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Stephen

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    Stephen got a reaction from Alpeggio in X-Plane 12 : State of the Union   
    X-Plane 12 : State of the Union
     
    It is really hard to believe that even at this point in time, that when X-Plane 12 was finally released, or as it was labelled as in it's "Early Access" and "Beta" release form. Such has been the developments of the last twelve months.
     
    Last year around June 2022 there was still a lot of speculation mixed in with a bit of fear. The X-Plane 12 development was seriously dragging on, and even a Dev Deep-Dives series with FSElite (10 episodes) didn't quell the uneasy feelings. And Austin Meyer the X-Plane Simulator founder, by then also became more and more outrageous in his broadcasts to cover the waiting. We tried to look between the cracks, but mostly the development process was kept very close to the chest.
     
    Almost a year on and the 2023 FlightSimExpo in Houston was in progress, Laminar Research was there and competing with Asobo Studios/Microsoft, now with an announced version of the next installment or version of MSFS, called "Flight Simulator 2024".
     
    For Laminar Research it had already been quite a journey. Starting not with the development of X-Plane 12, but to overhaul completely the core of X-Plane Simulator's API to the more modern Vulkan/Metal standards, to note, X-plane 12 could not even existed on the older OpenGL platform. But developing both the API and a new X-Plane version together has been an enormous task for the very small, but tight core Laminar development coders.
     
    We expected Laminar Research to bring their latest version of X-Plane 12 to the Expo as well (X-Plane 12.06, even if in parts), so maybe it was a good time to see what has transpired since the original "Beta" release, then the formal release in December 2022, and the current state of were we all are now a year on. In a way the XP12.06 release was to be a highly anticipated significant one. For one it will end the development and release update phase of the X-Plane 12 release. Certainly not all the fixes and bugs would have been covered, but the majority of the changes should now be behind us. Going forward means not spending time fixing, but maturing and developing the simulator to a higher degree.
     
    But again it was not to be the case, if v12.06 was shown at the Expo it is was in a raw form, and certainly Laminar didn't crow about it as both Austin Meyer or head developer Ben Supnic were notably absent. Oddly or more important is that for the first time X-Plane 12 was being scrutinized directly against Microsoft's Flight Simulator, both are interesting as this as X-Plane 12 in it's current refined form, and MSFS in already promoting it's next upgraded version in MSFS 2024. Significant also was the factor that neither were noted doing seminars, just floor demonstrations, but Microsoft turned that aspect on it's head at the last minute and did a "Lite" seminar session. The truth is Microsoft stole a lot of X-Plane related ideas for the release of MSFS 2020, and X-Plane replied with a lot of MSFS ideas in X-Plane 12. MSFS 2024 as announced in that seminar, now goes even further in stealing more X-Plane features in helicopters, SARS, water and fire particles, oil rig scenery and landing pad, crop dusting, wildfires and even animated skydivers (yes X-Plane does have animated skydivers).
     
    One important point to make though at the 23 Expo, was that almost every demonstration stand was running X-Plane, not streaming MSFS 2020. Why, because it is still a simulator in the box, not relying on a internet connection, a change of the times from earlier Expos, when almost every single vendor was using Flight Simulator to show off their wares, and when back then X-Plane was in the small minority.
     
    But first we will look back before looking forward. As always I explain details to anyone coming into simulation for the first time, yes it goes over a lot of old ground to regular users, but it also puts the simulator situation into it's proper context.
     
    X-Plane 12
    The X-Plane Flight Simulator was originally released as X-Plane 1.00 back in 1995 which is now 26 years ago. Basically around every 4-5 Years, Laminar Research the X-Plane's developers releases another numbered upgrade version of the Simulator, the current version is X-Plane 12 that was released originally back in September 2022. The earlier version was X-Plane 11 (v11.53 was the final version) that was released originally back in March 2017.
     
    Each release is a new version, and to use it, it has to be repurchased. The cost of X-Plane 12 is US$59.95. But the initial cost also covers all development and any new features for that full version run, up until the next version is released in the development cycle in approx another 4-5 years.
    The "Beta" release was a public purchase test version, so everyone can now access the new simulator and it's new features. But it's not a final release, as it was still noted only as an early development release or "Early Access" Beta. The X-Plane 12 Beta ran from the 6th September 2022 (called alpha 38) and it was expected to go "Final" just before Christmas, and in "Release Candidate" RC 6 form it did, 17th December 2022.
     
    My first impressions of the "Beta" release were very favourable, X-Plane 12 on it's release was actually far better than we had expected. Early indications showed it was a major leap forward than X-Plane 11, of which it should be. Lighting was excellent, as was the weather and seasons, also the fauna and trees. Grass was left out of the XP12 because of it's very high framerate use, or in my guess the limited development time. ATC had a huge revision, and again this was highlighted with another three major updates at later dates thoughout the year.
     
    With the huge jump in quality over X-Plane 11 we expected our systems to groan under the sheer weight of the more excess demands of X-Plane 12. To a point the new version did require a substantial upgrade in hardware to cater for it, but oddly not initially, as XP12 ran quite nicely on most lighter cards. Several areas on release however became controversial. First was the "Black Hole" of the internal lighting. Heavy shading made it impossible to work in most cockpits. Now it must be said that early aircraft were configured to X-Plane 11 lighting, not the new X-Plane 12 dynamics, but there was clearly a problem. Even as the early configured X-Plane 12 aircraft were released the internal lighting didn't work, more so was the time it took (keeping developers waiting) in finding a fix. Another early problem was high winds at altitude, this one was a nasty issue, and it even flowed down at lower altitudes, aircraft active surfaces twitched very badly to the wrong wind information, so clean flying was almost impossible.
     
    Beta Phase
    Early beta releases fix updates also focused mostly on 3rd party items like the excellent upgraded X-Plane 12 default fleet of aircraft, all were very highly well received, except for oddly the AirbusA330-300. Here the promised custom MCDU was not available on release, all round the A330 felt a bit underdeveloped, why odd? because the aircraft was X-Plane 12's major default focus aircraft feature, and it was the worst developed in the release.
     
    Personally I found the first few months with X-Plane 12 quite nice, even if it was in a beta development, even with the dark cockpit and wind issues. It had smooth framerate wise and the lighting was very good as it had this nice 3d effect, even MSFS in look. In fact as the beta's focused on the extra elements and not the core of the simulator there was not many changes to the sim with the early beta process. There was however the nasty emergency hot fix for broken draped polygon textures, which sent your scenery blank, or with grey walls...  but it was fixed very quickly in about five days. In the Beta 8 release there was some significant additions. One new default item was in cockpit pilots. A male and female quality styled pilot's were added to all the default airliner aircraft, and 3rd party developers snapped them up quickly for their own use. The second major addition was the excellent ALIA-250 eVTOL aircraft.
     
    Altogether there was 14 Beta releases for X-Plane 12, a lot less than the 17 Beta releases for X-Plane 11, then you went into 6 "Release Candidate" (RC) updates. These high density filled RC releases showed that Laminar was on a mission to get the Simulator into a major release before Christmas 2022. They did it...  on releasing X-Plane 12 to the general public 17th December 2022.
     
    In reality the full X-Plane 12 release was a false dawn. In any form users know that no Simulator is finished, as they are all in a constant forward development, but in X-Plane 12's case that shorter beta period run was or should have been a warning sign of things to come. In the RC3 release it came with a warning "the auto-exposure system is still being modified", and Austin also changed the flight model considerably, both these areas would have serious repercussions later. My question at this time was "Why are Laminar still messing around and changing the Flight Model, three months after the introduction of the Simulator?". In reality items like these should have been refined and done before any release at all, as they would impact highly on X-Plane conversion development in progress. In a bonus Laminar had come up with a solution for the dark cockpits, now as you glanced downwards into the murk, it would artificially lighten the lower view. It worked, I liked it, but a lot of users didn't, but it was a nice solution.
     
    X-Plane 12 early release
    Something went seriously wrong with the v12.01r1 release, the second one in the New Year 2023. Before this release we had a capable working Simulator (even in a beta form), what we had now was a disaster. My guess is that in trying to get more efficient framerate out of the Simulator, Laminar messed it up, suddenly we had serious "Vulcan device loss errors", and the high winds were also now more nasty than ever.
    On the "Vulcan device loss errors", a lot of users actually had them even from the initial beta release, but these were users that also had very weak computer systems anyway. Now the goal posts had changed, even mid-powerful machines (meaning me) now didn't have enough Graphic capability to run X-Plane 12. The already very heavy demands of running X-Plane 12 had now suddenly gone even higher, from this point on you would need a pretty powerful chip and card combo to do even the basic of simulator flying, and it cost you serious money to get an upgraded card into your machine just to do basic X-Plane Simulations.
     
    Around this time (probably related) I found the lighting went a bit awkward as well. Basically duller under cloud conditions. In clear conditions it was fine, but add in a bit of cloud cover and everything underneath it went all dull and flat, internally in aircraft it was also dull and hard to see and the external lighting disappeared. Another lighting condition that changed was the lighting reflections in the daylight, say glareshield dropdown lighting, this lighting effect also disappeared, external views (from the cockpit) went brighter (glary) as well.
     
    Laminar's focus however was somewhere else. It was called Zink. With the change to the Vulkan/Metal API, a lot of the original OpenGL plugins didn't work. So Zink was installed to convert (or to be a bridge) between the old OpenGL and newer Vulkan/Metal API's. I don't use Zink, mainly because I don't have a big library of plugins, but a lot of users also needed the fix as AMD users out there got a lot of flickering and CTD (Crash to Desktop). Then the.dds files started to fail? .dds is the format used in textures, a more efficient system than say the bulky .png format, that was another hot fix from Laminar.
     
    Then another when the "GRIB_get_field failed", in other words the NOAA or "NOAA Operational Model Archive and Distribution System", pulled the GRIB Files that X-Plane 12 uses for the Simulator for downloading live global Weather. And Laminar had to do another quick fix on that. It is still problematic now, as NOAA still has a habit of shutting down (or shutting out) at crucial times.
     
    12.03b1 then delivered a lot of new DSF files, these delivered more data on the tile and in a lot of the areas better detail, a few more autogen items were delivered as well, but not the huge feature list noted in the pre-release videos, of say port infrastructure.
     
    12.04b1, late in February was a game changer (no pun intended). It fixed (finally the high winds problem), the clouds and the sky got a lot better as well (not perfect as you still had those horrible pyramid shape clouds, and zebra-stripes at high levels). To a point the .04 beta did allow developers to get their aircraft into a more stable condition relating to X-Plane 12, so you got a load of aircraft conversion releases around Easter. Also important was the release of the SASL 3.16.1, which (finally) provided native plugin support for Mac M1/M2 arm64 architecture. In English it means users on Apple systems could finally fly X-Plane 12 aircraft. However for most of .04 beta, it was used to fix loads of Zink bugs.
     
    Then at the end of March 2023 came v12.05b1, and Laminar finally delivered the update for their A330-300. Here included in this release was the custom MCDU for the aircraft, but again oddly it still had initially a default FMS feel to the system. And the followup v12.05r1 had another significant load of changes and fixes that came for the A330 as well.
     
    X-Plane12.06
    Which brings us to the significant v12.06 release. It comes with a noted VRAM re-architecture, claims improvements for performance and reduces the risk of blurry textures. The biggest improvement is up high in the sky. Here those nasty pyramid shape clouds, and zebra-stripes have finally gone, and have been replaced by major improvements to the flexibility and the visual quality of the clouds, including adding in the missing cirrus clouds. The the development roadmap for this crucial version went on for months, and right on past that crucial Expo date, you thought it was ever never coming. It finally came on the 20th August 2023.
     
    But the version v12.06 did live up to it's gamechanger forecast...
     

     
    ...   with the beautiful and wispy the new Cirrus high level clouds, and they are a major improvement. My test area is the North Atlantic, in flying long haul you can usually cover all the range of clouds, and yes finally in v12.06r1, they are looking gorgeous after more tinkering through the 06 beta.
     

     
    But we are not out of the woods (or clouds) yet...  There are still too many elements here that are straight lined, or open space rectangles, they are plainly seen, another element are what I call "Cliff Faces" or clouds in long blocks that go straight up? But after the earlier pyramid shape clouds, and the zebra-stripes, I'm willing to accept these elements as a huge step forward.
     

     

     
    But two images are interesting, if excellent. Seen at dusk, they were very, very good in highlighting the X-Plane weather system when it all works together, the slight bands of light, in a rather gloomy night sky is simply sensational.
     

     
    Another translation of dusk, it works, very nice...  but I still wish for more moon light (It is a full moon at this point), as when it goes dark, it goes black with almost no highlights, those clouds should be bouncing with light.
     

     
    With the early V12.06 betas the lighting was still poor. everything under the cloud, was dull and flat, a brief moment you saw the sunlight break though the blue patches in the sky (noted as XPD-14318 – Cirrus need to allow more sunlight to reach the earth) and the weather not matching the METAR (too many clouds, too much rain). This has made the biggest impression on me over the last eight months, dark aircraft and blacker cockpits, made reviewing hard work in translating the visual aspects of X-Plane to the reviews, it is better, in fact far better in v12.06... but not what I would still call naturally realistic, I would like more control (graphics/menu) if Laminar can't get it right, at least give us some options to twiddle the lighting, rather than none.
     
    But it is working...    it suddenly looked wonderful, in v12.06b7 as these images attest, but currently is X-Plane 12 still overall missing that magical something?
     
    Interesting is comparing images from the release v12.01 (beta) and current V12.06. The top two images I took at the beta release twelve months ago, the lower four images are current.
     

     
    Earlier the lighting is very soft, but the haze is very realistic...  below everything is now harder, clearer and any cloud will dull out the aircraft, the ground is always very harsh, sharp. The debate is if it is in the real way you look at the environment. As you might like the look of a more open solid feel, rather than the more softer one, to you the lower images will look more dynamically realistic, were as I prefer the more romantic view, to me the lower is more monochrome. My guess the real look and feel is somewhere in the middle.
     

     
    But X-Plane 12 is night and day better than X-Plane 11 in it's look and feel factor.
     
    OpenXR support, this will translate into easier access to the X-Plane VR system for 3rd parties. This will increase the variety of VR headsets compatible with X-Plane over time.
     
    The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford class in X-Plane now has a full complement of static aircraft, cranes, tugs and more, on deck and below in the huge deck hangar. These additions include also a fully animated SH-60 Seahawk, that is constantly patrolling the vicinity.
     

     
    Notable is that now the water is still not translucent below the surface, I loved looking at the hulls of ships, but honestly it is not at all realistic. In v12.06 and a year on, this aspect still has not been fixed.
     
    ATC has had a lot of improvements in v12.06, including that the ATC is now aware of TCAS (but only the X-Plane A.I), and the controllers can now use multiple available channels, reducing radio contention in the cockpit. Generated flows now align to the longest runway instead of always cardinal directions, and generated calm flows now only use one runway. Wake separation is also now taken into account when issuing line-up or takeoff instructions. A big one for me is the option to allow editing of basic flight data if something required is missing, even if the flight is already under way, the fixed flight data is thankfully in the past, now you can change it on the line.
     
    LOD (Level of Detail) has not been great either, you can see grass being added as you went down the runway, or the blank areas on the horizon, the poor horizon line didn't help either? Its noted (XPD-14364 – XPLMInstance LODs do not cull object at max LOD), also the Anti-Aliasing, is still tooth saw visible on the higher settings.
     
    V12.06 is certainly the breakthrough version that the promise of X-Plane 12 is starting to shine though (no pun intended), it is more stable and even better refined, framerate is now also better. But this point is twelve months on, or a whole year of development, Laminar are still fixing things, not fine-tuning things?
     
    More atmospheric scattering improvements, and exposure recalibration and even bloom Lighting Effects are coming later with X-Plane v12.07. In other words even more refining with the sky and lighting. Other notes for v12.07 include Turbine Engine improvements, avionics and OBJ restructuring, networking.
     
    So this all adds up to a very bumpy first year for X-Plane 12, so are we through the worst? Personal experience says absolutely yes, but this has been one of the most unpredictable X-Plane Releases I can remember, I thought the beta was very good, then it went seriously wonky at the start of 2023, only now is X-Plane 12 getting back to somewhere reasonable. But eight months is a long time to repair the damage, less said is in that you still don't actually close X-Plane 12 after a session, but rather "Crash...  freeze" out of it?
     
    But overall you have to look at the benefits of X-Plane 12. The photometric lighting engine is absolutely sensational (when it works) and so now are the cloud formations (I say better, not the best). Seasons are also sensational, but again you have to manually get the effects you want, not the real world current environmental situation. Aircraft are better at flying, one through the better dynamics, look far better in that 3d effect. Water is also sensational (probably the highlight), and lives up the hype. 3D forests and vegetation are also very good, but let down by the poor texture mesh, just a higher texture mesh resolution would help. Provided default aircraft are also excellent, as good as payware in many instances, even the Airbus A330 is now up to standard that would also pass as payware.
     
    The problem facing X-Plane or any simulator. Is that the standards in this decade are now extremely high, gaming (not really related) but a significant parallel in what users expect from visual quality and framerate. Obviously MSFS raised the bar, but not totally, in many areas it is quite poor to X-Plane. Any updates to MSFS 2024, are more in the external (fun) features than to the basic core Simulator.
     
    Overall we have to understand the full complexity of the X-Plane 12 release. This was not a simple version release. As noted the Simulator was already into a very deep internal engine change, but it was only halfway through the process. To a point Laminar are now at the end of that huge overhaul of the API, and X-Plane 12's release was also a big part of it, we are now on the other side.
     
    So the next twelve months are interesting...  refinement will need to be the buzzword, but I also think that Laminar also need to pull something special out of the box, a sort of reward for all the pain we have gone through, attract the punters back, make X-Plane desirable, and not just to be an alternative Simulation option. 2024 needs to be a solid year, a positive year, not just in attitude, but in the Simulator actually been reliable in using the software, in other words quality software...  we will see the answer to that question at the State of the Union 2024.
    __________________
     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.06r1 (This is a release candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - Airbus A340-600 XP12 by ToLiSS (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$89.99
    - Airbus A319-100 XP12 by ToLiSS (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$89.99
      State of the Union by Stephen Dutton
    6th September 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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)


  2. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in X-Plane 12 : State of the Union   
    X-Plane 12 : State of the Union
     
    It is really hard to believe that even at this point in time, that when X-Plane 12 was finally released, or as it was labelled as in it's "Early Access" and "Beta" release form. Such has been the developments of the last twelve months.
     
    Last year around June 2022 there was still a lot of speculation mixed in with a bit of fear. The X-Plane 12 development was seriously dragging on, and even a Dev Deep-Dives series with FSElite (10 episodes) didn't quell the uneasy feelings. And Austin Meyer the X-Plane Simulator founder, by then also became more and more outrageous in his broadcasts to cover the waiting. We tried to look between the cracks, but mostly the development process was kept very close to the chest.
     
    Almost a year on and the 2023 FlightSimExpo in Houston was in progress, Laminar Research was there and competing with Asobo Studios/Microsoft, now with an announced version of the next installment or version of MSFS, called "Flight Simulator 2024".
     
    For Laminar Research it had already been quite a journey. Starting not with the development of X-Plane 12, but to overhaul completely the core of X-Plane Simulator's API to the more modern Vulkan/Metal standards, to note, X-plane 12 could not even existed on the older OpenGL platform. But developing both the API and a new X-Plane version together has been an enormous task for the very small, but tight core Laminar development coders.
     
    We expected Laminar Research to bring their latest version of X-Plane 12 to the Expo as well (X-Plane 12.06, even if in parts), so maybe it was a good time to see what has transpired since the original "Beta" release, then the formal release in December 2022, and the current state of were we all are now a year on. In a way the XP12.06 release was to be a highly anticipated significant one. For one it will end the development and release update phase of the X-Plane 12 release. Certainly not all the fixes and bugs would have been covered, but the majority of the changes should now be behind us. Going forward means not spending time fixing, but maturing and developing the simulator to a higher degree.
     
    But again it was not to be the case, if v12.06 was shown at the Expo it is was in a raw form, and certainly Laminar didn't crow about it as both Austin Meyer or head developer Ben Supnic were notably absent. Oddly or more important is that for the first time X-Plane 12 was being scrutinized directly against Microsoft's Flight Simulator, both are interesting as this as X-Plane 12 in it's current refined form, and MSFS in already promoting it's next upgraded version in MSFS 2024. Significant also was the factor that neither were noted doing seminars, just floor demonstrations, but Microsoft turned that aspect on it's head at the last minute and did a "Lite" seminar session. The truth is Microsoft stole a lot of X-Plane related ideas for the release of MSFS 2020, and X-Plane replied with a lot of MSFS ideas in X-Plane 12. MSFS 2024 as announced in that seminar, now goes even further in stealing more X-Plane features in helicopters, SARS, water and fire particles, oil rig scenery and landing pad, crop dusting, wildfires and even animated skydivers (yes X-Plane does have animated skydivers).
     
    One important point to make though at the 23 Expo, was that almost every demonstration stand was running X-Plane, not streaming MSFS 2020. Why, because it is still a simulator in the box, not relying on a internet connection, a change of the times from earlier Expos, when almost every single vendor was using Flight Simulator to show off their wares, and when back then X-Plane was in the small minority.
     
    But first we will look back before looking forward. As always I explain details to anyone coming into simulation for the first time, yes it goes over a lot of old ground to regular users, but it also puts the simulator situation into it's proper context.
     
    X-Plane 12
    The X-Plane Flight Simulator was originally released as X-Plane 1.00 back in 1995 which is now 26 years ago. Basically around every 4-5 Years, Laminar Research the X-Plane's developers releases another numbered upgrade version of the Simulator, the current version is X-Plane 12 that was released originally back in September 2022. The earlier version was X-Plane 11 (v11.53 was the final version) that was released originally back in March 2017.
     
    Each release is a new version, and to use it, it has to be repurchased. The cost of X-Plane 12 is US$59.95. But the initial cost also covers all development and any new features for that full version run, up until the next version is released in the development cycle in approx another 4-5 years.
    The "Beta" release was a public purchase test version, so everyone can now access the new simulator and it's new features. But it's not a final release, as it was still noted only as an early development release or "Early Access" Beta. The X-Plane 12 Beta ran from the 6th September 2022 (called alpha 38) and it was expected to go "Final" just before Christmas, and in "Release Candidate" RC 6 form it did, 17th December 2022.
     
    My first impressions of the "Beta" release were very favourable, X-Plane 12 on it's release was actually far better than we had expected. Early indications showed it was a major leap forward than X-Plane 11, of which it should be. Lighting was excellent, as was the weather and seasons, also the fauna and trees. Grass was left out of the XP12 because of it's very high framerate use, or in my guess the limited development time. ATC had a huge revision, and again this was highlighted with another three major updates at later dates thoughout the year.
     
    With the huge jump in quality over X-Plane 11 we expected our systems to groan under the sheer weight of the more excess demands of X-Plane 12. To a point the new version did require a substantial upgrade in hardware to cater for it, but oddly not initially, as XP12 ran quite nicely on most lighter cards. Several areas on release however became controversial. First was the "Black Hole" of the internal lighting. Heavy shading made it impossible to work in most cockpits. Now it must be said that early aircraft were configured to X-Plane 11 lighting, not the new X-Plane 12 dynamics, but there was clearly a problem. Even as the early configured X-Plane 12 aircraft were released the internal lighting didn't work, more so was the time it took (keeping developers waiting) in finding a fix. Another early problem was high winds at altitude, this one was a nasty issue, and it even flowed down at lower altitudes, aircraft active surfaces twitched very badly to the wrong wind information, so clean flying was almost impossible.
     
    Beta Phase
    Early beta releases fix updates also focused mostly on 3rd party items like the excellent upgraded X-Plane 12 default fleet of aircraft, all were very highly well received, except for oddly the AirbusA330-300. Here the promised custom MCDU was not available on release, all round the A330 felt a bit underdeveloped, why odd? because the aircraft was X-Plane 12's major default focus aircraft feature, and it was the worst developed in the release.
     
    Personally I found the first few months with X-Plane 12 quite nice, even if it was in a beta development, even with the dark cockpit and wind issues. It had smooth framerate wise and the lighting was very good as it had this nice 3d effect, even MSFS in look. In fact as the beta's focused on the extra elements and not the core of the simulator there was not many changes to the sim with the early beta process. There was however the nasty emergency hot fix for broken draped polygon textures, which sent your scenery blank, or with grey walls...  but it was fixed very quickly in about five days. In the Beta 8 release there was some significant additions. One new default item was in cockpit pilots. A male and female quality styled pilot's were added to all the default airliner aircraft, and 3rd party developers snapped them up quickly for their own use. The second major addition was the excellent ALIA-250 eVTOL aircraft.
     
    Altogether there was 14 Beta releases for X-Plane 12, a lot less than the 17 Beta releases for X-Plane 11, then you went into 6 "Release Candidate" (RC) updates. These high density filled RC releases showed that Laminar was on a mission to get the Simulator into a major release before Christmas 2022. They did it...  on releasing X-Plane 12 to the general public 17th December 2022.
     
    In reality the full X-Plane 12 release was a false dawn. In any form users know that no Simulator is finished, as they are all in a constant forward development, but in X-Plane 12's case that shorter beta period run was or should have been a warning sign of things to come. In the RC3 release it came with a warning "the auto-exposure system is still being modified", and Austin also changed the flight model considerably, both these areas would have serious repercussions later. My question at this time was "Why are Laminar still messing around and changing the Flight Model, three months after the introduction of the Simulator?". In reality items like these should have been refined and done before any release at all, as they would impact highly on X-Plane conversion development in progress. In a bonus Laminar had come up with a solution for the dark cockpits, now as you glanced downwards into the murk, it would artificially lighten the lower view. It worked, I liked it, but a lot of users didn't, but it was a nice solution.
     
    X-Plane 12 early release
    Something went seriously wrong with the v12.01r1 release, the second one in the New Year 2023. Before this release we had a capable working Simulator (even in a beta form), what we had now was a disaster. My guess is that in trying to get more efficient framerate out of the Simulator, Laminar messed it up, suddenly we had serious "Vulcan device loss errors", and the high winds were also now more nasty than ever.
    On the "Vulcan device loss errors", a lot of users actually had them even from the initial beta release, but these were users that also had very weak computer systems anyway. Now the goal posts had changed, even mid-powerful machines (meaning me) now didn't have enough Graphic capability to run X-Plane 12. The already very heavy demands of running X-Plane 12 had now suddenly gone even higher, from this point on you would need a pretty powerful chip and card combo to do even the basic of simulator flying, and it cost you serious money to get an upgraded card into your machine just to do basic X-Plane Simulations.
     
    Around this time (probably related) I found the lighting went a bit awkward as well. Basically duller under cloud conditions. In clear conditions it was fine, but add in a bit of cloud cover and everything underneath it went all dull and flat, internally in aircraft it was also dull and hard to see and the external lighting disappeared. Another lighting condition that changed was the lighting reflections in the daylight, say glareshield dropdown lighting, this lighting effect also disappeared, external views (from the cockpit) went brighter (glary) as well.
     
    Laminar's focus however was somewhere else. It was called Zink. With the change to the Vulkan/Metal API, a lot of the original OpenGL plugins didn't work. So Zink was installed to convert (or to be a bridge) between the old OpenGL and newer Vulkan/Metal API's. I don't use Zink, mainly because I don't have a big library of plugins, but a lot of users also needed the fix as AMD users out there got a lot of flickering and CTD (Crash to Desktop). Then the.dds files started to fail? .dds is the format used in textures, a more efficient system than say the bulky .png format, that was another hot fix from Laminar.
     
    Then another when the "GRIB_get_field failed", in other words the NOAA or "NOAA Operational Model Archive and Distribution System", pulled the GRIB Files that X-Plane 12 uses for the Simulator for downloading live global Weather. And Laminar had to do another quick fix on that. It is still problematic now, as NOAA still has a habit of shutting down (or shutting out) at crucial times.
     
    12.03b1 then delivered a lot of new DSF files, these delivered more data on the tile and in a lot of the areas better detail, a few more autogen items were delivered as well, but not the huge feature list noted in the pre-release videos, of say port infrastructure.
     
    12.04b1, late in February was a game changer (no pun intended). It fixed (finally the high winds problem), the clouds and the sky got a lot better as well (not perfect as you still had those horrible pyramid shape clouds, and zebra-stripes at high levels). To a point the .04 beta did allow developers to get their aircraft into a more stable condition relating to X-Plane 12, so you got a load of aircraft conversion releases around Easter. Also important was the release of the SASL 3.16.1, which (finally) provided native plugin support for Mac M1/M2 arm64 architecture. In English it means users on Apple systems could finally fly X-Plane 12 aircraft. However for most of .04 beta, it was used to fix loads of Zink bugs.
     
    Then at the end of March 2023 came v12.05b1, and Laminar finally delivered the update for their A330-300. Here included in this release was the custom MCDU for the aircraft, but again oddly it still had initially a default FMS feel to the system. And the followup v12.05r1 had another significant load of changes and fixes that came for the A330 as well.
     
    X-Plane12.06
    Which brings us to the significant v12.06 release. It comes with a noted VRAM re-architecture, claims improvements for performance and reduces the risk of blurry textures. The biggest improvement is up high in the sky. Here those nasty pyramid shape clouds, and zebra-stripes have finally gone, and have been replaced by major improvements to the flexibility and the visual quality of the clouds, including adding in the missing cirrus clouds. The the development roadmap for this crucial version went on for months, and right on past that crucial Expo date, you thought it was ever never coming. It finally came on the 20th August 2023.
     
    But the version v12.06 did live up to it's gamechanger forecast...
     

     
    ...   with the beautiful and wispy the new Cirrus high level clouds, and they are a major improvement. My test area is the North Atlantic, in flying long haul you can usually cover all the range of clouds, and yes finally in v12.06r1, they are looking gorgeous after more tinkering through the 06 beta.
     

     
    But we are not out of the woods (or clouds) yet...  There are still too many elements here that are straight lined, or open space rectangles, they are plainly seen, another element are what I call "Cliff Faces" or clouds in long blocks that go straight up? But after the earlier pyramid shape clouds, and the zebra-stripes, I'm willing to accept these elements as a huge step forward.
     

     

     
    But two images are interesting, if excellent. Seen at dusk, they were very, very good in highlighting the X-Plane weather system when it all works together, the slight bands of light, in a rather gloomy night sky is simply sensational.
     

     
    Another translation of dusk, it works, very nice...  but I still wish for more moon light (It is a full moon at this point), as when it goes dark, it goes black with almost no highlights, those clouds should be bouncing with light.
     

     
    With the early V12.06 betas the lighting was still poor. everything under the cloud, was dull and flat, a brief moment you saw the sunlight break though the blue patches in the sky (noted as XPD-14318 – Cirrus need to allow more sunlight to reach the earth) and the weather not matching the METAR (too many clouds, too much rain). This has made the biggest impression on me over the last eight months, dark aircraft and blacker cockpits, made reviewing hard work in translating the visual aspects of X-Plane to the reviews, it is better, in fact far better in v12.06... but not what I would still call naturally realistic, I would like more control (graphics/menu) if Laminar can't get it right, at least give us some options to twiddle the lighting, rather than none.
     
    But it is working...    it suddenly looked wonderful, in v12.06b7 as these images attest, but currently is X-Plane 12 still overall missing that magical something?
     
    Interesting is comparing images from the release v12.01 (beta) and current V12.06. The top two images I took at the beta release twelve months ago, the lower four images are current.
     

     
    Earlier the lighting is very soft, but the haze is very realistic...  below everything is now harder, clearer and any cloud will dull out the aircraft, the ground is always very harsh, sharp. The debate is if it is in the real way you look at the environment. As you might like the look of a more open solid feel, rather than the more softer one, to you the lower images will look more dynamically realistic, were as I prefer the more romantic view, to me the lower is more monochrome. My guess the real look and feel is somewhere in the middle.
     

     
    But X-Plane 12 is night and day better than X-Plane 11 in it's look and feel factor.
     
    OpenXR support, this will translate into easier access to the X-Plane VR system for 3rd parties. This will increase the variety of VR headsets compatible with X-Plane over time.
     
    The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford class in X-Plane now has a full complement of static aircraft, cranes, tugs and more, on deck and below in the huge deck hangar. These additions include also a fully animated SH-60 Seahawk, that is constantly patrolling the vicinity.
     

     
    Notable is that now the water is still not translucent below the surface, I loved looking at the hulls of ships, but honestly it is not at all realistic. In v12.06 and a year on, this aspect still has not been fixed.
     
    ATC has had a lot of improvements in v12.06, including that the ATC is now aware of TCAS (but only the X-Plane A.I), and the controllers can now use multiple available channels, reducing radio contention in the cockpit. Generated flows now align to the longest runway instead of always cardinal directions, and generated calm flows now only use one runway. Wake separation is also now taken into account when issuing line-up or takeoff instructions. A big one for me is the option to allow editing of basic flight data if something required is missing, even if the flight is already under way, the fixed flight data is thankfully in the past, now you can change it on the line.
     
    LOD (Level of Detail) has not been great either, you can see grass being added as you went down the runway, or the blank areas on the horizon, the poor horizon line didn't help either? Its noted (XPD-14364 – XPLMInstance LODs do not cull object at max LOD), also the Anti-Aliasing, is still tooth saw visible on the higher settings.
     
    V12.06 is certainly the breakthrough version that the promise of X-Plane 12 is starting to shine though (no pun intended), it is more stable and even better refined, framerate is now also better. But this point is twelve months on, or a whole year of development, Laminar are still fixing things, not fine-tuning things?
     
    More atmospheric scattering improvements, and exposure recalibration and even bloom Lighting Effects are coming later with X-Plane v12.07. In other words even more refining with the sky and lighting. Other notes for v12.07 include Turbine Engine improvements, avionics and OBJ restructuring, networking.
     
    So this all adds up to a very bumpy first year for X-Plane 12, so are we through the worst? Personal experience says absolutely yes, but this has been one of the most unpredictable X-Plane Releases I can remember, I thought the beta was very good, then it went seriously wonky at the start of 2023, only now is X-Plane 12 getting back to somewhere reasonable. But eight months is a long time to repair the damage, less said is in that you still don't actually close X-Plane 12 after a session, but rather "Crash...  freeze" out of it?
     
    But overall you have to look at the benefits of X-Plane 12. The photometric lighting engine is absolutely sensational (when it works) and so now are the cloud formations (I say better, not the best). Seasons are also sensational, but again you have to manually get the effects you want, not the real world current environmental situation. Aircraft are better at flying, one through the better dynamics, look far better in that 3d effect. Water is also sensational (probably the highlight), and lives up the hype. 3D forests and vegetation are also very good, but let down by the poor texture mesh, just a higher texture mesh resolution would help. Provided default aircraft are also excellent, as good as payware in many instances, even the Airbus A330 is now up to standard that would also pass as payware.
     
    The problem facing X-Plane or any simulator. Is that the standards in this decade are now extremely high, gaming (not really related) but a significant parallel in what users expect from visual quality and framerate. Obviously MSFS raised the bar, but not totally, in many areas it is quite poor to X-Plane. Any updates to MSFS 2024, are more in the external (fun) features than to the basic core Simulator.
     
    Overall we have to understand the full complexity of the X-Plane 12 release. This was not a simple version release. As noted the Simulator was already into a very deep internal engine change, but it was only halfway through the process. To a point Laminar are now at the end of that huge overhaul of the API, and X-Plane 12's release was also a big part of it, we are now on the other side.
     
    So the next twelve months are interesting...  refinement will need to be the buzzword, but I also think that Laminar also need to pull something special out of the box, a sort of reward for all the pain we have gone through, attract the punters back, make X-Plane desirable, and not just to be an alternative Simulation option. 2024 needs to be a solid year, a positive year, not just in attitude, but in the Simulator actually been reliable in using the software, in other words quality software...  we will see the answer to that question at the State of the Union 2024.
    __________________
     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.06r1 (This is a release candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - Airbus A340-600 XP12 by ToLiSS (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$89.99
    - Airbus A319-100 XP12 by ToLiSS (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$89.99
      State of the Union by Stephen Dutton
    6th September 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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)


  3. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from virtualgaa in Behind the Screen : August 2023   
    Behind the Screen : August 2023
     
    As you are aware, there was no "Behind the Screen" edition for July 2023. Two reasons, one it was the X-PlaneReviews 10th Anniversary, or 10 years of posting reviews on this site, and we are pretty proud of making that significant milestone. It is hard to do that in this really fast electronic environment, change is massive, coming at you all the time, then throw in a pandemic, and everything goes really screwball. More on that in a minute.
     
    Second reason for a no show, and for me being non-posting for nearly two weeks was...  I had to move house, and quickly. It's not fun to move house (or unit here in Australia), so the system was packed down, then rebuilt again 5 km away. Nothing got lost (well maybe a bit of my sanity), but an odd thing happens on that life changing journey. You sort of clean away the old, and let in the new.
     
    If you want to dwell on circumstance, that moving home on the very day the site was started exactly a decade later, should be considered significant. Overall it makes you take stock. Interesting was the fact that the Ten Year Anniversary post was done on a laptop, in an almost cleared out empty room, and not like this post, at my usual position at the same desk, with my usual iMac and massive 32" monitor, with a completely different view out of my open doors (four floors up and now looking over a lake). The Laptop post was also the only post in a decade that was different from the usual. You can dwell on it, surmise the situation, but overall it denotes change.
     
    The other change is significant as well, for Simulation. If you wanted again to be very critical of circumstance, then the last few years in Simulation were just as big as a total upheaval for our surrounding Simulation environment as well. Basically we hate change, but also want to move forward, the next big thing or that new, new...  which is a total paradox, not wanting anything to ruin what you already have, but also wanting it to change, obviously to the better.
     
    But the last four years has been a complete upheaval. Massive changes, and not just to Simulation, but also to the complete world around us as well. My best friend said, "It's not the pandemic I fear, but what comes after it", and she was absolutely right. We sat through the pandemic, but the shear colossal changes ongoing currently are far more consequential, certainly we will never be the same, some good, but also a lot bad, in time we will note this point in history as an upheaval of the world, there would be before the event, and now after it. And everyone in some way got affected by it, and really nobody got away unscathed.
     
    X-Plane also turned on a dime. No doubt the reintroduction of MSFS or Microsoft Flight Simulator has changed the landscape (no pun intended). But the timing for X-Plane didn't help either. At the end of one version run (X-Plane 11), and a very late development cycle for X-Plane 12, it fell into a hole, but the external real world Influences didn't help the situation either.
    Money is not as free-flowing as it was four years ago, wallets are now tight, so pick and choosing product becomes even a more important situation...  value and quality is now more than ever the important questions for a long lived investment, so X-PlaneReviews reporting is also now more important on making sure the money goes to the said value and quality.
     
    Users will say "Most stuff I get is free, anyway". To a point they are right, but not totally, as doing "Free" always comes with compromises. Unfortunately I don't personally like compromises. I like it right, realistic and it adds value to my Simulation experience. If I have ever had to go "Free", it always comes with those compromised conditions, say a non-completed (meaning non-working) aircraft or scenery that is sort of like the real one, but also in not being photo looking like the real environment I'm supposed to takeoff and land from. That aspect totally ruins (for me) the whole idea of what I am ultimately trying to achieve, meaning real world flying in a Simulator, or as close to a real world environment that I can get...  nothing annoys me more than having an aircraft in not to doing what it should do, mostly in the basics of flight and the controls, or crappy airports made of blocked facades.
    There was released an Airbus A220-100 recently, a model really with no cockpit? "Why?" really what is the point of releasing (yes a very pretty external model) but with no cockpit? That is just stupid or dumb.
     
    I at least want an aircraft I can fly or can use out of the box, yes there maybe bugs, even downright obvious ones, but the basics are there, working and useable. A small note on this conversation is in the fact of older aircraft, or classics. As we move forward to another X-Plane version, in most cases a lot of beloved simulation gets left behind. Hopefully developers will update their aircraft and scenery. But in a lot of cases we loose important pieces of our X-Plane world...  a few come to mind, Carenado obviously, Aerosoft sceneries (still crying over the lost Aerosoft Bergen). In fact 12 months on and Aerosoft haven't updated one scenery to X-Plane 12, that's poor business, and hell it's probably why Mathijs Kok left Aerosoft for PMDG.
     
    It's now nearly twelve months since the X-Plane 12 (beta) release, and nine months into 2023 after the X-Plane Release in December 2022. And although this massive version change has happened, X-Plane 12 is now only starting to move again (or say Takeoff, yes pun intended), I want to show the full impact of that year, and that post will be coming on the year's anniversary of the X-Plane 12 release on 6th September 2023, called "State of the Union", it sums up the full year's development.
     
    So change is coming, accept it, the new, new, but there are still things I don't want to lose from the past, they were important then, as they are now...  so not everything should be thrown away with change, and a lot of people should take stock of that aspect, when it's gone it is gone...  like forever. Then in time they realise that in doing those immediate selfish actions, they also lose a bit of themselves.
     
    See you all next month
     
    Stephen Dutton
    3rd September 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  4. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Cami De Bellis in NEWS! - Scenery Released : St Helena Airport by Cami De Bellis   
    NEWS! - Scenery Released : St Helena Airport by Cami De Bellis
     

     
    Saint Helena is a British overseas territory located in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote volcanic tropical island 1,950 km (1,210 mi) west of the coast of south-western Africa, and 4,000 km (2,500 mi) east of Rio de Janeiro in South America. It is one of three constituent parts of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
     
    It's famous for...  In that the British government selected Saint Helena as the place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte, after the Battle of Waterloo, his second abdication (on 22 June 1815) and his final surrender, to Captain Frederick Maitland, on HMS Bellerophon (15 July 1815). He was taken to the island in October 1815. Initially Napoleon stayed at the Briars pavilion on the grounds of the Balcombe family's home, until his permanent residence at Longwood House was completed in December 1815. He died there on 5 May 1821.
     
    After a list of upgraded scenery to X-Plane 12, including VNKT - Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl, VNDP - Dolpa Airport Nepal and La Tontouta Noumea - New Caledonia. Here is a new fully created scenery of FHSH St Helena Airport from Cami de Bellis, note the extensive interview with Cami by Dominic Smith here;
     
    Developer Spotlight Feature Cami De Bellis With a celebration of Cami's 15 Years of creating X-Plane Scenery.
     
    Features Include: Highly accurate scenery for FHSH -St Helena Airport with all buildings modeled.  Over 80 custom objects all with Ambient Occlusion   Terrain mesh created and modified to fix bump terrain and set and correct the topography of the Airport’s area  Custom Terrain Mesh for the entire island of Saint Helena by Maps2XPlane  Custom Overlay/Autogen Scenery based on CDB assets by Maps2XPlane"  Photo real textures on buildings, vehicles, trees…  Photorealistic ground textures based on a satellite image.  Detailed airport objects and GSE vehicles   Custom textured taxiways, runways, and apron   Custom surrounding buildings   Custom airport lights HD  Custom Overlay    High-resolution building textures – all in 2K and 4K   Excellent night effects   World Traffic 3 compatible  Native characters created specially   The terrain mesh is complemented with custom overlays: dense vegetation and country-typical autogen, as well as custom road networks with dynamic traffic.  Two fictional heliports, for those fans of helicopters. One at the beautiful Longwood House, and the other on the shores of the island’s main port; Ruperts Wharf.   

     

     
    As Saint Helena is more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) from the nearest major landmass. Prior to the opening of the airport, the island was only reachable by sea, making it one of the most remote populated places on earth, measured as travel time from major cities. Sea journeys used to take five days from Cape Town, with departures once every three weeks.
    The first consideration of an airport on St Helena was made in 1943 by the South African Air Force, which undertook a survey on Prosperous Bay Plain from October 1943 until January 1944, but concluded that, while technically feasible, an airport was not a practical proposition. From the 1960s, there was an idea to build an airport on the Island. In 1999, this was taken up by the island government.
     
    The construction of the runway was finished in 2015 and the airport opened in 2016. The inaugural scheduled flight was delayed but general aviation, charter, and medical evacuation flights were able to serve the airport from May 2016.
     
    The airport began scheduled commercial services on 14 October 2017, when the South African carrier Airlink inaugurated a weekly service from O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, via Walvis Bay Airport, Namibia, using an Embraer E190-100IGW, or about one and a half years after the originally expected inauguration date, and with a smaller-sized aircraft, because of wind shear problems affecting the airport. Additionally, monthly charter flights now operate between Ascension Island and Saint Helena.
     
    This FHSH scenery is X-Plane 12 only
     
    Images of FHSH - St Helena Airport are courtesy of Cami de Bellis
    ________________
     

     
    Yes!  FHSH - St Helena Airport by Cami de Bellis is Available now from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    FHSH - St Helena Airport by Cami De Bellis
    Price Is US$16.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not for XP 11)
    Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum. 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 1.5 GB CDB-Library is required Current version 1.0 (August 28th 2023) ________________
     
    NEWS! by Stephen Dutton
    28th August 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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) All Rights Reserved
     

     
     
  5. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Update Review : ToliSS Airbus A319-112 v1.9 X-Plane 12   
    Aircraft Update Review : ToliSS Airbus A319-112 v1.9 X-Plane 12
     
    It is a remarkable journey. One that X-Plane users have been on now for five years. In February 2018 ToLiSS released their first aircraft for X-Plane 11, this release was the Airbus A319-112, or the "Baby Bus" as it is sometimes called, even though there is the smaller A318.
     
    Initially the ToLiss was created in the focus of about the system depth and the deep immersion of Airbus flight laws. The rest, noted at the time as "Eye Candy", or animated features were not even on the table, other aspects of the time was the average modeling, again not as important as the software side of the machine. Don't get me wrong it was good for the period, light years better than any other Airbus in the X-Plane Simulator...  but it was overall compromised. You can check the original release review here; Aircraft Review : ToLiSS319 (A319-122) by ToLiSS
     
    With every later release from ToLiSS, first with the A321, then the spectacular A340-600, and earlier this year with the A320-271N NEO. ToLiSS has introduced a lot of new features, plus the "Eye Candy" side has now not been forgotten either, in fact these aircraft are now what you call "Feature Heavy", really heavy, and many of the features are unique as they are highly usable for Simulation users.
     
    Throughout this process the earlier A319 has soldiered on, always getting the same new features and updates, eventually also crossing over to X-Plane 12 earlier this year (2023). Notable was that you had an update to fly the A319 when XP12 was released as a beta, but not to the full conversion to X-Plane 12. I was surprised that I actually haven't done a update/upgrade review on the aircraft for quite a few years, although it was always well mentioned thoughout the ongoing period, and with all the updated changes... So it was time to do that as ToliSS brings the A319 aircraft up to the latest spec in v1.9, the same level as the newer A320-27N NEO.
     
    To note...  the ToLiSS A321 has also now been updated to it's own version of V1.6. importantly the same detail and the new features are exactly the same as described here, so you can cross-reference the same on the two aircraft.
     

     
    What was known as sheen in X-Plane 11 is almost laughable now in X-Plane 12. The lighting engine is totally different, as are all the reflective textures, looking back you could now even call it dull, but they were quite alright for the time.
     

     
    Now the A319 sits in the sunshine, and you can feel and see that X-Plane 12 3d effect, realism they call it...    it looks simply magnificent.
     
    In the air, you get the same effect, the X-Plane 11 feel and look is now long gone, this is X-Plane 12. Note if you still have the earlier XP11 version, the upgrade to X-Plane 12 is only US$10, a steal for the ongoing updates and service for the whole of the X-Plane 12 run, plus you get all this...
     

     
    First though let us look at your engine options available in the package as there are now three; (Top) CFM56-5B6, (middle) CFM56-5B7 and (bottom) the IAE 2524-A5. Both CFM56-5B's look the same, but they are quite different between the 5B6 and the 5B7 variants. The 5B6 is rated at 23,500 lbf (100 kN), however the 5B7 is uprated to 27,000 lbf (120 kN) for use in higher altitudes, say mountainous areas and high altitude airports like say Mexico City. The IAE 2524-A5 is rated at 23,040 lbf (102.48 kN), or just with a little more power than the 5B6.
     

     
    There is no NEO engine option from ToLiSS for the A319, in the real world only 12 airframes have been delivered, and all to mostly Chinese carriers. So that modern engine variant is not going to come to the airframe.
     
    Version v1.8 (6th Jan 2023)
    Changes to the earlier v1.8 (or X-Plane 12 version) were mostly related to the same...  With new adapted cockpit and cabin lighting to XP12, EFB TO performance calculator for detailed TO performance calculation considering Anti Ice, Packs, EFB LDG performance calculator including METAR retrieval (X-plane 11 and X-plane 12 built-in weather) for user-selectable airport, EFB interactive checklist page with user-customizable checklists via xml files. The EFB features are shown here; (Click on images for a larger size)
     

     
    Also you had CPDLC integration based on the Hoppie network and AOC functions for Pre-departure clearance and ATIS/METAR/TAF requests in the Hoppie network.
     

     
    The CPDLC system does actually work in the ToLiSS aircraft, but used mainly for On-Line Flying. You require a "Hoppie ID" to use it and to access the ACARS function (Aircraft Communications, Addressing and Reporting System). Final change in v1.8 was to the X-Plane 12 flight dynamics and physics, plus the better XP12 De-Icing system.
     
    Version v1.9
    Which brings us to this update in v1.9.
     
    First are the new cockpit textures, more an Airbus Blue now than the former Airbus Blue-Green tinge...
     

     
    ...  all new of course and with a nice X-Plane 12 sheen, same now as the A320neo style (in colour), but still has that early A319 feel rather than the current feel. But now light years away from the original release look and feel to the cockpit...  quality, yes a lot of that as well. Notable is that the startup sequence in simulating MCDU, FWC and FMGS startup times have all been refined, to be more authentic.
     
    The big surprise since the earlier version are now your toys (animations)... Who would have thought that you could do this in a ToLiSS...  open windows!
     

     
    Powered chairs, with (both) folding armrests, and the chairs also go back and sideways!
     

     
    A tray work table! Yes I can't believe it either...
     

     
    ...  and working blinds.
     

     
    Also there is also the function to now print out CPDLC messages and weather reports.
     

     
    Introduced on the A320neo was one of the biggest changes to ToLiSS interaction for years. The main ISCS or "Interactive Simulation Control System" or menus tool was changed from the earlier Green to the new shades of Blue design....  it's now also scalable as well.
     

     
    There are the same seven ISCS tabs available covering: Situations A/C Config, Loading Perfo, Ground Services, Faults Scenerios, Addons, Sound/Actions, Joystick and the General Settings Actions. I'm not going to go through the full detail of the ISCS here, if you want that ISCS detail, then it is already fully noted in the A320-271N NEO review...  However I will note the highlights and changes relating to v1.9.
     
    Situations A/C Config tab has that extraordinary "LOAD/SAVE" feature, I not going to squawk my infatuation with this feature, in my opinion it is the overall best feature in X-Plane bar none, because it works and works so well in saving and recovering situations saved, even with background auto-saving. A statement on how ToLiSS is number one in clever ideas that translate to making your simulation life far better.
     

     
    On the same tab is the ENGINE TYPE selection...  all three types are available here IAE 2524, CFM56-5B6 and CFM56-5B7, and the AUTO option set to a certain Airline or livery.
     
    Loading Perfo tab is setting up the A319. Clever (again) is the cross-referencing from SIMBRIEF for Payload, Weight and Fuel settings, Takeoff References and Takeoff trim. And the values can be inserted directly into the MCDU
     

     
    Ground Services tab also has the new additions, introduced on the A320neo. The De-Icing tool, Instant or to use the excellent animated De-Icing trucks.
    Animated De-icers spray first the main wings and the control surfaces, then move to the tail to do the rear control surfaces and even the rudder, beautifully animated, and now here we have a secondary spray procedure. The brown spray is heated a glycol-water solution, followed by propylene glycol (green) and will remain on the wings as a gel-like substance to prevent further ice accumulation while on the ground and taxing, it takes longer to cover the aircraft, but it is brilliant and very well done feature.
     

     
    On the A320neo you were introduced to Catering Trucks, on doors 1R and 2R, DOORS (all have to be set to OPEN for them to work). Also Baggage carts for both FWD and AFT Cargo hatches. But now there are also added Stairs for Doors 1L and rear 2L. Still no physical GPU though.
     

     
    The same ground extras and new De-Icing spray were updated to the A320neo a week ago, as to the latest update of the A321.
     
    C/B's (Circuit Breakers/Fuses) have also had attention with 24 new C/Bs bringing the total to 161 functional C/Bs across three panels, pull a breaker and it shows on the detailed ECAM (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor). There are 70 new ECAM messages covering new computer faults such as dual FWC or dual SDAC faults, anti ice system faults, new engine faults, and the Oil temperature indication on ECAM also now changes according to logic specific for the given engine type.
     

     
    Fault scenarios has been Increased in the number of possible simultaneous faults to 20. With added “resettable failures” to the failure system as well as new failure modes, there is now a total of more than 210 failure modes you can simulate, so a fully comprehensive failure system. Sound/Addon Accounts...  The SIMBRIEF and HOPPIE CPDLC accounts are now also on the Sound/Accounts page
     

     
    Both Joystick Actions and General Settings are pretty much the same as the earlier (green) ISCS pages, ToLiSS aircraft are still the most configurable aircraft in X-Plane, certainly for home cockpit users and for addon joystick/throttle systems.
     

     
    Lighting has been more refined for X-Plane 12, even the downlights are better, but the focus in this update was better lighting on the console.
     

     
    Cabin lighting is very bright, but good, thankfully you can tone it down between (0 Off and 10 Bright), so you can also find the right ambience that suits you...
     

     
    The cabin doesn't feel old or dated either, feels very up to date considering it's age.
     
    Couple of points externally that is worth mentioning, is first the higher resolution on the tyres, not always perfectly round in the past, but the edges have now been cleaned up for a better looking tyre and rim...  far, far better now than the earlier slabside look.
     

     
    Second there are now two pilots in the cockpit, not the default Laminar people either, but custom made.
     

    _________________________
     
    EDDL (Düsseldorf) to EGPH (Edinburgh)
    When the ToliSS A319 was introduced back in early 2018. It wasn't the exceptional Airbus laws and protections, or even the flight management systems that were overriding in their complexity and feel. But actually when you turned the auto systems off and just flew the aircraft "Fly by Wire", or normal law in Airbus speak, the one area you have manual control. The A319 felt so alive to me, it was at the time a simple jump in airports, but on approach manually into Schiphol 36R that I had a smile wide on my face... I never forgot that moment, it was a leap forward in feel for a heavy aircraft, in your control for the X-Plane Simulator. So the aircraft has strong reminiscence whenever I fly it.
     
    That aircraft was also now five years ago... the changes in here have been very significant, the features and systems detail has probably doubled, but at it's core it is still that great "Baby Bus", that can do a short haul route quickly and efficiently.
     

     
    But the earlier A319 is also quite different in it's X-Plane 12 guise, looks different, not so basic. Services around the aircraft, cockpit feel and even the look is different, and (laughs) you can also now adjust your seat and fold away the armrest, the tablet EFB is there as well. The quality feel now is not only visible externally, but also all around you in the detail.
     

     
    It is extraordinary how far we have come in systems detail in a decade, or even from the first A320 from QPAC for the X-Plane simulator. The Airbus is a strange beast, on the top layer is is an easy aircraft to set up and fly, but underneath everything in here is highly detailed and complex...  so you have both worlds. ToLiSS has been able to transfer this aspect to their aircraft with great skill...
     

     
    ...   so every procedure in the ToLiSS is very, very authentic to the Airbus philosophy... the aircraft is noted as "Study" and is an official Airbus sanctioned product, a high standard moniker that is high to achieve. So it is good, brilliantly good.
     
    So the startup procedure is perfect, as are the sounds by Turbine Sound Studios (TSS) included for all the different engine types. Notable as well there are a few custom sound packs available as well for the A319, the best of course is by Blue Sky Star Simulations, not cheap, but well worth the investment.
     

     
    So the question remains "Can anyone fly the A319?" well actually yes they can, as the Aircraft is very easy to set up and fly in say "Auto" mode, just like the real Airbus. But here the question get a little complicated...  to get the very best out of this ToLiSS A319 (In fact any of the A/319/A320/A321 series) is that to learn and understand what is going on behind all those cautions (warnings) and system comments can deeply enhance the simulation. I'm very well versed in these aircraft, but even I can learn something, fly it better, do it better each flight.
     

     
    But also I will be honest, being reviewer you wrestle a lot with aircraft, certainly the buggy ones, half completed builds... so always stepping back into the ToLiSS airbus is a sense of relief, everything works, everything is calmer (because it does what it actually should DO). There are so many helper features here, in setting up the aircraft (SIMBRIEF) and those golden timesavers in "SAVES"... it is just all so good.
     

     
    Importantly the earlier compromises have mostly all been attended to. Like the modeling, "Eye Candy" stuff, but not to the detriment of anything else, actually as we have seen with this update review, so much more has been refined, added to in here are eighteen changes and details in the bug fixes alone, most of it behind the scene, in MCDU/Navigation touches and FBW refinements (all are in the provided changelog).
     

     
    55 min from the words "Clock Running" and I'm already off the coast of England at Sunderland, time to descend... flight LH244 has gone too quick.
     

     
    Into TLA6D STAR approach, Edinburgh is now only 24 Nm in the distance...
     

     
    I'm very tempted to revert to a manual landing...
     

     
    With the great information of LDG PERF on the EFB, and my PERF Landing references, I decide to do a full auto landing, its a tricky approach in with a very tight turn to finals into Runway 24, and right under the start of the ILS beams at D.9 (ITH) approach. The Forth Bridges now loom in the windshield, yes this is the Edinburgh approach I know.
     

     
    Retuned in v1.9 is the pitch movement balance with extended flaps, so it feels that more steady in the approach phase, then the capture of the ILS (108.90 ITH) at D.4...  perfect, yes I'm smiling again...  As a party trick I have done a save at the point of starting the approach, so if I want to do this perfectly again (the landing that is) I can, or I can practise the approach as many times as I want to, and yes even do a manual approach next time...  genius.
     


     
    Over the boundary wall at 140 knts, full flap, and I let the "Autoland" do it's stuff...
     

     
    Into the (auto) Flare and "Retard, Retard" the throttles, then once touched to the runway, I pull up the reversers...  easy, but you still need to know what your doing....
     

     
    ...   that is the point in flying this (or these A319/A320neo/A321) aircraft, you can fly the procedures down to the line, but know the system depth behind the instrument panel is very deep, same with the Normal law with alternate law 1, alternate law 2, direct law and mechanical law.... all laws are hidden but you are using them all the time, on the ground and in the air. To have such immense detail in your hands, shows the serious depth of simulation today, like I have already mentioned, we have come a long way, the real, all to your desktop.
     

     
    Service complete and you already want to turn around and go back to Düsseldorf.
     

     
    ToLiSS's journey has been quite a remarkable one, and the update release of their A319 shows you how far and how big that journey has been. This A319 is actually a very different aircraft in it's X-Plane 12 guise as mentioned, but the spirit of the original A319 from five years ago is in there as well, efficient, that is what Airbus is all about, but it doesn't mean it has to be cold, as found the A319 very warm and inviting to fly, in some ways it was like coming home, but to a bigger and far better home in X-Plane 12.
     
    Liveries
    There are only two liveries with the package; Airbus House Modern, and Airbus Prototype. But there are extensive quality liveries available here.
     

    _________________________
    Summary
    In February 2018 ToLiSS released their first aircraft for X-Plane 11, this release was the Airbus A319-112, or the "Baby Bus" as it is sometimes called.
     
    Initially earlier the ToLiss was created in the focus of about the system depth and the deep immersion of Airbus flight laws. The rest, noted at the time as "Eye Candy", or animated features were not even on the table. That was five years ago, and here we have the second update for the A319 for X-Plane 12 (you can't really count the "Fly in" X-Plane 12 release in the early beta). In January ToLiSS did an update v1.8 to cover the basic aspects of X-Plane 12 for the aircraft...   with adapted cockpit and cabin lighting to XP12, EFB performance calculator with TO/LANDING performance calculators , CPDLC system "Hoppie", plus a better XP12 De-Icing system. There was some initial X-Plane 12 flight dynamic tuning, but only on the basics.
     
    This v1.9 update reflects the release of the new Airbus A320neo and its new features and details, but even goes a little more. New cockpit textures, animations with opening windows, moveable seats and armrests, worktrays, blinds. New style ISCS menu (now blue) and scalable, ground services with excellent animated De-Icing, Catering trucks, front and rear Stairs, Baggage Carts... but oddly still no external GPU?
     
    Better (more rounded) tyres and custom in cockpit pilots also help out with the realism. The SIMBRIEF interaction (ID required) and that exceptional "SAVE" feature are already the best in the X-Plane Simulator. Plus the hugely substantial system depth is again enhanced with more C/B (Circuit Breakers) and ECAM cautions, and 20 more fault failures and 210 failure modes. Lighting has had another readjustment internally with a focus on the centre console, externally the A319 lighting was updated in v1.8.
     
    The Journey of the ToLiSS A319-112 has been also the story of their incredibly rise to being one of the very best developers in X-Plane, maybe the overall best Airbus developers in Simulation as a whole. The aircraft here in v1.9 reflects its current modernity, totally updated in it's X-Plane 12 role as are the whole balance of the ToLiSS Airbus fleet, so the "Baby Bus" has not been left wanting, or certainly it is not at all dated in this competitive environment, but encompasses the detail and the quality required today to be at the very top of aircraft experiences, from an excellent developer...  you always wanted the very best, if you want an Airbus, then here it is...   and totally X-Plane 12 ready.
    _________________________
    Summary

     
    ToLiSS A319-122 v1.9 is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    Airbus A319 XP12 by Toliss
    Price is US$89.99
     
    To upgrade from the X-Plane 11 A319 version, it is only US$10, just go to your X-Plane.Org Account to get the upgrade voucher.
    ________________
     
    Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux  4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Not for commercial use. For any commercial use enquiries, please contact [email protected] Current version : 1.9 (July 10th 2023)   Installation Download of the Airbus A319 is 804.34mb and it is installed in your Airliner Folder as a 1.01Gb  folder. On start up you will have an activation screen presented to enter your Serial Number (Key), and then press the "Activate" bar to authorise the aircraft. I recommend to restart the aircraft from your desktop to realign all your plugins and load the aircraft cleanly.     There is extensive full instructions on how to set up the aircraft to your X-Plane settings (commands) and addons (Joysticks/Throttles) and other 3rd Party items in the ToLiSS A319 1.6.4_SimulationManual.   Documents There are Three Manuals Included with the package. All are extensive and well laid out with great details   Simulation manual : Describes installation, and setup of the model as well as usage of the “Interactive Simulation Control System”. Tutorial flight, which provides a step-by-step description of a complete flight from cold & dark to aircraft shut-down after landing. This is the best manual to learn flying the aircraft. Aircraft manual, which is primarily intended as a reference after the tutorial has been completed. It provides a reference for standard operating procedures, as well as a more in- depth look into the different systems of the aircraft.  
    Extra Airbus system information is highly recommended and SMARTCOCKPIT is a great place to start.
     
    v1.9 changelog
    A319 v1.9 changelog .rtf
    _____________________
      Aircraft Update Review by Stephen Dutton
    15th July 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane Version 12.05r1
    Plugins: JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - EDDL - Airport Dusseldorf by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$27.53
    - EGPH - Edinburgh Airport by Orbx
     
    (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
     

  6. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Behind the Screen : 10th Anniversary! X-Plane Reviews   
    Behind the Screen : 10th Anniversary! X-Plane Reviews
     
    It started with a small idea...  certainly there were good X-Plane Simulator review sites ten years ago, as I had already posted for two of them, X-Plane Aerosoft Reviews, and XSim Reviews run by Chip and Simon. Both soon went away (XSim Reviews with Chip came back a little later for a few months), but suddenly I was not reviewing anything. With both Aerosoft and XSim, I was also not the principle reviewer, so I had no input in how those sites looked, managed or most importantly for their content. It was a hook up with the X-Plane.OrgStore that formed an idea to do a more indepth detailed look at releases and upgrades, updates for the then X-Plane 10 Simulator. That excellent arrangement allowed X-PlaneReviews not only to be born, but in also creating a significant partnership that has lasted a whole decade.
     
    Could I foresee myself still creating reviews in the passing ten years back then, when starting on the 1st August 2013...  not really, you just took every day, month, year, as they came, one by one, just did the reviews, looked at all the amazing product that came across my computer screen, and in the same time period, burnt out two graphic cards and three revolution computer system upgrades. Overall though it is the huge amount of experience that I went through, X-Plane is just not about flying aircraft, it is also about the labyrinth software and hardware systems, and in then creating over 3,000 reviews over the last ten years, I can't even start to count the nautical mileage I have covered, I know it is a lot, probably even more than a real airman.
     
    There were brilliant times and times I would be venting my frustration at a computer screen yes, even throwing things, but some of the most amazing experiences are all just down to a brilliant simulation program created by Laminar Research. You learn not only how to fly the huge gamut of aviation aircraft, from balloons, rockets (X-Plane early days), Hangliders, lightweight aircraft General Aviation aircraft, regional airliners all the way up to those long haul machines I love the most. But also the geography of the world we live on, then there is the learning of the complex real world aviation systems and its protocols, and relating everything to the simulator, so much to absorb, but also on how much more we have at our disposal than ten years ago, the real world, is now our online flying world, both are now parallel, so you shark your head at the immense progress over the period.
     
    Obviously X-PlaneReviews has changed enormously in this ten year period. But the basics of the site still remain the same. Look at a product, either aircraft, scenery and plugins or any item connected to the X-Plane Simulator and then tell you about it. You would say "Well you didn't cover everything", and I agree, because only the products or addons we personally saw and tested (meaning in most cases flew) were reported to the users. If I liked it, I wanted you to love it as well. That is my motto, but also to inform, create tutorials, and to get you the user through the hard stuff to understand how to get the very best from the simulator. In that aspect I think the site has exceeded expectations.
     
    That aspect is very important...   the angle is that for every product or addon, I put myself into the position of the person spending their hard earned money on a product or addon. The "Value" to "Quality" criteria is the most important aspect, some products are now quite expensive, I call them "Investments", because they are, future investments for you to use in the simulator, how much you get out of the product or Addon, and for how long the product and addons will be serviced with upgrades and more importantly updates for the run of the current X-Plane version.
     
    But nothing of any Simulator would happen without the huge army of creative people that are also invested into X-Plane. From the incredible Developers, the contributors, both payware and freeware that builds our massive X-Plane universe. There are now over a million users registered on the X-Plane.Org alone, when I joined it was 233,000, so over the ten years 800,000 users have come through the Simulator. For a small story of when I joined, thirteen years ago, I was blocked out on my first day...  my guilt was downloading too many files on that first day, yes I was enthusiastic, still am thankfully, I call call it "Building my X-Plane World one file at a time", and what a very big world it now is.
     
    Overall it is the people, from all the reviewers that have posted on the site, from Wycliffe Barrett, Joe, BernardoCasa and for the last year the significant contribution from Dominic Smith, Josh, Nick, Michael, Pete, Sean, Stef, Alan, and Stuart, who have all generously contributed a lot of their time, expertise to the site. Obviously the site would not exist or continue to exist without the support and help of Nicolas and the X-Plane.OrgStore...  so "Happy Tenth Birthday X-PlaneReviews....  it's been a decade in the making".
     
    Ten years ago we said....  Hello! - Welcome To X-Plane Reviews
     
    Stephen Dutton
    1st August 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

  7. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Allen in Behind the Screen : April 2023   
    Behind the Screen : April 2023
     
    On average over a 20 to 30 year commercial flying career, professional pilots will fly usually about 4 to 5 types of aircraft, first in the right seat, then a command in the left. I'm not counting their non-professional activities like private general aviation, gliding or even to the extreme of aerobatic flying. This is the core total of flying airliners, either domestic or international.
     
    Do pilot's have to be more flexible in today's aviation industry? that is a big question, because, say in the 60's you could fly aircraft types from the BAC-1-11, progress to a Trident, then a Vickers VC10, then a Boeing 707 or a Boeing 747 Jumbo, or even on to the supersonic transport in Concorde. That career road would be far harder today, as you would mostly jump between types of the same design, say start in a A319, move to a A320, then a A321 and now an A321LR, you are progressing, but mostly on the same type, not "Types' of aircraft. Same with the A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
     
    Progress to each aircraft type would mean going back to class, instruction, training and finally the hands on evaluation that you could handle the new machine, a jump from say the VC10 to a Boeing 747 would be a large challenge, but nothing like the jump from a VC10 to Concorde, of which most crews of the supersonic transport were nominated from. Today the line between a A320, to a A321, is not as large, and a conversion would be in weeks rather than the months like in the past.
     
    Compare that to X-Plane, or with being a reviewer. God knows how many "Types" of aircraft and let us even include even the "weird" strange machines at that. Obviously I have lost count, but a thousand over 12 years is a rounded off figure, maybe even more than that, so you have to be pretty adaptable.
     
    Like driving a car, aviation still has it's basics in controls and instruments, so you can be "so called", adaptable. But unlike driving a car on a road, aviation machines comes with a lot of different variations, weights and sizes, again you have to be adaptable.
     
    A lot of Simulator users will also mostly stick to one type, or a variation of that type, a lot won't even progress from say a Single-Engined aircraft to a Twin-Engined aircraft, never mind a Commercial Jet. Another crowd will only fly heavies, big airliners, but most will usually use the Two-Hour rule of flying a Boeing 737 (Zibo) or Airbus A319/A320/A321 (ToLiSS), fair enough.
     
    Me I do like variety, always have, call it a challenge if you will, I couldn't be a reviewer otherwise. But I do have my core "Top Ten" aircraft that I fly personally, a few General Aviation machines, but mostly Airliners, the bigger the better.
     
    Also there is the aspect of getting "back into the groove". You would think with all that reviewing experience and skills, that I would easily slide into the seat and fly the aircraft like a pro, yes...  well no, it is not as easy as that.
     
    One big bonus of doing reviews in that when a new aircraft or type is released, you do what I call a "Deep Dive". Reviewing in detail allows you to spend a lot of time on that aircraft, sometimes weeks, study it, understanding all those minute details. Then to learn to fly it correctly... then pass on the information of what has been learnt to you the users of the X-PlaneReviews site.
     
    You would think that in say six months when the same aircraft from the same developer comes around with an update, with all that intimate knowledge learnt earlier, I should simply slide into the same seat and fly it again perfectly like the total professional I am, except that is very far from the truth. I even make copious notes, the Concorde review notes went for sixteen pages, yet I still need to revisit and revise them all every time to step back into that cockpit. And here is the thing...
     
    My first flight back in that seat is usually atrocious, totally laughable...  a professional, mostly a joke in watching my efforts. At least I don't have a check captain sitting over my shoulder rating my poor flying abilities, and ready to give my career the total thumbs down.
     
    Let's be clear, that is with the complex complicated detailed aircraft we are talking about here, sure I can pilot a GA around a circuit or two with my eyes closed, but something happened in X-Plane around eight years ago when basic PlaneMaker aircraft went to Plugins. Now the systems are real world duplication, so is now the way you also fly the aircraft in real world conditions in the Simulator.
     
    Triggers...  notes can give you triggers, and then you fly the aircraft and then release all that the stored information in your brain, it does come back to you quite easily, but some machines do have their peculiar idiosyncratic natures, not only in their systems, but their flying characteristics as well, say the Dash Q400... One flight will release the learnt peculiar tricks on using and handling the machine, the notes help, but going over the learnt procedures and you will soon fall back into that aircraft category groove. I'm an odd one as well.
     
    I just won't jump in and go flying (unless there is a reason), I go through the whole set of procedures from "Go to Woe", more so with an update (or upgrade) to cover the changes in the new updated/upgraded version, the differences between the Old and the New.
     
    That second flight (basically the review flight) is usually "Back on Song", not flawless, but back in tune with the aircraft, the third flight has to be flawless, if not there is something wrong or something has been changed? The only thing about this process, it is time consuming, two flights take time, three flights is in days to do a review, but you internally and personally have to know you have everything right, in the interaction between yourself and the aircraft before reviewing. That is why I don't like a lot of VideoJocks, watching them power through procedures and incorrect flying, and missing SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) makes me cringe by in the amount of mistakes made, some are very good, and yes even I can learn from a real line pilot doing video Simulations, but most are "Cowboys", and have bad habits that are being passed on to the unsuspecting junior (learning) Simulator users in picking up and using the same poor methodology.
     
    Okay, I come from the strict school of being serious, and a lot of users reading this will say, Hey, lighten up, it's supposed to be "Fun" it's only a "Game", but my approach is strictly professional, if you want to "Fool" around and wizz upside down in a A320 (yes looking at you Austin Meyer) then your looking at the wrong personality type, to me "Professional", means being very good at what you do and to not fool around with a 80 Ton aircraft. Simulation was created as learning tool for real world pilots, we are just lucky, and if you have enough computer power, to be able to do the "EXACT" same things as the real world pilots do, that for me is where the excitement comes from, and my on line experiences.
     
    Out of the "Thousands" of aircraft I have reviewed, a few go into my own personal hanger, the ones that are very special, but also fit my own personal flying needs, I keep the list to like I mentioned to around ten aircraft, but it is about four to five of those aircraft are what I use consistently, again these aircraft are also required to have a shakedown regularly, and the same process of a "trigger" flight and then a regular flight are required to get me again "Back in the Groove".
    I know these aircraft intimately, and yet I still need to reset my brain to fly them correctly, lose one or two that has happened with the X-Plane 11 to X-Plane 12 transition and you feel a bit lost without them (both will be released for X-Plane 12 within the next month). Again I will stress that regular repeatable flying is still required to keep your skills in prime shape, yes it is more (even relaxing) fun than the serious approach of reviewing aircraft, but still serious in the way you approach in flying the aircraft professionally. To make it "Fun", is to set up a few scenarios, I have two.
     
    The first is a real world day's flying, usually three sectors between regularly used airports (quality sceneries), In Australia say the "Triangle". Brisbane to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney and finally Sydney back to Brisbane, all in a days work and following real world services. It's more tricky than you think to fly on real world times and turnarounds with the same aircraft type. Exhausting as well, but that is what real world pilots do everyday, but it is fun to coordinate the lot together...  The second is real world airport hopping. Start a service from say Barcelona and fly to Copenhagen, then from Copenhagen to Dubai (combining European to International with different aircraft types), then Dubai to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Los Angles and so on...  if you wrap up a sector in say New York, then the next time you fly you restart in the same place, say, New York to Copenhagen, and hey, you have flown around the world with real life timetables and the same aircraft types used on the real world routes... both above scenarios are based on real world flying, but for me a fun factor as well. But all learnt during these travels, goes back into the reviewing, and the consistent practise on aircraft types means your skills are kept at a high level.
     
    This April "Behind the Screen" edition, looks a bit into how I fly and do reviews, but also shows you the amount of practise it requires to keep your flying skills at a high level, same as the real world pilots...  I like to think so, dedication is everything in life.
     
    See you all next month.
     
    Stephen Dutton
    2nd May 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  8. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Cami De Bellis in Scenery Review - Svalbard XP by Aerosoft/Maps2XPlane   
    Scenery Review - Svalbard XP by Aerosoft/Maps2XPlane
     
    Svalbard...  No never heard of that place. Spitzbergen, yes I heard of that, a port in Norway somewhere? Probably related to the battleship Tirpitz, that was once sent to attack the garrison and destroy the settlements there, or as the English call it Spitsbergen. Otherwise no clue.
     
    But Svalbard is a place, a Norwegian archipelago set high in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe. it lies about midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole (500 miles). The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude of an area 62,045 km2. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed in size by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. The largest settlement is Longyearbyen, but all up only 2,500 people live up here within the Arctic Circle.
     

    (google)
    Well now Svalbard is available in the X-Plane Simulator. The scenery comes from the same team that created still the best overall scenic scenery in the Faroe Islands in the Simulator called Faroe Islands XP by Maps2Xplane. This scenery is an absolute personal favorite. Maps2Xplane also did Seychelles XP as well, another scenery worthy of your investment. So they are the perfect choice to deliver Svalbard.
     
    A note says in reality the islands were never in X-Plane at all, as they are positioned inside the Arctic Circle...  anything 73/74th north lines of latitude is not available in X-Plane unless you own an add on scenery, say Grand Arctic XP12 By HSimulators that covers above Greenland to the North Pole, so there is no conflict with this addon from Map2Xplane, but both situated together will certainly cover in (or fill) this expansive area.
     
    Can you walk to the North Pole from Svalbard? well no, but the Arctic Pack Ice (Shelf) starts not far from the Northern part of the Islands in the winter, so Svalbard is usually the first stop of a base for any Arctic Expeditions.
     
    Which brings us to the weather...  If you are flying into Svalbard then the time of the year to go is highly important. The average summer temperatures on Svalbard range from 3 to 7 °C (37.4 to 44.6 °F) in July, and the winter temperatures from −13 to −20 °C (8.6 to −4.0 °F) in January.The highest temperature ever recorded was 23.0 °C (73.4 °F) in July 2020 and the coldest was −46.3 °C (−51.3 °F) in March 1986.
     
    That is -13ºC to -20ºC EVERYDAY...  it's cold, and the weather is usually overcast low cloud. Then there is the light. A December night in Longyearbyen lasts almost 24 hours and the days start about 11 hours later, or from mid November to mid January there is no sunset (or sunrise). In May and June, the sun is in the opposite position and above the horizon all the time, or a Midnight Sun.
     
    Having fun yet...  So any flight into Svalbard is going to be interesting, and a place to really test your flying skills. The major airport here is "Longyear" or ENSB/LYR. If you could call it an airport, at least there is an airport here, and thankfully one ILS system to get you in (also out).
     
    Up for a challenge, I (stupidly) thought, I'll fly into Longyear (ENSB/LYR) from Oslo (ENGM/OSL), "That'll be interesting".
     

     
    I'm flying the Zibo Boeing 737-800. The B738's do run into LYR, as SAS and Norwegian.com, both have regular services (weather permitting) and at 2hr,55min, Oslo to Longyearbyen, it is also the longest domestic flight on the SAS route map.
     

     
    Route distance is 1,122 nm, but that is not the issue here, your going out on a limb, and the nearest Alternate is ENAT/ALF at VAKKER, back on the Norwegian Mainland, or 595 Nm back again? so your carrying INRES+ALTN 4514 kgs extra fuel. You don't really want to do a missed landing.... do you. I really love these civilisation to remote nowhere airports. The hustle and bustle of a large mega airport to the one small strip in an outlying bleak place. That was the attraction of Vagar in the Faroes, mostly you flew from Edinburgh in Scotland or my usual route from Kalstop, Copenhagen, here with another Maps2Xplane scenery I'm doing the same again, going out on that limb, but here twice as far.
     

     
    Once clear of the SID, it is a turn to the north and a climb to 34,000ft...  then settle in for the long haul (pun intended). It's an impressive flight, tons to look at while you skim over the top and the coast of Norway, X-Plane 12 can dazzle sometimes and here it does.
     

     
    I am not going to deny it, I'm very apprehensive. Not only being a fair way out into nowhere, but the weather concerns with a very low cloud forecast, which you could take as normal for Svalbard. Thankfully I'm going into LYR in the peak of the summer, I would hate to think what it is like from Nov to Jan, with no light and low dense cloud...  I have to get the approach into ENSB perfect, spot on, but to be honest I don't know what I will be faced with until I get there. Time to descend, but I do a long slow descent to get a feel of the weather and to study over and over the approach charts, imprinting it into my mind.
     

     
    From waypoint INPAR, you turn 24º heading and below is the huge Fjord of Isfjorden, you can't see it until you drop out of the 2,015 ft cloud, but you do get some breaks through the clouds to see the landscape... yes it is all very Faroe in the approach.
     

     
    But Longyear is still covered in murky goo, nothing ahead to see. Then a bit of turbulence as well, "Why not", double scare me...
     

     
    Entrance to the approach is LALAD, and final turn to (95º) to LYR is at LOLVO, height 2,500 ft. I have set the Boeing up with full flap and gear down early, all my attention needs to be on the approach... the one I still can't actually see.
     

     
    I would love to take in the magnificent scenery, but there is no time, your busy, focused. I'm looking for the ILS beams (110.3 LB) for runway 10, the opposite approach in Rwy 28 has a RNP approach profile (but X-Plane notes an offset beam 109.5 LA)...  the go-around notes are very specific, I hope I don't have to use them.
     
    As I start the ILS descent, suddenly the runway appears out of the murk, the airport is jutting out on a piece of land, hard to see.
     

     
    I follow the beams, but ready now to take manual control as I can now see the threshold, my heart is thumping, I need to get this right. On that note the width of the ILS beams are very narrow, you have be almost perfectly aligned to collect them, stray slightly out of the box and you will not engage, or a go-around procedure.
     

     
    1000 ft and I take manual control...
     

     
    Steady, focus...  slight flare.
     

     
    Main gear touches at 132knts,
     

     
    As soon as the nosegear touches, I hit the reversers and brakes, the runway length is 8127 ft (2477m), not that long, but enough for a Boeing 737. Runway surfaces are really well done, asphalt with a ribbed surface to help braking.
     

     
    Once the speed is arrested and everything is folded back up, I can finally look out of the window...  before me are ships, and a port (Longyearbyen) is further away down the coast, the town is only 5 km (3.1 mi) northwest of the airport.
     

     
    If you are expecting a large international airport out here, then you are going to seriously disappointed, the facilities are small, but there is a terminal building...
     

     
    There is a lot of the same quality feel as Vagar (Faroe), so it all works quite handsomely, the feeling is of real authenticity, but you know you are also in a very remote place on the earth. Seriously impressed....  and totally relieved to be down and parked.
     

     
    Svalbard XP
    To install the Svalbard scenery you will need to use the Aerosoft One client installer. You get a authorisation number on purchase, and then you enter the Product Key lower left. Both X-Plane 11 and X-Plane 12 installations are available.
     

     
    Then the installer will check your storage space, and then start the install process....  it's a big install of 6.52 GB, so you have to have both the storage space, and the graphic card VRAM to run the scenery, it notes a 4Gb card will work, but I recommend at least a 8Gb graphic card.
     

     
    When the installation is completed, the installer has inserted seven files, five airports, XTRA folder and a large MESH file.
     
    It is important to note that this scenery is basically all about the textures. Because of the huge scale of the area, your not going to get the very high-definition of the Faroe Island detail. But the quality and detail here is still highly customised and scaled far higher than the X-Plane default textures, so the quality is somewhere in the middle between the two extremes, but more to the Hi-Def Faroe quality than the average X-Plane textures. Delivered here then is very high resolution mesh that creates a full landscape of detailed coast lines and the shapes of glaciers.
    __________________
    There are five separate sceneries that cover the only airports/heliports on the islands...  Svalbard lufthavn, Longyear (ENSB), Svea (ENSA), Ny Alesund (ENAS), Barentsburg (ENBA) and Pyramiden (ENPY).
     

    (google)
    Svalbard lufthavn, Longyear (ENSB)
    Svalbard Airport is the main airport serving Svalbard in Norway. It is 5 km (3.1 mi) northwest of Longyearbyen on the west coast, and it is the northernmost airport in the world with scheduled public flights. The first airport near Longyearbyen was constructed during World War II. In 1959, it was first used for occasional flights, but could only be used a few months a year. Construction of the new airport at Hotellneset started in 1973, and the airport was opened on 2 September 1975. It is owned and operated by state-owned Avinor.
    In 2014, the airport handled 154,261 passengers. Scandinavian Airlines operates daily flights to Tromsø and Oslo in mainland Norway. Lufttransport also provides services to the two other airports on Svalbard: Ny-Ålesund and Svea, using Dornier 228 turboprop aircraft. There are also regular charter flights. One runway 10/28 - 2,484m (8,146ft) Asphalt
     
    Jutting out on Isfjorden. Svalbard's main (and only) international airport is breathtaking, yes again I will compare it to Faroe, as it has the same feel and look as the southern neighbouring islands.
     

     
    The textures give great photo realistic detail, but because all of the islands are based on the same texture tones, there are no airport boundaries matching up to the X-Plane default, it is all in a pure and a perfect transition into all of the surrounding areas.
     
    Basically the airport consists of two large maintenance hangers, a control tower, admin and airport work facilities... dead centre is the small terminal. All the facilities are quite dark in dark-greys and matt-blacks, but the detail is in there with a feel of great realistic Arctic worn textures to the buildings.
     

     
    Internally the terminal is well modeled, with waiting passengers. When on the ramp it is highly realistic with the see-through glass.
     

     
    The control tower is mid-complex adjoining the terminal, again clad in very dark material, it also well done...  tower view however puts you in-between all the aerials on the roof, but the approaches are clear.
     

     
    The biggest building and also the most seriously impressive here is the Luftthavn maintenance hangar, really authentic in detail, with a magnificent scenic view set out behind.
     

     
    There is a smaller (for the Dornier 228's?) hangar at the opposite end, again really well modeled and designed.
     

     
    North of the airport is a small port with a huge oil tanker in dock....   Longyearbyen (the capital) is just a bit north, again there is a well modeled cruise ship, and a few basic buildings on top of the photo ground textures. As per Maps2Xplane you are wanting more to cover the flat photo images, like Tórshavn in Faroe, it is all a bit bear and of wanting more fill.
     

     
    Svea (ENSA)
    Sveagruva or 'Swedish Mine', or simply Svea, was a mining settlement in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, lying at the head of Van Mijenfjord. It was the third largest settlement in the archipelago (after Longyearbyen and Barentsburg). Around 300 workers living in Longyearbyen commuted to Sveagruva for work on a daily or weekly basis. The mine was operated by Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani. There is no road to Longyearbyen or any other settlements. The airport featured a gravel runway measuring 800 by 30 meters (2,625 by 98 ft). Flights were operated about thirty times per week by Lufttransport using their two Dornier 228s.
     
    Magnificent and remote, Svea is a great destination...  the site is very well modeled as the mining town with a very workmanlike feel to the place.
     

     
    Small tower and operations building is excellent in detail and realism. As is all the well modeled mining accommodation and main site...
     

     
    ...  highlight is the very realistic gravel runway, great stoney textures as well. Seva is also the most southern airport in the scenery.
     
    Ny Alesund (ENAS)
    Ny-Ålesund Airport, Hamnerabben is an airport serving the research community of Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway. The airport is owned by Kings Bay, who also owns the company town. The only flights available are to Svalbard Airport, Longyear, operated two to four times a week by Lufttransport using Dornier 228 aircraft. The services are organized as corporate charters and tickets are only available after permission from Kings Bay.
     
    Between 1925 and 1928, Ny-Ålesund saw four air expeditions to the North Pole, two of which required the construction of an airship hangar and mast. The first proposal for an airport in Ny-Ålesund was launched in 1956 by Norsk Polar Navigasjon, who proposed an airport at Kvadehuksletta. Soviet protests against the airport caused the Norwegian authorities to oppose the plans, which were laid to rest in the early 1960s. Construction at Hamnerabben started in 1965 following the decision to build Kongsfjord Telemetry Station. ENAS has only one runway 12/30 - 808m (2,651ft)- Gravel. The same great gravel textures as Svea.
     

     
    Based here is the Kongsfjord Telemetry Station a satellite ground station. It was used between 1967 and 1974 as one of the four initial ground stations which were part of the European Space Tracking Network (ESTRACK) serving the European Space Research Organization's (ESRO) first generation of satellites. The station provided radio tracking, telemetry and commanding services as well as data download. Although owned by ESRO, the facilities were constructed and operated by the Royal Norwegian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (NTNF), also represented is the Ny-Ålesund Geodetic Observatory.
     
    The dish here still works... and it will follow the sun as it changes direction in the sky.
     

     
    The central area of Ny-Ålesund  is a company town that is owned and operated by Kings Bay, which provides facilities for permanent research activities by 19 institutions from 11 countries. The town is ultimately owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment and is not incorporated (i.e. is not recognised as a town by the Norwegian government). Ny-Ålesund has an all-year permanent population of 30 to 35, with the summer population reaching 114.
     
    Barentsburg (ENBA)
    Barentsburg is the second-largest settlement in Svalbard, Norway, with about 455 inhabitants (2020). A coal mining town, the settlement is almost entirely made up of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. The distance from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg is about 55 km (30 mi) but there are no roads connecting the two settlements. Most contact between the two is by boat, snowmobile, or helicopter.
     
    Basically this scenery is only made up as a large Heliport H....  4 km (2 mi) north of Barentsburg, as the township itself is sadly not represented in the scenery as seen below.
     

     
    Pyramiden (ENPY)
    Pyramiden; literally 'The Pyramid') is an abandoned Soviet coal mining settlement on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard which has become a tourist destination. Founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, Pyramiden was closed in 1998 and has since remained largely abandoned with most of its infrastructure and buildings still in place, the cold climate preserving much of what has been left behind.
    Since 2007, there have been efforts to make it a tourist attraction; the town's hotel was renovated and reopened in 2013. In summer there is a population of six caretakers. Here it is only another Heliport H
     
    At least at Pyramiden you have a custom if abandoned township, all nicely done right on the Sassenfjorden.
     

    __________________
     
    Lighting
    As you spend three months of the year in total darkness in Svalbard. Lighting is important. Thankfully it is very good, even excellent.
     
    At Svalbard lufthavn the approach lighting is nice and bright, which conforms to the X-Plane 12 official standards. Not only do you have excellent tower lights (white and beacon red), but nice dropdown lighting on the buildings. Ramp lighting is absolutely brilliant, bright and effective.
     

     
    Longyearbyen is pretty basic, but still some nice fill lighting. Sadly the cruise ship is not lit up.
     

     
    Seva is obviously basic, but well done. Approach and runway lighting is all very good, highlight is the lit control tower/receiving building, the town is mostly just street lighting, as they usually are in these remote places.
     

     
    Ny-Ålesund is pretty similar to Seva, nice (with RAIL lighting?) approach and runway lights, lit apron area, and a nicely lit township...  highlight here is the red lit receiving dish...  glows nicely in the dark!
     

     
    Barentsburg has the Hangars and buildings lit, but Pyramiden is completely dark, and neither Heliports have any Pad lighting?...   pretty basic.
     

    __________________
     
    Seasons
    Like Faroe, you get all the seasons up here, X-Plane 12 has of course seasons. For X-Plane 11 you get the two different seasons in summer and a white winter in provided textures (Generic Mod Enabler). It's an odd feeling though... In reality there is the nice summer season which is seen mostly here throughout the review (June), But move only to October and your already in the snow and ice, you can't really see the full winter experience because it's hidden away in the dark? This is mid-September...  a little more snow.
     

     
    Move to mid-October and the light is already fading, now with more thicker snow and ice coverage that highlights the valleys... 
     

     
    Fly here to Svalbard anytime between March to October and then vary the dates around, and every flight will reveal a totally different feel, light and snow coverage....  Then fly around these huge islands for some extreme scenic vistas, there is so much to explore and discover.
     
    A bit of trivia...  the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, is a secure facility built into the side of a mountain on Spitsbergen. This amazing project is built into the side of a mountain and is intended to safeguard the seeds of the world’s food plants in the event of a global crisis. The site was chosen for its cold conditions and permafrost deep in an old mine, which would help preserve the seeds in the event the vault’s cooling systems failed. Construction began in June 2006, and the vault was ceremonially opened with its first consignment of seeds on February 26, 2008. It is positioned just south of Longyearbyen just behind Svalbard lufthavn, a dot in this huge landscape, I don't know if Maps2Xplane modeled it, but it is worth a look and see where real seed bank is situated.
     

     
    These sceneries are what you call scenic vistas, but there is a realistic side to them as well. Svalbard has both, an exciting destination, with a lot of square mile exploration... 
     

     
    Summary
    Svalbard is a set of islands, a Norwegian archipelago positioned high in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe. it lies about midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole (500 miles). It is quite a bleak but exotic place that has three months of darkness in winter, and a Midnight Sun in Summer.
     
    The scenery comes from the same team that created still the best overall scenic scenery in the Faroe Islands in the X-Plane Simulator, called Faroe Islands XP by Maps2Xplane. This scenery is an absolute personal favorite of mine. Maps2Xplane also did Seychelles XP, so Maps2Xplane specialise in photo realistic landscapes, perfect for these sort of highly scenic sceneries.
     
    In the X-Plane Simulator anything north 73/74th lines of latitude is not available in X-Plane. So this scenery provides a complete set of photo realistic textures covering an area of 61000km² of high resolution mesh, that creates a full landscape of detailed coast lines and the shapes of glaciers, a landscape that comprehensively fills out this remote territory.
     
    Like Faroe XP this is exceptional scenery and visually amazing, highly realistic, it covers the main airport Svalbard lufthavn, Longyear (ENSB), single runway Svea (ENSA), Ny Alesund (ENAS) and two heliports in Barentsburg (ENBA) and Pyramiden (ENPY).
     
    All the settlements are well represented except the township of Barentsburg, where's there is only the Heliport...  Svalbard lufthavn is exceptional with terminal interior and great lighting. Seasonal textures are provided, built in with X-Plane 12 and winter textures for X-Plane 11, used with the Generic Mod Enabler. Other extras include a custom Lufttransport livery for the Carenado B200.
     
    Granted Svalbard XP is not cheap for a scenery, but if you loved Faroe Islands XP, then you will know what a brilliant investment this scenery will be, it delivers in every area, scenic, incredible scenes to absorb, challenging flying with low light and extreme Arctic conditions, plus a huge massive area to explore...  if you want the best in scenery then Svalbard XP is at the top, literally at the of the world and quality scenery.
    __________________
     

     
    Yes! Svalbard XP by Aerosoft - Maps2XPlane is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    Svalbard XP
    Price Is US$38.99
     
    Requirements:
    X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11
    Windows, Mac or Linux 4GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.6 Gb (Using Aerosoft One) Current Version: 12 (June 23rd 2023)   Installation and documents:
    Installation of Faroe Islands XP  is done through Aerosoft one installer:
    Aerosoft One Universal Svalbard XP is download of 2.6Gb download. There are seven folders as part of the installation;
    Svalbard4XPlane - MESH Svalbard4XPlane - XTRA Svalbard4XPlane - ENAS Svalbard4XPlane - ENBA Svalbard4XPlane - ENPY Svalbard4XPlane - ENSA Svalbard4XPlane - ENSB  
    6.52Gb is installed into your Custom Scenery folder (via designated drive)
     
    There are options with the scenery
    Supplied X-Plane 11 Winter Mesh Custom livery for the Carenado B200. Documents
    There is a supplied manual in both English and German. Also provided is a png Map with airport locations
    Manual_Svalbard_XP_de-en.pdf Map_Svalbard_XP_de-en.png __________________
      Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - ENGM - Airport Oslo XP by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$24.95
    -Boeing 737-800X (ZIBO mod)- Free
    __________________
     
    Scenery Review by Stephen Dutton
    30th June 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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) All Rights Reserved
     

  9. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from snagar in Aircraft Review : BN-2A Islander XP12 by Thranda Design   
    Aircraft Review : BN-2A Islander XP12 by Thranda Design
     
    Britten-Norman was formed in 1953 for the purpose of converting and operating agricultural aircraft on the Isle of Wright in the Southern United Kingdom. John Britten and Desmond Norman or the BN of the title, had observed the rapid growth of the commuter airline sector, and concluded that capacity was of a higher value to these operators than either range or cruising speed. On 13 June 1965, the first prototype BN-2 Islander conducted its maiden flight. It was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce/Continental IO-360B piston engines; only four days later, the prototype aircraft appeared at the Paris Air Show. The IO-360B engines were later replaced by more powerful Lycoming O-540-E engines, which were located further outboard on the wings, for superior single-engine climb performance.
     
    The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with a rectangular fuselage and two wing-mounted engines; early aircraft were equipped with a pair of piston engines while later production models may be alternatively fitted with turboprop engines in their place. The rectangular cross section fuselage, which is furnished with a conventional tail unit and fixed tricycle landing gear, can accommodate a single pilot and up to nine passengers in a commuter configuration, or operate in a mixed cargo/passenger capacity.
     
    The X-Plane Simulator is no stranger to the talents of one of it's premier developers, Daniel Klaue. Klaue has been at the forefront of X-Plane aircraft development now for over a decade, first with his own designs, then as custodian involved with Carenado, that the partnership produced over 50 aircraft for X-Plane version 10/11. Then Daniel formed his own development house...   Thranda Design, and has since produced some of the most significant aircraft in the X-Plane Simulator. First with Utility and bush aircraft then with three Cessnas in the 208 Grand Caravan, U206G Stationair, and finally the 337 Skymaster earlier this year. This is Thranda Design's latest release in the BN-2A Islander for X-Plane 12, and to note there will be no X-Plane 11 version of the aircraft. Being a Thranda design, features and quality abound including the Dynamic Generation Series or DGS, feature this is a Thranda speciality that takes full advantage of X-Plane's flexibility for in-sim, real-time modifications.
     
    BN-2A Islander XP12
    First let us clear something up. The BN-2A comes for the first time with 8K textures, a huge pixel area 7680 x 4320. Just because it is 8K doesn't mean that you need a 8Gb Graphic Card to run them. 4 Gb VRAM is still recommended as Minimum. And 8 Gb+ VRAM is however recommended as normal. But like with the earlier Thranda releases, they had more than one 4K texture size, sometimes two 4K textures to fill in the same 8K area. So in reality you are only using the 8K to fill the same gap of the two 4K set of textures before. So Graphic Card size is not the issue, if you can run your current Thranda aircraft with your current graphic card size, then the BN-2A will be exactly the same, in fact even a bit more efficient in that it only has to load in the one texture sheet, rather than the old 2(K)or 4(K) texture sheets.
     
    The Islander is a utility aircraft. Its nothing flash, not fast but can carry ten (including the pilot). This makes it perfect for inter-island transfers, even close spoke and hub operations...  it's primary job ferrying people to and thro, an AirTaxi.
     
    It's sixties design is very evident, even boxy, but I have a soft spot for Islanders, in their shape and design... I'm English after all.
     

     
    Detail and detailing is of course superb...  It's a Thranda of course. Notable is what you pay for. If you pay more you get that extra detail, the minute intricate detailing, but the Thranda BN-2A is only priced around sub-$35, so the payoff here is that your extreme detailing at a value price.
     
    Modeling in shape, panel design and fit is faultless. You see every panel, rivets and area (fuselage) strengthening, and it is all there in absolute superb detail.
     

     
    Note most door/access doors are external hinges, and all have been well and individually created for authenticity. The detail around the inboard trailing edge is exceptional, notable also are all the rain gutters (rear left doors). Although the aircraft is quite simple in design, the detail is exceptional here, note again the horizontal stabilizer and rudder trims. Overall it is quite impressive.
     

     
    It's a lovely wing...  again nothing flashy in design, but note the lovely sweet upturn at the rear of the tip. Yes it is all very professionally skillfully modeled.
     

     
    Underside is excellent with aileron balance weights, air pressure probes, flap tracks and fairings
     

     
    The BN-2A comes with two Lycoming O-540-E4C5 engines, pushing out 194 kW/260 HP per engine at 2,700 RPM. There is the 250-B17C turboprop engines configuration rated at 320 shp, and known as the BN-2T, but here we have the earlier more basic installation.
     
    And boy is the engine installation nice to look at, magnificent! Highlights are cowling shape, under extra cooling snout, chrome spinners and a fully detailed front view of the Lycoming O-540-E4C5...  rear are the excellent twin exhausts and air-breathing pipe. I really like the chrome cowling catches, they are some really nice detailing and highly visible from the cabin.
     

     
    Propellers are 2-Blade Hartzell, but some 2A's can use a STC 4-Blade conversion... the feathering (animated) detail is excellent.
     

     
    The undercarriage is very, very basic and utilitarian. Single nose wheel and long fairings on the twin-wheeled main gear was used to save on weight, personally I love this configuration that give the aircraft a sort of "Bird of Prey" look from a lot of angles, certainly from the head on orientation.
     

     
    Wheel and tyre detail is simply excellent, worn, tired, rusted... these wheels has seen many a wet salty runway (or even a beach up here in Scotland). Thranda has got the look and feel of the wheels perfect.
     
    Glass is another area of perfection. Deep thickness, beautifully reflective and tinted a dark green. Yes you can turn off the reflections if required. Note the smaller opening (actually quite large) access window built into the main front door window.
     

     
    Externally you can't fault this Thranda Islander, it is a perfect reproduction of the real aircraft.
     
    Basically the Islander has an odd door configuation. There is a door for the pilot (left), a door for the co-pilot and second/third row passengers (right), and a third door left rear for the rear-back seating in the aircraft. There is a large baggage hold door (but no cargo door) far rear left.
     

     
    In the cabin there are six individual seats (chairs) and a wide rear bench seat. Oddly the seating colour is a bright white? with nice dark blue tartan cloth inserts... why odd? Because this is a hard working utility aircraft, clean white is not going to last very long in this wear and tear environment is it...  it looks very nice, but also a little out of place. If you are not crazy about this all white seating, there is already a tan-brown seat/carpet option on the X-Plane.Org; Thranda Islander Tan Interior 1.0.0 and others in dark/red/wood instrument panel/seat options.
     

     
    But I really like them, I like the colour scheme a lot, it is distinctively different, but still nice. Cabin sides are grey with a dark blue piping separator.
     

     
    The roof lining is masterful, rippled and brown with lovely chrome screws, mid-way down is a passenger sign, works as well...  there is a large rear baggage area but we will look at that in a few moments.
     

     
    Instrument panel
    It is a crowded instrument panel, but also like the aircraft utilitarian. The Standard Six instruments are mounted separately on their own panel, of which I really like. Panel facia colour is a dark blue. Glareshield (not much overhang though) has a mottled vinyl surface, with a nicely done inserted avionics heat vent
     

     
    Yokes are nicely worn with use, and only a single red PTT button. The authentic Brittan-Norman logo is set centre. You can hide either yoke independently, so hide one or both...  nice.
     

     
    Deep down in the footwells are the lovely chrome rudder pedals. The Toe-Brakes work independently from the moving rudder movement, and note the hydraulic containers on each brake pedal.
     

     
    Power on and the panel looks excellent. Usually we have an instrument description, but this is a Thranda DGS Series aircraft and it comes with a "Dynamic Panel", so we will cover the instruments in the menus.
     

     
    Lower left is the PS-Engineering PM1200 audio panel, then the Heater/De-Icing (Services) and "Lighting" and "Electrics" switchgear with Panel lighting adjutment and BAT (Battery) switch. Lower right is a working (active) Circuit Breaker (fuse) panel.
     

     
    Centre is the throttle quadrant, usual (Twin) Throttle, Propeller and Mixture levers, with the pitch trim wheel oddly on the right hand side of the quadrant and away from the pilot.
     

     
    Over your head there is a lot of instruments/switches in the headliner...  Far left headliner are the Cabin Temps/Air controls, directly overhead are the four (two per engine) Magneto switches, with the "Port" (PORT) and "Starboard" (STBO) engine starter switch set middle. Note the large inset "spotlight" on the switchgear. Right is the Flap (UP-TO.-DOWN) indicator, with the Fuel Pump switch. Right side headliner are the two "Tip" tank fuel gauges.
     

     
    Central headiner/roof is basically the Fuel system. Both main Fuel gauges are front and centre with 65 US Gallons per main tank (Tip tanks are 29.5 US Gallons per tank) for a total fuel capacity of 190 US Gallons (1,140lbs,517.1kg). The switches below select between the main and tip tank reserves. You can select (or cross wing) to select from the other main tanks via the large Red and Green knobs. Top roof is the rudder trim knob and indicator. There is also a hanging Whiskey Compass in the pilot's eye-line left window.
     
    Instrument/Cabin lighting
    There is only one (single) large knob to adjust the instrument lighting, but there is also the option of "Lighting Posts" that create an added illumination of the instruments, which is very nice.
     

     
    There is the mentioned headlining switch illumination spotlight (very nice), and all the upper instruments are nice lit for use...
     

     
    ...   in the cabin headliner there are ten seating spotlights, all can be adjusted (rotated) to shine the light were you want, there are also two baggage area lights as well. Notable is there is the setting to turn all ON or all OFF with the internal lighting, which is a time saver.
     

     
    Menu
    Thranda's Menus are very feature rich and highly detailed. There is a popout TAB under the arrow, that can be (mouse) scrolled to hide it, that is if you don't like these sort of items crowding your screen (I don't). The Menu system includes the "Dynamic Generation Series" or DGS, a Thranda speciality feature that takes full advantage of X-Plane's flexibility for in-sim, real-time modifications.
     

     
    As noted the "Menu" Tab (arrow) is far left middle of your screen, this will activate the Pop-Out Menu... The Menu has seven menu tabs in; GENERAL, LIVERY, WEIGHT/BAL, CAMERA, AUDIO/SLEW, PANEL and MISC (Miscellaneous). Basically it is the Thranda default menu.
     
    Menu - General
    The menu "General" sections covers quite a lot of options, the layout is highly detailed and very comprehensive.
     

     
    General menu selections cover; Electric Tug, Window and Instrument Panel Reflections on/off, Startup Running on/off, GPU on/off, Chocks and Brakes on/off. Note there is no "Cargopod" option with the BN-2A, a usual default feature.
     

     
    Three selections placed right cover group items, but any one item can be also accessed via "Click Spots" and can be individually selected or hidden via the aircraft graphic. "ALL COVERS" will select engine inlet/outlet covers and pitot covers, "ALL TIE-DOWNS" for rear fuselage and wing tie-downs and "ALL DOORS" for both the cockpit door and rear cabin doors. All EXT - External Lights can be switched on and off as can the ALL INT - Internal lights.
     
    The "Electric Tug" that can be used to move the aircraft around on the ground via your joystick (left,right-forward,backwards). Static Items include Engine Inlet covers, Pitot covers and Tie-Downs.
     
    There is built in "Checklist" (lower right menu, arrowed), and very good it is. But also again changed back to a simple black on white graphic (no cross-off line colours).
     

     
    You can have checklist pop-up, or in a window mode, and thankfully move the checklist pad around, and scale it even from the very small to the very large. The two lower arrows give navigation around the checklist pages. The action detail and hints in the lists are simply excellent and the checklist is fully detailed from Pre-Flight to Shutdown.
     
    Menu - Liveries
    Second Menu option is "Liveries", there are two options here with the first being "PAINTED LIVERIES". There are altogether 10 liveries or two blank and eight designs, and all are of extremely high quality and creative flare with the package. Oddly there is no Thranda house as default on the BN-2A?
     

     
    Two of the liveries are noted as "DynamicLiveryResources" and "ZZTEMPLATELIVERY", these are the current selected "Dynamic Liveries".
     
    Dynamic Liveries
    Not happy with any of those designs, then why not create your own livery! 
     

     
    With their earlier releases of their Kodiak and with the PC-6, PZL-104 and Caravan. Then Thranda introduced a clever feature of a way to design your own livery. This is done by switching from PAINTED LIVERIES to DYNAMIC LIVERIES top.
     
    Two liveries are "Dynamic" in resources (White)...  another New feature is the (Quick) selection of Dirt (Ext) Externally, Scratches and Dirt (Int) Internally. Via three percentage selections you can adjust the amount of Dirt, Scratches and Dirt Int on the aircraft (0%-255%) and apply it instantly.So you can have either a pristine or a very grubby aircraft with just a twirl of the numbers. This can be applied to any of the liveries.
     

     
    You have a menu to select on the right that can colour a certain part of the aircraft, like the Roof, Wing, Tail or Wing tips. Select which one you want and then adjust the RGB colours for that certain area, and the selected colour (here green) is shown in the square.
     

     
    it looks hard but you can easily design a very nice livery in about twenty minutes...  the selections of Dirt (Ext), Scratches and Dirt (Int). Metal(ness) and surface Rough(ness) can also be added or adjusted as seen earlier...
     

     
    When done you can "SAVE" or ADD the livery and then "APPLY" it to the aircraft. The conversion takes a few minutes (arrowed below), but the results are excellent and in your own design... 
     

     
    There are already 30 preselected selections in their various designs, all are very good, and like noted you can add in your own version to the list. New to the Dynamic Livery application is ERA options in "Modern' or "Classic"....  of course personal taste is optional...
     
    Menu - Weight/Bal
    The Islander also has a great Weight and Balance menu.
     

     
    Lbs and Kgs which can be selected and changed via the toggle...  Lbs In Green, and Kgs in Blue.
     

     
    There is the choice selection of all seats, four seats (front) and the large bench in the rear. Selection is via an X on the box for that seat that you want to remove from the rear cabin.
     

     
    Fuel can be added and the amounts are then shown and are adjustable as well in the menu (above)... both Main and Tip Tanks are available. Pilot, passengers and cargo can all be set for individual weights all selected via a scrollwheel...  and then all of the CofG (Centre of Gravity) parameters are all shown on a graph, go too far or too heavy and the CofG goes red. When done you can Save the Configuration and then later re-load it, or press Load to add in the set weights.
     

     
    But obviously there is a compromise? If you want a full passenger and baggage load, then you can't have full fuel tanks, as the excess weight takes you over the weight and the CofG limits. For six passengers (with maybe a bag thrown in) then can you have your full tanks and the longer range and not go into the red. You can really pile a lot into the rear cargo/baggage section and all the cargo is of very high quality.
     

     
    Another option is if you hide the cabin chairs, and if the weight is set, it is replaced in same weight as baggage or cargo (containers).
     
    Set the weight in the front seats (pilot and co-pilot), then you get animated pilots in the aircraft, they will also disappear if the electrical power is switched off and chocks added.
     

     
    Menu - Camera
     

     
    There is a camera feature under the menu "Camera" selection. The left side of the panel is the "Walkaround" views, just pick the dot viewpoint you want to see to rotate around the aircraft. To the right is the default views can be selected via a menu, or press the keypad to select the view. The FoV or "Field of View" is adjustable via a slider.
     

     
    Menu - Audio/Slew
    Sound can be adjusted via the sound menu. There are seven slider selections with: Master, Aircraft External, Aircraft Internal, CoPilot, Radios, Environmental and User Interface. One other sound setting is on the Flap panel...  As noted, on the right and left of the panel you get the audio simulation of an active noise canceling headset, which is seen as wearing a headset. Sound quality is beyond excellent as it is a built in audio mixer, so you can individually control the audio channels in real-time and you can adjust the volumes while hearing them play.
     

     
    Slew mode allows you to manually move the aircraft around in a disconnected X-Plane space. It functions by temporarily overriding the various aerodynamic and physical forces on the X-Plane settings, it is to allow the user to reposition the plane as desired. This feature is however highly touchy and it is mostly used with the floats option as used on the Thranda Caravan, Thranda Beaver and PC-6. I doubt that a Float option would come to the BN-2A, so this option is of little use to the aircraft.
     
    Menu - PANEL
    The sixth "PANEL" Tab option allows you to adjust or change the instruments and dials.
     

     
    First feature here is the lighting option we saw before, as you can add or takeaway the panel "Lighting Posts". (hint nice on).
     

     
    Scroll the "Panel Preset" number (arrowed) to see the extra six preset layouts (seven choices in all). Sometimes to restart you have to click to "Apply the Settings" for the GPS units. There are four panel options
     

     
    One panel option give you the Aspen EFD 1000 which is a self-contained multifunction digital display that is divided into a Primary Flight Display (PFD) in the top half, and an Electric Horizontal Situation Indicator (EHSI) in the lower half. As EDF 1000 systems go it is not as highly featured with the GPSS, MAP,  360 and Menu functions all not simulated...  all the lower NAV1/NAV2/GPS selections are however available, as is the TPS (Tapes) see/hide option with the MIN (Minimums) selectable as well. and the PFD can be reversed with the EHSI. The EFD 1000 here can be used with the KFC225 Autopilot. The EFD 1000 PFD pops-out for convenience.
     

     
    Another Dynamic Generation Series or DGS feature is that you can customize the panel to your own personal layout, and it is just as easy. Just select the "3D EDIT PANEL MODE" (arrowed) that gives you access to all of the 53 individual instruments and avionic units...  There some great options including Aspen EFD 1000, S-TEC 55x Autopilot, Angle of Attack gauge and so on...
     

     
    For those that find instruments are not to their liking in say, "I wish I could move those "engine gauges" over past the avionics?", then here you can simply adjust that instrument, or even swap the instruments around the panel to your liking. Here I have moved the ENGINE INSTRUMENTS gauges right over to the right hand side...   because I can. You can even adjust the brightness of the instrument.
     

     
    Optional is to select the type of GPS unit you want GNS 530/430. And there is a special 3d bezel for the insert of a RealityXp GTN 750 unit if you own that add on.
     
    Panel features include; S-Tec Forty Five X (autopilot) and the noted Aspen EFD 1000, KR 87 ADF Radio, Garmin GMA 340, Garmin GTX325 Mode C Transponder, BendixKing IN-182A Weather Radar and the usual GNS 430/530 PS/Nav/Comm units.
     
    When done you can "ADD" (or Duplicate) in a new "Preset", and then "SAVE" that new layout Preset (Preset /6). So basically you can start off with a completely blank instrument panel and then create your own unique or personal instrument layout if you have the time and patience...  and you can have up to or save 14 different instrument layouts. It is however very important to restart X-Plane to lock in the new instrumentation layout before flying.
     

     
    Currently the optional "Panel Background" colour choice is not available on the Islander, like it was on other Thranda DGS systems
     
    Menu - MISC
    The Misc (Miscellaneous) page has four panels that cover Tyres/Tundra, Windows, Pilots, De-Ice Boots and DynaFeel.
     

     
    Available are both Normal and Tundra wheel sizes
     

     
    Side windows come in two options, Flat and Bubble.
     

     
    Pilots can be swapped from male to female, they switch over in duo mode as well.
     

     
    You have the choice of De-Ice boots on the leading edge of wings and the leading edge of the tail, notable is that they are active and work with the X-Plane 12 Ice feature.
     

     
    "DynaFeel" on the lower right is a system that dynamically adjusts the rate at which the controls deflect. It is based on airspeed and how much the control is deflected. This means the controls will feel light and responsive at low speeds and with small deflections, but will get progressively heavier as the airspeed increases.
    ________________
     
    Flying the Britten-Norman Islander 2A
    Basically the Britten-Norman Islander is a Air-Taxi. ferrying people and their baggage to islands or areas of tourism. So the machine is pretty basic, easy to load, easy to configure, and easy to start... honestly you fill the BN-2A up and go, then go again with a new load.
     
    The route today is EGPE (Inverness, Scotland) to EGBP (Sumburgh, Shetland Is). Four passengers and their baggage, plus a little cargo in the rear, so I have removed the rear bench seat to add in the bags more to the centre than in the rear hold. All to go 140nm to the north.
     

     
    Mixture rich (okay just slightly lower than full rich), slight throttle, fuel pump on...  then select the engine (PORT - STBD) to start above your head. After a few rotations the Lycoming O-540-E4C5 fires into life and settles down at a pulsing speed, until I pull it back to idle.
     

     
    Sounds are excellent. Panning around the plane in exterior view and you awesome 3D audio effects, including "blade slapping" sound when view is perpendicular to prop, so the Doppler effect is very convincing to your relative position of the aircraft, the engines can get very loud externally, so you have to dial it back a lot, open the paper window or any of the doors and the external sounds are far more heightened, again quite loud near the front, relative to near spinning props...  but very good it all is.
     

     
    When reviewing the Nimbus BN-2B, there was a strange anomaly, when with the flaps set at UP they were still sitting 2º in the down position?
     

     
    Here in Thranda's case, the flaps sit flush (0º), and only when you set the T.O Flap position do you get the correct 2º down flap. It feels far more normal than the Nimbus version (obviously I checked out that 2º deviation, but couldn't come to a obvious conclusion), but honestly it didn't feel right and the aircraft in the air like it felt it was dragging...
     
    The taxi/landing light, one each wing tip, are not noticeable in the daylight? (I have found all internal and some external lighting is odd in X-Plane 12.05? so I don't think the lighting currently is a developers issue). But it shines fine in low light or the dark.
     

     
    External lighting is very basic, Navigation each wing and a white tail light, a beacon mid-roof, and alternating strobes which are well done.
     
    X-Plane is saying there are Icy conditions and needs carburetor heat, which is set lower pedestal, yes this is Scotland...  but in June? Notable is the effect of using the Carb Heat, for the loss of power to the engines, so use it with consideration on takeoff, and other vital phases of the flight.
     
    You need a fair tuff of power to get the Islander moving, my takeoff weight is 5,287 Lbs, and you feel the weight perfectly as you move, the BN-2A is perfectly balanced as well for taxiing.
     

     
    A noticeable effect is that (all) Thranda aircraft react differently to the X-Plane 12 lighting? In clear bright skies they are fine, but have an overcast sky, then they go very dark, even in areas black or with heavy shadows, I will note no other X-Plane aircraft I have reviewed do this to this heavier extent. As only Thranda aircraft do of because within the way the textures are processed in the Simulator create this effect.
     
    I have always loved the stance of the Islander, that slightly low nose, with the high tail, and two claws for the gear!
     

     
    Power up, the the BN-2A tracks nicely, but you have to be aware of the engine power outputs, if one engine is not pushing out the same torque as the other engine, the Islander will pull quite considerably to the lesser power... most will say that aspect is given, well of course it is, but it is far more noticeable here in the BN-2A, so you have to make sure the power output is very balanced at full power...
     

     
    Nose pitch up, rotation is around 80 knts, when you leave the ground you really feel the weight and drag of the aircraft. Reach for the gear lever and there isn't one, and the hanging gear drag is highly noticeable on the climbout.
     


     
    The BN-2 is not a high performing sports aircraft and it shows that aspect straight away... 860 ft/min (4.37 m/s) at sea level is the maximum rate climb to a service ceiling of 11,300 ft (3,400 m) is not going to win any favours. 500 fpm is the expected climb out, you may get away with 600 fpm, but your weight would have to be light, even then it takes time to get to 3,000 ft. Get the climb rate wrong (too high?) and Islander will tell you with a frightening buffet and warning, so you have to keep the pitch within the right (tight) zone.
     

     
    Could you say the performance is ponderous, it's not slow if that is what I mean, as the BN-2A can get along quite nicely around 120 knts, but don't expect a fast aircraft, because that is not what this aircraft was designed for...
     

     
    I coaxed the BN-2A up to 6,000ft, mostly to avoid the cloud conditions,the Islander hates clouds... it saps performance and it gets rough!
     
    Scotland is falling away, but through the gaps in the clouds it looks marvelous.
     

     
    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 11,000 ft (3,352.8 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).
     
    To get out of the cloud mass, I climb even higher to 8,000ft via 300 fpm, I lose around 10-15 knts of speed for the climb, but it recovers the speed quickly at altitude.
     

     
    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 only two minutes!
     

     
    The BN-2A is a workhorse, pure and simple, a basic aircraft to do mundane tasks easily...  that is what you get here, an easy but very capable machine. The outside wind intensity is affected by slip and AoA. (The more the surface area of the fuselage is hit by oncoming wind, the louder the sounds). And it feels like that if the air (wind) is coming at you at an angle, or as noted you go into low cloud...   it creates an aural immersion sort of feel, thank X-Plane 12 effects for that. As also noted, X-Plane 12 Icing and condensation effects work well here also.
     
    Inside the cabin it's all nice and cosy. Second row passengers get a window view, but the middle rows only get a blank cabin wall. I love flying around these parts on the top of Scotland, the area has loads of remote strips, and large islands including Shetland and Faroe to pick from.
     
        
     
    You can descend a lot faster than climbing, even as fast as 1,200 fpm. But you have to use the throttles to get the best balance between the best forward speed, and your descent rate. It is a very fine zone to get it right, and practise, or familiarity with the Islander will give you the right feel for the getting the descent phase perfect. Below the 3,000ft cloud cover then Shetland pops up on the horizon.
     

     
    Weather conditions can be really challenging up here in the north as well, its June and you still get low cloud and blustery conditions... 
     

     
    ...   I go parallel to runway to Sumburgh's 09/27 runway at 2,500 ft, and pass Sumburgh Head to my left. 90º then another 90º turn puts us directly on the beam into ILS ISG 108.5. I'm not using the beam (APR) to use it for landing, but only as a navigation aid to line up Rwy 27.  
     

     
    The course deviation indicator (CDI) on the lower HSI can be a little deceptive? It shows the CDI position (alignment) fine, but the course needle maybe wrong, as you need to adjust the course position manually. So you are thinking the situation is wrong, but you are actually on the right line if you had adjusted the runway course angle correctly earlier.
     

     
    Flap adjustment is continuous... meaning you can set really any angle of flap you want, full flap and 70 knts is a great approach speed...  reduce the throttles to 64 knts and you get a nice 200 fpm descent pitch nose down approach...
     

     
    The BN-2A is a great solid platform in these blustery approach conditions that you get you get up here in Shetland, yes you have to work the controls, but the Islander is very predictable to fly, even a lot of fun to test your skills.
     
    Drop under the 60 knts (58 knts) and your primed for landing. The BN-2A is very nose down in feel, so you tend to watch or set your correct flare pitch...  EGPB Rwy 09/27 is a very short (4915ft/1498m) bumpy runway, so you have to get the approach perfectly right, or you will go into the sea on the other end.
     

     
    55 knts and your sinking nicely, then nose (flare) up...  I feel too high? But I keep my nerve and let the Islander sink naturally...
     

     
    ...  it is a nice touchdown around 50 knts just beyond the keys, my fears of stopping (the water!) were unfounded. The BN-2A rubbed off the speed (drag) very, very quickly as the aircraft has very high STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) capabilities.
     

     
    The Islander is a very natural aircraft to fly, you can throw it around with ease, and it will take the punishment...  I flew the BN-2A straight back to Inverness, and was very comfortable with it on the return route...  again Thranda have created a real gem of an aircraft.
     

     
    So the question is which is the best Islander?  Thranda or Nimbus? Well both have their pros and cons, the Nimbus has great effects (wagging tail!) and is very well modeled, but I think performance wise it is not as good as the Thranda. The Thranda BN-2A also has a lot, lot more features (DGS) and far, far better sounds, and all round it is a more solid design.
     
    Want to try skilled flight in the BN-2A, then try this one from EDWS (Norddeich) to EDWJ (Juist) in X-Plane 12... great video, and the type of services the Islander does best. Britten-Norman BN2 - Island Hopping in Germany | day trip from Norddeich to Juist
    _____________
    Summary
    The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a British light utility aircraft and regional airliner designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. Still in production, the Islander is one of the best-selling commercial aircraft types produced in Europe. Although designed in the 1960s, over 750 are still in service with commercial operators around the world. The aircraft is a light transport with over 30 military aviation operators around the world.
     
    Thranda Design are one of the best developers in X-Plane, their history and quality is legendary. So that quality build and detailing is always going to be significant from the start, and so it is again here... exceptional. In every area and detail, modeling, fine details, glass and the interior materials.
     
    Menus are also excellent with menu tabs in; GENERAL, LIVERY, WEIGHT/BAL, CAMERA, AUDIO/SLEW, PANEL and MISC (Miscellaneous), that covers all the options and including sound, weights and balances also including graphs, walk-around and camera options and general static elements including chocks, tundra tyres, pitot covers and tie-downs. Settings include pilot/passenger weights, baggage weight and visually placed bags, cargo in the rear of the aircraft and in the large baggage area.
     
    Thranda always comes with a high range of clever and unique features to give the user a lot of personal options. Known as "Dynamic Generation Series" or DGS, this is a Thranda speciality feature that takes full advantage of X-Plane's flexibility for in-sim, real-time modifications. Here you can change the actual livery to your own designs, but build the instrument panel to your own liking as well, including options of the Aspen EFD 1000 glass instrument and a special 3d bezel for the insert of a RealityXp GTN 750 unit if you own that add on.
     
    Sounds are excellent with High fidelity, multi-track sounds with smooth, finely tuned transitions, amazing atmospheric effects, different sonic characteristics (with the twin-engine arrangement) and 3D audio effects, including the "blade slapping" sounds and the outside wind intensity is affected by slip and AoA. External sounds are however very high compared to the internal and need to be dialed back.
     
    Minuses are minimal...  lighting externally (taxi/landing) is not good in the daylight (Laminar issue?), aircraft is dark in overcast conditions, and the white seats are a bit odd. Note... 8K textures are used, but have no effect on framerate.
     
    Your first thoughts are that the BN-2A Islander doesn't quite fit into the Thranda fleet. But this is another clever utility aircraft, and it comes with loads of clever features, simply great to fly, so it is actually a perfect addition.
     
    A personal aircraft from my childhood, so the affection for the STOL, low nose - high tail classic aircraft was always going to be a winner for me. But putting emotions aside, this BN Islander is another excellent addition to X-Plane, note it is only an X-Plane 12 aircraft and no X-Plane 11 version will be available, that is okay, as the Islander is a fully complete X-Plane 12 machine inside and out.
     
    Highly Recommended!
    _______________________________
     

     
    Yes! the BN-2A Islander XP12 DGS series by Thranda Design is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: 
     
    BN-2A Islander XP12
    Price is US$39.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12  (not for X-Plane 11) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum. 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.8 GB Current version  1.0 (June 1st 2023)   Special features: True X-Plane 12 Aircraft FULLY configurable 3D instrument panel. Fully VR Compatible Over 50 instruments to choose from! (Including Aspen EFD 1000, and support for RealityXP GTN650 and GTN750) Move any instrument to any location on the panel, or even between pilot and copilot's panel! Comes with 5 panel presets, but can easily be expanded by moving instruments around, using a simple and intuitive interface. Lighting is fully 3D, and dynamically moves along with the instruments, as you configure the panel. Ability to assign a lighting index to individual instruments, to allow different lighting knobs to be assigned on a per-instrument basis. Save your own presets, and even share them with the community! Almost every instrument can be popped up or popped out as a 2D floating window! They can be placed on other monitors as well. Instruments can be moved in 3D directly, on a 2D pop-up preview window, or by numerical entry for precise placement. GNS430 and 530 can be swapped out, but a restart of the plane is required, as 430s and 530s are mutually exclusive in terms of compatibility in X-Plane Dynamic livery editor (like in the Kodiak, the Beaver, the Wilga, the Caravan, the C206, the C337, and the Pilatus PC-6) Full PBR control! Create stunning metallic liveries, or matte, sand-blasted look in mere seconds! Additional control over dirt/scratches, adjustable in real-time to dial in the exact desired amount of wear and tear.   Create "virtual" liveries, based on two basic common design layouts (Modern and Classic), and assign any colour to any available paint segment. Quickly create preview of livery in real-time, using intuitive controls.  Previews include visualization of metallic materials and dirt overlays.  Apply selected livery in real-time, right in the sim, without the need to even touch a 3rd party image editor! Option to change the tail number in real-time, or disable it altogether. (Enter a "space" instead of a callsign number to create a blank tail number.) Easily and quickly create dozens of paint schemes in-sim! Also includes 8 traditionally painted liveries, all visible in a convenient pre-selection preview window. Ability to swap pilot/co-pilot figures Uses SkunkCrafts Updater.  Option to participate in Beta program, via checkbox in SkunkCrafts Updater.  Excellent 8k hi-res textures with realistic PBR materials, featuring true-to-life plate deformation and to-the-rivet precision. Windshield ice and rain effects Individual functional circuit breakers. Feature-rich elegant fly-out menu with the following features: Electric tug, with in-panel controls to move forward/backward at the desired speed, and steer proportionally Control over chocks, individual tie-downs, covers, internal lights, external lights, etc. Option to enable/disable Cargo Pod, with realistically simulated weight, momentum, rotational inertia, and drag characteristics. Option to start up running (all systems ready), or cold-and-dark, for realistic startup procedures, directly from this fly-out menu. Control landing lights, strobes, beacon, and nav lights via fly-out menu Detailed weight and balance manager with visual chart, individual passenger seat weight control, Lbs/KG unit toggle, CG control, external tank control, and the option to save and load configuration. Show or hide individual seats, to create a hybrid passenger/cargo version. When seats are hidden, cargo fills the space when weight is added via the fly-out menu. Multiple camera snap points, above and beyond what's available by default in X-Plane, so you can perform your walk around checks. Adjust your camera's Field of View without having to go to an X-plane menu, allowing for real-time adjustments. Audio mixer: individually control audio channels in real-time, so you can adjust volumes while hearing them play. Slew control: move your plane around the world, temporarily bypassing flight physics.  Includes ground mode and air mode. Dynamic panel control page, with a separate view for the entire panel layout preview, or a per-instrument view, allowing for fine-tuning of instrument position, as well as copy-paste function to quickly replace instruments. DynaFeel panel: Dial in precisely how you wish for the controls to react as a function of speed. Option to swap pilot and co-pilot Optional de-ice system Optional bubble windows Optional tundra tires Flight dynamics and systems: Detailed and accurate flight dynamics and weight and balance, with accurate takeoff, climb, cruise, and landing performance. Tie-downs and chocks actually keep the plane from moving, even in high winds. DynaFeel: controls that simulate how strongly the control surfaces are affected by oncoming air, and how much strength would be needed to overcome these forces.   Advanced FMOD-based sound system: High fidelity, multi-track sounds with smooth, finely tuned transitions (actually having calculated the precise beat frequency for each section, to minimize "muddy" transition sounds), and amazing atmospheric effects. Individual volume control over different aspects of the sound experience, adjustable in real-time (while listening to the sounds) Panning around the plane in exterior view yields awesome 3D audio effects, including "blade slapping" sound when view is perpendicular to prop Far away sounds include aerodynamic interaction effects between engines. Individual buttons and switches in the cockpit each have their own unique sound. Engine has typical cool-down ticking sound, based on engine temperature. Sounds actually give you clues as to what's happening under the hood.   Outside wind intensity is affected by slip and AoA. (The more the surface area of the fuselage is hit by oncoming wind, the louder the sounds) Doors and windows opening, let outside sounds in  
    Installation and documents:  download for the Thranda BN-2A Islander is 2.63Gb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 1.30Gb
     
    Documents supplied are:
    BN2A Manual.pdf BN2A Performance Charts.pdf Thranda Graphics Settings XP11.pdf Thranda Joystick Settings.pdf X-Plane G430 Manual.pdf X-Plane G530 Manual  
    There is a huge amount of Documentation provided here, not only for the Thranda BN-2A, including performance charts, reference guides, but also X-Plane/hardware settings and custom and default avionics.
     
    All updates are via the built-in Skunkcrafts Updater
     
    Design by Thranda Support for the BN-2A Islander ___________
     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    ____________________
     
    Review by Stephen Dutton
    6th June 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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.
     

  10. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Scenery Review : KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim   
    Scenery Review : KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim
     
    My first visit to a StarSim scenery was the impressive KSTL - St. Louis Lambert International Airport for X-Plane 11. This is the followup for StarSim in scenery, this time it is for Philadelphia International Airport or PHL. The scenery is X-Plane 12 compatible (features), but the X-Plane 11 version is included in the package as well.
     
    Philadelphia International Airport is the primary airport serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The airport served 9.8 million passengers annually in 2021, making it the 21st busiest airport in the United States. The airport is located 7 miles (11 km) from the city's downtown area and caters for 22 airlines that offer nearly 500 daily departures to more than 130 destinations worldwide.
     
    The PHL airport has service to cities in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Most of the airport property is in Philadelphia proper. The international terminal and the western end of the airfield are however in Tinicum Township, Delaware County. PHL covers 2,302 acres (932 ha) and has four runways.
     
    Starting in 1925, the Pennsylvania National Guard used the present airport site (known as Hog Island) as a training airfield. The site was dedicated as the "Philadelphia Municipal Airport" by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, but it had no proper terminal building until 1940; airlines used Camden Central Airport in nearby Pennsauken Township, New Jersey. Once Philadelphia's terminal was completed (on the east side of the field) American, Eastern, TWA, and United moved their operations here.
     
    In 1947 and 1950 the airport had runways 4, 9, 12 and 17, all 5,400 feet (1,600 m) or less. In 1956 runway 9 was 7,284 feet (2,220 m); in 1959 it was 9,499 feet (2,895 m) and runway 12 was closed. Not much changed until the early 1970s, when runway 4 was closed and 9R opened with 10,500 feet (3,200 m).
     
    Philadelphia International Airport
    IATA: PHL-ICAO: KPHL-FAA LID: PHL-WMO: 72408

    8/26 - 5,001ft (1,524m) Asphalt
    9L/27R - 9,500ft (2,896m) Asphalt
    9R/27L -12,000ft (3,658m) Asphalt
    17/35 - 6,500ft (1,981m) Asphalt
    Elevation AMSL36 ft / 11 m
     
    KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim
    Philadelphia International Airport sits directly on the Delaware River, situated by one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, as Philadelphia served as the nation's capital until 1800.
     
    PHL distance views on approach are really quite good...  as the autogen is very condensed and frames the airport, the Philadelphia skyline is also nicely framed in the distance.
     

     
    In closer to the field, I like the texture feel in describing the ground, no 3d grass though, but the ground visual detail is very good.
     

     
    The Delaware River frames one side of the airport (X-Plane 12 water), on the opposite side however you can easily see the custom texture join, worse is over the water section as it hasn't been cut out, so the overall view is not very pretty on the eye? Another point is the George C. Platt Memorial Bridge is not represented either, the blue structure should have been highly visible on the Rwy 26/27L/27R approaches on the right, a big omission from StarSim to the area detail.
     

     
    There is the option to use custom mesh (e.g. Alpilotx HD mesh) or ortho-scenery (e.g. VStates) in the same DSF tile. You can do so by using MUXP. The necessary patch file and mesh data are both included in the scenery.
     
    Overall the scenery is well placed and looks very realistic in the X-Plane 12 environment.
     

     
    Philadelphia International Airport has six terminals, and ten concourses with a total of 126 gates. Non pre-cleared international arrivals are processed in Terminal A. American operates Admirals Clubs in Terminal A, the B/C connector and Terminal F. Terminal A also contains a British Airways Galleries Lounge as well as a American Express Centurion Lounge. Terminal D contains a United Club as well as a Delta Sky Club. A USO lounge is located in Terminal E.
     
    The airport layout is Terminal A (left), Terminal B-C, Terminal D-E and Terminal F (upper right), with nine concourses.
     

     
    Terminal A- Terminal A is split into A-West (concourse) and A-East Concourse. Opened in 2003 as the new international terminal, it is now home to American (domestic and international), British Airways, Lufthansa, and Qatar Airways.
     

     
    Admittedly, the StarSim St. Louis Lambert airport was only average in the terminal modeling, it showed. Here at PHL it is a very different story, in fact it doesn't even feel like it is the same developer style, as the terminal design is very, very good...  the glass/windows are all very "shiny, shiny", but overall the layout from StarSim is excellent, I like it all very much.
     
    Concourse A-West is a very unorthodox design for a International pier, slab-sided and not much glass area, but well done here...
     

     
    Concourse A-East is more traditional and probably the most detailed and the most authentic concourse at KPHL. A East was originally the airport's main international terminal, is now used by Aer Lingus and American domestic and international flights as well as international arrivals for Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines. Hence the different look and feel, It looks excellent. The skylounge detail (it isn't a skylounge, but just looks like one) is traditional in style and the standout feature of the terminal. Roof detailing is very good. Glass is see-through and there is a semi-internal fitout, with just seating and mostly placed there for the external view.
     

     
    All gates have SAM3 (Scenery Animation Manager) interaction (plugin required). The airbridge detail is excellent, but no branding except for concourse D (Delta) and E (Southwest).
     

     
    Clutter around the ramps is again far better than St.Louis, and better arranged as well, but there is no ramp activity, or animated moving service vehicles.
     

     
    Landside Terminal A is very detailed, with arrival elements very well done and animated car traffic. Internally there are "basic" check-in areas, custom check points and seating.
     

     
    The Overseas Terminal originally housed all the international airlines at Philadelphia. It was opened in 1973 and the building was a converted hangar. It was later replaced by the Terminal A complex in 1991.
     
    Terminal B/C
    Like Terminal A, Terminal B/C is a twin concourse pier. Terminals B and C have 15 and 14 gates respectively. They are also the two main terminals used by American. They were renovated at a cost of $135 million in 1998, which was designed by DPK&A Architects, LLP. They are connected by a shopping mall and food court named the Philadelphia Marketplace. They are the oldest terminals at PHL, and the original facility was opened way back in 1953.
     

     
    Design wise Concourses B/C are identical...  B Concourse doglegs left and C Concourse doglegs right, as in a mirror.
     

     
    Gate assignments for Terminals B & C are: American / American Eagle - Gates B1-B16 & Gates C17-C31.
     
    StarSim's design is very good, nice modeling and great detail with the well done corrugated panel design, certainly with the detailed patchwork roof. And the internal details can be seen externally through the shiny windows.
     

     
    There is the excellent "Welcome to Philadelphia" signage and the well done SAM long arm airbridge on ramp C17.
     

     
    There is a ramp tower above Concourse B, and the terminal frontage in glass is well presented... but there is this overall feel of a bit of a sterile environment, and not a busy, busy active airport atmosphere, airside is quite dead in this instance.
     

     
    Terminal B/C Landside is excellent, great detail, and the full arrival floor internally is represented.
     

     
    Terminal D
    In reality Terminal D shares the same Terminal building as E (or concourse E) like with Terminal B/C. Terminal D has 16 gates, and it was opened in 1973. The terminal was upgraded in late 2008 with a new concourse connecting to Terminal E while providing combined security, a variety of shops and restaurants and a link between Baggage Claims D and E.
     

     
    Concourse D has a slightly different (darker) window style, and corrugated paneling, but well done here. Note the clocks that are positioned above the airbridges, and yes they actually work...  a great detail.
     
    Terminal D is home to Air Canada, Delta, Spirit, United and Jetblue.
     
    The complex detail between Terminals B/C and D/E is expertly done here, in the amalgamation of building styles, note the flags which are all nicely animated.
     
     
     
    The Terminal has a large dark green glass facade, not as shiny as the earlier facades and so it all works better, the same D (E) Terminal design is also reflected landside, and the detailed (design) is excellent.
     

     
    Terminal E
    Terminal E has 17 gates. It is home to Alaska Airlines (check-in only, departures from D6), Frontier, Spirit, JetBlue (check-in only as of 2022), and Southwest. It opened in 1977. Terminal E houses a USO lounge available for all members of the military and their family.
     

     
    Again you have a different pier style with Concourse E. It has a Semi-Rounded glass end with a circular light atrium above. Roof detail are image textures with 3d objects, but it works in detail. I really like the oversized large gate numbers with "Philadelphia" noted below.
     

     
    Although connected together. Terminal E is separated on the landside. Again the detail is excellent, with internal details and more over shiny windows.
     

     
    Terminal F
    Terminal F has 38 gates. The terminal is a regional terminal used by American Eagle and Contour Airlines flights. It includes special (set lower) jet bridges that allow passengers to board regional jets without walking on the apron. Opened in 2001, Terminal F is the second newest terminal building at PHL. It was designed by Odell Associates, Inc. and The Sheward Partnership. An American Airlines Admirals Club is located above the central food court area of Terminal F.
     

     
    Terminal F is sprawling huge complex, that would have any regional operator drooling at the mouth. I personally love these facilities, and this is a very good one to use here at PHL with any ERJ. Walk-on/Walk-off is excellent as are those usable lower set SAM airbridges.
     

     
    Internal detail is done as well on all the finger piers...
     

     
    Landside arrival is small as the actual terminal in central to the complex, note the huge ramp tower just for this regional aircraft area.
     

     
    Just south, and at the end of the terminal area is a very nicely done American Airlines regional maintenance hangar, very authentic with a tired worn facade.
     

     
    Landside
    Very impressive is landside. Each terminal has it's own designated carpark. Parking garage A-West, Parking garage A-East, Parking Garage B, Parking Garage C and so on...  and each massive carpark facility is well represented here.
     

     
    Detail and complexity of the area is excellent, as a lot of time and effort has been spent here to get the visual effect right, and it works...
     

     
    The Philadelphia Airport Marriott between garages B and C is well represented, as are the excellent car-rental zones for Avis, Budget, dollar, National, Alamo and Hertz car-rental, all are well designed and laid out, there a few photo (car) burn-ins, but overall it is very well done
     

     
    The SEPTA Regional Rail's Airport Line service is also a featured highlight here, as the train is of high-quality modeling and it covers the whole of the scenery in action (in and out of all the airport stations)...  impressed.
     

     
    Notable is that all road traffic signage is also excellent, and all individually created for that particular road sign...
     

     
    Control Tower(s)
    The AA “Hub Control Center” (Control Tower) has a dominating view over PHL airport, it is 22 stories, and 196-foot high. But, this isn’t the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control tower. The FAA occupies a much less impressive tower across the field from this one. Instead, the tallest and largest tower at PHL belongs to American Airlines to coordinate the ramps, so with 70% of the traffic at PHL, American Airlines has quite the say over the airport...   Impressive it is, as the AA Tower detail is really well done, note the rear stair windows.
     

     
    The FAA facility is buried over the other side of PHL field, and yes as you can guess in that the X-Plane "Tower View" is set on the wrong tower!
     

     
    Cargo
    There is a huge sprawling area to the west. It has three major areas in the "Philadelphia Cargo City" facility, "American Airlines Maintenance" and the "International Plaza" complex.
     

     
    Cargo Facilities at PHL are located to the west of Terminal A-West, directly adjacent to the airfield. Buildings C-2 through C8 make up approximately 600,000 square feet of cargo tenant space. Tenants include Southwest Airlines, American Airlines Cargo, United Airlines Cargo, Delta Cargo and FedEx.
     
     
     
    Set behind Cargo City is the large "International Plaza" complex, again very well represented here by StarSim. Further west is the massive American Airline maintenance facility, both buildings and surrounding areas are nicely and highly detailed.
     

     
    Across the field to the south boundary on the Delaware, is another huge cargo complex, this time it is for UPS Parcel Services.
     

     
    To the east, there is a small FBO (Fixed Base Operator) Terminal run by Atlantic Aviation, just really a receiving facility, but recently renovated!
     
    Notable is the missing areas behind the FBO. Here in real life there is a DoubleTree Hilton, Four Points Sheraton, Sheraton Suites hotels, Skychefs facility and another Fuel depot. So this significant blank area is highly noticeable on the eastern side approaches.
     

     
    Ground Textures
    The ground textures are very much like the real surfaces, because they are....  most of the textures are photo based, and it really shows in areas because of all the zaggy lines on the texture surfaces? It is sadly noticeable from the cockpit (cabin) and so not very authentic. In many areas hard lines have been overlayed the photo versions, thankfully this does help with the taxiway/runway context.
     

     
    That said, the photographic elements do make the surfaces look good in detail, and the surface roughness is quite good as well.
     

     
    As noted the in-field grass is photo, and looks really good, but no 3d grass makes it all very flat at ground level, another badly missed opportunity for making the scenery a higher graded environment. The grass edges are also quite noticeable in being all very straight lines.
     

     
    This is X-Plane 12, and so you have all the exciting X-Plane 12 weather features available here at PHL, but sadly they are not available in the X-Plane 11 version that comes with the package.
     
    Wet conditions, standing water, icy conditions and snow are all available, and are all excellent. But note again the straight or curved hard lines of the snow boundaries to the asphalt, not very realistic.
     

     
    Lighting
    I wasn't too impressed with StarSim's St Louis Airport lighting. Here again at Philadelphia it is also a bit on the average side.
     
    Approach and runway lighting is very good, as is the complex road network that surrounds the northern boundary of PHL.
     

     
    There is an over-reliance on small spot lighting in the scenery, so you get both lit and dark areas, right next to each other and no covering light spread.
     

     
    You can get away with small spotlighting with infrastructure areas like Fuel Depots and Carparks, but not for the larger active areas like the landside arrival zones, which are all very, very dark here.
     

     
    Ramp lighting is orangy dull, with not a lot of distance spread, and it is dark down there working at night?
     

     
    In a few areas the lighting does look highly realistic, like the Cargo City entrance, and the International Plaza window lighting is also more realistic as well
     

     
    But a lot of the window lighting still relies on that bland FlightSim grey look, including the Marriott Airport Hotel. Thankfully the logo signage is all very well lit.
     

     
    Car-rental zones are again a highlight, brightly lit, they shine out of the darkness...  that said you could still add in a far more wider coverage area to cover the darker spots.
     

     
    Surrounding road infrastructure looks very nice at night, and the airport needed to balance into that extensive lighting better...
     

     
    Airport navigation signage is fine, but there are no ground reflecting lighting effects from the signs.
     

    _______________
     
    Summary
    Philadelphia International Airport is the primary airport serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The airport is located 7 miles (11 km) from the city's downtown area and caters for 22 airlines that offer nearly 500 daily departures to more than 130 destinations worldwide.
     
    Philadelphia International Airport sits directly on the Delaware River, situated by one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, as Philadelphia served as the nation's capital until 1800.
     
    StarSim's first scenery was the impressive KSTL - St. Louis Lambert International Airport for X-Plane 11. This is the followup scenery for StarSim in Philadelphia International Airport or PHL. This scenery is X-Plane 12 compatible (features), but the X-Plane 11 version is included in the package as well.
     
    Philadelphia International Airport is a massive airport with six terminals, nine concourses with a total of 126 gates, and an extensive cargo area, so this is a substantial project for any developer.
     
    In modeling terms it is great achievement, as each terminal and concourse comes from a different era, hence slightly different style, and so you get a real feel for Philly airport in the scenery, the landside areas are also well done, with all the internal concourse areas visible from the external.
     
    All gates are active with SAM3 (Scenery Animation Manager) including the lo-riser Terminal F regional facility, Long-arm C17 gate and C gates have arrival boards and D gates have working clocks.
     
    West has the extensively detailed Cargo City, American Airlines maintenance and International Plaza complex which are are all represented. Landside is excellent with all the six massive carparks, and central Marriott Hotel included. Car-rental areas are extensively done and the highlight is the finely-modeled and the well animated SEPTA Regional Rail's Airport Line service, the UPS facility and FAA tower are also well done on the south Delware River boundary. Road Signage is custom and excellent.
     
    Minuses, are the average lighting, with too much reliance of spot lights, poor coverage and tone, zaggy image lines and burn-ins in the ground textures. Markedly there is a sterile feel to the ramp areas with no service traffic (plenty of traffic on landside). Poor texture blending (including textures over a lake) on the north scenery boundary...  But my main beef is the missing awareness of the significant blue George C. Platt Memorial Bridge, which is not represented on the eastern approach to the airport, a few fuel depot tanks in the same area would not go amiss in for filling in a deserted Bellwether area on the same 27L-27R and 26 approaches. And the missing significant Hilton, Sheraton hotels and the Skychef facility on the north apron.
     
    Overall this is a significant representation of Philadelphia International Airport from StarSim, a few wobbles, but overall a very worthy and extensive scenery of this expansive scenery, certainly a huge step forward in quality and detail for the developer StarSim, and it all comes across as really great value for the price. Certainly a must have for any U.S. East coast network, and another great scenery addition to X-Plane 12.
     
    Recommended!
    ____________________________
     

     
    Yes! the KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport
    Price is US$24.00
     
    Features: Accurate and highly detailed recreation of PHL Fully modeled interior for all seven terminals High-resolution PBR texturing for ground and objects Animated custom jetways, SEPTA train as well as road and airport traffic Realistic custom Mesh High-quality (3in/7.6cm per pixel) Orthoimagery  Custom road network Accurate 2023 airport layout Optimized for X-Plane 12 and its new features (compatible with X-Plane 11 too)   Requirements
    X-Plane 12 or  X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 3.56 GB Current and Review version : 1.0 (May 19th 2023)   Installation and documents:
    PHL is download of 3.56Gb download. There are three folders as part of the installation;
     
    KPHL Philadelphia 01 - Airport (7.64GB) KPHL Philadelphia 02 - Roads (2.20 Mb) KPHL Philadelphia 03 - Mesh (32.8 Mb)  
    7.65Gb is installed into your Custom Scenery folder, Obviously the "Mesh" has to be installed below the other two folders.
     
    X-Plane 11 compatibility file "Earth nav data" is included for X-Plane 11 conversion
     
    SAM Plugin - Scenery Animation Manager - Suite 3.0 or higher is required for this scenery
     
    Documents
    There is a supplied manual;
    KPHL_Manual.pdf 2 pages for installation and requirements
    ________________________________________
      Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    -none-
    ____________________
     
    Review by Stephen Dutton
    8th June 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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.
     

  11. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : BN-2A Islander XP12 by Thranda Design   
    Aircraft Review : BN-2A Islander XP12 by Thranda Design
     
    Britten-Norman was formed in 1953 for the purpose of converting and operating agricultural aircraft on the Isle of Wright in the Southern United Kingdom. John Britten and Desmond Norman or the BN of the title, had observed the rapid growth of the commuter airline sector, and concluded that capacity was of a higher value to these operators than either range or cruising speed. On 13 June 1965, the first prototype BN-2 Islander conducted its maiden flight. It was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce/Continental IO-360B piston engines; only four days later, the prototype aircraft appeared at the Paris Air Show. The IO-360B engines were later replaced by more powerful Lycoming O-540-E engines, which were located further outboard on the wings, for superior single-engine climb performance.
     
    The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with a rectangular fuselage and two wing-mounted engines; early aircraft were equipped with a pair of piston engines while later production models may be alternatively fitted with turboprop engines in their place. The rectangular cross section fuselage, which is furnished with a conventional tail unit and fixed tricycle landing gear, can accommodate a single pilot and up to nine passengers in a commuter configuration, or operate in a mixed cargo/passenger capacity.
     
    The X-Plane Simulator is no stranger to the talents of one of it's premier developers, Daniel Klaue. Klaue has been at the forefront of X-Plane aircraft development now for over a decade, first with his own designs, then as custodian involved with Carenado, that the partnership produced over 50 aircraft for X-Plane version 10/11. Then Daniel formed his own development house...   Thranda Design, and has since produced some of the most significant aircraft in the X-Plane Simulator. First with Utility and bush aircraft then with three Cessnas in the 208 Grand Caravan, U206G Stationair, and finally the 337 Skymaster earlier this year. This is Thranda Design's latest release in the BN-2A Islander for X-Plane 12, and to note there will be no X-Plane 11 version of the aircraft. Being a Thranda design, features and quality abound including the Dynamic Generation Series or DGS, feature this is a Thranda speciality that takes full advantage of X-Plane's flexibility for in-sim, real-time modifications.
     
    BN-2A Islander XP12
    First let us clear something up. The BN-2A comes for the first time with 8K textures, a huge pixel area 7680 x 4320. Just because it is 8K doesn't mean that you need a 8Gb Graphic Card to run them. 4 Gb VRAM is still recommended as Minimum. And 8 Gb+ VRAM is however recommended as normal. But like with the earlier Thranda releases, they had more than one 4K texture size, sometimes two 4K textures to fill in the same 8K area. So in reality you are only using the 8K to fill the same gap of the two 4K set of textures before. So Graphic Card size is not the issue, if you can run your current Thranda aircraft with your current graphic card size, then the BN-2A will be exactly the same, in fact even a bit more efficient in that it only has to load in the one texture sheet, rather than the old 2(K)or 4(K) texture sheets.
     
    The Islander is a utility aircraft. Its nothing flash, not fast but can carry ten (including the pilot). This makes it perfect for inter-island transfers, even close spoke and hub operations...  it's primary job ferrying people to and thro, an AirTaxi.
     
    It's sixties design is very evident, even boxy, but I have a soft spot for Islanders, in their shape and design... I'm English after all.
     

     
    Detail and detailing is of course superb...  It's a Thranda of course. Notable is what you pay for. If you pay more you get that extra detail, the minute intricate detailing, but the Thranda BN-2A is only priced around sub-$35, so the payoff here is that your extreme detailing at a value price.
     
    Modeling in shape, panel design and fit is faultless. You see every panel, rivets and area (fuselage) strengthening, and it is all there in absolute superb detail.
     

     
    Note most door/access doors are external hinges, and all have been well and individually created for authenticity. The detail around the inboard trailing edge is exceptional, notable also are all the rain gutters (rear left doors). Although the aircraft is quite simple in design, the detail is exceptional here, note again the horizontal stabilizer and rudder trims. Overall it is quite impressive.
     

     
    It's a lovely wing...  again nothing flashy in design, but note the lovely sweet upturn at the rear of the tip. Yes it is all very professionally skillfully modeled.
     

     
    Underside is excellent with aileron balance weights, air pressure probes, flap tracks and fairings
     

     
    The BN-2A comes with two Lycoming O-540-E4C5 engines, pushing out 194 kW/260 HP per engine at 2,700 RPM. There is the 250-B17C turboprop engines configuration rated at 320 shp, and known as the BN-2T, but here we have the earlier more basic installation.
     
    And boy is the engine installation nice to look at, magnificent! Highlights are cowling shape, under extra cooling snout, chrome spinners and a fully detailed front view of the Lycoming O-540-E4C5...  rear are the excellent twin exhausts and air-breathing pipe. I really like the chrome cowling catches, they are some really nice detailing and highly visible from the cabin.
     

     
    Propellers are 2-Blade Hartzell, but some 2A's can use a STC 4-Blade conversion... the feathering (animated) detail is excellent.
     

     
    The undercarriage is very, very basic and utilitarian. Single nose wheel and long fairings on the twin-wheeled main gear was used to save on weight, personally I love this configuration that give the aircraft a sort of "Bird of Prey" look from a lot of angles, certainly from the head on orientation.
     

     
    Wheel and tyre detail is simply excellent, worn, tired, rusted... these wheels has seen many a wet salty runway (or even a beach up here in Scotland). Thranda has got the look and feel of the wheels perfect.
     
    Glass is another area of perfection. Deep thickness, beautifully reflective and tinted a dark green. Yes you can turn off the reflections if required. Note the smaller opening (actually quite large) access window built into the main front door window.
     

     
    Externally you can't fault this Thranda Islander, it is a perfect reproduction of the real aircraft.
     
    Basically the Islander has an odd door configuation. There is a door for the pilot (left), a door for the co-pilot and second/third row passengers (right), and a third door left rear for the rear-back seating in the aircraft. There is a large baggage hold door (but no cargo door) far rear left.
     

     
    In the cabin there are six individual seats (chairs) and a wide rear bench seat. Oddly the seating colour is a bright white? with nice dark blue tartan cloth inserts... why odd? Because this is a hard working utility aircraft, clean white is not going to last very long in this wear and tear environment is it...  it looks very nice, but also a little out of place. If you are not crazy about this all white seating, there is already a tan-brown seat/carpet option on the X-Plane.Org; Thranda Islander Tan Interior 1.0.0 and others in dark/red/wood instrument panel/seat options.
     

     
    But I really like them, I like the colour scheme a lot, it is distinctively different, but still nice. Cabin sides are grey with a dark blue piping separator.
     

     
    The roof lining is masterful, rippled and brown with lovely chrome screws, mid-way down is a passenger sign, works as well...  there is a large rear baggage area but we will look at that in a few moments.
     

     
    Instrument panel
    It is a crowded instrument panel, but also like the aircraft utilitarian. The Standard Six instruments are mounted separately on their own panel, of which I really like. Panel facia colour is a dark blue. Glareshield (not much overhang though) has a mottled vinyl surface, with a nicely done inserted avionics heat vent
     

     
    Yokes are nicely worn with use, and only a single red PTT button. The authentic Brittan-Norman logo is set centre. You can hide either yoke independently, so hide one or both...  nice.
     

     
    Deep down in the footwells are the lovely chrome rudder pedals. The Toe-Brakes work independently from the moving rudder movement, and note the hydraulic containers on each brake pedal.
     

     
    Power on and the panel looks excellent. Usually we have an instrument description, but this is a Thranda DGS Series aircraft and it comes with a "Dynamic Panel", so we will cover the instruments in the menus.
     

     
    Lower left is the PS-Engineering PM1200 audio panel, then the Heater/De-Icing (Services) and "Lighting" and "Electrics" switchgear with Panel lighting adjutment and BAT (Battery) switch. Lower right is a working (active) Circuit Breaker (fuse) panel.
     

     
    Centre is the throttle quadrant, usual (Twin) Throttle, Propeller and Mixture levers, with the pitch trim wheel oddly on the right hand side of the quadrant and away from the pilot.
     

     
    Over your head there is a lot of instruments/switches in the headliner...  Far left headliner are the Cabin Temps/Air controls, directly overhead are the four (two per engine) Magneto switches, with the "Port" (PORT) and "Starboard" (STBO) engine starter switch set middle. Note the large inset "spotlight" on the switchgear. Right is the Flap (UP-TO.-DOWN) indicator, with the Fuel Pump switch. Right side headliner are the two "Tip" tank fuel gauges.
     

     
    Central headiner/roof is basically the Fuel system. Both main Fuel gauges are front and centre with 65 US Gallons per main tank (Tip tanks are 29.5 US Gallons per tank) for a total fuel capacity of 190 US Gallons (1,140lbs,517.1kg). The switches below select between the main and tip tank reserves. You can select (or cross wing) to select from the other main tanks via the large Red and Green knobs. Top roof is the rudder trim knob and indicator. There is also a hanging Whiskey Compass in the pilot's eye-line left window.
     
    Instrument/Cabin lighting
    There is only one (single) large knob to adjust the instrument lighting, but there is also the option of "Lighting Posts" that create an added illumination of the instruments, which is very nice.
     

     
    There is the mentioned headlining switch illumination spotlight (very nice), and all the upper instruments are nice lit for use...
     

     
    ...   in the cabin headliner there are ten seating spotlights, all can be adjusted (rotated) to shine the light were you want, there are also two baggage area lights as well. Notable is there is the setting to turn all ON or all OFF with the internal lighting, which is a time saver.
     

     
    Menu
    Thranda's Menus are very feature rich and highly detailed. There is a popout TAB under the arrow, that can be (mouse) scrolled to hide it, that is if you don't like these sort of items crowding your screen (I don't). The Menu system includes the "Dynamic Generation Series" or DGS, a Thranda speciality feature that takes full advantage of X-Plane's flexibility for in-sim, real-time modifications.
     

     
    As noted the "Menu" Tab (arrow) is far left middle of your screen, this will activate the Pop-Out Menu... The Menu has seven menu tabs in; GENERAL, LIVERY, WEIGHT/BAL, CAMERA, AUDIO/SLEW, PANEL and MISC (Miscellaneous). Basically it is the Thranda default menu.
     
    Menu - General
    The menu "General" sections covers quite a lot of options, the layout is highly detailed and very comprehensive.
     

     
    General menu selections cover; Electric Tug, Window and Instrument Panel Reflections on/off, Startup Running on/off, GPU on/off, Chocks and Brakes on/off. Note there is no "Cargopod" option with the BN-2A, a usual default feature.
     

     
    Three selections placed right cover group items, but any one item can be also accessed via "Click Spots" and can be individually selected or hidden via the aircraft graphic. "ALL COVERS" will select engine inlet/outlet covers and pitot covers, "ALL TIE-DOWNS" for rear fuselage and wing tie-downs and "ALL DOORS" for both the cockpit door and rear cabin doors. All EXT - External Lights can be switched on and off as can the ALL INT - Internal lights.
     
    The "Electric Tug" that can be used to move the aircraft around on the ground via your joystick (left,right-forward,backwards). Static Items include Engine Inlet covers, Pitot covers and Tie-Downs.
     
    There is built in "Checklist" (lower right menu, arrowed), and very good it is. But also again changed back to a simple black on white graphic (no cross-off line colours).
     

     
    You can have checklist pop-up, or in a window mode, and thankfully move the checklist pad around, and scale it even from the very small to the very large. The two lower arrows give navigation around the checklist pages. The action detail and hints in the lists are simply excellent and the checklist is fully detailed from Pre-Flight to Shutdown.
     
    Menu - Liveries
    Second Menu option is "Liveries", there are two options here with the first being "PAINTED LIVERIES". There are altogether 10 liveries or two blank and eight designs, and all are of extremely high quality and creative flare with the package. Oddly there is no Thranda house as default on the BN-2A?
     

     
    Two of the liveries are noted as "DynamicLiveryResources" and "ZZTEMPLATELIVERY", these are the current selected "Dynamic Liveries".
     
    Dynamic Liveries
    Not happy with any of those designs, then why not create your own livery! 
     

     
    With their earlier releases of their Kodiak and with the PC-6, PZL-104 and Caravan. Then Thranda introduced a clever feature of a way to design your own livery. This is done by switching from PAINTED LIVERIES to DYNAMIC LIVERIES top.
     
    Two liveries are "Dynamic" in resources (White)...  another New feature is the (Quick) selection of Dirt (Ext) Externally, Scratches and Dirt (Int) Internally. Via three percentage selections you can adjust the amount of Dirt, Scratches and Dirt Int on the aircraft (0%-255%) and apply it instantly.So you can have either a pristine or a very grubby aircraft with just a twirl of the numbers. This can be applied to any of the liveries.
     

     
    You have a menu to select on the right that can colour a certain part of the aircraft, like the Roof, Wing, Tail or Wing tips. Select which one you want and then adjust the RGB colours for that certain area, and the selected colour (here green) is shown in the square.
     

     
    it looks hard but you can easily design a very nice livery in about twenty minutes...  the selections of Dirt (Ext), Scratches and Dirt (Int). Metal(ness) and surface Rough(ness) can also be added or adjusted as seen earlier...
     

     
    When done you can "SAVE" or ADD the livery and then "APPLY" it to the aircraft. The conversion takes a few minutes (arrowed below), but the results are excellent and in your own design... 
     

     
    There are already 30 preselected selections in their various designs, all are very good, and like noted you can add in your own version to the list. New to the Dynamic Livery application is ERA options in "Modern' or "Classic"....  of course personal taste is optional...
     
    Menu - Weight/Bal
    The Islander also has a great Weight and Balance menu.
     

     
    Lbs and Kgs which can be selected and changed via the toggle...  Lbs In Green, and Kgs in Blue.
     

     
    There is the choice selection of all seats, four seats (front) and the large bench in the rear. Selection is via an X on the box for that seat that you want to remove from the rear cabin.
     

     
    Fuel can be added and the amounts are then shown and are adjustable as well in the menu (above)... both Main and Tip Tanks are available. Pilot, passengers and cargo can all be set for individual weights all selected via a scrollwheel...  and then all of the CofG (Centre of Gravity) parameters are all shown on a graph, go too far or too heavy and the CofG goes red. When done you can Save the Configuration and then later re-load it, or press Load to add in the set weights.
     

     
    But obviously there is a compromise? If you want a full passenger and baggage load, then you can't have full fuel tanks, as the excess weight takes you over the weight and the CofG limits. For six passengers (with maybe a bag thrown in) then can you have your full tanks and the longer range and not go into the red. You can really pile a lot into the rear cargo/baggage section and all the cargo is of very high quality.
     

     
    Another option is if you hide the cabin chairs, and if the weight is set, it is replaced in same weight as baggage or cargo (containers).
     
    Set the weight in the front seats (pilot and co-pilot), then you get animated pilots in the aircraft, they will also disappear if the electrical power is switched off and chocks added.
     

     
    Menu - Camera
     

     
    There is a camera feature under the menu "Camera" selection. The left side of the panel is the "Walkaround" views, just pick the dot viewpoint you want to see to rotate around the aircraft. To the right is the default views can be selected via a menu, or press the keypad to select the view. The FoV or "Field of View" is adjustable via a slider.
     

     
    Menu - Audio/Slew
    Sound can be adjusted via the sound menu. There are seven slider selections with: Master, Aircraft External, Aircraft Internal, CoPilot, Radios, Environmental and User Interface. One other sound setting is on the Flap panel...  As noted, on the right and left of the panel you get the audio simulation of an active noise canceling headset, which is seen as wearing a headset. Sound quality is beyond excellent as it is a built in audio mixer, so you can individually control the audio channels in real-time and you can adjust the volumes while hearing them play.
     

     
    Slew mode allows you to manually move the aircraft around in a disconnected X-Plane space. It functions by temporarily overriding the various aerodynamic and physical forces on the X-Plane settings, it is to allow the user to reposition the plane as desired. This feature is however highly touchy and it is mostly used with the floats option as used on the Thranda Caravan, Thranda Beaver and PC-6. I doubt that a Float option would come to the BN-2A, so this option is of little use to the aircraft.
     
    Menu - PANEL
    The sixth "PANEL" Tab option allows you to adjust or change the instruments and dials.
     

     
    First feature here is the lighting option we saw before, as you can add or takeaway the panel "Lighting Posts". (hint nice on).
     

     
    Scroll the "Panel Preset" number (arrowed) to see the extra six preset layouts (seven choices in all). Sometimes to restart you have to click to "Apply the Settings" for the GPS units. There are four panel options
     

     
    One panel option give you the Aspen EFD 1000 which is a self-contained multifunction digital display that is divided into a Primary Flight Display (PFD) in the top half, and an Electric Horizontal Situation Indicator (EHSI) in the lower half. As EDF 1000 systems go it is not as highly featured with the GPSS, MAP,  360 and Menu functions all not simulated...  all the lower NAV1/NAV2/GPS selections are however available, as is the TPS (Tapes) see/hide option with the MIN (Minimums) selectable as well. and the PFD can be reversed with the EHSI. The EFD 1000 here can be used with the KFC225 Autopilot. The EFD 1000 PFD pops-out for convenience.
     

     
    Another Dynamic Generation Series or DGS feature is that you can customize the panel to your own personal layout, and it is just as easy. Just select the "3D EDIT PANEL MODE" (arrowed) that gives you access to all of the 53 individual instruments and avionic units...  There some great options including Aspen EFD 1000, S-TEC 55x Autopilot, Angle of Attack gauge and so on...
     

     
    For those that find instruments are not to their liking in say, "I wish I could move those "engine gauges" over past the avionics?", then here you can simply adjust that instrument, or even swap the instruments around the panel to your liking. Here I have moved the ENGINE INSTRUMENTS gauges right over to the right hand side...   because I can. You can even adjust the brightness of the instrument.
     

     
    Optional is to select the type of GPS unit you want GNS 530/430. And there is a special 3d bezel for the insert of a RealityXp GTN 750 unit if you own that add on.
     
    Panel features include; S-Tec Forty Five X (autopilot) and the noted Aspen EFD 1000, KR 87 ADF Radio, Garmin GMA 340, Garmin GTX325 Mode C Transponder, BendixKing IN-182A Weather Radar and the usual GNS 430/530 PS/Nav/Comm units.
     
    When done you can "ADD" (or Duplicate) in a new "Preset", and then "SAVE" that new layout Preset (Preset /6). So basically you can start off with a completely blank instrument panel and then create your own unique or personal instrument layout if you have the time and patience...  and you can have up to or save 14 different instrument layouts. It is however very important to restart X-Plane to lock in the new instrumentation layout before flying.
     

     
    Currently the optional "Panel Background" colour choice is not available on the Islander, like it was on other Thranda DGS systems
     
    Menu - MISC
    The Misc (Miscellaneous) page has four panels that cover Tyres/Tundra, Windows, Pilots, De-Ice Boots and DynaFeel.
     

     
    Available are both Normal and Tundra wheel sizes
     

     
    Side windows come in two options, Flat and Bubble.
     

     
    Pilots can be swapped from male to female, they switch over in duo mode as well.
     

     
    You have the choice of De-Ice boots on the leading edge of wings and the leading edge of the tail, notable is that they are active and work with the X-Plane 12 Ice feature.
     

     
    "DynaFeel" on the lower right is a system that dynamically adjusts the rate at which the controls deflect. It is based on airspeed and how much the control is deflected. This means the controls will feel light and responsive at low speeds and with small deflections, but will get progressively heavier as the airspeed increases.
    ________________
     
    Flying the Britten-Norman Islander 2A
    Basically the Britten-Norman Islander is a Air-Taxi. ferrying people and their baggage to islands or areas of tourism. So the machine is pretty basic, easy to load, easy to configure, and easy to start... honestly you fill the BN-2A up and go, then go again with a new load.
     
    The route today is EGPE (Inverness, Scotland) to EGBP (Sumburgh, Shetland Is). Four passengers and their baggage, plus a little cargo in the rear, so I have removed the rear bench seat to add in the bags more to the centre than in the rear hold. All to go 140nm to the north.
     

     
    Mixture rich (okay just slightly lower than full rich), slight throttle, fuel pump on...  then select the engine (PORT - STBD) to start above your head. After a few rotations the Lycoming O-540-E4C5 fires into life and settles down at a pulsing speed, until I pull it back to idle.
     

     
    Sounds are excellent. Panning around the plane in exterior view and you awesome 3D audio effects, including "blade slapping" sound when view is perpendicular to prop, so the Doppler effect is very convincing to your relative position of the aircraft, the engines can get very loud externally, so you have to dial it back a lot, open the paper window or any of the doors and the external sounds are far more heightened, again quite loud near the front, relative to near spinning props...  but very good it all is.
     

     
    When reviewing the Nimbus BN-2B, there was a strange anomaly, when with the flaps set at UP they were still sitting 2º in the down position?
     

     
    Here in Thranda's case, the flaps sit flush (0º), and only when you set the T.O Flap position do you get the correct 2º down flap. It feels far more normal than the Nimbus version (obviously I checked out that 2º deviation, but couldn't come to a obvious conclusion), but honestly it didn't feel right and the aircraft in the air like it felt it was dragging...
     
    The taxi/landing light, one each wing tip, are not noticeable in the daylight? (I have found all internal and some external lighting is odd in X-Plane 12.05? so I don't think the lighting currently is a developers issue). But it shines fine in low light or the dark.
     

     
    External lighting is very basic, Navigation each wing and a white tail light, a beacon mid-roof, and alternating strobes which are well done.
     
    X-Plane is saying there are Icy conditions and needs carburetor heat, which is set lower pedestal, yes this is Scotland...  but in June? Notable is the effect of using the Carb Heat, for the loss of power to the engines, so use it with consideration on takeoff, and other vital phases of the flight.
     
    You need a fair tuff of power to get the Islander moving, my takeoff weight is 5,287 Lbs, and you feel the weight perfectly as you move, the BN-2A is perfectly balanced as well for taxiing.
     

     
    A noticeable effect is that (all) Thranda aircraft react differently to the X-Plane 12 lighting? In clear bright skies they are fine, but have an overcast sky, then they go very dark, even in areas black or with heavy shadows, I will note no other X-Plane aircraft I have reviewed do this to this heavier extent. As only Thranda aircraft do of because within the way the textures are processed in the Simulator create this effect.
     
    I have always loved the stance of the Islander, that slightly low nose, with the high tail, and two claws for the gear!
     

     
    Power up, the the BN-2A tracks nicely, but you have to be aware of the engine power outputs, if one engine is not pushing out the same torque as the other engine, the Islander will pull quite considerably to the lesser power... most will say that aspect is given, well of course it is, but it is far more noticeable here in the BN-2A, so you have to make sure the power output is very balanced at full power...
     

     
    Nose pitch up, rotation is around 80 knts, when you leave the ground you really feel the weight and drag of the aircraft. Reach for the gear lever and there isn't one, and the hanging gear drag is highly noticeable on the climbout.
     


     
    The BN-2 is not a high performing sports aircraft and it shows that aspect straight away... 860 ft/min (4.37 m/s) at sea level is the maximum rate climb to a service ceiling of 11,300 ft (3,400 m) is not going to win any favours. 500 fpm is the expected climb out, you may get away with 600 fpm, but your weight would have to be light, even then it takes time to get to 3,000 ft. Get the climb rate wrong (too high?) and Islander will tell you with a frightening buffet and warning, so you have to keep the pitch within the right (tight) zone.
     

     
    Could you say the performance is ponderous, it's not slow if that is what I mean, as the BN-2A can get along quite nicely around 120 knts, but don't expect a fast aircraft, because that is not what this aircraft was designed for...
     

     
    I coaxed the BN-2A up to 6,000ft, mostly to avoid the cloud conditions,the Islander hates clouds... it saps performance and it gets rough!
     
    Scotland is falling away, but through the gaps in the clouds it looks marvelous.
     

     
    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 11,000 ft (3,352.8 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).
     
    To get out of the cloud mass, I climb even higher to 8,000ft via 300 fpm, I lose around 10-15 knts of speed for the climb, but it recovers the speed quickly at altitude.
     

     
    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 only two minutes!
     

     
    The BN-2A is a workhorse, pure and simple, a basic aircraft to do mundane tasks easily...  that is what you get here, an easy but very capable machine. The outside wind intensity is affected by slip and AoA. (The more the surface area of the fuselage is hit by oncoming wind, the louder the sounds). And it feels like that if the air (wind) is coming at you at an angle, or as noted you go into low cloud...   it creates an aural immersion sort of feel, thank X-Plane 12 effects for that. As also noted, X-Plane 12 Icing and condensation effects work well here also.
     
    Inside the cabin it's all nice and cosy. Second row passengers get a window view, but the middle rows only get a blank cabin wall. I love flying around these parts on the top of Scotland, the area has loads of remote strips, and large islands including Shetland and Faroe to pick from.
     
        
     
    You can descend a lot faster than climbing, even as fast as 1,200 fpm. But you have to use the throttles to get the best balance between the best forward speed, and your descent rate. It is a very fine zone to get it right, and practise, or familiarity with the Islander will give you the right feel for the getting the descent phase perfect. Below the 3,000ft cloud cover then Shetland pops up on the horizon.
     

     
    Weather conditions can be really challenging up here in the north as well, its June and you still get low cloud and blustery conditions... 
     

     
    ...   I go parallel to runway to Sumburgh's 09/27 runway at 2,500 ft, and pass Sumburgh Head to my left. 90º then another 90º turn puts us directly on the beam into ILS ISG 108.5. I'm not using the beam (APR) to use it for landing, but only as a navigation aid to line up Rwy 27.  
     

     
    The course deviation indicator (CDI) on the lower HSI can be a little deceptive? It shows the CDI position (alignment) fine, but the course needle maybe wrong, as you need to adjust the course position manually. So you are thinking the situation is wrong, but you are actually on the right line if you had adjusted the runway course angle correctly earlier.
     

     
    Flap adjustment is continuous... meaning you can set really any angle of flap you want, full flap and 70 knts is a great approach speed...  reduce the throttles to 64 knts and you get a nice 200 fpm descent pitch nose down approach...
     

     
    The BN-2A is a great solid platform in these blustery approach conditions that you get you get up here in Shetland, yes you have to work the controls, but the Islander is very predictable to fly, even a lot of fun to test your skills.
     
    Drop under the 60 knts (58 knts) and your primed for landing. The BN-2A is very nose down in feel, so you tend to watch or set your correct flare pitch...  EGPB Rwy 09/27 is a very short (4915ft/1498m) bumpy runway, so you have to get the approach perfectly right, or you will go into the sea on the other end.
     

     
    55 knts and your sinking nicely, then nose (flare) up...  I feel too high? But I keep my nerve and let the Islander sink naturally...
     

     
    ...  it is a nice touchdown around 50 knts just beyond the keys, my fears of stopping (the water!) were unfounded. The BN-2A rubbed off the speed (drag) very, very quickly as the aircraft has very high STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) capabilities.
     

     
    The Islander is a very natural aircraft to fly, you can throw it around with ease, and it will take the punishment...  I flew the BN-2A straight back to Inverness, and was very comfortable with it on the return route...  again Thranda have created a real gem of an aircraft.
     

     
    So the question is which is the best Islander?  Thranda or Nimbus? Well both have their pros and cons, the Nimbus has great effects (wagging tail!) and is very well modeled, but I think performance wise it is not as good as the Thranda. The Thranda BN-2A also has a lot, lot more features (DGS) and far, far better sounds, and all round it is a more solid design.
     
    Want to try skilled flight in the BN-2A, then try this one from EDWS (Norddeich) to EDWJ (Juist) in X-Plane 12... great video, and the type of services the Islander does best. Britten-Norman BN2 - Island Hopping in Germany | day trip from Norddeich to Juist
    _____________
    Summary
    The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a British light utility aircraft and regional airliner designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. Still in production, the Islander is one of the best-selling commercial aircraft types produced in Europe. Although designed in the 1960s, over 750 are still in service with commercial operators around the world. The aircraft is a light transport with over 30 military aviation operators around the world.
     
    Thranda Design are one of the best developers in X-Plane, their history and quality is legendary. So that quality build and detailing is always going to be significant from the start, and so it is again here... exceptional. In every area and detail, modeling, fine details, glass and the interior materials.
     
    Menus are also excellent with menu tabs in; GENERAL, LIVERY, WEIGHT/BAL, CAMERA, AUDIO/SLEW, PANEL and MISC (Miscellaneous), that covers all the options and including sound, weights and balances also including graphs, walk-around and camera options and general static elements including chocks, tundra tyres, pitot covers and tie-downs. Settings include pilot/passenger weights, baggage weight and visually placed bags, cargo in the rear of the aircraft and in the large baggage area.
     
    Thranda always comes with a high range of clever and unique features to give the user a lot of personal options. Known as "Dynamic Generation Series" or DGS, this is a Thranda speciality feature that takes full advantage of X-Plane's flexibility for in-sim, real-time modifications. Here you can change the actual livery to your own designs, but build the instrument panel to your own liking as well, including options of the Aspen EFD 1000 glass instrument and a special 3d bezel for the insert of a RealityXp GTN 750 unit if you own that add on.
     
    Sounds are excellent with High fidelity, multi-track sounds with smooth, finely tuned transitions, amazing atmospheric effects, different sonic characteristics (with the twin-engine arrangement) and 3D audio effects, including the "blade slapping" sounds and the outside wind intensity is affected by slip and AoA. External sounds are however very high compared to the internal and need to be dialed back.
     
    Minuses are minimal...  lighting externally (taxi/landing) is not good in the daylight (Laminar issue?), aircraft is dark in overcast conditions, and the white seats are a bit odd. Note... 8K textures are used, but have no effect on framerate.
     
    Your first thoughts are that the BN-2A Islander doesn't quite fit into the Thranda fleet. But this is another clever utility aircraft, and it comes with loads of clever features, simply great to fly, so it is actually a perfect addition.
     
    A personal aircraft from my childhood, so the affection for the STOL, low nose - high tail classic aircraft was always going to be a winner for me. But putting emotions aside, this BN Islander is another excellent addition to X-Plane, note it is only an X-Plane 12 aircraft and no X-Plane 11 version will be available, that is okay, as the Islander is a fully complete X-Plane 12 machine inside and out.
     
    Highly Recommended!
    _______________________________
     

     
    Yes! the BN-2A Islander XP12 DGS series by Thranda Design is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: 
     
    BN-2A Islander XP12
    Price is US$39.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12  (not for X-Plane 11) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum. 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.8 GB Current version  1.0 (June 1st 2023)   Special features: True X-Plane 12 Aircraft FULLY configurable 3D instrument panel. Fully VR Compatible Over 50 instruments to choose from! (Including Aspen EFD 1000, and support for RealityXP GTN650 and GTN750) Move any instrument to any location on the panel, or even between pilot and copilot's panel! Comes with 5 panel presets, but can easily be expanded by moving instruments around, using a simple and intuitive interface. Lighting is fully 3D, and dynamically moves along with the instruments, as you configure the panel. Ability to assign a lighting index to individual instruments, to allow different lighting knobs to be assigned on a per-instrument basis. Save your own presets, and even share them with the community! Almost every instrument can be popped up or popped out as a 2D floating window! They can be placed on other monitors as well. Instruments can be moved in 3D directly, on a 2D pop-up preview window, or by numerical entry for precise placement. GNS430 and 530 can be swapped out, but a restart of the plane is required, as 430s and 530s are mutually exclusive in terms of compatibility in X-Plane Dynamic livery editor (like in the Kodiak, the Beaver, the Wilga, the Caravan, the C206, the C337, and the Pilatus PC-6) Full PBR control! Create stunning metallic liveries, or matte, sand-blasted look in mere seconds! Additional control over dirt/scratches, adjustable in real-time to dial in the exact desired amount of wear and tear.   Create "virtual" liveries, based on two basic common design layouts (Modern and Classic), and assign any colour to any available paint segment. Quickly create preview of livery in real-time, using intuitive controls.  Previews include visualization of metallic materials and dirt overlays.  Apply selected livery in real-time, right in the sim, without the need to even touch a 3rd party image editor! Option to change the tail number in real-time, or disable it altogether. (Enter a "space" instead of a callsign number to create a blank tail number.) Easily and quickly create dozens of paint schemes in-sim! Also includes 8 traditionally painted liveries, all visible in a convenient pre-selection preview window. Ability to swap pilot/co-pilot figures Uses SkunkCrafts Updater.  Option to participate in Beta program, via checkbox in SkunkCrafts Updater.  Excellent 8k hi-res textures with realistic PBR materials, featuring true-to-life plate deformation and to-the-rivet precision. Windshield ice and rain effects Individual functional circuit breakers. Feature-rich elegant fly-out menu with the following features: Electric tug, with in-panel controls to move forward/backward at the desired speed, and steer proportionally Control over chocks, individual tie-downs, covers, internal lights, external lights, etc. Option to enable/disable Cargo Pod, with realistically simulated weight, momentum, rotational inertia, and drag characteristics. Option to start up running (all systems ready), or cold-and-dark, for realistic startup procedures, directly from this fly-out menu. Control landing lights, strobes, beacon, and nav lights via fly-out menu Detailed weight and balance manager with visual chart, individual passenger seat weight control, Lbs/KG unit toggle, CG control, external tank control, and the option to save and load configuration. Show or hide individual seats, to create a hybrid passenger/cargo version. When seats are hidden, cargo fills the space when weight is added via the fly-out menu. Multiple camera snap points, above and beyond what's available by default in X-Plane, so you can perform your walk around checks. Adjust your camera's Field of View without having to go to an X-plane menu, allowing for real-time adjustments. Audio mixer: individually control audio channels in real-time, so you can adjust volumes while hearing them play. Slew control: move your plane around the world, temporarily bypassing flight physics.  Includes ground mode and air mode. Dynamic panel control page, with a separate view for the entire panel layout preview, or a per-instrument view, allowing for fine-tuning of instrument position, as well as copy-paste function to quickly replace instruments. DynaFeel panel: Dial in precisely how you wish for the controls to react as a function of speed. Option to swap pilot and co-pilot Optional de-ice system Optional bubble windows Optional tundra tires Flight dynamics and systems: Detailed and accurate flight dynamics and weight and balance, with accurate takeoff, climb, cruise, and landing performance. Tie-downs and chocks actually keep the plane from moving, even in high winds. DynaFeel: controls that simulate how strongly the control surfaces are affected by oncoming air, and how much strength would be needed to overcome these forces.   Advanced FMOD-based sound system: High fidelity, multi-track sounds with smooth, finely tuned transitions (actually having calculated the precise beat frequency for each section, to minimize "muddy" transition sounds), and amazing atmospheric effects. Individual volume control over different aspects of the sound experience, adjustable in real-time (while listening to the sounds) Panning around the plane in exterior view yields awesome 3D audio effects, including "blade slapping" sound when view is perpendicular to prop Far away sounds include aerodynamic interaction effects between engines. Individual buttons and switches in the cockpit each have their own unique sound. Engine has typical cool-down ticking sound, based on engine temperature. Sounds actually give you clues as to what's happening under the hood.   Outside wind intensity is affected by slip and AoA. (The more the surface area of the fuselage is hit by oncoming wind, the louder the sounds) Doors and windows opening, let outside sounds in  
    Installation and documents:  download for the Thranda BN-2A Islander is 2.63Gb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 1.30Gb
     
    Documents supplied are:
    BN2A Manual.pdf BN2A Performance Charts.pdf Thranda Graphics Settings XP11.pdf Thranda Joystick Settings.pdf X-Plane G430 Manual.pdf X-Plane G530 Manual  
    There is a huge amount of Documentation provided here, not only for the Thranda BN-2A, including performance charts, reference guides, but also X-Plane/hardware settings and custom and default avionics.
     
    All updates are via the built-in Skunkcrafts Updater
     
    Design by Thranda Support for the BN-2A Islander ___________
     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    ____________________
     
    Review by Stephen Dutton
    6th June 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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.
     

  12. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Blueb in Behind the Screen : May 2023   
    Behind the Screen : May 2023
     
    Not many review sites expose their inner workings. But I believe (as I have since my first reviews), that to go forward in any concept (in this case an Aircraft Simulator) that it is a learning process. To see how we do and deal with day to day involvement with the simulator, you can then make choices with your interaction with your own simulator. Yes I spend a lot of time per week doing X-Plane simulation...  interaction means accessing new product, keeping the simulator in a good working order (filing and updates), which oddly can be quite time consuming, learning new concepts relating to the simulator, and also learning the details of the aircraft that are being simulated. I went through that review process last month. But on average I am using X-Plane around seven hours a day for six days a week in one capacity or another, which adds up to 42 hours a week, that is a lot of time to be in a simulator, but weirdly I don't yet find it boring or uninteresting, in fact quite the opposite.
     
    So yes the point here with BtheS and most importantly in the reviews is that as a user you can take away information we have learnt and passed on to you, again I believe that yes you want to know the latest information on a new or updated/upgrade releases. But more importantly you take away details that can short cut the learning curve, to getting to the core of the flying or interacting more quickly with the simulator, and most importantly the aircraft.
     
    Yes I admit I do tutorials as part of the review process, I call them "Short Cuts", or the way that you can follow the process to learn how it works in an edited form. For example the release of the FlyJSim Q4XP (Dash Q400) had a brand new style of FMS (Flight Management System) called UNS-1Ew Flight Management System. The concept of the FMS (or user layout) is quite different (in using numbered lines) to program the FMS with Flight (Route) details and Performance elements, plus the added elements that are important like X-FILL or Crossfill between the left and right FMS consoles. It is quite deep in interaction information.
    But here X-PlaneReviews we showed you how to programme the UNS-1 in an edited version. Obviously you can download the official Universal UNS-1 manual and go down in deeper into the "nic nacks" of the UNS-1 system, but to get you airborne and flying the Q4XP as soon as possible, then that tutorial is right there for you to digest. Yes I admit the tutorial adds on a fair bit of length to the review, should the tutorial section even be in a review, and not be set out as a separate tutorial?
     
    I will answer that aspect in that putting the tutorial within the review ACTUALLY it keeps it in context with that aircraft. And in most cases I refer to an older review with inserted tutorials if required from another review. As it also keeps the timeline correct of when in X-Plane that new technology or feature was released for the Simulator. I myself will go back to usually the original release review, to reflect the way to trigger my skills. These are again as mentioned last month my "Oh yes" I remember that aspect now, so it is also a stored information bank to access anytime I want to do an update/upgrade review and get my head back into that particular aircraft's cockpit and idiosyncratic natures.
     
    So it can take time to not only review (assess) a new aircraft, but to context it's new features and even it's impact on the X-Plane Simulator. Yes some releases are extremely exciting, as they do push the boundaries forward, introduce new ideas and features in to the simulator. These elements have to be analyzed and then explained to yourselves of why they are important, and the relevancy to X-Plane and the Simulator as a whole. These aspects are even more important when you have a generational change, like the period we are in now in X-Plane moving from the older (but mature) X-Plane 11 to the more dynamic X-Plane 12.
     
    Time is your biggest factor. Yes it would be wonderful to spend loads of time "Deep Diving" into aircraft systems and performance, but you simply don't have that precious time, as there is always a deadline to adhere to. Another point is that with reviews you can't cover absolutely everything in every aircraft, every single time in each review. We cover or focus mainly on the changes and features of the release, but as some aircraft are totally and noticeable highly detailed, so how do you cover all those elements without getting boring. Worse is that "feature escalation", means a lot of new features and details to cover. Go back only five years, and then look at the releases today to notice the compounding differences between aircraft releases. Reviews were mostly three day affairs, but today a week or even two is required to cover all the detailed points on a high quality, feature rich release.
     
    Which brings us to May...   On average in X-Plane you can expect a major release (meaning completely new) about every two months, or about seven major releases a year, the rest are updates and upgrades to currently released aircraft. (at this point in time there are an abundunce of X-Plane 12 conversions).
    So you might get two in one month, then nothing for three (Usually around the Northern Summer period), then multiple releases one after the other in a few weeks in the Northern Fall period. Obviously this is the nature of the X-Plane beast.
     
    The big release for May 2023 was the E-Jets Family from X-Crafts. This was a significant release because in the state of play, this was in reality the first new release for X-Plane 12. Your going to shake your head there...  as yes, as there already has been loads of committed official X-Plane 12 only configured aircraft released in the months prior. But in reality most had been developed in X-Plane 11 ready for an X-Plane 12 release, the X-Craft's E-Jet is totally an X-Plane 12 creature, it feels that way and the aircraft flies that way as well, so it was a significant release, an important one as it lays down the groundwork of what most major future X-Plane 12 releases will respond to.
     
    I was lucky to get into the "beta" development before release, the bugs were there, but nothing in relation to anything that would affect the review (hardware compatibilities), overall it was a masterful Simulation from some gifted developers.
     
    The X-Crafts E-Jet family has a huge list of features, the Intricate detail was noted as well, and to top it all off the aircraft had a brand new FMS system that needed explaining, and "yes" it would need a tutorial on how to use it. It was to be a big, if huge review with a lot of areas to cover. But that was okay, as I had one thing on my side...  time, or about 10 days.
     
    I did the early flight tests when also working out the new FMS, then started the review, three days in and I was at the tutorial point of explaining the FMS system. This area needs a clear head and focus, ultimate focus, but I still had tons of time (a week to the release date).
     
    Then I got a tickle in my throat, then it turned slightly raw, the next day I had a full blown Flu...  I had worked carefully through all the covid pandemic, but out of simply nowhere I was suddenly really sick, bleary eyed in bed sick... one day, two days, three days...  four days?
     
    Suddenly my world was collapsing, I had the most intricate part of the review to do and I couldn't even focus on my iPhone....  hell? On the fifth day I went to the desk, I worked through the tutorial, I felt totally awful, but I got it done. Now I was faced with only two days until the release and with only half the review ready? I still felt awful but worked on, time had now been squeezed down to nothing, still tons to do and cover to create the review, but you work on, I missed the release date "damn", but got the review completed late the next day, and then collapsed. (Sorry it was late). Aircraft Review : E-Jets Family by X-Crafts
     
    The above timeline shows your life can go from complete perfection to hell in only a day, the most important release of the year and I was completely down and out for the count, yes I was annoyed then, still get annoyed even now, but it's life and there are simply some things you just can't control.
     
    A week later I took a reluctant week off the review desk to have a complete break and recover, it's a bad Flu, around here it is everywhere, but that damn Flu completely dominated (ruined) my month of May... and yes I am finally feeling normal again.
     
    "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry", Robert Burns
     
    Coming up in June is the FlightSimExpo from Houston June 23rd-25th 2023. Laminar Research will hold a booth at the Expo, but no Seminar is currently booked. There will be no Expo analysis, but X-PlaneReviews will be doing an overview of X-Plane 12 from it's early beta release to it's present situation as displayed at the Expo, so look out for that.
     
    X-Plane is also currently very buzzy, and coming into the Northern Summer season that is a really good thing. Mostly we are having a lot of X-Plane 12 conversions released, but unusually also lot of new aircraft being released from developers as well. Notable also is the now huge selection of aircraft already X-Plane 12 configured, so there is a lot of choices already of what to fly in the new simulator version...   happy times!
     
    See you all next month
     
    Stephen Dutton
    1st June 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

  13. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Behind the Screen : May 2023   
    Behind the Screen : May 2023
     
    Not many review sites expose their inner workings. But I believe (as I have since my first reviews), that to go forward in any concept (in this case an Aircraft Simulator) that it is a learning process. To see how we do and deal with day to day involvement with the simulator, you can then make choices with your interaction with your own simulator. Yes I spend a lot of time per week doing X-Plane simulation...  interaction means accessing new product, keeping the simulator in a good working order (filing and updates), which oddly can be quite time consuming, learning new concepts relating to the simulator, and also learning the details of the aircraft that are being simulated. I went through that review process last month. But on average I am using X-Plane around seven hours a day for six days a week in one capacity or another, which adds up to 42 hours a week, that is a lot of time to be in a simulator, but weirdly I don't yet find it boring or uninteresting, in fact quite the opposite.
     
    So yes the point here with BtheS and most importantly in the reviews is that as a user you can take away information we have learnt and passed on to you, again I believe that yes you want to know the latest information on a new or updated/upgrade releases. But more importantly you take away details that can short cut the learning curve, to getting to the core of the flying or interacting more quickly with the simulator, and most importantly the aircraft.
     
    Yes I admit I do tutorials as part of the review process, I call them "Short Cuts", or the way that you can follow the process to learn how it works in an edited form. For example the release of the FlyJSim Q4XP (Dash Q400) had a brand new style of FMS (Flight Management System) called UNS-1Ew Flight Management System. The concept of the FMS (or user layout) is quite different (in using numbered lines) to program the FMS with Flight (Route) details and Performance elements, plus the added elements that are important like X-FILL or Crossfill between the left and right FMS consoles. It is quite deep in interaction information.
    But here X-PlaneReviews we showed you how to programme the UNS-1 in an edited version. Obviously you can download the official Universal UNS-1 manual and go down in deeper into the "nic nacks" of the UNS-1 system, but to get you airborne and flying the Q4XP as soon as possible, then that tutorial is right there for you to digest. Yes I admit the tutorial adds on a fair bit of length to the review, should the tutorial section even be in a review, and not be set out as a separate tutorial?
     
    I will answer that aspect in that putting the tutorial within the review ACTUALLY it keeps it in context with that aircraft. And in most cases I refer to an older review with inserted tutorials if required from another review. As it also keeps the timeline correct of when in X-Plane that new technology or feature was released for the Simulator. I myself will go back to usually the original release review, to reflect the way to trigger my skills. These are again as mentioned last month my "Oh yes" I remember that aspect now, so it is also a stored information bank to access anytime I want to do an update/upgrade review and get my head back into that particular aircraft's cockpit and idiosyncratic natures.
     
    So it can take time to not only review (assess) a new aircraft, but to context it's new features and even it's impact on the X-Plane Simulator. Yes some releases are extremely exciting, as they do push the boundaries forward, introduce new ideas and features in to the simulator. These elements have to be analyzed and then explained to yourselves of why they are important, and the relevancy to X-Plane and the Simulator as a whole. These aspects are even more important when you have a generational change, like the period we are in now in X-Plane moving from the older (but mature) X-Plane 11 to the more dynamic X-Plane 12.
     
    Time is your biggest factor. Yes it would be wonderful to spend loads of time "Deep Diving" into aircraft systems and performance, but you simply don't have that precious time, as there is always a deadline to adhere to. Another point is that with reviews you can't cover absolutely everything in every aircraft, every single time in each review. We cover or focus mainly on the changes and features of the release, but as some aircraft are totally and noticeable highly detailed, so how do you cover all those elements without getting boring. Worse is that "feature escalation", means a lot of new features and details to cover. Go back only five years, and then look at the releases today to notice the compounding differences between aircraft releases. Reviews were mostly three day affairs, but today a week or even two is required to cover all the detailed points on a high quality, feature rich release.
     
    Which brings us to May...   On average in X-Plane you can expect a major release (meaning completely new) about every two months, or about seven major releases a year, the rest are updates and upgrades to currently released aircraft. (at this point in time there are an abundunce of X-Plane 12 conversions).
    So you might get two in one month, then nothing for three (Usually around the Northern Summer period), then multiple releases one after the other in a few weeks in the Northern Fall period. Obviously this is the nature of the X-Plane beast.
     
    The big release for May 2023 was the E-Jets Family from X-Crafts. This was a significant release because in the state of play, this was in reality the first new release for X-Plane 12. Your going to shake your head there...  as yes, as there already has been loads of committed official X-Plane 12 only configured aircraft released in the months prior. But in reality most had been developed in X-Plane 11 ready for an X-Plane 12 release, the X-Craft's E-Jet is totally an X-Plane 12 creature, it feels that way and the aircraft flies that way as well, so it was a significant release, an important one as it lays down the groundwork of what most major future X-Plane 12 releases will respond to.
     
    I was lucky to get into the "beta" development before release, the bugs were there, but nothing in relation to anything that would affect the review (hardware compatibilities), overall it was a masterful Simulation from some gifted developers.
     
    The X-Crafts E-Jet family has a huge list of features, the Intricate detail was noted as well, and to top it all off the aircraft had a brand new FMS system that needed explaining, and "yes" it would need a tutorial on how to use it. It was to be a big, if huge review with a lot of areas to cover. But that was okay, as I had one thing on my side...  time, or about 10 days.
     
    I did the early flight tests when also working out the new FMS, then started the review, three days in and I was at the tutorial point of explaining the FMS system. This area needs a clear head and focus, ultimate focus, but I still had tons of time (a week to the release date).
     
    Then I got a tickle in my throat, then it turned slightly raw, the next day I had a full blown Flu...  I had worked carefully through all the covid pandemic, but out of simply nowhere I was suddenly really sick, bleary eyed in bed sick... one day, two days, three days...  four days?
     
    Suddenly my world was collapsing, I had the most intricate part of the review to do and I couldn't even focus on my iPhone....  hell? On the fifth day I went to the desk, I worked through the tutorial, I felt totally awful, but I got it done. Now I was faced with only two days until the release and with only half the review ready? I still felt awful but worked on, time had now been squeezed down to nothing, still tons to do and cover to create the review, but you work on, I missed the release date "damn", but got the review completed late the next day, and then collapsed. (Sorry it was late). Aircraft Review : E-Jets Family by X-Crafts
     
    The above timeline shows your life can go from complete perfection to hell in only a day, the most important release of the year and I was completely down and out for the count, yes I was annoyed then, still get annoyed even now, but it's life and there are simply some things you just can't control.
     
    A week later I took a reluctant week off the review desk to have a complete break and recover, it's a bad Flu, around here it is everywhere, but that damn Flu completely dominated (ruined) my month of May... and yes I am finally feeling normal again.
     
    "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry", Robert Burns
     
    Coming up in June is the FlightSimExpo from Houston June 23rd-25th 2023. Laminar Research will hold a booth at the Expo, but no Seminar is currently booked. There will be no Expo analysis, but X-PlaneReviews will be doing an overview of X-Plane 12 from it's early beta release to it's present situation as displayed at the Expo, so look out for that.
     
    X-Plane is also currently very buzzy, and coming into the Northern Summer season that is a really good thing. Mostly we are having a lot of X-Plane 12 conversions released, but unusually also lot of new aircraft being released from developers as well. Notable also is the now huge selection of aircraft already X-Plane 12 configured, so there is a lot of choices already of what to fly in the new simulator version...   happy times!
     
    See you all next month
     
    Stephen Dutton
    1st June 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

  14. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in X-PlaneReviews : Traveling and Away   
    X-PlaneReviews : Traveling and Away
     
    There is never a good time to have a break in X-Plane because it is always 24/7 in something coming along, and with all the new releases and updates relating to X-Plane 12. But I will be away for a week from today until Monday 29th May 2023 in taking in some fresh air and traveling.
     
    The site however will not be completely without content as there are some really great release reviews all lined up for you to read and explore and there is some really great stuff coming...  So still check in regularly as you usually do and catch up on those great releases...
     
    Thanks everyone for your commitment to X-PlaneReviews and see you all again next week.
     
    Stephen Dutton
  15. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : Cessna T337G Pressurized Skymaster by Skytouch   
    Aircraft Review : Cessna T337G Pressurized Skymaster by Skytouch
     
    The Cessna 337 Series is well renowned, not for that it is a high-wing Cessna, but for it's odd push-pull configuration, in that it has a combination of forward-mounted tractor (pull) propeller, and backward-mounted (pusher) propeller. In the Cessna 377's case it was two Continental IO-360-C air-cooled flat-six piston engines, 210 hp (160 kW) each, producing a combined 420hp, plus the unique "Twin-Boom" tail arrangement to accommodate the rear (pusher) engine/propeller. Basically the 337 was a standard Cessna forward fuselage, but with a totally different concept at the rear.
     
    Clever, a twin-engined aircraft in a linear configuration, but the aircraft was highly regarded for tactical operations, say Fire Fighting and Search and Rescue, the Cessna O-2 Skymaster (nicknamed "Oscar Deuce") was the military version used for forward air control (FAC) and psychological operations (PSYOPS), again also a primary aircraft for noted reconnaissance, observation (e.g. artillery spotting), border patrol and fishery protection roles. So the aircraft is a unique stable platform with some very distinctive tasks, this made it very popular and altogether 2,993 variants were built between 1963–1982.
     
    Hold on, "haven't we already done a Cessna 337 review already this year?". Well yes X-PlaneReviews has done another 337 review, as earlier in 2023, as Thranda Design released their Cessna 337F Skymaster. So why another one?
     
    Besides the usual X-Plane, when one comes out, then so does another in the simulator's idiosyncratic way, there is also a significant differences between the two aircraft, this is the "G" model, not the Thranda "F" model, and there are big performance differences between the two aircraft. The earlier "F" had the IO-360-C Engine (210 HP), were as this "G" model has the TSIO-360-H Engine, Turbocharged and being a Pressurized 337 version, it was also up-rated to 225 HP. 
     
    Another point to make early is that the High-Quality Thranda is US$10 more than this T337G, of which again the Thranda is low priced for the amount of detail and features you get with that aircraft, this Skytouch T337G is a more simpler aircraft in every area, but it is still a nice Cessna 337 for around the sub-$30 category.
     

     
    First impressions are very favorable, "This is nice", remember this is SkyTouch's first payware developer release, so for a first time effort it is all very splendid.
     
    More Low-Def than Hi-Def, but the work here is very good. Panels are well represented, as is the NRM highlights and appendage, rivet, screw is visually very well accomplished, cockpit/cabin glass is also well done, shaped and nicely tinted.
     

     
    Wing and detail is also nice, the cambered detailing of the wing tips, that defines the chord is there but not as pronounced as the Thranda...  however the detail and shape is good, there are the black simulated "Icing Boots" (required for high altitudes), but no blank leading edge option.
     

     
    The 337 has a split Flap system around the Twin-Booms, and an inner and outer flap. The detail is very good, with the correct aerodynamic panels surrounding the edges of the flaps, not as so beautifully done as the Thranda, but still worthy here. The roof mounted twin VHF roof aerials are distinctive on the C337, as is the large cooling inlet for the buried rear engine. All are nicely represented, but there is no modeled rear engine fuel cap? Small details but important.
     

     
    The twin-booms support the very wide large central horizontal stabiliser, which is huge, with built in elevator and trim tab. Each boom has each internal left and right rudder cables and the right hand boom carries the trim cable, the left boom the elevator cable.
     

     
    I have to be honest in that I'm not at all thrilled at the design of the twin-rudders...  as they don't fit correctly, as there is a wide gap at the lower point, but even in the movement they show they are both not correctly applied to the tail? How could you get that so wrong? The lower tail (plastic) module is shown, but not the same upper tail tip plastic module?
     

     
    Outwardly the landing gear is a simple arrangement, most of the complex mechanism is hidden behind the panels, the nose gear rotates sideways on retraction, and the rear spindly legs also have to contort to fit in the rear bays. A lot of owners take the rear gear doors off, as maintenance wise they are a pain. But the detail of the gear is very good here, with nicely detailed wheel hubs and tyres. Note the brake cable along the arm.
     

     
    The required vortex generators, to create a smoother rear (breakaway) airflow from the aircraft with the powered propeller above are also present.
     
    From the model 377F the aircraft had the split airstair entry door, smaller rear side windows. This complies here, but the lower door animation is locked in with the upper door animation, which is a wasted feature. The split door arrangement was done so the observer could look out of the upper part of the aircraft in flight, even throw items out of the aircraft in say a search and rescue task, but that feature can't be done here? They are both open or closed together...
     

     
    ...   the small rear right side luggage hatch is missing as well.
     
    Look through the door and it is a nice cabin. The 337 cabin is all one big high ceiling box, with that second engine mounted on the rear of the fuselage, the cabin is known to be noisy as well, with the same proximate installation. Seats are basic, meaning old fashioned by today's standards with not much realistic detail, so there is not much realism in the design or colouring, but they match the cabin decor design, again an off brown.
     

     
    Instrument Panel is excellent with a light grey background, and small black highlights... but not the two-tone or wood lower. 
     

     
    The Yokes are the square "Beefy" style, and both (not individually) can be hidden, by pressing the shaft.
     

     
    Lower left is the Electrical panel, note the lower "Cabin Pressure" gauges and settings knob. Twin-engine (front and rear) starter switches and "Cowl Flaps", with AP (Autopilot) panel lower. Central left is the petite gear lever and the large pitch trim wheel. 
     
    Right lower are the Flaps "UP-⅓-⅔-FULL". Cabin Temp, Heater Temp and defrost, on the far right lower is an opening cubby box, with your (AviTab) tablet inside. Above is the ADF panel.
     

     
    The AviTab tablet is small, but very well done in being set on the center of the Yoke on a frame (AviTab plugin is required).
     
    Instruments are clear, consists of main centre the "Standard Six" layout, Airspeed, Horizonal Horizon, Altitude... top row. Turn Coordinator, Heading Indicator, V/S (Vertical Speed)... lower row. Far left OAT/VOLT dial, and right VOR NAV 1, VOR NAV 2 and ADF Pointer.
     

     
    Two areas on the instrument panel are standard 337...  the excellent twin engine gauges with Manifold Pressure and RPM. A Fuel Flow (FF) and EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature). The highlight on this side is the engine dials that show (top row) fuel gauges (two tanks, 46 GAL each), OIL pressure. (lower row) CYL head temp, and OIL temperatures. Other dials cover SUCTION, Outside Air Temperature and a large spare Altimeter.
     
    Avionics stack consists of; standard Radio is based on the Bendix/King KMA 28 TSO radio (but not the official unit). Then both a GNS 530 (upper) and GNS 430 (lower) and again are not authentic (but with Laminar pop-outs), then a KX 165 COM2/NAV2 radio and bottom is a KT-76C Transponder.
     
    Central is the six lever; THROTTLE, PROP and MIXTURE pedestal, which is large and basic in design, with a large yaw (Rudder) trim wheel set below. Far lower is the Autopilot, button control panel, the AP design here is quite basic and far unlike the lovely green glowing version you had the Carenado 337. Note on the far (right wall are the "Door Seal" switches, there are two "Dump" (air) levers right of the pedestal.
     

     
    Left wall has the (non-working) Circuit Breaker (fuses) panel, but the avionics power switch is on here. Side window opens...
     

     
    ...  on the roof are the two main fuel tank switches, and the large window shades work. I'm not going to hide the fact that there are holes all over the cockpit, you can see sky behind the instrument panel and around the doors, gaps around the avionics? small details but they count.
     
    Menu
    The menu is a small three tab affair, activated by the left lower screen tab... the three configurations are; CONFIG (Configuration), WEIGHT and SETTINGS.
     

     
    CONFIG - You can set "Covers & Chocks" in a window shade, chocks and engine (front and rear) covers. But you can't separate any of the elements?
     

     
    Second option is a 300 Lb Cargo Pod underside the fuselage. You can select on (or off) all the external lights individually or use the "All External Lights to ON" setting, final setting is a "Cold & Dark Start'. Upper right corner is the "Checklist", it is basic but well done and can be moved around the screen.
     

     
    WEIGHT - On this tab you can set the 337's weights. Both pilot's and two passenger weights can be set, as also can the "Cargo Pod" (If attached) with bags, and behind the seat with parcels. But there are no final weight or CofG (Centre of Gravity) details or graphs, a requirement on any adjustable weight settings.
     

     
    There is also the choice of six different 3D pilots, both male and female and people of colour.
     

     
    SETTINGS - There are four "Settings" selections. Top is "Smooth Animation", for those who have poor framerate capacity. Second are the "Windows Reflections", which you can turn off, but it also turns off the X-Plane 12 rain feature as well. Then there is a general "Engine Sound Volume", and finally the option in either to use Lbs or Kg in weights.
     

    _______________
    Flying the T377G SkyMaster
    Roof Fuel tanks on, AUX fuel pumps on and up goes the mixture levers...  then you start first the front engine, and then the rear.
     

     
    Sounds are good, I mean really good, the chatter at low-revs then the arrrgh of the power. And you can easily differentiate between the front and rear Continental IO-360-H air-cooled flat-six piston engine sounds, or chatter, important here. This is a 337, so the rear engine has the ability to overheat, so it needs constant fresh air from the nose propeller to keep it within a reasonable temperature range, hence you start the nose engine first, even then you can't sit (or muddle) around all day as the rear engine temperature rises quickly. There are of course the front and rear cowlings, of which would always be open on the ground...
     
    There is no point to point flight route here today, this flight's objective is to see how high I can fly a Cessna. The Ceiling of the T337G is 20,000ft, the usual around 12,500ft non-pressurized. All the engines now warmed up, and off goes the park-brake.
     
    First job is to "Seal" the door, but the wide open gap around the bottom of the door says the developer didn't take the sealing idea seriously? In fact there are holes everywhere, around the glass and even through the dashboard?
     

     
    You don't need to use the rear engine for taxiing, there is enough pull from the front to keep the rear at idle until you get to the runway. The T337G is nice to taxi, and fast too if you want to move on past say the usual 12 knts.
     

     
    Because of the unique engine arrangement and rear fuselage configuration, the rear engine creates instant aerodynamic flow over the huge horizontal stabiliser and elevator, so the pitch feel is there from the word go...  so you have to be aware in the way you use the pitch earlier than usual. On the real 337, the pitch trim is motorised automatically to compensate for the extra elevator pressure loadings, and will work (trim) from the moment you leave the runway. The rear propeller is highly exposed as well... throwing up rocks from the rear wheels can cause grief (in other words expensive repairs), and you have to leave the runway cleanly, or not in a too pitched up angle, in not catching the ground with the propeller sort of skill.
     

     
    But the unique push/pull engine configuration also works for you in not creating any (depending on the power outputs) yaw, as the inline counter-rotating propellers give no directional thrust pull, so there is no asymmetrical thrust or yaw to the power output of the propeller, basically you go straight down the runway with no corrections or slight rudder corrections. I usually bring the front (puller) up to 90% power, tracking centreline I then bring up the rear (pusher) to match it...  it feels like a late Turbo push in your back when the extra power comes in.
     

     
    Powering down the runway you have a lot of forces, that PUSH in your back, and the huge aerodynamic control coming in, a big clean wing and blown horizontal stabiliser give you a lot of feel in the controls early...  slightly pull back on the Yoke at 100 knts (no flap) and your flying.
     
    It's responsive...   and once clear then a 10% pitch to climbout...  you have ton's of power behind you, so the 337 will climb-out very easily, here you have the extra 225 HP per engine, and so you feel the push, Rate of climb is 1,200 ft/min (6.1 m/s), but you can do a 1,000 fpm comfortably... The Thranda 337 detail of the retraction storing of the spindly gear was excellent, here it is just as good, but with the exception for one area. The nosegear twists sideways before retracting, but here the wheel (twists) retracts before the cowling door(s) are fully open, so the wheel cuts through the door itself?
     

     
    The rear gear installing into the bays is however excellent, as the complicated door arrangement opens and the gear furls in by twisting and going up at the same time, great to watch. But with the gear down it produces a climb penalty of a bit over 100 FPM, raising it carries a temporary 240 FPM hit with all the theatrics of the doors being open (did I mention that a lot of owners take the doors off, yes I did).
     

     

     
    Once clear of the runway, I get a feel for the aircraft and trim it out. The 337 is an extremely stable platform, now clean it is easy to trim and cruise at 3,000ft.
     

     
    Sounds are fabulous, with great thrumming from both engines as you power along. Top Speed for the Turbo is 211 kts, with a Cruise Speed of 204 kts, 210 HP standard engines gives you 173 kts at sea level, and 165 kts cruise at 10,000 ft, so the Turbo is significantly more powerful.
     
    I was disappointed in the poor instrument (dial) backlighting, it makes the instruments hard to read? There are "Post" lighting storks as per usual on a 337, but they don't seem to work here either, the two adjustment knobs are hard to use as well, so overall the lighting is disappointing.
     

     
    This is the Pressurized Skymaster, so you have to set the Pressurization on the lower left panel. You need to set the "Cabin Altitude" dial to around 6,000ft to 7,000ft, obviously make sure the cabin is sealed ready as we did earlier. Ready, you then turn on the "PRESSURE" switch to ON. Then start your climb. There is a trick on finding the right power setting (speed) to climb rate, I found 130 knts to 700fpm about ideal up to 12,000ft.
     

     
    And your climbing, if slowly towards the your 20,000ft ceiling...
     

     
    ...  it's weird, because you don't usually fly this high in a General Aviation aircraft, passing through 10,000ft and your up there in the clouds, and the ground is still falling away beneath you. You are used to this view in an airliner, but not in a GA aircraft....
     

     
    12,500ft is the "Death line", no pressurization and you will start to lose oxygen, and the blackness will form. X-Plane simulates this blackout, redout, and hypoxia effect, but you can turn it off on the "MENU/SETTINGs/FLIGHTMODEL/Simulate blackout, redout, and hypoxia effects" tickbox setting. So if you have got your pressurization panel set correctly and switched on, you should be able to continue flying on up higher as the system keeps your environment/cabin set at a lower (7,000ft) comfortable pressure.
     

     
    Your always aware of the "Cabin Altitude" (warning) light, if it comes on you've lost pressurization...  not a good thing.
     

     
    Climbing now through 14,000ft, it's cold up here, and my windows then froze over (so did the wings!). There is an Windshield anti-ice System, and working de-icing boots on the wings, and both (thankfully) worked in clearing the ice from the windows and wings, both important tools to have while flying this high.
     

     
    After 12,500ft you start to lose climbing pitch, you start off around 600fpm, then slip to 400fpm, then as you go though 15,000ft your struggling at 200fpm, the more climb pitch on the AP, the more you lose speed, and so there is a limit or tradeoff in going on up higher....  I chickened out at 16,000ft, my aim was 18,000ft, but it would have taken ages to do that last 2,000ft snail climb.
     

     
    Even to make the 16,000ft climb had taken me 90 nm! "Yikes" that is a long way up...  but at last I could mixture the engines back (a little) and settle into a cruise speed of around 145 knts.
     

     
    But it's an impressive little aircraft, flying this high as a Dash 8 Q400.
     
    Lighting
    There are two instrument panel lighting adjustments, the instrument back-lighting is weak, as in the daytime, it needs more "oomph", there is the glareshield dropdown lighting, it helps, but your still crying out for more brightness to light up the instruments.
     

     
    There is a single overhead forward light, that is not quite strong either, as are the two roof mounted rear seat lights.
     

     
    The AP panel looks nice in the dark, but again you want more colour (green) in the buttons, overall it's all there but not effective.
     

     
    Externally it is quite good. Separate Taxi and Landing lights in the nose, standard Navigation (single white right boom taillight), strobe and a big red beacon again on the right side tail.
     

     
    It was a long way up to 16,000ft, but going down is easy, you just pull back on the power and use the right amount of power to control your descent speed, no need for the pitch AP wheel control, and drop you do, even 2,000ft fpm is easily achieved, but around 600fpm-800fpm is the best option.
     
    This is an X-Plane 12 aircraft (an X-Plane 11 version is part of the package), and X-Plane 12 can throw up great flying vistas, certainly in the late afternoon sun.
     

     
    I'm quickly back around a 337's normal flight altitude of around 10,000ft, I'm heading for Hervey Bay (YXHB) airport, just over World Heritage-listed K'gari island.
     

     
    Trimmed out at 5,000ft and under manual control, this is flying pleasure...  I have always liked the 337, The Carenado version was excellent, the Thranda is great as well, but I like Skytouch version just as well, it is a simpler aircraft than the Thranda 337, and in many ways better for it from a flying aspect.
     

     
    All the X-Plane 12 effects work, we have seen the misting and icing earlier, and the Librain effects are good as well, they stream over the windows quite thickly. HVB - Hervey Bay is hard to pickout, there are no Nav-Aids to help you here, it is all VFR flying, so there is a lot of looking and pointing, then lining up the aircraft to runway Rwy11, your focal point to the approach is HBAWI waypoint, then straight in.
     

     
    Flaps are 4 phase 3 degree movements; UP - 1/2 - 2/3 - FULL, get the speed right and there is simply no ballooning, just slight drop of speed, even down to the FULL setting, the Skymaster will stay calm and collected with no fighting of the aircraft...  critical on approach.
     
    Down goes the gear, noisy, and you need to give the arrangement in transition time to unfurl and set it's self ready in the landing configuration.
     

     
    Over the threshold and your in the 70 knts range, perfectly stable... 
     

     
    ...  60 knts in the flare. The flare has to be perfect, as you are very aware of that rear propeller hanging down. Slight 5º-6º degrees to keep the nosewheel slightly higher than the rears, then let it down. When the rears touch you bring down the nose carefully, the slow landing speed and excellent lift really helps here to get it right.
     

     
    From then on it is just touching the foot brakes to keep the 337 straight, and you can then power down the rear engine to idle.
     

     
    Once parked, you have to De-Pressurize the cabin (yes you could do this earlier below 10,000ft if you wanted to). You dump the air-pressure, via two pull knobs set right of the pedestal, by pulling them and you can hear the air noisily disappear. Then you can unlock the "door seal", to exit the aircraft.
     

     
    Liveries
    There is a blank white + three liveries with the Skymaster 337. All are not particularly creative, your really asking for more liveries for the price, and no USAF O-2A military feels a bit mean.
     

    __________________________
    Summary
    The Cessna 337 is a very unique aircraft in the history of aviation. It is only one of the few created and built in the Push/Pull configuration, or a forward PULL engine and a rear PUSH engine, and a twin-engined aircraft in a linear configuration, to accommodate the rear push engine it has a two boom and twin tail arrangement, with a standard Cessna fuselage and forward engine layout. Yes it's totally unique, but it all works.
     
    X-PlaneReviews has done another 337 review, as earlier in 2023, as Thranda Design released their Cessna 337F Skymaster. However this is the "G" model, not the Thranda "F" model, and there are big performance differences between the two aircraft. The earlier "F" had the IO-360-C Engine (210 HP), were as this "G" model has the TSIO-360-H Engine, Turbocharged and also being a Pressurized 337 version, it was also up-rated to 225 HP. The word "Pressurized" is the point here as the aircraft can fly above the 12,500ft blackout limit to a ceiling of 20,000ft.
     
    This SkyTouch version is not in the same quality wise in the Thranda Hi-Res and feature heavy category, but it is also US$10 cheaper as well, However it is a very decent T337G with a very well and realistic working pressurization system, plus the same for Anti-Ice and working working de-icing boots on the wings. Notable it is also a first release from a the designer, so we will always give a little leeway there.
     
    The Flight Model is based on real data, and you feel the quality of the performance and handling of the 337, sounds are very good as well, as are the few features provide by a menu with a built in checklist.
     
    But for this price range (Sub US$30), there are a few niggles. There are a few poor modeling points, twin-rear rudders are not set correctly, and there are holes everywhere in the cabin, around the (so called "Seal" door), and sky is visible through the instrument panel in various places. Nose wheel cuts through the not fully-opened doors, and the internal lighting is quite below par, certainly the instrument lighting in the daylight. Certainly more features on the Menu would be nice as well as separated entrance cabin doors. Seats are bit bland as well. There are no final weight or CofG (Centre of Gravity) details or graphs on the menu, but it is a good Weights&Balance Menu including six different pilot choices.
     
    But I seriously like this T337G, it has the higher performance, plus that ability to fly extremely high (for a General Aviation aircraft). Simplicity can sometimes provide more enjoyment, for the cost it actually great value, so I do recommend highly the SkyTouch T337G Skymaster as you would not be disappointed in the balance it delivers here.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! Cessna T337G by Skytouch is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    Cessna T337G Pressurised
    Price Is US$29.95
     
    Requirements:
    X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11
    (both versions included in sperate zip files) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Version 1. February 14th 2023  
    Installation and documents:  download for the Skytouch_T337G is 2.80Gb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 3.32Gb
     
    Documents supplied are:
    USERManual_T337G_VER1.1.pdf  
    Checklists are part of the Menu
     
    The AviTab plugin is also required to use this aircraft, and it is deposited in your X-Plane Plugins folder.
    _____________________
     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    ___________________________
     
    News by Stephen Dutton
    15th February 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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) All Rights Reserved
     

  16. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : E-Jets Family by X-Crafts   
    Aircraft Review : E-Jets Family by X-Crafts
     
    Over the last decade of doing Flight Simulation reviewing for the X-Plane Simulator, you are are noticing the consistent changes. Also the birth of new developers, and losing a few as well. A lot of newcomers come in with a lot of enthusiasm, but you need more than gusto in creating projects for the Simulator. X-Plane was built for the enthusiast, the twidder, but to go professional or to create payware projects, then that is a gradation of another few levels again. Sadly the one-man all-rounder developer are now basically extinct, they just can't cover all the aspects required to create modern-day sophisticated aircraft, modeling, systems, animations, performance and product support. It requires a team, usually three with different skills to create the complex Simulations you fly. And that is the point, the necessary huge leap today for simulation, in not only the ultra detailing, the depth of systems, and the extremes of aircraft performance, as all talents are required to mirror their real world counterparts.
     
    Which brings us to X-Crafts. The developers first came into X-Plane in August 2014 with their first release aircraft E 175 LR: Aircraft Review : Embraer E 195 LR by X-Crafts, then the smaller E 175 on December 5, 2015.
     
    The "WOW" effect was obvious with X-Crafts first release (E 195 LR), in modeling terms the aircraft and features were exceptional for the time (yes all the way back to X-Plane 10). But the aircraft was still based on the X-Plane "PlaneMaker" default systems and tools. The version v2 of both E aircraft moved to the Tekton FMC by Steve Wilson. This was Hybrid system between the X-Plane default FMC, to make it perform like a custom FMC. The idea was clever, but with the underlying issues of the way the default FMS worked, the Tekton system was difficult to use, mostly when editing routes, or setting the departure or arrival procedures, personally I never gelled with it, and I hate fussy ways of doing things that are not authentic, but to give a lot of points to Steve Wilson for trying. So you can see the dilemma of X-Crafts earlier products, great visuals, features and modeling, but hampered overall by their default X-Plane systems. You can now try these aircraft out for free here, as they with this new E-Family have now been retired to Freeware. But note Version 2.5 is the final version, as there will not be any more updates.
     
    Let us first though explain the type numbering on E-Jets from Embraer of Brazil. There are actually two categories of E-Jets. The first is the "ERJ" Family with the rear fuselage mounted engines and high T-Tail configuration, the Family has ERJ 135 - ERJ 140 - ERJ 145 - ERJ 145 XR aircraft in this low number category. The "E" Family has the higher numbers...  E 170 - E 175 - E 190 - E 195 and these aircraft are recognised by the two engines on the wing, and normal rear elevator configuration.
    The E-Jets Family noted here in this release are the second category of aircraft of the two families, there is also the new E Jet (New Generation) E2, with the same E 175-E2, E 190-E2 and E195-E2 types, but those aircraft are not yet relevant, bit like Airbus CEO and NEO engine options.
     
    Here is the line up of E Jets from X-Crafts...
     
    E 170

     
    E 175

     
    E 190

     
    E 195

     
    Any single type is priced at US$74.95, or all four for US$134.95 as a package, a bonus aircraft to be released in the future is the E 190 Lineage Business Jet. This aircraft will be free for purchasers of the 4 aircraft package, and the usual US$74.95 a singular purchase.
     

     
    The "Lineage" will have a custom private jet interior, hence the delay. Notes have been made that previous purchasers of the E Jet v2 (X-Plane 11) will have a discount (15%) towards the new X-Plane 12 upgrade here
     
    Modeling and detail quality
    My first reaction to the purchase price was a bit of a shock, the earlier (X-Plane 11) E Jets from X-Crafts were priced around the US$40 mark, and an increase of almost twice the price to the X-Plane 12 version is a big step, and also a step up into the big time, so there is a lot to deliver at that price point...  the point of this review is to establish if this aircraft is worthy of the higher price status.
     
    Modeling was never going to be an issue, as X-Crafts in my mind always earlier delivered exceptional modeling and detail for the money, they don't disappoint here either. Remember the benchmark is FlyJSim's exceptional Q4XP (Dash 8), priced at US$79.95, so there is a $5 lower margin here for the E Jet.
     
    I can't cover all four E Jets obviously, so I had to pick one, which one would be the most popular? hard to choose but my instincts say the biggest, the E 195, so that is my choice here.
     
    First impressions are "Wow" and more "Wow"...  the quality is simply excellent.
     

     
    We are aware of how to grade detail, not by the big picture of the aircraft actually looking right (which it does from the start here), but to detail the minute work that shows on how much of the detailing has been done. Aircraft panel work and construction rivets are perfection, as are all the required pitot and probes, their own detail are all excellent, as is all the perfect (readable) warning text...
     

     
    ...  more importantly is the shimmer on the metal, this shows a fuselage realism, not just a flat panel, you can feel and even see the realistic metal surface. Cabin windows are really well detailed, even internally, with great tinted glass and reflections.
     
    Cockpit windows are also perfection, with metal surrounds and twin (sizes) rows of different quality screws, the highly tinted glass is thick and has exceptional scuff wear and tear in the translucent surfaces, very high quality detail.
     

     
    The front left door looks quite flat, even painted on details, but that is far from the case. For as when you open the door to a nice red detailed handle, and activation flap... nice. (all doors including cargo are same detail)
     

     
    Wing detail is exceptional...  wing form is excellent, perfect shape, note the nice cap wear (flare) detailing, metal leading edge is perfect.
     

     
    Inner wing root is exceptional, with all the different types of metal forms and perfect lighting housing, note the engine support strut detail.
     
    Obviously it is a modern clean wing, but it opens up to show the well detailed internal mechanism, not only on the airbrakes...
     

     
    ....   but the highly detailed flap and leading edge mechanisms as well, which are all beautifully animated and work as required. To point out the inner movable flap tracks, set adjoining the fuselage, they adjust along with the flap movement, and a great detailed focus from the developers.
     

     
    Under-wing detail with access panels are all well covered, the wing is basically exactly like the real thing...  High detail is also noted with the wingtip lighting assembly (note the bulb glass, and their metal holding wires) and the lovely flared winglets.
     

     
    I "really, really" love those red engine covers (separate toggle), so nicely done.
     

     
    All engines here are GE 34-8E-10 turbofan engines, rated at 82.29 kN (18,500 lbf). Both the engines and engine nacelles are supplied by General Electric. The engines are also equipped with full authority digital engine control (FADEC).
     

     
    Nacelle Pod design and shape is excellent, the 53 in (130 cm) fan is also nicely designed, but the internal inlet maul wear and tear is exceptional, best seen yet of a working in-service aircraft, reverser action and inner detail is also very good, and to note the modern chevrons around the exhaust cone, all in all the engines are really well done and authentic.
     

     
    Usually as a guide in the past to the depth of the modeling development is as always the landing gear. The Q4XP gear was exceptional, but maybe here we have gone a level higher in detail again, impossible you say, well the evidence is all here to be seen, extraordinary it is...
     

     
    ...  presented is really a miniature reproduction of the landing gear, as so highly detailed this all is...  all the links, hydraulic lines and pistons, cables and connectors, even the nut, bolts and washers are represented, and all are totally perfectly recreated, right down to the authentic servicing charts... it is altogether a big "Wow" factor.  The main gear wheels are exposed (à la Boeing 737), so you have the option of on or off wheel covers, a tough choice because again the wheel rim detail (worn) is also so very good. Excellent tyres are "Bridgestones", why because I can read the supreme detail!
     

     
    Nosegear is the same ultra high level in detail as the main gear, nice wear and tear feel as well, nothing is misplaced or forgotten, but designed perfectly here.
     

     
    I could obviously go, on, on and on with the various minute detailing done here by X-Crafts, but in reality you would have to be extremely picky, or even plain weird to fault any of this work, it is exceptional modeling and detail, even the best in class.
    _______________
     
    Menus
    There are three menus, two within the other. There is first a banner "E-Jets Family (Aircraft type)" menu. This has Four Sub-Menus;
     
    "Tech Support" (Internet Site), "FAQ" (internet Site), "EFB" (Electronic Flight Bag) and "Settings".
     

     
    EFB
    This EFB menu is both available from the drop down banner menu and inside the cockpit. This EFB menu will be split, in showing the external details first, then later with the internal selections. Notable is that (all) menus can be moved around the screen, scaled and can also made into a Window menu.

     
    Ground Services- The "Ground Services" Tab is for the four main doors, two cargo hold hatches, and "External Elements", consisting of a very nice GPU (Ground Power Unit) and a supply connection. Four Cones and Wheel Chocks (set together as Ground Objects), and those lovely Inlet Engine covers with the pitot/probe covers.
     

     
    SETTINGS
    There are two tab selections under Settings...  "Utility" and "Sound". Overall considering, there is not a lot of selections as options for the E-Jets, my guess is that more settings will be added in later?
     

     
    Utility Tab - Setting options include; Direct Keyboard Entry Key - Weight Units (Kgs/Lbs) - Pause Top of Descent - Enable Verbose Logging (used for beta/testing) - Show Reflections - Show Easter Eggs - Enable realistic CDU input delay (Slower input reactions, for realism) - Use next gen avionics (toggles between the older style PRD (Primary Flight Display) called "Load 25" or the newer "Load 27" design) - Use (toggle) wheel covers, and only on the E-Jet 175 is the option - Use LR Winglets (use the standard or wide winglets like on the E2).
     

     
    Sound - Sound options include; Overspeed Warning - Cabin Announcements (Auto) - FMOD volume (Main Volume) - Engine Volume in Interior View (Internal cockpit sounds) and Direct Key Entry Volume (Tic-tac!)
     
    Cabin
    Internal cabin detail is very nice...  cabin is in two classes, Business forward 2 + 1 and Economy 2 + 2 in the rear. Forward the business class seats are in that fake black soft patent leather, bulky and really well (realistically) designed, in the rear economy it is more of a modern vinyl with perforated inserts with hard shell backs, again all very realistic.
     

     
    Window panels are nicely done, but the window blinds are fixed, sometimes in the half or down position, not a big fan of that. Overhead detail is not too bad, the circles a bit ridgedy, but the detail is good.
     

     
    Even with the default liveries, the internal cabin fitouts and colours change with the different livery selection, their seems to be four, even one with a different economy seat design to mirror the Business class style.
     

     
    Both forward and rear galleys are excellent. Detail is deep and highly realistic, right down to the worn labels. Toilets however are not modeled...  on the bulkhead (both galleys) are cabin lighting panels, which are active, we will look at them in the lighting section.
     

     
    E-Jet Cockpit
    The thing about X-Plane forward development, it sorts of creeps up on you. You are in thinking things are very similar, but in reality the level of quality is always in changing around you. That aspect is very evident here in the E-Jet cockpit.
     

     
    There is then that sort of line. the difference between modeled, and what you see in real life, that distinction...  This barrier can only be overcome by insane detailing, covering every minute detail in detail, to get it all right, and that is what you get here, a very, very close reflection of real life, the ultimate goal of any simulator.  We are all very familiar with the E-Jet cockpit and it's layouts. not only from the earlier X-Crafts E-Jets, but the SSG versions of the E-Jet as well...  but this X-Plane 12 version feels different, not just the lighting, but in the overwhelming detail.
     
    Seats are perfection in detail. Both seats will track back and outer to the wall to let you get in, a favorite toy I like, also the armrests will not only go up, but fold in behind the backrest as well, very authentic in detail
     

     
    Seats are detailed in leather sides and heavy cloth inner are excellent in their ruffled worn feel, seat base construction and rails are also very well reproduced, I'm not going to over use the words here in authenticity, or realism in descriptions, but there is a total understanding that this is a very well thought out and highly detailed cockpit, certainly on par with the Q4XP, and that aircraft set a very high standard, if not the best in it's class.
     

     
    Pilots side wall detail is again very good, and your always looking for great ideas that work...  Lovely (Concorde style) ram yokes are fully active with not only the usual electronic Trim Switches, AP (Autopilot) disconnect, PTT (Press To Talk), but also the Chrono (start/stop) button as well, you hide them (only both) by pressing on the central Embraer Logo.
     

     
    Back to the "toys"...  window shades, yes they work, lovely...  but no pull downs on the main windows? But wait? down to the side is a click-on shade for the front windows! When attached it will slide across, and also twist to your preference, impressed!
     

     
    Press down the lovely copper button on the side window handle and the window will fold back, yes another happy toy to play with, the small details are everywhere and amazing, note the Flap lever movement, excellent.
     

     
    Your seeing the detail in this cockpit by the working small details, it is all so very impressive.
     
    Since X-Plane 12.04. I found the external light far brighter, making cockpits even more darker, it's not too bad here, and the "look down" effect is well matched in...  but don't hold me to it, that lighting aspect could change again with X-Plane 12.06 and .07...
     

     
    The earlier E-Jets by X-Crafts felt slightly (if very well) modeled, but this X-Plane 12 version feels lived in, and I think that accolade changes the definition of between the two versions, as you flow very well into the captains seat here, or the F/O's if you prefer the right hand seat.
     
    Avionics
    Both DC "Battery" switches on, and you are backup mode, or on one bus or the other. The aircraft has Integrated drive generators. Each IDG generates constant frequency AC power at 40kVA, 115V, 400Hz, 3-phase. But here I will use the GPU, for instant AC power to the systems. You can tell you are in backup mode as only half the systems come on line, then as the external AC power comes on, then all the systems come together bit by bit, everything is "Auto", even the INS alignment, which you know is active when the lower HSI "Rose" is created, it's fast aligning as well compared to 5-7 minute wait on a B737, or A320, maybe just over a minute.
     

     
    One thing you are aware of is once everything is on, is on how very vibrant and sharp the avionics are. In the past they were always slightly blurry, but not at all here...
     
    The aircraft uses the Honeywell Primus "Epic", Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) glass cockpit...
     

     
    ...  and the instruments really stand out, no matter where you look at them from in the cockpit, beautiful horizon shades as well give the instruments a quality feel...
     
    As already noted you have the choice between "Load 25" or the newer "Load 27" Next Gen design PFD (Primary Flight Display), the differences are quite striking... like me 90% of you will say "Oh yeah, that one, I remember that version", because it is quite familiar.
     

     
    The three main displays PFD, MFD (Multi-Functional Display) and the EICAS (Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System) all pop-out, but only on the pilot's left side, and they are all 3d static (floating) and can't be scaled, moved or made into a window.
     

     
    Lower HSI can be Full Heading mode (Rose) or ARC Mode. Three Tab options on the MFD include MAP - PLAN - SYSTEMS
     

     
    STATUS page is a MAP, TCAS or the VERTICAL PROFILE, of which we will delve more into later.
     

     
    Other System pages include; FLIGHT CONTROLS (Ctrl), HYDRAULICS, FUEL, ELECTRICAL, ECS (Environment) and ANTI-ICE.
     

     
    Instrument panel quality is simply "Stellar", yes I'm gushing, because it is all just so nicely done, worn screws and all the various screws that make up the assembly are all meticulously well done, you can spend hours admiring it all, under the (or behind) the panel is well finished off as well (cables) and worn rudder pedals, animated and so are the foot brakes..... note the filaments in the lighting.
     

     
    FMS - Flight Management System
    We have already talked about the hybrid Tekton FMC by Steve Wilson, and yes it is actually also available here as an option if you still prefer that original Tekton FMS System, as it is available on the banner menu, the aircraft does however require a reload and all your settings will go back to zero
     

     
    The "Authentic" FMS is well...  authentic, so there is the need to understand it's fundamentals. Basically all FMS System do the same principles, in Departure (SIDs), route and Arrival (STAR,Transitions) details, but it's in the way each FMS system is interpreted, or it's quirks that usually need the focus and understanding...  that is certainly the case here, as it can look on the surface complicated, it's not, so you still have to dig to get it programmed correctly. I will say from the start, I found a few bugs (double waypoint entries), but overall once understood, it is fine to use. X-Craft's are putting out video tutorials to help with the programming, reading through the tutorials is a good idea as well.
     

     
    The FMS System is a sort of "Semi-Independent" set up, Yes both sides of the FMS panel can be independently accessed by each flying pilot, but you can only program or interact with the left side FMS panel, which pops out for ease of use (you can window and scale it is well).
     
    Several notes while programming...  pressing the lower "Scratch Pad" zone, will put you into the direct (Keyboard) input action, a Blue circle O top left shows you are in that mode, press the scratch pad zone again to go back to normal.
     

     
    If using a FMS Route (X-Plane default fms plans), then it is accessed via the FPL (KL6) list. Or manually via RTE (Route). The route is built via (DIRECT or AIRWAYS) that can be accessed by the two "PREV" or "NEXT" keys on the RTE page.
     


     
    For any inputs or changes you are in "MOD" or Modification mode, and those areas affected are shown in Blue, when activated then they turn Green, the same with the route...  dots will show intended route, a hard white line shows activated route.
     

     
    DEPARTURE and ARRIVAL selections are found on the "NAV" page. Here I have no SID departure, just a DIRECT to the required waypoint (VERSO). ARRIVAL at LGAV (Athens) is via RWY 03R with the DDM.ILS approach, with again no STAR. You APPLY to activate.
     

     
    That is the route completed, but to add in more FMS data, we need to go back to the EFB....
     
    EFB (Electronic Flight Bags)
    There are two internal sited EFB (Electronic Flight Bags) on each side window, press the plate for the EFB to appear. We have covered the earlier "Ground Services", but there are five more menu options; Weight & Balance, Takeoff Perf, Landing Perf, Checklists and AviTab (Avitab plugin required).
     

     
    Weight & Balance - Like with all current trends, the X-Craft's E-Jet uses the Navigraph "SimBrief" to load in the aircraft's "PERF", performance data, so you have to add in your SimBrief Pilot ID number to get access... there is of course the "Manual" version if you wish to use that. A small note... make sure you set your choice of weight (LBS or Kgs) in the SETTINGS before you proceed further, not to do so will wipe all your hard work, if you choose to change weights at a later time.
     
    Accessing SimBrief will bring up your current Briefing (LEBL - LGAV), and you load it into the EFB via the "View Loadsheet" button. This gives you your full loadsheet (Passenger and Cargo), Weights and CGs (Centre of Gravity). It is important to remember your TO CG, ZFW (Zero Fuel Weight) and GROSS WT (Weight)
     

     
    This Perf Data is inserted in the FMS on the PERFORMANCE INIT-LB page (2)...
     

     
    Filling in the "Perf Data" also then activates the "Vert Prof" (Vertical Profile) of your flightplan. This is shown in the lower section of the MFD, and in blue on the right side of your ACTIVE FLT PLAN. A feature of the FMS from X-Craft's are the vertical altitude limits at certain waypoints, here shown descending into Athens, the height Limit number is Underlined for reference.
     

     
    It's impressive, but also a bit complex to set up initially.
     
    Takeoff Perf - can be calculated by inserting the Wind, Temp and QNH of the departure airport, then pressing "COMPUTE".
     

     
    Landing Perf - can be calculated again by inserting the Wind, Temp and QNH of the departure airport, then pressing "COMPUTE".
     
    There is the option to "Send to FMS" both vSpeed datas, but I found they didn't work and had to fill in all the data manually?
     
    Checklists - are quite basic in interaction and detail, as there is no "Check off" as you go through the lists, there are sixteen categories.
     

     
    AviTab - The EFB also still has the usual AviTab functions, and Chartfox/Navigraph (Navigraph requires a monthly subscription for use, but ChartFox is donation based. The EFB can also in the AviTab mode be rotated from the horizontal to the vertical position.
     

    _____________
     
    Flying the E Jets Family E-195
    These E-Jet aircraft are built to be simple efficient short haul transports, the original Boeing 737 of today. So everything is pared back, from the very clean OHP to their systems intergration. Services need to be quick with efficient airport turnarounds, just to keep to the daily cycles... in fact these E-Jets are the real Airbuses of the world. They came out of lengthening Private Jets to carry passengers, then morphed into small regional Jets.
     
    On start up you get a welcome from X-Crafts and the current aircraft version number. Very first timers get a "Help" page directing you to the X-Crafts (web)site for any Q&A questions. All very professional.
     

     
    With the Navigation and Performance settings loaded, we are ready for flight...  How Easy? Just turn a switch...
     
    There are two (one for each engine) STOP - RUN - START switches set above the throttles under a plastic protection cover. First to RUN, then to START...  and that is it. There are no Bleeds to set, no Electrical routes to change, not even as the N1 pressure starts to rise, do you have to go and switch on the FF or Fuel Flow, it is all just AUTO, in it is Automatic and does everything for you.... 
     

     
    ...  Once both engines are running at idle (around 528 N2), then just close the switch covers. Again there is no system reconfiguration, (Bleeds, Electrical) is again not required, it just configures the systems automatically, easier than starting a car.
     
    I'm listening around, but I can't hear any sounds? my ear is listening upwards...  nope nothing? We noted the sounds on the SETTING menu earlier, I find the sounds are all set to zero with this first flight? so you will need to adjust that first before starting the aircraft, 50% on all sliders is recommended...
     

     
    Engines obviously have full FADAC (Full Authority Digital Engine (or electronics) Control) that does the seemless (meaning perfect) engine start and preconditioned idle settings...  everything is just so easy. On start up (now I could hear the sounds), the second engine start procedure could easily be heard, now running the CF34-10E sounds excellent, they are very unlike the usual CFM56-5 on a A320, very different whine and feel. Not to say it is not good, as the sounds are "best in class", meaning excellent with FMOD(2) and recorded from the real E-Jets. I'm impressed, very impressed.
     
    Pre-flight gymnastics means we are ready to go...   "yes I'm excited".
     

     
    Like on the Airbus there is a T/O CONFIG (check if the aircraft is in a flying state), it tells me "Trim"...  so I have to configure the "Pitch Trim" 2.6UP trim setting found in the Takeoff Prefs...  then I get the "all clear". (brakes, doors...  ect, will have the same aural warnings)
     

     
    With 52,000 TOW (TakeOff Weight), once the brakes are released you easily crawl forward, touch of power and your moving forwards.
     

     
    There are still in this v1.0 release version a few bugs...  one is the throttles. If using a third party throttle (I use the Saitek X56), the throttle levers still move as one? and not individually, however the engine readout for each separate throttle lever movement is fine? Another issue is the Tiller, the nosewheel works fine with the Joystick yaw movement, but the Tiller wheel does not move? Manual movement of the Tiller is not great either?
     
     
     
    I enter Barcelona's Rwy 20 for departure...  Power up to TO-2 Takeoff thrust setting, and you move...  then move. I like the feel of the building of the speed, really realistic, weight also feels perfect for the loading up of the controls.
     

     
    143 knts + 10...  and rotate, and the E-195 climbs out cleanly, "Positive Climb". Up the gear, and the sensational detail is still "blowing your mind", as it retracts up into the belly, has there ever been detail this good before? It is so impressive.
     

     
    Once clear of the Rwy 20, you have to bank hard left to keep to the route direction, this was the first time of now being in flying control of the aircraft, feeling the machine, using your skills...  I really liked what I found, the E-Jet is excellent in directional control and pitch, completing easily the tight manouvour with ease.... this relaxed me a little as I knew it was going to be a nice aircraft to fly.
     

     
    As you do, you manouvour the controls, left..  right, pitch slightly back, then forwards and feel the boundaries of the controls...  nice, feels VERY nice, then follow the Flight Director commands to get the machine aligned correctly on course.
     

     
    I will admit I wasn't the biggest fan of the earlier X-Crafts E-Jets or SSGs, I just never really gelled with them in the personal flying sense, the X-Crafts ERJs I really liked...  but this new aircraft is leaps and bounds forwards in every area, it has a real quality to everything, everything that was missing earlier.
     
    One area though that needs something is the backlighting? The glareshield "Guidance" panel is extremely hard to read, dark and you can't make out each, if any of the knobs or controls. No the activation lights DO NOT WORK, and just because they are there does not not mean they work...  But this is a very hard panel to work with and mistakes are and can easily made in picking the wrong knob controller, worse is the FPA knob between the Altitude and V/S (Vertical Speed) knobs, you always pick the wrong one in the dark....   so your head is in the monitor screen trying to read the details...  too hard?
     

     
    In the air the E Jet is simply excellent, there is a glow about the aircraft that makes it stand out on your screen, a realistic glow, but also a very X-Plane 12 "New" feel about everything...  the aircraft is probably the first matured "Real" conceived aircraft for X-Plane 12 (not a X-Plane 11 conversion)...  and it looks and feels different from that aspect.
     

     
    Now at altitude, then out come the "Toys"...  When done correctly the blinds are now essential with the glare in the X-Plane 12 cockpit, here they are simply excellent, highly realistic. There is also a drop down (well turn over) "Jump" seat in front of the cockpit door, that can be used...
     

     
    ...  cabin views are exceptional, your usual view when on an aircraft, like really being up there, which is the general idea of a flight simulator...  "But this is really good!".
     

     
    Lighting
    As expected the lighting is also very good on the X-Crafts E-Jet Family. but there is a slight worry (issue).  
     

     
    In the pristine darkness the panels look gorgeous, there is a full adjustment on the displays, and even the (Secondary) FLOOD/STORM knob that adjusts the panel downlighting, its BRIGHT, but can also be adjusted down to your perfect feel... MAIN PNL, OVHD PNL and PEDESTAL all have adjustments, and dark the backlighting (text) is fine, but even with full adjustment are all easily too dark in any brighter light.
     
    There are side CHART lights, nice, and a DOME set of lights rear roof cockpit (Which are really the FULL STORM lights).
     

     
    The cabin has a full lighting system...  basically Front and Rear Galleys, Roof and cabin sidewall lighting. All the cabin lighting is controlled by a wall management panel, there is one forward, and another one set in the rear galley as well.
     

     
    Each section has four lighting modes (Dims) Off, Dim, Bright and Brighter. First SIDEWALL.
     

     
    ...   now ROOF lighting.
     

     
    GALLEY FORWARD.
     

     
    GALLEY AFT.
     

     
    All the No Smoking and Seat Belt signs work, as does the Sterile cockpit.
     

     
    But you only get these effects in the Semi to dark situations, almost all the lighting, cabin/galley and warning lights except the EMERG EXIT signs are all null and void in the normal day light, so a common theme here, great if perfect lighting in the dark, but non-visible in the day light?
     
    This maybe a X-Plane 12 issue more than a developer issue here, as a lot of developers are struggling with internal lighting effects... from day one X-Plane 12 has had its "Black hole" daylight problems, we will see. But in the night conditions the lighting is overall excellent, even the Cargo holds are nicely illuminated.
     

     
    External lighting is also very, very good...  There is NOSE, SIDE (Taxiway) INSP (Wing/Ice) and LOGO...  Landing lights are LEFT - NOSE - RIGHT.
     

     
    In the air, there are the Navigation, Strobe and a Red Beacon lights. All all looks brilliant, and the Tail lighting is very nice. Because of the highly adjustable cabin lighting, there is no "Cruise Ship" look (unless you have the lighting all on FULL settings), fuselage INSP lights up the engines nicely, and the view from the internal is excellent.
     

     
    This release is called the "Family", so it is hard to choose which is the best aircraft for a given route. Mostly it is seating capacity, but range is a consideration as well. Seating is ...
     
            E170                                     E175                              E190                                       E195
    Single class seats -               72@32" 78@30-33"           8@32" - 88@29"        100@31/32" - 114@29/30”       116@31/32" - 124@29-31"
    Dual class seats -                66 (6F@40", 60Y@32")      76 (12F@36", 64Y@31")    96 (8F@38", 88@31")        100 (12F@42", 88Y@33")
     

     
    Performance
    The E170/E175 uses the GE CF34-8E 14,200 lbf (63 kN), and the E190/E195 uses the GE CF34-10E 20,000 lbf (89 kN) thrust.
    Max. speed / ceilingMach .82 (470 kn; 871 km/h; 541 mph) @ 41,000 ft (12,000 m), CruiseMach .75 (430 kn; 797 km/h; 495 mph)Mach .78 (447 kn; 829 km/h; 515 mph), and the ranges are E170 2,150nmi / 3,982 km, E175 2,200nmi / 4,074 km E190 2,450nmi / 4,537 km, E195 2,300nmi / 4,260 km. The E195 carries the most passengers, but the E190 has the best power and range overall of the fleet....  your choice!
     
    As I near the Greek coast your in that late flight dream phase, in tune with the aircraft and the surrounding sounds, yes still extremely impressive, that GE whine is comforting, and move around inside the aircraft and you feel the differences of the 3d sounds, from the quieter cockpit to the rear of the cabin. I had to adjust the sounds to what I liked best, both with the Menu sounds and the default X-Plane sound panel, but the results are worth it.
     
    PROGESS page on the FMS is impressive as well, a lot of data, and very colourful compared to an Airbus Thales system, but original to the aircraft, with Waypoints, Distance, Winds and Current outside Temp all represented.
     

     
    I will clear up a misconception. The X-Crafts E Jet Family will be available for MSFS (Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020). But the version is not what you think...  With the MSFS version X-Crafts are only providing the modeling (models), nothing else. A separate development group will do the rest. So is it an X-Crafts product, sort of, but not really. X-Crafts note "3D visuals only, but they are not responsible for the systems, FMS, avionics, flight model, EFB, sounds or any other aspect of the MSFS version".
     
    The X-Plane 11/12 version is however fully 100% X-Craft's and so are the X-Plane 12 features that make it really stand out as seen here... it would however be an interesting comparison of the same aircraft on the two platforms.
     
    Athen's Eleftherios Venizelos beckons and I turn to final in STAR NEME2C to line up with LGAV/03R, the E-195 is a very nice stable aircraft on approach.
     

     
    Now I'm coming into the zone of altitude restrictions, they come up (red) on the flightplan in the "Vert Prof" (Vertical Profile) of your flightplan.
     

     
    The same altitude restrictions are also shown in (red) top right of your PFD, you are very impressed by the sheer amount of data presented on the PFD to help you navigate this prime period of aircraft interaction, it could could across initially as confusing, so study of all the FLIGHT MODE ANNUNCIATION DISPLAY (FMA) functions are required.
     

     
    Approach speeds are 195 kts at Flap 2, then down to 144 knts Flap 5, finally as low as 127 knts at FULL Flap. Everything is very nice and easy.
     

     
    I had expected an "Auto Flare", but didn't get one? the result was a hard bang down as the gear contracted...  it is a very long soft contracting gear, then it all goes up rebounding the other way, the amount of movement in the reflex surprised me, so you will have to be well aware of getting the flare right and to do softer absorbing touchdowns. But what I really liked was the realism of it all, you feel all the struts and hydraulics working away under you. The days have gone after those earlier stick like X-Plane 9 landing gear, with no give or retraction....  we have come a long way in realism, not only in feel but the visual action as well.
     

     
    Engine reverse is interesting... back to idle, then the levers full back to reverse, but if using the "Toggle thrust reversers" command, you do the opposite, click to toggle then push the throttles forward to add the thrust, you get used to it...  There is no "Arm" the spoilers either, they activate automatically, as long as there is weight on the wheels to signal that the aircraft is on the ground, and wheel speed is above 25 kts...  once again below 25 knts they retract. Dance on the toe-brakes and your soon back at taxi speed... lovely.
     

     
    Detail again is outstanding in action.
     

     
    Liveries
    All packages come with eight liveries, all very high 4K quality, painter liveries are already available here; E-Jets Family by X-Crafts | Liveries
    Delta operated by SkyWest Alaska operated by Horizon United Express operated by Mesa American Eagle operated by Republic  JetBlue Austrian KLM CityHopper Clean White  

     
    There is the clear (paint) livery, and the coming "Lineage 1000" livery Private Jet
     

     
     

    ______________
    Summary
    Ever since with their first release aircraft E 175 LR in X-Plane, August 2014. X-Crafts has had astounding quality modeling and detail. Only that their earlier aircraft were however based on PlaneMaker fundamentals. It showed and even the clever ideas of the Tekton FMC by Steve Wilson, could neither get their aircraft around the default limitations. The Release of their ERJ Family in 2019, was a major step in the right direction, but they still had the same default FMS and optional Tekton systems. So X-Crafts became known of being excellent developers, but their aircraft came only with basic (if clever) X-Plane systems and avionics.
     
    For X-Plane 12 (an X-Plane 11 version is available for 12 months) here is the brand new "E-Jet" Embrarer Family of the Embraer E170, Embraer E175, Embraer E190, and Embraer E195, with the private jet version Embraer "Lineage 1000" with a custom interior coming free later for the full package purchasers.
     
    The astounding quality of the aircraft here hits you in the face, this is "Top Notch" category that matches the class leader in FlyJSim's Q4XP Dash 8 aircraft, but there is also that "New Gen" feel of the quality and detail that gives this series the signal that it was created and designed for the future, or X-Plane 12, and it is not a conversion aircraft of the past. In truth this is the first (in this high-level category) of a pure X-Plane 12 release, and you see and feel it.
     
    There is a huge amount to like here; excellent modeling and detail, great functionality, great lighting, and the highlight is the fully custom FMS system that for once is not based on a X-Plane baseline, so the whole E-Jet aircraft is finally a custom machine...  that is a really big step forward for X-Crafts.
     
    Menus are excellent (Two; Banner and EFB), and interact (W&B, Takeoff/Landing Perf) with the FMS to load in SimBrief profiles (not routes though), and the depth and quality of the FMS system is excellent. Independent Modules can be accessed by both both pilots, however they can only be programmed by the left side pilot, but its good overall, and highly detailed authentic. Sounds are first class for the category, on the ground and in flight, sonically everything is excellent.
     
    All doors open, and there are some nice static elements in chocks, cones and an external GPU. Flying dynamics are excellent by X-Aerodynamics (sixteen pilots were used for testing), so the flight modeling is totally solid and highly realistic.
     
    There are bugs, but for a new aircraft not at all profuse at this stage, issues with third party addons (Throttles and Joysticks), and a non-connection to the Tiller are very small annoyances, lighting is unusual. Excellent night lighting, is in contradiction to the various daylight lighting being blanked out? an X-Plane 12 issue? The Guidance Panel is impossible to see the daylight, and to use with no backlighting, so are a lot of the blank daytime lighting elements (Cabin signs/lights). Its odd, but I don't think it is developer issue.
     
    Every thing here with the E Jet Family from X-crafts comes down to price. The packages are set in the high quality category, a single aircraft version is priced only US$5 lower than the category leader the FlyJSim Q4XP, the full five aircraft package (the lineage coming later) is US$134.95, yes that is expensive. For the past purchaser of the X-Plane 11 v2 version, the new purchase gets a 15% discount, if you upgrade later to the full package, then there is a 50% discount, the best deal is 15% off the full package if you are a previous owner, still a big investment, and one that runs the full life of the X-Plane 12 version.
     
    That price may have been a problem, at being just under double of the old one. But you just can't compare the two eras. This X-Plane 12 E-Jet family is certainly very much placed in the upper category, as it delivers on every level of a professional level, in quality, it even maybe now be the quality leader in X-Plane...  and that is a big statement to say it is the best modeled, and the best quality aircraft in this category, even in areas better than the Q4XP! In every other niche it delivers, so in reality you get what you pay for, and you won't be disappointed here either...
     
    So here is the future of X-Plane 12 aircraft, another new level and a step forward for the simulator into that high quality class, the word here is astounding...   enjoy.
    _____________________
     

     
    Yes! the Embraer E-Jets Family by X-Crafts is currently available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

    Embraer E-Jets by X-Crafts
    Price per single aircraft is US$74.95
     
    Embraer E170 by X-Crafts
     
    Embraer E175 by X-Crafts
     
    Embraer E190 by X-Crafts
     
    Embraer E190 by X-Crafts
    Purchasers of the E-Jet v2 (X-Plane 11) can get this new XP12 version with a 15% discount
     
    Embraer E-Jets Family by X-Crafts
    Price for the FULL E-Jet Package is US$134.95
    Includes every E-Type | E170 | E175 | E190 | E195 Plus + Linaeage 1000 Private jet (When Released)
    Purchasers of the E-Jet v2 (X-Plane 11) can get this new XP12 version package with a 15% discount
     
    Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 The first few initial updates will still be X-Plane 11 compatible, however, 6 months after the release, the X-Plane 11 version will be final and development will continue only on the X-Plane 12 version. Windows, MAC or Linux -  4 GB VRAM Minimum. 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: v1.0 for X-Plane 12/11 (May 10th 2023)   Download (Package) installed is; 5.56GB. The AviTab plugin is also required to use this aircraft, and it is deposited in your X-Plane Plugins folder.  
    Designed by X-Crafts
    Support forum for XCrafts   
     
    Documentation
    There is excellent full coverage documentation and built in checklists, including;
    E-Jets Family by X-Crafts - User Manual _____________________
     
    Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    12th May 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane Version 12.04r3
    Plugins: JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - LEBL - Barcelona XP by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$27.99
    - Barcelona City by Logo Projects - (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$26.95
    - LGAV - FlyTampa - Athens (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$28.00
     
     
    (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
     

  17. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Anthony96 in Behind the Screen : April 2023   
    Behind the Screen : April 2023
     
    On average over a 20 to 30 year commercial flying career, professional pilots will fly usually about 4 to 5 types of aircraft, first in the right seat, then a command in the left. I'm not counting their non-professional activities like private general aviation, gliding or even to the extreme of aerobatic flying. This is the core total of flying airliners, either domestic or international.
     
    Do pilot's have to be more flexible in today's aviation industry? that is a big question, because, say in the 60's you could fly aircraft types from the BAC-1-11, progress to a Trident, then a Vickers VC10, then a Boeing 707 or a Boeing 747 Jumbo, or even on to the supersonic transport in Concorde. That career road would be far harder today, as you would mostly jump between types of the same design, say start in a A319, move to a A320, then a A321 and now an A321LR, you are progressing, but mostly on the same type, not "Types' of aircraft. Same with the A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
     
    Progress to each aircraft type would mean going back to class, instruction, training and finally the hands on evaluation that you could handle the new machine, a jump from say the VC10 to a Boeing 747 would be a large challenge, but nothing like the jump from a VC10 to Concorde, of which most crews of the supersonic transport were nominated from. Today the line between a A320, to a A321, is not as large, and a conversion would be in weeks rather than the months like in the past.
     
    Compare that to X-Plane, or with being a reviewer. God knows how many "Types" of aircraft and let us even include even the "weird" strange machines at that. Obviously I have lost count, but a thousand over 12 years is a rounded off figure, maybe even more than that, so you have to be pretty adaptable.
     
    Like driving a car, aviation still has it's basics in controls and instruments, so you can be "so called", adaptable. But unlike driving a car on a road, aviation machines comes with a lot of different variations, weights and sizes, again you have to be adaptable.
     
    A lot of Simulator users will also mostly stick to one type, or a variation of that type, a lot won't even progress from say a Single-Engined aircraft to a Twin-Engined aircraft, never mind a Commercial Jet. Another crowd will only fly heavies, big airliners, but most will usually use the Two-Hour rule of flying a Boeing 737 (Zibo) or Airbus A319/A320/A321 (ToLiSS), fair enough.
     
    Me I do like variety, always have, call it a challenge if you will, I couldn't be a reviewer otherwise. But I do have my core "Top Ten" aircraft that I fly personally, a few General Aviation machines, but mostly Airliners, the bigger the better.
     
    Also there is the aspect of getting "back into the groove". You would think with all that reviewing experience and skills, that I would easily slide into the seat and fly the aircraft like a pro, yes...  well no, it is not as easy as that.
     
    One big bonus of doing reviews in that when a new aircraft or type is released, you do what I call a "Deep Dive". Reviewing in detail allows you to spend a lot of time on that aircraft, sometimes weeks, study it, understanding all those minute details. Then to learn to fly it correctly... then pass on the information of what has been learnt to you the users of the X-PlaneReviews site.
     
    You would think that in say six months when the same aircraft from the same developer comes around with an update, with all that intimate knowledge learnt earlier, I should simply slide into the same seat and fly it again perfectly like the total professional I am, except that is very far from the truth. I even make copious notes, the Concorde review notes went for sixteen pages, yet I still need to revisit and revise them all every time to step back into that cockpit. And here is the thing...
     
    My first flight back in that seat is usually atrocious, totally laughable...  a professional, mostly a joke in watching my efforts. At least I don't have a check captain sitting over my shoulder rating my poor flying abilities, and ready to give my career the total thumbs down.
     
    Let's be clear, that is with the complex complicated detailed aircraft we are talking about here, sure I can pilot a GA around a circuit or two with my eyes closed, but something happened in X-Plane around eight years ago when basic PlaneMaker aircraft went to Plugins. Now the systems are real world duplication, so is now the way you also fly the aircraft in real world conditions in the Simulator.
     
    Triggers...  notes can give you triggers, and then you fly the aircraft and then release all that the stored information in your brain, it does come back to you quite easily, but some machines do have their peculiar idiosyncratic natures, not only in their systems, but their flying characteristics as well, say the Dash Q400... One flight will release the learnt peculiar tricks on using and handling the machine, the notes help, but going over the learnt procedures and you will soon fall back into that aircraft category groove. I'm an odd one as well.
     
    I just won't jump in and go flying (unless there is a reason), I go through the whole set of procedures from "Go to Woe", more so with an update (or upgrade) to cover the changes in the new updated/upgraded version, the differences between the Old and the New.
     
    That second flight (basically the review flight) is usually "Back on Song", not flawless, but back in tune with the aircraft, the third flight has to be flawless, if not there is something wrong or something has been changed? The only thing about this process, it is time consuming, two flights take time, three flights is in days to do a review, but you internally and personally have to know you have everything right, in the interaction between yourself and the aircraft before reviewing. That is why I don't like a lot of VideoJocks, watching them power through procedures and incorrect flying, and missing SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) makes me cringe by in the amount of mistakes made, some are very good, and yes even I can learn from a real line pilot doing video Simulations, but most are "Cowboys", and have bad habits that are being passed on to the unsuspecting junior (learning) Simulator users in picking up and using the same poor methodology.
     
    Okay, I come from the strict school of being serious, and a lot of users reading this will say, Hey, lighten up, it's supposed to be "Fun" it's only a "Game", but my approach is strictly professional, if you want to "Fool" around and wizz upside down in a A320 (yes looking at you Austin Meyer) then your looking at the wrong personality type, to me "Professional", means being very good at what you do and to not fool around with a 80 Ton aircraft. Simulation was created as learning tool for real world pilots, we are just lucky, and if you have enough computer power, to be able to do the "EXACT" same things as the real world pilots do, that for me is where the excitement comes from, and my on line experiences.
     
    Out of the "Thousands" of aircraft I have reviewed, a few go into my own personal hanger, the ones that are very special, but also fit my own personal flying needs, I keep the list to like I mentioned to around ten aircraft, but it is about four to five of those aircraft are what I use consistently, again these aircraft are also required to have a shakedown regularly, and the same process of a "trigger" flight and then a regular flight are required to get me again "Back in the Groove".
    I know these aircraft intimately, and yet I still need to reset my brain to fly them correctly, lose one or two that has happened with the X-Plane 11 to X-Plane 12 transition and you feel a bit lost without them (both will be released for X-Plane 12 within the next month). Again I will stress that regular repeatable flying is still required to keep your skills in prime shape, yes it is more (even relaxing) fun than the serious approach of reviewing aircraft, but still serious in the way you approach in flying the aircraft professionally. To make it "Fun", is to set up a few scenarios, I have two.
     
    The first is a real world day's flying, usually three sectors between regularly used airports (quality sceneries), In Australia say the "Triangle". Brisbane to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney and finally Sydney back to Brisbane, all in a days work and following real world services. It's more tricky than you think to fly on real world times and turnarounds with the same aircraft type. Exhausting as well, but that is what real world pilots do everyday, but it is fun to coordinate the lot together...  The second is real world airport hopping. Start a service from say Barcelona and fly to Copenhagen, then from Copenhagen to Dubai (combining European to International with different aircraft types), then Dubai to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Los Angles and so on...  if you wrap up a sector in say New York, then the next time you fly you restart in the same place, say, New York to Copenhagen, and hey, you have flown around the world with real life timetables and the same aircraft types used on the real world routes... both above scenarios are based on real world flying, but for me a fun factor as well. But all learnt during these travels, goes back into the reviewing, and the consistent practise on aircraft types means your skills are kept at a high level.
     
    This April "Behind the Screen" edition, looks a bit into how I fly and do reviews, but also shows you the amount of practise it requires to keep your flying skills at a high level, same as the real world pilots...  I like to think so, dedication is everything in life.
     
    See you all next month.
     
    Stephen Dutton
    2nd May 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  18. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Anthony96 in NEWS! Updated - New Environmental tool VisualXP Ultimate by SimAdditions   
    NEWS! Updated - New Environmental tool VisualXP Ultimate by SimAdditions
     

     
    This NEWS! item has been updated to cover the new options of package pricing versions, as set out below.
     
    Personally I'm not attracted to applications or certainly the Lua app, that have interaction with the basic default X-Plane engine, don't get me started on the hundreds of different shader versions that we had to toil through as everyone had their own perspective on how X-Plane should look...  I had hoped with the release of X-Plane 12 and it's new complete environmental engine, those days would be in the past, obviously not.
     
    I'm not completely honest here. I used throughout the X-Plane 11 run, the Dark Skies xEnviro, oddly not for it's clouds, but for the interface that allowed you to tune X-Plane's look and feel.
     
    Odd is the fact that you can change the look of X-Plane via you Graphics Card (mine is Nvidia), but that only changes your monitor look and feel, and not actually the Simulator's. But with xEnviro you could actually do this management aspect and that is what is important here. Struggling with dark images coming out of X-Plane 12, I found I couldn't adjust them internally, so I missed that xEnviro interface, being honest I don't miss the huge xEnviro sucking down of my framerate either. I had hoped that X-Plane 12 would have put all that in the past?
     
    But it didn't, and I struggled with the lighting in X-Plane 12, notable is the fact that X-Plane 12 is still in reality a working beta, but I did miss the interaction I had with xEnviro....  which brings us to this new environmental tool from SimAdditions.
     
    VisualXP is a tool that will enhance your X-Plane Atmosphere, Clouds, Water, and Scenery(Lights and Shadow) visually.
     
    The Atmosphere feature will enhance the Sun lighting, Ambient lighting, Scattering color temperature, Sky colors, Fog density, Aerosol, Visibility range, Horizon scattering, and Zenith scattering.
     
    The Clouds feature can control the cloud formations, clouds visibility range, clouds brightness, clouds density, thickness, cloudiness, and clouds details, all of these will work together to give better clouds forms.
     
    The Water feature can control the water wave foams, sun gloss, water wave strength, and scaling. there are sliders to control these functions as well.
     
    The Lights feature can simulate real-life fog at night where there are multiple lights that illuminate the fog. We also can Enable one of the great features of X-Plane "the Fog Spotlights" which add realistic spotlights for all objects in X-Plane. we can control the light spots' strength on the ground as well, we have sliders to control the size and the strength of the lights as well as spots lights. A main feature in Lights is "the Fog Spotlights" which add realistic spotlights for all objects in X-Plane. we can control the light spots' strength on the ground as well, we have sliders to control the size and the strength of the lights as well as spots lights.
     
    The Weather feature can deliver Live Weather, Weather Search, and Weather Briefings. The Briefing Tab will give you all the weather information including clouds altitudes pressure, all aloft for winds directions, winds speed, temperature, dewpoint, winds share, and turbulence, also the status of the water waves.
     
    Notable is tha VisualXP is for Windows Only at this point, again like xEnviro. There are three Variations of VisualXP, which are called "Plugin Levels" these plugins level are "Ultimate, Premium, and Basic".
     
    The Ultimate version will include all features of VisualXP, while the other levels have some limitations. The Premium level has the mentioned features except for the "Scenery" Tab (Lights functions and sliders) and the "Weather Briefing" tab which is included in the Weather Master Tab. The Basic level will have an Atmosphere, and Clouds Only.  These three variations to give the user the ability to choose the one that fits he/her needs.  

     
    VisualXP Interface
     

     

     
    Packages consist of:
     
    VisualXP Basic Priced at US$9.99
    The basic version only includes:
    Atmosphere and clouds  
    VisualXP Ultimate Priced at US$25.97
    The Full package including
    Atmosphere and clouds; Water; Scenery; Weather - Live Weather; Weather - Weather Search; Weather - Weather Briefing  
    A considered Simulator tool, and an effective one...
     
    Images are Courtesy of SimAdditions
    VisualXP Support is here SimAdditions Support
    __________________
     

     
    Yes!...   VisualXP by SimAdditions is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    VisualXP Basic
    Priced at US$9.99
     
    VisualXP Ultimate
    Price is US$25.97
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 Windows Only - Not Compatible with Mac or Linux at this time Things Things To Be Considered Before Buying
    If you are using DataRefTool or DataRefEditor, you need to disable them before using ViualXP, VisualXP will stop working instantly once one of these plugins is detected as Enabled. and it will inform you with a message in the user interface to disable these plugins. Do not use any other plugin, scripts, or mods that controls one of VisualXP features as that will make conflict and will make bad visuals. The performance will be different from one plugin level to another because of the features that each one has, the higher level will have more performance effects, but no worries with the plugin sliders you can lower the settings to fit your device capacity. The plugin can't work in offline mode, a connection to the internet must be available for the license system and downloading weather. We cannot offer any demos at the moment. The plugin has been developed using the windows 10 platform and will be for windows only at this time, sorry for Mac and Linux users, we will support these platforms in the future. The functions of the plugin can be increased or decreased depending on the X-Plane 12 version and the ability that Laminar Research offers. ___________________________
     
    News! by Stephen Dutton
    22nd February 2023
    Copyright©2023: 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) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  19. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Anthony96 in From Tenerife to Vienna   
  20. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Upgrade Review : McDonnell Douglas MD-88 Pro X-Plane 12 by Rotate   
    Aircraft Upgrade Review : McDonnell Douglas MD-88 Pro X-Plane 12 by Rotate
     
    With the handover from X-Plane 11 to X-Plane 12, as you adjusted to the new version simulator. You lose your aircraft. Well a few of the basic aircraft will translate to the new simulator with their core PlaneMaker tools, but for the in-depth aircraft you cherish, all of a sudden they are not available to fly anymore.
    A lot of developers quickly did a patch, this allowed you to fly the aircraft in X-Plane 12, but any aircraft was not actually refined until X-Plane 12 went final in December 2022. Some developers withheld the upgrade until X-Plane 12 was completely worthy and stable. With X-Plane 12 it was a bit more complicated than that, as in reality the X-Plane 12 version was not actually stable until v12.04r3 or March 2023.
     
    Rotate went both ways, you had a quick patch for their McDonnell Douglas MD-11, but not for the earlier McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (Series 80), so the aircraft disappeared from my routes and network. But after finalising the MD-11 for X-Plane 12, Rotate's attention then finally turned to the MD-88, and here it is and now available for X-Plane 12 in a beta release...  "Nice to have you back Mad Dog!".
     
    The MD-80 Series is a advanced development of the iconic Douglas DC-9, or was known as the second generation of the DC-9 family. The MD-80 series is a mid-size, medium-range airliner, featuring a fuselage 14 ft 3 in (4.34 m) longer than the DC-9-50. The small, highly efficient wing design of the baseline aircraft was enlarged by adding sections at the wing root and tip for a 28% larger wing. The aircraft derivative retains the configuration of two rear fuselage-mounted turbofan engines, a T-tail, and has cockpit, avionics and aerodynamic upgrades. The airliner is designed for frequent, short-haul flights for up to 172 passengers depending on airplane version and seating arrangement.
     
    This version here from Rotate has the MD-80 features an advanced avionics suite which includes two autonomous digital flight guidance computers, "advanced", is not really applicable to avionics of say the next generation of glass cockpits, you could say more in the transition of between the older "Clock" 1970's to the "Glass" 2000's in style and operation, as it still used Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) technology for the instrument displays. But it did come with Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and a Wind Shear Warning System, so advanced for it's time. First flight of the MD-88 was August 15, 1987.
     
    Rotate released their MD-88 back in December 2015, yes 7 Years ago. But thoughout the X-Plane 11 version run, there have been numerous updates, to be honest Rotate are known as very frequent updaters, to keep the aircraft current. Let us clear something up...  on the various updates the aircraft has been only referred to as the "MD-80", but this is the MD-80 Series, the type is the MD-88.
     
    McDonnell Douglas MD-88 X-Plane 12 by Rotate
    On it's original release (and Rotate's first developed aircraft), one thing was instantly very noticeable. The detailing was insane, I even coined a name for it "Ultra Detail", because it set a new standard of quality detail in the X-Plane Simulator (for heavy aircraft). Being a visual texture nut, this aspect was one of the big attractions to the aircraft, plus the DC9/MD80 was also a very iconic aircraft and great to fly.
     
    Rotate note the external textures and materials have been upgraded to X-Plane 12. What comes across is a shiny blur over the aircraft, it looks good... but you would be very hard pressed to tell the difference.
     

     
    The biggest fear when developers start messing around with textures, is that you could lose your old library, worse here because the MD-88 has quite a significant if iconic library available...   But friends fear not, all the old liveries work perfectly, and they come with that new if slightly X-Plane 12 sheen. In an odd paradox, I found the original liveries more realistic than the default, my beloved Austrian looks glorious in X-Plane 12
     

     
    The "Ultra Detail", is quite amazing, highlighted rivets, worn panels gaps, oil streaks, dirty, dirty...  "you gotta love it".
     

     
    It is all an eye feast for detail, it shows how far ahead the excellent texturing was back then, never bettered even now. Cockpit window detail is pure DC-9 architecture, perfectly realised here.
     

     
    Engines are the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-209 turbofan, noted as the Quieter engine! It produces 18,500 to 21,700 pound-force (82 to 97 kN) thrust range. Incredibly well modeled here, comes with clam-shell reversers
     

     
    The MD-80 Series wing has a span of 32.82 meters that is 4.4 meters longer than the initial DC-9s. Its wing area is 112.3 square meters, and clean with the high T-Tail configuration. Wings are superb here, all the different metals materials that make up the construction are highly visible.
     

     
    I love the leading edge metal design and look, push it out to the open position and the mechanism tracks are excellent.
     

     
    Tri-Cycle gear with two main landing gear and a forward small nose gear, dirty as hell, worked hard, tired, rusted...  love it, and perfect.
     

     
    I can bore you for ages in detail, but I love this aircraft for what it delivers, I still don't think a lot of aircraft in X-Plane and in this category still comes close to this sort of feel in a design.
     
    External features
    You can access the MD-80 Menu from the X-Plane/Plugin banner (the same menu is on the FMC)...
     

     
    There are seven menu options; GPU (Ground Power Unit) Toggle, GPS Toggle, Fwd Door Toggle, Fwd Stair Toggle, Aft Door Toggle, Cargo Doors (three ) Toggle and Weight Units (Lbs/Kgs) Toggle.
     
    You get a nice GPU unit connected for power to the aircraft, Open the Front door before lowering the stairs, and unfurling the rear stairs is always a great moment, both created for the use of remote regional airport access, as are the three low (Throw the bags in) holds.
     

     
    The right service door isn't activated or animated, and there are no chocks here either? You wish for them both.
     
    Cabin
    The cabin is from another era, thick seated seats, wall air vents, and being a T-Jet an opening door to the rear to the stairway.
     

     
    The one thing that is very apparent is the feel of this cabin, the textures and materials used. Totally foreign to today's passenger, but very endearing to anyone my age, very authentic, even if a few areas are just flat images, but the huge detail is here, like the service door, sad it doesn't work.
     
    Cockpit
    You would be amazed on how small the cockpit is on a DC9/MD80, it can just barely fit in two crew. Open the cockpit door via the up/down arrows...
     

     
    ....   and your confronted by a sea of green, with a off cream (dirty) roof lining. Yes the cockpit colour is different, a more an Irish green than the darker green tone before. This cockpit like the external textures has been totally redone for X-Plane 12, but creates an even earlier era feel in the cockpit environment, detail is astounding, a perfect replica of the aircraft...
     

     
    Scrolling though my liveries I found the other two instrument panel variations...  the new "Sea of Green", with the Grey instrument panel, and the older Grey Instrument with the darker green textures, obviously the older textures were not configured for X-Plane 12, but they are there if you still wanted that original grey panel look and feel. Texture feel is now more highlighted in X-Plane 12 and it was very good before, you can almost feel the rough surfaces.
     

     
    Yokes are "filthy", "grubby"... or perfect, the Trim Switches don't work, neither does the ATC call button?
     


     
    Hiding one Yoke, hides both...  they are independent on the MD-11, but not yet here. You press the base to toggle.
     
    DC-9's origins shows on the non-ergonomics at work here, want to add an instrument, then just put it where there is a space...  but it works, when you work out what everything on here is. Note the inter-generational Sperry CRT PFD (Primary Flight Display) top, and the NAVIGATION/MAP Display lower.
     

     
    The basic principles of flying an aircraft, like driving a car, are the same, it is the way the instruments are arranged that you have to adapt to, then the way the systems (engines, fuel, electrical hydraulic) are laid out and interacted with. Yes you will need to study in the MD-88 if you want to master it, and the aircraft does have a few odd foibles to consider, but master it, and the aircraft is very rewarding.
     
    Glareshield holds "Flight Guidance Control Panel" FGCP, which is controlled by the two fully independent "Digital Flight Guidance Computers" (DFGC). FGCP has controls for selection of Flight Director/Autopilot operational modes and Autothrottle operational modes. Autopilot engage and DFGC 1/2 selector switches. External lighting switchgear is located each side of FGCP.
     

     
    I will note that mastering complicated systems like the FGCP is part of the experience of the aircraft. These are still basically analog system machines, the aircraft's controls (Ailerons, Elevators, Rudder) were all still cable controlled, if the last of the breed.
     
    OHP (Overhead Panel) is also a uniform mess, but at least the system areas are (sort of) boxed and labeled, a print out of the systems was always a "GoTo" for finding switchgear.
     

     
    Rotate provide a lot of great information, Manual, Pilot Hand Book and a full Tutorial Flight. A comprehensive Checklist is also provided, which I again recommend to print out (I even made a lot of remarks in the printout to find the switchgear I needed), but it is all part of the learning curve.
     
    Left side is top the Sperry EFIS Mode panel, Panel Lighting and Radio panel. On the left is the captain's huge Tiller Wheel, with the Park Brake knob in the center (and YES we finally have a Park Brake Toggle here), right side only has the F/O EFIS Panel and the Radio Panel.
     

     
    Rear pedestal are VHF and ADF Radio frequencies, TCAS/ATC Panel and centre console lighting knobs, rear are the huge Rudder and Aileron Trim Knobs. I'm not yet going into the forward Pedestal throttle quadrant area as we will cover that later.  
     
     
     
    As noted this is a very cramped cockpit, but there is a third folded crew jumpseat, shame it is not animated?
     

     
    MCDU (Multi Control and Display Unit)
    For it's time period the Rotate MD-88's MCDU (Multi Control and Display Unit) was exceptional, still very good today, but FMC detail has maybe caught up with it and in areas surpassed the original detail...  that said it is miles better than the default MD-80 FMS on the X-Plane 12 Fleet.
     

     
    Notes, the System came with an old NAV DATA (2209r1 Sept 22) set (actually noted as updated?), and you will need to update the nav data to the current cycle via Navigraph or Aerosoft (NavDataPro). Important is the aircraft has it's own "Nav Data" folder (like the MD-11) in the Rotate aircraft folder to do the cycle changes. Ditto adding in a CO-ROUTE. The "Company" routes are held in a separate folder again in the Aircraft root folder "saved-routes", not in the usual X-Plane OUTPUT/FMS plans" folder. Also you only have connected MDCU units, not independent yet like on the MD-11, so it feels a little old fashioned.
     

     
    Installing the route is helped by the EFIS/PLN section, and you have to separately insert the Departure and Arrival Procedures...
     

     
    ....  like I mentioned, it is a good system as it doesn't send you down any blind alleyways, you can't get out of. 7 Years of refinement has sorted out most of the bugs.
     
    There is a two page MENU. It is positioned left side of the pedestal, click to open. Fill in your "Fuel & Load" Data (I use Simbrief).
     

     
    Once filled in, you can then set the same PERF INIT in the MCDU, most data will fill in automatically as you press the corresponding keys, the others data references are pretty straightforward. Same for TAKEOFF REF, fill in airport temp, the rest is automatic.
     

     
    MENU second page is the "Ground Operations". Here you can select the external GPU, GPS (external Pneumatic Source)...  Open the Doors (Fwd, Stair, Aft, Cargo), doors have to be open for passenger and fuel loading, which is done in the lower section. The built in "Pushback" is bottom. Never really liked the word "Expedite", but it mean doing the action.
     

     
    One of things that really threw people (or confused) was the setting of the "TakeOff Trim" or "Long Trim". Here you have what you would call a Trim Computer to help you, but it is confusing to use, worse, get it wrong and you will get those horrible takeoff alerts "flap, stabilizer" warnings that said you were a really crap pilot. Here is to do it right.
     
    The MTOW CG (Centre of Gravity) % is situated under the GW (ZFW -Zero Fuel Weight and LW - Landing weights are also shown)
     
    Here it is 20.6 % of MAC, which is entered by the wheel CG on the computer. Your selected Flap position (15º) is set on the other wheel. The Green pointer marker is the TakeOff Trim position. To set it correctly, you use the large handle (up or down) to set the trim indicator right, when aligned you have set the TakeOff Trim correctly.
     

     
    The Flap selection is just as well done, you don't have the wheel flap adjustment that is on the MD-11, but a large degree flap range from 0º to 40º. The whole throttle quadrant is excellent with those highly worn metal throttle levers at your service.
     

     
    AviTab
    There is a AviTab tablet on the left Pilot window, but not on the right F/O side (plugin required), click the window to make the tablet appear, to activate is the small button top left corner. Navigraph charts are available if you have an account. You can slightly adjust the tablet up/down-left/right.
     

     
    X-Plane 12 rain effects
    With the intergration of the "Librain" effects into X-Plane 12, developers can now add the rain effects to their aircraft. But the results are a bit of a mixed bag, even from the best. Here on the MD-88 they are simply excellent. Every window, even the eyebrow windows and the cabin windows get the effects...  better are the wiper action in clearing the water, well executed and very realistic, well done. Wing and Window Ice effects are also now available with X-Plane 12, there is also improved Anti-Ice Systems.
     

    _____________
     
    Flying the "Maddog"
     

     
    Starting the MD-88's engines is a long procedure. Again I stress to print out the starting instructions out of the tutorial, to make the process easier, or to make notes. Here are some tips...
     
    Important to have HYD or Hydraulic pressure, AUX and TRANS both on (lower left F/O panel), it will show 30% Pressure in the "Hydraulic" readouts. Pneumatic pressure levers (rear pedestal), both to UP.
     

     
    On the APU panel put the AIR switch to centre ON (Bleed), EGN (Engine Panel), START PUMP to ON, and select SYS A or SYS B...
     

     
    Select a START switch for Engine No. 1, most start No 2 first as it is not near personnel, or the airbridge. Here I'm on a stand, so I start No 1 first. You will find the N2 % RPM start up, (noted in the Annunciator panel) and when you reach 21 % (N2), you then bring in the fuel on the pedestal.
     
     
     
    Then you get that familiar P&W JT8D-209 turbofan whine, sounds are quite brilliant, highly realistic on engine startup and idle speeds. But you won't hear much of the whine in the cockpit, those engines are set a long way back from your seat. When one engine started, then do the same start procedure for engine No 2 (Note the Start Switch for No 1 has to be OFF to start No 2), then clean up the ENG board by turning off the start switches, start pump, SYS to OFF, APU Bleed to OFF and then the APU itself, don't forget to move the Electrics to the engines....  and your ready to go.
     

    ______________
     

     
    Important is to set the "Thrust Rating" on the panel F/O mid-left panel, it shows your setting on the EPR and limits the autothrottle, most Autothrust systems do this automatically, but this is back in the time you had to set the limit mode manually, which you do through the phases of the flight. Six modes cover TO (TakeOff), TO FLEX (FLEX Takeoff setting), GA (Go Around), MCT (Maximum Thrust), CL (Climb) and CR (Cruise).
     

     
    You will need a bit of thrust to get the MD-88 moving, you feel the weight (nice) but I'm heavy here at TOW 67,800 kgs. Taxiing can be slightly tricky as the steering is quite tetchy, if your not smooth, the aircraft will wander off the straight line, the rudder pedals can smooth-out the tighter tiller movements, but you have to get used to it...  it is the same feel on the TakeOff role and in the landing phase.
     
    Setting the TakeOff PERF will also set the TakeOff Bugs...  Then brakes off and power set to the TakeOff limit markers. I hold the brakes to gain thrust as LIRF's RWY 25 is quite short (10,800ft), then you go, and GO you do...  these unrestricted old powerplants had a lot of thrust in them, dirty as hell as well....  NICE.
     

     
    You power down the runway, with the full focus of centering the white line, not as easy as it sounds....   it needs full concentration to get it right with the rudder pedals and slight twitches of the tiller....    156+10 knts and you pull back on the Yoke...
     

     
    If you let it, the MD-88 will climb like a banshee if you don't control the pitch, it takes a lot of focus to keep it within the respectable limits, and the FD (Flight Director) is also a big help... Gear lever up and the noisy retraction of the gear.
     


     
    These T-Tail - rear swept wing aircraft can be a bit of a chamaeleon, follow your procedures in one takeoff, then find the MD-80 won't do the same thing the next time around, it can be a bit unnerving, but you have to be adaptable to the idiosyncratic behaviour of the aircraft, certainly when going from the Manual to Automated flight, some areas will work, but other refuse to until you are with in it's required limits (note you have to switch the "Thrust Rating to CL before the AutoThrust will activate), so you have to manually fly the aircraft until ready... I found adjusting the trim early can upset the Autopilot's definition of where the trim should be, so it won't adapt, until you do.
     
    Lets be honest here, this sounds all quite hard, but it is also the feedback of flying the MD80 Series, it is a fun aircraft to fly, because it IS so very realistic, and certainly highly rewarding when you get it right, but be aware, you won't get it perfectly right every time...  it is just that sort of machine, as it tests you and pushes your skills.
     

     
    For X-Plane 12 there are improvements to the weight and balance, aerodynamics have been upgraded and so has the engine performance to X-Plane 12 specifications, the aircraft DOES actually feel better all round in X-Plane 12
     

     
    Performance (MD88) is Normal Cruise - Mach 0.76 (448 kn; 830 km/h), High-speed cruise - Mach 0.8 (472 kn; 873 km/h), Range 2,550 nmi (4,720 km) @ 155 pax, with a ceiling of 37,000 feet (FL370), mostly it won't allow you above 31,000 ft with a full load.
     

     
    Another new options (or feature) for X-Plane 12 is the MD-88 has now added support for VR (Virtual Reality). So I expect that highly detailed cockpit to be a brilliant space to be in 3d.
     
    Lighting
    Overall the lighting is excellent, good on the original, but refined here for X-Plane 12. Panel lighting is gorgeous...
     

     
    However you can't see the downlighting in the daylight like you could in X-Plane 11, shame, but it is lovely at night. There are two overhead spotlights (press to use), but they are also a bit on the dim side. OHP however is excellent, as is the pedestal.
     

     
    CKPT FLOOD has three dome settings OFF, ON, ALT THNDRSTRM...  or off, mid, and bright cockpit lighting, a secondary lighting switch is THUNDRSTRM, but be careful as it overrides a lot of the panel's lighting adjustments and the FGCP lighting. The cockpit is lit from behind and above, and I love the look and feel of the concept.  A note is that the FGCP lighting adjustment knobs are the hanging fangs central glareshield.
     

     
    Cabin lighting is fixed (very bright), but good, with a nice if "Welcome to the 80's" feel...
     

     
    Externally the lighting is very good (X-Plane 12 tuned). Wingtip Landing and front gear Taxi lights are excellent. There are two sets of "Wing" lights, one each for the wing, and another one for the engine inlets, and a middle set of lights (L&R) for "Ground" (FLOOD LTS). Navigation and Strobe are fine as are the ANTI-COLLISION beacons, and note the wing tip detail and the Tail (Logo) light of which are both very nice detail.
     

     
    The aircraft looks very nice in the air, cabin is a bit bright...  but otherwise very good.
     

     
    We are already very familiar with Rotate's MD-88, to most the aircraft is an old friend even....  familiar and different at the same time. Here the aircraft's the same one you have flown for years, but then it is not in the newer X-Plane 12 environment. As it looks and feels different. Once at altitude you can relax for a moment and to look, soak and feel in that difference.
     
    The great thing about X-Plane 12... for what was very good before, it is now exceptional in the new version.
     
     
     
    MCDU detail is very good with two PROGRESS pages, the route data, and the Fuel calculations.
     

     
    Detailed is the FMA (Flight Mode Annunciator). It consistently changes with the FGCP commands, there is a lot to learn, and it is very authentic to the real system. You can't oddly however still not cancel the AutoThrust Alert, and sometimes the A/P disconnect Alert, both are still a really annoying anomaly. The Autothrust (throttles) hunts badly in flight, another distraction...  both never fixed.
     

     
    Sperry CRT PFD (Primary Flight Display) top, and the NAVIGATION/MAP Display lower are excellent, MAP will show NAID (Nav-Aid) ARPT (Airport), DATA and WPT (Waypoint) details. But with the small display size it feels very crammed in when you have a lot of close waypoints on an approach phase...  the Yoke can hide it as well, so you have to put it away in this vital part of the flight.
     

     
    LOWW - Vienna and we are here...  the Flight from LIRF (Rome) to LOWW (Vienna) is very short (421 nautical miles), or about 1h 40m flying time...  perfect for the MD-88.
     

     
    Tricky is the approach and landing phases. It is a skill to get the right speed to the set Flap position, to make a perfect approach, it's exhilarating as well if you get it right as you feel you are manhandling the aircraft through the air to a safe landing (can you say manhandling anymore, well you know what I mean)
     

     
    The biggest trick is in the low, low speeds (approach), you have to be seriously on your game to get it right...  hard is the transition from a middle Flap setting (11º-15º @ 250 knts) to 24, then worse is the cliff that is between 24º and 28º. Get the speed wrong and the MD-88 will balloon badly with overspeed. Setting the MCDU "APPROACH REF", will set the landing bugs, which can be a sort of flap position/speed guide.
    A lot of users are very familiar with the aircraft, but it can still catch you out with being out of the Rotate MD80 cockpit for half a year. But the MD-88 is a thrill aircraft, not a count by the numbers procedural machine, that is why the rewards are great.
     

     
    Final approach is Flap 28º and 172 knts...  The "AutoLand" option here does not work, (VOR LOC and ILS are your APP selections, both separate), but most pilots fly manually in the last landing phase...
     

     
    Gusty winds are around me! 13 knts and the wrong direction for LOWW Rwy 16.
     

     
    Full (40º) Flap @ 142 Knts, and your holding your breath and "Dancin" on the rudder pedals to keep the MD88 straight for the centerline...
     

     
    This is a T-Tail and they have a tendency to drop out of the air at low speeds...  this is called "Deep Stall", or "Super-Stall". This is caused by the main stalled wing blanketing the upper T-Tail aerodynamic surfaces, the effect is in taking away your elevator control, worse next is getting the flare absolutely right...
     

     
    ...   I found very early in my MD-80 flying that the nose comes right up (pitch) on you, and you can't aim too low either. So it is another trick to get the flare angle on landing the MD-80 Series perfectly right. Down on the hard stuff and you activate the Clam-Shell reversers with their hugely powerful noise, while then holding a straight line while running off the excess speed is (very) tricky as well.
     

     
    But you did it, so you break out a big smile, a "Maddog", smile.
     

     
    So the MD-88 can become easily very addictive, because it goes to your soul and consistently tests your skills in every area, in X-Plane 12 the elements are highlighted up another notch, but you are seriously happy to be back into this cockpit.
     
    Liveries
    Rotate only provide two liveries, the Developer House, and a very old (DC-9 era) Delta.
     

     
    In reality there is a huge amount of paints to choose from, from the past era, modern, and even the downright quirky. Here a small choice from my collection.
     

    ________________
    Summary
    The MD-88 was the first release from Rotate, now 7 years ago, late 2015. An aircraft also with very frequent updates to keep the aircraft current thoughout it's extensive X-Plane 11 run, it is widely regarded and a much loved X-Plane Simulation. With the transition to X-Plane 12, Rotate focused more on the later released MD-11, so in effect the MD-88 went out of X-Plane 12 service for six months. Here the MD-88 is now released in it's X-Plane 12 form, so the "Maddog" is back. Notable is that previous purchasers of the MD-80 XP11 can get this new Pro XP12 version for only $24.95.
     
    A second generation of the original 60's classic McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Family, the MD-80 Series has the transitional analog Clock" 1970's to the "Glass" 2000's in style and operation, as it still used Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) technology for the instrument displays. But it did come with Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and a Wind Shear Warning System, so it was an advanced aircraft for it's time period in the late 80's. referred to as the "MD-80", but this is the MD-80 Series, the type here is the MD-88.
     
    The Rotate MD-88 brought in quality "Ultra Detail", extremely graphic detailing of dirt and wear and tear, this suited and reflected the aircraft's era of service, but it also came on large 4K textures that in many cases was not very framerate friendly, certainly on mid-teen computer systems, myself I never had a problem with the aircraft, however with the more powerful Graphic Cards of today, this ultra detail is now easily absorbed and a passed issue.
     
    The X-Plane 12 upgrade of the MD-88 has all the required compatibility X-Plane 12 features. Both External and Internal textures have been upgraded to X-Plane 12's sheen, the cockpit is a different Irish Green to the grey or earlier darker tone. Improved weight and balance, X-Plane 12 aerodynamics and upgraded engine performance, are all refined. Lighting internally and externally has also been covered, the cockpit is nice with 3d lighting, but you lose the X-Plane 11 downlighting in the daylight. Externally the lighting still needs a little refining, but the main Nav, Strobe and Wing/Ice/tail lighting is very good with a nicely lit, if static lighting in the cabin. Librain rain effects have added, and covers all windows, as is the better X-Plane 12 Icing effects. VR (Virtual Reality) access is also now available
     
    But there is also the aspect of the aircraft being originally 7 years old, in features, and this is noticeable in the fact the MCDU is still a dual and not an independent set of units. Menu's are basic, and there is the missing chocks and the non-opening service door. So no EFB, or modern menus, with just the one basic AviTab. All of which are available on Rotate's MD-11. Honestly over the X-Plane 12 run I would expect the same updating to the MD-11 standard on this MD-88, the current function as noted by Rotate is to get the aircraft flying correctly in X-Plane 12, then later do the overhaul of the details.
     
    The main features here are the unique handing and systems of the era, which are extremely good here, if complicated to use. But that is the attraction and why the Rotate MD-88 is so well loved and a respected Simulation, like all Rotate aircraft, highly addictive, lost Six Months ago in the transition, the "Maddog" is back and now flying in X-Plane 12!
     
    Highly Recommended.
    _____________________
     

     
    Yes! the McDonnell Douglas MD-88 Pro X-Plane 12 by Rotate is currently available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

    Rotate MD-88 Pro X-Plane 12
    Price is US$59.95
    Purchasers of the MD-80 XP11 can get this new XP12 version for only US$24.95. Use the coupon code included in your original MD-80 XP11 
     
    Requirements X-Plane 12 Fully updated (not for XP11) Windows 8 or  Mac OSX 10.12 or newer (using Rosetta for ARM Processors), Linux Ubuntu 64b 18.04 or newer. 8 GB VRAM Minimum Current version: 1.50b10 for X-Plane 12 (May 3rd 2023)  
    Designed by Rotate
    Support Forum at X-Plane.org or http://support.rotatesim.com/
     
    Documentation
    There is excellent full coverage documentation and checklists for the MD-88 by Rotate, including;
    Rotate-MD-80_Manual.pdf Rotate-MD-80_Pilot Hand Book Checklist.pdf Rotate-MD-80_Pilot Hand Book.pdf Rotate-MD-80_Tutorial Flight.pdf _____________________
     
    Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    4th May 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane Version 12.04r3
    Plugins: JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - LIRF - Airport Rome XP  by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$25.99
    - LOWW - Vienna International Airport by Orbx
     
     
    (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
     

  21. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Blueb in Behind the Screen : April 2023   
    Behind the Screen : April 2023
     
    On average over a 20 to 30 year commercial flying career, professional pilots will fly usually about 4 to 5 types of aircraft, first in the right seat, then a command in the left. I'm not counting their non-professional activities like private general aviation, gliding or even to the extreme of aerobatic flying. This is the core total of flying airliners, either domestic or international.
     
    Do pilot's have to be more flexible in today's aviation industry? that is a big question, because, say in the 60's you could fly aircraft types from the BAC-1-11, progress to a Trident, then a Vickers VC10, then a Boeing 707 or a Boeing 747 Jumbo, or even on to the supersonic transport in Concorde. That career road would be far harder today, as you would mostly jump between types of the same design, say start in a A319, move to a A320, then a A321 and now an A321LR, you are progressing, but mostly on the same type, not "Types' of aircraft. Same with the A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
     
    Progress to each aircraft type would mean going back to class, instruction, training and finally the hands on evaluation that you could handle the new machine, a jump from say the VC10 to a Boeing 747 would be a large challenge, but nothing like the jump from a VC10 to Concorde, of which most crews of the supersonic transport were nominated from. Today the line between a A320, to a A321, is not as large, and a conversion would be in weeks rather than the months like in the past.
     
    Compare that to X-Plane, or with being a reviewer. God knows how many "Types" of aircraft and let us even include even the "weird" strange machines at that. Obviously I have lost count, but a thousand over 12 years is a rounded off figure, maybe even more than that, so you have to be pretty adaptable.
     
    Like driving a car, aviation still has it's basics in controls and instruments, so you can be "so called", adaptable. But unlike driving a car on a road, aviation machines comes with a lot of different variations, weights and sizes, again you have to be adaptable.
     
    A lot of Simulator users will also mostly stick to one type, or a variation of that type, a lot won't even progress from say a Single-Engined aircraft to a Twin-Engined aircraft, never mind a Commercial Jet. Another crowd will only fly heavies, big airliners, but most will usually use the Two-Hour rule of flying a Boeing 737 (Zibo) or Airbus A319/A320/A321 (ToLiSS), fair enough.
     
    Me I do like variety, always have, call it a challenge if you will, I couldn't be a reviewer otherwise. But I do have my core "Top Ten" aircraft that I fly personally, a few General Aviation machines, but mostly Airliners, the bigger the better.
     
    Also there is the aspect of getting "back into the groove". You would think with all that reviewing experience and skills, that I would easily slide into the seat and fly the aircraft like a pro, yes...  well no, it is not as easy as that.
     
    One big bonus of doing reviews in that when a new aircraft or type is released, you do what I call a "Deep Dive". Reviewing in detail allows you to spend a lot of time on that aircraft, sometimes weeks, study it, understanding all those minute details. Then to learn to fly it correctly... then pass on the information of what has been learnt to you the users of the X-PlaneReviews site.
     
    You would think that in say six months when the same aircraft from the same developer comes around with an update, with all that intimate knowledge learnt earlier, I should simply slide into the same seat and fly it again perfectly like the total professional I am, except that is very far from the truth. I even make copious notes, the Concorde review notes went for sixteen pages, yet I still need to revisit and revise them all every time to step back into that cockpit. And here is the thing...
     
    My first flight back in that seat is usually atrocious, totally laughable...  a professional, mostly a joke in watching my efforts. At least I don't have a check captain sitting over my shoulder rating my poor flying abilities, and ready to give my career the total thumbs down.
     
    Let's be clear, that is with the complex complicated detailed aircraft we are talking about here, sure I can pilot a GA around a circuit or two with my eyes closed, but something happened in X-Plane around eight years ago when basic PlaneMaker aircraft went to Plugins. Now the systems are real world duplication, so is now the way you also fly the aircraft in real world conditions in the Simulator.
     
    Triggers...  notes can give you triggers, and then you fly the aircraft and then release all that the stored information in your brain, it does come back to you quite easily, but some machines do have their peculiar idiosyncratic natures, not only in their systems, but their flying characteristics as well, say the Dash Q400... One flight will release the learnt peculiar tricks on using and handling the machine, the notes help, but going over the learnt procedures and you will soon fall back into that aircraft category groove. I'm an odd one as well.
     
    I just won't jump in and go flying (unless there is a reason), I go through the whole set of procedures from "Go to Woe", more so with an update (or upgrade) to cover the changes in the new updated/upgraded version, the differences between the Old and the New.
     
    That second flight (basically the review flight) is usually "Back on Song", not flawless, but back in tune with the aircraft, the third flight has to be flawless, if not there is something wrong or something has been changed? The only thing about this process, it is time consuming, two flights take time, three flights is in days to do a review, but you internally and personally have to know you have everything right, in the interaction between yourself and the aircraft before reviewing. That is why I don't like a lot of VideoJocks, watching them power through procedures and incorrect flying, and missing SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) makes me cringe by in the amount of mistakes made, some are very good, and yes even I can learn from a real line pilot doing video Simulations, but most are "Cowboys", and have bad habits that are being passed on to the unsuspecting junior (learning) Simulator users in picking up and using the same poor methodology.
     
    Okay, I come from the strict school of being serious, and a lot of users reading this will say, Hey, lighten up, it's supposed to be "Fun" it's only a "Game", but my approach is strictly professional, if you want to "Fool" around and wizz upside down in a A320 (yes looking at you Austin Meyer) then your looking at the wrong personality type, to me "Professional", means being very good at what you do and to not fool around with a 80 Ton aircraft. Simulation was created as learning tool for real world pilots, we are just lucky, and if you have enough computer power, to be able to do the "EXACT" same things as the real world pilots do, that for me is where the excitement comes from, and my on line experiences.
     
    Out of the "Thousands" of aircraft I have reviewed, a few go into my own personal hanger, the ones that are very special, but also fit my own personal flying needs, I keep the list to like I mentioned to around ten aircraft, but it is about four to five of those aircraft are what I use consistently, again these aircraft are also required to have a shakedown regularly, and the same process of a "trigger" flight and then a regular flight are required to get me again "Back in the Groove".
    I know these aircraft intimately, and yet I still need to reset my brain to fly them correctly, lose one or two that has happened with the X-Plane 11 to X-Plane 12 transition and you feel a bit lost without them (both will be released for X-Plane 12 within the next month). Again I will stress that regular repeatable flying is still required to keep your skills in prime shape, yes it is more (even relaxing) fun than the serious approach of reviewing aircraft, but still serious in the way you approach in flying the aircraft professionally. To make it "Fun", is to set up a few scenarios, I have two.
     
    The first is a real world day's flying, usually three sectors between regularly used airports (quality sceneries), In Australia say the "Triangle". Brisbane to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney and finally Sydney back to Brisbane, all in a days work and following real world services. It's more tricky than you think to fly on real world times and turnarounds with the same aircraft type. Exhausting as well, but that is what real world pilots do everyday, but it is fun to coordinate the lot together...  The second is real world airport hopping. Start a service from say Barcelona and fly to Copenhagen, then from Copenhagen to Dubai (combining European to International with different aircraft types), then Dubai to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Los Angles and so on...  if you wrap up a sector in say New York, then the next time you fly you restart in the same place, say, New York to Copenhagen, and hey, you have flown around the world with real life timetables and the same aircraft types used on the real world routes... both above scenarios are based on real world flying, but for me a fun factor as well. But all learnt during these travels, goes back into the reviewing, and the consistent practise on aircraft types means your skills are kept at a high level.
     
    This April "Behind the Screen" edition, looks a bit into how I fly and do reviews, but also shows you the amount of practise it requires to keep your flying skills at a high level, same as the real world pilots...  I like to think so, dedication is everything in life.
     
    See you all next month.
     
    Stephen Dutton
    2nd May 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  22. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Behind the Screen : April 2023   
    Behind the Screen : April 2023
     
    On average over a 20 to 30 year commercial flying career, professional pilots will fly usually about 4 to 5 types of aircraft, first in the right seat, then a command in the left. I'm not counting their non-professional activities like private general aviation, gliding or even to the extreme of aerobatic flying. This is the core total of flying airliners, either domestic or international.
     
    Do pilot's have to be more flexible in today's aviation industry? that is a big question, because, say in the 60's you could fly aircraft types from the BAC-1-11, progress to a Trident, then a Vickers VC10, then a Boeing 707 or a Boeing 747 Jumbo, or even on to the supersonic transport in Concorde. That career road would be far harder today, as you would mostly jump between types of the same design, say start in a A319, move to a A320, then a A321 and now an A321LR, you are progressing, but mostly on the same type, not "Types' of aircraft. Same with the A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
     
    Progress to each aircraft type would mean going back to class, instruction, training and finally the hands on evaluation that you could handle the new machine, a jump from say the VC10 to a Boeing 747 would be a large challenge, but nothing like the jump from a VC10 to Concorde, of which most crews of the supersonic transport were nominated from. Today the line between a A320, to a A321, is not as large, and a conversion would be in weeks rather than the months like in the past.
     
    Compare that to X-Plane, or with being a reviewer. God knows how many "Types" of aircraft and let us even include even the "weird" strange machines at that. Obviously I have lost count, but a thousand over 12 years is a rounded off figure, maybe even more than that, so you have to be pretty adaptable.
     
    Like driving a car, aviation still has it's basics in controls and instruments, so you can be "so called", adaptable. But unlike driving a car on a road, aviation machines comes with a lot of different variations, weights and sizes, again you have to be adaptable.
     
    A lot of Simulator users will also mostly stick to one type, or a variation of that type, a lot won't even progress from say a Single-Engined aircraft to a Twin-Engined aircraft, never mind a Commercial Jet. Another crowd will only fly heavies, big airliners, but most will usually use the Two-Hour rule of flying a Boeing 737 (Zibo) or Airbus A319/A320/A321 (ToLiSS), fair enough.
     
    Me I do like variety, always have, call it a challenge if you will, I couldn't be a reviewer otherwise. But I do have my core "Top Ten" aircraft that I fly personally, a few General Aviation machines, but mostly Airliners, the bigger the better.
     
    Also there is the aspect of getting "back into the groove". You would think with all that reviewing experience and skills, that I would easily slide into the seat and fly the aircraft like a pro, yes...  well no, it is not as easy as that.
     
    One big bonus of doing reviews in that when a new aircraft or type is released, you do what I call a "Deep Dive". Reviewing in detail allows you to spend a lot of time on that aircraft, sometimes weeks, study it, understanding all those minute details. Then to learn to fly it correctly... then pass on the information of what has been learnt to you the users of the X-PlaneReviews site.
     
    You would think that in say six months when the same aircraft from the same developer comes around with an update, with all that intimate knowledge learnt earlier, I should simply slide into the same seat and fly it again perfectly like the total professional I am, except that is very far from the truth. I even make copious notes, the Concorde review notes went for sixteen pages, yet I still need to revisit and revise them all every time to step back into that cockpit. And here is the thing...
     
    My first flight back in that seat is usually atrocious, totally laughable...  a professional, mostly a joke in watching my efforts. At least I don't have a check captain sitting over my shoulder rating my poor flying abilities, and ready to give my career the total thumbs down.
     
    Let's be clear, that is with the complex complicated detailed aircraft we are talking about here, sure I can pilot a GA around a circuit or two with my eyes closed, but something happened in X-Plane around eight years ago when basic PlaneMaker aircraft went to Plugins. Now the systems are real world duplication, so is now the way you also fly the aircraft in real world conditions in the Simulator.
     
    Triggers...  notes can give you triggers, and then you fly the aircraft and then release all that the stored information in your brain, it does come back to you quite easily, but some machines do have their peculiar idiosyncratic natures, not only in their systems, but their flying characteristics as well, say the Dash Q400... One flight will release the learnt peculiar tricks on using and handling the machine, the notes help, but going over the learnt procedures and you will soon fall back into that aircraft category groove. I'm an odd one as well.
     
    I just won't jump in and go flying (unless there is a reason), I go through the whole set of procedures from "Go to Woe", more so with an update (or upgrade) to cover the changes in the new updated/upgraded version, the differences between the Old and the New.
     
    That second flight (basically the review flight) is usually "Back on Song", not flawless, but back in tune with the aircraft, the third flight has to be flawless, if not there is something wrong or something has been changed? The only thing about this process, it is time consuming, two flights take time, three flights is in days to do a review, but you internally and personally have to know you have everything right, in the interaction between yourself and the aircraft before reviewing. That is why I don't like a lot of VideoJocks, watching them power through procedures and incorrect flying, and missing SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) makes me cringe by in the amount of mistakes made, some are very good, and yes even I can learn from a real line pilot doing video Simulations, but most are "Cowboys", and have bad habits that are being passed on to the unsuspecting junior (learning) Simulator users in picking up and using the same poor methodology.
     
    Okay, I come from the strict school of being serious, and a lot of users reading this will say, Hey, lighten up, it's supposed to be "Fun" it's only a "Game", but my approach is strictly professional, if you want to "Fool" around and wizz upside down in a A320 (yes looking at you Austin Meyer) then your looking at the wrong personality type, to me "Professional", means being very good at what you do and to not fool around with a 80 Ton aircraft. Simulation was created as learning tool for real world pilots, we are just lucky, and if you have enough computer power, to be able to do the "EXACT" same things as the real world pilots do, that for me is where the excitement comes from, and my on line experiences.
     
    Out of the "Thousands" of aircraft I have reviewed, a few go into my own personal hanger, the ones that are very special, but also fit my own personal flying needs, I keep the list to like I mentioned to around ten aircraft, but it is about four to five of those aircraft are what I use consistently, again these aircraft are also required to have a shakedown regularly, and the same process of a "trigger" flight and then a regular flight are required to get me again "Back in the Groove".
    I know these aircraft intimately, and yet I still need to reset my brain to fly them correctly, lose one or two that has happened with the X-Plane 11 to X-Plane 12 transition and you feel a bit lost without them (both will be released for X-Plane 12 within the next month). Again I will stress that regular repeatable flying is still required to keep your skills in prime shape, yes it is more (even relaxing) fun than the serious approach of reviewing aircraft, but still serious in the way you approach in flying the aircraft professionally. To make it "Fun", is to set up a few scenarios, I have two.
     
    The first is a real world day's flying, usually three sectors between regularly used airports (quality sceneries), In Australia say the "Triangle". Brisbane to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney and finally Sydney back to Brisbane, all in a days work and following real world services. It's more tricky than you think to fly on real world times and turnarounds with the same aircraft type. Exhausting as well, but that is what real world pilots do everyday, but it is fun to coordinate the lot together...  The second is real world airport hopping. Start a service from say Barcelona and fly to Copenhagen, then from Copenhagen to Dubai (combining European to International with different aircraft types), then Dubai to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Los Angles and so on...  if you wrap up a sector in say New York, then the next time you fly you restart in the same place, say, New York to Copenhagen, and hey, you have flown around the world with real life timetables and the same aircraft types used on the real world routes... both above scenarios are based on real world flying, but for me a fun factor as well. But all learnt during these travels, goes back into the reviewing, and the consistent practise on aircraft types means your skills are kept at a high level.
     
    This April "Behind the Screen" edition, looks a bit into how I fly and do reviews, but also shows you the amount of practise it requires to keep your flying skills at a high level, same as the real world pilots...  I like to think so, dedication is everything in life.
     
    See you all next month.
     
    Stephen Dutton
    2nd May 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  23. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from copacetic4 in Behind the Screen : April 2023   
    Behind the Screen : April 2023
     
    On average over a 20 to 30 year commercial flying career, professional pilots will fly usually about 4 to 5 types of aircraft, first in the right seat, then a command in the left. I'm not counting their non-professional activities like private general aviation, gliding or even to the extreme of aerobatic flying. This is the core total of flying airliners, either domestic or international.
     
    Do pilot's have to be more flexible in today's aviation industry? that is a big question, because, say in the 60's you could fly aircraft types from the BAC-1-11, progress to a Trident, then a Vickers VC10, then a Boeing 707 or a Boeing 747 Jumbo, or even on to the supersonic transport in Concorde. That career road would be far harder today, as you would mostly jump between types of the same design, say start in a A319, move to a A320, then a A321 and now an A321LR, you are progressing, but mostly on the same type, not "Types' of aircraft. Same with the A350 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
     
    Progress to each aircraft type would mean going back to class, instruction, training and finally the hands on evaluation that you could handle the new machine, a jump from say the VC10 to a Boeing 747 would be a large challenge, but nothing like the jump from a VC10 to Concorde, of which most crews of the supersonic transport were nominated from. Today the line between a A320, to a A321, is not as large, and a conversion would be in weeks rather than the months like in the past.
     
    Compare that to X-Plane, or with being a reviewer. God knows how many "Types" of aircraft and let us even include even the "weird" strange machines at that. Obviously I have lost count, but a thousand over 12 years is a rounded off figure, maybe even more than that, so you have to be pretty adaptable.
     
    Like driving a car, aviation still has it's basics in controls and instruments, so you can be "so called", adaptable. But unlike driving a car on a road, aviation machines comes with a lot of different variations, weights and sizes, again you have to be adaptable.
     
    A lot of Simulator users will also mostly stick to one type, or a variation of that type, a lot won't even progress from say a Single-Engined aircraft to a Twin-Engined aircraft, never mind a Commercial Jet. Another crowd will only fly heavies, big airliners, but most will usually use the Two-Hour rule of flying a Boeing 737 (Zibo) or Airbus A319/A320/A321 (ToLiSS), fair enough.
     
    Me I do like variety, always have, call it a challenge if you will, I couldn't be a reviewer otherwise. But I do have my core "Top Ten" aircraft that I fly personally, a few General Aviation machines, but mostly Airliners, the bigger the better.
     
    Also there is the aspect of getting "back into the groove". You would think with all that reviewing experience and skills, that I would easily slide into the seat and fly the aircraft like a pro, yes...  well no, it is not as easy as that.
     
    One big bonus of doing reviews in that when a new aircraft or type is released, you do what I call a "Deep Dive". Reviewing in detail allows you to spend a lot of time on that aircraft, sometimes weeks, study it, understanding all those minute details. Then to learn to fly it correctly... then pass on the information of what has been learnt to you the users of the X-PlaneReviews site.
     
    You would think that in say six months when the same aircraft from the same developer comes around with an update, with all that intimate knowledge learnt earlier, I should simply slide into the same seat and fly it again perfectly like the total professional I am, except that is very far from the truth. I even make copious notes, the Concorde review notes went for sixteen pages, yet I still need to revisit and revise them all every time to step back into that cockpit. And here is the thing...
     
    My first flight back in that seat is usually atrocious, totally laughable...  a professional, mostly a joke in watching my efforts. At least I don't have a check captain sitting over my shoulder rating my poor flying abilities, and ready to give my career the total thumbs down.
     
    Let's be clear, that is with the complex complicated detailed aircraft we are talking about here, sure I can pilot a GA around a circuit or two with my eyes closed, but something happened in X-Plane around eight years ago when basic PlaneMaker aircraft went to Plugins. Now the systems are real world duplication, so is now the way you also fly the aircraft in real world conditions in the Simulator.
     
    Triggers...  notes can give you triggers, and then you fly the aircraft and then release all that the stored information in your brain, it does come back to you quite easily, but some machines do have their peculiar idiosyncratic natures, not only in their systems, but their flying characteristics as well, say the Dash Q400... One flight will release the learnt peculiar tricks on using and handling the machine, the notes help, but going over the learnt procedures and you will soon fall back into that aircraft category groove. I'm an odd one as well.
     
    I just won't jump in and go flying (unless there is a reason), I go through the whole set of procedures from "Go to Woe", more so with an update (or upgrade) to cover the changes in the new updated/upgraded version, the differences between the Old and the New.
     
    That second flight (basically the review flight) is usually "Back on Song", not flawless, but back in tune with the aircraft, the third flight has to be flawless, if not there is something wrong or something has been changed? The only thing about this process, it is time consuming, two flights take time, three flights is in days to do a review, but you internally and personally have to know you have everything right, in the interaction between yourself and the aircraft before reviewing. That is why I don't like a lot of VideoJocks, watching them power through procedures and incorrect flying, and missing SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) makes me cringe by in the amount of mistakes made, some are very good, and yes even I can learn from a real line pilot doing video Simulations, but most are "Cowboys", and have bad habits that are being passed on to the unsuspecting junior (learning) Simulator users in picking up and using the same poor methodology.
     
    Okay, I come from the strict school of being serious, and a lot of users reading this will say, Hey, lighten up, it's supposed to be "Fun" it's only a "Game", but my approach is strictly professional, if you want to "Fool" around and wizz upside down in a A320 (yes looking at you Austin Meyer) then your looking at the wrong personality type, to me "Professional", means being very good at what you do and to not fool around with a 80 Ton aircraft. Simulation was created as learning tool for real world pilots, we are just lucky, and if you have enough computer power, to be able to do the "EXACT" same things as the real world pilots do, that for me is where the excitement comes from, and my on line experiences.
     
    Out of the "Thousands" of aircraft I have reviewed, a few go into my own personal hanger, the ones that are very special, but also fit my own personal flying needs, I keep the list to like I mentioned to around ten aircraft, but it is about four to five of those aircraft are what I use consistently, again these aircraft are also required to have a shakedown regularly, and the same process of a "trigger" flight and then a regular flight are required to get me again "Back in the Groove".
    I know these aircraft intimately, and yet I still need to reset my brain to fly them correctly, lose one or two that has happened with the X-Plane 11 to X-Plane 12 transition and you feel a bit lost without them (both will be released for X-Plane 12 within the next month). Again I will stress that regular repeatable flying is still required to keep your skills in prime shape, yes it is more (even relaxing) fun than the serious approach of reviewing aircraft, but still serious in the way you approach in flying the aircraft professionally. To make it "Fun", is to set up a few scenarios, I have two.
     
    The first is a real world day's flying, usually three sectors between regularly used airports (quality sceneries), In Australia say the "Triangle". Brisbane to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney and finally Sydney back to Brisbane, all in a days work and following real world services. It's more tricky than you think to fly on real world times and turnarounds with the same aircraft type. Exhausting as well, but that is what real world pilots do everyday, but it is fun to coordinate the lot together...  The second is real world airport hopping. Start a service from say Barcelona and fly to Copenhagen, then from Copenhagen to Dubai (combining European to International with different aircraft types), then Dubai to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Los Angles and so on...  if you wrap up a sector in say New York, then the next time you fly you restart in the same place, say, New York to Copenhagen, and hey, you have flown around the world with real life timetables and the same aircraft types used on the real world routes... both above scenarios are based on real world flying, but for me a fun factor as well. But all learnt during these travels, goes back into the reviewing, and the consistent practise on aircraft types means your skills are kept at a high level.
     
    This April "Behind the Screen" edition, looks a bit into how I fly and do reviews, but also shows you the amount of practise it requires to keep your flying skills at a high level, same as the real world pilots...  I like to think so, dedication is everything in life.
     
    See you all next month.
     
    Stephen Dutton
    2nd May 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  24. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Update : Citation C-560XL X-Plane 12 by AirSim3D   
    Aircraft Update : Citation C-560XL X-Plane 12 by AirSim3D
     
    Like in life, timing is everything. The release of the Citation 560XL by AirSim3D got caught out at the worst time. In the simulation timeline, the 560XL was initially completed at the end of the X-Plane 11 cycle, in fact the aircraft was the very last review I personally did in X-Plane 11. Worse, the newer X-Plane 12 was still deep into it's beta cycle as well, and the version release wouldn't come for another five weeks, worse again in reality X-Plane 12 was not really at all matured until the start of March 2023...  what do you do?
     
    It was actually a developers nightmare. Even at that date in time (20th November 2022) no one was really flying in X-Plane 11 anymore, as there was the new and shiny X-Plane 12 to absorb, but for the developer, in that you couldn't refine your aircraft either as the beta was in a bit of a turmoil, performance and features were also still not locked down. Sadly the 560XL got caught up in the middle of all the mess.
     
    But in doing the X-Plane 11 review at the time, I actually was not that worried for the aircraft...  odd you would say?
     

     
    I even gave the Citation my best "Best Business Aircraft : Cessna Citation 560XL by AirSim3d" award for 2022.
     
    In my mind during that X-Plane 11 review it was all the same background noise, "This aircraft will be absolutely sensational in X-Plane 12", so to a point I had already dismissed the X-Plane 11 version, then came finally the 560XL update X-Plane 12 release on the 16th March 2023. This review however is version v1.2, as there were still a few more points to be covered, call it fine tuning if you want to.
     
    If you purchased the earlier X-Plane 11 version before 16th March 2023, then you will get not only the X-Plane 11 version, but also a free update to X-Plane 12. If a new customer, then there are three purchase options, X-Plane 11 (only), X-Plane 12 (only), or both X-Plane 11 - 12 versions as a bundled package and US$20 more for both.
     
    Problem with X-Plane 11 the lighting was crap...  honestly, it was flat and bland. That is not the case with X-Plane 12, as the new lighting engine brings out all the detail and the quality that was hidden in the earlier X-Plane version. You could say it is like 2d and 3d, with 3d it all comes alive and is highly realistic...  that is what you have here, the aircraft just jumps out at you in it's quality and detail.
     

     
    But there has been a bit of development as well in the meantime, like in areas earlier were there was the bright earlier gaudy colours that have (thankfully) been toned down, like the trailing arm straps, now they look sensational and far, far more realistic....  more fine tuning, and yes all to the better.
     

     
    The AirSim3D 560XL has no menus, but an arrow system, sometimes a second arrow to do actions...  like the very nice GPU (Ground Power Unit) which you have to personally start, Electrical panel and rear baggage hold... and the same "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" way of working the baggage animation.
     

     
    Another area that has had attention are (thankfully) are the engine covers...  not a big deal, but they worked earlier in covering over the engine inlets when you shut down the engines, not when you set the aircraft to cold (no power), so it looked all very odd when you disembarked the aircraft with the covers already on a hot engine, the two new pilots also now disappear with a cold aircraft. Cones will however still appear on engine shutdown.
     

     
    Another item changed for v1.2 is the flame effect out of the APU outlet, as it is now a more realistic shimmering effect. If still you want the startling effect back you can use the Mod provided in the package from AirSim3D, but I really don't see why?
     

     
    Rear engine exhausts have also had a texture revision, and more detail added, rather than the earlier plain internal cone(s).
     
    The arrow system also opens the left front entrance door, called the "Aerostar" door. And you have to push the button (centre) before opening the lever (down), to close it is the opposite sequence, the same action is done internally.. I like it, because it is very realistic.
     

     
    In the cabin it is the same "Lux", 7 seating and all executive. In an off cream club style seating, expensive wood paneling and thick pile carpets. Cabin comes with foldout (animated) tables, and the seatbacks can be reclined.
     

     
    There is a distinct "Retro" feel to the cabin, not 60s/70s old, but an early 90's feel. This is X-Plane 12, and everything looks more realistic than "Eleven", a few areas again (colours) have been toned down to the benefit of your eyes, the 3D lighting effect has certainly enhanced the cabin's look and feel. All blinds open and close by the levers, including the washroom blinds, externally they look good as well.
     

     
    The "Retro" feel is also very apparent in the cockpit. So it is a bit of a shock when you first encounter the 560XL cockpit. No clean modern Glass layouts in here, this is "Olde School", and all the better for for it. That also creates a complexity as well, as you will find a few sets of the switch gear in here are duplicated....  Let us be clear, this is a study aircraft and one machine to understand in it's style and systems. So you will need to dig deep in learning the layouts and procedures before flying the aircraft, it is not a "jump in and fly" machine, but a very good and deep simulation of the 560XL aircraft.
     
     
     
    Again the X-Plane 12's lighting takes away the layouts slightly grey X-Plane 11 bland look, so it feels more alive, more realistic. Retro... that word comes again with those lovely XL Yokes with the signature real "Excel" aircraft logos on the front... beautifully crafted, lovely.
     
     
     
    Again X-Plane 12 brings out the exquisite detail. Another interesting area adjusted here for X-Plane 12 is the lighting effect. Early X-Plane 12 interior lighting was extremely dark, then Laminar brought in the two-tone effect that lit up the lower darker area when you looked down. AirSim3D have adjusted this two-tone adjustment to be more linear or as they note "brightening" work... tricky though, because what if Laminar re-adjust X-Plane 12's lighting back another way, but the fact it creates currently a more brighter lower view perspective in the 560XL. I got used to the two-tone effect, so it is a personal penchant to this approach.
     

     
    Flying the 560XL in X-Plane 12
    Fuel load and passenger loading is done, no menus means you use the X-Plane default, Weight, Balance & Fuel menu to load the aircraft.
     

     
    Performance of the Excel is an empty weight of 12,800 lb (5,806 kg) and a Max takeoff weight of 20,200 lb (9,163 kg). Cruise speed is 441 kn (507 mph, 816 km/h) true airspeed, at 45,000 ft (13,716 m), with a medium range of 1,858 nmi (2,138 mi, 3,441 km).
     
    Like most Citations there is "Full Authority Digital Engine Controller" or FADEC to start the PW500 turbofans. Startup sounds are excellent with a nice whine, and the engine sounds in the cockpit settle down to an excellent background hum. There are new added sounds (FMOD 2) for X-Plane 12 and the original (doppler, balance, distance for running engines, GPU and APU) have all been also updated, and you feel that in these better and more fuller sounds by just stand behind the engines to get that realistic 3D doppler effect.
     
    Let us be clear...  the reason I hold the 560XL is such high esteem is quite simply in the way the aircraft flies. From my earliest flight in the aircraft, you go "Wow", this is a really brilliant simulation. The feedback and feel at the controls is excellent, and why the aircraft easily won the "Best" of the year category in 2022, it will probably win the 2023 award as well, for X-Plane 12.
     
     
     
    So the 560XL is a very manual aircraft, the way you would want it to be... very hands on, you at the controls, doing physical inputs, and the aircraft responding. But be aware of all the power you have here, you don't need full throttle to takeoff or for the climb-out, the PW545B creates a power of 4100 pounds of thrust at takeoff (per engine). So the Excel will literally takeoff from rest (hence the N1 Thrust target), climb rate is a phenomenal 3,500 ft/min (17.78 m/s), but 2,000 ft/min is enough.
     

     
    The real 560XL uses the Universal UNS-1C Flight Management System (The same as in the FlyJSim Q4XP Dash 8 aircraft), here you have the intergrated default Laminar G1000, it's well done actually, but not an original FMS system, AirSim3D notes that there will also be "no updates for the VNAV issue we shared in the last release notes". So that aspect is still ongoing.
     

     
    Set at 12,000ft, before you climb, you have to set the internal pressurization, get it wrong and you will have alarms banging away and ultimately have a personal blackout. Basically you are doing the manual setting for the cabin pressurization that is usually automatic. This is done on the "Pressurization" panel on the upper console. You set the FL (Flight Level) setting via the knob, usually between 6,000ft to 8,000ft, this translates to 080 on the dial, (or 060 for 6,000ft). The pressurization dial should as you climb (long needle) should settle at 8, and the differential pressure (short needle) around 8 PSI, if goes into the red then you are in trouble. Just remember to depressurize once back on the ground or at a low altitude. 
     

     
    As noted, in flying the 560XL in X-Plane 11 was already a very good experience, but at that point I knew it would be be hugely more better in X-Plane 12...  well here we are, now in that situation. The results are even far better than I originally imagined, as the Citation looks simply sensational in the new X-Plane Simulator version.
     

     
    Obviously there has been performance tweaks between the X-Plane 11 and the X-Plane 12 Excel versions, so actually they feel a little different. But X-Plane 12 is not yet what you would call "Final", final, yes it has been released, but we still expect some revisions including performance until the Northern 2023 Summer. Notable is that any purchase will cover you for the 560XL X-Plane 12 cycle, so for about 4 years of updates and upgrades, and that is part of the deal with the aircraft. But no notes on how long support will last for the X-Plane 11 version, I would say around twelve months.
     
    Lighting
    The lighting of the 560XL in the X-Plane 11 version was very good, or very nice...  It has however been redone for the X-Plane 12 lighting. Instrument lighting is excellent, fully adjustable, with FLOOD lighting.
     

     
    The biggest difference is the so called "reflectiveness" in the way colours nicely reflect around the instrument panel...
     

     
    ... same with the "side Panel" lighting (again the colour reflections are lovely), also there are adjustable "MAP" lights over the Yokes, rear console lighting is nicely lit as well.
     

     
    On the instrument panel you have side highlight lighting, that can be switched off for a dark mode TakeOff/Landing visual look.
     

     
    The cabin has overhead separate spot lighting for both each seat and table, and very nice and cozy it is. There is a very different feel to the X-Plane 12 lighting than with the X-Plane 11 version, sharper and more detailed, but far better than the dull X-Plane 11 feel, Exit lights are however still too bright.
     

     
    Externally you have two landing lights under the belly of the XL, taxi lights in the wings and navigation lights in the wingtips and tail. There is tail lighting and a red beacon up top... A note on the landing lights is that you can make them "Pulse" from one to the other...
     

     
    Like a lot of Private jet flying, you fly a lot by the throttle inputs. To highlight this aspect is descending, because you can set the V/S (Vertical Speed) here 2950 fpm, but the aircraft will still not descend until you reduce the aircraft thrust...  the trick is to get the balance right, for the set descend speed, to also using the forward speed of where they match for the best descent performance.
     

     
    I go back to the manual flying for the approach into LOWS - Salzburg. Down at a low altitude I can now reduce the cabin pressure back to zero. On the approach you have to run off as much speed as possible as these jets are, slippery and powerful, 150 knts and 15º flap act as brakes in the air.
     

     
    X-Plane 12 Librain effects are well done, and work well on all windows.
     

     
    Then gear down...   Really nice gear!
     

     
    That straight clean Citation wing with the wide track wheels creates a very stable platform when configured for landing. You feel totally under control and have a very nice balance on the final approach, with an approach speed of a low (Full 35º Flap) at around 130 knts.
     
    Over the fence at 122 knts, and we are on finals...
     

     
    "Angle of Attack" marker in your eyes (slightly to the right) tells you you are "on the money"...  as you gently touch the tarmac. I touched down around 95 knts, but it still feels very fast..
     

     
    ... thank god for the huge cans of the reverse thrust, as they quickly slow down the aircraft to a reasonable taxi speed.
     

     
    Welcome to Salzburg, Austria!
     
    Liveries
    There are twelve liveries (up three from earlier), C-DVME (is default "new") and the rest have very decorative names, in order; Brazilian Carnival, Canada Nice, Germany Pfeil, Indian Summer, Italian Classic, NZ Fern, Real N56LP, Real N604BP, Spanish Treasure, Swiss Snowstorm, UK Red Ribbon and US "Singing the Blues". Paintkit is also available. All exactly the same as the X-Plane 11 liveries, but here they shine and have a much more deeper quality feel.
     

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    Summary
    The Cessna Citation 560XL (Excel) is an off-shoot from the main Cessna Citation family to fit a certain niche in the market. It uses several combination of new technologies and designs and the sections of other Citations, but the Excel creates a more bigger cabin, bigger engines, but it is a smaller aircraft overall with a lower range to create a lower market price or entry level aircraft to the family.
     
    Caught in-between the beta release of X-Plane 12, and the (very) last throes of X-Plane 11. The 20th November 2022 release of AirSim3D's  was Citation 560XL or "Excel" was the worst of timing. X-Plane 11 is on the face of it flat and bland, but this aircraft is everything that isn't.
     
    Already a crowd favorite, it's release here only highlights why the 560XL is so good, but with the added addition of not only X-Plane 12 performance and effects, it is really the look and feel of the aircraft in X-Plane 12 in that now leaps off your screen. In reality this aircraft was created for X-Plane 12 and not "Eleven", so here it is finally in it's natural home and environment.
     
    So the first impressions here are quite construing to your senses as it feels and looks to a different era. But use the Excel and fly it, then you begin to really enjoy it, savor it and in the end you will find it a very nice aircraft to use frequently, in fact you will want to fly it consistently as it is deep down a really very good aircraft.
     
    X-Plane 12 features abound, but there is also the totally new lighting, two-tone adjustment tricks to be more linear in the cockpit, a nicely fitted out cabin with seat and window animation and nice lighting. Other features include new Pilots, original Cones, Chocks, engine covers (now fixed for only a cold appearance), Pitot covers, working GPU, battery hatch and a Baggage compartment that can load or unload bags at a click of an arrow.
     
    If you purchased the earlier X-Plane 11 version before 16th March 2023, then you will get not only the X-Plane 11 version, but also a free update to X-Plane 12. If a new customer, then there are three purchase options, X-Plane 11 (only), X-Plane 12 (only), or both X-Plane 11 - 12 versions as a bundled package and US$20 more for both.
     
    Business Jets have become a very popular of the last few years. Mostly because they perfectly fit that segment between General aviation flying and the larger Commercial jet aircraft. They are a pleasure machine with great performance and speed, so this AirSim3d fits that context perfectly. Also in the same context is the design and feel of the original Excel style aircraft. Once bitten you will love it, the 560XL certainly grows on you more with every flight. The best Private Jet in X-Plane, that aspect can always be debatable, but the AirSim3D Citation XL is certainly well up there in it's X-Plane 12 guise.
     
    Highly Recommended.
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    Yes! the Cessna Citation 560XL XP12 by AirSim3d is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:
     
    Cessna Citation 560XL XP12
    Price is US$59.95
     
    Cessna Citation 560XL XP11
    Price is US$49.95
     
    Cessna Citation 560XL XP12 + XP11
    Price is US$79.95
     
    Features: AirSim3D C-560 XL: Real-Jet authenticity
    Real jet visits at Boeing airfield were extensively used to inform build and design decisions 100’s of pages of real POH manuals, specs, drawings, pics used Real pilot tested and extensively beta tested Result: real-world systems, lighting, functions, modeling and procedures authenticity  
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 Only Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version : 1.2 (April 17th 2023)   There are 3 purchase options for the 560 XL XP11 only Version . Get it here XP12 only Version. Get it here XP12 and XP11 Bundle . Get it here  (this one)  
    Installation and documents:  download for the Cessna Citation 560XL XP12 is 554 Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 804 Mb (Includes noted liveries)
     
    Documents supplied are:
    On-Line details only currently available; Summary - AirSim3d
     
    Designed by AirSim3D
    Support forum for the C-560 XL
    _____________________
      Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    28th April 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane Version 12.05b3 (beta)
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : AviTab Plugin - Free
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - EGGD - Bristol International Airport by Pilot-Plus + (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$22.95
    - LOWS- Salzburg Airport W. A. Mozart v2 by Digital Design (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$19.50
     
     
    (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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