There’s no shortage of “old school” airliners for Microsoft Flight Simulator. There’s a lot to select from, from PMDG’s piston-powered DC-6 to iniBuilds A310. For many, older aircraft are not as appealing as the high-tech, automated supercomputers in the skies today. I’m thinking of the 787 and A350 for example. However, there’s something charming about the aircraft of yesterday. And for us desktop captains, Just Flight hit a home run with the F28, as its high-workload operating procedures make for a satisfying flight simming experience. Despite an overall incredible flying experience, there are some missing features that we see in other products that would make it a true 10/10.
Introduced in the 60s, the Fokker F28 Fellowship built upon the successes of the turboprop F27 as a short-range airliner. The now-defunct Dutch airplane company, Fokker (pronounced not how you want to pronounce it), developed several variants of the F28 distinguished by a steady increase in capabilities from slightly updated engines to increased passenger and fuel capacity. The iteration of the Mk 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 evidences the success of this aircraft as a regional jet, serving passengers over the course of 20 years and even having been put into service by militaries around the world. Just Flight brings all four variants to your home flight simulator, doing a commendable job keeping this classic alive.
Like most aircraft addons, installation was a total breeze. I downloaded the addon directly from the Just Flight website and within minutes, I fired up the sim and found myself sitting in the (virtual) cockpit. As far as updates go, Just Flight sends emails as new updates are made available. I would prefer that notifications pop up in-sim rather than having to fish them out of my inbox but alas, can’t have everything it seems.
Effort to Satisfaction
Before I move on to the typical review format, I want to discuss the appeal of an addon like the F28. Over the course of my flight simulation history, I’ve noticed that the enjoyment factor of a new addon is at its highest right after overcoming the learning curve of a new airplane. For me personally, there’s something to be said for an aircraft that’s just the right level of challenging. The F28 hits that sweet spot where some of its antiquated systems create a challenge of staying ahead of the aircraft while still being manageable enough not to be overwhelming. It took between two and three flights before I felt comfortable enough with the flow for the enjoyment factor to start taking over.
Between remembering to remove the gust lock before takeoff to making sure you set the correct outbound radial, there’s a lot that needs to be managed. In comparison to modern jets, the gauges and controls are strewn about the flight deck as if the engineers forwent the whole “planning” part of creating an airplane. I know that’s probably not how it works but it really does give you a renewed appreciation for the flows of modern jetliners. Once you get the hang of it, the level of satisfaction getting from point A to point B is well above what you would find on a 737 or A320. This is the real appeal of the F28 Professional and anyone getting just a bit bored programming an Airbus to fly from London to Paris for the nth time will feel refreshed with the challenge of the F28, especially if you opt to fly VOR to VOR without the aid of contemporary GPS navigation.
The upside of having a rudimentary autopilot is that you often find yourself in a position where you just can’t be bothered and opt to fly manually instead. You’ll notice immediately how responsive and predictable the airplane is. Unlike many other third-party aircraft, the F28 doesn’t appear to be plagued by Microsoft Flight Simulator’s twitchiness. A smooth pull of the yoke will have the aircraft flying off the runway much like you’d expect. Landing could also not be any easier, for a couple of reasons: this airplane is not all that slippery so you don’t have to worry about energy management on approach, and once you’re on final approach, the plane feels well-behaved, as long as you are too, you should have no trouble buttering the touchdown.
Features and Systems Depth
This aircraft would absolutely fall under the “study-level” moniker, though I know there’s some pushback on using that term. It takes some time to learn the systems and gain an understanding of how the aircraft operates. Nothing about the F28’s systems seem particularly forgiving, but they aren’t impossibly complex either. And to help hold your hand, Just Flight’s 251-page manual does an excellent job. If you’re more of a visual learner, Just Flight has a YouTube playlist that will help you get in the air in no time.
When compared to other payware airliners, there are some areas where the F28 doesn’t quite compare. For example, the F28 doesn’t include workable circuit breakers. In my opinion, this truly isn’t a big deal as very few of us would actually make use of that feature. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning as others have been able to include it. Another missing set of features are system failures and component wear. If you’re someone who enjoys troubleshooting electrical failures or having to declare an emergency due to an engine fire, you’ll be a bit disappointed.
Finally, while the included tablet does most of the things you need it to, it isn’t as robust and feature-rich as some others out there. For example, there are no simulated fueling/loading speed options, fancy UI, or other niceties like being able to see what’s going on under-the-hood or fine-tuning the settings just the way you like it.
Just Flight did a superb job bringing an aged Fokker F28 to life. They were really able to capture the wear-and-tear you’d expect from a dated short-range jetliner. Panning around the cluttered cockpit, you’ll find plenty of scratches and chipped paint. Each blemish would be an eye sore in an otherwise little-used cockpit, but the orchestra of wear in the F28 truly comes together to bring an immersive environment to your desktop. This is not to say that the aircraft appears to be falling apart, by any means. It’s a fitting level of wear that without it, the aircraft would feel out of place. The external model is also excellent, though deceptively in better shape than the beaten and bruised cockpit would have you believe. Finally, if you have a beefy GPU, you can download 8K textures so there’s really nothing to complain about in terms of detail.
If there’s one thing that Just Flight absolutely nails, it’s the sound. The F28 is no exception with its stunning sound stage. Clicking through the seemingly millions of switches and knobs as you prepare the flight deck is truly immersive. When the electrical power switches from the APU to the engine, a flash of light and a popping sound, almost like a vintage camera flash bulb, will be sure to startle you. A small detail that I should mention is that switching between the regular engine and the hush kit doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. It could be that the difference is minor and I’m not enough of an audiophile to pick up on it, but I think it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.
The extra credit feature that Just Flight included that I think absolutely is worth mentioning is the cabin music. There’s a whole panel that you have access to, right outside of the cockpit, where you can open the exit door, change some light settings, and even turn on some music for your virtual passengers to listen to as they board. You can also change the music to whatever you wish, so long as it’s in the form of a .wav file… queue “Fortunate Son” on repeat.
This aircraft is for anyone who loves flying airliners and wants a bit of a challenge. It’s apparent in the F28 that engineers were still figuring out how to make airliners more automated and manageable. The result is you have Just Flight roll in almost 60 years later to deliver an excellent simulation that is sure to reinvigorate the bored simmer’s desire to fly their favorite regional airline route. However, do note that if you’re looking for a perfect product, this ain’t it as higher-end features like failures, circuit breakers, and a feature-rich tablet aren’t currently present in the F28 Professional.
If you wish to purchase a copy, head on over to Just Flight’s website where you can pick it up for $69.99 USD.