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Aircraft Review : Pipistrel Panthera v3 by Aerobask

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Aircraft Review : Pipistrel Panthera v3 by Aerobask

 

One of the great satisfaction's of being a reviewer is seeing great talent mature. Many new developers come into X-Plane and have a huge amount of natural ability, but from a reviewers position it is in the many new introductions to the simulator that they have great ambitions for their future prospects are then hit with the realities of producing brilliant work. First releases are initially very good, but the novice will always be not totally aware of the smaller minute details of what goes into a fully formed product. So from the reviewers point of view you have to be critical and supportive at the same time, too much either way and the developer will think he really is number one were as in reality there is a long way to go, or the fact that being too harsh could make great talent walk away from a brilliant career and the loss therefore is for not only the future product for users to enjoy but the loss of talent to the simulation platform.

 

But if the developer stagnates after a period of time, then the criticism will hurt, but the reality is that you should know by now on how the deal works, and the minute should have been addressed and absorbed, "picking on this or that" by critics is not the point here, as the point after the initial growth time is over is that is it now at a level that people do expect quality for their money, or the fact that "picking on this or that" means the product can be now that much better to deliver the quality the developer is capable of.

 

Worse is the fact that for just a few extra weeks of fine tuning, it is in fact a "False Economy" in that the product goes out there to an audience that will quickly tell you it is not ready, and once the word gets around that the product is below expectations or just plainly not finished. Once that tag is on your reputation it is a very hard one to shake off, and some developers will never shake off a reputation badly gained just to get the product out there.

 

That last 5% of the 100% of creating a product is the very hardest ground of all to cover, and more so as the aircraft and sceneries are so very complex today, get it right and you go into the upper echelons of being a must buy developer. In other words with every release you will be an automatic sale to the customer. It is called value for money.

 

So what does this comment has to do with this review. Everything in fact as Aerobask is one of the really great talents that didn't fall into any of the above liabilities, and they prove what is required for greatness.

 

Pipistrel Panthera v3

The Pipistrel Panthera is a great example of this. The first aircraft they released were very good, but they were all still a little slightly rough in some small areas. Version two (v2) showed more development and design, but more importantly Aerobask (then Harranssor) not only improved their actual modeling and design but started to explore new areas and developments to bring users another level of usability, functionality and most importantly that sublime quality of smoothness and feel to the ideas. And more importantly would not release an aircraft unless it was actually ready and they did not try to hit a locked in sales date, "it will be released when it is ready" is a good mantra.

 

The major development we are talking about here is Aerobask's version of the built in FMS (Flight Management System) called "Dynon SkyView" and complimentary GTN 750 and GTN 650 systems. This system is not new as it was introduced on the v2, but back then it was a hybrid version with part of the default X-Plane GNS530 used as the navigation display and flightplan editor to supplement the GTN 750 and GTN 650. The Epic Victory from Aerobask introduced a development of the system yet again and a full avionics suite of the "Skyview - GTN 750/650"without the need of using the default GNS530 innards.

 

With the Pipistrel Panthera v3 the system is again moved forward, but more internally than from the visual aspect, we will explain this later, but first let us look at the aircraft.

 

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When the original Pipistrel Panthera by then Harranssor was introduced the developer was at a disadvantage. Aerobask is a lover of composite aircraft, modern sleek and of very clean moulded lines. But in computer visuals these aircraft can come across as very bland or even cartoonish in appearance, there is no detail in soft clean shapes unlike the panel and riveting detail on 60's era aircraft.

 

At this time of the review X-Plane11 is still in beta (b15) and the focus of this v3 release is in and only for X-Plane10.52. But the Panthera does fly fine in the beta, no issues for me except for an overuse of fuel. But the biggest benefit for Aerobask is the way that X-Plane11's PBR (Physically Based Rendering) shininess and harder shadows give these composite aircraft finally a feeling of reality, "oh it's so good" stunning and throughout this review you can see the huge benefits of what PBR brings to the simulator. If any aircraft have a huge visual benefit from X-Plane11 it is certainly Aerobask's designs. 

 

Earlier versions in X-Plane10 required that I had to use a lot of cheap lighting tricks to get something out of the blandness of the fuselage as shown below.

 

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But that is all swept away with X-Plane11...

 

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....   and there is better yet still to come!    Aerobask have fine tuned the textures for PBR to match and it really shows. As the high quality 3D model has been totally reauthored with UHD 4K textures, Ambient occlusion, Specular mapping and PBR normal mapping (for XP11).

 

For this review I set off from early from  KLAL - Lakeland, Florida and headed out to KEVB - New Smyrna Beach Muni, but decided to carry on up to KJAX - Jacksonville along the eastern Floridian coastline. I was enjoying the great feel of the Panthera and the still newish feel of X-Plane11. 

 

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I was certainly enjoying the aircraft, but I can't fly around up here all day as my fuel load is getting very low and that in X-Plane11 the Panthera does gobble up fuel at an alarming rate. Safer on the ground at KJAX...

 

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Let us now look at some "catch your breath images"...

 

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The realism is astounding, look at the light on the engine intake curves..  

 

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The panel design from the outside of the aircraft is just excellent, very, very realistic. The pilot shakes his head with your stick movement, but not much else and he can't seem to get a grip on the stick?

 

As good as the panel is from the outside a closer inspection is overwhelming

 

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In the X-Plane11 PBR lighting it is just simply unbelievably brilliant, as the carbon matrix design is almost feel to touch.

 

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Cockpit detailing is excellent. All items are beautifully modeled with perfect textures and you can just feeeel everything is so nice to the touch.

 

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Top panel has sixteen in two sets of annunciators either side of the backup instruments of Speed, Artificial Horizon and Altitude.

 

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Lower panel has switchgear to the left that covers Power, Avionics, Fuel Pump, Pitot Heat, AP (Autopilot), A&C and AUX (GPU).

 

Panthera_Panel 2.jpg

 

Flaps and Climate Controls are to the right. Park Brake, Trim Indicator and Climate Control display are lower. All climate controls and systems are simulated also here.

 

Key is used to start, just push the key to turn or use the manipulators. When you do start the engine throws out a lot of exhaust smoke and you have to work to get the idle right, it will churn a lot sometimes and you don't get that clean startup every time, very realistic.

 

Panthera_Key 1.jpgpanthera_Start.jpg

 

Cabin fitting out is exceptional, to note the detail then just look at the perfect chrome handles and seatbelt catches, are just perfect chrome.

 

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Dynon Skyview

 

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The Panthera comes with the two panel display version of the "Dynon SkyView" system.

 

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Pressing the aircraft symbol in the centre of each display will bring up the pop-up version of the panel, the panels are also adjustable for scale via the right hand lower corner.

 

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Yes we have seen these displays before, but there is a new efficiency to the activation and movements that shows the system has been upgraded, it is now far more fluid in operation as is Scroll-wheel support on lists, map, HDG, CRS, MDA, ALT, VVI...  and more.

 

Both screens are independent of each other and all can be configured to suit your preferences. Within each configuration you can select even parts of full screen views to cover the full spectrum. This includes a HUGE or massive Artificial Horizon with rate of turn indicators, speed and altitude tapes and heading rose (with Course (CRS) - double VOR 1 and 2 and Skyview - FMS pointers) in the lower portion of the screen. An Engine and Aircraft status block known as the EMS which can be positioned left/right or centre of the display and also the MAP/NAV screen.

 

Personally I kept it all simple with just the main PFD in front of me with the EMS and the MAP/NAV screen shared with the EMS again to the right.

 

The system is menu driven by the buttons below the screen. This is a great version, but menu driven tree and branch systems can be complex and time consuming to use. But the system does also give you a huge amount of options.

 

There are a huge amount of selections on the Dynon menu driven interface, which selections are accessed by the lower row of buttons, or the two knobs (covering Altitude and Heading adjustment) on the left display and "Range" on the right.
 
BARO - MDA - CRS (Course) - HDG (Heading) - ALT - VS - IAS - DIM, all use the knob as a selection tool with a centre push of the knob for selection and arrows for changing selections. It works very well but the arrows are a bit small, but overall I prefer the GNS500 version with just a row of buttons that simply do the same job without scrolling up and down in menus for your selection.

 

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Tree and branch navigation can be complicated, and so you have to write down the routes to the selections you want. Take for instance the Map Nav-Aid selections.

 

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You require four branch selections just to declutter your screen. First MAP then MAP MENU (again) then ITEMS and then your actual selections and do that while trying to fly and navigate as well?  I just leave it on the "ITEMS" menu all the time so I don't lose them again in the forest of menu selections. You do wonder if the budget cuts to the FAA are really messing up with their jobs, how did this complex routing really pass cockpit ergonomics for user friendly applications...  "god knows".

 

Flightplans

Creating and editing flightplans are very (very) easy and quick with this system, you can IMPORT and EXPORT standard .fms flightplans as well.

 

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The big in screen map help building flightplans, and editing or adding in extra Nav-Aids (waypoints) on to the plan is as easy as a select and click.

 

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Nearest (APT/VOR/DME/NDB/FIX) is excellent as is the search function and any selections can be directly inputted into the flightplan and Airways, SID and STAR (waypoint-based) fixes are supported.

 

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Overall very impressive.

 

Menus

There are two pop-up menu tabs on the lower left of your screen for "Options" and Weight & Fuel"

 

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"Options" covers two items for windshield and EFIS (instrument) reflections.

 

"Weight & Fuel" covers static elements which turns yellow with the tag to add or hide the wheel chocks and the aircraft's parking flags. You have a fuel selector to add or empty the aircraft's fuel tanks (two), which is easy to use. Lower right is a clever system of adding in weight and passengers. click on a seat or bag and you can load either an adult or a child in the seats (any except the pilot's) and with the baggage select a bag from the menu. All the fuel, passenger and baggage weight is then calibrated on a display on the left to show you your actual aircraft weight. And it is all very well done and easy to do.

I found that four people up is too much weight with a full load of fuel on board, and I had to leave the second passenger behind to get the two adults and their luggage in the aircraft. Rear left door is outlined, but doesn't open.

 

Panthera_KJAX Menu 3.jpgPanthera_KJAX Menu 4.jpg

 

External GPU (Ground Power Unit) is not on the menus but activated via the button "AUX" on the panel. This GPU is definitely required if you are setting up the aircraft for flight, certainly if programming in a flightplan, as the battery goes flat very quickly if the GPU is not attached.

 

Review Routes : KJAX - Jacksonville to KLAL - Lakeland Then YBCG - Gold Coast to YBNA - Ballina

 

On leaving Jacksonville I got another warning in two "Servo" failures and a dive into the manual and I was none the wiser, so a contact with Aerobask was in order, I couldn't takeoff with broken Elevator and Aileron failures now could I...

 

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These were not actual failures as it turned out, but just disconnected servos as the "AP" switch was off?, Switch now on and the warning went away, time to fly.

 

Note the beautiful trailing link undercarriage, all the gear is extremely well made, but the nosewheel can be awkward to use at low turning points, it can stall you easily, and only a lot of thrust will get you moving again? You tend to taxi positioned just to one side as the glareshield is quite big and the view ahead a little bit restricted, it is worse at night looking for the centreline on approach or finding the middle of the taxiways, to which you tend to take a little bit off line.

 

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Sounds are all new as well with script-driven custom sounds with rain graphics and noisy sound effects, and yes it all sounds very good.

 

Departure was fast...

 

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Is the Panthera "Twitchy", I personally don't really think so as it is more "nimble" or "touchy" then it could be that. But with the very light frame to the power ratio with this version in having the 260HP equipped Lycoming IO-540V, you definitely feel the light composite structure through the controls. So the inputs have to be small, slow and smooth, and those glider like wings are very effective and so this Pipistral is nothing like a C175 or the like. So my advice is just slow down and go smooth through any manoeuvres. Leaving the grip of the runway there is a significant drift to the left to be compensated for as the powerful thrust can take you off line very quickly, so you are very active in those first few moments of flight until you are used to the Panthera's handling and feel.

 

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Feel of course is everything here, but this is certainly a "feely, Feely" aircraft, but in a nice way. Landing is very touchy as well, you need to control the speed to descent as the window is small (Those wings?) too slow and they quickly stall and you lose height, so it is a very throttle control on landing... and a few practise landings to get it right.

 

In-flight instrumentation is very good. with on the Navigation display note the good on screen data that covers ETE (Estimated Time Enroute), ETA (Estimated Time Arrival) Final and ETE, ETA Next.

 

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Garmin/Aerobask GTN750/650 System

Centre panel is the aircraft's pièce de résistance! the GARMIN GTN 750/650 system or Aerobask's version of the system.

 

As with the Dynon the panels both pop-up (press the right perimeter) and this is a nice bit of kit. You may say "I've seen this before?" and you would be right as you have, but not the more completed working version. Back in the day this was the original version.

 

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It was quite basic but this is now the full version of the system...

 

To see the best effects of the GTN 750/650 we will head to the Gold Coast for a night flight down to Ballina.

 

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The GTN750 is the larger unit with a 6.9 inch TFT touchscreen display with icons to cover features such as : Map, Traffic, Terrain, Weather, Charts, Flight Plan, PROC, Nearest, Waypoint Info and Utilities with Services and System blanked out.

 

The "Utilities" button covers : DALT/TAS/Winds, Flight Times and Checklists and Clean Screen with Trip Planning, Rain Prediction, Scheduled Messages blanked out.

 

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Top of the GTN750 unit is the radio section, with easy switching of frequencies, XPDR and COMM, NAV selection.

 

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It is very, very impressive and easy to use once you get used to it, but a little time is required to learn all the abundance of functions, mouse scroll is handy as well for volume and frequency changes.

 

The GTN650 is smaller at 4.9-inch TFT display and has a few different options from the GTN750

 

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Feature available include : Map, Traffic, Terrain, Weather, Default Nav, Otto Pilot (from the movie "Flying High" and yes I am that old) Waypoint Info and Nearest. Radio is situated to the right with the same built-in tuners.

 

The system is very, very impressive, but to note that all the functions as listed on the displays have not been covered yet.

 

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You have a lot of power here at your fingertips, but the trick is to find the right combinations of all your tools to get the maximum ease of use from your flying. You will find a lot of functions in this cockpit doubled up or even tripled, the idea is find the best set up to cover your workload.

 

To that effect I have the "Map" on the bigger GTN750, and the "Otto Pilot" ready on the lower GTN650 and just the Heading and Altitude adjustment on the left Skyview display, simple and it works. Note the excellent flight plan leg with CDI selection below...

 

Cockpit is nice at night but I can't find any screen brightness adjustment. External lighting is very good with the usual navigation, recognition and two landing lights on the main gear. The strobes are very good, but very bright and so not to be used on the ground.

 

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Panel can be completely dark, or you have two note pad lights to light up the instruments. In the rear there are two overhead spot lights.

 

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Remember the looking a little offset past the glareshield, here is the view at night...

 

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MAP function is impressive.

 

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Map choices include Arc or 360º and resolution. Other Layers include Terrain, Nav-Aids, Orientation (North or Heading) and Height.

 

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Terrain

Terrain function is very detailed, but only when closer to the ground (the radar, not the aircraft)...

 

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...    the menu is same as with the Map.

 

One of the most used layouts with the two units I like to use is the flightplan.

 

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You can have the usual flightplan on in the right hand side navigation display, but the GTN's are a great addition for excellent detail of you route with the route in the upper 750, and the CDI flight plan leg in the lower 650, it is a great layout for easy route visuals.

 

Nearest and Waypoint Information is comprehensive, easy to use and very visual.

 

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There has been a lot of thought put into online support. Both for communication with PilotEdge (Connect/disconnect, TX/RX, COM1&2 volume control) and awareness for IVAO and VATSIM (connection status). TCAS is also supported for online flying with a "Traffic Information Service" (TIS) which is an advisory.

 

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There won't be much activity around this area tonight, but there are a few options on the traffic menu.

 

Charts are good, but not very readable at full size, zoom in and they are then usable. PNG. files makes them easy to create and inset into the "Charts" folder in your aircraft folder.

 

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Weather and PROC (Proceed). The Weather just shows the levels of weather around you, but it is pretty basic, but the PROC is used like the "DIR-TO" or Direct-To a Nav-Aid or Waypoint, and can be used as a waypoint editor for the flightplan.

 

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For a small four-seater aircraft the Panthera has a lot of gear, it feels like there is more than the Space Shuttle used...

 

panthera_YBCG - YBNA 15.jpg

 

Liveries

Outwardly the liveries look the same as the original versions. But they have been all updated to UHD 4K and the detailing shows compared to the earlier textures. Eight liveries in all and the collection still includes the "Pink Panther" design

 

panthera_Livery N64JB.jpgpanthera_Livery N64SB.jpg

panthera_Livery Factory.jpgpanthera_Livery SS_MIP.jpg

panthera_Livery SS-DTP.jpgpanthera_Livery F-BLAK.jpg

panthera_Livery NC480JF.jpgpanthera_Livery F-PINK.jpg

 

Special Effects

There are some great special effects. One is rain drops (left) that are excellent and look beautiful on the curved canopy doors. Fog (right) is in there as well. You don't know it is fogging up until it clears a little in the front view position, again really well done and I love these effects for their realism under the weather.

 

panthera_SP Effects 1.jpgpanthera_SP Effects 2.jpg

 

When you park up, you take the key out and store it in the centre console...

 

panthera_Park 3.jpgpanthera_Park 2.jpg

 

...   But the pilot stays in there?  Why can't he go home after disconnecting the key...

 

panthera_Park 1.jpg

 

Summary

I started this review with the point that to really succeed in X-Plane as a developer there is a continuous growth and upward scale of quality you have to deliver.  X-Plane design is now extremely high, the quality in X-Plane11 with PBR is just simply enormous.

 

Aerobask has joined easily that upper echelon of being a must buy developer. This aircraft and the others that will follow are simply overwhelming aircraft in design and features, and yes there is still more to come.

 

The light and design of the aircraft will take your breath away, X-Plane11 is delivering and with aircraft like this you are now going into a higher realm of quality and realism, areas that you only dreamed of a few years ago.

 

That realism while using and flying this aircraft is second to none (in X-Plane11) but the great attraction is that everything in the systems and the complex on board navigation and flight control (Autopilot) is that it has a seemless use and what coders call elegance in the coding in that it doesn't feel like it is a model or even a simulation...  it feels real.

 

It is to your best advantage to set up and use the systems to better your flying. Autopilot and Flightplan control is far better and simpler to use than the complex tree and branch menus of the Dynon units. Yes you have loads of functionality, but you can get lost just trying to find your way around all those menu settings. So set everything out for simple selection.

 

Earlier owners of the v1/v2 Panthera from Aerobask can get US$10 off the updated v3 aircraft... see details below.

 

There are no highlights here (well maybe the excellent GTN Units) as everything is good or brilliant, the designs from Aerobask are now trendsetters as much as Carenados are but in a totally different area. And flying the Panthera will challenge you as well...  I could go on and on, but why...  it is just brilliant.

 

Positives : Almost everything! Beautiful design inside and out, realism in spades and incredible equipment packs.

 

Negatives : Almost nothing, except letting the Pilot go home and learning all the complex systems and using them to your best flying abilities.

 

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X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

The Pipistrel Panthera v3 by Aerobask is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Pipistral Panthera v3

 

Your Price: $34.95
 
Features
  •  In-house coded GTN 750 and GTN 650 with touchscreen and scrollwheel support:
    • Exclusive multi-threaded and fps-friendly map and terrain display
    • Map topography display based on actual X-Plane mesh data
    • Terrain awareness display based on actual data
    • Configurable map rendering
    • TCAS with online flying support
    • Airways, SID and STAR support (waypoint-based)
    • Flight plan import/export compatible with stock XP10 fms format
    • Built-in chart viewer - easily import yours
    • COM support for PilotEdge (Connect/disconnect, TX/RX, COM1&2 volume control)
    • COM awareness for IVAO and VATSIM (connection status)
    • COM, NAV and XPNDR dialing pad
    • Interactive checklists
    • Resizable pop-ups
  • Latest revision of Dynon Skyview with added scrollwheel support
    • NEW! Scrollwheel support on lists, map, HDG, CRS, MDA, ALT, VVI, etc...
    • Airways, SID and STAR support (waypoint-based)
    • Weather map display on multiple screens and orientations
    • TCAS with Traffic Advisory and Resolution Advisory
    • Resizable pop-ups
  • Dual compatibility XP10 and XP11, with PBR support
  • Volumetric propeller (XP11)
  • Enhanced and scripted 3D sound
  • Compatible with  GoodWay 5

 

Requirements:

X-Plane 10.50 or X-Plane 11

Windows, Mac or Linux - Running in 64bit Mode
1Gb VRAM Minimum. 3GB+ VRAM Recommended on X-Plane 11
X-Plane 11: this aircraft requires GNS430 data from X-Plane 10, Navigraph or Aerosoft to be installed into Custom data folder.
 
Previous Panthera Owners: If you own the prior Panthera v1/v2 versioion, you can get the new Panthera v3 for $10 off. The upgrade code can be found in your original Panthera invoice at the store. or you can request it at sales@x-plane.org
 
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Installation and documents:

Download for the Pipistrel Panthera v3 is 117.10mb and the unzipped file is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 246.70mb .

Key authorisation and a restart is required.

 

You can use the Navigraph or Aerosoft navigation data with this aircraft or the built in X-Plane GNS430 data in your main root folder.

 

Comprehensive set of documents covers all aspects of the (complex) avionics systems and flightplanner

 

Documents.jpg

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Review by Stephen Dutton
23rd March 2017
Copyright©2017: X-PlaneReviews
 
(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)
 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11b15 and also used in X-Plane v10.52 and checked with current flight route and details

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90

 

Scenery or Aircraft

- KLAL - Lakeland Linder Regional Airport 2.01 by Drankum (X-Plane.Org) - Free (note: personal added items in an office (okay demountable building and vehicles)

- KJAX - Jacksonville International Airport 1.01 by ThePrivateer (X-Plane.org) - Free

- YBCG : Gold Coast International v1.0 by tdg (X-Plane.Org) - Free

- YBNA - Ballina - VOZ Australian Scenery by Barry (Bazza) Roberts (X-Plane.Org) - Free

 

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