What do you do first when you get a new plane? I myself jump right into the cockpit, skip the whole cold & dark part and push the throttle all the way forward and bring that new bird up in the air as fast as I possibly can. In case of the JARDesign JD330 this resulted in a crash no more than 30 seconds after take off.
Alright, back to start. I know, I know, I should have read the manual first. Unfortunately though there is no manual. A short search in the .org forums led me to the answer. JARDesign do not deliver manuals. Instead they’ll provide tutorial videos and documents that are based on real-world documentation, e.g. the powerful Flight Crew Training Manual (FCTM), via their forums. Oh boy once I loaded that thing on my computer I really felt like one of those pilots I regularly saw back in the days when I was a Customer Service Agent at my local airport.
Shortly after I had that feeling of proud I discovered that the FCTM had 389 pages. My feeling of proud immediately made way for an epiphany: No way I am gonna read all that. I have a job… What was I supposed to do now? Well I did what any respectable armchair pilot would do and fired up the next best Youtube tutorial video.
After these initial problems I could finally dedicate all my attention to the the JARDesign JD330. I found myself a nice livery, fired up X-Plane again and started my flight at gate E52 in sunny Zurich.
First things first, the walkaround. My initial impression? That thing is huge. An AI Embraer E-Jet nearby looks tiny compared to this beast. But it does look beautiful. The sun reflects nicely from that white and gold-ish livery. Shapes are looking great, the attention to detail is terrific. No reason not to be excited. Thanks to another JARDesign product – Ground Handling Deluxe – which is actually free when used in combination with the JD330, the aircraft totally comes to life. You can add and remove any vehicle you like at any time. I feel like I am back at the apron of my local airport again. I love it!
That said, we are about to climb the truck-mounted stairs to the forward left door. My expectations are high as I’m about to enter this beautiful aircraft. As I set eyes on the cabin I am immediately impressed. All textures are crisp and clear and I really get a feeling of being inside an aircraft. This impression continues as I slowly walk down the aisle to the back of the plane. Only the brown leather textures used for the business class seats make that part of the cabin look a bit outdated. I would have preferred a more modern and cleaner look here but hey, that’s complaining at a high level. Overall the cabin is pretty nice.
Finally we make our way to the virtual cockpit. That part is the most fun to me when I fly a new aircraft for the first time. After all this is where we spend most of our time in. And let me tell you, this virtual cockpit is a beauty. As you may have guessed I am not a professional A330 pilot so I don’t really know if everything is 100% accurate. What this virtual cockpit is though is a plausible representation of an A330 flight deck. The colors look about right (maybe a tad too blueish). The textures are very crisp for the most part and the cockpit lighting is just incredible.
One thing you’ll notice immediately at this point is the presence of a little green button in the lower left corner of your display. The so-called “hot start” button gives you the opportunity to bring the JD330 in a ready-for-take-off state with a single click. Perfect for after-work hours. However I did not find a one-click-solution to bring the aircraft in a turnaround state. So it’s either cold & dark or ready for take-off. For now I am pretty impressed with the visuals of the aircraft. JARDesign created a plausible and pretty representation of an Airbus A330. Framerates on the ground are great for me and I have nothing really to complain about.
For this first flight we gonna do a very short hop to LOWS Salzburg. Mid-air we want to try some flight maneuvers to test the fly-by-wire system logic. Alright so let’s start with the checklist. One thing you’ll probably notice at this stage is that not all knobs and switches are operational. For the most part everything works though and we can follow each checklist without any problems. Let’s enter our flight plan into the MCDU now. I was a bit worried that this MCDU might have been dumbed-down too much but rest assured – at least for my taste – this was not the case. The MCDU is sufficiently complex and it takes time and concentration to enter all the values necessary for a realistic flight operation.
Once everything was set up we used the all new BetterPushback plug-in (as featured here) to get that bird moving. We start taxiing. In the background you’ll here some cabin announcement by our flight attendants. These announcements are triggered automatically at the right time. I get a feeling of excitement as we are about to line-up at runway 28.
Shortly after take-off we turn to the left heading east. Once we gained some altitude I turned the autopilot off to test the fly-by-wire systems. To my surprise the plane did exactly what I was expecting. Again, I am not an Airbus pilot or engineer and my knowledge of Airbus systems is basic. However when you fly the JD330 you’ll notice that the plane follows a certain system logic that behaves like a fly-by-wire system. It might not be accurate (or it actually might be) but it flies believable. This actually applies to all systems. When put at test I did not experience any unexpected issues with the systems or flight dynamics.
OK so I am pretty satisfied with this add-on so far. Let’s find out how the aircraft behaves during approach and landing. We dial in a runway 15 ILS approach and start with our descent. At this point I was expecting at least something to go wrong. You know, new aircraft, new systems, I didn’t read the manual 😀 But yet again, no surprises. The plane did exactly what I thought it should do. No master alarm, no nothing, all good.
So what is our conclusion? The JARDesign JD330 is a solid product. It is a plausible representation of the Airbus A330. I also think you can learn a lot from it if you are interested in Airbus systems even though some systems might not be 100% accurate. If you can live with that, you’ll get an entertaining product. It is a joy to fly (and hand-fly) this aircraft. Personally I believe that this product is a safe bet. No reason not to fly Airbus thanks to JARDesign!