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Aircraft Review : Robinson R44 Raven II - VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Series


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Aircraft Review : Robinson R44 Raven II - VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Series

 

VSkyLabs is back, and it is another light-chopper...  again. The list is now getting quite lengthy with the Dynali H3 after the Cicaré-8, Guimbal Cabri G2 and also the earlier Mini-500 Project, this new one is the four-seater Robinson R44 Raven ll which is quite a mouthful, I mean ask your girlfriend if she wants a twirl around the coast in a "Robinson R44 Raven ll", I am quite sure she will give you a look of horror of wanting to fly in something that is representative of a big black nasty bird. But in fact it is quite a pretty looking aircraft.

 

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The R44 is a bigger aircraft than the other ultra-light machines, but you fly it in very much the same way, deftly. Two notes first, one is the VSkylab philosophy is in that you are purchasing an ongoing project, so any aircraft you purchase is not fully completed or is 100%, that is the deal you sign up for to get access to the aircraft and all the development is free and ongoing. Theses projects are under constant development: development road-map is including flight model refinements, enhanced systems depth, additional liveries and other improvements. Second is that the aircraft is designed around the powerful, native X-Plane 11 'Experimental Flight Model' environment, so that means the Menu/General "Use the experimental flight model" tickbox has to be selected on.

 

The R44 grew out of the Robinson R22 which was a two-bladed, twin-seater, single-engine light utility helicopter manufactured by the Robinson Helicopter Company based at Zamperini Field in Torrance, California. The R44 first flew on 31 March 1990, and has been in sales the most successful over the last few decades with over 6,331+ aircraft produced. In January 2000, Robinson introduced the Raven with hydraulically assisted controls and adjustable pedals. In July 2002, Robinson then introduced the Raven II featuring a more powerful, fuel-injected engine and wider blades and allowing a higher gross weight and improved altitude performance. The version represented here is the Raven ll with the Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 6-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston engine, 245 hp (183 kW)

 

VSkylab's always do great modeling and detail, and it is no exception here, however there isn't that ultra-realism feel, if even a little bland with no of say the real world wear or tear feel, so the R44 feels pristine factory new. The detailing is however very good, and realistic.

 

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Rotor head is very well constructed, with all the complex linkages correctly designed, the assembly is fully animated as well, but the pitch and roll movements don't have very extensive movements, but at least they are authentic...

 

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...  twin-blades droop very nicely when parked, again well done. Tail-rotor is again a well done assembly, and again animated if still with slight movements.

 

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Glass important on a helicopter, here it is very good, with good thickness, curves and lovely reflections.

 

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You can open the four doors individually via the small catch externally or the metal loop handle internally... press the door hinge (arrowed) and they all disappear...

 

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...  so you can't just remove one door, it is all or nothing.

 

VSkyLabs don't do menus, or any external options. All items that can used as options are just clickpoints, so that tends to limit the features and the options list for their aircraft.

 

Robertson helicopters tend to be pretty basic, or as light as possible. So the cabin is not built for luxury or for VIP travel.

 

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The cabin is however well fitted out, with those four low-backed leather seats. Internal detail is very good, and love those hanging headsets and cables. Note the (operating) pull down (handle) rotor brake (arrowed).

 

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There is also a single roof-mounted map light with switch.

 

All Robinson's use the T-Bar Cyclic, but this one is not a twin grip, but a single grip to the right, HYD switch and red side button work. Notable is the revolving Speed placard on the T-Bar and you can hide the T-Bar via pressing the cover lower.

 

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A large pedestal supports the  Robinson Classic 7 holes analog instrument panel. Lower pedestal has a Garmin GTX 325 Transponder lower, and then the default X-Plane GNS 430 GPS unit that pops out for use.

 

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Top is a basic KX 155 NAV/COMM Radio (NAV 1/COM 1) that can be switched from Com1 to Com2. The knob above turns to open a vent.

 

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Left centre pedestal is top a large clock, and a Quartz (Hobbs) meter set below, Right pedestal is all the engine and fuel gauges with an Amp gauge and Oil Pressure top, Aux Fuel Tank (17.0 US GAL/64 Liters) and Oil Temperature centre, Another Main Fuel Tank (29.5 US GAL/112 Litres) and a CYD HD (Cylinder Head) Temperature gauge is bottom. Lower centre pedestal is the electrical panel, with Lighting, Instrument Panel (adjustable) top, Nav Lts and Strobe lighting below. Clutch (Eng/Diseng), ALT (Alternator), Master Battery, and (Pump) Prime switch.

 

The main instrument panel "Classic 7" has two rows of dials, top row is (LtoR) Vertical Speed (V/S), Artificial Horizon with Slip Indicator, Speed (knts), and engine readouts RPM %. Lower row is Altimeter, Heading Dial and Engine Manifold Pressure. Very simple but effective.

 

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Note the excellent rolling turn bubble and you can adjust the Horizon bar. The instrument detailing is very, very good and of good quality.

 

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Two features are aimed directly at VR (Virtual Reality) users. There is a Handbook down right, but it is only a single page "Checklist" held right under your nose, but it is well done.

 

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Second feature is the Avitab (Aviators Tablet) plugin intergration, the iPad is a basic install, but it is in a good set position, there is no rotation to portrait mode, a feature I grumble about every time, and you can't turn it off either, so you have to just make it disappear if you are not using it (you click the sucker mount).

 

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There is an active (fuse) Circuit Breaker panel under the left seat, and the main Landing light switch is on the lower T-Bar Cyclic handle.

 

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From the external view there is a pilot, he is highly animated with arms and feet matching the Cyclic and Rudder pedals, more of the same in passengers would have been a nice feature.

 

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Flying the R44

Starting the light chopper has a set procedure, and it is wise to understand the enclosed R44 manual, but the R44 needs to be mostly started via the extensive pop-up checklist. Several things to know. Clutch has to be disengaged, you PRIME, then switch to BOTH, and the Fuel (Mixture) knob has to set to RICH (or in) there is a animated cover to note to "not to pull it out, or you will fall out of the sky" marker.

 

VSL R44_Raven_Starting 1.jpgVSL R44_Raven_Starting 2.jpg

 

Governor switch is on the end of the Collective (off to start, then on), and the Fuel tank (switch) is on the bulkhead behind...  

 

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...  starting is via the red starter button on the right Cyclic. Throttle is controlled on the Collective, and you move it left or right (left for power which is reflective in the RPM%). When all correct the Heading Compass will shake to the rotor rotation, which has that twin-blade Huey "chop,chop" sound at idle.

 

You know it is going to be tricky, and the R44 does not disappoint in that department, in saying that, as with all very light "nervy" choppers you adjust, refine your inputs. Tail rotor direction of rotation on the R44 is reversed compared to the R22 for improved yaw control authority. On the R44 the advancing blade is on the bottom. Once up I side-slipped, but arrested it, then finally went in the direction I want to go, in forward.

 

VSL R44_Raven_Flying 1.jpgVSL R44_Raven_Flying 2.jpgVSL R44_Raven_Flying 3.jpgVSL R44_Raven_Flying 4.jpg

 

.... the tail is very edgy, and you can very easily over compensate, then go too far the other way. So you are consistently and always refining your inputs, and then find out that the minute adjustments work out better. But there is still the ongoing need for a while to keep on refining your inputs to the machine. Obviously your minute Collective movements are synchronised with the Cyclic movements (more so) and you finally then get a more controlled flight. Once central in your controls you sort of relax and enjoy the aircraft...

 

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This is certainly not a helicopter to learn on, not even close. But if you have had (a lot) of rotary flight flying then you should easily convert over to the aircraft, and certainly if you have already any of the other VSkyLab light heli aircraft. Any Helicopter Pro will love this R44 and it's input challenges, in that department it is very, very good... but skill is required in handfuls, these Robinson aircraft have quite a nasty reputation.

 

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For a little chopper it is quite smooth, once you get into the groove, and it is quite a nice feel. in 1997, a Robinson R44 was piloted by Jennifer Murray for the first helicopter circumnavigation of the world by a woman, covering a distance of 36,000 miles in 97 days. For me personally I couldn't fly that far manually, but an R44 also holds the piston speed record of 227 km/h.

 

VSL R44_Raven_Flying 14.jpg

 

Confidence grows easily as I turn back to EGNS (Ronaldsway)... I follow the amazing IOM TT racing course to get my bearings, those bikes go so fast...  Top speed of the R44 is 130 kts (150 mph, 240 km/h), with a Cruise speed of 110 kts (130 mph, 200 km/h) and a Range of 300 nmi (350 mi, 560 km)...   14,000ft is the ceiling, but flying even that high is not recommended, I still think the bikes would beat it round the IOM.

 

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More confidence as I approach EGNS Rwy 21, I am not going to be putting myself under any stress, I want a wide open space to get this right first time...  I go easily through the "translational lift" phase, tricky is slowing down as the R44 is so light, but I get my approach quite right and approach speed is a nice forward 25 kmh. Over the fence... 

 

VSL R44_Raven_Flying 19.jpgVSL R44_Raven_Flying 20.jpg

 

....   I slip nicely into the hover, but that tail is so nervy. It is a bit like being in a cage with a wild animal, say a lion...  you know one false move and you will be eaten alive, so you stay cool, calm and collected, then just let it flow as you come down to soft landing.

 

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So the procedure was, very twitchy, nervy at first, but you soon find the balance, then once you settle then so does the aircraft... by the end I was able to do the impossible in doing a nice touch landing from the hover, never thought about doing that at all about an hour ago...  in I could actually land this machine!

 

I personally like heavier helicopters, say the Bell 406 or the X-Trident AB412... but the Robinson R44 is not too bad at all.

 

Lighting

Lighting is okay...  Very nice Instrument lighting and the overhead spot light does a nice job for map reading or for general lighting

 

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External lighting is average..  I like the twin red and white strobe lights on the long beam tail, but those twin nose Landing lights, Navigation lights are all very blobby, they can all be far better.

 

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There are currently only two liveries, Black and shiny Blue...   more are promised.

 

VSL R44_Raven_Livery Black.jpgVSL R44_Raven_Livery Blue.jpg

___________________

Summary

Another Light Helicopter in the series from VSkyLabs after four Heli releases already. This one is the more slightly heavier Robertson R44 Raven ll, a light helicopter that seats a pilot and three passengers.

 

Note that you are purchasing an ongoing project with any vSkyLabs aircraft and all that all the development is ongoing, so this is not a 100% fully developed project.

 

Overall most vSkyLabs aircraft are all mostly basic, but they are fully detailed to the extreme. There are also no menus or static objects or extensive features as the focus is on the dynamics and flying performance. The R44 requires the experimental setting, but delivers a very credible flying performance.

Only interactions are with the few interaction zones that; lock the mixture, move the throttle, change altimeters, open the four doors (you can remove them as well) and hide the T-Bar Cyclic control column. AviTab intergration and exceptional VR-Virtual Reality is also available.

 

I don't think this is an aircraft for the very immature helicopter pilot, it is just too finely controlled and nervous in the wrong hands, in saying that once you adapt then the aircraft comes to you, so yes vertical flying skills do count here, but once mastered the aircraft is very nice to fly, always challenging, but nice to fly...  let the pro's line up and be counted as they will love it.

 

So another nice helicopter from VSkyLab's, you want more of course in features and details, but that is not what VSkyLab's is about...  it is about the flying pure and simple, and in that area the Robinson R44 Raven ll really delivers...  recommended.

 

Now available from the X-Plane.OrgStore or directly from vSkyLabs

___________________

 

X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! the Robinson R44 Raven II Project - VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Series is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Robinson R44 Raven II Project - VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot'

 

Price is US$33.95

 

Project Main Features:

  • VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Project.
  • Robust and Highly Defined flight dynamics model of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter, built around the powerful, native X-Plane 11 'Experimental Flight Model' environment.
  • Highly detailed model of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter.
  • Autorotation capable.
  • Comprehensive systems which were designed to follow the real R44 Raven II POH, as authentically as possible within X-Plane 11 flight simulator limitations.
  • Fully functional VR (Virtual Reality) Ready: highly interactive cockpit environment including levers, switches, guards, 3D checklist viewer, modular cyclic and more.
  • Equipped with Robinson's classic 7 holes analog panel.
  • R44 Auxiliary fuel system.
  • Removable doors.
  • Fully featured GNS530.
  • Built-in Avitab Compatibility (Avitab plugin not included).
  • Multi-Layer FMOD sound pack.
  • The project is under constant development: development road-map is including flight model refinements, enhanced systems depth, additional liveries and other improvements.
  • STMA Autoupdater is included: project updates are fast and efficient!
  • Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums.

 

Requirements:

X-Plane 11

Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Current and Review version:  1.1 (November 9th 2020)
 
The AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft.
 
Note: In order to use and enjoy VR environment in X-Plane, user hardware and system specs should meet the required specifications for OS, CPU, GPU, MB and RAM which are specified both in the given VR hardware websites and at X-Plane.com.
 
Aircraft download is 240 Mb, and unpacked then installed 389 Mb
 
Documents
  • VSL R44 Essentials.pdf
  • VSKYLABS Robinson R44 POH.pdf
 
Designed by VSKYLABS
Support forum for the Robinson R44 by VSKYLABS

_____________________

 

Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton

20th Noveember 2020

Copyright©2020: X-Plane Reviews

 

(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)

 

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