Part II | PMDG Cloudmaster or ……
As promised to all our member flight simmers who’ve read part I of the PMDG Cloudmaster,I finally had the time to write part II. There’s this time no table of contents, so no worries that you need many cups of coffee or even a pot of tea. Since I know myself, it will be perhaps a longer impression/review then initially thought, but it won’t be as complex as part I, so …….. shall we continue?
But First …. What’s changed since part I?
Since part I there’s not much changed. PMDG didn’t release a service update of this writing which is December 2016. I found no new PMDG liveries so even that is quickly finished. I’m not sure if I picked up all user DC-6A/6B liveries on for example X-Plane.Org, but I could only find a handful of own creations.
That said, no issues are solved whenever applicable, no new functions are added and, correct me if I’m wrong, no tutorial 3 is added to the list. Knowing PMDG, a service update is mostly an add-on package. That said, you install the service update over the already installed aircraft and whenever new features and/or manuals are included, they will be automatically added to the installed aircraft. While writing part II, X-Plane 11 has seen beta and that means glossy skins although I have to admit that FlightFactor introduced this “glossy look and feel” first on their 767. Since then, many add-on aircraft e.g. JARDesign got glossy aircraft skins. These glossy skins are now also available for some or perhaps all PMDG Douglas DC-6 models although not directly provided by PMDG.
In part I, I highlighted the tutorial flights so let me bring this once more to your attention since it’s a major part of this review that deals with tutorial flights.
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.”
Starting Cloudmaster tutorial 1
The best and quickest way to find out more about the PMDG Cloudmaster is using one of the provided tutorials and in this case, this section starts with tutorial 1. Tutorial 1, and in this case scenario 1 which is linked to tutorial 1, automatically starts all the engines. Not one of my favorites, but it’s perhaps the easiest way to explore the DC-6 and since it’s an old-fashioned aircraft, it’s perhaps the best to start with. And yes, normally I would follow different steps, but it also gives me a the chance to figure out if the tutorial is a good and reliable guide to understand and fly the DC-6 knowing that the artificial flight engineer (AFE) is always every minute with you.
Hold on …. What kind of flight is it?
It’s approximately a 40-minute flight from KPDX to KSEA. The tutorial offers you the possibility to install from MisterX6 the freeware add-on KPDX. Since I’m only testing the DC-6B I ask myself if there’s a need to add this add-on freeware scenery. Ok, let’s install the airport and don’t forget that you need to install with the airport also the Mister X library.
I should, no, I must start with the fact that it is for me and it stays weird that the artificial flight engineer (AFE) is doing many things for me. Ok, it’s easy going climbing, but the fact that you don’t do much besides trimming the aircraft feels not good. On the other hand, it’s not fair to say this since it’s clearly mentioned in the tutorial. Although a scenario is loaded, you still need to enter the flight plan manually.
Not a difficult task with the description in the tutorial although a little more step-by-step flow/procedure would be welcome. For some reason, many simmers are these days more familiar with FMS MCDUs then the simulated Garmin equipment. I can agree with that. The Garmin GNS models aren’t masters in easy to operate units.
Anyway, once you’ve entered the complete flight plan and followed all the steps after that, the AFE comes back into view. I’m by the way now at page 13. Page 14 is, when it comes to the takeoff and climb, an important page. Read it before, before making your takeoff. Although the AFE is doing a lot for you, reading it before would be a good idea to get an idea what to expect and what you need to do besides the AFE. While my trimmed DC-6B is climbing out, you need to concentrate on how to handle the Auto Pilot.
During those days, I’m talking about the location of the AP components, it was perhaps a logical location, these days however, AP controls are mostly centralized at the glareshield. Anyway, I hope you’ve studied before how and where to find the different AP controls else it will be a hectic adventure during climb. There’s nothing wrong how it is explained in the tutorial although I would prefer a little more description of it and with a “point to” thus using arrows pointing to what you need to do, but that’s how I feel it and would suggest it.
That said, a text that points to a screenshot with an arrow or something like that. The screenshots aren’t always clear – remember, it’s a dark bad illuminated area – and with arrow(s) and belonging text it would help more than it is now.
Once you’ve engaged the AP and leveled of at your cruising altitude, you can relax a little bit, but remember, the overall flight from KPDX to KSEA is only 40 minutes and before you know, it’s time for your descent. Approaching you top of descent, it’s a good idea to read the tutorial papers before. The descent description starts at page 22 and perhaps it’s an idea, not sure if PMDG will update these tutorials, when PMDG could add a map of the descent that includes what and which waypoints and approach points are expected. Now it’s reading and reading and guessing I must say. So, ones more, read the descent and approach papers in advance! I found it weird that on page 25 you’ll see a screenshot with the AFE in “Before Landing” mode, but the text doesn’t say anything when you need to activate the AFE for this while in the beginning of this tutorial it was always mentioned when the AFE needs to do something. It feels that at the end of this tutorial the AFE is not anymore guiding or helping you, so take care for this.
Although tutorial 1 is a good step to explore the DC-6, it’s weird that in the beginning, you have hardly control over what you do. As mentioned before, the AFE is doing almost everything for you, during the takeoff and initial climb. When you don’t want to do too much, then this is a good option and for those who find it all complex, it’s an easy way to learn the fly the DC-6. As I wrote before in part I, the DC-6 is easy to fly, but how real this is … no idea!
Following the last part of the tutorial – approach, manual flying and landing with the help of the ILS, was nice although the DC-6 is so easy to control – you hardly believe this is as real as it flies – that visual guidance was with these environmental preconditions no problem at all. Perhaps good to mention that you need to keep your landing speed low and for sure not too high else you overshoot the runway and believe me, before you know, you’ve passed the runway. At the end, it was a successful landing, but I can imagine that new DC-6 pilots must do this tutorial more than once before they make a successful flight based on tutorial 1.
I would say, time to move on and see what tutorial 2 brings. Ready?
Cloudmaster tutorial 2
You can imagine and too, that tutorial 2 will be using the same kind of “tutorial flow” and yes, partly it is working that way, but it must be said that you, the simmer, must do a lot more compared to tutorial 1. So, let’s see what that is, how it is presented to you and if it works with you alone in the cockpit.
For this tutorial, you need “DC6B_scenario_2.txt”, of course provided by PMDG and it needs to be copied into the root of the PMDG DC-6B folder. On page 7 of the tutorial you’re advised to bring the environment in the right condition and for the DC-6B, you use for the correct situation the scenario 2 file. Loading this file will be the same as we saw in tutorial 1 however, something goes wrong in my humble opinion.
Not a big deal, but worth to bring it forward and worth to ask PMDG if I did something wrong. When you load scenario 2, the DC-6B won’t come into a cold and dark state as well as that it won’t be parked at the general aviation ramp. Instead, you’ve at the beginning of runway 34L KSEA and the engines are running so this feels not OK!
Not a big deal as I said before; just park the DC-6B yourself at the general aviation ramp 1 or 2 and bring the DC-6B in a cold and dark situation. After I’ve done this, it’s time to continue with page 8 of the tutorial. This time, after the AFE has finished the “Before Start” flow, it’s time that you and/or I start the engines, but perhaps you can remember this from part I, the way this is implemented in the DC-6 isn’t the way how you start in real the engines.
Just a quick reminder from part I “A further comparison of the engine start flow with the PMDG POH page 201 with tutorial 2 engine start section, tells me that there’s a big difference in engine start flow. Per 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 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 conclude, in consult with Chris, PMDG DC-6 developer, that as the engine start procedure is as it is now, is a simplified engine start procedure not being the steps as to be followed as described in the PMDG POH page 201.”
Following the engine start on page 9 and up, isn’t difficult, due to the simplified engine start procedure, but don’t forget to select for each engine start to switch ON the MIXTURE lever. Next in row is the flight plan. Tutorial 2 assumes that you have followed all the steps from tutorial 1. The reason to assume this is because the way how to enter a flight plan in the default Garmin GNS 430 is because there’s nothing explained how to do this in tutorial 2.
In other words; when you haven’t used tutorial 1, then you need to read the section in that tutorial that explains how to enter each waypoint in the Garmin GNS 430. Another remark that I shouldn’t forget; when you enter waypoint PAE, you got two options to choose from. One is in the US Northwest and the other in Thailand. Oops, Thailand …… in Thailand it seems that it has also this waypoint, but that’s way too far away from our intended route thus you need to select the PAE that belongs to the US Northwest.
I know, for simmers who work on a regular base with the Garmin GNS, it’s shouldn’t be not a problem, but perhaps there are simmers who aren’t familiar with the GNS and how to handle this.
Following the tutorial, page 13 highlights the selection of some cockpit lights although this can also be done, less realistic, via the Ramp Manager right hand lower section named “Cockpit Lighting”. With a simple click you can select the “white” cockpit lighting ON with your preference.
Ok, continuing with page 14, I noticed that twice you need to activate the AFE “After Start” which is of coursed not needed since you did it already before. Weird to me is the sentence in-between the 2 screenshots on page 14, at least, that’s how I feel about it and although I know that the AFE should have done that. The paper says “Check to ensure that your trim is set properly for departure”.
Ok, a very important item, but when you have no idea what the proper setting must be, then how can I ensure what the proper setting is? What said before, I assume that the AFE has done this for you thus you only need to verify the correct settings, not knowing what the correct setting must be.
Just a reminder and perhaps in case you didn’t follow tutorial 1; when you select “Takeoff (Dry)”, the AFE will do everything for you needed for a successful takeoff. This means that keep your fingers OFF from your hardware throttle(s). The AFE will advance the thrust for you. This means, once more, that you can concentrate on the takeoff and climb, but I can imagine that there are many simmers out there who would like to have more control over the different flight phases then with the AFE. I think that this way with the AFE being operative, a part of the real feeling isn’t available.
It is true that the aircraft is normally flown by two pilots and one flight engineer, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t fly it by yourself, even with this old-fashioned aircraft. On the other hand, and for those who want to explore the DC-6, following the tutorials is a great help including the AFE, but I would like to see that tutorial 3 is without the AFE. Yes, I’m aware that this will be a hectic flight with a lot of things to do, but it is worth the aircraft, it is worth the modeling, it is worth the PMDG!
And, I would like to bring up why PMDG hasn’t made an “AP popup window”? Now you need to move down, do things, and move up. I find it much easier when you have the option of requesting an AP popup window/panel. I’ve seen this with many other X-Plane developers and it works great. Oh, yes, it’s less realistic, but it’s so much easier for us, simmers, to control the AP functions, for those aircraft who don’t have the AP functions on the glareshield.
The descent preparations are something that you need to read more than once, at least, that’s how I felt it. It’s a lot of information coming to you, and although the end of the flight is a visual approach, there’s still a lot to do. As I mentioned already before in tutorial 1, perhaps an idea when PMDG has the time and willing to do it, rewrite this section, starting from page 20, and add a ground map with the intended flight plan projected on it and with extra information given on these pages. Then the simmer can visualize what the text means in relation to where you should be on the map. Such an approach of “adding a map”, can be seen for example with SSG aircraft tutorials. Anyway, just my idea!
I’ve said this before, flying the DC-6 manually isn’t difficult. How real this is compared to the real DC-6 is something I don’t know, but keeping the aircraft model in mind, the overall approach you’re flying and the old-fashioned controls, it could be that it is as it was a very stable, but especially during final approach, a slow-moving object. Don’t try to give the aircraft too much roll during final. It’s very difficult to add large inputs with full flaps and landing gear extended. No need and try to avoid this. When you keep that in mind, perhaps some approaches are needed to get the right feeling that the DC-6 is not complicated to land. Once you feel confident, you can try to add cross wind and even then, you’ll notice that the modeled DC-6 is still good to handle.
Performance and Sound
The aircraft performance is, as I may say, very good. Oh, yes, it will drop down to approximately 25-30 FPS (Frames Per Second) on a complex airport, but keeping the programming in mind, that’s not bad at all. I’m aware that the aircraft has no EFIS, ECAM, EICAS or any other FMS thus others would say then you should have high frame rates, even on complex airports.
I disagree with that since the aircraft has many simulated systems and even old-fashioned instruments can cause frame rates reductions. But when you go into the air, it’s fun to see the FPS going up and how smooth all is. Just to check out, I decided during my cruise to Vancouver, to activate my SkyMAXX Pro 4.x environment including requesting real weather conditions and even under these cloudy conditions, frame rates still stay at around 30. I’m satisfied with what I see.
Do I have the latest iMac and thus not a good example for all others? No, my iMac is from Late 2013 and for sure not the latest and fastest model around, but it performs well under these conditions with the PMDG.
When it comes to the authentic real sound, I tried to listen to many YouTube movies. Although not all movies I’ve seen and thus heard where good, the overall sound of the real DC-6 confirms that the recorded and implemented sound in the PMDG DC-6 Series is very similar which is good news. Knowing PMDG for years, I know that they always try, in one way or the other, to record real sound of the real aircraft they’re modeling.
PMDG AVSIM forum Issues
I found the following interesting postings at the dedicated AVSIM Cloudmaster DC-6 forum.
The first issue deals with a problem with the VOR/LOC/GS instrument on the First Officer’s Flight Instruments Panel. Since no update is provided by PMDG since version 1.11.0045, 27 June 2016, and that this issue is reported to PMDG support, I assume that it’s still valid.
Ok, what’s the problem?
While the reporter selects on the Captains Flight Instruments Panel the direct radial TO inbound the SAU VOR on the Garmin VOR/LOC/GS indicator: radial 112° TO. The needle of the VOR Indicator 1 and 2 and the direct radial TO on the Garmin VOR/LOC/GS Indicator are coherent and needle cantered: 112° for the both which is OK. When he does the same on the First Officer’s Flight Instruments Panel, the direct radial TO on the Garmin VOR/LOC/GS Indicator moves to another direction. More details about this issue can be found at the following dedicated forum page. As said before, it’s reported to PMDG support.
Another issue that I’ve noticed at the PMDG forum is loading problems with the DC-6 plugin. In most cases, I’ve got the impression that it’s more finger trouble then a real problem although I must admit that once and a while when do reload the DC-6, I miss the plugin too. In my cases I do once more a reload and the problem is gone.
For those who want to fly the Cloudmaster “as real as it was”, perhaps this forum posting will make you and I happy …. DC-6 routings & timetables: Let’s collect!
Although many options and flights are given, this URL would give you a good idea of historical flights flown with e.g. the Douglas DC-6.
Does the PMDG offer a pushback function?
Weird, I didn’t even check that to be honest! Anyway, the moderator for the PMDG DC-6 at AVSIM mentioned that “It’s all cosmetic. The tug isn’t there to serve in the pushback role anyway. Contrary to what you’d expect from today’s airport operations, aircraft of those days did not pull up to the terminal like they do today. Note that the main entrance is at the back of the aircraft. This was due to the aircraft’s positioning being parallel to the terminal, and not perpendicular, as it is today.”
That said, other forum users highlight the option of using the free EZ Pushback plug-in. It doesn’t feature any 3D model of a tug pushback tractor, it’s only the pushback/pull functionality. It allows you to steer manually if necessary. Only caveat being the binaries are only provided for the Windows and Ubuntu Linux platforms. Other alternatives e.g. is the JARDesign’s TugMaster Deluxe.
These highlights are just a couple of the postings that can be found at the AVSIM PMDG Cloudmaster forum. Mentioning them all is too much and many postings are from “before” that last update. We’re all waiting for the next Cloudmaster update, but I can imagine that PMDG is busy with not only setting up an update, but also making the Cloudmaster 100% compatible with X-Plane 11.
Hot … Couldmaster DC-6 compatible with X-Plane 11?
Looking at the PMDG DC-6 AVSIM forum, I found a posting of a simmer who’s trying out the PMDG DC-6 on X-Plane 11. For sure PMDG will make the DC-6 compatible with X-Plane 11, no doubt about that. I sincerely hope that the simmers don’t have to pay for this new platform, but time will learn and we must wait.
After reading that AVSIM post, I decided to try it out myself and yes, you can fly with it, and do things with it, but I’m not 100 percent sure if it’s “yet” 100 percent compatible with X-Plane 11 and let’s be honest, nobody said this yet, so once more, we need to wait till PMDG will announce this.
I should stop – again – to prevent myself from continuously writing and testing the PMDG DC-6. That said, I’ve reached the end of part II.
I hope you enjoyed Part II too 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 email@example.com for questions, suggestions and/or ideas.
Although I added the following already in part I, I think it is and stays a nice movie, so therefore …. check out this YouTube movie (https://youtu.be/W5VfUktL-Ck) … it brings back the good old days of the Douglas DC-6 introduction, back in 1946!
For this review, I used X-Plane 10.51 with Mac OSX El Capitan as well as macOS Sierra.
Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. 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.
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)|
|Software Source / Size:||Download Windows / Approximately 392MB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||December 21st 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 (Sierra 10.12.1)|
|- 2 external 1TB SSDs|
|- Saitek Pro Flight System|
|Software specifications:||- Sierra (10.12.1) | El Capitan (10.11.4) | Mavericks (10.9.5)|
|- Windows 10 Professional|
|- X-Plane 10.51c | X-Plane 10.51m|