8.2.2023 – 21:03z

REVIEW: Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS

Flight simulation can serve many purposes. For some, it is a hobby or an escape from daily life. For others, it’s a piece of their flight training toolbox. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 “Goliath” also serves another purpose: The vital role of preserving the pioneering days of aviation for a generation whose great-grandparents got to see it firsthand.

And it succeeds spectacularly.

Review Setup

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first and establish some context for the review. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS was reviewed on a PC copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator running a Ryzen 5800X3D and RTX 3080. I used a 1440p Ultrawide monitor, the Honeycomb Bravo throttle quadrant, and the Thrustmaster TCA Boeing yoke alongside Thrustmaster TFRP rudder pedals. I have been flight simming since MSFS released in 2020, and I hold no real-world pilot’s license. All currencies mentioned in this review are in $USD. Red Wing Simulations kindly provided a copy of the Farman F.60 for this review. However, the experiences and opinions presented in this review are my own and are not influenced by Red Wing Simulations or any other entity.

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History Class

To understand the significance of the Farman F.60 “Goliath,” we must first take a trip back to the interwar period of 1918-1939. This is a period of wild and rapid development in aviation, and of transition – from a wartime industry to one trying to adapt to a nascent world of civilian aviation.

It was into this exciting world that Maurice, Henry, and Dick Farman launched the F.60 “Goliath” in 1918. A modern biplane for the times, it was originally designed as a heavy bomber for the French air force but arrived to take part in the Great War. Like many military designs, it was almost immediately converted for civilian service and began carrying passengers and cargo for a number of airlines quickly popping up to capitalize on the brand-new demand for air travel and cargo.

18 variants of the “Goliath” were constructed across over 370 airframes. Some went on to serve their original purpose as bombers in militaries all over Europe. Others dutifully advanced commercial aviation, and others still broke records – with one special derivation of the F.60 (The F.62) completing a record 45-hour 2,700-mile flight in 1925. Today, only one original airframe is known to survive: The fuselage of F-HMFU (which is faithfully represented in-game), currently living at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace in Paris.

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Availability and Features

The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 “Goliath” for MSFS is available only from the Microsoft Flight Simulator in-game Marketplace for $29.99 at the time of this review’s publishing. It comes with passenger and cargo variants, a comprehensive manual, and seven unique liveries, including historical airframes as well as some “historical fiction” imagining the F.60 as if it flew U.S. airmail routes. Installation is managed through the MSFS marketplace, with no additional installation managers needed.

The aircraft settings are managed via a clipboard-style “EFB.” You can use the Clipboard to toggle visual additions such as animated characters and passengers, as well as perform checklists with the aid of an automated mechanic. The aircraft’s customizability is admirable, and both the gauges and voices can be selected in either English or period-accurate French. The Clipboard is also the center for the Farman F.60’s extensive maintenance features – a page that I quickly became extremely familiar with!

1918’s finest flight training

The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS includes a fairly comprehensive manual. This documentation is located in the plane’s install directory. I think the manual could do with one more localization pass for English speakers like myself. It’s far from incomprehensible – but there are definitely a few translations that require a re-reading for full context. Aside from that minor point, the manual is fantastic. It begins with a history lesson about the Farman Brothers’ company and the F.60 itself (What, you thought I just knew all that stuff? You flatter me). It includes a slew of performance figures and detailed descriptions of each feature, procedure, and gauge, and covers operating procedures as well as the more aspirational features of the Red Wing Farman F.60, such as a mail delivery mini-game – which we will get to later.

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Model and texturing

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: The Red Wing Farman F.60 “Goliath” is not setting a new bar for 3D modeling and texturing. There are numerous imperfections and the textures are generally low-resolution compared to even default planes. The scalloped trailing wing edges are especially noticeable, reflecting light in odd ways. The lettering looks unconvincing from a medium distance and when zoomed in, the edges become fuzzy, revealing the lower-resolution textures.

Further weaknesses are apparent wherever you decide to look hard enough. The same modeling issue present on the trailing wing edges is also apparent in places such as the front windows, landing gear, and rudder. The landing gear on the real airplane was sprung by heavy-duty Bungie cords, but this is not well-reflected here as the modeled landing gear is simply resting unconnected in its struts. The engine is highly detailed relative to its nacelle, which has a strange gap between the metal and fabric sections in its rear.

A period piece

There are, however, flashes of brilliance. The landing lights have lovely textured lenses and the generator is truly excellent. I can really feel the grime, rust, and oil. The exposed engine models, while not perfect, are more than acceptable and you can tell that a lot of thought was put into modeling the cylinders, piping, and wiring. Overall, the material textures are great. You can see the differences between the fabrics, wood, and each different type of metal used in the construction of the airplane and this helps sell the experience of being in a fragile machine held together by sheer determination.

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I want to recognize as well, that building a perfectly accurate model of a vintage airplane is significantly more challenging in many ways than building a modern airliner. Red Wing can’t go down to the airfield and snap pictures of the F.60. They can’t 3D-scan the engine nacelles or go out and talk to a cadre of real-world Farman F.60 pilots. The only thing that exists to check their work is most of a fuselage in a French museum, and what grainy and imperfect photographs that archivists have sought to preserve. There are absolutely issues that shouldn’t need a real-world example to solve, but the external model that Red Wing has delivered is, at its worst, perfectly acceptable – and still stands out in key places that matter.

The Inside Scoop

It’s much the same story when you enter the cabin of the Red Wing Farman F.60 “Goliath.” There is significant character in the passenger space: from the ornamented white-and-blue ceiling to the wide wicker chairs and accordion-style fabric trim, climbing into the cabin of the Farman F.60 transports you away to an era where air travel from London to Paris was just as exotic as a journey across the globe on any of Europe’s greatest ocean liners. Just… don’t look too hard at the gravity-defying luggage above your head.

The cabin in drone view (where I have taken most of my screenshots) is significantly lower texture and model quality than the cabin in cockpit view. Developers have to create two separate cabin models – one for each view – and it’s likely that the low-quality drone view cabin was created to improve performance. Of course, when outside the plane, the low-quality cabin is not apparent, and you get the high-quality cabin in cockpit mode when you’re closer to it anyway. And on the subject of performance, I experienced zero issues. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS was as smooth as my sim could run.

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A (lack of) pilot’s-eye view

Climb into the cockpit of the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 and you immediately understand the struggles faced by pioneering aviators in their perennial quest to see where their plane is going. Seriously, the nose of the F.60 is big (Some might say it’s goliath), and with the engines and the wing struts to your side, you only have a tiny sliver of ground to look at. I had to raise my sitting position significantly to get any useful view at all, and I found myself using some of the alternative views to get the visibility to taxi around properly. It’s worth mentioning as well that the compass was non-functional during my entire time with the review, but Red Wing Simulations has confirmed that is a known bug and will be fixed in an upcoming release.

The cockpit showcases the best and worst of the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60’s texturing. Right next to a decidedly last-gen glare shield is an exceptional cracked leather cushion protecting the pilot from the sides of the cockpit. The gauges and indicators are period-accurate, crisp, and extremely detailed, yet the hand-operated fuel pumps look like they’re straight out of my first Sketchup projects. These items are frustrating because they’re highlighted by the pieces of the aircraft that are just as spectacular as these low-detail items are lacking. Overall – visibility aside, the cockpit is adequate, once you figure out how to “set up your seat.” And you’ll definitely want to set up your view to see the excellently-modeled Eteve airspeed indicator mounted on the nose – as it is far more accurate at lower speeds and easier to read than the rotary indicator on the glare shield.

I’ve spent a lot of time in this section ragging on the F.60, and I want to make it clear that I don’t think the texture and modeling issues are a dealbreaker for me. I wanted to get all of that discussion out of the way early because I think they are the weakest part of the product. Yes, I would like to see them improved with future updates – but with the overall experience the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS offers, all those issues begin to melt away.

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So without further ado, let’s follow the great trailblazers of aviation into the limitless blue yonder.

Flight-testing the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60

I spent eight total flights in the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 prior to writing this review, spanning short hops of 20 minutes to a “long-haul” flight of nearly three hours. I flew the historic Paris-London route, with stops along the way at Pontoise and Abbeville.

I also took quite a bit of time to fly circuits and familiarize myself with the characteristics of the Farman F.60 for MSFS. This is definitely an aircraft that you need to spend the time to understand before throwing it into the sky for the first time.

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It takes a village

Real F.60 pilots could count on the helpful assistance of their onboard mechanic, and Red Wing has included this lovely gentleman to help you through your checklists. Using the clipboard, you can view all your normal and emergency checklists, and the mechanic can help through every normal checklist – by doing them for you entirely if you want. I actually love this feature. You can start the engines manually if you want by following the checklist, or you can let the mechanic take care of it for you.

He’s not the only buddy on your vintage journey either. You need to rotate the propellers after sitting on stand for a while, lest the engines lock up from the oil pooled at the bottom of the cylinders – or worse, explode. When you order the propellers rotated, your next helper comes out on a ladder to rotate it for you – all animated well. A very nice touch!

Red Wing Simulations has given us a host of other colorful characters to join our flights. They join us on the ramp, waiting to board their flight alongside stairs, ladders, and luggage cards. After you’re done setting your load on the Clipboard (Red Wing Simulations is adamant you should not use the in-game weight & balance manager), begin the boarding process and they will one-by-one disappear from the ramp, taking their seats in their wicker chairs.

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Sound test: The Roaring ’20s

Whether you execute the engine start yourself or let the mechanic do the work for you, starting the engines immediately brings you back to the dirty, roughshod days of the interwar period. The sounds are excellent. The engines clatter, cough, and smoke their way to life, and you can hear the fixed-pitch wooden propellers blowing air over your wings, even when stationary.

Engine start & run up using the mechanic’s automated checklists. Please note that any framerate issues or stuttering you see are a result of my recording software, NOT the plane – the Farman F.60 was buttery smooth in my sim the whole time. (Scenery: Red Wing Simulations Croydon 1935)

The valves on each engine cylinder are individually animated, and accurately change based on the speed of the engine. Red Wing has done an excellent job with the Farman F.60 to create an immersive cockpit experience based on the strength of the sounds and the flight model (more on that in a moment).

A period-accurate handful

The Farman F.60 hails from a time when the first flight assistants were just a twinkle in the eye of future innovators. A time when flying was novel, and even the best aviators were still figuring it out as they went. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 puts you in the seat of these brave pilots, and believe me – this is quite a far-flung experience from your typical modern aircraft.

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This is an aircraft that really rewards you if you read the manual and spend some time understanding it before you embark on your first journeys. As you can see in the screenshot above, I initially did not take this time. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 is a handful to fly in the most exciting way. It can be docile and reliable, its large, wide wings offering ample list and stability. However, it can also bite you harshly and without warning, if you aren’t paying attention or respecting its limitations.

As an example, let’s consider my impromptu stall testing above – corroborated by some more scientific testing on a later flight. Stalling from a level attitude is uneventful: It’s a large, equal-span biplane and it simply floats down on those giant wings, allowing you ample time to recover. But stall during climb or at a high angle of attack, and the Farman F.60 suddenly becomes allergic to flight and races towards Terra Firma like a rocket-propelled brick.

This aggression by which the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 punishes an inattentive pilot should not be taken as a negative here. I love the engagement it demands from me and the way I need to truly understand what the airplane is trying to tell me. I’m not just talking about the wear-and-tear/damage model here either – more on that later. For example, how do you properly lean the mixture if there’s no gauge? Pay close attention to the engines themselves: if it’s too rich, you’ll see grey-blue smoke spewing out behind you, and if it’s too rich, you’ll start to feel vibrations and hear the engine knocking and running roughly – before it finally coughs and dies due to fuel starvation.

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Specific flight model & performance notes

Climb performance is best described as reluctant. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 really struggles to climb, especially at higher weights. It accelerates really well on the take-off run and quickly gets off the ground, but once you’re airborne you really need to manage the speed and power smartly to keep the altimeter going up. I do question whether the actual aircraft had this much trouble climbing – even with maximum power (which the manual cautions you on exceeding for any length of time) at the recommended climb speed of approx. 75 kph, I often struggled to gain altitude, no matter how heavy or light I was loaded. It is very sensitive to CG changes as well – an aft CG can make it almost impossible to climb when heavily laden, wallowing around nose-high until you finally decide to land and kick out those passengers who have had one too many pain-au-chocolat.

The Farman F.60 for MSFS also controls somewhat differently from what I was used to. The throttle, pitch trim, and mixture axes are reversed from a typical modern piston – pulling the throttles toward you increase power instead of reducing it. I adjusted my own hardware throttles to match, of course, immersion is paramount! Additionally, the ailerons are extremely ineffective, in contrast to the hyper-sensitive rudder. Combine the right amounts of each though, and it is easy to turn the Farman F.60 on a dime.

I really enjoy how each engine seems to have a temperament of its own, appropriate for an era when the aircraft engine as a concept is not yet old enough to drink. I had to keep slightly asymmetrical power settings to achieve the same thrust from each, with the right engine generally delivering slightly more power. Since this does not have counter-rotating propellers, P-factor is very apparent and by the end of my flight to London, I felt like I had just hit the right-leg-only gym. Although the actual Farman F.60 did not include any form of aileron or rudder trim, Red Wing has kindly provided manual rudder and aileron trim axes in the Clipboard in case you wish to ease the pressure on your poor right foot. I, of course, as a true flight simulation connoisseur and no filthy casual, suffered through the entire flight (and not because I had forgotten the option was available).

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A complete interwar aviation experience

All of what I have mentioned above describe a full-featured aircraft addon, but Red Wing Simulations has taken it a step further. The Farman F.60 for MSFS ships with a comprehensive failure model, including animations and sounds for engine replacement. But it’s not only your engines that can fail: any aerodynamic surface can fail – and if you exceed the limits of the airframe, they will.

Ask me how I know.

Red Wing Simulations’ visual damage model for the F.60 is excellent, exposing the spars and construction of the wings. But if you use the Clipboard to change the realism settings to “Normal” mode, the simulated tearing of the control surfaces has immediate, and very real, effects on the safe continuance of your flight. Your propellers can shatter, as can your landing gear if you’re not too conscientious about your landing speeds. Even worse, pushing your engines past their limits for too long can result in oil leaks, splashing oil all over the side of your plane, and any number of additional failures up to and including engine fire, complete with flame and smoke particle effects. Quite pretty, if it weren’t for, you know… the engine fire.

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There are a few more failures you can enable manually, and there is an even more challenging “realism” setting that remains in development for a future update. There are a few aspects of the failures in Normal mode that seem aggressive or overtuned, however. As an example, on takeoff, advancing the engines to normal takeoff power as described by the manual immediately resulted in a failure of both power plants. It’s entirely possible that there is something I missed; however, I would like to see these failure modes explained in greater detail in the manual by the time the Realism mode is released, as I couldn’t figure out how to avert this with the information currently presented.

You’ve Got Mail!

One of the most common and lucrative roles for cargo aircraft of this era is that of the mail carrier. The Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS has actually included the capability to perform this job on every cargo livery included with the plane. Not only can you load mailbags (that are modeled faithfully in the cargo hold), but you can direct your mechanic to drop them on waiting postal workers on the airfield below. You can also extend and retract hook the non-stop pickup mail system. Yes, that’s right, you can pick up mailbags without having to land because that’s just truly a waste of time.

Keep in mind, however, that the mailbag “minigame” is only truly available when combined with one of Red Wing Simulations’ separate sceneries from their “MSFS 1935” collection (You can drop mail anywhere you want, but you can only get successful drops and pick up other bags when combined with a scenery). In fact, Red Wing Simulations is currently working diligently on releasing a number of sceneries to create a full interwar aviation experience in MSFS, circa 1935, complete with nighttime navigation beacons, mail minigames, era-appropriate airports, and much more.

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The Farman F.60 for MSFS even hints at a 1935 career mode that will be released in a future update. I bought Paris le Bourget 1935 & Croydon 1935 with my own money when flying for this review to put myself in the vintage mood. Although this is not a review of those sceneries, I will say that combined with a vintage aircraft, they definitely enhance the experience. I look forward to investigating the Career mode and more of Red Wing Simulations’ 1935 sceneries in the future when they release.

Conclusion

Every time I boot up Microsoft Flight Simulator, I have a goal to accomplish or a specific experience in mind. I’d expect you, the reader, to be much the same way. Maybe you want to continue your world tour or see some stunning, remote scenery. Perhaps you want to fly a route you’re about to travel in real life or stay current on your real-world procedures. There are innumerable reasons that you or I could fire up our flight simulator, and that’s one of the most beautiful things about the hobby.

Broadly speaking, most of these experiences are not necessarily exclusive to the simulator. It might be unlikely, but you could get to the point at which you’re flying circles around the Eiffel Tower in a 737 (You might be arrested upon landing, but that’s beside the point). But like many vintage and pioneering airplanes, the Farman F.60 just simply does not exist anymore. There is no clear path to climbing into the cockpit of this classic. But even if you did, there are no more nighttime navigation beacons, no more nonstop mail pickups, and no more of the romance that made the early days of flight so exciting.

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This is an experience that only an addon like the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS can provide: Something unique and increasingly lost to the march of time. The textures and model still leave quite a lot to be desired, but in my time reviewing this aircraft, those issues (as glaring as they were when I was looking for them) melted away. I was immersed in the experience of being a pilot in the interwar years, nursing a fragile, finicky, and beautiful plane over the French countryside until I began to understand every sound, vibration, and motion of the aircraft underneath me.

I recommend the Red Wing Simulations Farman F.60 for MSFS. It is reasonably priced, and I very much enjoyed my time with it. I do hope that Red Wing Simulations improve their textures in future updates, as well as deliver on the aspirational features that are still unfinished. It is understandable if you’d like to give this a miss and hold out for something that ticks all the boxes – but if you do, I’d suggest you jump on that experience as soon as it becomes available. Because this Farman F.60 for MSFS, and addons like it, preserve the experience of this bygone era. And as an aviation enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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