We really are in the golden age of the classics within the X-Plane community at the moment. We’ve recently had FlyJSim update both their 732 Twinjet and 727 Series, while we have Felis working on a 747 Classic, along with Rotate’s MD-11 looking like it may make a release in 2019. We were also recently graced with the Cremonasoft A310, which was announced drawing much anticipation from the community looking to get into a classic Airbus. Following the release some days later, the criticism started flowing in. In this FSElite review, we’re going to take a closer look at the aircraft and find out if the criticism was justified.
The A310 was the successor to the first ETOPS-compliant aircraft, the A300. Both were designed for medium-to-long range use by Airbus, which was then a joint-venture between a number of European aerospace companies. Following the prototype’s maiden flight in 1982, Airbus sold 255 of the model to a number of commercial and military operators before being discontinued in 2007 and existing freighter orders being replaced with the A330-200F.
Let’s start on the exterior – after all, that’s where most people will make their judgement on the quality of an aircraft addon.
The exterior model looks good. It’s not spot on, but it’s not terrible. My biggest gripe with the modelling is the over-accentuated nose. The overhang past the leading edge of the windshield is too long and makes the aircraft look rather awkward as a result. The remainder of the fuselage however, is proportioned well and looks good.
The wings are modeled well, and the flaps, while not highly detailed, are designed to an acceptable standard. It is a little disappointing that more time was not spent on these areas, however.
The GE CF6-80C2 power plants hanging off these wings, however, do not really resemble the engines that they’re designed to resemble. Where the real-world engines have a casing that tapers off quite heavily toward the exhaust, the Cremonasoft designed items are much flatter and more linear toward the rear of the engine. Once again, more time spent modelling these correctly would have made a big difference to the overall appearance of the aircraft.
Moving to the cockpit, it’s apparent the lack of time that was spent making this aspect look good. This is concerning, too, being that this is the one area where a sim pilot is going to spend the majority of their time.
The texturing is very flat, and on first glance, is something you’d expect to find in a freeware aircraft. This is right down to annunciators, buttons and switches, too. The entire cockpit is covered in these flat textures, making it a very unappealing place to be. Displays and gauges spread across the instrument panel are no better, with these appearing very flat and lackluster too, with a lot of it difficult to read in a regular scenario.
Moving back into the cabin, the bulkheads immediately behind the cockpit doors are seemingly untextured – or simply textured in these flat, grey textures that are highly unappealing.
Continuing toward the back of the aircraft, we move into the passenger seating area of the cabin. Laid out in a 3-3-3 format, the seats are textured reasonably well enough for a secondary area of the aircraft, and resemble the old days when seats were actually wide enough to accommodate a normal sized person. Yes, we’re looking at you, modern-day budget airlines.
Surprisingly, the best modelling in this cabin is the reasonably well-detailed overhead bins and associated paneling. Short of some additional time required to be spent on some raised parts of the bin doors, they look pretty good.
One VERY confusing feature about the A310 is its ability to use custom liveries. When I say “ability”, I probably mean “inability”, though. See, the A310 uses an individual .acf file for each one of the liveries that’s packaged with the aircraft, making it incredibly difficult to paint a custom livery for the plane. This is a huge let-down for me, someone who enjoys livery painting in the time I’m not writing news or reviews.
That being said, the aircraft does come with 5 liveries, so you do have some choice in what you fly, should you choose to fly this aircraft.
The aircraft is marketed as a full-featured systems plane, or at least to the standard that you could comfortably fly an IFR flight from gate-to-gate, however no sooner that you load into the plane, you’ll find this is not at all possible. You’ll hit the road block as soon as you attempt to load a flight plan into the aircraft’s custom FMC, with the “F.PLN” page being totally bare and unable to accept any input, with any attempted input resulting in “NOT ALLOWED” taking the place of your desired waypoint. It was at this point that I decided not to evaluate the FMC any further.
It’s hard to tell whether Cremonasoft has actually included a full suite of custom sounds into this aircraft. This is despite the product page listing “custom engine sound” as one of the selling points. The engines sound very similar, if not the same, as the sounds found in the default Laminar jet aircraft, and leaves a very disappointing feeling when selecting TOGA as you turn onto a runway.
The remainder of the aircraft is also filled with sounds which appear to be custom, though primarily in the cockpit for things like aural warnings. Though there’s not even much there in the way of sounds for switches and levers like we have come to expect from payware aircraft in 2018.
Cremonasoft lists a selling point for the aircraft as having a “nice flight model”, but during the testing phase for this review I did struggle to find what they may have meant by that.
The flight dynamics are horrendous, with the aircraft feeling very sluggish in any movement in makes in the air. When making a turn, you really need to start that turn a good few miles before the point where you would ordinarily begin to do so in any other aircraft.
Stall behaviour is erratic at best. When tested with a pitch up, low airspeed test, the aircraft began to violently shake from side to side while itching itself up further as it began a free-fall out of the sky. When removing power to simulate a dual engine failure during flight, the plane also does not react as you’d expect. In this case, the aircraft essentially turned into a glider, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the airspeed low enough to get the aircraft to fall from the sky.
Both of these cases are indicative of a very poor flight model which is disappointing in a payware aircraft. Even similar visual quality freeware products have better stall behaviour than this A310.
It’s difficult to really place just how good or bad the performance of this aircraft is due to the fact that it lacks in so many areas when compared to other aircraft in the airliner category.
Let’s consider this; the A310 has low quality textures with a reasonably nice (albeit, not accurate) exterior model. It features little in the way of complex systems and automation, while the flight model is average at best.
With all this taken into account, on a high-end system this aircraft only manages an average of 5fps more than the Zibo mod 737-800 – an aircraft which is the stark opposite of everything just listed.
One would be lead to believe that this is due to a poorly optimised 3D model, with way too many polygons than it needs, and likely a number of other small issues ‘under the hood’.
Looking at it for what it is, and the numbers representing it though, the aircraft is a poor performer, and for something with so many low-quality aspects one would expect a much better performance.
Without beating around the bush, I’ll outright say that this aircraft doesn’t represent great value at all. We’ve been through the good and bad points, and it’s hard to imagine that the bad ones could even exist when you see that the X-Plane store asking price is $59.95.
When a developer asks nearly $60 for their work, you expect them to have spent a considerable amount of time in perfecting every aspect of the software to the best of their abilities. The Cremonasoft A310 does not meet the expectations in this regard – nearly everything about it feels like a slap-dash job to just make things work to the bare minimum, and even then, it feels like they’ve missed the mark here. Sometimes they miss it entirely, but more often they only just fall short in aspects such as the 3D model.
I would be genuinely interested to know how many people purchased this aircraft with their own hard-earned money, only to request a refund without a matter of hours. I can’t imagine there would be too many people who’d have thought “this was a good buy” after trying to take it for a first flight.
I’m baffled by the fact that the developers behind Cremonasoft had gotten to a point in the development of this A310 and told themselves this is good enough to release and charge people money. The aircraft does not stack up in any way to a payware quality plane, and has areas where freeware aircraft will embarrass it any day of the week.
When the criticism came flowing in over the 24 hours (and more) following the release, the developers promised that updates were coming and it will get better, but 5 weeks after the fact and we’re yet to see any progress updates from them, let alone any actual update releases.
The entire thing stinks of a quick cash-grab, and until such time that improvements are made to the aircraft, this product should be treated as such.