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Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS Skyscenders 76 for X-Plane 12

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Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS Skyscenders 76 for X-Plane 12


By Sean McLeod



Picture a person going on a journey beyond sight and sound, entering the realm of possibilities beyond their imagination. Now available to them are crafts that have previously existed only in their fantasies.


How can this be? Where have they come from? Who created these vehicles? What is their purpose? Have they traveled from another dimension, another time? Certainly, they're from the future; could they be of an ancient civilization? Some of these questions are answered by reading the provided documentation; the rest of the information remains a mystery. You'll have to discover and experience for yourself these fantastic craft brought to the X-Plane community by the team at VSkylabs (VSL).


For anyone who hasn't yet partaken of the many X-Plane aircraft models offered by VSL, what have you been doing all this time? You're missing out on experiencing some of the finest aircraft models available for X-Plane. The highest quality textures and the most complete Fmod sounds can be found in all VSL aircraft models, and the Skyscenders really reaffirm that reputation. If you think the Skyscenders 76 package could be your first VSL purchase, I hope you enjoy my PIREP.


This trio comes with some documentation that is brief but essential reading for you to get the best experience from using the craft; you won't get far without reading the included instructions at least once. VSL has created an entertaining backstory for the craft and their pilots, drawing you in and engaging your imagination.


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The cockpits of all three craft are laid out nearly identically, making it very easy for you to transition between them without becoming disoriented when swapping from one to another. The crafts' systems are almost entirely automated, having been tuned with care and attention. This attention to detail creates an intuitive experience for the pilot.




For all my flying of these craft, I've been using a VKBsim Gladiator NXT controller, equipped with a twist axis for yaw control. The X-Plane Joystick Control Sensitivity settings are set to "Fully linear inputs." While I imagine I could refine the X-Plane settings to achieve a better level of control input, I've opted to keep them fully linear for the purpose of this PIREP to maintain consistency across the three craft.



The first craft and pilot I'll introduce is the Haboob-X, helmed by Echo, who's an android! The Haboob-X is designed for low-altitude exploration. "Haboob" might seem like a funny word, but its origin is rooted in the meteorological community, named for a specific type of dust storm. Here's a description from Wikipedia: "A haboob is a type of intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric gravity current, also known as a weather front. Haboobs occur regularly in dry land area regions throughout the world."


The craft is a twin-turboprop VTOL with a wide performance range, allowing you to hover as well as zip along at mid-high subsonic speed. You can even taxi the craft on the ground, thanks to its wheeled landing gear. In terms of in-flight configuration, the only speed limitation you need to remember is 150 knots. Below this speed, you must transition to VTOL mode, as per the VSL manual; everything else just happens automatically. When you extend or retract the gear, the engine nacelles rotate to the pre-programmed position.




Haboob-X Pilot Notes

Flying the Haboob-X is relatively straightforward, especially if you've had experience with tilt-rotorcraft in X-Plane. This ease of flight is further enhanced by the finely tuned automation and synchronization present in the flight model.


During my examination of the Haboob-X's flight characteristics, I enjoyed the simplicity with which one can transition between vertical and horizontal flight modes. This can be done at nearly any airspeed. I've taken off vertically, and with just a minimal forward velocity, I've pressed the gear button to switch to horizontal flight mode. Likewise, I've flown at maximum speed in horizontal mode and hit the gear down button to transition to VTOL mode. What I found most critical and effective in this flight profile was focusing on the flight-path vector (FPV) displayed on the head-up display (HUD). By carefully monitoring this in conjunction with the vertical speed HUD carat and the digital readout in VTOL mode, I was able to maintain a safe altitude during the transitions between flight modes.





The next craft on our list is the Machbully, under the command of Captain Lauren. Its name is fitting, as it employs powerful jet engines to essentially "bully" its way into the air, challenging the very principles of fluid dynamics! Designed for terrain and weather exploration, the Machbully is powered by four thrust-vectoring afterburning jet engines, allowing it to reach a top speed of Mach 1.3. However, the afterburners are restricted to horizontal flight mode only. Unlike other aircraft, this craft comes with landing skids instead of wheels, making taxiing on the ground an impossibility.




Machbully Pilot Notes

The Machbully is all about thrust. This powerful beast remains airborne solely through thrust, with the fly-by-wire flight control computer constantly making adjustments to the angle of the engine nacelles to steer the craft based on the pilot’s inputs.


Compared to the Haboob-X, I've found the Machbully to be twitchier and more sensitive, especially when maneuvering at slower airspeeds. It's likely that adjusting the X-Plane control sensitivity to flatten the center of the control curve could mitigate this. The instructions also note that the pilot needs to maintain thrust input to keep the turn rate at slow airspeeds.


In my exploration of this handling characteristic, I found it possible to attain extreme maneuverability. By entering a turn in horizontal flight mode, then reducing thrust to bleed off airspeed and re-applying thrust at the desired range, I was able to increase the turn rate to a certain extent. This approach seems to give me the ability to reverse or change direction with a smaller turn radius. In contrast, the turn radius at higher speeds is significantly larger compared to the Haboob-X.





Meet the titan that is the Spherescram, guided by the intrepid Major Ryan. This craft is a hyper-sonic sub-orbital marvel, powered by SCRAM jets and a solid-fuel rocket. Flying the Spherescram is a challenge that will truly test your skills and adherence to specific parameters. If not handled correctly, it can literally crash the X-Plane simulator. You read that right — the Spherescram pushes the software to its very limits. Carefully read the manual, and heed my experience as you come to grips with this wild machine.


The Spherescram launches vertically, so it requires a FLAT launch pad. If the craft keeps teetering over when you load it in X-Plane, it's not because the craft is broken; it's likely the chosen launch site isn't flat enough. Weather conditions matter as well. If the wind at the launch site is too strong, even a flat surface won't prevent the craft from tipping over.




Spherescram Pilot Notes

This is where things take a wild turn. The Spherescram is an experimental aircraft in every sense of the word. VSL has included several disclaimers and warnings, penned in RED text, regarding the operation of this craft, and they're not there just for show. I assure you; these cautions are not meant to discourage you but rather to guide you in mastering this challenging craft.


It's crucial to follow the flight profile outlined in the provided flight manual PDF. In my experience, I've made many launches and only a few successful landings. It may be a rocky road, but it's incredibly satisfying to align this bird with its flight profile without crashing it or the simulator. Laugh all you want, but heed this: if I don't precisely follow this part of the flight profile - climbing out at 25 degrees until booster shutoff - I tend to crash the simulator.




I’ve found that I’m most successful when following the described profile until I’m about to climb past 100,000 feet. Approaching this altitude, I push the nose over to approximately -10 degrees pitch down. This action arrests the vertical speed and brings the craft’s Alpha (angle of attack) to around zero. I've discovered this approach helps prevent crashing the simulator, which tends to happen if you're climbing above 180,000 feet with velocities exceeding Mach 9.




In one recent flight, I reached Mach 10 at around 120,000 feet! I still haven't mastered a successful landing, but I won't stop trying. My goal is to nail the landing without creating a smoking hole in the ocean - or the ground!




Closing Comments

The Skyscenders 76 suite of craft presents a truly unique experience for X-Plane pilots. Beyond attempting to master the flight characteristics, the sounds you will hear while piloting these craft greatly expand your Skyscenders experience. Whether it's the sound of the pilot breathing through different phases of maneuvering or the 'hook' sound as you load up the G-forces in high-speed turns, the audio aspect is captivating. The variety of alert tones are vital for staying connected to the craft's state in all phases of flight. Particularly when guiding the Spherescram above 100,000 feet, you'll encounter a range of sounds that transport your imagination directly into the realm of science fiction!


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VSkylabs has created a truly unique suite of craft for the X-Plane community, and I am certain that the Skyscenders will remain on my go-to list of X-Plane aircraft.


My sincere thanks to VSkylabs!






The VSKYLABS Skyscenders 76 for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:


VSKYLABS Skyscenders 76 for X-Plane 12

Priced at US$30.00


VSKYLABS Skyscenders 76' features:

  • 3 aircraft included (Turbine-VTOL, Jet-VTOL, Hypersonic spacecraft).
  • Highly capable aircraft designed specifically for X-Plane 12 scenery and weather exploration.
  • Ultimate fun, provides hours of challenges for novice and expert pilots!
  • Automated systems.
  • Designed for VR (optimized for 2-d).
  • FMOD 2.0 sounds.
  • Projects under constant development - updates are free.



X-Plane 12 
Windows, Mac or Linux
8GB VRAM Minimum
Current Version : 1.0 (June 29th 2023)
Download Size: 840MB total  - 3 download links


Review by Sean McLeod

11th August 2023

Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews


About the author:
Sean McLeod is a career airline pilot with over twenty years of experience and an X-Plane enthusiast.


Review System Specifications

Computer System: Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7 12800H 4.80GHz CPU, 32.0GB 4800MHz DDR5 RAM, 1 TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti 16GB GDDR6 VRAM

Controllers: VKB Sim Gladiator NXT controller, Razer Orochi V2 wireless mouse
Software: - Windows 11 Home, X-Plane 12.04r3 at maximum graphics settings
Plugins: AviTab, Skunkcrafts Updater
Scenery: Simheaven X-World


(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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  • Dominic Smith changed the title to Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS Skyscenders 76 for X-Plane 12

Excellent review Sean, I would agree with your comments about the high visual and sound quality, and also the flight models which are very refined, especially when transitioning  from hover to forward flight and back.

I have yet to fly the Spherescram, but will heed your advice with it when I do.


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