By: Bill Stack
Manufactured: Vertigo Studios
Published: Vertigo Studios
Click on image's to enlarge.
The Douglas SBD Dauntless was a World War II naval dive bomber made by Douglas
Aircraft. "SBD" stands for "Ship Borne Dive-Bomber." A dive bomber is an attack
aircraft for precision bombing of targets by diving on them at a steep angle.
Dive bombing was useful for attacking naval vessels that were evading attacks
because it pounced on them from above like birds of prey. The Douglas SBD
Dauntless was the only United States aircraft to participate in all five naval
engagements that were fought exclusively between aircraft carriers. It sank more
enemy shipping during 1942 than all other aircraft combined, even though it was
considered obsolete and replacements were being developed before the war began.
It had seating for two persons in tandem with dual flight controls. It carried a
1,000-pound bomb under the fuselage, one 100-pound bomb on each wing, two
forward-firing, fixed machine guns in the nose cowling, and one movable machine
gun facing backward.
A version of the Douglas SBD Dauntless for FSX SP1, SP2 and Acceleration has
been released by Vertigo Studios. No model is planned for FS2004 because of
"poly counts." They said the only way it could have been achieved would have
been to cut back on a lot of detail.
Vertigo Studios is a new aircraft-development endeavour organized by Dean
Greasley. "With the success of the F6F Hellcat our next step was to work with
another well-known aircraft which is the SBD Dauntless." The Dauntless was
chosen because it "was an iconic aircraft that played a very important roll,"
Mr. Greasley explained. "Initially we have only released a fighter and wanted to
try our hands on a dive bomber as there was no Payware SBD for FSX that I was
Performance characteristics differ depending on typical variables and whether
this aircraft is used in combat or noncombat. The following specifications are
taken from the Vertigo Studios manual:
• Gross weight — 7,773 to 9,019 pounds
• Take off distance — 609 feet to 862 feet
• Service ceiling — 25,200 feet to 28,800 feet
• Cruising speed — 173 knots to 203 knots
• Highest speed — 194 knots to 223 knots
Vertigo Studios touts the following among more than 30 features of its SBD
• Designed and built by the book
• Animated pilot — looks toward direction of turn
• True 3D instrumentation
• Sound engineered from real SBD recordings
• Pilot's notes pop-up 2D panel keeps important information easily available
Vertigo Studio's Dauntless is accurate inside and out compared with real-world
photos on the Internet. The overall shape and dimensions as well as all details
appear true to reality. Nine variants are included. Many of the cockpit switches
and controls are operable.
I used Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station (PHNG) for my test flights because
it is at sea level and it is a historically appropriate airfield for this
aircraft. I also used standard atmosphere and clear weather.
Vertigo Studios says two models are available for desired levels of simulation —
"intermediate" for book flyers and "easy" for fun flyers. I didn't see anything
in the manual or aircraft-selection menus that identified which was which. I
must have selected the "fun" model, because it was much easier to fly than I
expected of a 1940s aircraft. It took off, climbed, levelled, turned, descended,
and landed with little effort. Guidance in Vertigo's manual makes simulations
more realistic, but the aircraft flew just fine "by the seat."
The tail lifted at about 70 KIAS, and the aircraft lifted off the runway at
about 90 knots. It climbed at 1,000 feet per minute at 110 KTS and 1,800 FPM at
100 KIAS. It will climb at 500 FPM at 150 KTS. Once aloft, it handled very much
like a Cessna 172/182. Flying straight and level was easy, as was turning,
climbing, and descending. It seemed more sensitive to banking, however, as it
lost altitude more quickly during this manoeuvre than a C172 does, so it
requires constant attention to pitch and power during turns.
Because this was a dive bomber, I executed a practice dive from 5,000 feet. It
accelerated over the top of the airspeed indicator during the dive. When I
reached 1,000 feet, I pulled up, and the aircraft came out of the dive right
away. But airspeed and attitude must be strictly controlled during these
manoeuvres or the aircraft can go into the sea or stall during pull-out.
Having never flown a real Dauntless, I have no way of knowing whether this
modelling is correct. Vertigo said the flight modelling "was created from the
official flight manual."
Although the flaming engine is a realistic feature, it can also be a hindrance.
Once the engine flames out, there is no restarting it. The aircraft must be
ditched into the sea or landed anyplace suitable. Vertigo Studios affirmed this,
saying "Once the flameout comes into play there is no turning back, basically
the simmer has killed the engine resulting in total engine failure." Flaming out
when the engine overheats is realistic enough, but flaming out whenever all the
lights are on is unrealistic and annoying. I was unable to make good night
pictures because of the flameouts when the lights were on. In response to my
question, Vertigo said the following about engine flaming: "Do to restraints
with in FSX by hitting the 'I' key brings the effects in to play, within the sim
manual it's stated not to use the 'I' key and to use the switches on the main
electrical panel to achieve night flying. Every light on the SBD is controlled
via the main electrical panel."
The installation program installs all needed files into the Microsoft Flight
Simulator X folder.
Aircraft sounds "engineered from real SBD recordings" make the Dauntless sound
like a World War II real dive bomber in all flight operations.
The aircraft relies solely on a 3D virtual cockpit.
Aircraft performance data and checklists are included in a manual and in the
kneeboard. I find kneeboards much easier to use than multi-page manuals. The
checklist doesn't appear in the kneeboard, however, because the file extension
is "html" instead of "htm," as MSFS requires. When I changed the file extension,
the checklist appeared as it should. Vertigo Studios promises to fix this minor
but inconvenient error in a pending patch.
Technical support is available through an online support center and the use of
support tickets, but I received no reply after more than a week other than an
immediate confirmation of my request.
The realistic cockpit with its functioning controls make using this aircraft
very easy and realistic.
We can see through the site tube atop the instrument panel (see screen shot).
We can also see land and sea below through a small rectangular opening in the
floor between the pilot's feet.
The moveable cockpit canopies are fun to operate.
The pilot's head that moves toward the banking side during turns is a realistic
Engine failure is modelled. The manual says: "The aircraft will always show
tell-tale signs of wear if being misused. White smoke means that the engine may
be beginning to overheat, as does a rough running power plant. Black smoke means
that there is a serious problem requiring the attention of the pilot."
I found no way to disengage the engine fires other than to restart the
simulation, however. Shutting down and restarting the engine did not extinguish
the fire, whether aloft or on the ground. This means that close attention to
engine instruments is absolutely requisite, as is not using all the lights
simultaneously, the latter being unrealistic.
A 21-page manual in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format describes how to use this
• Specifications and performance data are clearly spelled out.
• Annotated screen shots of the cockpit identify major gauges, controls, and
• Checklists for all taking off and landing are included.
• Maximum weights, service ceilings, and cruising speeds are specified in the
manual. Minimum, maximum, rotation, take-off, and stall speeds are shown in the
kneeboard reference sheet.
• Operations of the World War II era radios are not explained. I found how to
set frequencies, but I found no instruments providing readouts (Omni bearing
indicators, automatic direction finder, etc.). In response to my question,
Vertigo said it is working on a patch "that will replace the current radio with
a much easier means of managing the comms."
Information about the Douglas SBD Dauntless can be found at these websites,
• Aviation History
• Warbird Alley
Vertigo Studio's Douglas SBD Dauntless is a fun aircraft for simulating World
War II operations or nostalgic flights. Everything about it seems realistic (I
found nothing to the contrary). Other than the engine failures and fires, it's
generally easy to fly. The manual and kneeboard data are helpful toward using
this unique aircraft. Instructions on using the unique WWII radios are needed,
and Vertigo promises a patch to improve the radios. The engine fires should not
occur whenever all lights are turned on because there is little relation between
the two (other than an unlikely simulated electrical short), but Vertigo
explains that inherent FSX limits are factors.