When I think about war planes from the 1920’s, there is one plane that has always stood out. A plane with not only style, but power, efficiency, and quick to repair. All of these are the ingredients of the Bristol Bulldog MK2a. As a second generation war bird, the Bulldog gracefully carried the Royal Air Force through the post WWI era. By 1930, 100 Bulldog MK2as were produced. Because this time period was right between the first and second World Wars, the Bulldog never saw combat. Instead, the Bulldog was used for security and as a trainer before moving to other air forces around the world.
Now nearly a century later, you too can experience what it was like to fly the Bristol Bulldog. This is made possible by the developers at Aeroplane Heaven who first produced this aircraft for flight simulation 15 years ago. Now in 2018, they have remastered the Mk2a with a high-definition model and new features for FSX and Prepar3D.
In proper Aeroplane Heaven fashion the MK2a looks stunning! If I had to sum up the overall presentation of this aircraft in a single sentence, I would say, “An above average attention to detail.” The very first thing that caught my eye was the engine. Many aircraft use engine covers that prevent you from seeing the inner workings. With the MK2a the front of the engine is exposed and they’ve animated each and every moving part. They didn’t cut any corners when developing this model.
Overall the airframe is a thing of beauty. Inside and out, the textures and modeling are presented with rich detail. Even the wheel chocks show signs of age – just like the aircraft. No matter if you’re looking at this plane from the tarmac or inside the cockpit, you can’t help but feel that classic plane nostalgia. Flying at night is also a real treat because of the captivating panel lighting. I can imagine what it must have been like with just a map and compass to guide the way.
Now you might be wondering: The MK2a looks fantastic, but how does it sound? Let me be the first to tell you that the sounds put out by the MK2a are just as pleasing. Be it the engine turning over, the gun cock lever, or the gas pressure cock, every sound is original, crisp, and clear. When you taxi, or takeoff, the engine sounds grungy and powerful. I would compare the sounds to classic sports cars.
If you want to try your hand at other squadrons you will not be disappointed. The Bristol Bulldog comes with 12 different liveries for you to enjoy. Not only can you fly the various Royal Air Force squadrons, but the Australia, Sweden, Denmark, and Estonia squads have also been included in the package. The only thing I would have liked to see were some scenarios to carry out for fun.
When it comes to learning the Bristol Bulldog, Aeroplane Heaven has included an excellent manual to help you learn the aircraft. Each page is beautifully illustrated with diagrams to familiarize you with the cockpit, checklists, and performance measures. I found this manual to be very helpful in understanding this plane. It’s a very brief read, and I suggest having a look before operating the plane.
Starting the Bulldog was a fun and new experience. With no cold and dark mode this leaves you to manually shutdown the engine to perform a proper start. Avoid ctrl-E because this aircraft simulates the gas-pressurized starting system originally fitted on the Mk2a. Knowing this I thought I was going to be in for a real challenge. But after reading the manual for a few minutes and practicing the start flow, it became very easy.
To begin make sure the wheel chocks are set. This can be turned on and off with a brass switch on the right side of the main panel in the cockpit. The most interesting part about starting the engine is the pressure start system. This involves releasing air into a fuel reservoir. From the reservoir it vaporizes into gas. Next you crank a hand-operated starting magneto followed by engaging the gas starter. I can certainly say I have never started a plane quite like this and it was great to see how this process works.
From the moment you leave your parking spot you’ll feel how gentle the Bulldog is. When opening the throttle the aircraft is not jumpy whatsoever. As long as you’re gentle with the throttle and rudder the aircraft responds with the same respect. The turn radius is very generous and you should have no problem when back taxiing on a runway. I’ve ground-looped many planes similar to this in my time but found no such trouble with the Bulldog.
Takeoff requires a little effort to remain straight and smooth but nothing too difficult. As you slowly advance the throttle you can also do so with the forward pressure. The tail should rise and balance out for the rest of the roll out. As you rotate get ready to add some aileron correction and from there, the Mk2a handles like a box of fluffy bulldogs. If you need help getting around, optional navigational aides have been added to the aircraft that the original Bulldog did not have.
The Bristol Bulldog is fully capable of aerobatics. Since the manual includes recommended performance measures for stalls and aerobatics, I decided to give them a try. I started with an accelerated stall. Once the angle of attack was exceeded, the nose gently dropped and bounced back to level. The physics of this was very accurate. It’s similar to dropping something buoyant into water. It comes down, sinks, and rises to level all in the same motion. With stalls out of the way I moved into spin recovery, barrel rolls, loops, and half loop roles. My main observation is that the roll is slower and requires more stick pressure than the modern high performance prop planes that I’m used to.
Landing proved no different than any other prop. Use the basic principles and you will be on the ground safely. Once the mains touch down, the tail will slowly drop on its own with no need for further intervening. From here exit the taxi way and pat yourself on the back as you’ve just experienced a little bit of history.
I found the performance of the Mk2a very good. I was able to run the Prepar3D graphics sliders much higher than I normally do. Specifically the buildings, vegetation, and level of detail radius. This is important with a smaller plane. Being closer to the ground, you’ll want to see the little details of the land. Now granted, I use a 1080 Ti, 4790k 4.3ghz, and 16GB of RAM, but even with that I usually have to run the sliders on the lower end for better performance. This aircraft does not use up too many resources allowing a smoother flight and beautiful scenery below you.
The Bristol Bulldog sets the bar high for general aviation aircraft of its kind. I found this plane to accurately represent everything I would expect the Bulldog to be. With an easy to follow manual, and a gas-pressurized starting system, this plane took me on a historical adventure. Whether you want to learn a piece of history or put on an aerobatic air show amongst your friends, for $27.95 USD you can travel back to the 1930’s era of war birds.