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Aircraft Review : PAC CT/4E Airtrainer Project by VSkyLabs

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VSL PAC CT4 -Header.jpg


Aircraft Review : PAC CT/4E Airtrainer Project by VSkyLabs


Armed services around the world when revitalising their fleets, usually do what they call "Off the shelf" purchases, or take an aircraft already built, and then reconfigure the aircraft to suit their services requirements, it is supposedly to save you money, buy an already produced aircraft and not pay the development costs...  but it never really seems to work out that way, and so they usually end up with a far more expensive result.


Sometimes you also may need an even more specialist configuration to the aircraft to meet your specialist requirements, then even an "Off the shelf" option won't fit those requirements either, in this case you then have to build the aircraft yourself, or to meet the needs of the role the aircraft has to fulfill.


This was the situation the RAAF (Royal Australian Airforce) and RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Airforce) was in, in the early 70's, as they needed a specialised trainer aircraft that was relatively cheap, but still a nice aerobatic aircraft to train RAAF/RNZAF pilots on.


The solution was to take an already successfully built Australian aircraft in the Victa Aircruiser (and yes Victa is renowned in Australia for their lawnmowers!) and reconfigure the aircraft to be an all-metal-construction, single-engine, two-place with side-by-side seating (with a single rear seat), and was also to be a fully aerobatic, piston-engined, basic training aircraft, and this development and assembly work was done by the maintenance firm Aero Engine Services Ltd (AESL) in New Zealand.


Externally the CT/4 differs from the Airtourer and Aircruiser designs by its larger engine and the bubble canopy of which was redesigned in to an aerofoil shape. Structurally there are changes to the skin and upgrading of the four longerons in the fuselage from sheet metal to extrusions.


Earlier aircraft were powered by a 210 hp Continental piston engine and was later upgraded to a 300 hp Lycoming and with a three-bladed propeller and the wing was also moved 5 cm rearwards to compensate for the altered centre of gravity (to balance the extra weight of the Lycoming) this is this vSkyLabs version in the CT/4E .


The vSkylab philosophy is in 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. These projects are under constant development: the 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 in the Menu/General "Use the experimental flight model" tickbox has to be selected on.


Only two months on since their release of the excellent Aeroprakt A22-LS Project, VskyLabs are already back with another project, this time it is the PAC (Pacific Aerospace Corporation) CT/4E trainer aircraft.


VSL PAC CT4 -Head 1 .jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Head 2 .jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Head 3 .jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Head 4 .jpg


The Victa was a small but very sweet designed aircraft by the famous Henry Millicer. Then AESL's chief designer, P W C Monk redesigned the Airtourer/Aircruiser into the CT/4 for it's trainer roles that were then built in Hamilton New Zealand to a total of 155 aircraft.


Initial views are that this is a nice tight little aircraft, and you knew it was going to be as sweet in the air. vSkyLabs are already well known for their really excellent modeling skills, and that aspect is certainly evident here, the CT4 is superbly done in design and detail.


From front to rear the detail and mapping is first rate, all the rivets can be counted and the flying surface louver panel work is also bang on...


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...  I'm not really sure about the fully coloured in navigation lighting, but overall you can't fault the work here.  One area that stands out is the white rear beacon tail assembly. Outwardly it looks bland, but on closer inspection it is really quite good, it is the way it looks and not actually what it is...


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The landing gear is extremely basic in design, but again like the earlier Aeroprakt A22, the front strut looks a little under-developed, or really basic as do the two engine exhausts that just protrude out of the cowling, with the no surrounding cowling cut-outs to accommodate them, a small but significant detail folks.


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The canopy is however a masterwork. Brilliant and detailed glass, surrounded by the metal frame, is exceptionally well done, no matter what angle you look at the canopy, you can see the construction and rivet work of the frame, and the glass is perfectly worn and marked.


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To open the canopy, there is a lever externally, and a twist handle internally (arrowed), that disconnects the latch, then you push the canopy upwards...


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...  the mechanism and animations are excellent and also very realistic, and when open below the canopy is a very highly detailed interior. There  are three seats in the aircraft in the tight space, two front trainee pilot seats and an instructor seat in the rear, all seats are a metal can based design, with just a rear and cushion base, but all looks totally authentic here. Note the large roll-over bar centre cockpit.


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Nice smaller details include a large first aid kit and on the floor fire extinguisher, both bright red to stand out in an already complex cockpit...   overall the detailing is masterful in here.


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The instrument panel facia, is also metal, but superbly nice and worn with wear scratches and whatnot...  very very nice. Instrument detail is also off the charts, clear and highly legible...   perfect.


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There are two sets of Throttle, Propeller and Mixture levers, one set for each pilot, but there is also a second flap lever built into the left hand assembly (arrowed)...


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There is a centre panel of where the main flying instruments are positioned...  not really in a three instrument across layout as the Speed indicator is central left and not top, with a Rate of Turn indicator below. Centre instrument down line includes a ball Artificial Horizon top, with a nice adjustable setting line (orange line). Lower is the Heading Dial compass, and bottom is an OBI twin pointer compass (note the heading bug, is on on this instrument, and not on the above heading dial)...  right row (top to bottom), is the Altitude Instrument, Vertical Speed (V/S) and lower a Course Deviation Indicator (CDI).


VSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 7.jpg


Each side of the primary flight instruments are to the left, Fuel Quantity (75 lts per tank) and lower are the Trim Indicators. Right side are the RPM indicator, Manifold and Fuel Flow pressures, and bottom a combined Oil Pressure/Temperature and Cylinder Head temperature gauge. Centre panel top there is a main Temperature gauge, the Ignition Start/Off Switch, Ampere/Volt meter (push knob to activate the volt readout) and G-Meter (acceleration) bottom. Top of the panel are three lights for; Low Oil Pressure, Low Voltage and Engine Fire.


VSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 8.jpg


The avionics stack is quite stock standard X-Plane... S-Tec Fifty Five X autopilot top, Then both a Garmin GNS 530 and a GNS 430 gps units below. The transponder is a Garmin GTX327 and bottom is an ADF Bendix/King KR87.


On the right pilot's side is a simple four instrument layout of primary flight instruments. Including a Speed indicator with a Rate of Turn indicator below, then the Altitude Instrument and Vertical Speed (V/S) instrument to the right. There is a Whiskey Compass on the top of the centre panel.


VSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 9.jpg


Lower panel has the electrical switchgear array, and on the right the fuses (Circuit breakers) that are non-workable, but note the odd switch on this panel is to power the AP - Autopilot. Below are three instrument lighting knobs.


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It is all a very non-fussy but a good training instrument panel, not complicated or messy to use.


Center console is quite basic... top is the left side pilot's Throttle, Prop and Mixture levers. Below is the cabin heat and (right side) Flap lever in UP-HALF-DOWN selections, but in reality it is a more fluid flap selection then that you need by selecting any degree selection you want. Rear is the Fuel Tank selector and Parking Brake. The AviTab is attached to the far right side of the screen, and a bit small where positioned for the pilot to read? Selection is via selecting the point on the screen (AviTab plugin is of course required).


VSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 12.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 13.jpg


Important to note the Trim controller is a HAT switch on the nice joystick, it moves your trim; UP-DOWN and LEFT-RIGHT via the knob, of course you can set the same HAT on your own joystick or by the keyboard commands, but it is a very authentic set up and shown on the right panel indicators.


VSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 14.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 15.jpg


There are two nicely modeled trainee pilots, the main pilot is female and a secondary pilot is also of the fairer sex. Selection is done via the Payload Weight slider on the X-Plane IOS screen. When exceeding the 80 kg / 176.4 lbs of payload (by using the slider), the second pilot will then be visible.... the main pilot is visible all the time. The main pilot's arms are also animated to the movements of the stick.


VSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 16.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Instrument panel 17.jpg


vSkyLabs don't do menus, popups (except for standard X-Plane elements (i.e. GNS units)) or static elements, so there are few extras to note, anything that is not an "Interaction zone" is not added into the aircraft. But the PAC CT4 is highly compatible for VR-Virtual Reality and it is marketed that way. As with all vSkyLab aircraft the "Experimental Flight Model Mode' must be checked on.



Flying the PAC CT4

Trainers are pretty basic aircraft, nothing more and nothing less is required not to mess with the new flyers introduction to aviation, as it is here with the PAC CT4E Airtrainer. The 300 hp Lycoming is also quite a powerful engine for such a small airframe, so you have to be aware of that factor.


Starting up the Lycoming is very, very easy...    mixture lever forward, fuel pump on and turn the start switch and the engine sprightly springs into life, then you just wait for the instrument readouts to settle down... Start up sounds are very good as are the running engine sounds, but the external sounds are far, far higher than the internal (yes the canopy is down, and you do have a helmet on) but you always have to turn your speakers down or adjust the external sounds lower on the X-Plane sounds panel to a more even balance.


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Highly notable is the amount of turn on the front nosewheel compared to the rudder movement...  the CT4 has this restriction, and also the use of using the braking on the main wheels to give a wider turn (which is like in turning a taildragger)... 


VSL PAC CT4 -Flying 5.jpg


...   it means a lot of wider turns and a lot of space in manoeuvring around the taxiways.


VSL PAC CT4 -Flying 6.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Flying 7.jpg


The small nosewheel movement can also catch you out if your speed gets to fast and the aircraft will start to weave, so you need to keep your taxi speed down a little, overall though, with half a throttle the CT4 will taxi quite nicely.


You also need to set your trims to neutral...  you need control of your trims either by the HAT on the joystick or keyboard control (any training aircraft should be set this way anyway to learn about aircraft trims)...


VSL PAC CT4 -Flying 8.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Flying 9.jpg


...  instrument backlighting with the full setting is quite average in the daytime, the instruments are actually lit, but only bleakly so...  so it makes the instrument panel look darker than it actually is. The VOR Pointers on the OBI are not working either, here the VOR array is just the over the other side of the field, but the pointer is not registering it or is it an ADF pointer only? Which is pretty useless nowadays.


VSL PAC CT4 -Flying 10.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Flying 11.jpg


When trying to takeoff on my earlier test flights of the CT4, I found that front nosewheel restriction a barrier to taking the aircraft off and landing cleanly, or mostly impossible to do so, as once you reach a certain speed the aircraft just weaves incredibly badly and you simply lose control... I tried the fast throttle up approach (really bad), and the slow, slow throttle input approach and both failed with a loss of control....


VSL PAC CT4 -Flying 12.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Flying 13.jpg


...   the problem is that the rudder and nosewheel are totally out of sync in angle, so when you need more rudder to counteract the powerful asymmetrical thrust, the nosewheel is at the wrong pitch or position, hence you weave and badly...  my solution was to kill the tighter movement via the "nosewheel steer toggle", and that gives you back full control of the nosewheel again, but also making it again in sync with the rear rudder movements, cheating, I don't know, but at least I can takeoff and land the aircraft normally without consistently destroying the scenery. 


As noted that asymmetrical thrust from the 300 hp engine is quite strong, so you need a very firm hand to control it and keep the aircraft straight, 90 knts and you can slightly pull back on the stick and grab the air...


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... once off the ground, you need to quickly realign the balance to the centre and get the aircraft level and straight. So the CT4 is tricky to takeoff and for the initial control of flight. Climb out or rate is 9.3 m/s (1,830 ft/min), so quite high, but watch your speed does not trail off. So a climb of around 130 knts at 1500 fpm is about ideal. Note the Vertical Speed indicator is very wide, it looks quite high, but you are only pulling 1,000 fpm. the 2,000 fpm marker is directly and right around to the right (3 o'clock), so it can be a bit disorienting.


Once at your altitude, then your first job is to set your trims. You are surprised on how much trim you actually need, especially the rudder trim to get the aircraft balanced and flying straight and level and the controls back to their neutral position...   but it is important you have to trim it out before doing anything else. Turns are slightly odd in that you don't nudge the CT4 in the direction and centre the stick again, but sort of hold the angle of the turn, it becomes natural quickly, but it is a more physical way to fly....  so in the air the PAC is a very physical aircraft to fly.


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VSL PAC CT4 -Flying 21.jpg


The CT4E is a semi-aerobatic aircraft, so you can do some pretty extreme manoeuvres in the aircraft, within reason. But when pushing the aircraft to it's limits you do get great feedback and control response, that extra power really helps as well, overall the PAC is a lot of fun with it's excellent and superb flight dynamics, authentic performance and flight handling characteristics.


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The lighting is quite basic...  In the daytime as noted the instrument panel feels quite dull, but it is not as bad in the dark. There are three knobs to adjust the overhead and overhead (red) seat lighting, but they both have no light sources, the panel lighting adjustment is the third knob.


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There is a switch on a light between the roll-over bar, and that activates the X-Plane white flashlight to use on the panel or wherever, not as good as say a proper animated spot light, but I suppose a clever workaround...  only the background instrument lighting is okayish, but the dials are clear, so that is what matters, but overall in the cockpit I wanted more brightness everywhere.


VSL PAC CT4 -Lighting 5.jpg


External lighting gives you Navigation, Red, Green and a White tail-light, Landing and Taxi lights are blobby, and not tuned. Strobe lights are connected to the upper beacon (also white) and all are also very blobby, but effective at night, so is the blobby bright lower red beacon.


VSL PAC CT4 -Lighting 6.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Lighting 7.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Lighting 8.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Lighting 9.jpg


Once adjusted, overall I like the sounds, not extremely dynamic, but still quite good in realism.


Maximum speed of the PAC CT4 is a fast 387 km/h (240 mph, 209 kn) at sea level and the cruise speed: 282 km/h (175 mph, 152 kn) at 2,590 m (8,500 ft) (75% power)... Range is 963 km (599 mi, 520 nmi) (max fuel, 75% power) and the Service Ceiling is 5,550 m (18,200 ft), but do the last two performance figures matter?  not really.


VSL PAC CT4 -Landing 1.jpg


I miss the VOR pointer to find the airport... so I use the Course Deviation Indicator (CDI), to centreline the runway, and use it to turn directly into the approach path... I am not on the Autopilot or using the APP selection, but it is available if you need it, but in just using the instruments to guide me in...  Flaps are as noted variable, so you find the best degree to suit your speed, but I never got under the white marker banner on the speed dial, until I had almost full flap and 90 knts.


VSL PAC CT4 -Landing 2.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 3.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 4.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 5.jpg


You can adjust your altitude easily with your power or throttle inputs...  more power to climb and less power to descend, and the CT4 reacts very, very  nicely to your inputs of power, so it is very easy to get the perfect right speed and slope into the runway... 


VSL PAC CT4 -Landing 6.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 7.jpg


...  you have to focus, but overall the CT4 is great on the final approach and responds nicely to your inputs, once close to the threshold you let the power drop slowly and you sink nicely and gradually, Stall speed is 82 km/h (51 mph or 44 knt) flaps down.


VSL PAC CT4 -Landing 8.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 9.jpg


So at FULL flap the final landing speed is of 70 knts, and the CT4 feels a bit fast, not much, but I expected around 65 knts or even slightly less, but that does not say you cannot do a nice sweet touch and a no bounce landing at this speed...


VSL PAC CT4 -Landing 10.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 11.jpgVSL PAC CT4 -Landing 12.jpg


...  also give yourself a slight nose up flare to show off your landing skills and the CT4E will respond nicely. I have already done about eight landings in the PAC Airtrainer, and each one was absolutely checkbook perfect, so the aircraft is very, very good in this area with great feel and control.


vSkyLabs uses the STMA Plugin for aircraft updates thoughout the project, the updater can be found on the left side of your screen as a pop-out...  personally a loath these sort of annoying pop-out affairs, and in most cases usually remove the plugin from the aircraft folder, I up date by inserting it again, doing the update and then remove it again...  it is a seriously screen hogging popping out annoying tool.





Three...  in a RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Airforce) "Red Checkers", RAAF (Royal Australian Airforce) and RTAF (Royal Thai Airforce) liveries, all well done and highly detailed.


VSL PAC CT4 - Livery Red Checkers.jpgVSL PAC CT4 - Livery Red RAAF.jpgVSL PAC CT4 - Livery Red RTAF.jpg



In only another few months since their last release with the excellent Aeroprakt A22-LS Project, VskyLabs are already back with another project, this time it is the PAC (Pacific Aerospace Corporation) CT/4E Airtrainer aircraft. A New Zealand built aircraft for both the Australian and New Zealand Airforces, The Royal Thai Airforce also bought 24 aircraft. Designed out of the Australian built civilian Victa Aircruiser, the CT4E here is a twin (with a third if required) seater trainer for a specialised single-engine trainer role.


You would never fault vSkyLabs quality modeling, and very good in detail it is here as well. Nice externals, but the cockpit detail is exceptional, not crazy about the coloured navigation wingtip lights, or the poor front nosewheel assembly, but the canopy and glass quality is extremely good. Blobby external lighting and daytime instrument lighting is also a few marks down and I didn't at all relate to the restricted nosewheel movement... but overall the aircraft is first rate.


There are very few extras or no menus at all... there is however AviTab intergration and exceptional VR-Virtual Reality is also available.


If you have purchased or tasted before any of vSkyLabs project aircraft, then you probably know what you will get here. Great modeling, great detailing and an extraordinary flight model. They are great projects, but to note that you are purchasing an ongoing project with any vSkyLabs aircraft and that all the development is ongoing, so this is not a 100% fully developed project. Updates maybe infrequent if sometimes at all.


The PAC CT4 requires the experimental setting, and as usual for vSkyLabs the aircraft delivers a very credible if brilliant flying and performance related machine, always interesting and always a very interesting aircraft to fly, then flying the PAC CT4E a lot and you will get a big rewards for your investment...   simply another winner from vSkyLabs.



X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg


Yes! the PAC CT/4E Airtrainer Project by VSkyLabs is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :


PAC CT/4E Airtrainer Project

Price is US$32.95


Project Main Features:

  • VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Project: designed for use with X-Plane cutting edge Experimental flight model environment, featuring superb flight dynamics with authentic performance and flight handling characteristics.
  • Built for VR: development was tailored specifically for VR, and optimized for 2D usage.
  • Engineered and designed as a default X-Plane aircraft (Like all VSKYLABS projects). The VSKYLABS projects are practically show-casing X-Plane, as they are stretching X-Plane default features, systems and flight model to its limits without any dependencies on complementary plugins or software...delivering a very robust simulation model, having maximum compatibility with the ever evolving X-Plane flight simulator.
  • Perfect fit for beginner and expert pilots, including aerobatics.
  • Built-in Avitab Plugin Compatibility (AviTab plugin is not included).
  • STMA Autoupdater plugin is included - all updates are being pushed smoothly without the need to re-download the entire base package (base package will be updated every once in a while to minimize the gap).
  • Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums: VSKYLABS is offering continuous professional support from aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support.
  • The project is under constant maintenance and development.



X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended 
Current and Review version: 1.0 (July 1st 2021)
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 217 Mb, and unpacked then installed 367 Mb
Designed by VSKYLABS



Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton

8th July 2021

Copyright©2021: X-Plane Reviews


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 11.55

Plugins: Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99


(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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