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Updated Aircraft Review : Eurocopter EC130 B4 v1.1 X-Plane 12 by HSF The Bell 206 JetRanger changed helicopter operations forever. Before this light rotor craft came on to the scene, then Helicopters were used mainly for Military, Oil or Government operations. But the Bell 206 was reliable and cheap enough to operate in commercial areas. Hence the load of television stations that became the "eyes in the sky", also Fire Police and Customs used the aircraft for their own particular services, but more so was the commercial aspect of personal transport, or the use of helicopters in the field of consumer usage. Not only for heliport to airport transfers, but the flourishing tourism market of which where the real action was... or sightseeing from the air. Today we take this air tourism market for granted in "Sightseeing Flights", but a few decades ago they were then very compelling and opened up a world to the masses and not only for the rich few. It's big business, go to the Grand Canyon, Nevada and see the huge flightlines of machines, or at any scenic attraction, and there is also a very good chance you will be able to also go for a sightseeing flight. The Bell 206 dominated this tourism market for decades, it was the perfect machine for the job, so how do you replace it. The French developed the Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil, or Aérospatiale initiated a development programme to produce a replacement for the aging Aérospatiale Alouette II and in so created another iconic helicopter. But for tourism operators the AS350 was slightly too small, so (then Eurocopter, now Airbus Helicopters) had to develop something else for the market. The designed EC130 was achieved in close cooperation with the said tour operators, one such operator, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters was also in being the launch operator; The EC130 has been described as having a spacious cabin for accommodating up to seven tourists and also providing excellent external visibility. It also created a strange machine in being very wide with it's three forward seats and four rear seat configuration, the pilot flies from the left seat, even a dual operation it puts the second pilot in the middle seat. Another change on the EC130 for safety was the use of the guarded Fenestron anti-torque device in place of a conventional tail rotor, the Fenestron also has unevenly spaced blades to reduce noise generation by 50% compared to a tail rotor; this enabled an FAA Appendix H fly-over noise signature of 84.3 EPNdB, 8.5 dB and below stage two limits. So the EC130 is a quiet machine for operations over densely packed environments. Update v1.1 This is an updated review of the EC130. Original release date was the 26th August 2023, this comprehensive update v1.1 was released almost a month later (17th Sept 23) and so it made sense to combine the two versions and highlight the changes with the newer updates included. HeliSimu France are a newly formed (2019) community dedicated to French designed helicopters. The EC130 is their first collaborative venture for the X-Plane 12 Simulator, there will be no X-Plane 11 version of the aircraft. And there is a lot of collaboration going on here, mostly by HSF with a design by highly renowned NemethDesigns. First views of the HSF EC130 are extremely good for a first time developed aircraft. Particularly for a helicopter as the quality and detail in this sphere is, always been extremely high... The EC130 is a single-engine helicopter. It uses a three-bladed Starflex main rotor which is matched to an enclosed tail fan anti-torque device, known as a Fenestron, the latter feature replacing the traditional tail rotor found on the older AS350. The EC130 uses the Turbomeca Arriel 2D turboshaft engine; the performance of this powerplant 710 kW (950 hp) has led to the type having been described as possessing "better power margins and range than competing models, particularly in hot and high conditions". The B4 is the Initial launch model of the type. First flight 24 June 1999, and 700 aircraft have been built to date. First of all there are two versions of the aircraft from HSF, one is the standard "Analog" avionics, the second is "G500" for FAR Part 23 Class 1/Class 2 aircraft, dual-screen electronic flight display classification. You select either system from the X-Plane Flight Configuration menu. On the G500 EC-130 aircraft there is also the extra option to install a RealSimGear G500 for a more higher detailed and menu driven avionics version of the unique system. Detail As noted the modeling and design here is by highly renowned NemethDesigns. It shows as the quality is very good, again we will note that helicopters are a level above in quality and detail than the usual aircraft fare in the simulator. The complex construction of the EC-130 is really well done here, all the panels are all perfect and so are the locking latches, steel/chrome highlights are well done as well. Underside of the fuselage is also highly detailed, highly realistic. Noted as PBR 2K textures, they are very good. The burnt exhaust is very realistic, as is it's complex shape, but the air-vent circular pipes could be more rounded. The Fenestron in flight looks great as is the nicely surrounding sculptured enclosure. The construction detail of the rotor hub is excellent, all rods, tower and joints are perfectly modeled with a cap on top. But the rotor hub is not animated, as there are no pitch or roll movements, its all very static, a pointer to the depth of the design... on the Fenestron however the blades simulate the Yaw aspect by movement with the rudder controls. Glass is exceptional, dark thick and beautifully curved and intergrated into the fuselage, notable are the central window panels, that give the aircraft it's width, and excellent skylights set in above, it is a very scenic built forward cabin for sightseeing. So the modeling and detail is excellent, very high quality and very well executed by NemethDesigns. As we go into the cabin, we will look at the menu options as well, because they are related. Menu The Menu is situated upper left panel by clicking a hotspot on the Caution Warning Panel (CWP)... you can move the menu panel in a semi-circle around you via the arrows, left or right. Obviously this menu system has been created for VR or Virtual Reality users in mind, its easy to use and accessible as well. All the four doors can be opened, the left rear is a slider, the right rear an opening dummy door. The seven seats are tall, very thin and built on a metal frame, three front and four rear. The seat construction frames are excellent, and the cabin interior is most all shades of grey with black. nice carpets and the interior is a darkish grey. There are also the various material design options (and colours) from seat covers to changeable seat patterns, via the differently selected livery. Also via the menu you have the option to remove both the forward (two) seats and the full rear four seats. Clever is the use of the X-Plane Weight & Balance menu to add in the pilot and passengers... .... slide the Pilot weight slider above 50 kgs and he will appear. Slide the "Front" passenger (PAX) to 75 kgs and a passenger will appear, another 75 kgs and a second passenger appears. The same system is used in the rear with the four passengers left to right. - Version 1.1 - There are changes to the Weight and Balances menu with the addition of new features in v1.1... added are four new sliders to cover the weights in "Cargo" and "Basket" loads. There are excellent cargo baskets on each side of the EC130, Adjusting the weight slider (v1.1) and you can now have baggage (cargo) in the baskets, nicely done.... and you can also open the baskets with a hotspot. Another v1.1 change is the addition of opening side cargo (baggage) compartments... like with the Baskets, if you adjust the W&B menu slider you will get internal compartment bags (luggage) Other external options include; Left side Mirror and underside Sling Hook. You can select the Sling Load weight and Object on the X-Plane W&B menu, but there are no objects to load, or provided? Set the weight, turn on the "Sling" selection in the SCU or system control unit... and the weight is shown on the far left "Sling load Indicator". Externally because there is no object you get a white and red box to lift, In time I would expect real objects to lift. The EC-130's aircraft keel is of high-strength, with chemically milled beams rather than the usual stamped metal, so it's lift capacity is higher. More external options include lower and upper wire cutters... Working "Floats" and rear skid "Bear Paws". Final external option are the "Handling Wheels" again on the rear part of the skid. You can manoeuvre the helicopter by the wheel control panel when you select the Handling wheels selection... just press the arrow on the direction you want to move, but it is very, very basic... even primitive in action? Instrument Panel - G500 The Instrument binnacle is huge, but still small in this wide cockpit... set to the far left it is very well done here in look and detail. Black on black, it is quite dark internally. There are the two layout configurations as noted... Analog and G500, we will look first at the G500. And it has built-in a "Synthetic Vision" feature that is excellent, the best Synthetic I have seen yet. The G500 avionics package is designed specifically for FAR Part 23 Class 1/Class 2 aircraft (singles and twins less than 6,000 lbs.), G500 system is an affordable, dual-screen electronic flight display that works with your avionics stack to provide a fully certified “glass cockpit” retrofit option. Dual 6.5" LCDs are mounted side-by-side in the bezel, put both the Primary Flight Display (PFD) and Multifunction Display (MFD) capabilities directly in your field of view to help streamline instrument scanning. There is real-time True Airspeed calculations and selectable Winds Aloft data as well as aircraft ground speed, GPS active waypoint, distance-to-waypoint, desired/actual track, and more. PFD consolidates all primary situational information regarding your aircraft’s position are in tapes, speed, attitude, vertical rate, altitude and flight progress. plus Nav 1, Nav 2 and GPS data. This version from HSF is very, very good, but you can also install a payware version as noted from RealSimGear G500. There is a provided folder and instructions in the package to install the RealSim G500 version correctly. The left display MFD provides detailed moving-map graphics of your aircraft’s current position in relation to ground features, chart data, navaids and more. TCAS and Weather overlay (X-Plane) are both supported. On the HSF version I couldn't see the flightplan tools, and too a point the MFD is a little basic here, but more detail may follow. How to use the G500, I will cover in the flying section of this review, it is a one knob operation, clever. v1.1 Added is a Toggle custom command for the starter and hydraulic switch, mostly for home cockpit builders, but also for a button press start on your keyboard. VEMD - Vehicle and Engine Management Display Aérospatiale helicopters use the excellent VEND (Vehicle and Engine Management Display) system. It is a two display (Upper & Lower) arrangement with screen options available via right side buttons, on power up you will get a test loop of the system. Upper screen shows two displays, "Starting" and in "Flight". Shown on the upper "Starting" display is; Fuel gauge, Fuel quantity, Bleed valve flag, Starting T4 indication, Torque indication NG and delta NG indication, VEND caution messages and OAT (Outside Temperature). On the "Flight" display is; Fuel gauge, Fuel quantity, Bleed valve flag, In flight T4 indication, Torque indication, NG and delta NG indications and OAT. On the lower "Flight" display is more flight performance data; Engine oil temperature, Engine oil pressure, Voltage ( Battery and Generator), Generator amperage, Fuel Flow and Endurance in hours. When you shut down the Ec-130, the lower VEND display will create a "Flight Report", incuding; Total flight number(s), Last flight duration, Last flight N1 and N2 cycles, Total N1 and N2 cycles and a Over-limit indication if detected during the flight. What is missing from this HSF system is the "Test" routines for the VEND system and displays, and you miss that visual (and colourful) test loop (There is a static test, but not the animated loop testing), and most of the buttons on the two displays are false, except for ON/OFF, Reset and Brightness? Analog Panel Besides the G500 Avionics you also have a standard analog instument package, this layout is excellent with instruments; Caution Warning Panel (CWP), NR indicator (rotor/ N2 speed) 3 way Emergency switch, Standby Horizon, Gyro slaving control, indicated air speed (kts), Pilot Horizon, Altimeter (ft), large Radio Altimeter (ft), HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), Variometer (ft/min), Clock/Chronometer, HSI source switch, lower Cockpit Lightings Knobs and NAV 1 GPS. Switiching Avionics (G500 - Analog) changes the display (slightly). The Airspeed and Altimeter become lower panel backup instruments, and the Lighting Panel is moved to the right hand side. A custom instrument is the NR (Top Left) Indicator, which shows the rotor speed and the N2 engine speed, Low NR will send alarm sounds in the headset if NR is under 360 rpm, and high NR alarm sounds in the headset if the NR is above 410 rpm. There is also an "Electric Emergency Switch" (Emer SW), that switches off all DC power, except vital power consumers. There are two other instrument menu options with the Artificial Horizons (main and backup), as they can be the switched between a Floating Globe, or Electronic Horizon instrument. I prefer the nicer Floating Globe option. The other (menu) option is to install the SAS (Stability Augmentation System), which is basically a Helicopter Autopilot System. It is situated below the GNS 430 GPS unit. Lower console is really well done, with a Garmin GMA 340 radio top, Bendix/King NAV 2 radio centre and Garmin GTX 327 Transponder unit bottom. The lower console has the "SCU" or System Control Unit, with a multitude of operations, including; Battery on (bat epu and dct/bat work together), Generator on, Horn (low NR and high NR alarms in the headset), Cockpit light, Avionics on, Generator reset, Anti-Collision light, Nav lights, Fuel pump, System lights, Instruments lights, Pitot heat, Sand filter, Sling load indicator, Taxi & Landing lights, Floats arm on, Crank engine, Warning lights test, Fire test and Servo test. Pressing the W/L switch will test the Caution Warning Panel (CWP), VEND and SCU, like I mentioned earlier it is only a lights test here, not a VEND system test? You have (more) options for changing the Avionics in replacing the GNS 430, and the Analog Radio/NAV 2/Transponder with a Reality XP GNS 430W and Reality XP GTN 750 Touch on the main panel and upper console, if you own those external options, and then the switching can be done in the menu. There is the option to use the AviTab, positioned on the far right of the instrument panel, the plugin is of course required. The option for a "Single" or "Dual" controls (Cyclic and Collective) is also available via the Menu. You can "Lock" the Cyclic by pressing the base plate... the Collective has a huge amount of active functions available, including; Landing light, Inflate floats, Hydraulic switch, Taxi light, Wiper, VEND scroll function, Landing light pitch, Twist (Throttle) grip in idle or flight positions and Collective Lock. The Huge massive two section Wiper is an option, and the switch is hard to find, but it is situated far left on the collective handle. Above you are four very nice Bose headsets... click for sounds and instrument warnings! The "Rotor Brake" lever (apply below 170 rpm rotor speed) and the Fuel shut off lever and Fuel shut off lever guard are all situated forward roof. Added in v1.1... is that the aircraft registration is now noted on the top of the instrument panel, it changes with the applied livery registration. ______________ Flying the EC130 B4 Helicopters are all about feel, mostly in the controls. Get it right and it a glorious place to be, get it wrong, and your struggling with the machine. The type of machine helps as well. Big heavy helicopters are more gentile, easier to fly, but light helicopters can be tricky and nasty. The AS350 can be like that, it will take smooth control and minimum inputs to get it right... so where does the EC130 stand, well in the middle, with more a benign nature, than a hairy jiggling machine. Yes a novice could fly this EC130 B4, it is nice enough and benign enough to warrant that. But it does have its odd characteristics. Changed in v1.1 is the Rotor animation... to a smoother rotor blur or a more realistic rotor movement, very nice it is. There is also the allowance now of Rotor blur on both blades sides, it also allows you to customise each side differently, but there are no notes on how to do this? Another note is that the Fmod external sound has been increased, and so has the doors (open) sound in external view. Taking off and the Yaw (rudder) feel is odd, there is thrust, then give the rudder more right foot and the thrust becomes less, then kicks in higher in a boost that sends you in the opposite direction (twirling). But I eventually controlled the yaw oddities, even got a low hover in place above the pad without drifting... then a forward motion (in the direction I wanted to go)... so the EC130 not (thankfully) one of those sweary impossible machines to fly. Find your groove and the machine is very good, nice to fly once you have settled the angle of forward flight to the altitude. An option you have is to switch on the "Vibrations", so you don't need an external "Effects" plugin to get realistic movements... and I really like them, nice movements, without not being too severe or silly, if you don't like them, you can "Kill" the effect in the Menu. The famous Matterhorn looms in the scenic windshield as I try to gain as much height as I can... The rate of Rate of climb is 9 m/s (1,800 ft/min), a Cruise speed of 237 km/h (147 mph, 128 kn), with a Never exceed speed of 287 km/h (178 mph, 155 kn) over a Range of 606 km (377 mi, 327 nmi), or 4 Hours endurance. Service ceiling is a remarkable 7,010 m (23,000 ft) with a Hover ceiling IGE of 3,429 m (11,250 ft). So the EC130 is a very capable machine. Manual hands on flying is easy, not at all tiring as some Helicopters are, they require a lot of concentration, physical tension to keep the movement and motion going forward... but not here, its a nice aircraft to fly, hands on the controls, as I hate aircraft you have to fight all the time, but that is not what you get here. v1.1 brings even more Improved flight "Stability", a more hands on feel from the machine, and yes it is improved. Notable is that HSF recommend 6 Flight Models per Frame, on the X-Plane/General Menu page, and I will confirm that action for a smoother flight and less weight on your framerate. Sounds, quite brilliant with FMOD 2... All the startup whines and the blades cutting the air, with the howl of the turbine Arriel 2D in the background, the blade slap is good as well if you dip or turn too fast, in cruise it is excellent, but I can't hear any doppler sounds. My aim is to get over that ridge and into clear air... ... now that is done we will look at the G500. The operations here are in conjunction with the SAS (Stability Augmentation System) It is a nice simple system, select your operation from; HDG (Heading) CRS (Course), ALT (Altitude), V/S (Vertical Speed) and BARO from the left selections, then adjust the knob for that selection, a single handed operation... clever, very easy to use! Only two notes, one be careful you react to the right selection if connected to the SAS, otherwise the helicopter will go bananas, its easy to do, as I did did it not once but twice. Second is how to use the V/S selection? No tutorial manual (or video) makes it hard to use? BARO can be set in both hPa and inches Hg. The SAS is very good, clean entry and exits to the system, and it is very easy to use. But you need brighter operation lights, you can't see which selection is selected in the daylight? The SAS selections are not noted in the G500 either. v1.1... the SAS selection operation lights have been brightened in the update, it is far better to to your selections now. Also the tail beacon strobe light is brighter. Two final v1.1 notes include an Analog Barometer setting bug fix and a Autopilot disconnecting bug fix. Lighting Lighting is good, but not brilliant.... The instruments can be faded by a 3 way dim switch... ... two knobs adjust the backup instruments, and the VEND/G500 surround highlight buttons. There are two rear DOME lights, but they are not very effective? Certainly no use for MAP reading, or for even lighting the rear compartment. v1.1... as noted above the internal lighting was average. But in the update it has had attention. The Instrument lighting has now more adjustment, meaning far brighter, and much more nicer it is, the G500 panel lightning has also had a bug fix. The overhead DOME lights have had adjustment as well, again far brighter... but I still think a couple of overhead spot (map reading) lights would be nice or more useful. External lighting is basic... A large Landing light, then a Taxi light is set behind it. Navigation lights are small, but the nice Anti-Collision beacon on the top of the tail is good. v1.1... external lighting has had adjustment as well, all lights are brighter (it needed more brightness), and the landing light has more pitch as well (and now works in the replay). All in all the Eurocopter EC130 B4 by HSF is an excellent first release, yes there are a few areas to still or could be developed deeper, but the basics are all really good here, modeling, flight dynamics and it comes with a huge feature list... It's nice to fly, unusually for both the Pro's and the Novices, basic Helicopter flight is always a challenge, but this aircraft will at least meet you halfway.... _______________ Liveries There are 29 liveries! a lot, with most current EC130 operators provided. Liveries are all of a high quality and are brilliantly presented. We can't show you them all, but here is a small selection. The aircraft including the individual liveries all use "XPersistence". Which is a plugin for X-Plane 12 which adds persistence by saving some datarefs at the end of a flight and restores them at the beginning of the next one. The datarefs are all saved individually per livery and with the options selected. V1.1... Two new liveries have been added in the update; C-GPHF Phoenix Heli-Flight and F-GXPG Private Owner... Also there is a new paintkit, with or without dirtiness. _______________ Summary The Eurocopter EC130 was created basically for one major role, Sightseeing and Tourism, hence its ultra-wide cabin and seven seat arrangement. The spacious cabin also makes the machine a great Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) aircraft as well. It was a role created initially by the venerable Bell 206 JetRanger. But the EC130 was developed to be a larger and faster Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil. Built around the Turbomeca Arriel 2D turboshaft engine and a Fenestron anti-torque device in place of a conventional tail rotor, the EC130 B4 first flew 24 June 1999, and to date 500 aircraft have been built. HeliSimu France are a newly formed (2019) community dedicated to French designed helicopters. The EC-130 is their first collaborative venture for the X-Plane 12 Simulator, there will be no X-Plane 11 version of the aircraft. Design and modeling is by highly renowned NemethDesigns, the quality and detail is therefore very good. Helicopters in X-Plane are certainly some of the best simulations in the simulator, complex and usually come with a load of options and features, that aspect is well delivered here. The menu is simple (popout 3d) but loaded with detail. All the usual features are here, Opening doors, doors removal, cargo baskets (2), underside Sling Hook, Mirrors, Wire cutters, single or twin controls and a great Weight & Balance Menu is used to add in a Pilot and six Passengers. Also are there two versions with either the glass version G500 or Analog avionic choices, and options for the addon RealSim G500 and Reality XP GNS 430W, Reality XP GTN 750 Touch intergration. Vibration Effects and AviTab are also included. The VEND (Vehicle and Engine Management Display) system is also very good, but not as deep in systems as seen in others. The Fenestron system is unusual to fly and use (Yaw thrust), but overall the aircraft is very good for Novices and Pro's alike, with a good SAS (Stability Augmentation System) to help out on longer flights. Sounds are universally very good as well, with all the required aural alarms. Obviously the Eurocopter is a collaboration of French Helicopter enthusiasts, certainly the people were focused for good detail, as this is an extremely good first release. Nothing is perfect, certainly a few areas in the VEND, G500 and the internal lighting could have more depth, Object provided for hoisting and physical cargo... and a tutorial manual would also be a good addition as well considering the complex aircraft systems. Notable is the v1.1 update (17th September 23). It brought New opening side Cargo doors, with 3d baggage and for the side baskets, better rotor blur and animation, and various internal and external lighting improvements. But overall the EC500 B4 is excellent, another brilliant machine to use and to fly regularly. The X-Plane Simulator always did lead the simulation market with excellent Helicopter designs, this one from the French Developers is another one to savour and invest in, great value price as well.... Highly Recommended! ________________________________________ The Eurocopter EC130 B4 by HSF is now available from the X-Plane.OrgStore!... Here: Eurocopter EC130 B4 Price is US$27.95 Requirements X-Plane 12 (not for XP11) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Size: 1.11 GB Current version: 1.0 (August 26th 2023) Designed by Ceds from HSF (Heli Simu France) Support forum for the EC 140 B4 _____________ Installation and documents: download for the EC130 B4 is 959Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "Helicopter" X-Plane folder. Full Installation is 1.1GB Full version v1.1 changelog EC 130 v1.1 changelog.rtf AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft Documents supplied is: 1 HSF EC130 B4 Introduction.pdf 2 HSF EC130 B4 Configurations.pdf 3 HSF EC130 B4 Normal Procedures.pdf 4 HSF EC130 B4 Normal Procedures Printable white version.pdf 5 XPersistence Plugin.pdf 6 HSF EC130 B4 Acknowledgements.pdf 7 HSF EC130 B4 End User License Agreement.pdf 8 HSF EC130 B4 G500 RSG installation.pdf Eight documents cover setup, configurations and general options on the aircraft available, details for XPersistence Plugin is also provided, as is the installation details for the RealSim G500. No Tutorial, which is a small annoyance as the systems are complex to a novice. 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 12.06b4 (This is a beta review). Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 Scenery or Aircraft - Alps UHD XP12 by Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini.- (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$49.95 _____________ Updated Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton 18th 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) All Rights Reserved