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Aircraft Review : Maule M-7-235B Project XP12 by vSkylabs


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VSL Mauale M-7 -Header.jpg

 

Aircraft Review : Maule M-7-235B Project XP12 by vSkylabs

 

The Maule M-7 is a family of single-engine light utility aircraft that has been manufactured in the United States since the mid-1980s. Based on the Maule M-4, the M-7 is a high-wing, strut-braced monoplane of conventional configuration, available with tailwheel or optional tricycle wheeled undercarriage and frequently used as a floatplane with twin floats. The basic M-7 has a longer cabin than its predecessors the M5 & M6, with two seats in front and a bench seat for up to three passengers behind them. The M-7 also incorporates the increased fuel tankage, Hoerner-style wingtips and four-position flaps, and the M-7 family has been produced both with piston and turboprop engines. It first flew in 1984.

 

This review of the Maule M-7 is a landmark because the aircraft was the first officially released new aircraft for X-Plane 12. That said, it was also released into the "Beta" phase of X-Plane 12, so aspects of this review could change with the development of X-Plane 12 through it's beta run, this review is conducted in Beta b3.

 

The vSkylab philosophy is that you are purchasing an ongoing project, so any aircraft you purchase is not fully completed or is completed to 100%, that is the deal you sign up for to get access to the aircraft and all the development is free and ongoing throughout the X-Plane 12 version. These projects are under constant development: the development road-map is including flight model refinements, enhanced systems depth, additional liveries and other improvements.

 

First look says this is a "Bush" aircraft, big and chunky with "Tundra" tyres, it is also a STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) machine.

 

Maule M7_Head 1.jpgMaule M7_Head 2.jpgMaule M7_Head 5.jpgMaule M7_Head 4.jpgMaule M7_Head 3.jpg

 

vSkylabs are pretty consistent in their designs. If you have purchased before you will pretty well know what to expect. You do get good if great design with a high focus on the dynamics, but there are no menus or aircraft options, and any changes to the aircraft is via "Hotspots", to find them then turn on the X-Plane View/Show Instrument Click Regions or look in the provided POH Manual.

 

There are two variants in the package of the M-7. One above is the Tundra tyred variant, and the second is the Amphibian or Float option.

 

Maule M7_Float 1.jpgMaule M7_Float 2.jpgMaule M7_Float 3.jpgMaule M7_Float 4.jpg

 

There is no standard wheeled version here which is a disappointment for me, the Tundra is not as flexible in missions as you could do with a standard set up aircraft, the size of carrying such large tyres all the time looks odd and would also be a drag on your fuel, hence range.

 

The Maule is a steel-tube, fabric-covered fuselage design, so there are no rivets in creating a flush appearance or a smooth skin. So the Maule is a very slippery smooth aircraft, even quite aerodynamic for it's bulky size.

 

There are a few external fittings, braces, tiedowns and aerials, but basically the aircraft's design is very clean.

 

Maule M7_Detail 1.jpgMaule M7_Detail 2.jpgMaule M7_Detail 3.jpgMaule M7_Detail 4.jpg

 

The aircraft can be fitted with an array of engine types, all Lycoming O-540-J1A5D, IO-540-W1A5D, O-540-J3A5, IO-540-W1A5, or O-540-B4B5...  Installed here is the B4B5 235 hp to a McCauley Constant Speed B3D32C414-C/G82NDA-4 (78") Propeller.

 

Maule M7_Detail 5.jpgMaule M7_Detail 6.jpgMaule M7_Detail 7.jpg

 

External glass is good, but not spectacular. Side windows are plain (meaning very flat), but have some nice crazing and an open window hole.

 

The two forward doors and the right double rear doors can be opened via handle "Hotspots", the internal cabin is very basic, with very basic old brown leather seats, the rear accommodation is just two flat bench seats. But it is well done.

 

Maule M7_Doors 1.jpgMaule M7_Doors 2.jpgMaule M7_Doors 3.jpgMaule M7_Doors 4.jpg

 

As basic as it is inside, it does feel very authentic with parts of the airframe showing and in being part of the seating and window strength supports, note the excellent seatbelts.

 

If you go to the aircraft's (X-Plane) "Weight, Balance & Fuel" menu you can adjust the weight of the pilot, three passengers and baggage, plus the fuel load of course. I don't remember these weight adjustments before, so it could be a new feature for X-Plane 12.

 

Maule M7_Passengers.jpgMaule M7_Passengers 2.jpgMaule M7_Passengers 3.jpgMaule M7_Passengers 5.jpgMaule M7_Passengers 4.jpg

 

Setting the passenger weights will make appear passengers in the aircraft, now passengers are extremely highly realistic, but not here animated. Thankfully quality of the passengers also is very high as there is now no more ghastly stretched facial images. However the Pilot never disappears, even if the power is off or if the aircraft is cold.

 

Instrument Panel

 

Maule M7_Instrument panel 1.jpgMaule M7_Instrument panel 2.jpgMaule M7_Instrument panel 3.jpg

 

The twin yokes are very nice, lovely shape if a simple design, with the "Maule M-7" logo centre. You can hide them via the "Hot Spot" rear (arrowed).

 

Maule M7_Instrument panel 4.jpgMaule M7_Instrument panel 5.jpg

 

Instrument layout is very simple and basic as well.

 

Maule M7_Instrument panel 6.jpg

 

Standard Six instrument layout left gives you Airspeed, Artificial Horizon, Altitude (top row), Turn Coordinator, Heading and V/S Vertical Speed (lower row). Far left is the VDO outside Temperature  Gauge and Suction Gauge lower. Engine Start and Primer. Wings in the AH can also be adjusted.

 

Maule M7_Instrument panel 7.jpg

 

Centre are only two Avionics...  Garmin GNS 430 and Garmin GTX 335 transponder (both default XP). Top left are two large dials that cover Manifold Pressure/FF Fuel Flow (left) and RPM x100 (right). Below is the Fuel Panel, and below that are the two fuel and four engine gauges that cover; Fuel (left) / Fuel (right), Cylinder Head Temp, Oil Pressure, Oil Temp  and Ampere (AMPS). Notable is the very small P.S.Engineering PM3000 radio panel, which is well done.

 

Maule M7_Instrument panel 8.jpg

 

Lower centre panel are the three push/pull Throttle - Propeller - Mixture knobs. With below the aircraft's switchgear for; Power (BAT & ALT), Boost Pump, Anti-Collison, LDG Light (Landing), NAV LIght (Navigation) and Pitot Heat. Engine Start switch left and Instrument lighting brightness right. All Circuit Breakers (fuses) are non-working, but look nice.

 

    Maule M7_Instrument panel 9.jpg

 

If flying the Amphibian variant. You get the Float Wheel control panel centre left, and a hooked band to lower/raise the rear float rudders.

 

Maule M7_Instrument panel 10.jpg

 

On the floor is a Flap lever (Four positions) and large pitch trim wheel, on the left wall is your Fuel Tank switch (21.5 Gal per tank) and a nicely done Fire Extinguisher right. Rudder Pedals both have "MAULE" logos.

 

Maule M7_Floor 1.jpgMaule M7_Floor 2.jpg

 

As noted there are no menus or features except for the AviTab screen that can be used on the right window (Plugin Required).

 

Maule M7_Avitab 1.jpgMaule M7_Avitab 2.jpg

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Liveries

Liveries (same for both Wheeled and Amphibian) Gull-Grey-Black is default. the other four are; Big Sky-Blue-Red, Dune-White-Brown, Glacier-White-Brown and Solar-Yellow-Black.

 

Maule M7_Livery Gull-Grey-Black.jpgMaule M7_Livery Big Sky-Blue-Red.jpgMaule M7_Livery Dune-White-Brown.jpgMaule M7_Livery Glacier-White-Brown.jpgMaule M7_Livery Solar-Yellow-Black.jpg

 

Flying the Maule M-7

Starting is very simple. Power on (BAT/ALT), Mixture almost in, throttle almost a little. Lower left Fuel switch to "Both". "Boost Pump" to on, Anti-Coll (lights) on, "Pitot Heat" to on...  then give the lower "Engine Primer" a few pulls (I did three), then turn the "Starter" switch to "Start", and the Lyncoming B4B5 235 hp will easily spurt into life. Be careful, as too much throttle will power the aircraft forward, tip and damage the prop. Then you have to tune the engine when warm to the lowest speed you can without stalling the engine.

 

Maule M7_Flying 1.jpgMaule M7_Flying 2.jpg

 

Although a taildragger the rear tailwheel is not a free agent. As you can thankfully control it by the Yaw adjustment in your throttle (not the pedals). Still tricky though until you get the hang of it....  The first turn went quite wide...

 

Maule M7_Flying 3.jpgMaule M7_Flying 4.jpgMaule M7_Flying 5.jpgMaule M7_Flying 6.jpg

 

...  but by the second turn I had tuned into the felling and had got it perfect. The aircraft does go a bit too fast for me, even at minimum mixture and idle throttle, so you still need a bit of soft braking to keep the aircraft on the centre line. But thankfully the M-7 is not a diabolical aircraft to taxi overall.

 

I set myself up slightly to the right of the centre line so I could see it as a guide to my left with the high nose...

 

Maule M7_Flying 7.jpgMaule M7_Flying 8.jpgMaule M7_Flying 9.jpgMaule M7_Flying 10.jpg

 

As you start to start to roll, you notice not so much pull to the left (the M-7 is quite a heavy and bulky aircraft), but also on how quickly the tail aerodynamics start to work...  once at the end of the white zone (Flaps position 1) or 100 knts, your airborne.

 

Maule M7_Flying 11.jpgMaule M7_Flying 12.jpgMaule M7_Flying 13.jpg

 

You need a lot of power to climb out, it feels clunky because the Maule is a heavy aircraft at 2,500 lb (1,134 kg) GW even with a tube and fabric frame. Climb rate is 1,650 fpm, but you keep it under 1,000 fpm to keep the climb in check and to get some forward speed. Pulling the Flap back up to +2º helps, as notable is that the flap sits not flush with the wing but slightly up angled. As to note those bumper wheels keep on spinning around as well, unless you brake them static.

 

Maule M7_Flying 14.jpgMaule M7_Flying 15.jpgMaule M7_Flying 16.jpgMaule M7_Flying 17.jpg

 

The Maule M-7 is a basic flying aircraft. There are no distracting features or elements to worry about. The vSkyLab's aircraft is all about feel and pure flying. This is the point of the aircraft. You can balance it, twist it, pull it around a nice roll and the aircraft will respond perfectly. I do wonder though on how much the new X-Plan 12 dynamics make a point here, if so they are very good (I can verify that as I have already flown another similar X-Plane 12 light aircraft with the same new dynamics).

 

Maule M7_Flying 18.jpgMaule M7_Flying 19.jpg

 

In saying that I wonder if the M-7 is simply too basic. I miss more instruments, the Course and VOR 2 pointers that I use for circuit flying, and there is no autopilot if you do want to do a long up river stretch up to a camp. Notable the M-7 will trim out nicely and fly quite easily with a finger or two on the stick...  but is that enough, in this case I don't think so, I think even a real bushy would find the aircraft too basic for his skills.

 

Maule M7_Flying 20.jpg

 

Notable is flying with the Amphibian, as you are adding even more pendulum lower to already bulky aircraft, so you get even less speed, and more drag from that. Cruise speed around 147 mph (237 km/h, 128 kn) maximum structural cruising speed, with a never exceed speed of 182 mph (293 km/h, 158 kn), Range with standard fuel is 788 km (490 miles) and Range with auxiliary fuel is around 1,384 km (860 miles).

 

Sounds are FMOD and actually very good, with the wide engine power range well covered, but it doesn't note if they are FMOD 1 or FMOD 2 in quality. In flight you burr along quite nicely, and as you can set your speed via your engine tone and it all works very nicely.

 

Lighting

Inside and out the lighting is pretty basic...

 

You have just two Landing/Taxi lights set one each outer wing (LED), and Navigation Red/Green and White tail. 

 

Maule M7_Lighting 1.jpgMaule M7_Lighting 2.jpgMaule M7_Lighting 3.jpg

 

Instrument panel is very nice and adjustable, but only one tone. Also there are several highlight lights for the front door handles and the rear baggage area, but no rear cabin lighting at all?

 

Maule M7_Lighting 7.jpgMaule M7_Lighting 4.jpgMaule M7_Lighting 5.jpgMaule M7_Lighting 8.jpg

 

Flying both the Amphibian (first) I found it hard to reduce speed (odd with that much drag?) but I found myself giving the aircraft too much pitch up to slow down, that I could easily fall into a stall situation.

 

So you tend to approach in a very nose up, tail down configuration. The aim is to rub off the speed, and it is slow rubbing off the excess speed until you get within the 100 knt white band...

 

Maule M7_Flying 23.jpgMaule M7_Flying 21.jpgMaule M7_Flying 22.jpgMaule M7_Flying 24.jpg

 

...   once inside the white, you can dial out the four place flap almost straight to Full Down. With the flap extension down to almost to the slowest speed without much float is down around 70 knts, and this would be your final approach speed. Flaps are the "barn Door" type, as this is a STOL aircraft for operating on short strips. At this configuration the M-7 is a very stable aircraft.

 

Maule M7_Flying 25.jpgMaule M7_Flying 26.jpg

 

So you have an approach nose up feel, and then you can't see the actual runway unless you squeeze yourself left to see past the window strengthening supports, as they are right and directly on your line of sight.

 

Maule M7_Flying 27.jpgMaule M7_Flying 28.jpg

 

Approach and touchdown has to be perfectly gauged, right speed and height, then once over the threshold your bringing the nose up and adjusting the power...  it is essential you get that angle of a tail down and nose up landing perfect!

 

Maule M7_Flying 29.jpgMaule M7_Flying 30.jpg

 

So gradually you let off a little throttle, say 5 knts to slowly descend to the runway at around 65 knts, reducing to 55 knts on contact...

 

Maule M7_Flying 31.jpgMaule M7_Flying 32.jpg

 

Land level and the nose will dig in and tip forward and crushing your propeller, too far back and the tailwheel hits the ground first, again bouncing you forward...  (crushing your propeller) so it is right between the two positions that you have to get it right, again those balloon tyres really don't help on a hard runway? Your stall speed is 49 mph (80 km/h, 43 kn) full flaps down.

 

Maule M7_Flying 33.jpg

 

Braking is tricky but not impossible, obviously easier on grass. Overall a nice modern bush pilot's aircraft.

 

Two notes to wrap up, there is an annoying STMA auto updater that keeps coming onto the left of your screen, but handy for updating the aircraft. And the Maule is not compatible with X-Plane 11. Or can be purchased for XP11, this aircraft is for X-Plane 12 Only.

___________________

 

Summary

The first aircraft released for X-Plane 12 was this Maule M-7, which is a family of single-engine light utility aircraft from vSkyLab's. Notable is that you purchase a vSkyLab Project that comes with conditions that this is  not a completed aircraft on release, but an ongoing project.

 

This Maule is a modern take on the bush aircraft and a STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) machine. It is created to going out deep into the bush, landing on the rough strip then coming back out again. For this mission the M-7 is ideal.

 

Modeling as by vSkyLab's is the usual excellent, certainly in the new X-Plane 12 environment. As you can here in the review the images in X-Plane 12 delivers a great feel and a nicer more realistic look for the aircraft. But this is a very basic aircraft with not a lot of options or features, and no menu's...  In fact the only option is the AviTab (tablet) of which you need the plugin. The instrumentation although well done is basically again the Standard Six dials and aircraft's engine instruments, but also only comes with two Avionic sets. Personally I wanted a lot more or options even to fly bush.

 

You do get two variants with the Larger "Tundra" tyres and another which would be the most popular variant in an Amphibian variant, both are well done, but again personally I would want a standard wheel version to get more versatility out of the aircraft, the "Tundras" are just too limiting for me, and make it harder to takeoff and land the aircraft, not to mention the drag.

 

Overall what it is all about here are the excellent X-Plane 12 dynamics in the handling and feel of the aircraft, in this aspect a bush pilot will get a lot of flying out of the aircraft...  for personally myself, I hope the on goingproject delivers a bit more in options and configurations in future, as presented here it is just a little too basic for my tastes.

_______________________________

 

X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! the Maule M-7-235B Project XP12 by vSkylabs is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: 

 

Maule M-7-235B Project XP12

Price is US$32.95

 

Two Models in One - Both are included in this package
  • Maule M-7 Land
  • Maule M-7 Amphibian
 

Requirements

X-Plane 12  - Not compatible with X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended 
Current version: 1.0 (September 6th 2022)
 

Installation and documents:  download for the Maule M-7-235B is 266Mb and is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.

 

The AviTab plugin is also required to use this aircraft, and it is deposited in your X-Plane Plugins folder.

 

Full Installation is 336Mb

 

Documents supplied are:

  • HOW TO INSTALL
  • VSKYLABS M-7-235 POH
 
Two, a basic manual (26 pages) and "How to Install" pdf

_____________________

 

Review by Stephen Dutton

20th September 2022

Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews

 

Review System Specifications: 

Computer System: Windows  - S1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU / 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo M2 2TB SSD - Sound : Yamaha Speakers YST-M200SP

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 12 beta B3

Plugins: Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99

Scenery or Aircraft

- KHAF - Half Moon Bay by Rising Dawn Studios (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.00

 

(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) All Rights Reserved

 

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Thanks for the review, I have still not decided which plane will be my first XP12 one, although tempting I might wait some more.

In my experience, VSKYLAB never disappointed me with their plane support, I know they prefer to stick with what X-Plane/Plane maker provide instead of writing their own plugins and systems, I guess this might be part of the reason they are sticking to "simpler" planes.

I wish they will implement something more complicated like the PC12, would have bought it day one.

 

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Am I misunderstanding or is there truly no directional control with rudder pedals.  Airplanes don't have twist grips for that.  Mr Maule took the Piper Pacer idea to new heights mostly by adding horsepower.  Years ago I flew an M3 with a 220 Franklin and it was quick.  They've added lots of mods since but, like the Huskey, too heavy to be a real bush plane.

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