Whirlybirding and painting things

A familiar fly-past: taking the MD-900 around the Fastnet Rock lighthouse
A familiar fly-past: taking the MD-900 around the Fastnet Rock lighthouse

Back at the start of the year, I wrote about my experiences in getting hold of an EC-135 Eurocopter from  Spijkers & Wingtips. As noted in that article, it’s a great little helicopter – easy to fly, plenty of space in the cabin, and nicely customisable. It’s been on my helipad ever since.

Well, at least until this weekend, when it found itself returned to inventory after one last (for the time being) flight. Not because I’ve given up on flying – oh no! Rather, as the images in this piece show, I’ve swapped to a new aircraft.

Gracing my helipad at home now is the Spijkers & Wingtips MD-900 Explorer. Superficially like the EC-series of helos in terms of exterior cabin looks, this is a 7-seater helicopter that is 100% mesh, the design by Sylvira (sylviramaus). And I have to say, it is beautiful, with a wealth of detail to enjoy.

The MD-900 in its default (supplied) finish
The MD-900 in its default (supplied) finish

The first thing that is immediately noticeable about the MD-900 is that it doesn’t have a tail rotor. Instead it uses a NOTAR system, employing a fan system together with a thruster mechanism at the end of the tail to both counter torque from the rotors and provide vectored thrust when turning, etc. With the S&W MD-900 the system is reproduced such that in-flight manoeuvring of the helicopter will see the directed thrust mechanism at the end of the tail moving in response to control commands, together with the twin rudders.

The helicopter comes as a comprehensive package: there is the MD-900 itself, Copy / Mod and with an LI of 54; a static display model, six customisable texture packs, optional combat script and cargo payload scripts. The default colour scheme for the helicopter is striking, and possibly the best of the supplied packs, and a further air ambulance option can be obtained from Sylvira.

The interior detailing is incredible; from the seat harness elements through to the individual buttons and dials on the controls and flight panel. Even the ducts air circulation system in the cabin is reproduced in detail, together with work front, passenger and rear cargo doors
The interior detailing is incredible; from the seat harness elements through to the individual buttons and dials on the controls and flight panel. Even the ducted air circulation system in the cabin is reproduced in detail, together with working front, passenger and rear cargo doors

Using the texture packs is a matter of unpacking the desired finish, then editing the helicopter via Edit Links Parts to drag and drop the various texture elements onto their requisite sectionsf the helicopter. For those who want something more personal, the textures can be saved as TGA or PNG files and amended locally & then re-uploaded at the usual L$10 a shot.

As most know, I have a penchant for red and white in my boats and planes, so one of the first things I did was grab one of the texture packs (“white with red stripe”) and download the various elements to produce a colour scheme more in keeping with my preferred style. When I did this with the EC-135, it literally took me 3 minutes to get something I was happy with  – although admittedly, I didn’t really try anything clever in editing the textures.

The MD-900 is one of the supplied texture finishes, and the default colour scheme to the rear
The MD-900 is one of the supplied texture finishes, and the default colour scheme to the rear

The MD-900 did take a lot longer. The was mostly down to my decision to go for a design which required some careful detailing around hinges and things. However, it also has to be said that, outside of the default paint scheme, the finishes on some of the packs are a trifle rough – in my case I found that white parts would have an odd splash of red where they shouldn’t (and vice versa, or that edging between the colours be a tad rough when looked at closely (and I do mean closely – the packs past muster reasonably when to the casual eye). Unfortunately, for me, once seen closely means such things are forever nagging; so I spent a good few hours doing some general clean-up, because I’m obsessive that way.

Handling-wise, the MD-900 is fabulous. I’m not sure how much updating Tig has done with her helicopter scripts, but the MD-900 really is a delight to fly. It’s very responsive, can move at a fair lick if required, and offers the usual 3rd person or Mouselook flight options (the latter feeling far more responsive that the EC-135). A HUD is provided for flying, although not essential (all commands can be entered via chat), and this reveals some of the extras – such as the searchlight (which can also be turned on / off via the chat command “sl”), the winch options for lifting cargo aloft – read the instructions carefully, and take note that cargo can behave oddly if particularly complex. There’s even a police / rescue siren!

A particularly nice touch with the more recent helicopters in in S&W range is the inclusion of auto-deploying pontoon floats. Simply drop down over Linden water in a low hover, and the floats will deploy for a water landing. They can also be manually deployed / stored when in flight via the HUD or a chat command.

My MD-900 at home
My MD-900 at home

All told, the MD-900 is a great aircraft, and niggles over the texture packs aside (they don’t in any way spoil the aircraft), it will make a great addition to any SL aviation enthusiast’s collection.

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