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  1. Aircraft Review : Spectr-Aero SP-30 by Mad Flight Studio I expected when coming into the X-Plane simulator to want the experience of flying aircraft that was notable to my desires, mostly the big long haul designs that had been in my life from an very early age, say the Boeing 747, B707, VC10 and Concorde, but even the everyday machines like the DC-9, B727 and the Trident (Yes I grew up in the sixties). To a point X-Plane has filled out that desire, but there is in reality still no high quality B747, except for the B748, but it is an an aircraft I can't relate to. But the real surprise of the simulator have been the real odd-balls, the quirky machines and not the mainstream of aviation. What you find is a sort of really basic flying machine, but the rewards are quite substantial... the problem is that most users won't even consider such an utilitarian aircraft like this Spectr-Aero SP-30, and mainly it is because they can't relate to it, worse when it is going to cost nearly US$45. First did you actually know of the Spectr-Aero SP-30, which is a Russian built and basically a flying toobox with an engine stuck out on the front, as utilitarian goes it is an aircraft that is about as basic as you could basically get.... so Russian!, so Soviet, a flying farm tractor. But the SP-30 isn't actually Russian but Canadian, as the aircraft is based on the Zenith STOL CH 701 that is a kit aircraft from Canadian aeronautical engineer Chris Heintz through his Midland, Ontario based company, Zenair. Both aircraft are powered by the same engine as well in the Rotax 912 ULX four-cylinder liquid-cooled piston engine, 100 hp (73 kW)... a tiddler of a powerplant, with an engine output to match... you would think that this odd, queer little aircraft is about as far away as your dreams can allow, but the surprise is, it is simply brilliant. First thing to understand is that the Russian design team behind the aircraft is quite substantial with fourteen people contributing to the design and all aspects of the aircraft, including Sergei Mironov who is already a well known X-Plane developer and Mark Kirichenko who are the two main principle developers. And so when you fly and use the aircraft you see, feel and understand the amount of work that has gone into the machine in bringing it to X-Plane... it is all quite unique. The detailing is quite if sensational, and we are already used to being blown away by extreme detailing, but the construction and modeling here on this SP-30 is absolutely top rate.... The aircraft is built to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association of Canada (LAMAC) design standard DS 10141, in its native country of Canada the CH 701 can be built and flown as a basic ultralight, advanced ultralight or amateur-built or it can be flown under microlight or ultralight rules in several other countries also. American pilots may fly the CH 701 under Light-sport Aircraft rules or as an experimental amateur-built design, those are the regulations for the CH 701, but as the SP-30 is a carbon-copy of that aircraft then I suppose it would come under the same safety standards and rules. Circlips and plastic ties abound, but they are all also highly realistically done, obviously the nuts and bolts and the riveting of the aircraft are all on show and near perfection... note the cables coming out of the pitot tube and into both the wing and wing tubing structure. ... the aircraft only comes with those mid-sized Tundra tyres, the Zenith came also with floats, but that option is not available here. Instrument panel is quite basic, but it hides a few say Russian quirks... Instruments are glorious, beautifully built and with lovely reflecting glass, the highlight is the delicious Avia ACS-1 Clock. Instrument layout is left to right top row... Speed Indicator, Variometer (Vertical Speed), Altimeter, Oil Temperature, CHT (Cylinder Head Temperature) and Avia ACS-1 Clock. Lower row... is RPM counter, Turn Coordinator, Elevator Trim (Electric), Oil Pressure, Fuel Pressure, FlightLine FL-760 radio and VDO hour indicator. Note the duel throttle handles and the left high set mixture knob. Fuel gauge (20 US Gal (76 L)) is far left panel and Ammeter is far right. Note design detail of the built in GNS 430, as you get the full unit slung under the panel, the full Bendix/King KT76A transponder is fastened up the same way. Switchgear is lower row and some organ stops do the various venting on the top. As mentioned there are a few quirks, there is no parking brake? so you use the chocks... the braking action is only via the X-Plane regular braking action, via the lever on the pilot's stick, which is very well done and authentic. Fuel shutoff valve is far right on the lower panel, and the flap handle is on the pilot side lower left, with 0 - 7º -15º settings. Under the instrument panel and the rudders come with active cable controls are excellent, and realistic... rear shelf has headphones that really work as well, select them and the sound will lower from a major racket to a lesser racket, there is a bag that sits here as well... the aircraft menu is situated on the shelf as well and you select it via the handle, and then swoops around for a VR input (or hovers in front of your face), a cockpit light is situated on the above frame. The menu board is well done with two conversion charts for "Height" and "Pressure", below are five tickboxes or menu selections. They include "Plane Condition" save or not (It will save the aircraft's last state of wear and tear condition), Instrument units in Metric or Imperial, Cockpit language in either English or Russian.... note with the Instrument unit change then some of the actual instruments facias change as well. .... Pilots shown on External view and "Plane Shake" or aircraft vibrations completes the internal clipboard. You would note there are no static elements on the menu? To activate the static elements you touch them directly.... but there is a trick! You can only access static items by using the internal view externally, personally I love this idea, and it is sort of the same idea that AirfoilLabs use with their C172, but using this system, it does give you more freedom of movement. Two tricks, one use the shift key to move quicker, and two use a set smartkey to move outside quicker... see more later... but make sure the door is open to move externally, otherwise you will hit the boundary layer. Static elements include... Chocks, wing and tail tie-downs, pitot cover and propeller cover. The propeller can be turned by hand as well if you use the circle manipulator on one of the props, for the cover then press the centre of the spinner. Position your view above the engine bay and you will get a second menu external clipboard! Click on the engine cover (arrow) to reveal the Rotax 912 engine! and yes it is absolutely perfect... on the clipboard as you use the aircraft there will appear items that need servicing? and this is what you have to do... You can change the oil (arrowed), air filters and fuel filter, clean the spark plugs.... ... change the oil via first taking off the cap, then lifting out the dipstick... the oil canister appears and you can then top up the oil. If any areas of the engine need servicing then you do that on the clipboard, shown in red, but I found that it didn't fix the starter motor without a X-Plane restart, even the X-Plane failures didn't rectify the issue, and I found this annoying as I couldn't start the aircraft without a complete desktop restart (reloading the aircraft didn't work), other items that needed attention worked fine. You do perform maintenance in a certain strict servicing order that is laid out in the manual, say drop out the dark dirty oil, before you add in the new fresher and lighter oil, and that sort of stuff... again it is all very and highly realistic and you get your hands dirty. The clipboard allows you also to set the aircraft weights, via two passengers in either 75kg or 45kg weights with the 75kg represented as men and the 45kg weight as women. A baggage weight is represented by a nice leather bag on the rear shelf. The "Chemicals" cylinder holds the spraying chemicals and the spraying boom can be activated by pressing an area under the aircraft. Two other selections on the clipboard allows you to select the prop pitch of Max: 5200 rpm, Mid: 5600 rpm and Min: 5800 rpm... I set it at mid-pitch and a 5600 rpm limit. There also is the "Control Surface Visualization" with normal or defective? whatever that is? Like the airfoilLab and REP packs you can directly test the flying control surfaces for movement. In most cases your feature list is usually at this point about completed, but not here with the SP-30... you have to also drain off the water from the fuel tank. You do this by putting a stool under the aircraft and clicking the drain pipe (arrowed) until the measure tube is about half-full. But you are still not finished yet as to now you have refill the aircraft with fuel, and to do that you have to click on to the fuel cap... this will give you a red 44 Gal drum of fuel to load into the aircraft, It is tricky to see both the fuel gauge and the drum, so it is best to set up a "Quick View" to switch between the two views, it is also shown on the clipboard in a yellow tank, but you can't see the drum aft of the wing? To pump in the fuel you turn the handle, and it is back-breaking work, and especially if the tank is nearly empty, but I simply absolutely loved it, as it was realism 101. You have to turn on the electrical master switch to see the gauge, so watch out for the battery drain if you forget to turn it off after doing the refueling. A full tank of fuel is 20 US Gal (76 L). But there is more work to do If you decide to use the spray gear, as then, that tank has to be now filled as well? The chemical tank cap is right front and again touch the cap to remove it... here you now get a blue filled 44 Gal drum of chemicals It is possible here to turn the handle and see the loading of the chemicals into the tank on the clipboard, that is shown via a blue tank on the sheet... ... but you will find that as you fill up the lower chemical tank, as you are also putting on a lot more weight on to the aircraft... Max gross is 495 kg, and if you are using the spray gear, then be light on the fuel, take out the heavy bag, throw out your passenger, and I even had to change the pilot for a Female of 53 kg weight (She is on a diet) to get under that 495 kg gross weight limit, and all that information is also shown on the clipboard. As noted with my fuel loading I used a little of the battery change, so a recharge was required on the service sheet, and if you are flying in extreme colder climates, like Russia or Canada, then there is a portable heater that plugs into the lower part of the engine to keep it warm, or to warm it ready to start. So the feature list set out here is very comprehensive and extremely realistic... and we haven't even started the aircraft or even got it off the ground yet? Spectr-Aero SP-30 Like loading and servicing the Spectr-Aero SP-30, then even when starting the aircraft is a bit of a palaver.. or a strict set of instructions to get it all right, or to simply not break the aircraft and then start all that servicing palaver all over again... you don't want to do all that lot again do you... no. There is provided a step by step set of engine starting instructions in the manual, but I recommend on printing the instructions out as you will need them handy every time you redo the start sequence, as to get it wrong (and it is very easy to do) and your then simply back to square one, or in having a broken engine... the SP-30 is a very, very fragile little critter. First open the fuel shutoff valve lever (Right rear footwell), and then set the throttle to idle... Battery on, and circuit breaker to on (ALL), this switch is hard to find next to the FL-760 radio... With the throttle closed you build up the oil pressure to 2 bar, by turning the engine over for about 10 secs, then the fuel pump switch ON to build up fuel pressure to 4 bar... Then both twin ignition switches to on (up) and the throttle to 1/4... the MIxture knob is then pulled out, but that is really counter to using the usual mixture knob setting, as you still use this same position to turn off the engine as well? so that aspect is very confusing... You have to know that the mixture on start up is automatic, and as the engine starts it will regulate the mixture automatically (knob will go in)... but it is very confusing at the start. Then hit the Starter button after grabbing the brake handle... and then if your planets align, the gods are very kind to you, or even if you are going to have a good day... then the plane will rock violently and either start... or not start? One or the other? If extremely lucky with a powered up violent shaking Rotax running then turn on the avionics with the radio, transponder and lovely custom set GNS 430... Annoyingly there are no short cuts? A restart via the X-Plane menu or with an X-Plane restart and with the engine now running, the aircraft completely resets all your hard work done on setting up the fuel, chemicals, doors, passengers, weights, baro settings the lot... it is very painful, and also a short of a major shortcoming if you just want to set up and fly, after doing a lot of these resets it took a bit off the shine off the aircraft, you don't mind resetting say the baro or the radios, but losing the weight, fuel and passenger baggage settings is a bit infuriating after doing it all again and again five or six times... and you can't re-access the external clipboard either to do so when the engine is running? So it is constantly back to the bottom of the snakes and ladders reset ladder. Don't leave the aircraft in idle for longer than 5 min either unless you want to change all the spark plugs and most importantly control the Oil pressure and Oil Temperature via the oil and Radiator flap knobs to keep them both in the green zones, this is the same in flight as well and very importantly, unless you want and or to create an engine fail. There is a lot to remember and things to do actively to keep the SP-30 either in the air or running. Sounds are of the real Rotax engine, and they are LOUD, really loud with the doors open and the headphones off, the SP-30 shakes like demon as well (you can turn that effect off) but for authenticity then the whole sound set is extremely realistic and dynamic... Another feature is that if you are in extreme cold or heat (like I am in Australia) then the cockpit will fog up... to clear the dense foggy windows then just open the doors, the demisting is extremely realistic. Flying the Sp-30 is both complex, but rewarding. One thing to note is that the aircraft is very removed from the X-Plane standard settings and usual controls like with the above clipboard settings, so everything is inside the aircraft and not via anything with the simulator settings, this can be good for absolute realism, but also a negative if it starts to interfere with a good simulation... that is your prerogative and feel with the aircraft. So the point is that if you do get it all PERFECTLY set and corrected, then you will fly, and enjoy the huge experience... but there are no errors for judgement in here, in absolutely zero... and this can then cause a bit of frustration and even to the point of giving the simulation away. Can you have one without the other? In the developers eyes probably no, as they seek to create a perfection in realism, but from a user point of view then that extreme can be too extreme in no give even in basic errors. It is like in the real world if you have a fouled sparkplug, and you get out and fix it, then the fuel you have already put in the aircraft, the 3 kg bag, and even the passenger sitting patiently in his seat are still all there ready and waiting when you get back in to restart the aircraft, in this case it isn't so, as they have all been wiped away to start again, so is that actually realistic, well no? You can't even reset the aircraft to a default position to clear up all the built up errors either... in other words it takes all the fun out of the simulation. In the flying aspect, if you get all those setup and settings correct then the SP-30 is very and a highly rewarding aircraft to fly. Power up and the roar of the Rotax fills the air, depending on the weight the little SP-30 will either sprint off the handbrake hold, or casually start to move and build up speed. 60 knts, is the usual slight back pitch to flight time, and the aircraft is a dream in flight with a huge amount of control feedback. Climb is steady, but in reality you don't really care either, because this is real fun with a capital F, with brilliant feel and those lovely input changes to the controls. Climb rate is an amazing 1000 fpm, but unless empty or having the spraygear attached you would never use that... 600 fpm to 700 fpm is perfect. There is a huge advantage to set up the electric trim as soon as you can get a level flight... centre takeoff trim is noted by a double LED selection, to balance out you need to go up the display by pressing the top part of the rocker switch... the problem is that the switch does not adjust correctly to your inputs? even with accounting for the slow movement of the adjuster? so you are finding yourself poking or clicking at the switch in frustration on maybe up to three times to get the adjuster to actually move to about the second LED marker from the top, so adjusting it finely becomes a slow and annoying process, same with resetting the trim back down to the neutral position? Get the SP-30 trimmed and settled at around 130 knts and it is a lovely little aircraft to now skim across the landscape as only a lightweight frame aircraft can, with the aircraft shaking and a huge wind noise making it all fiercely realistic. Sorry there is no autopilot, as you are the only pilot. But watch those temperatures like a hawk with oil pressure 2–5 bar; oil temperature 90–110°С (maximum 50–130°С) and cylinder heads temperature of around 50-130°С, so if they go out of those greens then start praying... so control the organ stops with care, same with the visible cowl flap and the engine is kept sweet around 4200–5200 RPM. Open the doors in flight to get the full exposure experience.... the whole cockpit feels open to the elements, but this is flying through the air at it's very best.... and with the noise to match. Maximum speed is 93 mph (149 km/h; 81 kn) at sea level, range is an amazing 372 mi (323 nmi; 599 km) and your ceiling is another amazing 12,000 ft (3,700 m). The partical effects and 11.30 dynamics are adjusted here, but the Rotax is not the most climate friendly engine in the skies. Approach speeds are around 75 km/h, which gives you a great platform for surveying the area. Flap extension (if you could call it that) is very draggy even at the 7º point and extremely draggy at the full 15º, but the aircraft is very stable and quite nice to manoeuvre and adjust to line up with the runway... ... only aspect to be aware of is the wind as you are basically flying a kite, you can't fly the SP-30 above 120 kp/h anyway, but even small gusts are highly noticeable in an ultralight, but adjustable. A single nose light is all you get... I would have rather had preferred the real world lighting on the SP-30, which are two lights and mounted on each left and right wing support. Final approach is at the 60 km/h mark at the end of the green zone, a little more throttle off to around 50 km/h and you glide down slowly to the runway, but still watch out for those wind gusts. Stall speed is set at 30 mph (48 km/h; 26 kn) and get it wrong and the picture is not pretty with bent undercarriage, flat tyres and a nose wheel strut deep into the inside of the Rotax. Open the doors for the fresh air and feel for the sense of freedom on the ground, but when parked the Rotax stops with a sudden violent clonk. Lighting The SP-30 is not really an aircraft to fly at night, I doubt the rules would allow it to anyway... the instrument panel is not backlit either but there is an overhead light that does illuminate the instruments if you are running for home in the dark.. the lovely Avia clock however is beautiful, and the GNS 430 looks nice in the dark as well. Externally there is that single nose light, but it is pretty useless and blobby as well, the navigation, strobe lights are well done as are the two red beacons, with one under the fuselage and one on the tail. Liveries There are seven liveries of which are in reality all the same theme and Russian, but some are a different colour and one is the blank white. All are very high quality, but you wished for one or two that could have been a bit more creative as some CH-70's were quite different to zany, there is provided a paintkit, so... Summary Extremely eccentric is this Spectr-Aero SP-30 that is based on the Canadian Zenith CH 701, but classed as a ultralight or VLA. Rugged and Russian to it's look and feel, it is an exciting aircraft to fly, certainly with the immersion factor here that is realistically deep. The feature list is spellbounding and simply huge and you also get a huge interaction with all the required elements like the real realistic Rotax engine servicing, fuel and chemical manual loading, great selection of passengers, bags and weights... static elements like chocks tie-downs, covers, misty windows and clever VR (Virtual Reality) interaction... the list is endless and it is all very good and highly interactive. The recreation of the SP-30 is minutely detailed, certainly one of the best in this category, and the aircraft feels alive in use, movement and real world sound, it should do as it took two full years and a room full of Russians to create it... in all it is almost the absolute perfect simulation... almost. The clever idea to use the internal view to access the external elements is without a very good one and should be copied by other developers, but I think it also creates a problem. The separation of the internal and external means that if you can't start the engine or just want to get into the SP-30 for a flight, you are simply left into a strange position. Any settings made on a previous flight are always wiped and so if you spend twenty minutes or so refueling, checking the water in the fuel tank, setting up the passenger and baggage weights or setting up the spraying gear (note that there was no aerial spraying section in this review as I gave up), then if the damn engine won't start or you simply make a slight mistake in starting procedure, or simply just want to go flying... then all your past work is dunk and gone with no global settings? You are then caught between resetting it all again, for it to only fail again, and after a few constant rounds of that you are ready to throw in the towel, Using the setting of "Save aircraft" just builds up past aircraft wear and tear to the point you are again grounded, switch off "save aircraft" as it only saves the wear and tear elements and you get back the other issues, and you are at the mercy of again going around in circles... The SP-30 needs simply a global setting, to reload all of your last setup or to save your last setup if you are leaving the simulator or restarting within the simulator, and a simple reset to basic aircraft settings to clear out all the wear and tear, if like in this review in that any service area is buggy? (the X-Plane failure system doesn't work here). You basically in the end give up a fly without all the options in place. So an overview is that you have an absolutely totally perfect simulation of a extremely interesting and magical aircraft to fly, but it is overly frustrating to use because of one simple area... no doubt to the developers they can't see the issues, but we didn't create it or build it either... so we need to meet somewhere in the middle to get the best out of their amazing work or go like the developers slightly mad.... it is however.... Absolutely Highly Recommended! _______________________________ The Spectr-Aero SP-30 by Mad Flight Studio is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here : Spectr-Aero SP-30 Priced at US$44.99 Main features: Dynamic model, handing characteristics, systems controlled and tested by real world pilots and engineers. Full 3D manual ground service propeller covers Pitot cover parking ties parking chocks control surface check fueling (gasoline and chemicals) fuel drain check outside engine heater chemical works equipment Full 3D manual engine service propeller manual rotation oil level check oil change oil filter change air filter change fuel filter change spark plugs change prop pitch selection (from service menu) a lot of failure repairs (from service menu) IFR flying adaptation GNS transponder slip and turn indicator navigation lights landing light cockpit light Realistic gauge operation Custom radiostation FL-760 (with AUX connection simulation) Custom fuel system Custom oil system Custom engine operation A lot of custom failures Custom shake and G-effect (compatible with TrackIR and view-effect plug-ins) Custom 3D sounds (over 170 real sounds) Custom windshield effects (rain, ice, mist) Custom particle effects Fully VR compatible (without additional plug-ins) High Quality PBR textures High accuracy interior and exterior 3D models High accuracy fully animated aircraft 3D ground service and general options menu Two Language manuals and aircraft menus (Russian/English) Two cockpit languages (Russian/English) Two gauge options (Metric/Imperial) Layered paintkit included Requirements X-Plane 11.30 and higher Windows, Mac OSX, Linux 64bit 2Gb VRAM Video Card (4GB+ VRAM Recommended) Current version and Review Version : 1.0 (January 24th 2018) Installation and documents: Download for the Spectr-Aero SP-30 is 749.35mb and the unzipped file deposited in the aircraft "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 1.30gb. Documentation: Manual (26 pages) is excellent and covers all aspects of servicing and flying the aircraft. Manuals are in both English and Russian as is the instrument and clipboard languages (note the clipboard language has to be changed manually via a supplied image file) SP-30_manual_En.pdf SP-30_manual_Ru.pdf Paintkit and the language pack is also supplied. ______________________________________________________________________ Aircraft review by Stephen Dutton 27th January 2019 Copyright©2019 : 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) Review System Specifications: Computer System: Windows - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD Software: - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.30 (v11.30 is required for this aircraft) Addons: Saitek x56 Rhino Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose Soundlink Mini Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : WorldTraffic 3.0 Plugin - US$29.95 Scenery or Aircraft - YBNA - Ballina Byron Gateway Airport 1.0 by Stricko 101 (X-Plane.Org) - Free
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