happens and above all, the whole Fuel and Load Manager popup window disappears. Not a big issue, but I’m not sure if my data is stored or not.
I also noticed that I was able to enter a higher value in each field (passenger, cargo loading, fuel quantity) then possible, at least, I may assume that the value above each field indicates the maximum value. Time to check with PMDG. According to PMDG “the field validation takes place after clicking “save”. Any out-of-bound values are trimmed at that time.”
Artificial Flight Engineer
Besides that your virtual Flight Engineer (FE)is doing a lot of work for you, this is a very nice feature when you’re too lazy to do it all yourself. No, I’m just kidding, but the feature is great. When you start at the top, logically, with “Before Start”, the AFE is doing some the work for you, but when he’s finished with this part of the checklist, you still need to start the engines yourself. That said, there’s no button that does it for you besides that you’re able, as discussed before, changing the “aircraft state” in the Ramp manager to “Ready for taxi”. In that case, the engines are started for you.
While the AFE is busy, you can monitor what he’s doing in the text fields below. I think it’s worth if PMDG could add something to this AFE. According to PMDG “The Automated Flight Engineer, like the Scenario Manager is one of our banner features. We believe that no other developer supplies anything like this with their add-on aircraft for X-Plane. But we feel that it’s not just for the lazy or hurried pilots — it is so much more than that. The DC-6 was and is, of course, a crewed airplane. It’s completely unfair to expect a single pilot to be able to ably and easily manage the vast amount of systems and adjustments needed for some of the most activity-packed segments of flight, like takeoff and climb. We built the AFE to simulate a crewed environment, correctly off-loading ONLY the duties that a real Flight Engineer would perform, while leaving the simmer with the duties that they must perform in their role as Captain and Pilot Flying. That’s the key: it’s so much more than just a shortcut, it is our effort to truly simulate a crewed cockpit environment. That being said, if a user wants to manage every switch and knob- that is certainly possible- but you wouldn’t find that taking place in the real world, so we gave users “an experienced engineer to keep them out of trouble!”
Everything you’re doing, is monitored. Ok, not everything, but at least the engine hours are stored as well as that of the propellers and engine oil consumption. I didn’t check anything yet, but I can tell you that oil consumption is much higher then todays jet engines, so topping up on a regular based is quite normal. On the right hand side of the popup window you can check and top up the water/alcohol quantity (used for momentarily higher power settings), auxiliary oil an anti-ice fluid. I assume that the auxiliary oil quality in the “Fluids” section deals with the aircraft hydraulic oil quantity. And here, also time to check with PMDG. According to PMDG “auxiliary oil is just a supply of extra engine oil that can be transferred to any engine in-flight, if its quantity becomes depleted.”
And finally, there’s also a more or less for you available flight hours logbook. OK, it’s officially the airframe hours that is counted, but when you have a virtual electronic Flight Logbook, then you can use this hour calculator too. Can you reset the airframe hours, no, unless you reinstall the aircraft!
All options that can be set in this popup window are to increase the aircraft realism, which are by default disabled. Perhaps it’s a good idea to leave them for a while disabled till you’ve got enough flight hours to enable one or more. Remember, it’s a gorgeous aircraft, but the cockpit is overloaded with switches, indicators, knobs, rheostats, not seen before equipment and some are just old-fashioned like e.g. the artificial horizon. It’s not a blue/brown sphere, but just a black sphere which was common those days. It’s so much, that it’s first a good idea to understand and to learn to fly the DC-6 without any failures.
This is an option I’ve, correct me if I’m wrong, not seen before with other X-Plane developers (oops, I’m hope I’m right with this statement). According to PMDG “This allows you to save and load flights in their entirety. You can save up to three scenarios to load at a later time. Keep in mind that this is a separate function from the aircraft state function on the Ramp Manager. While that allows you to load an aircraft state anywhere, the Scenario Manager allows you to, as an example, save a flight and then come back to it a later time everything is exactly how it was. It is extremely important that you use this function instead of the default X-Plane Save Situation feature. Id the Scenario Manager is not used, then not all of the complexities of the flight will be saved, and later, loaded.”
I think this makes sense, right?
The fact that all aspects of a flight or aircraft state can be stored, is by itself special compared to the default X-Plane menu item “File – Save Situation”. Each scenario you save, is stored in the respective root folder of the DC-6. I checked, just for fun, my scenario 1 text file (DC6B_scenario_1.txt), but the content is full with figures and I’ve got no clue what’s all stored. Should I know? Not really! As long as the PMDG Scenario Manager knows how to load and how to bring the DC-6 back in that aircraft state.
But what when you don’t like these PMDG icons or PMDG toolbar?
For those who prefer not to see this toolbar, you can always disable this feature while still having the possibility to select one of the “icons” via the ordinary way by selecting from the X-Plane menu Plugins – PMDG DC-6. This results in a popup window with the following options:
– Ramp Manager
– Fuel and Load Manager
– Artificial Flight Engineer
– Maintenance Manager
– Realism Options
– Save and Load Scenarios
– Toggle Toolbar
– Deactivate your PMDG DC-6
And see, you can always toggle or disable/enable the toolbar via the “toggle toolbar option. Just in case you think something else; the “Liveries” option guides you straight to the PMDG add-on liveries web page.
Some additional information about the “deactivate your PMDG DC-6” X-Plane menu after consulting PMDG.
As you can imagine, this deactivation is for licensing purposes. You’re allowed to have two installations of the PMDG software. Deactivating a current license is that you basically remove the current activation and “giving yourself back” an installation. The licensing server does enforce the number, so deactivation is important. Further on, installation of the PMDG DC-6 software on multiple personal computers for personal use is not a problem – limited to two – as long as only one copy is in use at a time. And, just to clarify, this is where the “deactivate” feature comes in, if you want to remove it from one computer and put it on another.
Ready for a DC-6B Walk-Around Check?
My walk-around check will be around the AA DC-6B. I’ve parked the DC-6B in front of the AA hangar on their main hub KDFW. When it comes to 3D modeling, it’s clear to me that PMDG worked hard to give the modeled DC-6B the real look and feel of a Douglas DC-6B. That sounds so logic isn’t it, but don’t forget that modeling an accurate 3D aircraft model must be based on real dimensions which isn’t always the case with other add-on aircraft models.
Anyway, let me start with an overview of the DC-6B.
It seems, and yes, I’m also aware when using too many polygons and thus accepting the consequence of less FPS (Frames Per Second), that at some points developers need to make the decision to use for certain parts of their objects to go for less polygons. A good example of using lesser polygons is the DC-6B radome nose. It seems that for the cargo doors not that many polygons are used since, when these doors are open, you can see that the doors aren’t following a curve. On the other hand, it must be said that when all the doors of the DC-6B are closed, you don’t see these lesser used polygons on the fuselage. Overall a good looking DC-6B which is of course also applicable for the DC-6A. The individual Aluminum skins plates, in particular visible on the fuselage roof, have all a slightly other grey look and feel which gives the fuselage a more real look.
Changing the time of the day and thus the shadow on the DC-6, you will notice the unmistakable presence of NML (Normal Mapping) files thus those who give the surface the 3D effect. You can spot, when zooming in on the fuselage, the different sizes of rivets used as well as the individual skin plates. I didn’t find to many sharp close-up photos of the DC-6 fuselage, but I’ve got the impression that the rivets have the right dimension.
The landing gears are well modeled and each strut/wheels comes with many tiny details. A funny detail is that the NLG (Nose Landing Gear) is mounted under a forward angle. Although the NLG has only one nose wheel, when the NWS (Nose wheel Steering) is used, the nose wheel makes a slight angle with the ground when turned. Want to see that by yourself …. Check out this YouTube movie. Placing this NLG under a forward angle, isn’t uncommon to Douglas. Just to give you an idea how this was with the larger Douglas DC-10 and MD11 Series. When with those aircraft a large NWS angle was initiated, one nose wheel came off from the ground. Ok, that’s not what happens with the DC-6 since there’s only one nose wheel. By the way, have you spotted also the huge nose wheel compared to the main wheels? Wow, that’s a big size, but yes, that’s when you only have one nose wheel instead of today’s aircraft who have two nose wheels.
The engine cowlings are made with the same Aluminum skin idea as the rest of the aircraft although the AFT engine cowlings look to me slightly different. Due to heat developed by the engine exhaust, they perfectly represent a skin which isn’t clean at all. What I miss, and correct me if I’m wrong, is the decal of the propeller blade manufacture, most likely that was from Hamilton-Standard. Oops, judges too fast! After investigation with real photo’s, I must confirm that there were no decals on the propeller blades of the AA. A further check tells me that some PMDG DC-6 models do have the manufacture decal on its blades, so good news. The propeller blades have the right look and feel as I’ve seen on real photos. Besides that, PMDG didn’t forget to add the electro-thermal deice boot system. For those who aren’t familiar with that; that are the black strips mounted on the leading edge of each blade. This is applicable to all models except for the Empress of Suva (DC-6A) and I can confirm that this DC-6A didn’t had the boots on their propeller blades.
With the AFT stair in position, identified as “front cabin exit”, you’ve got a good view of the aft cabin interior although it’s a little dark inside. Not sure if I’m able to switch ON the cabin lighting, but that’s for later. Together with the old-fashioned stair it makes it complete. By the way; I did see some modeling in the cabin but there’s no view option to go thru the cabin and see how it’s made. It could be that the cabin is modeled but at a lower quality level. Does it matter? Not to me since I prefer a well-developed and accurate cockpit. In such a condition I can live with a less modeled cabin, but that’s something that needs to be checked with PMDG. According to PMDG “We have chosen to model the cabin sufficiently for “outside the airplane looking through the window” views. We did not set out to model the cabin in high enough detail that it could be used as a simulation unto itself. This is a decision we made for resource conservation purposes.”
The modeled tail with vertical- and horizontal stabilizers are looking great and I believe that everything is added including the static dischargers. Again, the NML file do their work so you’ve got a good 3D effect of the skin plates and rivets. On top of the vertical fin I spot the anti-collision- or beacon light. But, there’s one small issue I would like to bring forward and yes, I’m also aware that this is a personal thought. Since I’ve seen now the whole structural part of the DC-6B, I personally would love to see some weathering or dents in the structure. I’m aware that this is a developer’s choice to add or not to add this. Besides that, I’m also aware that adding weathering and/or dents is easier said then done. Right now it’s all so new, so unused while we’re talking about a historical aircraft and even though DC-6B models these days are perhaps owned by individuals or a company, 100 percent free of weathering and/or dents or scratches is almost impossible.
Walking around the corner, I’m moving back forward via the right hand side of the fuselage. With the opened AFT cargo door, I’ve got a good view of the modeled cargo hold. It’s a bit dark inside, but good news, I’ve got the idea that real photo material is used to cover the walls as well as that the cargo door interior. This is by the way, the same for the FWD cargo hold and door.
My last DC-6B spot to highlight is the “main cabin exit” with belonging “stair”. I noticed that you can only open this build in stair once you opened the door first. The same for the closing sequence; first you need to retract the main cabin stair before you can close the door. And, almost forgotten, the interior of the “main cabin door” is well done and if it’s covered with photo-real material isn’t something I can’t confirm.
Although I briefly highlighted already the external equipment in one of my previous sections, I think it needs a little more attention. That such objects are included isn’t strange these days. Almost every X-Plane developer does include ground equipment. That PMDG did it, is therefore expected, but it’s worth a big plus that all the equipment is modeled in old-fashioned style. Stairs are as they were in those days; the pushback truck is old as well as the tow bar is. This old-fashioned look is the same for the AFT stair which is looking great in that style of those days. It fun to see that different “color” sets of pushback trucks and AFT stairs are used for different airliners. The maintenance stands (stairs) will keep the same color as well as the engine oil pans. Overall, a very nice feature and it gives each livery its own look and feel.
A Quick DC-6A Comparison
When I say DC-6A, I say freighter or cargo version. Basically we’re dealing with the same DC-6B, but of course, it must have somehow more cargo space and yes, that’s of course what was the passenger cabin before. That said, the Ramp Manager offers now instead/additionally “Cargo Doors” and “Cargo Entrance”. Don’t confuse the “Cargo Holds” with the “Cargo Doors”.
Cargo holds are the lower cargo doors on the right hand side of the fuselage while the Cargo Doors are the two upper deck cargo doors on the left hand side of the fuselage. The “Cargo Entrance” was on the DC-6B identified as “Front Cabin Exit”.
What I had hoped for is that PMDG had included two hi-loaders for the DC-6A. Now it’s quite difficult to get your cargo into the upper deck. A cargo hold (right hand side) is at a height where you can put your boxes or bags in by hand, but for a cargo door (left hand upper cargo doors) you need additional ground equipment. With an update perhaps?
What I can see is that the additional cargo doors are covered with an internal protection cover as well as the cargo entrance. And of course, another big difference is the absence of the most of the cabin windows. But that’s basically the differences with the “A” model.
The Old-Fashioned Nerve Center
I think it’s time to check the cockpit, but how and where and with what should I start. I could decide to start with a tutorial, but let me first explore the modeled 3D cockpit. As it looks now unless I’m doing something wrong, I can’t virtually walk thru the cabin via the front cabin exit or via the main cabin exit. That said, I jump just in the 3D cockpit with “Ctrl+9” and I can only say that I’m impressed of what I see and at the same time it’s all so overwhelming. My goodness, was a DC-6 cockpit really like this? So many big switches, knobs, huge handles, big control wheels, walls covered with insulation material and so on. Sorry to say, this is the way an old-fashioned DC-6 looks like. It is something totally different then a modern Boeing 737, 777, 747-8 or Airbus A320, A330, A340 and even my beloved A310. Anyway, this is how it really looks like, but more important, it looks gorgeous.
I mentioned something about the missing weathering at the external model, but the cockpit offers me a look and feel of a completely weathered and slightly damaged used cockpit. Perhaps I missed something, but everywhere I look it’s weathered, has scratches, paint is missing at certain spots … it’s really wow!
For sure PMDG used for this Douglas DC-6 a mix between real photo material and Photo shopped textures. When you look to the sidewalls, you’ll see the installed insulation blankets, the glare shield does have insulation material too and of course the ceiling. And, the textures used for the different blankets are razor sharp. The individual panels like the main instrument, center instrument, pedestal, overhead, FE area – they look so great. Weathered up to the top!
By the way, the 3rd seat for the third crew member thus the Flight Engineer, doesn’t have a working area. The area in the right hand AFT corner of the cockpit is or should be an area with radio racks and lots of circuit breakers/fuses or perhaps that are system ON/OFF switches. Not sure about that, but even the switches in that area are functional and well modeled with eye for details. It has a folding seat which gives the FE also access to the AFT pedestal. That said, there are a couple of aminations available like the previous mentioned folding seat and the sliding windows. Touch the red lever at the back of each sliding window to open the sliding windows.
Haven’t said a word yet about the 3D modeled indicators. Time to highlight this. Each indicator is made with extremely great precision. Each indicator screw is well modeled, the indicator glass is realistic since it gives in my opinion a slight fussy look. They aren’t all very clean and polished which is normal. A close look on the dial plates and needles … awesome! And this is basically for every indicator. They express a great 3D look, but above all, razor sharp when zoomed in.
A first look at the pedestal tells me … what a mesh on this pedestal with all these huge handles, oversized “Hulk” knobs, levers and other stuff. The reality is that what you see in this PMDG DC-6, is what you get in a real DC-6 too. Wonderful to see how it’s made! When you see all these handles, switches, knobs and so on, you and I would think “Oh my goodness, how can I every understand what all of this is and how to use it?” Easy answer … read the included manuals and try and above all, use the included tutorials although, I say it once more, the tutorials aren’t replacement manuals for the in-depth handbooks.
Time to explore the FWD and AFT overhead panels. The first thing you see are the radio panels with in the middle the Garmin GNS 430. The GNS430 comes, as we know from other developers, with a 2D GNS 430 popup feature. Handy, in particular when you’re using it constantly for your flight. This is, for your information, the only 2D popup window that’s installed in the DC-6. No other 2D popup features, for example the AP panel, is available. Perhaps in the future, you never know!
The FWD overhead panel may look fully occupied with indicators, switches and knobs, but when you take the time to explore this panel, you will see that there’s a similarity with modern aircraft although these switches in modern aircraft are flush mounted in the panel, indicators are much small or completely gone and included in EICAS or ECAM. Of course, I do see switches I don’t know and even I need to check the manual for what reason they are there. But it must be said that the overall modeled overhead panel is of the same high quality as the main and center instrument panels. For example; it’s fun to see how realistic the MAIN 1/2/3/4 FUEL TANK indicators are made. The indicator dial plates and needles are slightly brown, something I’ve seen with many older indicators in real aircraft.
Some words about the center instrument panel.
As I know from other older aircraft, the center instrument panel is basically the hearth of engines related indicators. That said, all-important engine related indicators are mounted here. When you know the Rotate MD-80 … the same, Douglas DC-10 the same although there they had at a certain moment vertical tape indicators. Anyway, this center instrument panel comes with all kind of engine indicators or indicators related to the engines:
– BMEP (single indicators) or torque indicator
– Manifold Pressure (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– R.P.M. (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Cylinder Head Temperature (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Fuel Flow (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Fuel Pressure (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Oil Pressure (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Oil Temperature (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Carburetor Air (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
– Water Pressure (dual indicators 1-2 and 3-4)
I’m sure you’re familiar with most of the above indicators, but the BMEP (Brake Mean Effective Pressure) or torque indicator is perhaps new. Of course, you can read all about this BMEP in the PMDG POH page 169, but summarizing this indicator is that it’s a valuable instrument of power output measurement of the respective engine. Of course, the output or indication of this indicator alone should always we compared with other engine indicators before making your final judgment if you’re having an engine problem.
What else can I say?
Although I check the overall 3D cockpit with a cold and dark situation, it is beautiful to see how it’s made. Next step will be powering up the DC-6B, so let’s go for it.
Powering Up your DC-6B
The best and quickest way to start powering up the aircraft is, besides spitting thru the provided handbook, following the first pages of PMDG tutorial 2. Normally I would say “start with tutorial 1”, but scenario 1 which is linked to tutorial 1, automatically starts all the engines. And isn’t it fun to do the engine starts by yourself?
Yes, I think so to.
Therefore, I go for tutorial 2, starting at page 2 till and including page 11. While following the instructions in the tutorial and performing these instructions step-by-step, I found no abnormal behavior and it seems everything that’s written down is correct. In that respect starting the engines seems to be very easy, but is this really so easy and straightforward? Perhaps it’s a good idea to check this versus official papers. I found what I wanted to have; an official Douglas DC-6 C118A manual and verified this with the engine start procedure in the PMDG POH page 201 (Recommended Operating Procedures). Although the engine start flow was slightly different, they basically say the same thing. But a further comparison of the PMDG POH page 201 with tutorial 2 engine start section, tells me that there’s a big difference in engine start flow. I think it’s time to check with PMDG why these engine start procedures differ so much from each other.
According to PMDG “We’ve actively explored ways to implement a realistic start procedure that conforms more closely to the documentation, but as you can imagine, the inherent complexity is fairly high (between counting blades, hitting boost and ignition just so, and raising mixture at the right time). That said, we set the AUTO RICH in advance due to the above limitations.” With the above information from PMDG, I come to the conclusion, in consult with Chris, PMDG DC-6 developer, that as the engine start procedure is as it is now, can be seen as a simplified engine start procedure not being the steps as to be followed as described in the PMDG POH page 201.
To understand a little bit more of what to do after you’ve started your engines, I still recommend that you continue with tutorial 2, but then you should skip page 12 which deals with the flight plan, so continue with page 13.
Back to the DC-6 with engines up and running.
That I’m still impressed won’t surprise you, but that the main- and center instrument panels shake due to the vibration of the running engines, is something I’ve never seen before. Wow, this is as close as real! And, I can’t make a screenshot of this, it’s not shaking a little bit, it’s shaking a lot. So much that needle of the bank and slip indicator is moving slightly left and right from the center. But don’t worry too much about the shaking or vibration. This is only clearly noticeable when you’re parked and brakes are set. All the engine kinetic energy has to go somewhere, right? The moment you’ve released the parking brake and start taxing, the shaking or vibrating panels reduces. It’s not gone, but it’s lucky less.
Doing the necessary cockpit preparations with the recommended operating procedures is, when you use the AFE, not fully needed. The AFE takes out a lot of actions to be taken besides those related to Pilot actions. That said, when you use the AFE, you will hear what’s checked or set, but that’s it and before you know, you’re ready to taxi.
First Test Flight
It’s time to make my first test flight with the modeled DC-6B. Not one that’s based on tutorial 1 or 2, but it’s just to give you and me too, a first feeling how difficult or perhaps how easy it is to fly the DC-6. As said before, preparations are completed and yes, I used for these preparations tutorial 2 for the part till the takeoff. Thus, and don’t become confused …. I only used from tutorial 2 those steps to move on with the DC-6 without doing all the navigation stuff, at least, for now. That will be discussed in part II.
I’ve parked my DC-6 at KRIC or Richmond Airport, created by Marc Leydecker. From the General Aviation Executive Apron, I taxi via taxiways V and U to runway 20. It turns out that keeping the DC-6 on the taxi centerline is not difficult. The aircraft reacts slowly to my NWS (Nose Wheel Steering) commands which feels good. Of course, I’m not a licensed DC-6 pilot so I’ve got no idea how real this taxi behavior is.
While taxing, I couldn’t resist to check whether the modeled DC-6 is able to taxi backwards. It’s not uncommon to see this. A very handy option of reversing the pitch of the propellers and guess what, you can reverse taxi also with modern aircraft like the Douglas DC-9 Series aircraft or with the MD80 Series. Just select reverse thrust, bucket doors close and apply power. You’ll will notice that even modern aircraft where able to taxi backwards. Ok, that was just a sidestep. Back to the DC-6. No no, no worries. I didn’t do this test on one of the taxiways!
The DC-6 may be not as complicated as a Boeing 777 or Airbus A330, there’s still a lot going on during taxi, takeoff preparations, the takeoff itself, climb and so on. Therefore, the use of the AFE is really a relieve and yes, you may say that it’s not as real as it gets, but then you’re wrong. Remember, and perhaps you’ve read that also in the handbook, the DC-6 was and still is, flown/occupied by 3 cockpit crew members.
Everybody has its task and they do it all together and you and I, we do it all alone so therefore having the AFE next of us, is almost a thanks from heaven. I must say, my AFE is doing a great job, yours will do too! That some simmers express their feelings that they don’t like the AFE and find “it” unrealistic in particular during online flying, is their opinion. I can’t change those thoughts of others, but what I can say is that you can always decide not to use the AFE and fly without “it”. Good or bad idea? You may check it out yourself and experience what’s possible.
Back to my test flight.
Since this AFE is doing some of the work for me, I can concentrate on the flying, but even that goes easier than expected. Keeping the DC-6 on the centerline during taxi isn’t difficult and pulling gently on the stick results in a slow pitch movement. I follow the after takeoff- and climb checklist in conjunction with the AFE. This means the AFE is doing his part while I can concentrate myself on the flying. I climb out to 4000 feet and decide to level off. Once I’ve trimmed the aircraft with the AFE disabled else you can forget it, it keeps on going and of course, when you’ve got real weather implemented with clouds and winds, you need to correct the aircraft constantly to keep the aircraft on its track.
And this is all without using the Auto Pilot, yet. See therefore this first test flight just as an experimental flight. Practicing by doing! By the way and perhaps there’s a logical reason for but the AFE has two different takeoff configurations (dry and wet runway) while the next AFE is CRUISE. What I miss in this list is CLIMB. I can imagine that not every part of the flight envelop is shown, but not having CLIMB feels not logic. But it must be said that when using the AFE with e.g. “Takeoff (Dry), everything just before the T.O., during the T.O. and during the initial climb is done by the AFE. That said, no need to set the takeoff thrust, no need to retract the gears etc. And what highlighted before, when you don’t like the AFE doing this al for you, then don’t use it for Takeoff (Dry or Wet) and do it then all yourself. Disabling the AFE can be via the “Abort” button.
So climbing and leveling off at 4000 feet is done with the AFE disabled. For me a good excuse to these the aircraft behavior by hand, even though it is trimmed. With the AFE disabled, I have full control over the DC-6 and that’s what I want. It flies great, at least, that’s how I feel it. It’s a relatively slow aircraft and right now, while cruising, I fly no more then 110 IAS. Making roll and pitch changes result in a slow moving but gently responding aircraft. When you’re used to the blue/brown horizon, you’ll be shocked seeing this black horizon. No difference between sky and grounds with in the middle a white line indication your pitch and roll and a movable aircraft to adjust when flying level.
That brings me to one thing I noticed. When flying level and adjusted the aircraft symbol, it seems that it’s aligned below the normal level flight line. So actually, when flying level – with no vertical speed – I expected to have the aircraft symbol, aircraft pitch line in line with the level indication on the sides of the instrument. While flying around at this cruising altitude, I play around with the aircraft behavior and see how it’s flying. It feels OK although what’s OK and to what do I reference it? Everybody can say that real pilots have tested it and they confirm it feels OK or close to the real aircraft, but I’m not a real DC-6 pilot, so how do I know if it flies as real as it gets.
This is and stays always a point that could lead to discussions, but for now I have the feeling that the DC-6 is reacting slow on aircraft pitch, roll or yaw inputs. When you move the stick or control wheel, the DC-6 takes its time to follow this new flight profile.
For my approach at KRIC, I try to follow a traffic pattern although much further away from the runway and much higher then you would do with a normal VFR pattern., On the other hand, it gives me more time to get a good idea of how the PMDG DC-6 flies during this first flying impression. While descending for runway 34, I decide at the end to make a low fly pass over the airport. Not really allowed, but for such an old-historical aircraft, everything is allowed. After this low fly pass over, I start again with my pattern and finally make a successful landing on the same runway 34, of course, manually. Wow, that was a great initial flying experience!
End of Part I
I have to stop to prevent myself from continuously writing and testing the PMDG DC-6. That said, I’ve reached the end of part I.
Part II continues with additional test flights, most likely based on the two tutorials, but it will also cover what’s discussed at the AVSIM PMDG DC-6 Cloudmaster forum, the aircraft sounds and performances and whatever is further on needed to discuss. And yes, those of you who are more freighter pilots, I will check and fly that model too and include it in my part II review. For flying the PMDG DC-6A/B, PMDG offers on their website a minimum and recommended hardware/software overview. Keeping the complexity of the aircraft in mind, I suggest we look to the recommended list what’s needed to fly this PMDG DC-6:
Simulator: X-Plane 10.45+
Hardware: A Quad Core, 3.0 GHz or faster processor, 16 to 20GB of RAM, a high-performance, DirectX 11-capable video card with at least 4GB of on-board, dedicated VRAM.
Windows: Windows 10 64-bit (older Operating Systems such as Windows XP may work, but we cannot guarantee compatibility or support)
Mac: OS X El Capitan
Since there’s nothing mentioned about which flight peripherals are compatible with the PMDG DC-6, you could also conclude that every hardware is compatible, but is this correct? After checking with X-Plane.Com, it seems they offer the answer. It turns out, and yes, perhaps you did know or perhaps not, that a lot of flight peripherals are compatible with X-plane. Check out this link.
I hope you enjoyed Part I that covers the first PMDG X-Plane 10 aircraft. As you know, you can always contact me via email address Angelique@x-plained.com or just firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, suggestions and/or ideas.
One last thing … check out this YouTube movie … it brings back the good old days of the Douglas DC-6 introduction, back in 1946!
See you soon with part II.
Angelique van Campen
|Add-on:||Payware PMDG Douglas DC-6 Cloudmaster|
|Publisher | Developer:||PMDG | PMDG|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of the Douglas DC-6A/B|
|Software Source / Size:||Download Mac / Approximately 587MB (unzipped)
Download Windows / Approximately 392MB (unzipped)
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||July 24th 2016|
|Hardware specifications:||- iMac 27″ 3.5Ghz Late 2013
- Intel i7 3.5Ghz / 3.9Ghz during Boost Mode
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4096 MB
- 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
- 1 internal 1TB SSD (El Capitan 10.11.4)
- 3 external 1TB SSDs
- Saitek Pro Flight System
|Software specifications:||- El Capitan (10.11.4) | Yosemite (10.10.5) | Mavericks (10.9.5)
- Windows 10 Professional
- X-Plane 10.45c | X-Plane 10.45m