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Aircraft Review : Britten Norman Islander BN-2 by Nimbus Studios

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Aircraft Review : Britten Norman Islander BN-2 by Nimbus Studios

 

As a young boy around 10 years old with a fascination with aviation in the mid-sixties, there quite often in Flight International and the newcomer Aircraft Illustrated the glowing reports of a British built (ready to take on the world!) nine passenger utility aircraft called the Britten Norman Islander or BN-2, it was a twin-prop STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) aircraft that had built in simplicity to take the rugged day to day operations of remote fields or servicing coastal islands.

 

My particular interest is that the early aircraft were constructed by Fairey Marine, obscure to most, but the most beautiful and fastest cruisers ever built were the Fairleys on the Isle of Wright in Southern England...  and so the BN-2 became etched into my childhood of the most desirable of boats and aircraft.

 

It was actually a shock that I found out that coming into X-Plane that my beloved BN-2 was not readily available and except for a few cardboard freeware versions, and the aircraft has not had a lot of presence in the simulator, as even ten years later was there not any BN-2 available to fly, then suddenly in typical X-Plane fashion you get two of them together, one is by TorqueSim and the second one is by Nimbus Studios. Nimbus was originally a scenery developer, but lately has also produced the odd aircraft and even an exceptional helicopter in the UH-1 "Huey". So I was very much in wanting to experiencing the BN-2 of my childhood for the first time.

 

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The Britten Norman was never developed to be an attractive aircraft, it is a practical machine to serve a particular role, but I always like the low-slung cabin hung on to a very simple high-wing cantilever monoplane wing, with the two Lycoming O-540-E4C5 6-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston engines of 260 hp (190 kW) each slung below. Overall the BN-2 is a boxy shape of practicality.

 

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Overall the Nimbus design is very good, even excellent...  but there are a couple of quirks.

 

The mapping is excellent in showing the aircraft's construction, with all the panels and rivets being perfect. Fuselage shape and modeling is very good...

 

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....  but the wing construction detail is really, really good, and you have those lovely tapered wingtips, note the well done navigation light and flap test handle.

 

Lycoming engine housings are also very nicely done with visible air-cooled cylinders and nice inlets out front and exhaust heat panels behind. Note the yellow spinner, unusual but nice on this livery. Nice Hartzell twin-blade propellers are however not adjustable for pitch or feather and sit rather flat.

 

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Main twin gear assemblies have that aerodynamic shroud and all are excellent in detail and realism, the Goodyear rubber is excellent.

 

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Single front strut nosewheel is also well done with nice linkages and chrome/cast strut, but the internal area is not boxed in? so you can see through to the sky externally, internally in flight and this is a highly noticeable oversee...  ditto the lower engine air-intakes that have a bad internal join?

 

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Glass is very nice as are all the windows and surroundings (again note the excellent rivet work). If you look there are a few nice dents and crease marks of wear and tear in the fuselage and on the wing leading edge to give that aircraft frame a nice touch of authenticity.

 

Elevator and tail are very simple aerodynamic profiles, but they are well done here...

 

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...   wingtip landing lights are debatable in that Nimbus has tried to recreate a perspex aging, it does work, but doesn't either if you know what I mean.

 

Internal

The Islander has an unusual seating layout. It consists of four bench seats for eight passengers or nine is you count the right front seat. Access to the two front bench (and pilot) seats are via a door on the right fuselage and another door rear and the middle two rows are via a door right fuselage. Note the headlining that bends over/under? the main wingbox.

 

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Each seat has a nice set of headphones (hint the close and loud engines) and the seating is very well done, if a little cramped. Seat detail has very nice detail with creases, stitching and realistic seatback pockets...

 

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...   pilot's and front passenger seats are the same style but individual. Not very happy though with the huge gaping holes under the instrument panel? again there are missing cover elements, but seeing through to the sky in a huge gap internally is a no, no.

 

Cockpit

The instrument panel is quite basic in design and layout.

 

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Instrument panel background is blue, I found most BN-2 panels were black... but the blue shade here adds in a little colour. Rudder pedals on the floor are nicely reproduced, but were not originally animated to the yaw, but fixed in the v1.05 update. Roof front panel has magneto switches, starter, fuel pumps/fuel shutoff knobs and fuel gauges (35 Gal each tank). Ammeter and a very large rudder trim knob.

 

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Yokes are Britten Norman branded (the left yoke usually has a clock in the centre?), but they can both be hidden (but only both together). All electrical switch gear is lower panel, and circuit breakers are right lower panel (static, non-operable). Pilot's headset is usable in that if you click the headset it will disappear and lower the sound volume.

 

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Standard Six main instruments are mostly in position with the Artificial Horizon top centre with the Airspeed (Knots) left and Altimeter right. The Turn Indicator is set out far left with the ADF/VOR magnetic pointer next. Centre is Horizontal Situation Indicator and right is the Vertical Speed Indicator, below centre is the OMNI Bearing Selector (OBS). There is a backup Artificial Horizon far left lower and Gyro Suction (Vacuum) indicator bottom.

 

Pilot left centre is top a set of eight warning annunciator panel lights (testable) and with Bright or Dim settings. Below is a clock. There is also a very basic Century 2000 2-Axis Autopilot panel. There are twin group sets of gauges to cover both engines left/right... with from top to bottom RPM, Manifold Pressure, Fuel Pressure (PSI), Oil Temp/Pressure, CHT (Cylinder Head Temperature) and EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) and bottom Carburettor Temperatures.

 

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Avionics are quite simple with top a KMA 24 radio panel, then a large (XP default) GNS 530 which of course pops out. Bendex/King KR 67 ADF tuner, then bottom a Bendix/King KR 71 transponder. Far right are two Bendix/King KX 165 tuners that cover (top) COMM 1/NAV 1 (lower) COMM 2/NAV 2.

 

Centre pedestal is nicely done, with Twin-throttles, Twin-RPM levers and Twin Mixture levers...  the RPM levers are actually the PROP levers for feathering? Not to be confused with the PROPHEAT levers front console. TAILTRIM (pitch) wheel is on the right which makes it hard to use.

 

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Flap lever is a flip motion switch with three positions in UP - T.O. - DOWN. and like the Parking Brake lever left both don't work via XP commands? and only by manual action only (really annoying).

 

Internal Lighting

Instrument lighting is excellent as is all of the internal lighting. There is a main instrument lighting knob lower panel and all the instruments are bright and clear, but the avionics are on a separate bus, so they have their own switch (arrowed). There is lit footwell lighting that is on all the time, but it looks very nice.

 

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There are two swivel lights set into the roof, they are animated but of limited movement...

 

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The swivel lights do a great job of lighting up the roof instruments and the even the main instrument panel but are not very good for say map reading...  this is not too big an issue as the over the door lighting is excellent and does that map reading job better. All cabin lighting is exceptional with eight switchable side lighting panels...

 

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...  only blight on the copybook is that the "Passenger Notices" doesn't work? it could be the "EXIT" sign? Overall the BN-2 has one of the most inviting cabins for a fair while.

 

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Menus

There is a set of menu tabs left lower screen, they are quite small, but cannot be made transparent. The five tabs cover; Maintenance, Controls Position, Performance/Speeds, Weight and Balance and finally Doors and Accessories.

 

Maintenance

The maintenance menu covers all items that can wear or be consumed on the BN-2, this includes; Alternator, Filters, Oil, Engine condition, Tire Condition and Brake Pads... all out of 100% perfect. You can choose if required to turn off the "Always like new" tickbox (arrowed) off if you want these active conditions working or not or that the items condition then deteriorate, to fix then just press the item box to go back to 100%. The point of the menu is the way the item when degraded interferes with your aircraft's condition more that just showing a wear or use item. It gives the aircraft over time a more tired or worn realism.

 

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Controls Position

This is a visual control guide that is shown lower right screen, it covers the Yoke and Throttle positions.

 

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Performance/Speeds

Two menu items that cover the Performance and Speed charts for your information. Charts can be resized for use.

 

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Weight and Balance

There is an excellent "Weight and Balance" menu. Options include Fuel, Cargo and Passenger weights and all changes are shown on a CoG (Centre of Gravity) graph and also a CG location slider. Total Weight (Gross Weight) and Total Fuel loads are also noted, with also the choice of Lbs or Kgs.

 

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Notable are the weights of the passengers and you can click on each passenger to make their weight count but they then also to appear in the aircraft, you can also show the pilot and passengers visible from the internal or external views. Pilot and Passenger modeling is not too bad, but they are all unanimated.

 

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Doors and Accessories

Final menu option is the "Doors and Accessories" menu. You can open all the staggered doors and small rear cargo hatch.

 

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Static elements are good, because you can set them as you want to...  Chocks, Engine Inlet covers, Pitot Cover and rear Tail Lock.

 

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There is an external power source via a switch on the main instrument panel, but no external power cart (source), which I think is a an omission.

 

Overall the menus and static elements are top rate and very well done but mostly very versatile in how you use them.

 

Flying the BN-2 Islander

I flew the BN-2 Islander from EGPB - Sumburgh Airport (Shetland Islands) to EKVG - Vágar Airport (Faroe Islands) to give the aircraft a feel through, now it is time to fly back...

 

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Two things became very apparent on the flight out...  First was a lot of the switchgear and levers don't work with the X-Plane Keyboard and Joystick commands...  Not a big problem in most cases, but here there are placed in very hard positions for simulator actions. Take all the lighting switchgear lower panel, impossible to use so low down while flying manually, ditto the parking brake, flap handle and other important switches and controls.

 

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Second aspect was far more worrying...  the flaps set at UP are still 2º in the down position? This was felt in various ways all through the outbound flight.

First in the case of drag which related to the higher cruise speed of the aircraft through the air, because the wing is simply not clean...  second was that the Islander has a pronounced nose down attitude when flying at it's cruise speed, again caused via the flap drag/position...  the whole affair is a real scratch your head moment in that how could a developer even get such a situation that wrong...  I hoped the situation would have been cleared up in the update (v1.05) but it was not (the nose now sits pitch higher?), the switchgear I can live with, but the flap setting I can't, so that will affect the review in any performance case?

 

Lower engine sounds are excellent, start up and lower idle thrumming is highly enjoyable, but the visual aspect of the rotating props look a bit old fashioned and even cheap...  mainly because the props are actually flat and not cutting into the air.

 

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Landing lighting is a bit weak as well, you would not want to rely on the illumination on landing in poor or dark weather.

 

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With the Twin Lycoming O-540-E4C5 engines idling away, you notice a lovely shake, mostly via the windscreen and the vibrating shades...

 

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I actually thought it was the effects of the XPRealistic Pro plugin which was reviewed just before this BN-2 review, but it wasn't and actually you need to turn the XPR effects off as they over shake the effects. More so is the shaking effect on the rear fuselage and tailplane, as more throttle thrust applied will create more tailplane and rudder movement...  it is huge effect, brilliant and very clever, I love it.

 

A last quick check and it is time to leave the awesome scenery of Vágar and the surrounding Faroe Islands...

 

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Taxiing can be done at a fast pace, because you have the space here to do so, but those lower note throbbing sounds of the engines are excellent.

 

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Power up and Whoa!...  there is a huge difference in performance between my fully loaded aircraft coming out, to this three passenger lighter aircraft going back as the BN-2 just powers off the line, were as it was very sluggish back at Sumburgh Airport, so you have to prepare yourself for that.

 

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The BN-2 is not a high performing sports aircraft and it shows that... 860 ft/min (4.37 m/s) at sea level is the maximum climb to a service ceiling of 11,300 ft (3,400 m) is not going to win any Red Bull air-race awards.

 

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I am tracking out of Vágar's Rwy 30 north just to see the sights!

 

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The visual northern Vágar (Island) coastline show is staggering... is this only a simulation?

 

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The Century 2000 2-Axis Autopilot is as noted earlier is quite basic, it will hold your heading and altitude, but that is about it. To climb or descend it just adjusts your trim UP or DN (Down), simple yes very.

 

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You can't climb more than 600 fpm max, if not you lose speed, this is at a light weight, but heavy you will climb at under or lower than 500 fpm and crawl your way up slowly to even a low 4,000ft altitude. So a weight loading is critical on how you want to use the BN-2.

 

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At speed you get a sort of eeeehhhh sound from the engines more than a brrrrh sound, it is okay but considering the engine distance factor (close) you actually expected a different sound at cruise, you feel the drag, and the speed is constrained to under 120 knts. Cruise speed is around 139 kn (160 mph; 257 km/h) at 7,000 ft (2,134 m) (75% power), I am 6,000ft at 90% power and running at that 120 knts? Max speed is 148 kn (170 mph, 274 km/h)... Range is 755 nmi (869 mi, 1,398 km) at 130 kn (150 mph; 241 km/h) at 12,000 ft (3,658 m), but a ferry range is a doable 1,216 nmi (1,399 mi, 2,252 km) at 130 kn (150 mph; 241 km/h).

 

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Cruising along I really like it up here, the shaking is very authentic and realistic, with the vibrations of the aircraft's frame and the shaking movement of the shades...

 

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....   is the tail vibration movement just a gimmick, no it is not, I really love it.

 

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Of course the BN-2 is famous for flying the Islander services Loganair's Westray to Papa Westray flight, which is the shortest scheduled flight in the world at 1.7 mi (2.7 km); the scheduled flight time including taxiing is just two minutes. Both the Westray Airports are promised as part of this BN-2 package, when released I will add in those scenery additions when they become available.

 

Out of the murk comes the Shetland Isles, the approach into EGPB's Rwy 09 is quite difficult as to the runway's position, also high winds flow around the headland and pushes you around, today however I can live with a 5 knt crosswind.

 

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The trick to getting into Rwy 09 is to get well prepared before you start the approach, get the speed and height down ready instead of "too late, last minute" but in the BN-2 I found in that quite hard to do, the first flap position is under the white band, but even set at 80 knts at first flap I was actually  losing height?

 

BN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 3.jpgBN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 4.jpg

 

I dare not go over the flap limit, but I was grabbing at the sky, pitch high trying to keep the altitude, but also in not stalling the Islander? it was all very uncomfortable.

 

More flap to FULL-DOWN, but still I needed a lot of power to keep me airborne and STILL sitting on just under 80 knts to keep the aircraft in the air?

 

BN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 5.jpgBN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 6.jpg

 

My gut says I should be around 60 knts - 65 knts, but I am not?  This is a STOL aircraft right? and all I feel is a sinking feeling at a high power setting.

 

BN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 7.jpgBN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 8.jpg

 

I get the speed down to 60 knts via a nose up pitch, but at this phase of the landing I should be down into the 50 knts zone..  official notes are 50 knts (58 mph; 93 km/h) flaps up and 40 knts (46 mph; 74 km/h)...   flaps down says that at full flap setting at 60 knts feels and is too fast, and I am still losing height?

 

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With contact with the runway the BN-2 screws or twists....  the park brake is on? my fault? not sure, but the park brake placement and no Joystick connection it was impossible to see or react to the wrong setting while focusing on a fast sinking aircraft.

 

BN-2 Islander_Sumburgh 11.jpg

 

In any aircraft you need confidence that the changes you make and feel are reflected in the aircraft, if that does not happen then you can't fly the machine well. I flew the BN-2 very well, that is why I am actually sitting on Sumburgh's 09 runway, but my skill factor overrode the capabilities of the Islander...   in other words I had to overfly and not fly the aircraft realistically... that is not to say the BN-2 is really bad as it isn't and very far from that context, but it still needs some more development to get the performance closer to the aircraft. But that flap setting of 2º out certainly does not help in overall context either.

A final performance note is that I landed in Vágar Airport in version v1.0 and the aircraft felt pretty good under flap, this second landing in Sumburgh is under v1.05 and there is note in the update the "Maximum flaps speed too low"? So what went wrong?

 

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Liveries

There are eight liveries with the BN-2 and all are excellent...  They range from Winair (default), Air America, Belgium Coast Guard, British Airways Express, Highland Park, OLT, A brilliant RAW version in bare metal and the Scottish Ambulance Service in the vivid yellow scheme flown here in the review.

 

  BN-2 Islander_Livery Winair (default).jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery Air America.jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery Belgium Coast Guard.jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery BA Express.jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery Highland Park.jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery OLT.jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery Raw.jpgBN-2 Islander_Livery Scottish Ambulance.jpg

 

Summary

The Britten Norman Islander BN-2 is a UK produced aircraft from the mid-60's and still in production today. A brilliant nine seater + pilot aircraft it is renowned for it's superb STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) characteristics. It is a basic utility aircraft and a welcome new addition to the X-Plane simulator.

 

Nimbus Studios started out in designing scenery but has recently moved into aircraft, and this BN-2 is their third aircraft after a Aero Commander 500S and the sensational Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" last year.

 

X-Plane users have waited a long time for a decent BN-2 and yes this Islander from Nimbus is well worth the wait. Modeling is excellent and so is the high-resolution detailing, internally it is all very good as well with some of the best cabin lighting for a while. Sounds are very good as well, but a bit plain at cruise. Excellent effects gives very realistic vibrations and the tailplane and rudder assembly shakes very realistically as well, All menus provided are excellent with very good Weight and Balance settings, Doors and Static elements, highly detailed wear and tear maintenance menu and in all areas the detail are all very, very good. But the BN-2 still overall feels a little under developed.

 

Since starting the review with release version v1.0, there has already been a significant update with v1.05 and this update cleared up a lot of areas that needed attention in the release version like the non-animated rudder pedals...  but there are still issues? Bad (sky) gaps in the front wheel well and under the instrument panel are highly noticeable? Propellers are bland in motion with flat spinners and don't have pitch or feather animations. Most switchgear and levers are not X-Plane command mapped so your joystick or keyboard inputs don't work? Landng lights are just pathetic and the flap is set at 2º at full UP position resulting in odd performance with speed and aircraft performance, landing speeds under flap just don't feel right either.

 

So a childhood dream to fly the iconic British aircraft of the sixties, overall the results are I love the aircraft as it is very good in most areas and even excellent in many areas, but still needs more refining to be a totally fully quality aircraft, but with the past record of Nimbus that will come quickly. However it does come back to the situation of releasing too early than ready. Maybe the TorqueSim release caused an off balance in waiting. Overall the Nimbus BN-2 is very good, in a few updates it will be perfect....  recommended.

_______________________________

 

Yes! the Britten Norman Islander BN-2 by Nimbus Studios is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here : 

 

BN-2 Islander

 

Price is US$34.95

 

Features:

  • Highly detailed 3D model
  • 4K textures
  • Full PBR Textures for quality refection
  • 3D Custom Sound System
  • Animated switches
  • Rattling and vibrations
  • Accurate handling and flight characteristics
  • Accurate performance based on performance charts
  • Realistic night lightning with custom lights and textures
  • VR ready (includes yoke manipulator)
  • Ice buildup visual effect
  • 8 liveries and more to come
Nice Comprehensive Menus
  • Windows for managing maintenance, weight and balance, doors and accessories, controls position and performance charts.
  • Maintenance module: - If you want a more realistic experience you can choose if you want the aircraft to require maintenance with time and usage, depending on how you fly and engine exceedance the mechanical components will degrade and performance will be affected.
  • Weight and balance: - A graphic interface gives you the chance to modify the cargo, passengers, fuel and CG
  • Doors and accessories: - Open and close doors, add or remove wheel chocks, engine and pitot covers or controls lock.
  • Performance: - This window will also allow you to see some performance charts.
  • Controls position indicator: - A small window on the right bottom corner will show the position of your controls.

 

Requirements

X-Plane 11

Windows, Mac or Linux
4GB VRAM Minimim - 8GB VRAM Recommended
Download Size: 1 GB
Current and Review Version : 1.05 (June 16th 2020)
 

Installation and documents: Download is 1gb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 1.10gb

Installation key is required on start up and is supplied with the purchased download file.

 

Documents supplied are:

  • Manual.pdf

_____________________________________

 

Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton 

18th June 2020

Copyright©2020 : X-Plane Reviews 

  

(Disclaimer. All images and text in this preview 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 - 32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 1TB SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.41 and X-Plane 11.50b10 (fine in the beta, but the Librain effects don't work?)

Addons: Saitek x56 Rhino Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: None

Scenery or Aircraft

- Faroe Islands XP by Maps2XPlane (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$45.99

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Yes I was very aware of that, so I checked and in a lot of images the wing is clean, I think that is a resting position with power off, that is why it looks odd.

 

Britten-Norman_BN-2A-26_Islander,_Winair_-_Windward_Islands_Airways_JP5823246.jpg

 

 

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I don't have access to the TorqueSim version for a comparison, but considering the last huge update list, I'm not sure currently a comparison review is a good idea either, both need more development to get them to a stable situation. Stephen

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