x+s+r // VSKYLABS Air Phoenix U-15

VSL Phoenix hdr

Well, how about something really different?

VSkyLabs has steadily developed the reputation as one of the very best up-and-coming developers for aircraft files (.acf) in X-plane, and that made me more than a little curious. They’ve got some “cute files” out there, too, ultra-lights like the MicroHopper, then there’s the light twin Tecnam 2006, and what’s come to be regarded as the best DC-3 simulation in X-plane. I was tempted to try out the MicroHopper – until I saw this beast – and that was that. The Phoenix has been around a while, and I gave some serious thought to buying one about seven or so years ago – so when I saw this was in the VSky stable I popped for it right away.

u15 1

So, just what IS this thing?

Well, the clue is in the name – LAS – or Light Sports Aircraft and, as such, the Phoenix occupies a narrow little niche within the general aviation ecosystem, for, while it is considered an aircraft, it’s also a glider…albiet a powered glider. If you’d like to read up on these classifications, and on this type of flying in general, give this link a try. More information about the manufacturer can be found here, and information from the US importer is located here. Next, a couple of videos for your enjoyment. First:

And next, an even better one:

And a few images of the real aircraft ought to go down real easy right about now…

real 1

real 2

//

VSky does not include much documentation with your download; you will, instead, be directed to their website…where you’ll find all you could ever hope to find out about this aircraft – and more! Including the basics, cockpit orientation, and, as seen below, instructional diagrams in-sim:

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+fron+panel

Of course, you could also simply download the real aircrafts AOM, here.

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+fron+panel2a

Suffice to say, if you can handle starting the default C172 in X-plane, this aircraft is not going to present any difficulties…with the possible exception of using spoilers…but then again, they’re often called “speed brakes” for a reason.

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+fron+panel3a

A unique attribute of this .acf is the ability to change wing configurations, from long, slender, glider-like wings to narrow, almost stubby sport aircraft wings. Both come with the .acf, just as both come with the real aircraft. Below, the hot-spot inside the cockpit to make the change.

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+wingfold

This, however, I did not try. Zero interest in anything other than the glider variant on my part. Sorry. My bad.

I did not, BTW, deploy the rescue parachute. Be my guest.

//

u15 2

This aircraft looks as aerodynamically efficient (or perhaps hydrodynamically?) as a tadpole. Slippery is the word that comes to mind. Also, the real aircraft is a composite structure. There are no hidden luggage doors on this model, no canopy opening mechanism (that I could find, anyway). What you will find is an aircraft whittled down to provide the bare essence of flight. Basic instrumentation, the simplest imaginable engine – and very little else. A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine…and thee…

u15 3

u15 4

The cockpit in VSky’s file IS equipped with “needle, ball, and airspeed,” and that, as they say, is all you need to get from point A to point B. The Garmin 530 will no doubt offer a modest improvement on your odds of actually getting where you’re going – assuming you know to work the damn thing.

u15 5

Perhaps the most important gizmos in the ‘pit are the engine controls – and the engine instruments on the right side of the panel. There is no Carb Heat control, but there is an engine cowl-flap control, and if you’ve never used one of these let’s just say you need to learn – quick. You can do so without formal instruction by watching the various engine temperature gauges; when the engine’s temp runs up to the yellow, open the cowl flaps. When the engine gets too cold, close ’em. There’s more to it than that, but this’ll get you going.

u15 6

Texturing shadows down in the footwell? Doesn’t look like it much baking down there, but this is not in direct view so who cares, right?

u15 6.1

And, alright…they got me here. JBL speakers on the aft bulkhead. Could it get any better than this?

u16 6 jbl

//

u15 flite pit 1

This is a tricycle landing gear arrangement, and you know what that means. Yup, it’s a tail-dragger, so while taxiing isn’t exactly straightforward this isn’t a hard airplane to get off the ground. I’d advise against any rate of climb more than about 6-700 FPM, and don’t let your airspeed drop below 60KIAS. That said, if you’re in a race with a bunch of Cessna 150s, you might win. I stress – might. This is NOT a speed demon.

//

So, off from Interlaken, up the valley towards the Eiger, passing Lauterbrunnen on our way to Murren; this is one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland and the perfect place to play with the Phoenix – at least in X-plane.

 

u15 flite rocks

u15 flite rocks pit

This valley is steep-walled and on warm summer afternoons filled with convective thermal activity…so hang on!

u15 flite 1

u15 flite 2

u15 flite pit turn

wingturn

So, I motored up the valley, managed to climb to 7000MSL, then cut the throttle and sort of motor-glided back to the airport, and this .acf WILL pick up speed, in a hurry, in even a modest glide.

u15 flite 3

No need to use the engine coming back, either, though I did have to evade some power-lines a couple of times…

powerlines

Then the airport just pops into view, right as you come out of the valley, and I didn’t have space for a long straight-in approach, either. At 80 knots on short final (about 20 over the recommended approach speed) I popped the speed brakes (oops, spoilers) and tried to bleed energy by slipping a little…

u15 flite app pit 1

Then just sailed down the runway ’til speed dropped to 60KIAS, and that was that.

u15 app 1

u15 app 2.png

Fairly non-eventful for my first time up.

u15 app 3.1

u15 app 4.1

U15 app 4

All in all, I think this is one helluva fun little file. If the whole sport-flying genre is your thing, this is a good .acf to become familiar with.

//

So…conclusions?

u15 flite 4

Well, first, the obvious:

  1. The exterior of the physical model is great; I couldn’t see anything that looked out of place when comparing this .acf to images of the real bird;
  2. The nature of the beast, I suppose, but there doesn’t appear to be a “stock cockpit” from the manufacturer. Instead, it looks like there’s a tremendous amount of customization necessitated by the installation of various new-gen avionics, and as a result, this .acf simply looks like one more custom job. You just cannot, therefore, say this model looks just like the one made by the factory. Personally, I like the look of this ‘pit – it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Taken on that level, it’s an aircraft I’d like to see, and to fly. In short, this file in X-plane makes me curious about the real aircraft, and that’s perhaps the highest compliment an end-user can pay an aircraft developer.
  3. Another “nature of the beast” comment, but despite this being certified as an LSA (Light Sports Aircraft) I’d love to use this file in X-plane – at night. The inclusion of strobes and panel and landing lights would make this aircraft legal for people holding a PPL, would it not? I did note that when I attempted to set total dark conditions the inside of the canopy because opaque with interior reflections. That was weird, and with no artificial horizon, not a little disorienting.

PIT 1

(like, dude, where’d you score those knickers, and what ARE you doing with that hand…?)

The downsides?

Well, no night ops, and that’s about it. Maybe a working canopy???

Our score? A perfect 10 out of 10, with no reservations recommending this one just for the pure joy of flying,

end

Adios – A

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