28 June 2011

CLS MD80/81 F-Lite Review FSX

Welcome to another review for Flight Simulator Reviews Blog. Firstly I would like to thank the members of CLS for making this review possible for me to do. Especially Albert Bouwman who allowed me to use his software.
This review I am going to concentrate also on the ease of purchase and installation as well as the actual aircraft.

Background Information

Douglas Aircraft developed the DC-9 in the 1960s as a short-range companion to their larger DC-8. The DC-9 was an all-new design, using two rear fuselage-mounted turbofan engines, and a T-tail. The DC-9 has a narrow-body fuselage design with 5-abreast seating, and holds 80 to 135 passengers depending on seating arrangement and aircraft version.
The MD-80 series was the second generation of the DC-9. It was originally called the DC-9-80 series and the DC-9 Super 80 and entered service in 1980. The MD-80 series was then developed into the MD-90 entering service in 1995. The last variant of the family was the MD-95, which was renamed the Boeing 717-200 after McDonnell Douglas's merger with Boeing in 1997.
The DC-9 family is one of the most successful jet airliners with a total of over 2,400 units produced; it ranks third behind the second place Airbus A320 family with over 4,000 produced, and the first place Boeing 737 with over 6,000 produced.

Purchase and download/installation

To start with after receiving the link via email I headed for my MyCLS account to download it. After logging in I find the link and the licence key listed in my downloads section ready for download the download literally takes seconds as the file is only a 194MB file which is quite small for a plane with such detail.
After downloading the product the folder open automatically and then and I continue to choose my operating system and which simulator I want to download it to (please note this plane is only made for FSX only and at this stage nothing is planned for FS2004), the installer runes and finishes in a flash and then the amazing 157 page detailed manual takes you through how to use the F-Lite aircraft.

Overall at this point I am very happy with the way that things have gone and as a customer I am pleased about the time that it has taken - it took 3 minutes total time unlike some other aircraft that have taken me at least 20+ minutes to download and install.

Whats in the package?
     So what do you get for your money, well obviously you get the plane installed into your FSX directory as well as the detailed manual included. But you also get something the CLS call the livery manager. This is a piece of software that allows the user to import add-on liveries that they have downloaded, and to add to this you can search online for liveries which came back with an amazing 50+ airlines made by 3rd parties which is really convenient for users which means that they haven't got to search through enduring files online for the right livery its simple and 2 clicks and installed!

First Impressions

Opening the select aircraft page within FSX I am meet with an array of over 18 different liveries. Show below in game:

AeroMexico MD80 - Was their main fleet for regional operations
Iberia MD81 - Another main regional airliner for this national fleet.

These are just 2 of the 18 liveries that are included in the pack uploaded at the end of runway 28 at GCTS Tenerife.

So what are my first impressions after my first flight in this beautiful aircraft. Well at first I found it hard to find the VC button as it does not appear when you first load the aeroplane up but after looking around the 2D cockpit I found the drop down panel menu and chose VC - I was amazed at the amount of detail that CLS have put into this MD80 model it truly is a like for like representation of the actual aircraft (based on photos from airliners.net) it truly is spectacular. After take-off I look outside to still see the wheels turning I know that its not the biggest animation in the package but it is just shows how much realism that CLS have made to create this package, to add to this after panning around the aircraft I notice that there is smoke being ejected from the exhaust of the engines like the real aircraft! Although all these animations are a hit on FPS I am still able to get about 40-45 FPS when looking at the external model.

Exterior Model

     Again I am going to start this review off with the external model, I think that a good external model can make or break a release from a developer and well this is nothing short than amazing - as you can see from the pictures above the livery paint work is of really high standard even with dirt modelling so it adds to the realism that not every aircraft you fly is straight out the factory!
I mentioned in the first impressions section of this review about the animations on this aircraft. There is no external glitches for example the stabilator glitched up and down, every thing runs smooth and fluid at about 40FPS. Every major flight control is modeled including the flaps and slats and the gear is also according to CLS real time, which seems to be true as I am not a real MD80 pilot I wouldn't know. The external sounds on this aircraft are not super realistic but they are nice and not harsh sounds, for the increasing power settings they get louder until you get the roar which is typical of the MD80 family it is amazing.  What else could this aircraft do right, well further more to this the smoke mentioned in the first impressions. Normally when you have smoke trailing from the aircraft such as the default Extra 300S it can seriously affect your frame rates and make the experienced abnormal as it stutters through the sky, not with this release from CLS, the smoke isn't intense thick black smog but a brownish colour that trails from the engine like in the real aircraft - and if you view it from the tower then you get a true experience of the aeroplane in flight it is amazing.

The Cockpit'sThis in depth product comes with both 2D and Virtual cockpit interfaces that users can use to fly from. My personal preference is the realistic VC but for most low end systems - you will probably have to use the 2D cockpit as the VC can cause frame rate problems. However I am going to start this review on the cockpits off with the 2D one.

The 2D Cockpit The 2D cockpit when first loaded up may seem extremely daunting at first with all these buttons and knobs which one do you start with. This is easily solved with the tutorial flight within the manual to get you up to speed with the procedures. Overall the 2D cockpit is frame rate friendly to an extent and extremely well detailed with all of the main buttons and knobs functioning.
 Unlike other simulators it comes with an option of flying/viewing the landing from the 'jumpseat' view giving you great visibility of all the panels and instruments as well as the runway ahead for landing etc as well as the normal captain and first officer views for standard usage.

The Captains View from the 2D Cockpit.

 In terms of functionality from the 2D cockpit you can successfully complete a flight by using either the centre view or the hot spots located top left of the screenshot above to bring up different panels.

3D Virtual Cockpit

This is where I have done most of my flying from in this aircraft as I have a computer that can handle with the capabilities of virtual cockpit as well as the rest of the stuff that happens behind the scenes! However I think that this Virtual Cockpit is 2nd to none! It is a truly amazing well detailed cockpit that is easy to use for both the first flyer and the simming veteran. Mostly every button is modeled in the VC mode including the ability to turn down the brightness on the ND and PFD allowing for night operations just to add to realism. This along with an amazing represented centre console and overhead panel allows this plane to be fully flyable from the same screen and no pop up panels!!

The above photos show the ease of just panning around the cockpit allowing me to access some main functions of the aircraft in seconds without having to open another panel!

So that the overview on the cockpit not into the nit picky first test flight!

The Test Flight

So for this test flight is going to take us from Alicante (LEAL) to Durham Tees Valley (EGNV) with the Spanair MD80. The flight plan that I am using is a FSX default one made via the flight planner using the high altitude airways in the IFR mode, which plans a near real life route. After loading up at a random gate in LEAL I fuel the aircraft using the following webpage http://fuel.aerotexas.com/ which gives you a great estimated fuel usage for free! After loading up the aircraft I am literally ready to push back after I just do a few things on the FMS.

I thought F-Lite doesent have FMS?

Your right, It doesent but it doesent mean that CLS have missed it out completly they have done a great job of the making the FMS not fully functional but give it features that are going to help you with your flight. So what I am going to do is talk you though the functionalites of the FMS. Starting at the top you have the Flight Plan button, clicking this allows you to see your filed waypoints enroute with the heading to the right of them this is all, to cycle through your waypoints all you do is keep clicking the up arrown on the FMS keyboard. Also they have incorporated the 'Direct To' function this allows you to select a waypoint in your flight plan and go well direct to it... this allows this aircraft to be flown in an online situation with real ATC, and also just incase you dont want to fly and SIDS or STAR's. The next section of this FMS guide is going to incorporate all the things you have to do before you fly, theres not many. The PROG key short for Programming allows you to enter your CRZ ALT, CLB Speed, Cost Index etc, aswell as this you get a fuel prediction page if you press next this will show you how much fuel the FMS thinks you will have to Durham Tees Valley in my case but your destination. One last things under the TO/APP Mode this is where you get your Takeoff speeds from. Under this interface you will see Calc Takeoff Speed in the top left corner clicking this button gives you all the speeds that you need for take off for those who are not familiar with takeoff speeds the V1 = the point of no return ( you are commited to takeoff at this speed), VR = Rotation speed ( the speed that you climb through at) and V2 = Takeoff safety speed. All the numbers on the right are you flap retraction units. And thats it for departure no time consuming flight planning you are ready to go.
     So pushing back from the stand I use the Shift + P shortcut to initilize the push back sequence I then start both engines as described in the manual ( although its 157 pages long you need to read it before you fly to get a grasp with the aircraft). After both are successfully started I start my taxy out to the Active at LEAL. Lined Up the active - I advance full throttle and hear the loverly sounds of 2 engines at full flex mode! The VR speeds come pretty quickly to which I rotate through and climb out at the standard V2 + 10 knots that I had already put on my speed indicator. After this I set the the AutoThrottle for climb out by selecting about 250 knots on the selector I press IAS SEL to intiate the speed capture and make sure that the engines are under the right mode.

Here are a few pictures of my climbout.

Immediatly after Takeoff Turning Right to intercept NAV mode

View from VC during Climbout

View from the Left Hand Cabin
After a few more moments I engage the Autopilot and press the NAV button to engage the lateral naviagation mode (basically following the GPS line) and a few seconds later I click the V/Speed Button and have a climb rate at about 2000 ft/min. Now the flight is fully automated I can start to explore and test funtionalites out with the aeroplane.

     And amazing thing in this plan that everything is truly modeled down to the last small detail and is all glitch free which is amazing because most developers either are lazy and dont fix the glitch or they dont do enough testing but you reall can tell the pure effore that Albert and his team have put into this package. The first thing that caught my eye was the engine 'modes' these include the TO, TO FLX, CL, CR, and GA modes. After clicking through all the buttons it does actually change the limitations of the aeroplane and what you can get out of it for example the GA mode makes the engine limitations higher than the CR mode for example which is another nice feauture. Then I find a small button saying MAG after clicking it - it allows the users to change between the magnetic measurements or TRUE measurements on heading changine every so slighty but every good navigator will know there is a difference.
    Finally in the cruise of a low FL280 I started looking around the plane and the different view points to which the following caught my eye.

What I think is the best external view on the whole plane.
After a short flight of approximatly 2.2 hours I am looking at starting my decent, at first I set the ALT button to about 3000' and then V/Speed of about -1800 f/min I know its a bit quick but I know its what the new comers will be used to because that is the default vertical speed setting on aircraft. During the decent I apply some speed brakes and set the speed to about 210 knots after crusing at 300 knots indicated. Whilst the aircraft was decelerating I went back to the FMS under the TO/APP mode and clicked the button with APPROACH on it and then the FMS calculated my landing speeds of the aeroplane and the speeds at which different flaps would be delployed, on my flight this was VClean = 243knots, V11 = 160 knots, V15 = 159knots, V28 = 148 and last but not least the Vref40 = 138knots. After coming through the FL50 barrier I start to deploy the slats and 11' of flaps on the approach and set the IAS indicator to 160knots and as I continued to decend towards Durham further flap was extended until my localisor was capured (the good thing about this aircraft is that the FMS has a RAD (radio) function allowing you to enter NAV1 frequencies in there instead of fiddling with knobs on approach), so on the ILS the ILS is captured and the plane responds well and starts desending I extend the gear on final approach and lower the last stage of flap 40 degress aswell as making the speed indicate 138 knots. At about 1000ft I dissconnect the autopilot to be greated by an alarm that tells me that the autopilot has been disconnected and that I am not controlling the aeroplane including the throttles, another good thing about this package is that it comes with the standard callouts for example the one thosand, five hundred! Which again adds to the realism for the first time flyer and allows us more experienced pilots make a decision on weather the approach should go on. Flying over the threshold at about 50ft I retarded the engines and made a landing on the runway at Durham. I applied the brakes via my yoke and held F2 to engage the reverse thrust until I came down to about a 60 knot roll where I continued to break until I vacated to the left and taxied back to the gate and shutdown.

This concludes my review on the CLS MD80 hope you have enjoyed reading it and I hope it has helped you make a decision on your purchase!

Just some final comments I have had 20 hours flying time on this aircraft and to be honest it has entered one of my Top 10 aircraft, I find it really easy to fly when I have only a few hours to fly and not mess around with flight plans and proper fuel planning etc you can literally jump in and fly which makes it reall easy to use!

This is also a perfect addon for the new comer simmers and those who class themselves as the Ace's of the sky it has alot to offer to everyone!

If you are interested in buying this package from CLS : Please follow this link


  1. I've been flying the "CLS" MD80 for around eight months and has become one of my favorite aircraft. Once you get past the FMS or lack there of you find it's a great flying air craft. A big plus is the night lighting which is very realistic. It also is a pleasure to hand fly. JC

  2. I'm a real pilot, and i think the CLS MD80 is very realistic. But if you want more realistic simulator flight, go to:

  3. I have both, CLS and Flythemaddog and CLS is more for youtube videos. Flythemaddog is way more realistic in terms of the systems and everything that matters not just the way it looks.