2018 is shaping up to be the year of the Airbus in flight simulation. We’ve so far been blessed with the release of the FlightFactor A320, with talk of an updated A350 on the horizon too, and let’s not forget the FSLabs A321 and A319 that are abuzz in the P3D/FSX hemisphere. The hype was no different during the development of the ToLiss A319 – it fills a void that the X-Plane platform has had for some time now, and does a very good job of just that.
Upon first downloading the aircraft’s installation files, you’re presented with a single installation option that contains a “Std Def” and “Hi Def” version of the aircraft (please note that screenshots contained in this review are taken from a mix of the two cockpits). During the beta stages, testers were also offered a choice of 2D or 3D cockpit panels, though the 2D option was sadly removed at the last minute, and the 3D cockpit is the now the only one supplied with the aircraft. There is a lingering possibility that the developers may include this in future updates if the demand is there, though.
In addition to the aircraft itself, the archive also contains two PDF files – one being a 42-page manual, and the other a 92-page tutorial guide. If you’re new to Airbus aircraft in general, I’d highly recommend reading through the manual to familiarise yourself first, followed by the tutorial – things will seem very foreign if you’re used to the way Boeing do things. “Airbus logic” is a real thing, and it’ll trip you up if you’re not aware of what to expect.
I’ve had the pleasure of having enjoyed flying this aircraft for a few weeks now during the Release Candidate stage of development, and my first impression of the plane was that it felt overall remarkably similar to the FlightFactor A320. When I asked why this might be, the developers told me that the 3D model of the aircraft is based on 3D meshes that were indeed provided by FlightFactor. So for anyone wishing to add an A319 to their hangar with intent to park it next to their recently acquired A320, this plane should feel very familiar to you too.
Another thing that the ToLiSs team have done for those who don’t have the latest and greatest hardware is the inclusion of a Hi-Def and Std Def model, with the latter adding a good amount of frames in my testing. Your mileage may vary, etc, but I saw a 3 – 5fps increase in using the Std Def model on my modest system.
The exterior model is very well done because of the FlightFactor involvement, and not only does this model look good, livery painters will be pleased to know that the paint kit is one of the better ones around which features a split fuselage with all exterior decals and plenty of other features to make your job easier.
The A319 is equipped with both IAE and CFM engines, and the choice of winglets and sharklets. Both pairs of options are automatically switchable through the use of a livery prefix inside of the liveries folder. For example, [CFM] prefixed to the livery folder will automatically equip the plane with the CFM engines and winglets, while [IAE] will equip the IAE engines with winglets. Going a step further and editing this to [CFMS] or [IAES] will equip the plane with the respective engines, though the S signifies to equip the plane with Sharklets
Inside, the cockpit is modelled to a very high standard. Use of the Hi/Std Def model will affect your experience here too, but even with the lower quality textures in the Std Def model, it’s a very nice place to be.
Initially, when I was given the aircraft to test drive the cockpit featured some very Soviet-like blue textures. Developers of Airbus products generally have a hard time pinpointing the correct colour for the panels, and this was the case early on in the development, but as of RC2 these have been corrected and appear to be much closer to the real deal.
My honest-to-God favourite time to fly this aircraft has been dawn and dusk, and that comes down to the stunning night lighting that is provided through the use of the floodlights and backlighting. It feels cozy and is incredibly pleasing to the eye. Just take a look at the screenshot above to see what I mean.
The switches and knobs have been textured really well to add a slight wear and tear effect to them, giving the impression of a well-used plane. It’s always nice to see these minor details modelled in an aircraft, as it’s always the little things that make a big difference to the user experience. These items interact with a left click to cycle through the positions, and some will allow manipulation with the scroll wheel (such as rotary knobs), but not all switches will allow scroll wheel manipulation like most users may be used to which can mean a little mental training is required to get yourself in the right mindset when flying this bird.
The cabin is modelled on the A319 and is done so with finer detail than most. The seating rows are modelled all the way to the rear, with overhead bins and row signage modelled in good detail. Also included is the galleys front and rear, however, no lavatory is modelled at the rear of the plane.
The systems in this aircraft have got to be the best thing about it from a technical simmer’s point of view. They just work as you would expect, and give the impression that there has been input into their design from real-world A320 family pilots.
When quizzed about how the systems came to be so detailed, the ToLiss team told me that the development of the systems included in the A319 started way back in 2008 as part of development for then QPAC’s products. Over those past 10 years, the development has continued to evolve based on feedback from customers and pilots, and further study of FCOM material made available to the development team. Taking this into account, it certainly shows that there has been a lot of experience and time spent on perfecting this.
Something that puzzles me about the aircraft though, is their choice of transponder module that’s modelled in the A319. ToLiss have opted to use the lesser seen dual rotary knob TCAS Transponder module which will throw a lot of people off. While there’s nothing wrong with this module, it does give you less control over the various functions of the TCAS system as opposed to the tradition number pad style module. I’d like to think that the choice of modules may be something to be added in a future release, but I’m told there are bigger priorities going forward for the A319.
One thing that struck me with the flight dynamics of the aircraft was that they feel very natural. Control surfaces are very responsive, and while it feels very similar to the fly-by-wire system in the FlightFactor A320, it does not suffer from the same issues that still exist in that plane. I’m unsure as to whether the same system is used as a base in both aircraft, but this is really where the ToLiss aircraft rises above its counterparts.
Naturally, I was curious as to how this natural feel came about, and I’m told that it simply comes down to one of the dev team, in particular, having real-world qualifications in this area, being that they work in this field for a large aircraft manufacturer. I would like to think that this means there is simply no other aircraft simulation that exists, where the feel is so close to the real thing because the way it’s put together in this aircraft is truly magnificent.
Increasingly common in X-Plane these days is a plugin control panel for an aircraft giving the ability to modify settings on how things are done, or add convenience options to the systems (one of my favourites being the ability to sync the baro between left and right seat – sadly not included in the A319). ToLiss is no different, giving a very powerful control panel to oversee all aspects of the aircraft.
The ToLiss Interactive Simulation Control System (or “ISC”) contains functions such as:
- Situation save/load
- Aircraft loads and config
- Take off performance data
- Arrival METAR data
- Ground services
- Audio and graphics settings
- Other basic settings
One of my favourite functions within the ISC is the door management. You have 3 states for each door – open, closed and auto. The first two options should be obvious as to what they do, but the auto function allows you to not worry about the doors at all. For example, when pushing back, the moment you turn on that beacon light your doors are closing in preparation for pushback. Those who have pushed back with a door open at some point in their simming career will appreciate this one.
There’s currently also a little bit of blank space scattered throughout the ISC, indicating there will be more features to come in future updates. For example, the failures are not currently modelled at all, but as you can see from the below screenshot there is the intention of this being added at a later date.
Overall though, it’s quite a powerful companion to the aircraft, which packages a lot of essential features and functions into the one place.
The sound is a big selling point for simmers in 2018, to the point that you have developers like Blue Sky Star (often abbreviated to BSS) producing sound packs for aircraft which simmers are keen to spend their money on. This is usually the natural progression for an aircraft when it’s released with a poor sound set to begin with but in this reviewer’s opinion, the A319 is not one of those.
ToLiss have done a great job of getting some high-quality sounds together to compliment this aircraft, and they’ve bundled that with a 3D sound engine for the greatest immersion. In achieving this they’ve made some sounds inaudible (or less audible) from the cockpit, such as flaps and engines. Knowing that not everybody has the same tastes and there are simmers who enjoy hearing everything going on, regardless of the cacophony of noise that this can produce, they’ve also embedded the option to make these sounds audible in the cockpit through use of the previously described ISC.
The 3D sound engine also means that as you move about the passenger cabin, you have an ever-changing sound experience depending on your position. Same goes for exterior views as you circle around, up and over the aircraft.
So now that we’ve got a clear picture of what you get, you might be wondering what you don’t get.
It’s becoming somewhat of a trend in the flight sim community nowadays for developers to release aircraft as an “early access” or “buy-in beta”. While ToLiss are not releasing this aircraft as either of those, there is still some room for future improvement and implementation of features.
I’ve been flying this aircraft for a few weeks now, as I mentioned earlier, which was about the time that RC1 was released to the small beta team. Immediately when I jumped in the left seat for my first flight, I noticed a rather large bug in the form of some pretty major cursor lag over the click spots in the cockpit. While it didn’t stop me from flying the plane, it was incredibly annoying.
Later on, when I got to the point of gear up I also noted that on both NDs was the “TA Only” box along the bottom, indicating I had no Resolution Advisory functionality. This is clearly a problem if you fly on VATSIM or similar, but when I reported it to one of the developers I was told it was already noted and should be fixed soon. I’m unsure to what extent this would affect your experience on VATSIM however, as the transponder doesn’t actually give any indication of what function it’s trying to achieve, but being that it says TA Only I’d expect you’re at least squawking mode C.
Sadly, when RC2 rolled around, neither had been fixed. Though the cursor lag was slightly better, it wasn’t fully resolved. The trend of developers releasing aircraft that aren’t complete in basic functions is becoming a worrying one, especially when the aircraft is marketed as a “v1.0” as opposed to a buy-in beta, or early access.
Short of this, it’s incredibly difficult to pick any downfalls in this aircraft in the short time that I’ve had it. It does a lot of things well but has flaws like anything. I’m sure if you spent a lot more time with the aircraft than I did, you’d pick up on some minor things too. However, in the time that I’ve had this plane to check out, these are really the only things I could put pen to paper about.
Performance is rarely an issue for aircraft on the X-Plane platform, and the A319 is not a system-heavy aircraft that does a lot of hard work in the background while you fly. In fact, as X-Plane users, we don’t have that problem all too often due to the way things are done and can be done with the X-Plane platform. You’d be right to expect that this plane performs well under the current stable release of X-Plane (11.11) with ortho and all of the usual plugins and sceneries. The only time I ever saw the frame rates drop below the X-Plane minimum 20 FPS was while running a virtual machine in the background that was building more ortho to feed the never-ending addiction. Probably a silly thing to do, yes, but it didn’t make the aircraft perform horribly and was mostly above that magical frame limit. This all on a system with a decent processor that is only let down by a quickly aging R9 380 4GB GPU. It must be time for an upgrade.
So, should you buy it?
This is going to entirely depend on what sort of flying you generally do within X-Plane. As an Australian, we have very little real-world A319 flights to replicate locally due to no large passenger airlines operating them. Luckily, I do enjoy venturing to other parts of the world such as the USA and Europe where A319s are very commonplace, and for that reason, I absolutely would buy it if I were not reviewing it. If you’re the same as me and enjoy flying real-world routes in other parts of the world, I’d say that the $69 price tag is worth it for well put together aircraft.
The developers promise further updates with some big additions in the works that they anticipate will come as a free update to existing owners upon release, which is a welcome change compared to other developers within our community that have previously charged for different variants of the same aircraft.
The ToLiss name may be a new one, but the names behind it are anything but, and this is demonstrated by the quality of aircraft that they’ve given to us with their Airbus A319.
The texturing is done well, the model is a familiar one, and the systems have quite literally been in development for a decade leading up to this release. The flight model has the expertise of a real-world fly-by-wire engineer which has created one of the most natural feeling planes on the X-Plane platform.
The price tag isn’t a big one, but it isn’t one that’s considered a bargain either. That said, it’s worth the money now for what the aircraft is expected to obtain through updates later in the lifecycle.
If you’re looking for a BabyBus to compliment your recently-purchased FlightFactor A320, the ToLiss A319 is a must.
ToLiss release the A319 on March 1st (this was previously February 28th, but has now been revised) and will be available for USD$69.