Review : STMA - Sherpa K650T Turbine Bush Plane
Shade Tree Micro Aviation specialise in these bush utility type of aircraft and their latest release is the Sherpa K650T.
The Sherpa 1415B from Sherpa Aircraft first appeared in 1994 at the EAA Oshkosh event and with the high reaction to the versatile design and orders for the aircraft built by Byron Root and Glen Gordon, It was soon put into production. It was noted at the time as "A Super Cub on steriods". And the nickname remains in effect to this date.
At the 2008 EAA Oshkosh flyin Sherpa Aircraft then released another more powerful version and this time it was a Turbo aircraft in the turboprop K650T. This is a eight-seat variant is powered by a Garrett 331-5 840shp turbine engine turning a 110 inch 3 bladed propeller. This is certainly powerful aircraft that is relative to its frame construction and size. And is currently undergoing the arduous phases of certification.
Shade Tree Micro Aviation's Crew is made up of painters, designers, real pilots, and technical experts. including Jim McNeill (known as Papa Mac), Kerry Cross, Bob Feaver, Mark Roberts, Todd Denning and Benjamin Whitehead and the team has been around in X-Plane for quite a while, so there is a lot of expertise going into their aircraft.
Shade Tree usually provide a lot of variants to their aircraft and here with the Sherpa we have three...
Wheeled (Tundra Tyres)
The aim is not only to create a versatile aircraft, but to give you also various scenarios so that you can use the aircraft to its full advantages.
The Aircraft comes with a set of Xadventures or Missions that you can follow to test your skills and you have in one test 15min or 2hours to complete the mission.
The river mission is a test of skill and speed, But I would recommend getting a few hours on the aircraft before setting yourself up against the clock... But fun it all is.
The Xadventures are loaded into your various X-Plane folders including all the relevant scenery from a separate installer (Mac & Windows with Linux coming), and also make sure you use the I.A. aircraft settings as well.
The Sherpa is pipe-frame cage design that has panels attached to the frame.
And Shade Tree has done a great job in reproducing the panel on frame design. It shows the cage and all the struts that connect to the wings and to the undercarriage to great effect.
The Sherpa has an interesting flap system (0º - 40º) that runs on guides and that is well represented here.
You can open doors and use other effects by using a menu situated on the left lower side of your screen.
Noted as "STMA "Commands", you can open and close the Pilot's and Co-Pilots Doors (or windows) but you can't open them from inside the 3d cockpit but only via the menu, Set your cargo load between 0 kg - 600 kg, Ground operations : Check Chocks and Flags, Lock controls, Tie down and Remote and tug the aircraft (with movement controls). I found of these only the control lock worked?... even using the cold start I could not get the other ground effects to work.
Other menu options included : having the Auto-Pilot installed (or not), GPS Installed (or not), display Pilots Yoke, display Co-Pilots yoke, and 3d mouse view (cockpit). Which can also select a HUD type display (below)
Flying The Sherpa
Taking off is going to test your skills. First of all this is a tail-dragger, and at the other end of the machine you have an engine that is immensely powerful. So your work is really cut out keeping the aircraft aligned and going straight down the runway, a lot of left rudder is required to counteract all that torque but it still can crab you sideways getting up into the air. Drop the flaps 20º and you don't really have a takeoff roll but a quick bounce into the air once the tail is off the ground. Those big balloon sized (Tundra) tyres don't help either as they bounce around at any moment you get any lift. Here normal wheels would have been a nice option to get a smoother takeoff. The large Tundra's also keep rotating for a long, long period after they should quieten down as well, which is slightly visually annoying.
The bonus of all this lift is that when taking off from water or ice you are quickly off the sticky stuff, so in those conditions it really excels. Ditto is with the flap arrangement. Set the flaps to 40º and you are almost trailing at only 45knts - 55 knts and so the STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) capability is excellent on the Sherpa and it allows you if you are going into a headwind to land the aircraft like a seagull lands on a railing at the beach, you just really float and drop it down where you want it. But it does have a very nasty personality that you need to be aware of. 45 knts is fine but drop a little too far and it stalls by simply going straight nose down with the engine pulling you very quickly ground-wards, so all you suddenly feel is the engine weight pulling you straight into the ground.... nasty it is.
Going up is a different matter as the power is immense, climbing is no trouble if you are lightly loaded.
The aircraft is jiggy and you have to learn fly it smoothly, but it is still very touchy on the controls, my feeling is that this is a utility machine and here the basics are all you have to work with. Climbing is an art and not a precision exercise, holding the right degree angle is working the stick to find the right point, any slightly hard movements create sharp changes in the Vertical Speed dial up or down. Settling in at an altitude by using the auto-pilot will mean using the stick to steady the aircraft till it settles down at the selected altitude and that is if you don't want to find yourself climbing and falling around for about 2 min or so. otherwise the aircraft is very fast and very noisy, Sounds are good, but the noise volume does not change with you opening either the doors or the windows, and as the doors open very wide it would have made a great wind rushing noise feature.
The panel is basic, but very usable.
The standard six instruments are all well represented, but it is the large colour screen that dominates the panel which is the JPI EDM 930T system. It has four different screen modes. (using the ^ buttons)
The first is the "Digital" screen with all your required information on (engine) Torque, Oil, Fuel, Fuel Flow, Amps (electrical) and other details, The fuel management is also noted by, Endurance, Remaining (fuel), Required and your Fuel Reserve.
The second screen is an "FMS" (Flight Management System) touch input screen of where you can create routes. It is extremely well done and you can also save or load routes from your X-Plane FMS folder.
Third Screen is the standard "MAP" with zoom, and the final one is for "Procedures" (or a checklist).
Equipment stack is a GARMIN GMA340 Radio, GARMIN GNS430, Bendix King KX165A, Bendix King Transponder and a Bendix King 62A DME unit that gives you your speed and distance to the Navigational Aid.
The Auto-Pilot is basic (and you can choose via the menu if want to use it or not), you have altitude hold, heading select, wing leveler, and course following. There is no altitude change or target altitude settings which means you have to do that manually via the stick but otherwise it is useful in helping out with the workload.
The Throttle lever is big and chunky, and vibrates realistically, and the aircraft has a reverse thrust but you have go and set that to use via the keyboard or your joystick. The idle lever is off or on in power.
Panel lighting is that you will find many of the instruments are lit, but a few are not. A good idea was to dim the large screen that would have been bright and overwhelming in the dark of the cabin.
The outside lighting is standard but works very well in HDR mode, the wing end strobes create a great flashing effect in HDR mode or not. The main landing lights are on a separate switch to drop them down and another to switch them on. But I found nothing dropped down but the shining lights?
Shade Tree Micro Aviation always provide more than one version of their aircraft. The standard is the "Tundra" wheeled version that we have just explored. The two other versions are the :
Float detail is excellent, this version is great fun to power in and out of the water because you have all that power to propel you to a good takeoff speed and easily overcome the usual drag.
As a float plane the Sherpa is very well constructed, there are wheels built into the bottom of the floats and there is also rudders that flip up out of the water. To control both of these items the Float version has two levers on the panel to do the business. The rudders have to be up to takeoff.
Steering the Float version is a little difficult as you need the power or thrust to turn in any direction, and then it is a going to be in a very wide arc, strangely on land it does the same thing with the wheels?
Turn off the power and you lose control even if your rudders can or could or should steer you in a certain direction?
The "Ski" version is a lot of fun and a great taste of skill to land (carefully) on the side of a mountain. You have to be aware of the Tail-Ski as there is a Lock Lever situated under the panel, "Unlock" and you are in big trouble, It is not connected to the usual "Nosewheel Steer Toggle" either.
You can adjust the different loads into each variant... They come set up in this configuration.
Tundra is an empty space
Floats has 6 Passenger Seats (Pax)
Ski has Cargo "Payload"
To change the load to another variant you have to go to Plane Maker and the Misc Objects panel, and find the "Pax Seating.obj'. Or the "Payload.obj" on the variant you want to change and if you press the square next to the file it will take you to the folder to select the other version or delete it all together.
The Tundra is different in the fact there is no file to add or change because it is an empty space.
You are required to create a new object file and insert the object (.obj) of your choice, It is easy to do and you only have to remember to add "016.00" in the very left column. One last thing you need to do is move the file upwards (one step) in that it is "Inside" the aircraft.
You are always going to get great value with any aircraft from Shade Tree Micro Aviation and the Sherpa K650T is no exception. 3 configurable variants (Tundra, Floats and Skis) An Xadventure Pack and also their STMA Hangars package that you can use in your scenery with opening hangar doors. There is a Sherpa Checklist and Operators Manual as documentation.
Niggles are few but need to be noted, STMA aircraft are always very clean, for a Bush aircraft I doubt they would stay in this condition for very long. The instrument panel is the same "blank" grey with no marks or weathering, but the dials and knobs are well done. There is only one Livery, the default Sherpa livery... STMA note that when the aircraft goes into service they will reproduce more to accommodate the owners, but i feel a few more and at least one for each variant would help the cause more here. The doors open and animate but you can't do it in 3d mode inside the cabin, no hands on experience there... all round the sounds are very good, but some more noisy wind-rush from an open door or window would help up the low flying wind in your hair fun.
Frame-rate is not an issue as the aircraft is very light on graphics. usually it was around the 40fr mark and rarely went below 30fr.
The Sherpa is tricky to fly. as all tail-draggers are... But the aircraft is very versatile in that you can use the power and its slow speed capabilities at each end of the spectrum, and STMA aircraft are all about value, fun and skill and the high standard of the Sherpa aircraft does not in that context disappoint here at all....
Review By Stephen Dutton
Published 15th August 2013
Review System Specifications:
- 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27”
- 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3
- ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb
- Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2
- X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final)
- Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle