Threshold Review: Toag's Hangar SA315B Lama
December 22, 2023
Anybody who knows me will tell you that there isn't much that excites me more than vintage aircraft, one of those things is vintage aircraft with a unique look. Enter the French-made Aèrospatiale SA 315B Lama.
Originally designed for the Nepalese and Indian air forces, the Lama was designed to fulfil the need for a helicopter that could operate at high altitudes in exceedingly hot climates. Aèrospatiale achieved this by combining the light airframe of the SA 318 Alouette II with the components and power plant of the more powerful SA 316/319 Alouette III. With the maiden flight taking place in March of 1969 the Lama later entered service in 1971. The Lama became the choice for many operators worldwide who had a similar need for a helicopter that was able to operate at higher altitudes, by the end of 1976 there had been nearly 200 Lamas built for nearly 70 civilian and military operators. The SA315B was also produced under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with the name ‘Cheetah’.
With all the technical stuff out of the way I'd like to take a chance to be upfront with the fact that I didn't pay for the Lama, however, as I won it in a raffle there was no expectation for a review. I may at points reference conversations with the developer, however, this is strict to make sure any information is correct and factual.
This review has been written post SU14 and the flying was done using the following hardware:
- Logitech X56 Rhino HOTAS
- Ryzen 7 3700x
- Nvidia RTX 2080ti
MSFS is loaded onto a 1tb Crucial P1 SSD and I'm using add-on linker to store my community folder in a separate drive. My graphics settings are set to high and I'm running a 144hz QHD monitor at native resolution.
Exterior model and texturing
One of the places Taog’s projects shine is with the exterior model and texturing work he puts in. The SA315 features full PBR textures and over 30 high-quality liveries. The attention to detail is truly eye-catching. I particularly appreciate the amount of detail in the engine and rotor assembly, especially with them being so visible from the interior.
The Taog's Hangar SA315B Lama includes multiple exterior accessories, including aerial firefighting equipment, and two different external cargo containers, as well as options to include a cargo along, camera, and a controllable spotlight. I'll be sure to go over these options more later in the review.
Overall I think my favorite part of the exterior model is the rotor assembly and the animation used for it. Not only does it look fantastic but the animations are highly accurate and true to life.
Interior model and texturing
The interior of the SA315B offers an uncommon view that many modern helicopters don't offer. The mostly glass cockpit of the Lama allows its pilots to have an almost completely unobstructed 360° view. As for the avionics, you'll be hard-pressed to find any modern GPS units, the Lama is outfitted with a completely analogue instrument panel and a Bendix/King radio stack. Taog has included an easily accessible clipboard menu where you can select the different customizations.
Overall the interior texturing is very well done, especially on the avionics. The entire panel is incredibly crisp and clear allowing pilots to easily read the instruments without having to take their hands off the controls to zoom in on them.
In my opinion, having a good sound pack is essential for helicopters. Due to the hand flying that most helicopters require I find a high-quality sound pack that allows a pilot to focus on changes in the rotor sound and helps with making slight collective adjustments to maintain your speed and altitude.
The sound pack included with the SA315B may be my favourite of any aircraft for MSFS. The sound of the Artouste turboshaft engine is fairly unique. On startup, the engine has a howl that I find Taog has represented amazingly but I feel what comes through the best is the rotor noise. It truly feels like the helicopter is alive with the amount of detail put into the sound pack.
When it comes to helicopter simulation I've spent a very long time as an admirer rather than someone who partakes. This is mainly because helicopters seem far too complicated for me and I felt that a lot of scenery just wasn't worth learning how to fly helicopters. Microsoft Flight Simulator has changed that for me, with the high level of detail many developers are putting into their scenery combined with the accuracy that many large cities have in the sim helicopters have become a huge part of my regular flying, that being said I am still very much a beginner with helicopters so my perspective on the flight model may be different than someone who has more experience.
Overall I think the Lama has an exceptional flight model. It's got a nice amount of manoeuvrability at both high and low speeds while also managing to not feel like an F-18. The Lama doesn't require a ton of input to keep it hovering, however, if you are having issues it plays very nicely with the helicopter assists enabled.
Final thoughts and more information
As more helicopters are released for MSFS I have a feeling the overall quality of available add-ons is going to increase and I feel like Taog's Hangar will be one of the front runners. So far both the Lama and Alouette III that Taog has on offer have been received exceptionally well by the community. It's not super clear on what or when the next Taog's Hangar helicopter is coming but I know for sure whatever it is I'll be more than likely adding it to my collection. I appreciate that developers are willing to focus on unique aircraft like the Lama, and I'm more than willing to admit it's for selfish reasons.
Currently, Taog's Hangar SA315B Lama can be purchased from flightsim.to for just under 35 US dollars. For more information on the Lama and other projects by Taog's Hangar check out their discord server here.
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