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Aircraft Review : CowanSim 500E by CowanSim There is no doubt that CowanSim has invigorated the helicopter scene within the X-Plane Simulator. A seriously neglected area for years in that X-Plane's mainstay developer in Dreamfoil Creations went very quiet, and that vSkyLab's does only small and very fringe ultra-light machines. So the centre of good helicopters has for years been quite barren. First JRXDesign with their excellent Gazelle SA 341B and SA 342J started the ball rolling again, but it was CowanSim with their very accessible B222B+UT aircraft that has delivered machines for everyone... here is now very quickly in a few months another action packed release from CowanSim in the Famous MD 500E. The aircraft has of course a very varied history and the aircraft comes in quite a variety of guises. Foremost it was the successful Hughes 500 series that began life in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). The Hughes' Model 369 won the contest against competition from Bell and Hiller. The subsequent winner and design became the military OH-6 Cayuse nicknamed "Loach" that first flew in February 1963. McDonnell Douglas acquired Hughes Helicopters in January 1984, and from August 1985 the 500E and 530F were then built as the MD 500E and MD 530F Lifter. But another variant is just as famous and that is the MH-6M Little Bird (nicknamed the Killer Egg) and its attack variant, the AH-6, which are light helicopters used for special operations in the United States Army. Originally based on a modified OH-6A, it was later based on the MD 500E, with a single five-bladed main rotor. Another famous variant is the television star of Magnum P.I., not to be confused with the crappy current 2020 series, but the 1980's series starring Tom Sellick and helicopter pilot (Roger Earl Mosley) Theodore "T.C." Calvin that piloted a brightly (80's) coloured Hughes 500D. This CowenSim version is the civilian MD 500E. MD 500E One thing from the off, is that the MD 500E looks far better in quality that CowanSim's B222. The modeling is much more expertly done and the complex egg shape of the fuselage is excellent, there are still a few untextured items, but overall the 500E shows us a bit more experience in design. Shapes are far smoother, and the finish is more clean, the rivets are well done, if slightly overlarge. They are sadly painted on and come with no raised mapping either, but in context it still works nicely. There are both 4K & 2K PBR Textures, one set for the heavyweights and one for the liteweights, but to be really honest I can't see this aircraft being "heavy" at all on your system, even in it's 4K form, as the aircraft is tiny small. The fine boom tail is excellent as is the glass. The B222 had nice glass, nicely shaped, and beautifully reflective and it is the same here, if better as the glasshouse is quite complex to get right, and it is really well done. Rotorhead Important is the design and actions of the rotorhead. The B222's head was a mixture of okay and not okay. Overall again it is better here in the detail of the complex design, there are again a (very) few not textured links, but most of the rotorhead is modeled black, but it works fine... The hub and blade links are excellent, as is the centre pylon and head, the rubber this time around looks more realistic, but obviously not textured... .... movement in the collective (bite), is again excellent... but the pitch and bank action is however solid at the top, but oddly the lower control disk plate moves... and the movements are not at all however connected to the shock-absorber links? Nasty, so why do that? The tail rotor is far better... shaft assembly is simple but very well done, but again no textures, just the plain modeling, but good modeling that looks realistic. Yaw movements works fine, as the assembly twists perfectly. Both the main rotor blades and rear tail blades are beautifully crafted, and at rest the main rotors droop nicely. The tiny machine does sit quite high on fine skids, and here the rolled skids are well done, with some very nice wear and tear. Doors in all four can be opened manually, or removed completely. Internal cabin and seats are a mixture.. the good is that the seats are really good, and really nice and leathery and authentic to look at with nice inserts... .... they however unlike the B222 don't change colour with the change of a livery, as black with blue piping is all you get... the cabin interior is a bland grey, and it is all not textured either, but straight out of the blender modeling render, it IS well done, but IT IS still basic and drab to look at. Cockpit The instrument panel and pedeestal is quite large for such a small machine... but well done in it's curvy shape and design. The cockpit is framed by the two large red fire-extinguishers, so be careful not to knock your knees on them. Oddly you can hide the right extinguisher, but not the left. Your feet protrude out over the lower glass canopy on four metal plate supports, so the view downwards is exceptional. The instrument panel is oddly aligned to the left seat pilot and not to the usual helicopter pilot position on the right? I tried to fly in the right seat, but too many of the critical flying instruments are set too far to the left to do so, so it is a bit unnerving at first to get used to? Instruments The Standard Six instruments including the; Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon, Altitude Indicator, Rotor RPM N2, Heading Dial and V/S Vertical Speed are all grouped together top left of the panel, lower left is left OBS Pointer, and right a RAD ALT (Radar Altimeter). Right panel has three larger instruments far right to cover (backup) Artificial Horizon, (backup) Altitude Indicator and bottom a Course Deviation Indicator (CDI). Centre right panel is focused on the engine and system readouts. Six dials cover (top) Engine Oil Temp, Engine Oil Pressure, Engine Torque dial, Fuel Gauge (183 Kg), TOT (Turbine Outlet Temperature), Ampreres, RPM N1 and a Davtron M803 digital Clock and Temp panel. Top on the glareshield is a excellent (testable) annunciator/warning panel. All instruments are easy to use and read, but again like the B222 the vital pointer VOR (requirement) is missing, if still there is a useless ADF. Centre pedestal is again quite large and wide for the cabin, there are avionics that includes both GNS530/GNS430 combo top, that can both be replaced with a Reality XP GTN 750/650 Touch optional avionics if you have that product. Center is a Garmin GMA 340 Audio Panel (split for Pilot/CoPilot), Garmin GTX 327 Transponder, Bendix King KR 87 ADF tuner and two COMM/NAV 1- COMM/NAV 2 Bendix/King KX 165 units. Mid-low panel is the electrical switchgear and panel lighting brightness, Avionics power is lower right on the pedestal. There is an optional "Avitab" feature (Menu) that is positioned on the left of the instrument panel. The Avitab can be rotated from the landscape horizontal into the Portrait vertical position... it is however quite small from your seated position, so the position of the protruding tablet makes it hard to read in flight? The cockpit is all glass, but there is a nice Whiskey Compass mid-screen and a OAT gauge, window shades can be moved to your required position, but they are awkward to manoeuvre, unless you are in the right placement to do so. Single headset hangs in the rear, if you click the headset then, then the sounds lower in tone... note the large wall Rotor-Brake. Menus The CowanSim Menu (CowanSim-500E) is selected as part of the main X-Plane menu top left of your screen like on the B222... The list is quite comprehensive with nine selections; Fully Automated Setup, Remove all doors, RXP GTN750 Owner, Show Rotor Shadows, Hide Avitab, Rotate Avitab, Enable Window Rain,Park & Secure Rotor and Set VR Head Position to Current Pos. Note that currently there are no Pilot or CoPilot forms in the aircraft, but they are noted as coming soon? this to me denotes "Not ready" or should have "waited" until they were ready until releasing the aircraft as they are very noticeable in flight by their absence (empty cabin)? There is a secondary "Configuration Manager" which is another word for a VR (Virtual Reality) popup menu. Flying The "Little Bird" CowanSim do provide a startup checklist for the 500E, it is not hard. There are startup notes " The starter button is located on the tip of the collective. The button is programmed to be pushed once, not held in. It will simulate you holding it in so you can manipulate the throttle when 12-15% N1 is reached. There is a click spot floating in front of it so you don't have to change your camera/head position to push it." Basically you turn on the power, then flip up the "Start Pump" switch, release the rear rotor brake and hit the starter switch... Several other starting options include using Ctrl + Shift + E or by using the “Automated start-up” in the upper menu or on configuration popup... Like with the CowanSim B222, the 500E uses the “Wing Sweep” axes instead of the “Throttle” axes for the twist grip throttle while using hardware for a throttle. If you're only using a mouse or VR controller then you can ignore these settings. Make sure you reverse the axes for your collective if you're using a joystick. Another item to learn is using the idle stop ring, which is located on the collective, positioned right at the top of the throttle twist grip. The idle stop ring is designed to prevent cutting off the throttle when at or above ground idle. When starting cold and dark the throttle is cut off. When rolled up, the idle stop ring will pop “in” at minimum ground idle, locking the throttle from being twisted back down. To unlock it simply click the ring and roll the throttle down to cut off. When starting with the engine running the throttle is set at idle for you. Simply roll the throttle into the green to get going. After landing you then rotate the throttle back to the idle stop, then click the ring to roll down to cut off and shutdown. When ready to increase the power you use the “RPM INC/DEC” switch, which can be used to “beeped” up or down the RPM while the governor is active. You can increase to a max of 104% N2 for take off and for landing. 102% N2 is the minimum and 103% N2 is right in the middle of the green and default for normal flight. Like all very light helicopters you have to have an intimate feel with the yaw or push from the tail rotor. That aspect is a given on any helicopter, but more so here. The yaw feel gives the machine it's incredible manoeuvrability abilities, but also has a very light tail feel when in the immediate hover. It is not so much giving the aircraft a lot of left foot rudder, but feeling the pressure of the push of the yaw correctly. As you pull upwards one thing impacts you quickly in that the the Rolls Royce Model 250-C20R/2 450HP turbo-shaft engine behind you has a LOT of power, so you have to use it sparingly. You can easily float quite high and quickly, even while using a minimal collective, but surprisingly you can easily still get back control and move forwards, just keep your control movements tight and small. The aircraft is not as nervy as say a ultra-lite helicopter, mainly because the control feel is so good, and you can soon nicely fall in to the mindset of what you want to do with the aircraft. Very soon I was doing my "700 footers" and was skimming above the ground quickly. The faster you go, then the more that huge dragster racecar T-Tail takes aerodynamic effect, in time you should be able to fly easily with a neutral rudder input, and just use the collective and cyclic movements... You need to use the trim hat switch located on the top of the cyclic. Pushing up will trim the nose down, pushing down will trim the nose up, pushing left will trim roll left and right, right. These can be mapped to your hardware of choice and with the use of the default of X-Plane 11 commands on your keyboard, or in my case on the X56 Rhino Joystick. There is a full immersive sound set was developed with FMOD. And the sounds and animations work together with visual rotor-speed vibrational feedback, rattling, shaking and dynamic blade slap, rain effects... but the blade slap is VERY LOUD, too loud as it drowns out anything else and has you very quickly reaching for your volume button or knobs... sad, as it is very good, but just a bit too overwhelming for being really realistic here... The 500E's performance is very good... It has a maximum speed of 152 kn (175 mph, 282 km/h), and a Cruise speed of135 kn (155 mph, 250 km/h), a Range of 232 nmi (267 mi, 430 km, and a Service ceiling of 18,700 ft (5,700 m), and the Rate of climb is as noted a very quick 2,070 ft/min (10.5 m/s). You have to be extremely cautious on the approach... Transitioning from fast forward flight known as Effectively Translational Lift (ETL), the 500E will very, very easily stall, one minute you are in the perfect approach pattern, then the next you are fighting just to stay airborne? Even being aware of the behaviour, it can still easily catch you out... I lost the 500D several times at this crucial stage of flight. So the approaches and the getting of the correct yaw feel is to be a test of your skill set, it is possible to do, like with any helicopter in with a lot of practise... You feel the pendulum effect quite strongly, and it is your job to control it and your hover, in time you get to understand the aircraft and it's very specific behaviour, and can finally set it down onto it's "daddy long legs" skids. Do I like flying the 500D, always a big question with any helicopter, the answer here is a resounding yes, but I know it will take time to get fully professional in the area of the hover and landing, it is actually one of the hardest to master in this landing sequence... but I am getting there. Lighting The cockpit lighting is very good. The instrument panel and pedestal look gorgeous in the low light, and a nice touch is that the text lights up on the collective... I very much like that. There are two red cabin lights set high up on the rear bulkhead, not that effective in lighting the cabin, but they cast a nice red glow over the instruments. External lighting is of course quite basic, but well done. There is an underbody red beacon, and front landing light... .... a white navigation tail light at the rear, and the two front red and green navigation lights built into the skids are really well done. Liveries There are nine liveries and a white paintkit... all are good, but some of the registrations are a bit, well naff!... I mean "C-SIM"? and worse is that C-SIM is the default livery? Also oddly there is no "T.C." Calvin, Magnum P.I. livery... now that is a big oversight? ________________________ Summary It will be absolutely brilliant!... when the 500D is finished? The MD (McDonnell Douglas) 500E comes from the heritage of the original Hughes 500, also known as the OH-6 Cayuse and the famous MH-6M Little Bird... fame is also from the 80's television series of Magnum P.I. as "T.C." Calvin's Hughes 500, that did the flying over the Hawaiian Islands with Tom Sellick aboard, and "that" moustache. This 500D is CowanSim's second release for the X-Plane Simulator already this year after the earlier and very popular CowanSim B222B+UT The development of this very good 500D has been quick... as this is second aircraft in as many months, but to achieve that there is some compromises. One there is a lot of non-textured modeling, certainly in the whole cabin from the walls, doors and partion, the textures don't have any mapping either and the main rotor plate is not connected to the pitch and bank links and so on.. oh, and the pilots didn't make it into the aircraft either. The manuals are okay, but nothing in depth and in reality it is developed only to a "flyable" condition. For those who like the vSkyLabs sort of development then, they will love this, because you get your greasy little hands on the aircraft sooner than later. Personally, and this goes for CowanSim's B222 as well. I would like more development and the better finished quality of which CowanSim are more than capable of than doing than with these something half-baked aircraft. The aircraft flies amazingly well, and even a total joy to fly and so the basics are right, but you are feeling everything is being done for the market more than producing quality aircraft. And the missing Magnum P.I. livery is just a major oversight on this aircraft. Overall this 500D is a fantastic machine and accessible to most newcomers to vertical flight, but to note it is tricky on the approach and in the hover situations. The Pro's will twirl the 500D around the sky in wild abandon, and absolutely love it, I love it too and totally recommend this MD 500E, but overall CowanSim have to lift their game a little bit to be the serious developer they are more and quite capable of being. Post review note: Please checkout the v1.10 update notes on the 500E aircraft, the many areas noted here are substantially addressed in the later update. _______________________________ Yes! the CowanSim 500E by CowanSim is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here : CowanSim 500E Price is US$24.95 Features: Realistic Flight Dynamics This model has an authentic feeling while exploring the virtual world thanks to Laminar Research for developing a fantastic flight sim. 4k Physically Based Rendering Textures 4k PBR textures, or physically based rendering, provides the ability for very realistic lighting that mimics the flow of light in the real world. This model takes full advantage of X-Plane’s lighting with dynamic reflections and materials. Custom 3D Modeled Instruments Everyone loves a detailed and realistic looking cockpit. After all, that is where we spend most of our time in the sim, flying! The 3D instruments were developed to a high standard and are fully functional, with extensive custom coding to make it as realistic as possible. A Nice Cozy Cabin Sit back and relax in the cozy rear cabin and enjoy replays of your flight from a passenger’s perspective! Was it as comfortable and smooth as you thought it was from the pilot seat? This is especially interesting in VR and landing replays are the best. Paint Kit & Liveries Comes with several liveries and we also included a detailed paint kit. The kit is provided in both GIMP and Adobe® Photoshop® formats. A UV map layer included in each file allows for easy and accurate repaints. Vibrant and Detailed Night Lighting X-Plane has wonderful night lighting. The 500E project aimed to have plenty of lights, inside and out, making night flights possible. From the landing light to the cabin lighting, this helicopter really stands out at night. Animation & Sound Thousands of lines of custom code make up animations and systems. The fully immersive sound set was developed with FMOD. Sounds and animations work together with visual rotor-speed vibrational feedback, rattling, shaking and dynamic blade slap, rain effects and more. Reality XP GTN 750 Integration The Reality XP GTN 750 is fully integrated into the cockpit. Reality XP GTN 750 Touch is the genuine simulated device used by flight simulation enthusiasts navigating the virtual skies as well as real world pilots for familiarization with the device. This add-on is a payware add-on and you can purchase it here: Reality XP 2K & 4K Versions FMOD Fully Dynamic Sound Pack Window Rain Effects Compatible with Vulkan API Virtual Reality Ready AviTab Integration RXP GTN 750 Integration Customizable Configurations Realistic Flight Dynamics 4K & 2K PBR Textures Custom 3D instruments Detailed Night Lighting xLua for Systems and Animation SASL v3.12.1 for Custom Plugins Requirements X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 570 MB Current and Review Version: 1.0 (13th March 2021) ___________________________________ Installation and documents: download for the 500E is 570.40Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "Helicopter" X-Plane folder. Full Installation is 1.15Gb Documents supplied are: CHECKLISTS - START-UP - 500E.pdf MANUAL-500E.pdf Manual is half completed with no instrument references or just basic system references, checklist is very good. Support forum for all helicopters by CowanSim ___________________________________ Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton 16th March 2021 Copyright©2021 : X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this preview 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 Review System Specifications: Computer System: Windows - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 1TB SSD Software: - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.52 Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 Scenery or Aircraft - EGGD - Bristol International Airport by Pilot-Plus + (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$22.95