Stephen

Aircraft Review : Eclipse 550NG by Aerobask

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Aircraft Review : Eclipse 550NG by Aerobask

 

Only a week after the release of Aerobask's excellent Pipistrel Panthera v3. Here is another fully featured aircraft in the Eclipse 550NG and a great companion to their Panthera it is. First thoughts are that this aircraft is just a upgraded aircraft, but no it isn't as it is an all new design, the aircraft you were thinking of is probably the Victory also done by Aerobask and it in the same style and type of machine as a VLJ (Very Light Jet).

 

Sadly the Eclipse Aerospace company is now no more as they went bankrupt in 2009, some 260 aircraft were built, and the business is still in (officially) chapter 7 bankruptcy, but you never know. This was another aircraft caught up in the "Air-Taxi" fiasco as Day Jet which had 1400 orders for the aircraft also went bankrupt in 2008, causing a ripple through the "Air'Taxi" concept.

 

The current Eclipse was raised from the ashes by One Aviation (of Cirrus Aircraft fame) and only 10 were built in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In March 2017 the company announced that 550 production would end after four more aircraft are completed, to concentrate production on the new "Canada" model of the aircraft.

 

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The Eclipse 550 follows the "Air-Taxi" requirements very closely in four passengers and pilot, Cruise speed around 430 mph (692 km/h; 374 kn), ceiling of 41,000 ft (12,000 m) and a range of 1,295 mi; 2,084 km (1,125 nmi). Which is impressive performance for such a small aircraft.

 

X-Plane11 Install

With X-Plane11 going into release all developers are now providing two aircraft files for both X-Plane10 and X-Plane11. My version came with X-Plane10 as default, but you can switch to either X-Plane version of the one you require.

 

You need to first remove the current .acf file, and there are two spare files in "Eclipse_NG.acf.v10" & "Eclipse_NG.acf.v11".

You then need to select from either version the one you want by changing the version to just "Eclipse_NG.acf". I chose the X-Plane11 version as noted here, and you still have the X-Plane10 file if you want to switch over later to the older simulator version.

 

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You are also required to copy the GNS430 data from X-Plane 10, Navigraph or Aerosoft and to be installed into the X-Plane11 Custom data (root) folder.

 

Eclipse 550NG by Aerobask

Aerobask specialise in these light composite aircraft categories, and they do them very well. This aircraft was not released until X-Plane11 went final, so yes it is X-Plane11 compatible and it is also optimised with PBR support. The 550 also has installed the features of Aerobask's latest designs in their Dynon Skyview and GTN avionics.

 

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A walkaround reveals another beautiful design from Aerobask. Detailing is superb., and the added reflections and lighting from PBR is simply excellent with 4K textures, ambient occlusion and specular mapping...   note the lovely reflections and shine on the curves of the aircraft. Window frames are also well done and authentic.

 

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Fine external detailing like the lighting houses and the static wicks is excellent as well and to the level of quality we expect in X-Plane today and from Aerobask. propulsion is provided by two tiny PW610F 900lbf (4.0 kN) podded thrust engines sitting aft.

 

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Metalness and chrome is in the new toolset that developers can now use and put to great use here on the Eclipse undercarriage components, the front strut is a beautifully molded support as is the trailing rear wheel gear support.

 

Menu and Features

The aircraft comes with a lot of features and a great polished tablet menu system. There is a tab lower left of your screen, or the tablet is positioned by the door for use.

 

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On the tablet there are six tabs that include: Options, Ground, Weight, Sound, Lights and Shades.

 

Options includes, TCAS Alerts, Windshield and Instrument (EFIS) reflections.

 

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Ground tab includes; Static Elements including chocks, tags, engine covers and cones. GPU (Ground Power Unit) and Door (open/close).

 

Weight is an excellent weight and balances sheet. If the door is closed or the aircraft is in flight you are not allowed to change the items.

 

You can select your passenger load from adults and children (Kid) or have an empty seat and the choice of one or two baggage.

 

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Fuel can also be added and the system adds the all up weight...  go over and you are red flagged.

 

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Passengers and baggage (loaded from a trolley) are loaded onto the aircraft, but are sadly are only viewable from the external view? And the pilot is always in the cockpit even if the aircraft is switched off and disconnected from the power?

 

Two tabs cover the "Sound" and "Lighting" in the aircraft which are very good

 

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And you can also open and close six shades on the windows via the arrows on the bottom of the tablet, but only fully open or fully closed.

 

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Interior and Cockpit

Cabin design and highlighted textures are simply astounding!

 

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Very modern design and all is insanely good, you just want to touch!

 

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Lovely detailing like with this Comm unit that opens to reveal switch and plug fittings, the units are on both sides of the cockpit. One quirk is the (moveable) side cockpit window shades are both down when you load the aircraft and can get into your line of sight...  so you need to put them into their upper tucked away position every time before you fly.

 

Cockpit is also extremely well modeled, but simple in layout as this is an Air-Taxi and not a Boeing.

 

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Like with Aerobask's Panthera the panel is breathtaking in X-Plane11. Great panel and switch-gear design and has very heavy reflections for ultimate realism. Panel glareshield has the same nobbled textures and lovely edged stitching, yes again you just want to touch it and run your fingers over the craftmanship of it all.

 

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Power on (GPU start up on the ground recommended) and the panels come to life.

 

Both Dynon Skyview panels are each side of the top and bottom GARMIN GTN 750/650 system.

 

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The layout is almost exactly the same as the Panthera, with all four panel being able to pop out (Aircraft symbols on the Skyview and right side frames on the GTN), and all panels are scalable (via a small hand) and movable around your screen. A really great setup.

 

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Dynon Skyview

Like the Panthera the Eclipse comes with the two panel display version of the "Dynon SkyView" system.

 

Pressing the aircraft symbol in the centre of each display will bring up the pop-up version of the panel, the panels are also adjustable for scale via the right hand lower corner.

 

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Both screens are independent of each other and all can be configured to suit your preferences. Within each configuration you can select even parts of full screen views to cover the full spectrum. This includes a massive Artificial Horizon with excellent rate of turn indicators, speed and altitude tapes and heading rose (with Course (CRS) - double VOR 1 and 2 and Skyview - FMS pointers) in the lower portion of the screen. An Engine and Aircraft status block known as the EMS which can be positioned left/right or centre of the display and also the MAP/NAV screen.

 

The system is menu driven by the buttons below the screen. This is a great version, but menu driven tree and branch systems can be complex and time consuming to use. But the system does also give you a huge amount of options.

 

Theses huge amount of selections on the Dynon menu driven interface, with which selections are accessed by the lower row of buttons, or my favored setting of two knobs (covering Altitude and Heading adjustment) on the left display and "Range" for map changes on the right. I also like the Airport, VOR/DME, NDB and Fixes tabs viewable for quick screen declutter as the Tree and branch navigation can be complicated to find them quickly in the air.
 
BARO - MDA - CRS (Course) - HDG (Heading) - ALT - VS - IAS - DIM, all use the knob as a selection tool with a centre push of the knob for selection and arrows for changing selections. It works very well but the arrows are a bit small and fiddly sometimes (hard in bumpy weather).

 

Personally I kept it all simple with just the main PFD in front of me with the EMS and the MAP/NAV screen shared with the EMS and the loaded flightplan to the right.

 

Garmin GTN750/650

The aircraft also come like the Panthera with the brand new version of Aerobask's GTN750/760 system...  The GTN750 is the larger unit with a 6.9 inch TFT touchscreen display with icons to cover features such as : Map, Traffic, Terrain, Weather, Charts, Flight Plan, PROC, Nearest, Waypoint Info and Utilities with Services and System blanked out.

 

The "Utilities" button covers : DALT/TAS/Winds, Flight Times and Checklists and Clean Screen with Trip Planning, Rain Prediction, Scheduled Messages blanked out.

 

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The GTN650 is smaller at 4.9-inch TFT display and has a few different options from the GTN750. Features on the smaller unit available includes : Map, Traffic, Terrain, Weather, Default Nav, Otto Pilot, Waypoint Info and Nearest. Radio unlike GTN750 is situated to the right with the same built-in tuners.

 

The comprehensive system gives you a lot of power here at your fingertips, but the trick is to find the right combinations of all your tools to get the maximum ease of use from your flying. You will find a lot of functions in this cockpit doubled up or even tripled, the idea is find the best set up or layout to cover your workload.

 

To that effect I have the "Flightplan" on the bigger GTN750, and the "CDI" ready on the lower GTN650, I find the flightplan on the GTN750 closer than the Skyview monitor view and better if you need the full map view open, so it is simple, clear information system and it works.

 

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Top of the GTN750 unit is the radio section, with easy switching of frequencies, XPDR and COMM, NAV selection. Same radio settings can also be done on the smaller GTN650 as well, large buttons and clear interface works very well.

 

For more information I covered all the Garmin GTN750/650 features and options in the Aerobask Panthera review, as well as the way you can create a flightplan in the Skyview system.

 

Autopilot Panel

One big difference from the Panthera is the upper autopilot panel.

 

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If you have read the Panthera review you would note I used the GTN650 "Otto" autopilot feature for using the autopilot systems. Not in the Eclipse because you have a larger more easier and versatile panel for autopilot selection and use.

 

It is very nice to use and covers all the standard functions that is required to operate and use the autopilot systems, from ENG FIRE (Engine Fire) (L - left and R - right sides),BARO (Barometer) selection, YD (Yaw Damp) AP (Autopilot activation) ATS, FD (Flight Director), SPD (Speed) select, NAV and APPR (Approach), HDG (Heading) selection,  ALT CHG (Altitude Change) V/S (Vertical Speed) and ALT (Altitude) select.

 

Flying the Eclipse 550NG

Starting the Eclipse is very easy and totally automatic, there is a sort of engine bleed to start (start switches are on the roof) on "Cabin Air Switch, but it must be returned to normal before altitude, the cabin pressures can be monitored by the two dials in "DELTA P" and "RATE/ALT".

 

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You will need a fair bit of throttle travel (nearly half) before the Jet will move forward as the light thrust pushes against the aircraft's weight. It also makes a big difference on how much weight is on the aircraft which is obvious. But as soon as you have momentum then you need to then pull back the throttle to control the taxi speed, the jet just needs that initial push to get it moving, and not a lot of thrust once it is taxiing.

 

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The aircraft is totally engineered for ease of use. Flaps are set in three positions as noted on the panel in front of you...  UP - T/O (takeoff) - LAND, easy!

 

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You are expecting the 550 to be sluggish with the power right up, but it is not. The 550 is no lightweight Boeing, but there is a nice shove once it gets moving and the speed builds quite fast even when fully loaded of which you need around 140knts and 2,500ft or so to get airborne.

 

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The 550 will climb solidly as well at a maximum of 2,400 feet per minute, so takeoff performance is very good.

 

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Displays are nice, bright and clear, but the switchgear is slightly dark, I couldn't find any other adjustment except for the panel screen brightness levels.

 

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All sound is enhanced and scripted 3D sound and that includes the rain effects and those excellent PW610F thrust engines providing the perfect aural feedback to go with the wind effects...  Sound is very good, and noticeable throughout the whole range of engine sounds from start up to shut down...

 

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GTN functions are very good for flight changes, like a last minute "Direct-To" in the flightplan. One other note is that when the 550 gets to its set altitude (10,000ft) you have to adjust the throttle (slow) to allow it to settle on the height correctly, if not the aircraft will hunt up and below between the set altitude and not settle in at the right point.

 

Fuel efficiency at 41,000 ft is nearly 10 gallons per hour better than at 37,000ft. 430 mph/375 ktas, as the Eclipse can maintain a maximum cruise speed of 430 mph (375 ktas) and that allows rapid travel between airports or even states. So the higher you fly the further you will go. It will however take you time to climb to up to even 35,000 ft (10,688 meters) which is around 22 minutes.

 

The aircraft's professional flight model and handling characteristics has been created by experts and tested by Eclipse pilots and the aircraft does totally feel very complete and in those important areas.

 

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X-Plane11 effects look very nice in flight. Chrome is sensational with the window surrounds and engine inlets, note the lovely sheen on the lower wing.

 

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You are always wanting to fly in X-Plane11 now, just for the brilliant shadows and cross cockpit feel...

 

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My hop from KLAL (Lakeland) to KMCO (Orlando) is short.

 

For descending and landing you don't have any reversers or air-brakes, but one positive characteristic that you can use is the exceptional slow landing speed, stall is around 69 Knts, which is still very low.

 

But there is a slight quirk with that point. If you allow your speed to drop too far to quickly the nose will rise as it should, but worse is the aircraft's horizon bar disappears behind the compass heading indicator and so you lose your perspective on the aircraft's pitch nose angle.

 

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You can keep the pitch correct of course, by using your speed (faster) but it does not allow you to lose speed earlier than you would like, so it is a learning curve to get the approach speeds correct and keep the pitch in check.

 

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All except the slowest GA and STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) aircraft does your approach speed feel so slow...  85Knts (note the "Land" flap setting). Approaching the field you feel you could walk there faster...

 

....    slooooow, but you can still go as slow as even 80knts on landing.

 

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So once down the speed drops off enough to easily slow on the brakes to taxi speed. Landing distance required is 2,250 feet or 686 Meters.

 

Overall the Eclipse is a lovely aircraft to fly and manoeuvring speed is around 180knts. You really feel this VLJ in your hands and feet and it does have great performance built in as part of the package.

 

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Eclipse Lighting

 

Panel lighting is via two modes for Day or Night (that is why the panel does not appear to be lit in the day? The switch is under the panel lighting dim knob...   The problem with this set up is that if you want the panel instruments lit during the day, then the main display panels will be dimmed as well with "night" switch on?

 

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The tablet allows you to control the brightness of the lighting in three settings, there is also a white and red torch light function.

 

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So you have to fiddle a bit to get the lighting feel you want, but mostly it is too dark or too bright.

 

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Same with the cabin lighting, and it turns the chrome to grey, however cockpit foot-lighting helps the feel.

 

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External lighting is good, but in someplaces it comes out as rings more than lights as the source is set behind an object.

 

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Liveries

There are ten 4K quality liveries. Mostly US registered, but a couple European and one "Flower Power" design, which is very nice and way cool if Hippydom is your thing...   man.

 

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Summary

Aerobask are at the top of their game right now, with not only the fabulous Pipistral Panthera but now this excellent jet powered Eclipse 550NG as well,

Not only is there simply brilliant design built in here but the aircraft is also packed to the rafters with exceptional avionics with the highlights in the "Skyview" and the brilliant GTN760/650 systems.

 

Certainly I would recommend the X-Plane11 version over the X-Plane10 aircraft as simply the aircraft has also been also refined for that version and looks and feels just that much better with the X-Plane11 effects doing their thing.

 

The Eclipse is quite powerful in range but also very easy to use and fly. That is not to say this is a simplistic simulation because it is not, in fact with all the gear on board and to use, you should be happy for hours flying the aircraft. The point I am making is that the Eclipse is an easy aircraft to fly and use as it's original purpose is for an Air-Taxi role, so load, start, fly, land then unload, then with a new set of passengers you then load, star...  you get the idea.

 

The feature list is huge, quality is excellent and on the list goes on and on....  So the Eclipse 550NG is a brilliant addition to X-Plane, and a worthy addition to your flightline...  a real gem.

 

Positives : Almost everything, Developers at the top of their game, brilliant Avionic suites with two sets in the Skyview and GTN systems, great 3d sound, great high quality design especially with X-Plane11 effects, loads of features...  on and on the list goes.

 

Negatives : Not much, but if you want to be picky then here is another aerobask pilot that want to sleep in the aircraft, no internal passengers and the internal lighting is a bit strange to work out and very black or white.

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The Eclipse 550NG by Aerobask is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Eclipse 550NG

 

Your Price: $39.95
 
Exclusive features
  • Professional flight model from X-Aerodynamics
  • In-house coded GTN 750 and GTN 650 with touchscreen and scroll-wheel support:
    • Exclusive multi-threaded and fps-friendly map and terrain display
    • Map topography display based on actual X-Plane mesh data
    • Terrain awareness display based on actual data
    • Configurable map rendering
    • TCAS with online flying support
    • Airways, SID and STAR support (waypoint-based)
    • Flight plan import/export compatible with stock XP10 fms format
    • Built-in chart viewer - easily import yours
    • COM support for PilotEdge (Connect/disconnect, TX/RX, COM1&2 volume control)
    • COM awareness for IVAO and VATSIM (conneciton status)
    • COM, NAV and XPNDR dialing pad
    • Interactive checklists
    • Resizable pop-ups
    • VIP controller, in cabin and in popup for aircraft management
  • Latest revision of Dynon Skyview with added scroll-wheel support
    • NEW! Scroll-wheel support on lists, map, HDG, CRS, MDA, ALT, VVI, etc...
    • Airways, SID and STAR support (waypoint-based)
    • Weather map display on multiple screens and orientations
    • TCAS with Traffic Advisory and Resolution Advisory
    • Resizable pop-ups
  • Optimized for XP11 with PBR support, compatible with XP10 (separate acf file included).
  • Enhanced and scripted 3D sound
  • Compatible with GoodWay 5.0.1 or higher
Features:
  • Ultra-High quality 3D model with:
    • 4K textures
    • ambient occlusion
    • specular map
    • PBR normal mapping (XP11)
  •  Pop-up menus for weight & fuel and options
  • Saved fuel and passenger configuration
  • Fully functional virtual 3D cockpit, with livery-dependent interior design.
  • Windshield and EFIS reflections
  • Rain graphic and sound effects
  • Script-driven custom sounds
  • Ground Power Unit

 

Requirements:

X-Plane 10.50 or X-Plane 11

Windows, Mac or Linux - Running in 64bit Mode
1Gb VRAM Minimum. 3GB+ VRAM Recommended on X-Plane 11
X-Plane 11: this aircraft requires GNS430 data from X-Plane 10, Navigraph or Aerosoft to be installed into Custom data folder.
 

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Installation and documents:

Download for the Eclipse 550NG is 441mb and the unzipped file is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 595.70mb .

Key authorisation and a restart is required.

 

You can use the Navigraph or Aerosoft navigation data with this aircraft or the built in X-Plane GNS430 data installed in your main root folder.

 

Comprehensive set of documents covers all aspects of the (complex) avionics systems and flightplanner

 

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Review by Stephen Dutton
6th April 2017
Copyright©2017: X-PlaneReviews
 
(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11b15 and also used in X-Plane v10.52 and checked with current flight route and details

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90

 

Scenery or Aircraft

- KLAL - Lakeland Linder Regional Airport 2.01 by Drankum (X-Plane.Org) - Free (note: personal added items in an office (okay demountable building and vehicles)

- KMCO - Orlando International Airport by Freddy De Pues, NAPS Advanced Sim Scenery and upload by Nicolas (X-Plane.Org) - Free

 

 

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