Icarusgold Grumman Duck JF2 Review
Bookmark and Share

Grumman Duck J2F-2/4/5/6
For FSX Published by Icarusgold
Reviewed by Joe (“Mutley”) Lawford
April 2011

Introduction:
The J2F series was first ordered in March 1936. The J2F-1 Duck first flew on Friday, April 3, 1936 and was delivered to the Navy that same afternoon and although it was still the basic JF1 Duck, many improvements were incorporated into the new Grumman Design, starting with a new Wright 1820 Cyclone of 750 hp (559.5 kW).

It was decided to make this "Utility" craft even more so. The tail hook was installed, along with provisions for a heavier bomb load and a stretcher in the lower passenger compartment to carry wounded. It was also fitted with smoke laying and target towing gear. It could be used for a photo or reconnaissance missions as well as it’s normal function as a small transport.

The Duck was classified as a "single bay" bi-winger, meaning there was only a single set of struts outboard of the fuselage and a single set of bracing wires between the upper and lower wings on each side.

To keep it afloat, a single large float was mounted under the centerline of the craft. Faired flush into the sides of the main float was the main landing gear which could be raised and lowered by a system of motors, sprockets, chains and gears. A small outrigger float was mounted near the tip of each wing.

The crew consisted of a pilot and rear gunner under the telescoping canopy. There were also provisions for two passengers located just aft of the lower wing in the main float. There is a 'downstairs' that has room for 2 additional passengers or downed pilots that was accessed through a set of folding doors in the floor of the rear cockpit. There is also a 'hatch' in the bottom of the hull that can be opened in flight from which to take reconnaissance pictures.

Twenty J2F-3s were built in 1939 for use by the Navy Brass. These were the "Cadillac" of Ducks with plush interiors and Navy blue with silver paint jobs. They were otherwise standard J2F-2s. In the late summer of 1939, the J2F-4 appeared. It was basically a J2F-2 except for minor modifications.

Probably the most famous Duck of all was J2F-6 Serial Number 33587 which starred in the movie "Murphy’s War" in the mid 1970s.

Icarusgold
Icarusgold have been around for some time producing interesting and diverse models for the market. This is true of the Duck, had they not persisted with the development of this aircraft it probably wouldn't be produced by anyone else.

The Duck was a long time coming after it's first mention on their forums, the developers kept adding new and exciting features making it into a interesting package with all the variations, liveries, sceneries and missions included.

Product Features:

  • FSX Native SDK Model

  • Seven different models, Jf2-4-5-6 single pilot, with rear gunner, tailhook single pilot and rear gunner, radar, antenna and Murphy's war version

  • Stunning dynamic virtual cockpit, complete with standard FSX features

  • New fully animated vintage Pilot + animated rear gunner

  • Mini panel and virtual cockpit with pop-ups for GPS, starter procedure.

  • Original Engine sounds

  • 19 (20? see below) accurate historical skins

  • Four Airfield WWII scenery with 50 new objects

  • Seven Flights, two directly from the famous Murphy's war movie, one with Murphy's first approaches with the Grumman Duck and one bombing the enemy submarine

  • Virtual cockpit fully clickable

  • All appropriate FSX features and animations included

  • Documents with Installation tutorial

  • Complete Manual with additional information

  • Engine Fire Effect, Gunfire front and rear effect, Explosion bomb effect

Installation and Manual
Be sure to read all the documents you get with the download as full installation is not fully automatic. There are a few actions required by the user to get the installation files in the correct place.  This is a shame as the are installers out there that do all this work for you.

You get a PDF manual, detailing the selling points as above and history of the Grumman Duck. In the manual is "Quick start" guide showing system requirements, where you can assign the tailhook and droppable object keys,  "Quick flying tips" and believe me they are quick, I list the salient points here 1. Keep engine revs above 800RPM. 2.Don't lower gear above 160 IAS 3.Take a long distance to line up and don't use gear or flaps to slow the aircraft down (That's me confused as I use them like this all the time!) and 4...eer thats about it. 

There is a lot of good detail about the models, liveries and the flights and bombing missions included.

A Readme file which adds details of more key assignments such as how to open the door and canopy, propeller control, engine fire and rear gunner and dropping a bomb. It also explains that if you have a 64bit system you will have to change the installation path.

A Word file Which explains further about Vista/W7 and disabling UAC. The document also mentions that the scenery files used in the flights and missions are installed directly to your Add-on Scenery folder so you cannot turn them off without uninstalling the duck. I would have like to have the option NOT to install the scenery as it could possibly conflict with any existing 3rd part scenery you have.  Finally, the document tells you to move the flight files from the aircraft folder it installed them into to  your  C:\Users\{NAME}\Documents\Flight Simulator X Folder.

Ideally, all this information could be covered in one document. These documents are poorly written in places but that is understandable as they are written by the developer whose first language is not English.

A final thought on the manual is there are a lot of things not documented, I have had to find many things out for myself through research and existing knowledge but have managed to make this aircraft fun.

I have to say though, my installation worked fine but I would worry about a novice installing it and missing out on the flights and features.

Internal Detail
From the pilot seat you can get a good clear view all around the cockpit, the gauges are easy to read but not that good looking close up. The gauge depicting HSI had a very jagged pointer, I wonder what it is doing there as it has no heading or course selector for the AP to pick up on, actually it has no autopilot!

I found a couple of mistakes like the Prop lever having a T on its knob instead of  P, gauges not having descriptions when the mouse was rolled over when some did etc. One major annoyance is the fuel pump click sound effect will repeat for ever until it is switched off.  I would like to think that feedback like this and through their support ticket system will produce a patch in the not too distant future.  You don't see much in the way of error reporting on their forums, I wonder how much of this is down to judicial moderation.

Other missing items included the master battery switch, without which in a realistic situation, you cannot start the engine. Luckily I remembered the master bat + Alt is assigned to my [Shift+M] combination.  Slightly more forgivable is the lack of a light(s) switch.

The stick and pedals were smoothly animated with the pedals being nicely warn. The rest of the textures inside the cockpit were Ok but that's about as good as it gets. It was a little blocky in places but not enough to ruin your enjoyment.

There is no 2d view but I don't think it needs it, there are some good pre-programmed camera positions which cover all the necessary panels. Bizarrely one of those cockpit views is of the outside looking towards the front of the float.

You may remember I spoke earlier of a rear-gunner and passenger stationed in the main float assessed by folding doors? None of this is modelled not even in the rear gunner model just a plain seat is shown.

Exterior
I don't think that by any stretch of the imagination this aircraft could be described as pretty, it has the sort of face that only a mother could love!

It is essentially a biplane attached to a single large monocoque float with the wings having small out-riggers to protect the wings. The landing gear retracts into this float making it faired flush and more aerodynamic. The main float also has windows for any passengers unlucky enough to be sat in the float.
 
There are a wide range of liveries included that cover all model variations. The darker liveries are better as the lighter silver and grey liveries have a very noticeable array of proud rivets and overpowers its appearance it in my opinion. The darker liveries still have this feature but it is not so evident.

The wing spars, struts and cables are all nicely modelled; depending on what model you are flying you ill have either a DF loop,  radar pod. tail hook or rear gunner. Although in two of the missions you can drop bombs, there are no bomb racks on the underside of the J2F-6's wings. XXX

Unusually, the developer has decided not to model the flaps in favour of the rear gunner, the reason for this is the gunner is very polygon hungry.  Strange thing is, the non-gunner models do not have them either, this is the first time I have come across this.  In the cockpit there is a flap gauge which relays where the flaps are at, also the dynamic effect of their deployment can be felt too.

Overall a perfectly acceptable rendition of this model.

Animations
The standard animations of gear and control surfaces are as smooth as you will see, the start up puff of dark, then light smoke is well done.

As mentioned earlier, there is an animated rear gunner. He moves in sync left and right with the ailerons. You use the smoke key (Usually I) to fire.  Unfortunately the bullets go backward (Or should I say forward) over the pilots head cockpit joining the bullets that fire though the propeller. On other versions, pressing the I key will simulate an engine fire, this is only a visual effect, you can fly around all day with your engine on fire. Strangely enough this effect cannot be seen from the cockpit so you wouldn't know you were on fire.

Gunfire - the pilot has to duck (Excuse the pun!)

"Bumbss" away!
In the bombing missions you have dropping bombs and explosions with plumes of black oily smoke.

Sound
The sounds are a definite plus-point for this product, when the engine bursts into life you get the unmistakable "Radial roar" then, at idle she make a lovely bubbling sound. In the air she sounds good too through all engine notes.

Sound in the cockpit is about right, I would gladly not have the fuel pump switch make a sound as it has the repeating click proble,

The bombs do make an explosion sound when hitting the ground.

Flying the Duck
If you just wanted to jump in, Ctrl+E to auto-start the engine and fly around bombing a few people without too much respect for realism then this is the aircraft for you.  It's fun plane rather than a technically accurate plane.

The first thing you will notice is that with full fuel and no payload she is over-weight so you have to go and syphon some of that fuel off.  If you wanted to check your weight and balance, because today you are flying with the gunner, then you are going to have to edit the .air file as there are no payload stations, I don't think I have ever seen this omitted before on a freeware product, let alone a payware one.

The developer advises this aircraft will not fly correctly if you have the realism settings above Medium.  I forgot this until I landed on water and found that my out-rigger floats did not float resulting in a 45º list to port and a wet wing! I always fly at full realism so this is a big minus point for me.

Take off from land

Should it be able to do this in a loop?

Realism set too high, not floating

Taking it easy!

Earlier on I mentioned that there is no visual master switch and generally starting her is a bit of a lottery. Now I have managed to work out a sequence that involves, 1.Switching the ags on. 2.Switch on the master switch, ensure full rich then start the engine. Although there is a primer I don't think the model takes any notice of it. Some times, if you forget to turn the master switch off, switching the mags on automatically sets the starter going.

Let's move on.  General flying is very pleasurable, when you are straight and level she will understandably drift off to the left, that was good to see even at the medium realism level. Cruising around the coasts in this aircraft is quite relaxing but you cannot leave her for a second as she is very much a hands on flying experience.

Included Flights
If you managed to move the supplied flight files to their correct destination then you will have seven flights available, they are:

  • Carrier landing - This places you on final with a choice of two carriers to land on.
  • Grumman Duck Philippines - Here you are in flight, loaded up with 75 "bumbss" (Surely bombs?..Ed) fly straight in to bomb the enemy encampment, there are Zero's on the ground, a jetty and boats, towers, vehicles etc.  Animated explosions with sound and persistent smoke plumes.
  • Murphy's War - You are in the water, there is a recorded conversation played (Presumably dialogue from the film) you are then in free flight.
  • Murphy's War 2 - In the air again, this time there is a submarine berthed, you have to destroy it. (Not possible!)
  • Grumman Duck Alaska - Start from the historical airfield on Cordova, Alaska and fly around.
  • Grumman Duck recognition - In the water next to a jetty at - free flight.
  • Grumman Duck - Start from the WWII airfield on Cape May USCG

Mayhem in Manila

Carrier landing

Lounging on the pontoon

Cordova, Alaska
Some of these flights do come with bespoke scenery like Cape May, the scenery is very good and creates a realistic war/post war environment to fly in.

Performance
I think this will perform well on all machines, certainly I had no issues with lag or stutter when changing views. I am not a FPS junkie myself but I can tell when a product is performing well.  Even in the pre-programmed flight situations she remained very fluid in action.

Summary
Pros:
  • A great choice of models and liveries
  • Included flights are fun
  • Excellent performance
  • Unique choice of aircraft
 Cons:
  • Unrealistic flight model
  • Poor manual
  • Several bugs, but not "show-stoppers"

Verdict
Generally a fun little package with lots to do so long as realism is not high on your agenda.

Unfortunately I found several niggling bugs and overall this doesn't feel like a fully tested model.

If you are interested in this model then I would recommend you buy it as a very unusual addition to your Hangar.  Credit where it is due, Icarusgold do help to fulfill that need for the more obscure aircraft.

I award this a Mutley's Hangar score of 7.5/10

Joe Lawford
Review machine Spec:
Core i7 Extreme 965 @ 3.6 Ghz | 12Gb Corsair DDR3 Ram |GTX580 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit

Other addons seen in some of the shots.
Aerosoft - Tahiti X | Real Environment Xtreme | FTX Orcas Island


      
      System Requirements
  • Flight Simulator X (Acceleration or FSX SP2 required)
  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows7 with the latest Service Packs
  • Pentium 2 GHz (Duo2Core Intel or equivalent advised)
  • 1 Gb RAM (2 Gb recommended)
  • 128Mb graphic card (512 MB recommended)
  • ~ 224Mb Download size
  • 350Mb hard drive space