MAJESTIC SWEETNESS – the DC-6B

Parked on the tarmac of LOWS, in Salzburg, Austria, a four-engined Behemoth glimmers in the morning light.  The example at hand is N996DM, a fully restored Douglas DC-6B, owned and operated by Flying Bulls.  It was delivered as serial number 45563, in November of 1958.  In 1961 it was transferred to the Yugoslav Air Force, then later donated to the Zambian Air Force  in 1975.  It served as the airline of President Kaunda.  In 1994 this classic was bought by Namibia Commercial Aviation, registered as V5-NCF.  The Flying Bulls of Salzburg brought her back to Europe after purchase in 2000.  Since, the aircraft us undergone extensive restoration.

A few quick facts about the DC-6B:

 

The DC-6 was an off-shoot of the XC-112A prototype, which first flew in February, of 1946.  It essentially evolved from the C-54 (DC-4).  Though originally intended for military service, it was soon clear that the aircraft would be more useful commercially. The DC-6 was fully pressurized, allowing it to maintain higher altitude flights, among other improvements.  The end result was a faster, more reliable aircraft that would serve in many different roles, for years to come.

The B model was the all passenger variant, and quickly became adapted by many of the worlds leading airlines.  Trans-continental flights with the DC-6 soon became standard for American Airlines, Pan Am, United, and others.

 

Powered by four water-injected, supercharged 2,500 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800’s, the DC-6B could Cruise at 315mph, with a range of 3,000-4,700 miles.  It weighed over 27 ton empty, and would gross to over 53 ton.  The DC-6 was majestic, but it was also fast and efficient.

 

Had a maximum passenger count of 102, plus a crew of 4. However this was usually limited to around 54, for practical purposes.

 

The pilot controls the aircraft directly, with no auxiliary assistance.  Pilots claimed to enjoy the way the aircraft was balanced, and gave it great compliments on how it felt in flight.

 

All propellers turn the same direction, right hand from the pilot,  or counter-clockwise when viewed head-on.

It is my goal to write this review in a way that would bring the most reading pleasure, whether or not you own, or intend to own the Just Flight DC-6.  However, If you love classic props, particularly prop-liners, this product is an A+ on the “must have list”!

 

 

Enter Just Flight

 

For this “Legends of Flight” release, Aeroplane Heaven has once again supplied the visual model and textures, combined with a talented, and balanced team of programmers, artists, and developers, working with Just Flight to produce the DC-6B,  exclusively native, for FSX. (DX10 compatible)

 

The package consists of four models, depicting 8 liveries from the mid-fifties through sixties, and 2 liveries of present day aircraft.  Textures include bump, specular, and night maps.

 

Animated passenger, and cargo doors.  Optional loading stairway, ground vehicle, stewardess, engine covers, tire chocks, pre-flight flags and control surface chocks.  The cabin is also carefully modeled.

 

Includes fully equipped, and exhaustive virtual cockpit, with 6 assigned views for ease of access for all controls, and co-pilots seat.   Animated sliding windows, windshield wipers, and arm rests.  Also a opening hatch, to reveal the fuel dump levers.  (the fuel dump actually works too!)

 

Also includes multiple extra views, cabin and passenger perspective, and exterior aircraft positions, which give a vast array of options for screenshots.

 

Features a new custom soundset representing the four mighty P&W double wasp radials.

 

Added special effects with exhaust fire/smoke, and touchdown tire smoke.

 

Also a comprehensive 60 page .pdf manual, detailing features, cockpit layout, and system procedures.

Within FSX there is complete checklist, and reference material detailing operating norms, speeds, and cruise settings.

 

I installed the download version, which went flawlessly, followed up by installing the free service pack, from Just Flight, which corrects some minor issues with the initial release.

 

Back on the Tarmac

 

Upon first glance, the initial impression is that of splendor.  The finely represented model, immense in detail, clarity, and elegant charm, tantalizes the senses, and rings of nostalgia.   The 3d modeled R-2800’s, calmly resting in the shrouds of polished aluminum, fixed affront with the massive 3-blade Hamilton Standard reversing propellers,  the DC-6B is a feast for the eye of the historic aviation enthusiast.  The morning light shimmers off every line, each part blending together to form a truly remarkable visual experience.

 

On entering the virtual cockpit, I am nearly overwhelmed with the multitude of gauges, switches, knobs, and levers.  Having most of my hours in single and twin engined props,  it took several moments for me to take it all in.  So, for the afternoon, I studied the manual, checklists, and cockpit layout together, until I could gain a working knowledge of the aircraft’s systems, controls, and procedures.  Of course, this is always a learning experience, of which the wisdom gained is well worth the investment.

 

So, I was ready to crank the big radials to life.  Back in the cockpit, engine covers removed, passengers seated, parking brakes on.  I pan up to the various switches, set battery power position to on/plane, avionics on/check,  fuel quantity check, propellers forward, mixture auto-rich, cowl flaps open, turn on boost pump #3, for the main tank, turn the selector to engine #3, turn #3 magnetos to both, and I engage the starter switches.  I can hear her cranking, but no fire yet…  Forgot to prime.  So, a press the primer 3-4 times, and crank again.  Still no fire.  So, double check, mixtures rich, mags on…Guess a little more primer, it is a cold morning.  4-5 more strokes of the primer, and crank again.    Yes!  #3 growls to life!  I switch to the exterior in time to see brilliant smoke effects roll under and over the leading edge of the wing, and even a few pops of fire from the exhaust.  Nice!  Having been around many R-2800’s installed in fighters, I was convinced that the start-up of this DC-6 was on par, and even fun to boot.  So, on to fire#4, #2,  and finally #1, and I have them all roaring.  Now the responsibly of man-handling this beast is becoming a reality. With everything in the green, I begin to taxi, which is really a joy.  The DC-6 is equipped with a miniature steering wheel, mounted left of the pilot.  With this, I can easily  steer the aircraft down the taxiway with the scroll of the mouse.  Managing throttles makes tight turns more negotiable,  and the visibility is good for a liner, with a great sense of your surroundings in tight places.  I soon find myself holding short runway 16.

 

 

In The Air

 

Flaps set to 20 degrees,  I throttle up, water-injection switches engaged, with green lights to signify, brakes off, and we’re thundering down the runway.    The take-off roll is slow and heavy at the start, but once we’re moving, she pulls hard, and I’m bringing the nose up pretty quick.  A little more speed, and this mammoth  machine is airborne.  Wow, I’m fully loaded, and she is heavy.  The effect of the weight in relation to speed, transfers through the control surfaces, giving a very immersive feel for such a large aircraft.

 

I couldn’t help it, I had to fly around the patch, and bring N996DM in for a low-level pass, (for the photo-ops, of course!)  And did it ever sound good!   Then time for some high-altitude cruising, which is where the DC-6 is meant to be!

 

Shift+1 brings up the Garmin, if you so desire, and Shift+2 gives you the radar with respective settings. (The radar screen is visible in two locations in the virtual cockpit also) Radio stack, and autopilot can also be brought up for easy setting, however the in-cockpit radio and autopilot features are sufficient, and easily controlled.

 

At altitude, the aircraft feels more nimble than at the lower elevations.  For a slow speed cruise, the angle of attack is increased significantly.  However, at recommended cruise settings, the aircraft will level nicely.  The rate of climb, at power is very impressive.  It doesn’t take very long, respectively, to climb 10,000ft.

 

With the streamlined profile, and being so heavy,  it is critical to be careful to maintain operable flight speeds on descent, as it can become very difficult to pull-out of an over-speed situation.  Follow the recommended speeds for flap deployment.

 

Landing this enormous creature is not as difficult as one might think.  Proper adhesion to the recommended procedures gave me a nice glide, controllable final, and easy touchdown.  The aircraft will stall-flare relativity slow for such a large aircraft, if you need to get into a tight place.  However you may practice coming in a little hotter, full flaps, and flare around 95 KIAS.  I was very pleased with the landing characteristics.  If need be, you can use the reverse pitch propellers, and throttle settings as well, for an assist on short runways, after the nose gear is firmly on the ground.  Just remember, where you land, you’ll also have to take-off again, and she will land tighter then she’ll take-off!

 

Conclusion

 

Overall, I couldn’t be pleased more with this offering from the Legends of Flight series.  The asking price is below-average for the typical payware aircraft, and I would consider the price one heck of a bargain.  The entire package comes together well, for a very enjoyable experience.  Whether you want to fly short-hops in the day-plane, or long-haul in the intercontinental model, this DC-6B is fully equipped to suit your needs.  I didn’t notice any glaring inaccuracies, or issues.  The exterior visuals are stunning, crispy clear, and authentic. The texture sets are masterful. The virtual cockpit is very well modeled, and textured.  The gauges are very readable out to around 0.6 zoom, and very clear at 1.0.  No detail is left out, and everything works within the limits of FSX.  There could be more depth to the “feel” of the cockpit, as the shading and lighting is more simulator-like than some comparable products.  However, I cannot dock Just Flight for this, as it is every bit as satisfactory as anything else in my hangar.  The flight dynamics are pretty hard-core.  I appreciate the heavy effect that the aircraft has when gross, and the performance numbers are well within the bounds of accuracy and realism.  The sound-set has it’s weak points, particular in transition from start-up, to idle, but it does make up for it in the overall flight sounds at all power settings.  The exterior, and fly-by sounds, when turned up, will give you the chills, they are that good.  I would rate this aircraft at 8/10 on the quality scale, and 10/10 for longevity and value.  I gladly endorse this one fellas!

 

There is a versatile layered paintkit available, of which I have worked with.  With a little attention to detail, and some work, it can be used to create skins for any of your favorite DC-6 schemes.

 

Just Flight has also released an expansion pack for DC-6B.  It models 3 different variants, and liveries, including the C-118B, and VC-118B of the US Navy, that being the military version of the DC-6B.

 

Test System:

Processor (CPU): Intel Core i7 CPU 2600k @ 4.2 GHz

Memory (RAM): 8.00 GB

Graphics: Nvidia Gforce 460

System type: 64-bit operating system

Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium

Primary monitor resolution: 1920×1080

Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Acceleration

 

Download and Boxed, available from Just Flight: www.justflight.com