As mentioned in our last post, we ran across this newly revised file yesterday and when we noticed the new G1000 panel – well, that was enough to get the whole curiosity thing going – and off we went…flying this beast around the English countryside – from EGHU Eaglescott to Plymouth and on to Exeter. She handled well enough to make a good first impression, and when that happens it’s time for a more thorough look around.
So, welcome aboard!
We’ll start this look over at EFVA, a small city with a great airport on Finland’s northwest coast, and we’ll fly the EV-55 (and this is v1.25, not 1.3) down to EFHK Helsinki this morning, looking over her systems and physical model as we go. We’re setting a mix of broken and solid overcast from 500 through 15,000 feet, OAT at 59F and zero wind or precipitation. Time? About an hour before sunrise when we opened the door and climbed in.
So, first off, there are no provisions for a ground cart so this is a battery start. With a PT6 this might work if the time between flights was short, but if the temps fall below 30ºF for any length of time you’d more than likely need a cart. Anyway, even though there isn’t an operating handbook or other dedicated aircraft manual included with this download, the included checklist/procedures chart makes short work of starting the EV-55. In truth, this checklist is about all you need for basic OPS; there IS a PDF for the Laminar G1000 included in the documentation folder, and if you haven’t fiddled with this system yet the manual is worth skimming through. The fact of the matter is, basic data entry is little changed from the 430; it’s the functional differences that can overwhelm (or underwhelm, if you don’t get familiar with the capabilities of this unit). All three units can be clicked (on the face), scaled and moved around, rather like any other window on your desktop. I do not have multiple monitors, so can’t advise how they scale in that environment.
A/P controls are built-in on the lower left, but do note the only “auto-throttle” is your Mark-I Right Hand. As with the 430, you can cycle between GPS derived RNAV and VOR CDIs, and while the so-called six-pack instrument cluster cannot be found in this version of the aircraft, most functions are replicated on the G1000s primary display (and there are two of this type onboard). The other, the Central Display, contains the “moving map” as well as overlays for airways and weather data. As there is no radar unit onboard this functionality is somewhat limited.
Hi & Lo Airways are displayed, as is a Topo selection that displays terrain data. You’ll note, (above) that Finland has the terrain characteristics of a billiards table, and a lot of lakes.
Engine instrumentation is on the left of this screen, and there are duplicate AP controls here, too.
Between the primary and engine management displays, you’ll find an integrated NAV/COMM selection panel. Above this, you’ll find the main annunciator panel and a compass.
The throttle quadrant also houses controls for flaps, trim, and anti-ice devices.
Exterior and interior lights are controlled by toggles (not rotary-rheostats) under the primary display. Electrical and engine management controls are directly under the central engine management display.
By the way, the developer provided me with this image of a real panel; I’d assume he consulted this, and more, while developing the original file, as the real aircraft is still not in production (and, I’d assume, not easy to crawl around in with a tape measure).
I can’t tell, but the main panel almost appears to be a dark slate gray-green color, and not black. Switches on the intermediate panel (lighting, etc.) seem bigger than those in the file.
Referring to the exterior now, look at the leading edge of the wing, and where this joins the fuselage, as well as where the engine nacelles join the leading edge. Also, note the NACA vent above the forward pax window on the right side:
And compare these features with those found on the file:
From the front windshields to the top of the wing seems to be more a single slope, same with the nacelles. Also, the top of the leading edge on the vertical stabilizer is radiused. The winglets seem superfluous at this point, but the misshaped fuselage is a bigger deal, one that should be addressed in a future update.
Another problem with the fuselage concerns the windshield area.
The side window needs to be more tightly radiused, inside and out, same for the main windshield. Making what appears to be a 120º turn in four steps makes for a rough, misshapen corner.
The leading edge of the wing seems roughly modeled:
There would appear to be too few splines (pink); adding at least 3-4 more would make a smoother radiused leading edge.
The logo light on the tail seems to do a good job of illuminating the underside of the horizontal stabilizer, and not the tail itself. Perhaps move that light to the upper part of the fuselage?
Now, let’s get inside.
Once the engines are running and before you’re ready to taxi, make sure the steering switch in ON – BEFORE taxiing (it’s located left of the exterior lights panel); this is a nose-wheel steering implementation and it’s difficult to move the aircraft at low speeds without this engaged. You’ll need to turn this off after you line up on the centerline, and remember to engage this after you’ve landed and are preparing to depart the active runway.
This little card (above) lives on the left side of the dash (blue arrow), and once clicked this worksheet appears. You can click to OPEN or CLOSE the passenger, cockpit, and luggage doors (green arrow) or the pink arrow to dismiss the chart. (Ah, yes…KMMH. Those were the days.)
You can also click between pax and cargo variants on the worksheet. Landing and taxi lighting are simple and straightforward:
Using both gets the job done.
Jack’s Dash-8 Q400 has the undisputed best pilots’ seats ever. These come close. Fun, and a good job.
I’m not sure what’s going on with this panel, whether texture baking was attempted or not, but there’s an unremitting whiteness to many areas that seems to call out for shadowing of some sort. Under the seats, above, is just one area; the pilots’ footwell and rudder pedal area, and even the circuit breaker panels just seem (too) monochromatic.
Arrows point to areas that need shadowing of some sort. Note, in the image (below) the sun is low on the horizon and dead ahead. Shouldn’t the footwell area and the lighting panel be in deepest shade?
Once moving, the Outback is easy to taxi and brakes with authority. Do cut back from flight idle to ground idle (red knobs) to keep speed under control on the ground.
I did NOT taxi to the end of the runway, but entered at the blue arrow. Vr was achieved well before the next turnout, a takeoff roll of less than a thousand feet. Gear and flaps up, engage the AP (make sure you enter all pertinent data BEFORE taxiing, including setting the heading bug and having your first two needed VOR freqs entered). Once you’ve got the wheels stowed and the wing clean, hit the AP and FD buttons on the lower left AP section of the primary display, then the heading button. Enter the desired altitude with the altitude knob lower right, see the displayed value top of the V-speed tape, then hit the VS button, followed by a selected nose UP value (600 FPM worked well, allowing a climb speed of 150-160KIAS).
Recall now that the EV55 is NOT pressurized, so climbing above 8,000 feet is recommended only for very short duration flights. Going over 10,000 should be considered an emergency option only (perhaps to clear a growing storm cell), and 12,5 is your hard top (I saw no oxygen equipment in the cockpit). Cut back power/condition/prop levers and monitor all engine instruments are in the green while maintaining VS or cruise speed, then pull out your copy of Playboy and start reading.
With G1000s onboard, flying such disparate aircraft as this Outback, the Kodiak, the TBM850, and the Cessna 172 begin to take on oddly familiar characteristics – at least in X-plane – and I think this sudden commonality is a weird by-product of an unanticipated cross-pollination. Sure, flying with VORs was similar, in some ways, but almost all aircraft had their quirks. Not so with these various G1000 units (again, in X-plane). Once you’ve learned the ins-and-outs of the G1000 in one aircraft, you’ve learned the heart and soul of a bunch of aircraft. As I’ve been tinkering with the G1000 since I picked up Dan’s Kodiak three months ago, this aircraft felt oddly similar. Power up, take off, engage the AP and just settle in…
But here’s where over-confidence can settle-in and get you.
First thing to keep an eye on is climb speed. Once you pass 190 KIAS you’re in the yellow, and from that point on the AP will struggle to maintain either a set rate of climb or such a high cruise speed. There’s just too much pressure on the control surfaces as you approach Vne, and the AP will enter a climb in order to slow the aircraft down – and from that point on things get dicey…like uncontrolled climbs, stalls…all sorts of nonsense. And the thing is…this is not bogus operation. APs, especially low powered units like on small turboprops, don’t like overspeed situations. If you’re in cloud and not paying attention? Guess who’s about to get into some serious trouble?
SO…set your speed no higher than about 180 (give yourself a little wiggle room) once you reach your desired cruising altitude. Again, there’s no auto-throttle, so just set it manually (and keep an eye on your engine instruments, keep them in the green). You’ll do the same when time to descend (e.g., set a VS of, say, -400FPM and pull back on the power to keep your speed at 180 as you descend). Keep in mind, too, that you’re not descending from FL330…you’re flying down in the weeds so don’t need a long time for a protracted descent. I was lined up on my final approach angle fifty miles out so just let speed bleed once I passed 5000; at ten miles out I switched NAV2 to active and with the localizer right there the AP, once in APP mode, captured both the LOC and the GS. All you have to do is manually set speeds, get the flaps and gear down, then cut-off the AP when you hit your DH. I hate to say this, but the G1000 equipped Outback made all this look and feel easy…CAT II approaches should, theoretically, be no problem in this .acf…
If this kind of approach sounds a little too easy, first, consider this. ESSA Arlanda pioneered what’s now being called the Continuous Descent Approach, and it’s been adopted all over Scandinavia, and the EU is next. The basic premise is that stopping a descent to enter a predetermined step altitude wastes fuel, so keeping approaches long, straight and at continuous rates of descent saves fuel – and reduces pollution. I’d assume the procedure will even come to the US – someday – so get ready! LAX has been doing it this way for a half-century, so I don’t know what the big deal is…but elongated holding patterns might start forming out over the North Atlantic…
Anyway, I didn’t test out entering an ILS from an extreme angle, just this one, long, straight approach, and it went smooth as silk. Again, all you have to do is monitor the LOC and GS, keep speed optimal for flaps and gears, and remember…this isn’t a 757, so your approach speed is going to be more like a Cessna 172s. I held 100 knots until a mile out, then bled speed to 90 and held that all the way to touchdown. Very simple, very smooth, very, very easy.
Despite a few rough edges on the physical model I really like this .acf, and for a few good reasons:
- The flight model felt rock solid to me;
- The two core animations, gears and flaps, sound great and feel unobtrusive;
- Stalls are gentle and easily corrected, even in a steep turn;
- The G1000 unit is well implemented and presented no surprises under these limited conditions. The only caveat? Read and understand Laminar’s manual, because there are many features buried in there some will find surprising.
Aside from the items listed on my concerns list, I think the cockpit could use more conventional lighting (dimmable dome and instrument panel lights via rotary manipulators). The rear air-stair door could use some lighting, as well.
We’re beginning to see lots of really excellent smaller airports in Xp, and many of these will be perfect for using an aircraft like the Outback on light commuter flights. Think Idaho Falls to KSLC and you’ll be right on target. ESSA to ENGM? EDDH to EDDL? LOWI to EDDM? Inter-island flights in the Canaries? All over Brazil? Chile? California? France?
You’re no doubt getting the picture now…
So, what’s needed are a few fictional liveries to go with this .acf.
How about an Austrian, Delta Connection, paints for Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, the UK, and the Canary Islands? Kenya? South Africa? All would be perfect additions for this little bird…so would FedEx, UPS, and DHL.
And you? If you have an interest in light turboprop airliners, you’ll enjoy this implementation of the G1000 package in addition to it being an interesting new bird in the turboprop family.
Assuming the developer continues to smooth out the few rough edges noted, this file will soon be as good as any Carenado file out there. Should you wait, maybe see what happens? Maybe, but my thinking is this: the few niggles discussed here are mainly cosmetic and don’t impact the flight model. If you want to tinker with a G1000 in a regional turboprop airliner, this is a great place to start.
On the ten scale? Let’s call it a nine. The physical (exterior) model needs some work, but nothing critical needs to be done. The exterior is generally quite nice to look at, the panel more than functional, and the mechanicals just work. My flight from EFVA to EFHK was as pleasurable as any I’ve made recently, and this under near IFR conditions. I’d also say this .acf functions well as a G1000 trainer. If you’re into very heavy metal or keep to GA singles, this file might interest you at some point, so keep an open mind.
Last thought here. This is a new developer, and his first file. We’ve been advocating, for years, that this is exactly the type of person the community needs to support…so think about that too.
Next up on our horizon?
We’ll see you then. – C