The RealAir Spitfire package comes with two main versions of the Spitfire. The Spitfire Mk. IX powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin engine and the Spitfire Mk. XIV powered by the Rolls Royce Griffon engine. Both types have the elliptical and clip wing versions. The Spitfire Mk. XIV also has the contra-rotating propeller version. Available liveries include WW2 condition to restored condition and even some fictional Reno Air Racing liveries. All in all there is 23 different aircraft to fly. The package includes a setup program, with 3 different manuals and even WW2 era airbase scenery.
The Spitfire comes with 16bit DXT5 textures that look very good and are very easy on the frame rates. However the 32bit textures can be downloaded from RealAir for free or can be installed from the CD version. The 32bit textures look very good too with minimal impact on your frame rates but in all honesty I found it hard to tell the difference between the two textures. I found it hard to stop looking at the plane from the outside while I was flying. I took so many pictures for this article, it is a shame I don't have the room to put them all in.
So we've established that the Spitfire looks very pretty. But the important question is, how does it fly? My answer is "like a dream", but I better explain eh?
Well this is where RealAir shines.
If you know how to taxi a tail dragger then you can taxi the Spitfire with out any problems. Take off can be a little dicey. Both the Griffon and Merlin engine produce a large amount of torque. If you are not paying attention to your boost pressure the aircraft can get out of control which will make for some very interesting take-offs. At full boost pressure with the Griffon powered Spitfire it will take full rudder and a lot of aileron to keep her nose pointed straight.
The initial climb is around 5000ft/min with a boost of 9. At 13000ft the supercharger kicks into the second stage, so there is no loss of boost pressure. At around FL250 you start to slowly lose boost pressure and by the time you reach FL300 you will need full throttle to keep climbing. With the elliptical wing you can easily reach FL430 in around 30 minutes. The RealAir Spitfire will reach FL300 in approximately 10 minutes depending on how hard you press.
When at high altitude you'll find it hard to tell the difference between the clipped wing and elliptical wing planes. However the elliptical wing Spitfire will climb a few thousand feet higher than the clipped wing Spitfire. Both aircraft fly well during cruise. Just trim her up and she will fly along, as happy as pig is in mud.
You need to plan the decent just as you would in any other aircraft. The Spitfire will happily descend at 1000ft/min, or at a more combat related 4000ft/min or more. I even spun the Spitfire from FL320 down to 12000ft, but more on that later.
Entering the circuit is easy but slowing down the Spitfire can be a handful. I have had to extend my downwind a few times, just to get slow enough to drop my flaps and gear.
Somebody once told me that the Spitfire loves to fly hates to land. This is so true.
Landings are manageable, once you slow down. The flaps help a lot once you get below 160mph, and the gear helps too. So the initial problem is getting down to 160mph.
It is also said that the Spitfire has a habit of ground looping. This can be true in high crosswinds, or just a bad landing. I had this happen once during my review.
It is surprising for 40's technology, just how much automation there was built into an aircraft, the Spitfire is a good example. The radiator cooler doors are automatically adjusted, fuel selection is a simple on or off thing much like a jet, fuel mixture is automatic as well, even the prop control on the Mk. XIV is automatic, you will just have to give it a tweak now and then.
There is no 2D cockpit, but thats ok. The Virtual Cockpit is very nicely done. It comes in two different looks. Restored, which has a fresh painted look to it, Or authentic which has scratches and paint chips missing. The best part of the VC view is that it's silky smooth. Not once did the VC chug or hesitate. All the needles moved as if you were looking at a real cockpit. This is a very very big plus.
There is one small problem however, when moving from the outside views back into the cockpit it can take a few seconds for the cockpit to load, and if your using cockpit glass reflections you might not be able to see out side as you get a grey screen while the cockpit loads.
The RealAir Spitfire package comes with a lot of nice eye candy extras. One such extra that impressed me was seeing the pilots head keep moving around in the cockpit. It is like the pilot is on the constant look out for the enemy.
The aircraft will buffet when close to stall, but one of the biggest and most important realism features is RealAir's engine failure scripting. If you turn this option on in the aircraft setup program, and turn off the default setting in FSX, you will get a very dramatic failure. This will put you piloting skills to the test as you have to keep an eye on your engine boost settings, radiator temperature and oil temperature, or else your engine will
fail. I hear you asking, "ok so what happens then?", well, besides the stopped prop in your face, if you can see it paste the oil on the windshield. Yes! thats right! When your engine goes up you get a nice face full of oil and along the side of the plane too.
The sounds in this package are simply amazing. The aircraft will moan and grown when approaching it's limits, the wings buffet near stall. The engine sounds about right too. I have to take my hat off to the RealAir developers, they really did ther homework on this project.
If you upgrade FSX to SP1 or SP2 or have the Acceleration Add-on, you get a very nice addon to the Spitfire package with the 1940's RAF West Malling airfield. This even includes some AI Spitfires flying in the circuit.
The documentation for this package is very thorough. It includes a flying guide and pilots notes. The 'pièce de résistance', an actual copy of a Spitfire handbook with hand written corrections.
All in all I have flown around 40 hours in the RealAir Spitfire and the product lived up to my expectations. I mean, I have never had so much of fun, flying high altitude, low altitude, some cross country, and some circuits.
With a great model, great sound set, great visuals, easy on the frame rates, and great flying characteristics, rounded off with the excellent documentation, this is a package that should be part of any discerning pilots virtual hangar. I, personally, loved everything here but would have liked to see some missions added in.
All in all I give this great package, the RealAir Spitfire, top marks (10/10).
Now for some parting shots.