Big Radials Noorduyn Norseman full review

I’m a bit of a sucker for bushplanes and doubly so if they happen to be a Canadian bushplane. Enter Big Radials and their Noorduyn Norseman, a 1930s era bushplane that has a lengthy legacy flying in some of the most remote parts of the world. Their aircraft has just been released a few weeks ago and its imminently arriving on the Marketplace. Is this airplane worth the price? What kind of features does it have? I look at that and some truly unique approaches that Big Radials has made to ensure that we can #flythedamnplane. You’ll see!


Big Radials provided the Noorduyn Norseman to me in exchange for some pre-release content and a full review. I also provided Big Radials with some initial feedback during the preview stage so that they knew about the few challenges that I had. They have not exercised any editorial control over this review and are reading it at the same time that you are.

A bit of history

The Noorduyn Norseman is a Canadian-built bushplane designed for operation primarily in the Canadian north from rough and unprepared airstrips as well as from the numerous lakes. It, like the DHC-2 Beaver that succeeded it, was highly effective in its role. It also intersects with some interesting history too.

The aircraft was designed by Robert B. C. Noorduyn, a Dutch-born engineer and businessman who worked at a variety of companies over his career including Fokker, Sopwith, the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogyro Company of America, before deciding in 1934 to create his own design. Utilizing a similar design process to the Fokker F.8 airliner that he was involved in, the Norseman that he designed was a purpose built type.

Starting with the floatplane but designed with skis, floats and wheels all in mind, the Norseman emerged as a robust, high braced monoplane with a welded steel tubing fuselage. A first flight occurred in November of 1935 and sales were steady but slow and just 17 aircraft had been delivered by 1940. Then, World War II happened, and the RCAF placed an order for 38 aircraft. The USAAF followed that up with 749 C-64As.

After the war, the Canadian Car and Foundry company sold a civilian version of the military contract with the total number of Norseman’s totalling 904 aircraft with the last being constructed in 1959. The type is still flown with 42 on active register in Canada and 9 in the US.

I also had the pleasure of going inside one at the Canadian Bush Plane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. I have an article about that experience that I will release sometime soon!


Big Radials advertises their Norseman simulation as an aircraft featuring a highly detailed re-creation of the type both inside and out. Realistic flight performance, three variants (standard, bush and float), six liveries, two bush trips and online documentation. Let’s dig into some of the details.

The folks at Big Radials likes to keep thing simple both with their features list and with their marketing but they really do have some interesting details baked into the project too. Allow me to highlight some of the ones that stood out to me.

They smartly decided to give the Norseman some options when it came to how you interact with it which should prove a wide appeal.

By default, the airplane does not have an autopilot or any sophisticated navigational gear at all. If you want to fly the airplane like that, in its 1930s configuration, you absolutely can fly it that way. But we’re also flight simmers with flight simmer problems and that means that things like autopilots aren’t always just a nice to have but sometimes more or less essential – and so the way that Big Radials has built one in merits some explanation. It’s also really cool!

Click a box under the co-pilot’s dashboard and a CRT monitor swings out and becomes active. Yep! A CRT! It comes complete with a green cast and a visible refresh rate. It’s retro, fun and quirky and I love what it does because its basically an EFB for the airplane but with a very artistic flare! It’s still absolutely functional with a status screen that lets you set the rear configuration (passenger, crates, or barrels), and set the doors, chocks, and covers (pitot and engine). It’s got checklists for all stages of flight. And it has an autopilot in TWO formats.

The first format lets you interact with a basic autopilot complete with altitude hold and heading hold via the CRT. It feels reasonably immersive and useful thanks to the presentation. Want more? Hit the GPS button and a honest to goodness Garmin glass panel drops from the ceiling above the pilot (you can also click the box directly). A glass panel does kind of feel out of place here but its incredibly useful and so if you want that experience – you’ve got it! And if you don’t? Click the button and the glass panel folds back up into the box. I love this appreciation for different types of virtual pilots. The utility and the cleverness of its implementation brought me a ton of joy just seeing it in action.

This aircraft does have some level of electrical system modeling. Pop the breaker out on the appropriate system and it stops working (i.e. the landing lights). Nice!

Although the CRT itself does have a checklist, I do miss having the built in MSFS checklist system which the airplane does not have. Its not a big deal here as there’s a viable backup but its worth noting.

If you want to quickly start the plane, you can absolutely press the Control E button and make that happen.

Two bushtrips are also included in the package. The first one has you flying for Gibbes Sepik Airways in the New Guinea region while the second puts you with BR Air Services flying over a 1,000 km route from Villa O’Higgins all the way to Puerto Williams in South America.

Finally, Big Radials does something that a lot of others miss out on. A really good manual! You can download it from their website or access it directly here!

Visuals and sounds

Big Radials did a really good job with the visuals too. I thought their P-40B looked good when I reviewed that a couple of years ago, the work here is even better than that. Their team have clearly matured their product.

On the exterior, the model is absolutely solid. No issues with it in any place that I could find. The modeling is top notch and the texture work is also great. There’s a suitable amount of wear everywhere and the roughmet materials give the aircraft more of a worn/matte appearance versus some of the glossy GA airplanes that are out there. It feels appropriate for this older rough and tumble kind of bush airplane. It has covers for the engine and various tubes. It even has weights that keep the airplane in place.

Seven liveries as mentioned before cover a variety of users. We’ve got an RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) version, a USAAF version, a Swedish Air Force version, and a couple of civilian operators too. Every version, float, bush and standard, have the same seven liveries so you aren’t forced to choose.

The interior modeling is also generally very good. Animations are superb (especially the folding CRT screen), button and switches look great, and for the most part the textures are top notch. There are a few rough textures, particularly the close ones near the pilot’s head when you look left (or right from the co-pilots seat), but they hardly standout and its mostly just me nitpicking.

The rear cargo/passenger area looks good and is highly representative of the spartan design of the airplane. There’s three different configurations back there that you can configure via the CRT screen.

The initial version 1.0 offering had a cockpit that was very dark in a lot of different situations. The team have attempted to correct that and, at time of publishing, the 1.0.2 version is out with two solutions on offer to correct the problem. First, they have brought the brightness of the panel up a bit but I think its still on the dark side and that makes reading the gauges a bit challenging at times in some lighting conditions. Secondly, they have offered additional versions of the aircraft with a light cockpit texture. That improves the situation.

Dark and light versions of the cockpit in version 1.0.2.

The propeller disk also has a habit of becoming almost invisible at times. Prop arcs are, in general, a bit problematic on many MSFS airplanes and this one sidesteps some of the issues that I’ve seen but has its own.

I also want to call out the sounds of the Norseman. They are, quite simply, great! That goes for bht the inside and outside sounds. The engine has a suitable roar when its at full power and it rumbles and burbles like a radial should at lower power settings or during the taxi. There’s also great cockpit sounds that include a suitable rumble while the airplane is on the takeoff roll. You can tell the moment that the wheels lift off by the pitch change… superb!

Flying it

Big Radial’s marketing include the words #flythedamnplane and its an embodiment of their ethos that seems to focus on very hands on kinds of airplanes. The Norseman fits beautifully into that.

It has a reputation for long takeoffs and so once you’ve got the radial engine all powered up, rumbling along as it does with the excellent audio, taxiing is not too difficult despite the tail dragger configuration. Then takeoff comes and while the Norseman is a bushplane, its not quite as quick to leap into the air as some of the more modern types. Doubly so if you’re doing a water takeoff. It feels like it takes ages… and that seems to be accurate to the type. In fact the joke is that the Norseman only takes off due to the curvature of the earth!

Generally speaking, this is an easy airplane to handle. It doesn’t do anything particularly fast and so that means you need to plan ahead. Provided that you do, it will treat you well and cause you little in the way of issue aside from that aforementioned long takeoff run.

The floatplane version has a deployable rudder as well which means that you can more easily maneuver the airplane in the water. MSFS water physics remain a bit funky feeling but I think the Norseman feels better than the average here. Maybe that’s just because of the long takeoff run and the gentle bouncing on the water.

The systems in the airplane are very simple and that makes learning and getting into the Norseman really easy on the whole. Their documentation covers the rest that you might need to know but I suspect your average GA fan in MSFS will take to this easily. The challenge is more in the flying of the airplane and taking it into some more remote locales than anything else which is great – this a stick and rudder airplane to be sure.

There were also a few quirks that I wasn’t able to quite figure out. A red light over on the co-pilot side of the cockpit is sometimes on when you spawn in the aircraft in mid-flight and nothing in the manual or in the cockpit seems to control it. Similarly, there’s some sort of light on the floats which I again haven’t been able to figure out. A weird quirk that could be a bug (or user error) in an otherwise superb airplane.

Final thoughts

Big Radials has an excellent airplane here. Picking the Norseman, a bushplane, puts it right up my alley when it comes to MSFS flying. I love flying these airplanes over the mountains and into the valleys and all over the rugged areas that it was designed to fly into and out of.

Feature rich with some truly standout and clever implementations of typical features like a GPS or a EFB, there’s little that you could ask for from this airplane beyond what it already offers. There is something to like here too about the simplicity that this 1930s era design offers. Its big, its tough, and it feels like its been through a lot but its still flying and that just seems to suit the whole experience well.

With three basic variants, a couple of cargo options, and some nice included liveries I really can’t complain.

A few quirks with lights in the cockpit aside and perhaps the readability of some instruments in the darker version of the cockpit are the only negative marks against this.

Solid visuals, good flight modeling, superb sounds, and a solid array of features and some genuinely clever systems integrations make this an easy recommendation for the bushplane lover. Big Radials is selling it via their website for $30.00 AUD and its expected to arrive on the MSFS Marketplace any day now.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. CanadaOne says:

    Just chirping in to say you got another great callout on Deephack’s DCS podcast yesterday. Hope you are a guest one day, that would make for a good show.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Maybe one day!


  2. Urgent Siesta says:

    “…curvature of the Earth.” ha ha! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Yes, I got a good laugh out of that one when I read it!


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