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Shackleton Mk3A
Developed by Rob Richardson for FSX. Published by BritSim
Reviewed by Kieran Marshall
November 2011

The four-engined Shackleton is a strange beast. You can trace its roots back to the Avro Manchester bomber, the father of the more-famous Lancaster. Its closest relative is the Avro Lincoln, a larger Lancaster but still with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. These were replaced by the Griffon in the Shackleton with contra-rotating propellers.

The original Shackleton was an anti-submarine warfare (ASW). In this form, the Mark 1 was a tail-dragger. It first flew on 9 March 1949, and introduced 2 years later. Twin 20mm Hispano cannons were fitted to the prototype, along with a mid-upper turret and an air-to-air refuelling point in the rear of the aircraft. These three features were deleted for the production aircraft, but the cannons made a return for the Mk 2. It was issued to 11 Coastal Command squadrons. But almost immediately, there were problems. The chin-mounted radar was prone to bird-strikes and the position didn’t give the crews 360 degree coverage. The single tailwheel was unable to cope with hard landings and the aircraft was hard to taxi on the ground.

These were rectified in the Mark 2, considered the best Shackleton by many crews. This still sported the tailwheel, but the radar was moved to behind the wing in a retractable housing. This caused much embarrassment to Bill Houldsworth, when he did a night-bombing detail. During the sortie, he and his co-pilot became disorientated and flew lower than intended. This left the radar scanner on the Ballykelly radar buoy!

The Mk2 also had an extended nose, with the return of the twin 20mm Hispano cannons. A tail look out was placed in the extended tail, producing the classic ‘Shack’ shape and she equipped every squadron except 201, as well as ASWDU, JASS Flight and the famous MOTU Maritime Operational Training Unit.

But there were still problems. Aircrew complained about the tailwheel, saying it was hard to land. The brakes, pneumatic, were prone to failure. These problems led to the Shackleton Mark 3

The Mark 3 was a hydraulically braked, tricycle undercarriage version of the famous patrol aircraft. It had a slightly bigger fuselage and was duly stuffed with as much equipment as possible. The aircraft had a galley, bed bunks and a tastefully creamy-brown interior.

Externally, the aircraft had wing-tip fuel tanks. But the major difference were the engines. They were still Rolls-Royce Griffons, but they couldn’t lift the Shackleton, with an all-up weight of 108,000lbs, off a 6000ft runway. Thus, a pair of Viper jets was put in the outer cowlings with the Griffons.

The Mark 3 was the only Shackleton to be exported, with 8 going to the South African Air Force (the SAAF). But the Mark 3 wasn’t the longest-lived Shackleton. The Mark 2 outlived the Mark 3 by some years. The Mark 2, now modified to AEW status, was finally withdrawn in 1991.

Several Shackleton’s were preserved, one (Mk2 WR963) being at Coventry. This is now repainted into early Coastal Command colours and has regular engine runs at the ‘AIRBASE’ museum.

For a more detailed history on all things Shackleton, please visit

Downloading and installing
Downloading was quick and easy from the BritSim website. This is the FSX model by Rob Richardson. The sound set is produced by Gary Jones, his last set before his ‘retirement’, and is available separately, but included with in this review. Anyway, the download sizes are:

Avro Shackleton Mark 3A: 30.28mb
Sounds by Gary Jones: 27.02mb

I tried to download the files, but each time it failed. I’ve put this down to the fact BritSim were changing servers. You should have no problems! Thanks must go to Leif Harding, one of the administrators at BritSim. I reported this problem and he quickly e-mailed me a temporary download link, for which I am indebted to him. Thanks a lot!

If you have any problems downloading the files, please post in the BritSim forum.

I’ve been asked to include this bit. Rob Richardson says that this is his interpretation of the Shackleton, not a lavishly re-created model.

What you get
    * Avro Shackleton MR3A – XF707 - Royal Air Force
    * 1707 – South African Air Force (SAAF)

Visual of what you get:

Having only seen two Shackleton’s (at Duxford and Newark), I needed more details on how the Shackleton looked. The basic shape is well captured, with all the necessary ‘lumps and bumps’ modelled. The twin 20mm cannons are well modelled, complete with sighting equipment. The engine nacelles are well captured, making the Griffon’s look a bit like radial engines.

Moving back, all the standard moving parts are there, including ailerons, flaps (no slats), gear, doors, bomb-bay doors, rudders and elevators. One great feature is the radome package in the back. This can be extended, but only with the gear up. It retracts automatically if the gear is lowered. This is a great feature, as it adds realism. You don’t want to land and drag the radar along the runway!

Ladders appear at the two main ‘doors’. These are reasonably detailed, with the yellow paint well depicted. The chocks seem a little too ‘orange’ to me, but this may be because all the Shackleton’s I’ve seen have had well worn yellow chocks.

Apart from that, the exterior is excellent and captures the Shackleton look well

Stepping up the rather long ladder into the cockpit shows the extent of Rob’s good work.

The main panel is a solid representation of the Shackleton Mk3 panel.

To me, the background looks a tad flat, with not a lot of extra ‘relief’. But the gauges are fluid, 3-D and easily usable.

The autopilot in the centre is the default version, as used in the Maule. The communication suite, situated on the overhead, is also the default Maule type, rather than being in the back (more of which later).

A few views are provided, these being the Pilot’s seat, the F/E panel, the co-pilots seat, the rear cabin and the 2-D. This is the default F/A-18 HUD, with no specific 2-D being produced. But the quality of the VC means the lack of a 2-D doesn’t matter.

The cabin is modelled, but with only photo’s forming the panels. This is unfortunate, but it is one of the better versions of doing it. They seem a little flat to me, after examining real world photos, it should be angled in. This in turn makes the interior feel a little too big. The wing spar is simply a black block. I think a little extra relief wouldn’t go amiss here, like slight creases, worn leather etc. The seats seem a tad small, with the whole desk area having a reasonable amount of wear and tear. But notable areas of wear are around the rudder pedals.

Comparing the VC to the real thing, Rob has done a great job. From what I can see, only the area outboard of the ‘blind six’ isn’t fully modelled. Even the cables running from the control yoke down are modelled.

The overhead panel is well modelled, but with the addition of radios. From what I can see, this isn’t 100% accurate (it is the default stack, but I’m talking about placement), but a worthy change since when you are about to land, you can’t just nip in the back, mess around then get back to the front!

The sounds are produced by Gary Jones. These are the last sounds to be produced by Gary before his retirement. And boy, what a good set it is! The unmistakeable Griffon rumbled is accurately modelled, complete with popping during start-up. The sound can reverberate around your head if you wear headphones, like I do. But, in my opinion, this is good as you can hear more-or-less what the real crews heard.

During run up, the sounds accurately ‘tell’ us that the engines are working well. The growl comes out at higher power levels, but disappears at some of the lower power settings, as it should do

You can’t fly the Shackleton without them!

Flight Dynamics
Having never flown in a Shackleton (they were all withdrawn a few years before I was even born!), I can’t be 100% sure. But here’s a basic flight from RAF St. Mawgam.

You reach the aircraft, with both the front and rear ladders out, doors open, bomb-bay doors open and wheel chocks in. A quick walk around shows everything’s OK for flight. Climbing up the front ladder, you confront the main panel. It’s all logically laid out and you quickly work out where everything is. The throttles aren’t in the normal place between the pilots, but on the sides of the aircraft. This actually makes sense, since the crew would need access to the bomb aimer’s station

The engine controls are well laid out and modelled, so starting those 4 Griffon’s (the Vipers aren’t modelled) is a doddle. The aircraft has no tendency to move unless under your orders, but takes practice to taxi, due to the high weight. Once it’s moving, it’s reasonably heavy to turn – just like it should be

Once onto the runway, you can hold the aircraft using brakes, but not for long. The power of those Griffons force you forward and, after a reasonable ground run, you’re off the runway and into the air. The first thing you notice is the slightly heavy nature of the elevator.

The gear comes up with little effect on trim, but the flaps do have a marked impact of the trim. Climb power is about 2000rpm in tests, and cruising power is about 1500rpm at 1500ft. Once fully trimmed out, the Shackleton will hold station hands-off for a while, providing speed is the same. I plodded around for an hour or two one day, just off the coastline. The sound of those Griffons was perfection!

Coming into land, you need to reduce speed and drop a bit of flaps. This raises the nose up a bit, so either trimming or down force on the elevator. Rolling the aircraft out onto finals takes a bit of time, but this is accurate.

The gear drops down nicely and reasonably high rpm is needed to stabilise the aircraft at around 130kts. Touchdown happens at around 100kts – an amazing feat for an aircraft weighing over 100,000lbs! Taxi is as described at the beginning of this section, although the aircraft is lighter after a flight, so just watch out putting power down.

I even took one onto a carrier deck. I managed to take off fine – I just messed up the landing! Here is a shot, proving that it would be possible to get one of these heavy birds off the deck, but maybe not onto one!

Overall Experience
Rob Richardson’s Shackleton is a great package. It is the first real Shackleton to be made for FSX, and Rob should be commended for this. The extra animations are a superb addition and a great plus for the play value. Whilst two liveries many not sound much, you’ll have so much fun you won’t even notice!

System Specs Required
Internet connection
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (Acceleration)
Extractor (for the .zip files the packs come in)

Frames rates – For both aircraft:
On the ground (RAF Conisgnby default) – VC 24fps
Outside 15fps
In Flight at 4000ft - VC 15-35fps
Outside 10-20 fps

Note on Frame rates – Whilst 10-20fps may sound slow, and it is, but the default Cessna 172 barely tops 20fps outside, and about 20-30fps in the VC. This is because my system isn’t great for FSX, but will still run it

Total flight time – 3.4 hours since starting the review, 15hrs in total


    *    Little/No drop in frame rates
    *    Droppable loads
    *    Extras like ladders and chocks
    *    Gary’s sounds are ‘Just like the real thing’
    *    It’s free!

    *    Only two liveries
    *    No sound pack in the main download

I award this a Mutley's Hangar score of 9/10