Jan Visser and Rob Young are names well-known to long-time flight sim enthusiasts. Jan and Rob, along with other flight sim legends Bill Rambow, Fred Banting and others were part of the team that brought us the hugely popular Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s MAAM-Sim R4D/DC3. For the past two years, Jan and Rob have been spending their spare time with a new development team – SectionF8. Their goal is to reproduce a FREEWARE range North American F-86 Sabre aircraft and the first instalment has just been released for FS2004.
An auspicious history
The F-86 Sabre was designed in the 1940s as a transonic fighter aircraft with data captured from the German Messerschmitt Me262. Its development in this period ensured it saw extensive active service in the Korean War with some 7,800 aircraft being built between 1949 and 1956. The design was also picked up by some other air forces bringing the total number produced to more than 9,800, making it a classic of its era.
The Sabre’s distinctive swept wing and fuselage profile were easily recognisable and there were eventually 20 variants built. Automatic wing slats were fitted to some models to maintain control and stability during-low speed flight – whether that be on landing or during combat manoeuvres. Another unusual feature for that time – ‘all flying’ tail planes, where the whole horizontal tailplane moved, was thought to give the Sabre an advantage in some phases of aerial combat.
In addition to the original day fighter configuration, other later variants included interceptors and fighter-bombers which could carry up to 2,000lb (900kg) of bombs. The Sabres also were regularly kitted out with rockets and droppable external fuel tanks as their role expanded. Such was the success of the design that it continued to be used in some of the world’s air forces until as recently as 1994, when the Bolivian Air Force retired its aircraft.
As a reminder, this product is a freeware product thanks to the extreme generosity of the Section F8 team. It is generally available from numerous sites and the links to them all is available in the Downloads section at www. sectionf8.com. However, we have been given special permission to include the whole package on this month’s cover disk! Full details can be found in the CD section of the magazine. Over time, SectionF8 intends to release all the variants, but the first base pack includes the slatted ‘E’ and ‘F’ models in a 51MB download. Also available is a 45MB ‘Skins’ pack (also included on this month’s cover disk) which adds more liveries from around the world. Other users’ repaints are also being hosted at SectionF8 and some other file libraries. Installation is via a zip file that loads the product into the root FS2004 folder perfectly.
Hi, good lookin’!
The external modelling is nothing short of spectacular with lots of ‘photoreal’ dynamic shine from the metal surfaces. As you can see from these pages, some images are difficult to tell from real aircraft photographs! Other than the basic control surfaces, animations include the sliding canopy, speed brakes and the automatically deploying wing slats.
On engine start-up, an exhaust plume is generated along with a simulated heat shimmer which remains with you as you blast through the skies. You can also switch on a white smoke trail if desired and pulling some hard ‘g’ results in the appearance of wing-tip vortices. The landing gear and speed brakes are also fully animated and highly detailed and their deployment is affected by how well you fly the aircraft. For example, if you try to lower the gear at too high a speed, they will get stuck requiring a messy landing to get it fixed!
Beauty isn’t just skin deep
The Sabre comes with both 2D and virtual cockpits which are full of realistic period gauges and switches to control the various aircraft systems. All are custom-built, operate smoothly and are capable of being used in IFR flights. The 2D panel also sports some sub panels which can be called up to change frequencies or manage the lights etc. While you can certainly operate the Sabre entirely in 2D panels, the virtual cockpit is of such an outstanding quality there is no need to revert to the 2D system and this is certainly my preferred way of flying this aircraft.
The cockpit also contains working armaments master switches that when activated, allow you to fire the 12.7mm Browning machine guns with associated sound and visual effects including muzzle flash and, if you look very closely, you will see tracer bullets flying from the aircraft. If you empty your magazine, you can refill it only by opening the ammo bay doors while parked and shutdown on the ground.
The F-86 Sabre is full of such examples of system simulation – with dynamic engine damage monitoring and hydraulic systems which, if mismanaged, will result in an embarrassing failure or flame out!
To see how well the flight dynamics are replicated, SectionF8 used the services of Dudley Henriques who has a long aviation history and is President Emeritus of the International Fighter Pilots Fellowship. He is in no doubt that this project is of such a high calibre that he would not hesitate to sit potential Sabre pilots down at a simulator with this package to train them before putting them in the real aircraft.
The flight dynamics were created by Rob Young of Real Air Simulations, producer of packages such as the RealAir Spitfire and Marchetti SF260, both of which are renowned for their realistic flight dynamics. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Sabre not only stalls and spins accurately, but behaves just as perfectly during the approach and landing phase.
Some advice: read the manual!
The Sabre is not particularly difficult to fly, but you do need to read the included manual to fly it well and to take advantage of all the features and effects available. The PDF manual is informative – with details on how to fly this beast well – with many diagrams taken from the original Pilot’s Operating Handbook. Failing to read it will probably result in aircraft damage or you may find yourself plagued by flashing ‘FIRE’ lights if you don’t follow the published procedures! Initially, you may want to have a printed copy next to you to ensure your flights go smoothly.
The sound suite is also of an extremely high calibre. If your sound card is capable of reproducing high fidelity sound, you will delight in the engine start-up and ignition sequence! Throw the ‘ground cart’ switches and the cart appears next to your aircraft connected by an umbilical hose to the fuselage, with its generator growling. Hit the ‘engine start’ button and the turbine starts to whine as speed builds until ignition – when the roar of the jet takes over. Finding the power cart and engine start-up noise too loud? Just close your canopy and the sound level drops! Hit those brakes too hard for too long or weave wildly down the runway and you’ll hear the custom ‘tyre scrub’ sounds.
The Sabre sports a large number of other features. A few examples include droppable fuel tanks (animated), a very useful checklist window that also displays the status of some aircraft systems and flight dynamics which vary depending on your altitude and speed. During a ‘Mach run’ I noticed that even the altimeter needles shook as I passed through the sound barrier! Back on the ground you will find fluttering ‘Remove Before Flight’ flags, wheel chocks and the pilot’s gear sitting on the wing.
All these features are the result of some dedicated work from SectionF8’s other team members Hansjörg Naegele, Cliff Presley and Jan Rosenberg. Hansjörg Naegele’s magical XML programming created all of the gauges, bar one, from scratch (including all the bitmaps), as well as those special features such as the automatic slats, power cart and many others. Some may be familiar with Hansjörg’s work as he also was involved in the ‘donation-ware’ Douglas DC-2 project. Cliff has also been involved from the beginning as an advisor for the modelling and flight dynamics as well as writing the manual. Jan Rosenberg has had a long involvement in flight simulation and before creating the Sabre special effects such as the gun muzzle flashes, heat shimmer etc was involved in creating effects in previous MAAM-Sim projects. This is an extraordinarily talented team and the F-86 Sabre project is a wonderful legacy for them to share.
I had to ask Jan Visser: “Why freeware?” His reply was immediate: “Both my fellow team members and I strongly feel that the ‘freeware spirit’ that has always existed around FS still needs to be kept alive. ‘Freeware’, no doubt, is an important aspect of an already 20-year-old product such as FS in the first place. So, for as long as it will remain possible we’d like to try to keep that old spirit alive.”
It is exceedingly hard to find any fault in this pack! If it were a commercial product I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. So what do you do with a high quality product that is absolutely free? The answer is, you install it, fly hard, fly high and fly fast!
Many thanks to Jan Visser for discussing this project with me and to enthusiast Richard ‘Taz’ Plourde for his Sabre banner which is available at the SectionF8 forums.
By Peter Stark
Publisher & Developer: SectionF8
At a glance: An extremely high-quality add-on that every flight simmer should try. Feature-loaded and fun to fly alone or online, this package will go down in history as one of the great FS2004 add-ons!
System Requirements: Windows XP/Vista, FS2004. No other requirements specified. If you are running FS2004, you can run this add-on without difficulty.