Be sure to watch the video review above.
The Aerosoft A330 has been one of the most highly anticipated add-ons for Prepar3D v4, and it has finally been released. The first announcement came almost 6 years ago, and after facing many delays and setbacks, it’s great to see it all finally come together. But was the wait worth it?
The A330 took its first flight in late 1992, and was introduced into service in late 1994. Since its introduction, just shy of 1,500 A330’s have been built for over 110 operators. The A330-300 was developed first, followed by the A330-200 within the following years.
Before we get started, Id like to mention that this review is only looking at the stable releases of the aircraft. And as of today, March 7th, that is V126.96.36.199. This is because this is what people will get out of the box, without having to opt into the experimental updates, which are still a work in progress.
Installing the Aerosoft A330 is just like any other Aerosoft product. Installing asks you to confirm you agree with the terms, and will then ask for your order email and serial number. From there, you can select where the installer will install the aircraft, and then a window showing all the install parts will show up. Once you click next, the installation of the A330 will start. The installation also brings up a DirectX box and Microsoft Visual C++ box after the main installation is complete.
Once the installation is complete, the installer advises you to restart your computer before attempting to load the aircraft.
The Aerosoft A330 comes with only one variant of the A330, and that is the A330-300 with Rolls Royce engines. Not having the other engine options is disappointing as many of the community favorite airlines use the different engine options.
The A330 also comes with some useful applications that help with creating an accurate flight deck for your airline, or your own personal preferences. Starting with the documentation, there are nine separate documents that come with the plane. Ranging from Normal Procedures, to Connected Flight Deck Flows; finding what you need is likely to be in one of these documents. It goes in depth, but not too in depth to be overwhelming in my opinion. However, the documents as a whole feel as if they were an afterthought until it was close to release. This is shown as some of the documents are labeled as the Aerosoft A318-A321 collection. While the procedures might be the same, as the A320 family and A330 is very similar, the lack of polish here feels underwhelming and shows signs of what is to come with the rest of the aircraft.
Moving onto the Livery Manager. I am assuming that at some point one was working, but now this does not seem to be the case. In the livery manager folder, their livery manager is labeled to be for the A318 and A319, not for the A330. Opening this program confirms this as there is no option for the A330. This means we are still stuck adding CFG entries to the plane to add liveries. This could be a problem for newer or less experienced simmers. Adding CFG entries isn’t very simple and can get confusing as they are not the same for every aircraft. I am also surprised this has not been fixed yet, almost 3 months after release.
The A330 also comes with a configuration tool. This allows you to change various options such as your Navigation Source between NavDataPro and Navigraph, change the maximum number of elements shown on the ND, and turn on other settings like logging, realistic company route system, the webserver for remote MCDU access, and more. FS2Crew settings are also in here, and a way to connect charts and add documents to the EFB. While these are all nice to have, including them in the third MCDU would be a better place in my opinion.
The A330 also comes with an updater, eliminating the need for users to manually download new installers to install updates. Simply open the Aerosoft updater, select the A330, and click on update if an update is available. There is also a way to install experimental updates to get the latest updates sooner, but sometimes these can lead to the product being unstable or having a new bug. Two hot fixes were released closely after release, but nothing else has been released since besides the experimental fixes. The experimental updates get plenty of more fixes and updates, having at least 6 new versions, but none has made it to stable full releases yet. None of the experimental updates are installed for this review, as those are experimental and not finalized. The stable version of the A330 will be reviewed.
Moving onto the modeling of the aircraft, I was fairly impressed with the details throughout the plane.
The exterior modeling is the best looking part of the plane in my opinion. The A320 family from Aerosoft, while it looked great, lacked that feeling of being a real accurate representation of how the A320 looked in my opinion. The A330, however, does give me the feeling of being a very accurate representation of the aircraft.
Starting with the details. Every part of the aircraft is modeled with great attention to detail. The landing gear shows clear signs of having a lot of work put into it, with pipes and wires even being visible in the wheel wells. The twin Rolls Royce engines are modeled with great care, and look like they were pulled off of the real aircraft. The fuselage as well has details all over it, with antennas and sensors. However, one shortcoming of the exterior is the lack of transparent windows with a cabin inside. Instead, it is simply a window texture. While this is no deal breaker, it’s definitely something to note as this sort of feature is available on almost all other recent aircraft.
The animations on the exterior also look to have taken a step up from the previous Airbus. The animations for the control surfaces are smooth. I was really concerned for the gear animations, seeing as when the A330 lands, the gear offers resistance before it comes down fully. But Aerosoft has managed to do a fairly good job with this animation. While not perfect, it is still better than what I expected. The wing flex was also a concern. Seeing as Aerosoft had multiple chances to add it to the A320, but did not, I was worried that the A330 might suffer the same fate, or have it not be any good. I’m happy to say that the wing flex is not bad by any means, however it did leave me disappointed in some ways. First, the wing does not flex enough. Loading the plane up to maximum takeoff weight, and rotating gives an underwhelming amount of flex. Comparing it to real world pictures and videos, it looks like my suspicions are correct. Having ground roll wing flexing would also be a great addition to the aircraft’s animations.
Of course, its impossible for me to know the conditions in the photos so others observations may differ. I have seen other similar observations on forums and Facebook groups.
Moving inside, the A330 shares a lot in common with its little brother, the A320. 90% of the cockpit will look familiar to the A320 users, with notable differences being with the overhead fuel and hydraulics panel, and the throttles using reverse levers similar to a Boeing aircraft, instead of the throttles having a reverse detent such as on the A320. Every difference is modeled with a lot of details and the whole cockpit looks fantastic.
Cockpit animation are fairly simplistic. Most of the switches are snappy, without a traveling animation, but the buttons seem to have a decent animation to them. There are some other animations such as opening the cockpit window, the table and foot rests, and the cover for the emergency oxygen. It would have been nice to see the effort for some of these animations go to the switches, as animated switches really bring the cockpit immersion to life. And just like in the A320 Family, the coffee cup is back.
Starting on the exterior again, the texturing is fairly good. This aircraft is also very clean. All the provided textures are spotless, like it just rolled off the assembly line. There are lots of little details all around the plane. Warning signs and instructions all look correct and in the correct positions. However, on closer inspection, everything is a bit fuzzier that I normally am used to seeing. A quick look in the texture files gives the answer. The provided textures are all in 2048×2048. With other major aircraft releases, we see a 4096×4096 texture resolution which is 4 times the number of pixels than what we get with the A330. This is something I hope Aerosoft can update to give their liveries a crisper look. It is not difficult currently to see jagged lines in the exterior textures.
The A330 does come with a good selection of liveries to start, 13 of them and range from all around the world. However, some of the liveries are outdated, and some are up to date. The Cathay Pacific livery is the old livery, and Dragonair does not exist anymore and is now Cathay Dragon. Others like Air Canada and Lufthansa are in the current new livery.
The PBR work on the exterior really brings this plane to life. I feel without it, the exterior would really be lacking that real feeling that the plane currently gives off. For the first time for an Aerosoft product to have PBR, it’s a job well done for their first product with the new technology.
Moving to the flight deck, the texturing is of a higher quality to that of the A320 series. The flight deck, like the exterior, is very clean. How it differs from the exterior is I feel like all the textures are more crisp, even if they are the same pixel size as the exterior. Text is easy to read, even from a distance. All of the displays are nice and easy to read, fairly crisp text, but a little less than the rest of the cockpit text. It feels roomie, just like a real A330 feels. One drawback is this cockpit feels very dark all of the time, and this looks to be due to the windows. Whether this is a texturing or modeling thing, it makes it feel like I am wearing sunglasses while in the cockpit. This makes night flying more difficult to see where taxiway lines are, especially when the moon isn’t out. Knowing that HDR could possibly cause this, I tested this and found no difference. I was able to clip my camera through the window to see that the windows have a pretty strong tint to it.
The cockpit also has PBR textures, which was my first experience with PBR in the flight deck in P3D. It is a welcome addition, seeing the lights reflecting off the cockpit surfaces is great to see and adds to the immersion of the flight deck.
Systems and Flight
The systems of the A330 are very similar to the A320 in terms of how they work, and how simplistic the systems are. If you are a user of the A320 series, and are comfortable with it, you will have no problem jumping into the A330 and flying it. However, the systems lack the depth to make this plane study level, as very little to no abnormal systems are modeled. This is a point A to point B aircraft, and while this isn’t a problem, some people who would like to have a much deeper A330 simulation might be disappointed.
From cold and dark, starting up the aircraft is as simple as turning on the batteries, and applying the external power to the aircraft. The aircraft will come to life. The engine fire test works, but that’s about it in terms of emergency equipment testing. Aligning the ADIRS’s, programming the MCDU, and overall other set up items are very similar, if not the same to the A320 series. A lot of the aircraft is already configured, or self configuring, such as electrical or hydraulics. The third MCDU is used for adding fuel and payload, doors, changing some preferences, turning the view system on and off, aircraft states, and more. The view system is not good however, as some of the views are straight up broken, and most are way too zoomed in to be useful. The polish on this aircraft is just not there is certain areas. Adding climb and descent winds was only able to be done manually, the request button did not add anything. The rest of the set up is nearly identical to the A320 Professional series from Aerosoft.
Engine start is simple enough. Start the APU, turn on the bleed air, switch engines to IGN START, and set the engine masters to ON, and the engines will start right up. Setting trim for takeoff can be tricky. The button I have bound for trim makes it move really quickly, 2 units of trim with a quick press of the button. Using the scroll wheel is much more precise, but is fairly slow.
Takeoff feels like you are controlling this big heavy aircraft going down the runway, and lift off does give a good sense of weight to it. After takeoff, not much is left to do for the pilot besides monitor systems, change the altimeter to standard at the right moment, and turn off a few lights. The aircraft follows SID restrictions fairly well as well, but can be a bit fast at times, depending on how light the aircraft is.
There are some included 2D panels, which cover all 3 MCDUs and the cockpit displays. I have come across issues where when I open certain 2D panels, the plane has a moment where it sort of resets. The fuel resets to the value I had before takeoff, the flood lights reset, and the packs also recycle. After that, the aircraft continues flying, but the extra fuel you have gained makes landings possibly overweight. I have been able to recreate this on separate flights and different phases of flight. It seems to have something to do with the Shift + 8 command. Fairly big bug that I would have hoped would have been caught before the release.
Speaking of fuel, the fuel consumption could use some work for longer flights. Flying from ZSPD to LSZH, a route the A330-300 RR regularly does, I would have run out of fuel long before reaching Zurich. My dispatcher showed making it to Zurich with 9.4 tons of fuel still left, but the MCDU was showing -5.5 tons for arrival, well short.
The EFB is something that is becoming more and more common on aircraft addons, and this is unfortunately one of the examples of a not so good EFBs. The EFB offers checklists and flows, charts, an Electronic Flight Folder, documents, and links. The charts section has NavDataPro ChartCloud integration, but I do not have NavDataPro, so I was unable to test this. One of the problems is the EFB is very hard to read, unless it is in night mode, and even then it is hard to read sometimes. It is very washed out and over exposed, however, turning HDR off fixes this issue. The links sometimes work, but have often resulted in me having a CTD. The SAT EFF link has also caused numerous crashes. Typing in the EFB was something that was near impossible to find and not something people would guess easily. It is activated by clicking on the top bezel of the EFB. I would like for there to also be a way to turn the EFB off to help with performance at heavy airports. Overall, not a good EFB, I personally do not use it while flying as it offers more problems than it helps with.
The autopilot in the A330 is just like in the A320. It is a fairly sturdy autopilot as well. The aircraft has not put itself out of limits from my time with it, and is fairly accurate as well. Sometimes the aircraft will over turn when going to a new way point on NAV, but will smoothly correct itself. The auto throttle as well has some issues. When flying in turbulence, the speed tape can get jumpy, and it is very easy for the safety functions to kick in and firewall the throttle. This safety feature is designed to keep the plane out of dangerous slow speed situations by automatically advancing the throttles to max when it detects it in a stalling situation. Also when in turbulence on approach, it will maintain a speed faster than when you have set for the approach.
The flight dynamics and ground handling of the A330 felt quite good.The aircraft feels weighty while in the air in a very satisfying way. I find myself leaving the autopilot off for longer after takeoff to fly it by hand more. One the ground, the aircraft handles well as well. The engines provide a lot of thrust on the ground, even at idle, so taxing without any power is possible with a lighter load.
The fly by wire on this aircraft falls short in my opinion. While protections are working correctly, and normal flying is simple and easy, the aircraft is not the most responsive when it comes to control inputs, but this is only really an issue when landing. When I am on final and correcting a little bit with the roll for example, there is a little bit of a lag in the input, and then the control feels like there is still an input after I release the roll with the stick. The pitch is similar to the roll. I have heard there is an experimental file where this is more responsive and fixed, but I have yet to try that out.
Having read about low FPS making the Aerosoft A320 fly odd, I decided to check out this as well with the A330. Limiting my FPS to 15, the aircraft was able to fly fairly well in clear and stormy conditions, but did end up getting about 25 knots faster than what I had set in the stormy weather. Further limiting my FPS to 10, the aircraft still was able to stay level and under control as well, but I can tell it is struggling. The elevators and sometimes rudder can be seen having a stuttering motion. And while not noticeable in the stormy conditions, in clear conditions, the aircraft was pitching up and down quite a lot with the same elevator animations. Hand flying has more of a delay to it as well. Big lag spikes have caused the aircraft to really pitch sometimes, but I personally have not experienced a lag spike big enough to cause a crash. So while the aircraft is still flyable in these low FPS conditions, I do not recommend it as the experience of a low FPS situation takes a lot of the fun away.
The terrain and weather radar work fairly well, but the terrain radar can look blocky at a shorter range. The weather radar on the A330 does make the weather appear oddly smooth and round compared to what I see with other products. The weather or terrain displayed on the ND however will not turn with the plane. When turning, it will stay in the same position until the radar sweeps again. One of the more impressive elements of the weather radar is that it does work with all weather add-ons, as well as default in-sim weather.
Descent and approach is just as you would expect from an Airbus, however, the aircraft can get fast at times so keeping an eye on your speed is a good idea. Descent is started by resetting the MCP altitude and pressing the altitude knob in when you reach top of descent. STAR restrictions are followed fairly well, sometimes being fast however. The aircraft is able to capture and fly an ILS to auto land smoothly, and generally does not have any problems on the ILS.
The touchdown, roll out, and shut down of the aircraft feels good with the physics. Systems are simple to shut down. Getting APU power, shutting down the engines, turning fuel pumps off, and the rest of the shut down procedures are easy to follow and execute.
Also in the flight deck is a semi copilot. This is something very similar to what is found on the PMDG DC-6 where a virtual copilot will run through checklists and configure the aircraft. For beginners, I think this is a good tool to help them learn the aircraft, if it worked as intended. The system is supposed to move the camera around the cockpit to show the specific area the checklist is looking at, but it shows a completely different area of the cockpit. The system also moves a lot of the switches for you, but will pause at some points and wait for the user to complete that item. Since the camera doesn’t point at the right place to have the user complete the task, it is not a system I can recommend anyone to use, even newcomers to the A330.
One thing I have noticed with the Aerosoft products is when clicking a switch, the left and right clicks are backwards compared to other aircraft. With the PMDG NGXu, left clicking switches on the overhead will move them towards the nose of the plane, while right clicking the switches will move it towards the rear of the plane. This is flipped on the A330 and does take some getting used to. Left click moves the switch towards the rear, while right clicking moves it to the front.
The sounds of the A330 are pretty good. The engine sounds are Turbine Sound Studios (TSS), which sound great. Interior wise, the sounds are adequate for the experience with the plane. Switches and knobs have a satisfying click to them, and subtle sounds like random page turns give the cockpit a nice feel. The extra sounds can be turned off as well in the third MCDU if desired.
I have had some sound glitches where a warning sound will come on for a split second, and this seems to repeat regularly. Some sounds are also fairly easy to glitch. The air sound in the cockpit can have a nice dynamic sound to it, or be a very sudden sound change, I have not found a reason this happens. The APU does have a nice sounding spool up sound, but it is very easy to make this glitch by changing views, almost like the sound starts from the beginning again. This also happens on the engine start. Overall, the sounds are good for this product, but lack some of the polishing I would like to see.
Taking a look at the performance, the A330 is actually one of the better performing planes I have used in the sim. Most of the time it is fairly smooth. Consistently while in cruise, I can get around 35 FPS inside and 60 FPS outside. Most airports I get around 30 FPS inside and 40 FPS outside.. And while at night, the FPS drops only about 5 FPS from my testing. Occasionally the aircraft will struggle with maintaining performance or have lag spikes, but this is not often. I have on occasion experienced a CTD, but these are not common at all outside of the EFB.
Being sold for 58.78 EUR, it is 8.41 EUR less than the Aerosoft A320 Family Bundle, and this is a problem for me. For just over 8 EUR more, you get 4 aircraft, each with their own engine options, and sharklet models. With this is only one aircraft, and one engine option. I don’t feel like the extra features in the A330 are enough to give it a price tag that high. While a lot of time and effort went into the A330, it doesn’t seem like the price lines up very well with its other products, considering they are both fairly similar with quality, polishing, and features.
Update March 11th
After a community member pointed out a way to get the climb and descent wind request working, I did some testing. Adding a route file to Active Sky was a suggestion I had, but that did not work with adding the winds to the MCDU. I then attempted to add the flight plan via a co-route to the aircraft and this was a successful way for the winds to automatically be entered into the MCDU with Active Sky open. A flight plan did not need to be in Active Sky for this to work with co-routes.
- Modeling for the exterior and interior is great
- Smooth performance almost all of the time
- Engine sounds are great
- EFB is very unpolished and causes many crashes
- 2D panels can glitch the aircraft
- Documents, livery manager, and other extras are unfinished or dont work
- Only one variant of the A330 included