Review: iniBuilds A310 ON THE LINE for X-Plane 11

iniBuilds is a developer that was until recently focused mainly on Prepar3D and Flight Simulator X sceneries and further enhancements to them including lighting profiles, or ground handling sets. In addition to those, they were focusing on creating custom liveries for most aircraft addons available across all major platforms available on the market.

However, with the release of their rendition of the Airbus A300-600R(F) for X-Plane 11, iniBuilds officially became an aircraft developer. There was a big hype around the A300 one year ago, in August 2020, which shortly after the aircraft was released quickly came out to be justified. The developers quickly started receiving very good feedback from the community, and everyone was enjoying flying the aircraft and seeing iniBuilds appear in the X-Plane 11 community with a new aircraft.

A few months after the freighter version of the A300 was released, in December later that year, the developer has released their first free expansion for the aircraft bringing the passenger variant of the aircraft to the addon. In January 2021, the developer has publicly announced their works on a BelugaST paid expansion which was released just a few months ahead of the announcement, in March.

In the meantime, the developers at iniBuilds were already hard at work on bringing a new aircraft addon to the simulator. The development of the iniBuilds Airbus A310-300 rendition for X-Plane 11 was first announced through their forums on December 8th, 2020, just one day after the A300 passenger expansion was released.

The hype for the aircraft was very similar to the one around the A300 from iniBuilds when it was first announced. Now, when the aircraft is finally out after months of development and high anticipation, we can give the aircraft a try and see what it offers and if the hype was justified.

The developers at iniBuilds stated multiple times throughout the development, that they have learned a lot from the A300 and used the new skills and knowledge to make the most out of this project.

In this review, I’ll try going through all parts of the aircraft. From the simple ones like the model and textures to the more complex ones such as the aircraft systems, CPDLC integration, overall accuracy, and small details adding to the immersion.

I also feel it’s important to stress that we’ve received a review copy from iniBuilds in order to be able to write this review.

Modelling

The aircraft model from both the exterior and interior points of view is really on point. While flying the aircraft, at first, I did not come across any modelling issues such as missing details, major inaccuracies, or even gaps between parts of the aircraft which sometimes occur in bigger projects, even when by renowned companies.

The addon offers a total of three variants of the aircraft: passenger, ACJ (stands for Airbus Corporate Jet), and freighter. There are two additional variants coming to the aircraft in one of the future updates, however, as of writing this review, these are not available yet.

Editor’s note: During the writing of this review, the MRTT variant of the aircraft was released by iniBuilds free of charge for all customers of the A310. This review will not, unfortunately, take a look at this variant, however, we are preparing a separate article on that topic.

In addition to those variants, there are two engine options available which are automatically selected based on the livery you use, so you don’t need to struggle with finding what engines did the aircraft you want to fly with had equipped.

As mentioned earlier, the modelling throughout the aircraft is done very well to a high level of detail. There are no signs of low-poly objects and everything on the aircraft looks very smooth and provides a very nice visual experience whilst flying.

While flying you spend most of the time in the cockpit, at least if you’re a typical flight simmer, and so usually that is the part of the addon which developers spend the most time working on, and I believe, from what I came across, this is no different. What I especially liked during my virtual endeavors in the cockpit is how the developers at iniBuilds made it look very good by having even the smallest details modelled and not simply replaced by textures as it is often done by some developers.

After a detailed walkthrough of the aircraft, looking through every inch of it, I did however explored some issues with the model. The biggest of them is the missing bottom cover of the instrument panel in the cockpit. To be honest, this is something I was not expecting from the aircraft, but on the other hand, is something you will probably not come across while casually flying. There are some other minor issues as well that are so minor that they are really not worth mentioning. I would, for example, appreciate the sink in the lavatories modelled in the passenger and ACJ variants of the aircraft and not only represented by an oval grey texture on a slab.

As there are three variants of the aircraft available, three aircraft models were needed to be created. All variants of the aircraft are modelled to the same level of detail and quality. I’d especially like to point out how the ACJ variant of the aircraft came out. While the freighter variant cabin area is quite simple (space for freight containers), with the ACJ it’s a bit more complicated with all the rooms and objects and the developers handled the challenge really well.

textures

The textures present throughout the aircraft are generally of high-resolution, crisp and correctly placed. I did not come across any issues in regards to the textures, both while walking through the interior and the exterior of the aircraft.

All textures have PBR materials present on them making them look brilliant in all lighting conditions. I was personally not once surprised about the texture behavior in different lighting conditions, in a good way of course.

It is also worth mentioning, that where it was possible and accurate to the real counterpart, the developers added wear and tear damage to the textures so the aircraft does not feel like a new, shiny machine while flying. I did really like this being present in the addon as it really added to the immersion of flying an older aircraft. No aircraft after years in service can be shiny and clean as a new one, straight out of the factory, is like.

sounds

With the sounds, things get a little more complicated. It’s generally hard to assess the aircraft sounds without being in the real thing, or at least hearing it in person from some distance. Yes, you can of course watch some videos online which will do a decent job of representing the aircraft sounds, but it’s still, in most cases, far away from the real thing.

In this case, we went with comparing the aircraft sounds with those available in videos online.

With buttons, knobs and switches, the sounds are really neat and sound very realistic and immersive. The same applies to the sounds accompanying various animations throughout the aircraft, from cockpit doors, lavatory doors, or armrests.

Of course, the previously mentioned sounds are only a small portion of the overall sound library the aircraft has to offer. Long story short, all sounds I came across I found very good and mainly immersive, especially those related to the aircraft itself, including hydraulics, engine, or APU sounds, just to name a few.

systems

Not being a professional A310 pilot or having any experience with the aircraft systems, this part of the review will be solely based on what the systems feel like to me, and what I’ve seen online, on the internet.

The developers at iniBuilds are known from their Airbus A300 rendition mentioned earlier in the article for having developed one of the most comprehensive aircraft systems out there, in the X-Plane community.

The A310 is clearly no different, and that became clear as soon as a few minutes after spawning in my origin airport in the simulator. For the casual simmers, VNAV & LNAV are accurately replicated in the aircraft together with SID & STAR support. For the more advanced flight simmers, the SEC flight plan option is present as well as other functionalities you would expect from an FMS in an A310, including HOLDs and status pages.

While some developers often tend to not have all functionalities working in the initial version of their addons replacing them by nowadays legendary “INOP” message, iniBuilds made sure that all functionalities in the FMS are fully functional. This really adds to the whole immersion as you would not likely found an INOP message in an aircraft FMS.

Of course, the FMS is not the only part of the whole aircraft systems that was replicated by the developers. Generally speaking, hydraulic, electrical, and fuel systems are replicated nicely, at least to me. Speaking about the fuel systems, there are two additional fuel tanks present in the addon, accurately replicated based on the real counterpart, which allows the aircraft to fly longer distances.

cpdlc

CPDLC is an abbreviation for “Controller-pilot data link communications“. It is an alternative way of communicating with the air traffic control from the aircraft’s cockpit. It is intended to be used for non-urgent strategic messages, including level assignments, speed assignments, or generally speaking information requests.

As with the real thing, in the iniBuilds A310, the CPDLC can do a bunch of useful things. Most importantly, Oceanic position reports, flight plan management, and live weather requests, both in METAR, and ATIS formats which can be afterwards printed out by the printer in the pedestal panel of the cockpit.

What I really found useful is the ability to import your flight plan from your SimBrief account to the FMS through the CPDLC. This is something that is usually placed directly in the FMS by the developers (FlightFactor, ToLiss, Zibo) but is not something that is usually there in the real aircraft. So iniBuilds decided to nicely hide it to the CPDLC. This makes it especially easier when flying long-haul flights.

The weather report feature is also very nice and works well. I found it very useful multiple times as I didn’t have to switch windows to take a look at ActiveSky XP. And while it is a small detail, it for sure adds a lot of immersion. Probably the only downside of this feature is that it only works when ActiveSky XP is running, which can make a real difference for someone who does not own it. The same applies to METAR requests through the EFB.

The only downside of the CPDLC is that unfortunately not all pages came out to be functional, and have “INOP” messages present.

EFB

The EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) present in the aircraft is mostly the same throughout all variants only with small differences, like the door layout differences between the passenger, ACJ, and freight variants of the aircraft, or the ground handling options, for example.

But otherwise, the core features of the EFB are the same throughout the variants offering everything a casual flight simmer would need on their virtual journeys – landing and take-off performance calculator, checklists, ground operations page, charts integration using Navigraph, ATIS information requests, panel states settings, and settings page.

Well, to be fair there is one feature I am really missing in the EFB, and that is the map. When I fly, I’m used to having a map opened on the EFB showing my current location on my virtual journeys. This is unfortunately something that is not present in the EFB.

On the other hand, the other features that are present are made to a high standard and work exactly as they should. I especially appreciated and found very useful the option to request ATIS information through the EFB.

The overall user interface of the EFB is very friendly and you will get a quick hand at it. I only found the cabin lighting settings a bit hidden in the general settings while it could easily get a separate section right on the homepage of the tablet.

For your convenience, if you come across an issue where the evacuation slides appear when you try to open the doors, make sure to disarm them first before opening them through the EFB’s “Exits” page. It took me a few minutes to notice that button and I wasn’t expecting it to be toggled by default like that.

failures

This is one of the few features I was personally really looking forward to exploring more when I read about it on the product page and got the copy of the aircraft afterwards. All failures can be triggered through the FMC by three parameters – feet after take-off, seconds after take-off, and above a certain speed is reached. The overall interface of the failure system is very simple to navigate through and well done. I would see an option for the developer to include it in the EFB rather than to the FMC, where it is currently.

Generally speaking, the developer’s made a very good job of simulating the failures accurately. There is a ton of options to select from – from the “basic” engine fire to the more complicated generator and hydraulic system issues. In my opinion, the list of available failures will please both casual and hardcore flight simmers out there.

I would really welcome though if it would be possible to set random failures, as some other developers did with their aircraft addons. To be fair, the fact that I know about the failure kind of ruins the moment of surprise.

small details

There is a good amount of small details, interesting and cool features across the aircraft addon. In this part of the review, I’ll try to go through the ones I found most interesting and innovative, or just worth pointing out.

First of them being interactive elements in the aircraft cabin in all three variants (PAX, Cargo, ACJ). In the passenger variant of the aircraft, there are not only responsive “No Smoking” and “Seatbelt” indicators, but also a working LCD display showing the current time, outside temperature, estimated time of arrival, and of course the origin airport and destination airport. I personally found this very cool, and although this is something you will not really come across while on your virtual endeavors, it really adds to the overall immersion and for sure is a nice feature that is not very often seen from the competition.

In the case of the freight variant, I found it very immersive to be able to actually control the freight area lighting and door operations through an operation panel. You can, of course, still operate them through the EFB, the classic way. With the ACJ variant, I did not come across any extra special or interactive elements, but going through it, you will notice many smaller modelling details. The interior of the ACJ variant is really modelled to the smallest details.

In the cockpit, things get a little more interesting with very nice-looking sunshine covers with a very neet wear texture look, previously mentioned printer, or generally very nice-looking wear and tear texture decals.

I might be nitpicking here, but with the sunshine covers, it took me a while to find out how to close them as they are interactive only on a small portion of the actual covers.

Documentation

I have to admit, that once I’ve seen the manual of the addon, I was very surprised, in a good way. Not only there is more than a casual flight simmer would need from addon documentation, but everything is as well written in a way even a newbie can understand. I personally found it very useful to be able to find everything you need to know about the addon in one file.

It includes checklists, simplified and extended procedures, and multiple aircraft-specific techniques used by real pilots as well as emergency procedures and technical specifications of the aircraft in case you would be a flight simmer really targeting realism.

I might only appreciate it if the manual would include some information on the real aircraft as well, maybe some walkthrough of the aircraft past and real-life ops. Without lying, however, I cannot say that I didn’t learn a thing or two from the manual itself about the aircraft.

Installation

As with most other aircraft addons for X-Plane 11, the installation is pretty straightforward. After downloading the files from the iniBuilds Store, you only need to extract them into the “Aircraft” folder of your simulator.

With v1.1.0, the aircraft files, not extracted, have about 4,2GB – what you will be downloading from the store. Once extracted, the addon will take about 14,3 GB of space on your drive. And while this might seem like a lot, keep in mind that there are three aircraft included in the addon.

Once installed and the simulator loaded, you will be prompted to enter your license key and reload the aircraft.

iniBuilds is, as of writing this review, also working on the “iniManager” application which will make it possible to more easily manage, install, and update iniBuilds and iniBuilds Partners products. The application is currently in the alpha testing stage. Once released, it should be pretty much comparable to the Orbx Central application making this even more straightforward.

Performance

This is the part of the review that will probably make a lot of people decide not to get the aircraft. And don’t take me wrong; I don’t want to sound pessimistic here or tell you not to get the aircraft just because of this, but if you do, don’t expect to get as good FPS as you are used to getting when flying ToLiss or Zibo aircraft.

Having a high-end computer, I achieved around 30 FPS on payware sceneries and 30-40 FPS on default sceneries and at cruise level. With other aircraft, I usually achieve around 50-70 FPS. This aircraft is more comparable to the FlightFactor A320 infamous for its performance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I found the addon to be an accurate replica of the aircraft that is a joy to fly with. Although the price is above average for aircraft addons in the X-Plane 11 community being at £69.99 (approx. €82), I still believe that the product is quite reasonably priced for what it offers and worth considering getting. It offers great visuals and system depth. The performance is the only part that may limit the potential customer. As with other iniBuilds products, the variety of available liveries is very broad.

Reviewed version: v1.10 (PAX, Freight, and ACJ variants)

If you want to purchase the aircraft, you can do so through the iniBuilds Store for the previously mentioned price of £69.99 (approx. €82) with taxes excluded.

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