Ok - I'll give you a shout soon. I normally join the TAW server, they have one for beginners, too, plus they often have areas of the map where combat is not allowed.
I don't know what exactly was fixed with the patch, just said improved ground handling.
Yes, it has good damage simulation - you'll also find that if you go over the rough ground/snow on take-off, when you are flying an aileron will fall off!
I'm by no means an expert, but I do know the basics well. I trust you know how to keep the temperatures under control? Or maybe you use the auto function. I actually like to use the manual control for water and oil radiators, as well as the prop rpm etc - makes it so much more interesting, just to survive the flight, let alone the enemy and take-off and landings! I've crash-landed a few times and survived, though. All good fun.
Here's a report from my first SP combat mission:https://virtualpilotorguk.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/il-2-bos-aar-first-combat-mission/
I don't think there are comms in the game - I used someone else's Teamspeak before. I can make a TS channel, or Discord - whatever ya like. I think TAW have a server themselves, so if we do join their server, we could join the TS, too, and use a private room. Maybe Steam comms? (my IL-2 isn't the Steam version, but no matter)