Flying ND Art & Technology’s Masterpiece
by Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
As X-Plane continues to evolve and mature, an ever increasing number of high quality payware add-ons have been appearing on the market. The most recent, and probably one of the most advanced add-ons, is ND Art & Technology’s BK 117 helicopter. Utilizing innovative plug-ins, manipulators, and overwhelming attention to detail, the BK 117 represents a stunning example of how far the capabilities of X-Plane and 3rd party developers have come.
The BK 117 features one of the most detailed and functional cockpits to be seen in a flight sim with superbly rendered 3D gauges and realistic systems replication including: autopilot, trimming, stability augmentation, test modes, engine controls, etc. Full start-ups from a cold and dark cockpit can be accomplished with a high degree of realism and coupled with Natural Point TrackIR the cockpit is a great example of how good virtual cockpits can be.
Externally, it would be difficult to find a prettier 3D model anywhere. The model features opening doors, articulating main and tail rotors, compressible landing skids, flexing blade tips, options for including wire cutters and radome, and the ability to change the number of passengers and crewmembers. Paint liveries include half a dozen operational paint schemes with more appearing each week.
In order to get the most out of the BK 117 package a thorough understanding of the systems is required. The modeling of the autopilot/flight director, stability augmentation system (SAS), and the force-trim release are all accurately programmed, therefore a careful study of the excellent 29-page flight manual is highly recommended.
There is plenty of free scenery in X-Plane to challenge your helicopter flying skills, and add in some wind, weather, and high terrain and things can rapidly get interesting. Landings on elevated helipads, frigates, mobile landing pads, and hospital helipads provide a challenge and will have your shoulders aching with tension.
The sounds are very well done and the gauge update rates and fluidity of the controls are exceptional. Helicopter flight dynamics in X-Plane are far better than those in Microsoft Flight Simulator although there is a bit of oddity when flying in the regime of effective translational lift. That is an X-Plane quirk though (hopefully to be addressed) and the BK 117 deals with it as well as can be expected. Overall the BK 117 showcases an excellent flight model and is quite easy to fly while still allowing for challenging approaches and landings depending on geography and environmental conditions. ND Art & Technology knocked one out of the park with this add-on and hopefully this is just the first of many X-Plane offerings from the developer.
Reviewer’s System Specs
- Processor – Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700
- Motherboard – ASUS P5E Deluxe
- Memory – Patriot Memory System 4GB DDR2 1033
- Video – BFG 9800 GX2 1GB PCIe 2.0
- Hard Drive – Western Digital Raptor X 150GB
- Windows 7 Ultimate
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