I’m not that into military aviation outside of airshows, and in SL, all my flying is restricted to civilian light aircraft with the exception of a Supermarine Spitfire, which was a thank you gift from its creator, Eric Gregan, and a civilian version of the PBY6A Catalina. So I’m a little surprised to be writing about a veteran military ‘plane, the Fairey Gannet.
I confess to having known next to nothing about the Gannet prior to obtaining this particular model – but wikipedia was once again my friend, helping me fill-in the blanks about this post-World War Two Royal Navy aircraft. I came across the model in question after learning through Whirly Fizzle that CLS Aviation, owned by CaithLynnSayes were being sold at L$10 per aircraft on an unsupported basis. At the time, I picked up a couple (see here for more). A subsequent chat about the CLSA range with friend Jodi Serenity led me to an impulse buy of CLSA’s Fairey Gannet – it’s not as if L$10 is going to break anyone’s bank!
The first thing that struck me is that it is a comparatively big aeroplane (by the standards of the aircraft I generally fly, at least!). It is also something a very faithful reproduction by Helijah Bailey (sold under a licence agreement by CLSA) with a lot packed into it – more, it would seem, then the instruction manual explains. The complete package comprises the aircraft, a minimal but acceptable flight HUD for those who like them, a pilot’s headset and two manuals. By default, the aircraft rezzes with wings folded – these can be deployed when sat in the pilot’s cockpit by typing w(ing) or wings in chat. They unfold quite satisfactorily, and the twin turboprop engines can be started at the same time via the Engine button on the HUD if you use it, or by typing s(tart) or engine in chat – note chat commands are not case-sensitive.
Starting the engines will also do a couple of other things – activate the Gannet’s strobe and nav lights, and cause the other two crew members pop-up in their respective cockpits (the plane is a single avatar seater). With the exhausts under the rearmost cockpit spewing fumes and heat, the ‘plane is ready to fly. This is achieved by releasing the parking brake (p) and then using the conventional controls:
PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN for the throttle (5% increments or nX – where X is a number between 1 and 100, for quickly setting),
UP / DOWN for nose pitch,
LEFT / RIGHT for banking.
In flight, the Gannet handles well – I’d rate it the best of the CLSA aircraft I’ve flown to date. Being a beast, it does require constant pressure on the controls with banking or it’ll simply try to rapidly straighten out, but this adds a level of realism in flying. Airspeeds are given in metres per second, and when landing, you’ll need around 8-15 m/s to both avoid stalling on approach or coming in too fast and having to force it onto the ground.
As noted the ‘plane comes with plenty of features: the aforementioned folding / unfolding wings; a deplyable radar dome for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the Gannet’s primary role in this variant and an extensible arrestor hook for deck landings (would that there were a Royal Navy carrier steaming around Blake Sea!). There are no fewer than 10 default camera positions and 11 preset paint schemes (5 Royal Navy Air Squadrons, one Royal Australian Navy Air Squadron (albeit it with UK roundels), one Indonesian Navy Aviation Squadron, 3 Marineflieger (German Navy) options, and one simply labelled “FAA” (Fleet Air Arm). There is also a custom option. There’s also a fuel system, a sliding pilot’s cockpit canopy, and a park / unpark mode (only use the latter with the wings folded, as it includes the stays to hold the wings in that position).
The Gannet is also fully VICE enabled for combat operations – although this is missing from the flight manual. I’m not into combat flying and so blindly fiddled around until some things worked. Enabling VICE via the menu prims the weapons bay, and typing b in flight will open the bay doors and drop a torpedo (providing you have rezzing rights in the region you’re flying through). There is a cycle delay limiting the frequency at which torpedoes can be released. There are also weapons hard points under the wings with depth charges (I assume) and missiles attached. These are alpha’d by default, and appear to be unscripted. I’ve no idea if they can be accessed by this particular variant of the Gannet, or if they an hold-over from another design, and confess I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure them out.
Overall, I found this a nice aircraft to fly – and one that is certainly nippy at high throttle settings, which offers some fun in flying. While it is not something I’d use with any frequency – only curiosity and the price caused my to buy it, as noted -, for those who like their military aircraft, it potentially offers a pretty good value for money, particularly given the preset finishes.