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Aircraft Review : Aerosoft ATR 72-500 If not anything else the Aerosoft-McPhat Studios ATR-500 has been controversial. The release deadline was moved back more and more until the aircraft was finally released early in December 2012. Then it really divided the users into those who really liked it and those who just didn’t like it at all. Even I was disappointed by the amount of issues that it was released with and many of them were just minor. The extremely large file size and as some perceived the high price in that the aircraft is known as a systems “lite” machine in the fact that many of the aircraft’s in-depth systems including parts of the hydraulics and electrical, Air-Con and others are just blanked out and not accessible to the user. The idea of a “lite” version was to capture a market that didn’t want to spend 10-20 minutes in just getting the aircraft ready to fly. To also spend two weeks with your head in a manual to work out how to turn off a single light on the overhead panel that was bleeding air off from the engines. This sort of in-depth simulation is what aircraft simulation is really all about - but sometimes you just want to start the engines and go. The the point of the ATR-500 was in just doing that with some very nice visual aspects to help the cause along. Now almost 8 months later after the release the first upgrade in Version 1.10 is here and how does it all shape up after a period of time in our hangars. Regional aircraft are the most interesting aircraft you can use in simulation. With that aspect they sell very well and are used a lot by users, because one they are great as the distances are usually very short in around a 200-500nm radius. That is really just a morning or afternoon in flying time. If you want some more extended flying you can then rope in together two or three sectors and do a service loop around a country or an area, or just simply fly back to your original departure point after a brief turnaround. This gives you a satisfying experience that won’t keep you up all night in having to land 6000nm away in Singapore or the Far East. The ATR 72 was developed from the ATR 42 regional airliner built by the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR (Now Airbus (EADS)) in order to increase the seating capacity from 48 to 78 passengers by stretching the fuselage by 4.5 metres (15 ft), increasing the wingspan, adding more powerful engines and increasing the fuel capacity by approximately 10 percent. The 72 was announced in 1986, and the aircraft made its maiden flight on 27 October 1988. And only one year later on 27 October 1989 Finnair then became the first airline to put the aircraft into service. Since then at least 611 ATR 72s have been delivered worldwide with orders pending on at least 28 more. Cruise speed: 511 km/h; 318 mph (276 kn) : Range: 1,324 km (823 mi; 715 nmi) : Service ceiling: 7,620 m (25,000 ft) : Takeoff Run at MTOW: 1,165 m (3,822 ft) Installation Aerosoft use an install system to place the aircraft into your “aircraft” folder. The (v1.10) download is huge at 1.80gb and is expanded out to 3.14gb on installation. The installer requires a registration number and will only install the aircraft in the “Heavy Metal” folder, which slightly annoys me in the fact I have a separate “regional Aircraft” folder that I would usually use for this category of aircraft. There are two manuals - One the main “manual” “In (English and German) and one for “Procedures”. Aircraft Textures McPhat Studios in Holland are one of the great simulation studios in the business. Their quality in texture design is one of the best regarded all round, but until the ATR their work was only available in FSX land. And a high quality this aircraft is. The detailing on the liveries are really second to none... the detail in close-up is simply amazingly good. But it does come at a cost in downloading these huge 80mb files and they take a long time to create. They are also highly shiny? This is a debatable issue. Are aircraft this shiny? Most Aircraft I have flown on are quite a semi-gloss unless they have just come out of the paint shop... But here it can be hard to sometimes get a clear image because the shininess wipes out bright white on most of the lines of the aircraft. So am I a fan? no not really, but that does not takeaway the quality of these 12 excellent liveries and the default livery of which is the TRIP... These complex livery files are split into almost every panel or item on the aircraft to achieve this sort of depth of detail. Because the aircraft itself is quite light in frame-rate it can carry these heavy files without sending your computer into meltdown and that is part of the tradeoff. You can open the large front baggage door and the rear passenger door by using the F1 and F2 keys. A few bags in the front baggage area would be a great addition as the area is very empty. Internal detailing is just as good, if not one of the best cabins I have seen in this scale of aircraft. The graphic text detail is a little blurry at a low texture setting but otherwise it is excellent - and the whole cabin is even better at night. In the Cockpit The first view of the cockpit is of a high quality in depth and colour... But you need to look closer. First off is that there are two cockpit colours in Blue and Brown. These different setups can change with a selection of a different livery. You can note the slight colour seep of blue on the brown panel when it gets slightly darker. but otherwise they both look great. At one look the quality is outstanding with amazing quality and detail and the standout areas are the black textures around the main instruments, central engine dials and the gear lever. The whole panel of light reflections are simply excellent as the glass is in parts almost fully reflective of light. The Autopilot and Radio (COMM and NAV) frequency panel is first rate in set up and usage, and I really like the heading large and small degree adjustment feature. The centre pedestal is also a great work of art in design and function. Levers are excellent in operation and feel, and the MAP (zoom), NAV1/Nav2/FMS selection knobs are slightly twiddly but very clacky in operation and you soon get used to using them. FMS panel is standard X-Plane with default layout and the same default but in this case separate correct COMM/ADF/TRANSponder instruments. One feature I really like is the window blinds and shades, pull up or move down they are great while cruising high with the light on the wrong side of your face. I use them effectively all the time. One issue is the difference in texture quality with the render settings. Set the “texture” setting on “high” in the render settings menu and although many of the main dials are perfectly fine, many however are very blurry and mostly so is the label text on the side panel knobs .. If the texture setting is on “Very High” the problem mostly goes away. You can still see the differences between the two types of textures but now they are more aligned. In version 1.00 these textures were even worse and McPhat have totally redone in v1.10 the textures to be better and use less memory, of which now differences are now much closer. But they are still slightly noticeable if looking at detail and if you can’t run the “very high” setting, then even more so. On the OHP (Overhead Panel) there is not a lot of functionality, Lights and and some Electrical/Hydraulics/Pneumatics and the vital ice and rain protection items work and so the knobs and switches required to start the engines... But the rest is mostly just for show. In three areas the needles on the dials are missing altogether, but my feeling is that they will be made to correctly work in a future version. The altimeter on the main panel only clicks down to the last four digits at 3000ft... before that it still shows 14000ft for 1400ft? My biggest annoyance is the wipers. The switches are there and so are the beautifully rendered items on the windscreen... but they don’t have any animation?... Nothing is better in a regional aircraft than battling down to a runway with a rainstorm in your vision. But with no wipers flapping in your face it sorts of ruins the whole experience. Another small irritant is there are two 1px wide lines on the otherwise excellent propellers. They rotate in your view and if you like to do the view from the passengers perspective in the cabin then they are all you see outside of the window... It is noted the lines were fixed for v1.10, but they are still there? Engine smoke is above the wing and not below by the exhausts. The flap and undercarriage animation is excellent and well created as is the lighting at night. The standard Strobe, Nav and Beacon lighting are all well done. The aircraft has two landing lights under the fuselage and the lighting from the cabin from the outside view is very realistic. Most of the outside lighting has had a lot of attention in the v1.10 upgrade, the main landing lights, the taxi light now works and the lighting does not show through the cabin (floor) anymore (except for the taxi light). The main panel looks gorgeous at night and a place you want to be and so is the well rendered OHP. HDR on or off does not make that much difference. Flying The ATR 72-500 At first count I didn’t know what I really felt about the ATR72, mainly because I couldn’t read all the graphics in the cockpit. But I have had this aircraft for 8 months now and the upgrade has helped to fix many of the small issues. In simulation what is the main value when buying an aircraft. It is in the amont of time you use the aircraft. You could spend US$50 on an aircraft and fly it only a few times and no matter how well created it is, you have to ask yourself if that was good value? With the ATR I found myself flying it almost every week in one form or another. The biggest draw-card was it is an interesting aircraft dynamically to fly. It challenges you to fly it really well and hit the numbers on the money. Jack’s Dash Q400 from FlyJSim is the same and it is not a coincidence that both of these aircraft are direct competitors in the market place. It may be systems “lite” but you still get a very big reward in flying the ATR. Speeds are crucial to every point of the flight from takeoff to landing. There is a “power management” system that adjusts the engine power for a certain segment of the flight from MCT, TO, CLB and CRZ. but be wary in the fact it could bury your power if not used in the right segment as in some cases you need the speed momentum to set the correct power. Leaving the runway requires you to use the power wisely. The ATR is in a way like a big GA and so you have to gain height slowly and it takes time to get to 15,000ft which would be around your average cruise altitude. On a longer sector 20,000ft would be your aim. You are very conscious of the wing. It is a strange beast in its function and so the extension of flaps can make the wing do different things in the way the aircraft will balance on the pivot of the wing behind you. It creates a very small speed zone to work in as well around 120knts to 115knts under full flap, too much power and your nose is going to angle (very severely) down very awkwardly, set the power too light and your nose is soon at a strange stall position, no doubt this aircraft has a very small slow speed window in which to set your flaps, but when you get there then the balance between flying and stalling is very small. The balance is the skill you are willing to give the aircraft. Under the throttle for landing you are very conscious of the speed in that small zone. Using the ILS can give you a false sense of security in that you can easily adjust the nose angle by the slightest of speed adjustments, but coming out of the ILS you can find yourself either going to fast (usually) or going to slow and both actions will give the aircraft a major bounce on the runway. Coming in too fast is usually always the safe side of the equation... But too fast is still to fast. You don’t have any airbrakes and so the reverse pitch is the only means of slowing the speed once on the hard stuff and sometimes the landing is like hitting the deck on an aircraft carrier... Your job is to avoid that sort of flying and try to make it more like a nice smooth touch and reverse thrust approach. Duplicate that by three or four landings and takeoff’s a day and you are in the zone. The reward is in getting it all right every time. And that is the attraction. The pull. The ”I really want to give that run another go” thought. So with every spare few hours that you have you “do have another go” and that is the constant and always repeatable use of the aircraft because... It is challenging and it challenges you hard to fly it really well. Conclusions The ATR72-500 from Aerosoft/McPhat is if anything a “Tour-de-Force”. On one side the graphics and detailing is totally outstanding... but in other areas of simple items and a few extra features still persist that could be quickly fixed with an (no livery) update. It is an almost there aircraft. Most aircraft released over the last year and some noticeably from JARdesign and FlightFactor have had regular updates and extra features that tweek their product into perfect shape. If only the ATR could have that same lavish attention. It is again an aircraft that will certainly divide the punters. But after using the ATR72 for a period since its release I will note it is an aircraft that really gets under your skin, It challenges your skills and it keeps you interested month after month in various ways to get you to keep on coming back and wanting to fly another sector, try another route... It is so addictive in that only and if a few other aircraft have held my attention for these sort of long periods. And with that it comes back to value... If you use aircraft as much as I have flown this aircraft then the value is in there and in a way it starts to deliver on the original promise now with the update (1.10) and with more liveries added in to the package. In the end in context. Even with some compromises with systems and a couple of slight issues that I really try to ignore - The ATR72-500 is with out doubt one of my favorite aircraft that I use constantly and relish in testing my skills and just enjoy flying. And in the end that is what good simulation is all about. The Aerosoft ATR72-500 (ver1.10) is available now from the X-Plane.org Store : Aerosoft ATR72-500 Price is US$32.05 This Aircraft is only available for X-Plane10 Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7 (updated), Linux, Mac CPU: 2,6 GHz (Duo / Quad core recommended) Memory : 2 GB RAM Review By Stephen Dutton Note: I listed four other liveries available for the ATR72-500 by Elanport here : Developer Site : McPhat Studios Ver 1.10 list of changes - Landing lights illuminate brighter. - Landing lights don’t illuminate the Cockpit any longer. - Taxi light works and steers with wheel. - Cockpit textures are brighter and better readable. - Strobe lights now illuminate objects (plane, runway etc). - Camera movement is limited inside the cockpit, so you can no longer go through the walls. - Engine start works as described in the manual for X-Plane 10. - Fixed prop animation. - 5 new UHDT repaints: Air Nostrum, Azul, CSA, Flybe Nordic, CSA Skyteam - Added wing registration to the existing and new liveries. - Fixed Air Austral registration on fuselage. Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) - ExtremeSceneryMAXX Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle