Commercial FSX Aircraft Review

Flight1 / Coolsky DC-9 Classic

Publisher / Developer: Flight1 / Coolsky
Description: As real as it gets Douglas DC-9-30 Series
Software Source / Size: Download / 234MB
Flight Simulator: FSX
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen
Published: November 24th, 2012

Computer / Software Specifications
Computer System: - iMac 27" 3.4Ghz Mid 2011
- Intel i7 3.4/3.8Ghz / 3.8Ghz during Boost Mode
- ATI/AMD Radeon HD6970 2GB
- 256Gb Intel SSD and 2Tb 7200RPM HDD
- Saitek Pro Flight System
Software: - Windows 7 x64 Ultimate (BootCamp) / Mac OS X 10.8.3
- Flight Simulator X Acceleration
- X-Plane 10
- PrePar3D

Dear Readers,

Due to the length of this Flight1/Coolsky DC-9 Classic review, I’ve decided to introduce a Table Of Contents.
It will help you while reading thru the review or you can jump to a specific section or paragraph. Have fun!


Douglas DC-9 Background

   - Intro
   - How did it all start?
   - Series -30
   - Series 30 sub-variants

Installation, Documentation and other Items

Coolsky Flight Center

Walk-around inspection

McPhat Alitalia UHDT versus stock Alitalia SD

Cockpit Impressions

   - Virtual Cockpit
   - 2D Cockpit

Sounds and FPS (Frames Per Second)

   - Sounds    - Frame Rates Default FSX Airport
   - Frame Rates with Aerosoft Mega Airport Frankfurt

Flight Impressions

   - General test flight
   - A tutorial flight



Finally, she’s there … the old fashioned Douglas DC-9 Series or to be exact, the DC9-30 Series which has been created by Coolsky in corporation with McPhat Studios. I haven’t even started with the review, but from what I’ve seen so far, it must be a suburb FSX add-on.
We all know Coolsky from their previous Super 80 models as well as McPhat Studios from their UHDT (Ultra High Definition Textures) texture packages. Combine those and you’ll have a success formula, at least, that’s what's said. And, as always, it’s up to me to figure out if this add-on is really as good as they say. There’s at least one advantage … the add-on doesn’t come with FMS (Flight Management System) or INS (Inertial Navigation System). Simple reason … the DC-9-30 wasn’t originally fitted with one of these. Ok, INS was, those days, on the market, but primarily for large commercial aircraft such as the Lockheed L-1011, 747 Classic, Airbus AS300B Series and the Douglas DC-10. FMS? That was for the future.

But let’s have a look what Coolsky tells us about their latest baby …..
The Coolsky DC-9 Classic is a state of the art simulation of the Douglas DC-9 aircraft for Flight Simulator X. The DC-9 Classic simulates the DC-9-30 series aircraft and represents a new level of realism, simulation accuracy, graphics quality and other features. The DC-9 Classic comes with a fully operational 2D panel. What you get are two forward views, two views of the pedestal, two views of the overhead panel, four circuit breaker panels, numerous training windows and an assortment of sub-panels and pop-up windows for all your cockpit needs. Both a 16:9 widescreen version and a 4:3 standard version of the panel are included.

The virtual cockpit 3D model and textures have been created by McPhat Studios. Widely known for their texture work, McPhat Studios are now also doing great 3D modeling work. They have put the same level of quality and attention to detail into their 3D modeling as they have in their award winning texture packages. With everything modeled in 3D, even down to the smallest moving instrument parts, the virtual cockpit has been designed to maximize the immersion factor and to give you the feeling of 'being there' as you fly.

And there’s much more that Coolsky wants to tell you about this aircraft, but for all the other features, I’ll take over from here and experience the add-on myself and report back to you. But first, for those who aren’t familiar with the Douglas DC-9 Series, let give you come background information, offered by Wikipedia.

Douglas DC-9 Background

Intro The Douglas DC-9 is a twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner. It was first manufactured in 1965 with its maiden flight later that year. The DC-9 was designed for frequent, short flights. The final DC-9 was delivered in October 1982. The DC-9 was followed in subsequent modified forms by the MD-80, MD-90 and Boeing 717. With the final two deliveries of the 717 in 2006, production of the DC-9/MD-80/90/717 aircraft family ceased after 41 years and nearly 2,500 units built.

How did it all start?
During the 1950s Douglas Aircraft considered a short-medium range airliner to complement its higher capacity, long range DC-8. By the way, DC stands for Douglas Commercial.
Anyway, a medium range four-engine Model 2067 was evaluated but did not receive enough interest from airlines and was abandoned. In 1960 Douglas signed a two-year contract with Sud Aviation for technical cooperation. Douglas would market and support the Sud Aviation Caravelle and produce a licensed version if airlines ordered large numbers, but none were ordered and Douglas returned to its design studies after the two year contract ended. In 1962 design studies were underway. The first version seated 63 passengers and had a gross weight of 69,000lb. (31,298kg.). This design was changed into what would be initial DC-9 variant. Douglas gave approval to produce the DC-9 on April 8, 1963. Unlike the competing but larger Boeing 727 Tri-jet, which used as many 707 components as possible, the DC-9 was an all-new design.

The DC-9 has two rear fuselage-mounted Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofan engines, relatively small, efficient wings, and a T-tail. The DC-9's takeoff weight was limited to 80,000lb. (36,287kg.) for a two-person flight crew by Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) regulations at the time. DC-9 aircraft have 5 seats across for economy seating. For those who aren’t familiar with this; 2 seats on one side of the fuselage, in the middle an aisle and then 3 seats on the other side. The airplane seats 80 to 135 passengers depending on version and seating arrangement.

The DC-9 was designed for short to medium routes, often to smaller airports with shorter runways and less ground infrastructure. Consequently, accessibility and short field characteristics were called for. The tail mounted engine design cleared the way for clean wing designs without engine pods, which had numerous advantages. Flaps could be longer, unimpeded by pods on the leading edge and engine blast concerns on the trailing edge. This simplified design improved airflow at low speeds and enabled lower takeoff and approach speeds, thus lowering field length requirements and keeping wing structure light. The second advantage of the tail-mounted engines was the reduction in foreign object damage from ingested debris from runways and aprons.

Third, the absence of engines mounted under the wing allowed a reduction in ground clearance, making the aircraft more accessible to baggage handlers and passengers. Turnarounds were simplified by built-in air-stairs, including one in the tail, which shortened boarding and deplaning times. The problem of deep stalling, revealed by the loss of the BAC One-Eleven prototype in 1963, was overcome through various changes, including the introduction of vortilons, which are small surfaces beneath the wing's leading edge used to control airflow and increase low speed lift.

The first DC-9 production model flew on February 25, 1965. The second DC-9 flew a few weeks later, with a test fleet of five aircraft flying by July. This allowed the initial Series 10 to gain Airworthiness Certification on November 23, 1965 and to enter service with Delta Air Lines on December 8. The DC-9 was always intended to be available in multiple versions to suit customer requirements, and the first stretched version, the Series 30, with a longer fuselage and extended wing tips, flew on August 1, 1966, entering service with Eastern Air Lines in 1967.

The initial Series 10 would be followed by the improved -20, -30, and -40 variants. The final DC-9 series was the -50, which first flew in 1974.

Series -30 The -30 was produced to counter Boeing's 737 twinjet. The -30 entered service with Eastern Airlines in February 1967 with a 14 ft. 9 inch (4.50m.) fuselage stretch compared to the -10 Series. Furthermore, the -30 got a wingspan increased by just over 3 ft. (0.9m.) and full-span leading edge slats, improving takeoff and landing performance. Gross take-off weight was typically 110,000 lbs. (49,895kg.).

The DC-9-30 was offered with a selection of variants of JT8D including the -1, -7, -9, -11, -15 and -17. The most common on the Series 31 is the JT8D-7 (14,000 lbs. thrust), although it was also available with the -9 and -17 engines. On the Series 32 the JT8D-9 (14,500 lbs. thrust) was standard, with the -11 also offered. The Series 33 was offered with the JT8D-9 or -11 (15,000 lbs. thrust) engines and the heavyweight -34 with the JT8D-9, -15 (15,500 lbs. thrust) or -17 (16,000 lbs. thrust) engines.

The Series 30 was designed to incorporate extremely effective leading edge devices in order to reduce the landing approach speeds exhibited by the Series 10, at substantially higher maximum landing weights. The addition of full-span leading edge slats reduced approach speeds by 6 knots, despite the gross weight being 5000 lbs. greater. The full span slats offered a significant weight advantage over slotted Krueger flaps, (like on the Boeing 737) since the wing leading edge structure associated with the slat is a more efficient torque box than the structure associated with the slotted Krueger.

Series 30 sub-variants
The Series 30 was produced in four main sub-variants:

Produced in passenger version only. The first DC-9 Series 30 flew on August 1, 1966, and the first delivery was made to Eastern Airlines on February 27, 1967 following certification on December 19, 1966.

Introduced in the first year of production (1967). Certified on March 1, 1967. A number of cargo versions of the Series 32 were also produced including:
- 32LWF (Light Weight Freight) with modified cabin but no cargo door or reinforced floor, intended for package freighter use.
- 32CF (Convertible Freighter), with a reinforced floor but retaining passenger facilities
- 32AF (All Freight), a windowless all-cargo aircraft.

Following the Series 31 and 32 came the Series 33, intended for passenger/cargo or all-cargo use. Certificated on April 15, 1968, the aircraft's MTOW was increased to 114,000 lbs. (51,710 kg.), MLW to 102,000 lbs. (46,266 kg.) and MZFW to 95,500 lbs. (43,318 kg.). JT8D-9 or -11 (14,500 - 15,000 lbs. thrust) engines were used. In addition, the wing incidence was increased 1.25 degrees, to reduce cruise drag. Only 22 were built, as All Freight (AF), Convertible Freight (CF) and Rapid Change (RC) aircraft.

The last version of the aircraft to be developed was the Series 34, intended for use on longer-range routes with an MTOW (maximum takeoff weight) of 121,000 lbs. (54,855 kg.), an MLW (maximum landing weight) of 110,000 lbs. (49,895 kg.) and an MZFW (maximum zero fuel weight) of 98,000 lbs. (44,452 kg.). The DC-9-34CF (Convertible Freighter) was certified on April 20, 1976, while the passenger version followed on November 3, 1976. The aircraft is equipped with the more powerful JT8D-9s with the -15 and -17 engines as an option. It also included the wing incidence change introduced on the DC-9-33. Twelve were built, five as convertible freighters.

Installation, Documentation and other Items

If you’re familiar with Flight1 download products, you’re aware that you can download the software without opening your wallet or pulling out your credit card. But be aware … the credit card is needed the moment you click the Flight1 file. Then the Flight1 Wrapper comes into action. By the way, Flight1 Wrapper does its work flawlessly. In my case it was a re-install, thus the only thing I needed to add was the link to the “key” file and the password. After you’ve entered that, it unpacks the downloaded file to a default directory, which you can change to your own preference. Once the wrapper unpacked the actual installer, the process can start and not much is needed for you to enter.

The FSX directory is found, so no worries for this, and after that, the installer installs the Coolsky DC-9 including six high quality McPhat Studio liveries. These are:
- Aeromexico
- Alitalia
- Eastern Air Lines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Ansett Airlines of Australia

Also accessible via the Windows menu button is a folder that contains 4 shortcuts. It comes with two Acrobat files. The DC-9 Aircraft Operating Manual, the DC-9 User Manual, the ICTS Editor and an Uninstaller. We leave the Uninstaller since that speaks for itself. The ICTS Editor (Integrated Cockpit Training System) is used to create and edit training lessons for use with the DC-9 Classic ICTS. The ICTS Editor is a standalone program which can be run independently of FSX. The DC-9 User Manual will tell you all about it. The description and operation starts at page 40.

Let’s continue with the DC-9 User Manual.
For those who are interested in the history of Douglas and the DC-9, it starts with an introduction that covers all what’s left of the Douglas Heritage, later McDonnell Douglas and finally Boeing . The second important section of only one page is the View Menu. This View Menu allows you to easily access all the windows in the DC-9 Classic panel. Directly after this View Menu you’ll find another important section, the Flight Center. Basically, the Flight Center is a resource center that houses all the options, training and dispatch features.

The various groups of the Flight Center are accessed by clicking the main menu located on the left hand side. Flight Center main menu:
- Automatic Aircraft Configuration
- Training
- Dispatch
- Options
- Failure
- Push & Start
- NavSim (Navigation Simulator)
- Schematics
- Get Started

There's too much to highlight every individual menu item. When and where applicable, I’ll highlight it during my DC-9 Classic exploration. One thing I'd like to bring forward for those who have no Douglas experience at all. The following sections in the Flight Center will help you to understand the Classic DC-9. These sections are:
- Training
- Schematics

That doesn’t mean the other sections in the Flight Center aren’t important. No, no! Every section is worth being on that list, but these two sections help you understand how the DC-9 works and how to operate systems. Overall, a nice and well explained manual that consists of 44 pages. The next and last manual is the DC-9 Aircraft Operating Manual. In 500 pages it covers the aircraft limitations, procedures, weight & balance, planning & performance and every system description and operation.

Coolsky Flight Center

The first time you start FSX and select the Coolsky DC-9 Classic, you’re presented with the Coolsky Flight Center. Unless you disable this in the Flight Center, it will pop-up every time you select the Coolsky DC-9 Classic.Ok, what do you see on this Flight Center?

On the left hand side you’ll see the previously mentioned groups. On the right hand side you can chose from:
- Flight Center Tour
- Navigating in the cockpit
- Cockpit Walk through
- Tutorial Flight

The “Flight Center Tour” will guide you with a step-by-step animated program thru the Flight Center. It shows you what you can do with it, what you can expect from it etc. The “Navigating in the cockpit” item shows you, in a short animated program, how to get access to the View Menu and how to activate the cockpit hot spots.
The “Cockpit Walkthrough” is a complete animated program that goes thru every instrument, switch, indicator and lights. With the help of yellow arrows and a separate text window, you’re informed about the particular component with its function. Although a very interesting feature, especially for those who don’t want to read the Aircraft Operating Manual, this animated program doesn’t replace the Aircraft Operating Manual.

The last option, “Tutorial Flight”, helps you to successfully fly this DC-9 from A to B from a POWER ON to a POWER OFF configuration. According to the pop-up window “This tutorial can be flown from and to any airport. The focus will be on aircraft operation. This tutorial assumes that you will handle your own navigation.” Besides the previous conditions, this tutorial instruction window guides you with a step-by-step checklist thru all items. Not only what should happen, but also a small explanation as to why you’re doing this. It’s a very interesting built in feature.

Walk-around inspection

For my first walk-around inspection, I use one of the default McPhat SD (Standard Definition) textures that comes standard with the package. I’ve chosen the Alitalia livery but any other livery would be ok also. I’ll start at the NLG (Nose Landing Gear), via the left hand wing and MLG (Main Landing Gear) to the left hand engine, tail with aft stair and back via the right hand wing, right hand MLG to the NLG.

Doing the walk-around check is bringing me back to the good old days when I was a licensed ground engineer on the Douglas DC-9 Series. It doesn’t mean I can remember every spot to look for, but simulated parts of the external model are familiar to me. During this walk-around check I’ve switched on all external lights and, via the Flight Center, opened the passenger doors, cargo doors, aft stair and engine cowlings. This gives me the possibility to check every item, if they are simulated.

The NLG, tires, radome and the LH FWD passenger door with stair are well simulated. Only comment about this SD McPhat livery is that the textures are not as crispy I had hoped for. To achieve this, you need to buy one of the UHDT World Airlines DC-9 packages. More about these UHDT packages later. Although the texture quality is of a SD quality, I can see the rivets, aluminum skin plates, weathered parts, fuselage placards and other markings, but they are blurry. When it’s text, you can hardly read it. Is that a problem? No. Just buy one of the World Airlines packages, but again, I’ll show you more about that later. Let’s focus for the moment on the external model itself.

Walking along the fuselage to the MLG (Main Landing Gear) I see the SLATS with tracks, and as far as I can recall, there’s no duct for the SLAT ANTI-ICING system simulated. If you didn't know there was supposed to be one you’ll never miss it! The MLG with tires as well as the fixed LG door are all modeled and offer enough details. This is the same for the extended FLAPS and the wing bottom surface. A small item of criticism! The whole wing bottom texture and the top surface as well as the flap textures, are not sharp at all. Inspecting the wing tip you’ve got a clear view of the extended landing light, FWD and AFT navigation lights and the static dischargers. All inspection panels are, as far as I can recall, there. There’s also a CAUTION text near the landing light, but that’s something you can’t read at all.

From this point we move along the extended flaps towards the old-fashioned JT8D engine. Before inspecting the engine, I’ve got a good view of the OUTFLOW VALVE of the aircraft's pressurization system. The engine cowlings are open and show me, the same as the thrust reverser bucket doors, a clean engine without any dirt or at the thrust reverser bucket doors, the always-available soot deposit. Then there’s always that question, do you want to see a brand new clean engine with bucket doors or an “as real as it gets” JT8D. Another thing I’m missing, and famous for these engines, the always present oil leaks. The engine cowling was never dry on the inside as well as the engine itself. Because it looks so clean, it’s not, in my humble opinion, as real as it gets. I hope this is something that will be modified with the next update.

Walking towards the tail, I see the aft entrance stair, and looking upwards the vertical and horizontal stabilizers and the engine turbine inlets. Regarding the turbine inlet, you actually look to the inside of the thrust reverser bucket doors. The aft entrance stair looks a little weird. It looks like all the stairs are not covered with a texture. I checked this at the Flight1/Coolsky forum and it turns out that this will be updated with the next service pack. On the left hand side, just in front of tail cone, there’s a small panel with the TAIL CONE release mechanism. I know that this panel is there, but I can’t read the text next of it. It’s blurry. Is it a problem? Probably not and it becomes sharp if you add the UHDT McPhat livery package.

That said, when looking at the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, I can clearly see the elevator control and geared tab as well as the rudder control/trim tab. The static dischargers are there too and on the front of the vertical stabilizer, the rudder limiting pitot probe. It seems nothing is forgotten. Via the RH engine, RH wing and RH MLG, I have a look into the FWD cargo hold. Standing approximately a few meters from the FWD cargo hold, I see the static ports of the aircraft system, but it’s more a guess that I can read the red text on the fuselage. I’ll have a quick look in the cargo hold itself and although the walls with text are a little blurry, it's well made. Via the water drain mast I’m back at the NLG.

Walk-around inspection completed.
Overall I’ve got a good idea of the modeled aircraft as well as the default SD Alitalia stock texture. I’m happy with the end result and it seems every external component is modeled as well as the actual DC-9-30. On the other hand, I mentioned several time that skin textures on the wing, fuselage, tail etc. were blurry. For sure, not sharp at all. Having said that, I think it’s time to have a look around the DC-9 but this time with the Alitalia UHDT activated. This Alitalia UHDT is one of the liveries in the World Airlines 2 package, so let’s have a close look.

McPhat Alitalia UHDT versus stock Alitalia SD

This paragraph won’t be long. You ask yourself, why won’t it be long?
The differences between the stock SD and the separate to buy UHDT livery is impressive and huge. The Alitalia livery, of course, stays the same. There’s no difference, but suddenly the textures are crispy. Suddenly, I can read every placard on the fuselage skin or painted text. Suddenly, I can see every inspection panel clearly as well as for the SLATS, the hinges of panels. Suddenly, I can see all the scratches on the engine cowling and nose cowling Inlet. Suddenly, I can see the weathered parts on the fuselage, wing, tail and stabilizers. Now it’s time to show you the differences between an SD and a UHDT livery. The upper row represents the SD texture quality while the lower row shows you the UHDT quality. Not difficult to find the differences or is it?

McPhat SD texture quality

McPhat UHDT texture quality

McPhat Studios explains it as follows, “With a pixel per meter ratio of 350+, these textures are by FACT the most detailed produced textures in the entire history of Flight Simulator, surpassing even our own PMDG NGX Textures. In the end though, it is not the pixel per meter ratio, but what you do with all those pixels. Quality over quantity. 350+ px/m gives you the sharpest, tightest textures available today, with all three maps, working together in unison. So where paint is chipped off on the diffuse map, you will see a different kind of glossiness, but also a different kind of reflectivity as the material and structure of the underlying metal is different than that from the painted layer.

All this topped off, with a bump map that will actually show the paint chipped off as if it is 3D.”

But what does it all cost?
The UHDT Alitalia livery belongs to the World Airlines pack 2. It contains 6 UHDT texture sets. The pack will cost you 12.99 Euro ($16.81 USD as of this writing), equivalent to a little more then 2.00 Euro ($2.75 USD) per texture or livery. Keeping the overall quality of the Alitalia UHDT in mind, it shouldn’t be difficult to add this to your favorite DC-9 Classic model. By the way; the World Airlines 2 package consist of the following UHDT textures/livery packs:
- Alitalia
- Continental Airlines
- Eastern Air Lines
- US Airways
- PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines)
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Let’s show you another set of UHDT screenshots of Air Canada, being a part of the World Airlines Pack 4. This time there's no comparison pics with a SD texture set. I think with the previous three screen shots it’s more then clear what the impact is of McPhat’s UHDT texture sets.

A collection of Air Canada UHDT textures. Is there any need to add more text or are the screenshots enough?
I think looking to those McPhat UHDT screenshots ... no need to have any doubts!

Last but not least, as of this writing, McPhat Studios offers right now 4 DC-9 World Airlines packages. Each package comes with 6 different UHDT texture sets and all cost the same 12.99 Euro ($16.81 USD).

Is it worth it?
Absolutely! But I must admit that I had hoped that the 6 stock liveries were of a higher quality. At the same time, from a normal distance, when you look at the aircraft SD livery, it looks promising. What I did was a walk-around inspection. Then, being so close to the wings, fuselage or tail, you’ll see the differences. During my SD and UHDT walk-around checks, I’ve noticed some small errors like text presented in mirror image or a rudder limiting tube not covered with a texture. With these items in mind, I contacted Terrence Klaverweide from McPhat Studios and he promised me to put it on his to-do-list. In other words, these issues are hopefully solved with the next DC-9 Classic UHDT update.

As of this writing, October 27th 2012, there’s good news for those who want to try-out a McPhat Studios texture set. McPhat offers you a free “The Delta Widget, classic as it is, fits her just about right!”
You can download this free Delta Widget via this link, but keep in mind that you can do this only when you’re a registered user. With this free UHDT livery, the thrust reverser buckets are on the outside black, which is equal to the reality. It also looks like that the inside of the thrust reverser and turbine outlet is black too. That’s great news since that’s the way these buckets looked like in real.

Cockpit Impressions

The Coolsky/McPhat DC-9 Classic comes with two cockpits. You can chose either the old fashioned and beloved 2D cockpit created by Coolsky, or you go for the Virtual Cockpit, made by McPhat Studios.

Let’s start with the Virtual Cockpit.
The first thing you see is the light blue panel layout. You'll either like it or not. It was one of those strange colors in those days, but help is on the way. McPhat released a VC pack that offers you either a grey or brown panel set. Anyway, I made several screen shots of the VC and most have me coming to one conclusion. The VC is a highly detailed cockpit and it seems nothing is forgotten. The 3D effect is clearly visible and depends on the angle you look at the instruments, knobs, switches, light units, handles etc. The basic blue panels are full of scratches and have, at certain places, a weathered look and light units that are simulated to be old. A good example of these are the MASTER WARNING and MASTER CAUTION light units on the glare shield panel. Another simulated old weathered look is the Auto Pilot Warning Light panel.

Having a closer look at the CAPT, CENTER and FIRST OFFICERS instrument panels, shows me that McPhat tried to model every tiny detail of an instrument knob, placard, indicators, flags, etc. Together with the terrific 3D instrument look, it all comes alive. The overall VC look is good, doesn’t surprise me, but the seat fabric and thus the real look as well as the armrests aren’t of the best quality. That could be better. Hopefully this can be improved whenever Coolsky / McPhat decides to bring out a Service Pack.

A further look at the cockpit side-wall panels, windows and sliding windows shows me that it represents the real model. Although side-wall panels are just panels, they offer you every shape and dent that's there. The front windshield panels offer the window heat sensors while the separate spring-loaded sensors are simulated too. This eye for detail is not only applicable for the instrument panels but also for the pedestal and overhead panel. And when zoomed in on the individual sub-panels, it stays clear and readable.

Another nice detail out of the many details, are the red STALL light units on each side of the glare shield panel.
As real as it gets?

The only component, at least from what I've seen, that doesn’t have a weathered look is the yellow emergency brake handle. That looks brand new and compared to all the other stuff on the panel, a little too clear and new. On the other hand, pilots don’t us it often. One more placard that could be re textured, in my opinion, is the long red placard behind the two engine fire handles. Everything around is sharp except this red placard. Although I can read the text of the placard, it’s blurry and a rework wouldn't be a luxury!

Overall Virtual Cockpit impression … great job!

But what about the panel and instrument lighting system during your evening or night flights? Just like the real DC-9, you can select the different sections from each other. For example; you’ve got the integral lighting system for the CAPTAIN, CENTER, FIRST OFFICER, PEDESTAL, OVERHEAD and a few other panels. Each section can be switched ON-OFF. The same for the FLOOD LIGHT switch. This white light, in real life a fluorescent tube, illuminates the overhead panel or the three instrument panels as well as the pedestal. When you want to switch ON all these FLOOD lights, you use the THUNDSTORM switch on the overhead panel. I almost forgot. For evening and night flights, you can also switch ON the red light switches and guess what the result will be … a comfortable red light cockpit atmosphere. I could finish this cockpit lighting system by simply telling you that I was impressed, but there’s something I need to highlight since it gives an awesome light reflection on the pedestal. See for yourself!

If you’re not happy with the blue colored Virtual Cockpit, McPhat Studios has a surprise for you. They offer an additional package with a brown and light grey panel version. The package comes with the following contents:
- Blue Variation (4096) … that’s equal to the default Coolsky cockpit
- Grey Variation (4096 + 2048)
- Brown Variation (4096 + 2048)

In case you’ve got no idea what the 4096 and 2048 means. The brown and grey VC versions are available in a high and lower resolution.

According to McPhat, “The difference in performance between the 4096 and 2048 are marginal. Especially in fps (frames per second), you will see almost no difference. You might experience slightly faster (initial) loading times with the 2048 version and for those of you that have a large amount of FS add-ons running simultaneously, this might be the best choice.”

The provided McPhat Flight Deck VC installer allows you to select one of the colored virtual cockpits. There’s however an important item to bring forward; you can only select one color at the time e.g. you select the grey 4096 package, then all UHDT airplane VC’s are recolored to the grey VC. When you want brown VC’s, then you need to re-run the installer. Another issue, but McPhat already covers that; the Flight Deck VC package is only intended for use with the UHDT airplanes and not the SD stock liveries. Does this then mean you can’t use the McPhat Flight Deck package for the stock liveries? Yes, you can and this is explained at the McPhat website. You can reach this procedure by following this link ( and by the way; this manual “linking” can also be used for 3rd party repaints.

McPhat Grey

McPhat Brown

You can find more information about this colored VC pack, as well as screen shots, at McPhat’s dedicated web page.

2D Cockpit.
For those who are familiar with previous Coolsky’s Super 80 products, they know that Espen Øijordsbakken, Coolsky’s lead developer, provides the main CAPT instrument panel and many 2D sub-panels. For example the overhead panel, the Auto Pilot control panel, the LOWER and UPPER pedestal, the checklist, Takeoff and Landing data, AFT overhead panel, mini F/O panel, CAPT side console and much more. What can I say about the quality of these 2D panels? Great. There's nothing wrong with it. Clean, sharp and weathered. For those who are lost as to which hotspots or clickable areas are available, you can tick the two items in the Flight Center, Options menu under Help. The result is then a full pink and yellow colored 2D cockpit. I think it better to print it out and keep it at your workspace.

Although not as impressive as the Virtual Cockpit, the 2D lighting system is still very good. The instrument and panel integral lighting is perfect but due to the 2D effect, the pedestal flood light isn’t the same as in the V.C. Overall, a nice 2D cockpit with many sub-panels.

Sounds and FPS (Frames Per Second)

The Coolsky DC-9 comes with a lot of different sound files. Examples of sound files are the old-fashioned gyros in the HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator) and ADI (Attitude Directional Indicator) as well as the many synchro’s placed in the cockpit. When you’re grown up with modern cockpits full of CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes) or the modern TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screens and all kind of digital instruments, you’ve probably never heard the typical noise of gyros and/or synchro’s. In addition to these sounds you’ve got the APU, which, by the way, you don’t hear in the cockpit when you start the APU. That’s something I can remember from the good old days as a DC-9 ground engineer. That starting an APU can be easily heard in the cockpit so that sound is missing or not implemented in this Coolsky model. But there are so many more sounds implemented.

Let’s highlight a few. FLAP/SLAT selections by the F/O as well as the movement sound of the handle, switch movement, ATTENDENT CALL, STALL TEST, Auto Pilot disconnect, ENGINE FIRE test, T/O CONFIG, OVERSPEED, LANDING GEAR (incorrect configuration), STALL and STABILIZER MOTION, etc. This is just a collection of the available sounds, but as I've said, there’s much more to explore.

Frame Rates
Regarding the frame rates for those who prefer to fly the 2D cockpit, there’s nothing to complain about. I have my frames locked at 40-50fps. During my climb, cruise and descent I had a steady 50fps and it stayed, more or less, at this level even when I opened additional subpanels like the AP window, lower overhead etc. A frame rate problem could appear when you open the NavSim sub panel. Depending on the available information and range, frame rates could drop. But let’s first tell you what the NavSim panel is. NavSim isn’t a cockpit panel but a real time HSI with NDBs and VOR/DME stations. See it as a Navigation Display or EHSI on modern airplanes. This NavSim shows you real time where you’re flying in relation to beacons, the HDG bug, the deviation needle of the HSI and more.
Right now, let’s go a little deeper into those frame rates. Lets find out what's left of the frame rates when using it with a default FSX airport and an Aerosoft Mega Airport.

Frame Rates Default FSX Airport With the A/C parked on the ground,at a default FSX airport, ready for takeoff and using the 2D cockpit, I get an average of 40-50FPS. In the air with REX (Real Environment Xtreme) active, I’ll get approximately 30-40FPS. This depends on the kind and amount of clouds and the time of the day. Now the same situation - A/C parked on the ground at a default FSX airport, ready for takeoff but this time with the Virtual Cockpit. Average frame rates are between 20-30FPS. With the same configuration as with the previous example, in flight the frame rates are between 25-40.
By the way, these FPS values are based on my screen resolution, which is 2560x1440. Further information about my system can be found at the top of this review.

Frame Rates with Aerosoft Mega Airport Frankfurt Using the Coolsky DC-9 Classic with Aerosoft’s Mega Airport Frankfurt, gives, as expected, lower frame rates. The following table shows you the average FPS with Orbx weather configuration 1 being active, using a screen/monitor resolution of 2560x1440, all sliders in FSX MAX except for AI Traffic and finally, using a McPhat UHDT texture:
2D cockpit: 20-25 fps
Virtual Cockpit: 15-20 fps
External view during taxi: 15-20 fps
Climbing thru the clouds: 10-20 fps
Almost thru clouds with partly blue sky visible: 25-35 fps
Above the clouds: 50+ fps for 2D cockpit and 25-35 fps with the Virtual Cockpit

I’m not surprised having these fps. Although the aircraft doesn’t offer an FMS, INS or EFIS and ECAM/EICAS Display Units, it’s still a complicated model with lots of other features. Although some frame rates values may feel a little too low, it didn’t face any problems or I didn’t have a feeling that it was too low and flying with it wasn’t possible.

Flight Impressions

General test flight
Let’s first start with this …. flying the DC-9 Classic seems realistic but the biggest problem is, how would I know? I own a frozen FAA PPL for a Cessna 150/152 and 172, but I’ve never flown a Douglas DC-9 myself, so how the heck do I know if this Coolsky model flies as real as it gets. Knowing Espen Øijordsbakken and his previously created MD80 models, as well as his knowledge and links with real Douglas DC-9 pilots, we may, no we must, believe that he tried to give this Classic model the best flight dynamics possible. One thing is for sure and not surprisingly, the Coolsky DC-9 doesn’t fly like a default FSX multi engine aircraft. Instead, taxi isn’t difficult but not as easy as you might think, although it isn’t as difficult at the MD80, but that’s a problem due to its length.

Anyway, making the necessary preparations, which can be found in the AOM (Aircraft Operating Manual) and the Flight Center, makes your life a little easier. As we already mentioned, since the DC-9 Classic doesn’t have a FMS nor INS, there’s not much to enter or to program. The only thing you must do is to make a flight plan based on VOR/DME stations or, if not available, NDB beacons. If applicable, a pushback can be initiated with the help of the Flight Center-Ground Operations section and taxiing to your assigned runway, and making the takeoff. By the way, takeoff speeds are found with the help of the built TO Data Card. Not only this is helpful, the speed bugs on the IAS (Indicated Air Speed) indicator are automatically set. For navigation purposes, you can also use the Coolsky NavSim pop-up window. It shows you the aircraft's position in relation other VOR, VORTAC and NDB beacons.

Although just three example screen shots, it should give you an idea of the relation between what you see on the NavSim pop-up screen and what you see on the HIS on the Captain's instrument panel.

When using this NavSIm pop-up window, keep in mind that depending on the scale you’ve set as well as other NavSim settings, it can reduce your frame rates more than normal and finally end up with too low frame rates to fly normally. Making a takeoff feels comfortable. That sounds strange doesn’t it? The aircraft responds quickly at high ground speeds when making some rudder corrections. Sounds logical, but those responses feel different then a default FSX aircraft. This is also applicable for the aircraft rotation, initial climb and further climb to the assigned cruising altitude. This is, of course, only valid as long as you leave the basic AP OFF. With that turned off, you can feel how this aircraft really flies. And yes, this aircraft isn’t equipped with an advantaged Auto Pilot as you probably know from the MD80, 777, 747-400, 737NG, A320 etc. It’s what I called, during my days as ground engineer, a basic Auto Pilot that doesn’t offer preset values for the IAS, HDG or ALT. Again, you'll either like it or not. It’s as real as it gets and that gives this DC-9 Classic its charm.

Connecting the AP, or actually I should write, “ENGAGE the SERVO” handle, located on the pedestal, engages the aircraft Auto Pilot in HDG and PITCH mode. The default HDG (HOLD) setting can be changed with the large round HDG knob next to the SERVO ENGAGE handle. The PITCH mode that is active is the V/S speed mode and follows the actual V/S it had before you engaged the Servo handle. Confused? Don’t worry, the Coolsky manuals will help you out to understand the way this AP works.

Normally you shouldn't have any problems to connect the AP, be aware that below the Vertical Speed Indicator (IVSI), there are three AP Servo switches – AIL, RUD and ELEV - that are normally UP. In case you can’t use the AP for either AP channel, just check if the switch(es) is/are in the UP position. By the way, just to the right of the switches you’ll find the AP Indicator. Find out more about the simulated Auto Pilot system in the Coolsky AOM page 426 and up.

Getting back to our test flight, once the DC-9 is leveled off at cruising altitude, I’m able to check all those hi quality instruments again. I already mentioned that the Virtual Cockpit instruments are extremely sharp and have a realistic look. They also has gauge glass reflection (which you can disable to reduce FPS drop), super sharp needles and even the smallest pieces of a needle which make it seem as real as it can be. This is not only for those instruments on the main instrument panel, but also those on the overhead panel.

Let’s see how the DC-9 acts during slow speed operations, excessive bank angles or even, if I can do that, during a stall. Simulating low speed operations isn’t difficult but there’s a big chance that you reach a stall condition and.... yes, I did. The aural STALL, STALL is a real recording and the aircraft seems, remember, I’m not a real DC-9 pilot, to behave correctly during a STALL. Getting it out of that stall isn’t as easy as expected, but I did. Lucky me! I’m just kidding … it’s not pure luck. In real life you should be able too.

The next exercise is a steep turn thus a large bank angle. Only problem, and as expected, the aircraft descends quickly so you need to do a little more then only introducing and keeping a bank angle of 45 degrees. There’s a lot of pitch via the elevator needed to keep the aircraft at its altitude. Not easy, but it works. After reconnecting the Auto Pilot, it’s time to have a look at the Coolsky aircraft system schematics.

The most important systems of an aircraft, at least in my opinion, that are simulated and packed into a schematic are:
- Electrical 1, representing the AC (Alternate Current) ELEC system
- Electrical 2, representing the DC (Direct Current) ELEC system
- Fuel
- Hydraulic
- Pneumatic

As you can see on the screen shots below, these schematics aren’t static colored overviews. Instead, they show you the real time behavior of the particular system. Each schematic is a mix of supply lines … wiring, air, fuel or hydraulic ducts and components, indicators, switches etc. You can operate the switches and see what happens in the system. The whole idea of these interactive schematics is to give you an idea how a system really works.
Very nice!

During cruise there’s not much to do except the constant watching of the correct VOR/DME or VORTAC beacon. Remember, when you don’t use any other add-on navigation programs, you need to enter every time a new VOR/DME frequency when you almost overhead of the VOR/DME station. This allows you to correct the HSI and continue with your navigation. Let’s say, that’s the aircraft’s charm. Making an ILS landing with the Coolsky DC-9 Classic isn’t a complicated procedure. Either you use the training guide tutorial from the Flight Center to help you out with the right steps or you printed out the related sections of the manuals that deal with making a successful ILS landing. Overall, I have the idea that this Coolsky aircraft flies great. How far it’s performance and flight dynamics conform to the real DC-9-30 Series, I can’t answer. But I think, no, I’m quite sure that Espen gave his DC-9 Classic flight dynamics that brings the characteristics close to real.

A tutorial flight
Let’s see what the built in Training Guide tutorial flight offers. According to Coolsky “This tutorial can be flown from and to any airport. This focus will be on aircraft operation. This tutorial will assume that you do your own navigation.” In other words, you’re responsible for making your flight plan with all VOR/DME, VORTAC and/or NDB’s included as well as the runways. Don’t use way points for your flight plan since you can’t use them in combination with the DC-9 Classic as there’s no control display unit (CDU) or any other instrument to enter way point coordinates. With this tutorial, Coolsky takes care to help you out with all checklist items.

I tried, with the help of the Coolsky training guide, to make a flight from Miami International Airport (KMIA) to Jacksonville International Airport (KJAX). It’s not a long haul or medium flight, but it's long enough to test the tutorial training guide. Conclusion? Great! It works! Every step needed from the gate, including the pushback, taxi, takeoff, climb, cruising etc. till the landing is included. A small pop-up window tells you what to do and which actions to perform. While the pop-up window shows you, with text, what to do, yellow arrows pop-up in your 2D cockpit and point to a switch, indicator, knob or light unit that is of importance. If needed, a sub cockpit panel pops-up too. And finally, the pop-up window can offer additional background information about the system involved. I would like to highlight one thing when you’re planning to use the training guide tutorial. I’ve tested the training guide with FSX in full windowed mode, and full screen mode. None of these gave me any problems in relation to the yellow arrows and their position. Sometimes I’ve had the idea that an arrow was not pointing to the correct position, but in general, it’s OK.

These eight Training Guide Tutorial Flight screenshots are just to give you an idea what to expect. Overall, the Coolsky training guide is a useful tool that guides you thru the cockpit preparations and checklist items.I mentioned this quickly in the previous paragraph that the training guide can only be used in combination with the 2D cockpit. Suppose you’ve forgotten this and have the Virtual Cockpit in view, then with the first training guide click, the VC disappears and the 2D main instrument panel comes into view.


With an in-depth review like this, there’s not really a need to have an in-depth summary as well. That said, how should I begin?
While writing this review, I noticed that Espen was releasing beta patches with improvements. Some improvements are good, others bugs are not yet solved or have resulted in new problems. But the overall impression of this DC-9 is very good. I’m confident that Espen can and will solve the remaining issues over time. Did I cover everything about the Coolsky DC-9 Classic? I did cover a lot, but perhaps I missed certain items or didn’t go deep enough into them. What I know for sure, and is very important, is that I covered more then enough to give you a confident feeling if you plan to buy this Flight1 / Coolsky product.

The package comes with comprehensive manuals, great on-the-fly programs like the training guide, how to handle the cockpit etc. The Flight Center offers lots of tools like simulating complaints, schematics, ground options, aircraft pre-configurations and much more. By default, the DC-9 Classic comes with six SD (Standard Definition) textures or liveries. I found the overall quality of these liveries lower then expected, but McPhat offers, as of this writing on October 28th, a Delta Airlines Widget UHDT livery for free. If you’re not satisfied with only one UHDT livery, then McPhat offers more UHDT liveries each of which costs you only 2.15 Euro ($2.78 USD) per livery.

The overall external model looks good as well as the texture sets although there are some items that I didn’t like. For example the SLAT tracks. They don’t represent the actual track from a real aircraft. But I have to be honest, when you’ve worked on this type of aircraft, you see many more things that just aren’t possible within FSX unless you create unlimited polygons and end up with no frame rates. I also noticed that the thrust reverser bucket doors aren’t partly black. This is the case with one of the UHDT models from the Livery sets. That’s also applicable for the turbine, when you look from the aft of the engine into it. The black is the result of soot deposits. Don’t forget … these engines weren’t so efficient as today’s jet engines. But there’s good news and I mentioned this before. The free Delta Widget texture set offers black thrust reverser bucket doors and a black colored turbine outlet. I’m confident that McPhat Studios will upgrade other DC-9 Classic World Airlines texture sets to represent these soot deposits.

Overall, a great airplane to have in your hangar that offers many details in and out of the aircraft. I would like to thank Espen Øijordsbakken from Coolsky and Terrence Klaverweide from McPhat Studio for their assistance, time and support.

More information about the Coolsky DC-9 Classic can be found at the dedicated Flight1 web page, of course on the Coolsky’s page and not to forget the McPhat Studios pages for the World Airlines packages and the Virtual Cockpit blue/brown/grey lay-out.

With Greetings,
Angelique van Campen

This review is written for Aerosoft News Service and published via the Aerosoft website. While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.