Prepar3D Updates to Version 1.4

Prepar3D is Microsoft’s FSX under a new owner, Lockheed Martin.  Continuing on with the flight simulation tradition, Lockheed Martin has put its own twist on this new version of FSX.  While it is missing some of the more mainstream aircraft like the Boeing 737, just the fact that Lockheed Martin is continuing development of the platform is a huge win for the flight sim community.

Mooney’s Acclaim joins Prepar3D thanks to Lionheart Creations

This latest release shows their continued development, improvements include:

  • fixes for stutters or performance issues
  • Dialogs now remember their previous position
  • Various UI enhancements including the removal of the “apply” button
  • Added two new aircraft: Mooney Acclaim by Lionheart Creations, and the T-6 Texan II by IRIS
  • Fort Rucker area scenery expansion
  • Dozens of legacy scenery and database issues

Upgrading from a previous version (like 1.3) requires the user to download nearly 10G of data, conduct a full uninstall and then reinstall the program.  With this being 2012, such an upgrade procedure is cumbersome, but then Lockheed Martin is new to the consumer flight simulator market.  There is saying, “good things come to those who wait”, so patience is the key.

Beechcraft T-6 Texan II by IRIS in Prepar3d v1.4

I took both the Mooney and the Texan out for a spin around the Fort Rucker area to check out the new scenery.   I have to compliment Lockheed Martin on these additions.  The Mooney feels true to its brand, fast, sleek and forgiving.  While I am not a huge fan Texan II in the real world, I did enjoy flying this model.  It has gobs or power and is super fun to toss around.   I even managed to crash on landing as I came in a bit too fast and lost control.  Way cool!

The Hanchey Army Heliport (KHEY) is a cool addition to Prepar3D

Flying around Fort Rucker, I learned to appreciate the subtleties of the scenery.  I landed at the Hanchey Auxiliary on the north end of the base and was surprised to see a tank hiding in the trees and a well placed Humvee next to the control tower.   I felt like I landed at the real base and was about to get annihilated by a tank.  There are three other areas to check out, the  Hanchey Army Heliport, Knox Army Heliport, and the Cairns Army Field. All of which are nicely done with a great level of detail.

I really like the direction Lockheed Martin is going with Prepar3D.  By leveraging the flight sim community for “default” add-ons and adding some scenery, the future of Prepar3D is bright.   I can’t wait to see what future releases bring.  In the meantime, its time to start porting over my favorite MSFS aircraft!

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Another X-Plane Release: Carenado’s F33A

Just announced is the release of Carenado’s Beechcraft Bonanza F33A.  We’ve been seeing the previews for weeks now and we finally get to load the model up in X-Plane and take her out for a orientation flight.  Does Carenado’s latest live up to the hype?

< Carenado’s F33A Bonanza >

After taking the F33A Bonanza out for a short flight around Moab, UT, I am quite pleased with my $26.95 purchase.  While I need a lot more time behind the yoke, I can tell you this:  The F33A is worth every penny and will make a great cross country cruiser.

One thing I noticed immediately was how long it took the power to come up and get the plane moving.  Granted I was taking off from 5,400 feet in elevation on a gravel runway, so this issue might be limited to my choice of orientation flights. (Update: Flew from Camarillo, CA and the power came up quickly and smoothly. Elevation has a lot to do with engine performance and that is definitely modeled well here.)

Once airborne though, it handled like a dream.  Throwing the yoke left to right and feeling the nimble reaction of the aircraft, reminded me greatly of the performance Mooney models (the M20J is also available from Carenado).  With entertaining handling and relatively fast cruise speed, I really can’t wait to take this baby out on a longer flight!

On this inside, there are plenty of things to click that also have automation.  On this orientation flight, I started the F33A cold and dark, so flicking the switches, setting mixture and throttle, and turning the key were superbly modeled and really made me believe I was a real pilot sitting in a real Beechcraft.  All I missed was that strange aviation smell.

Like the Cessna 172N, the interior includes a pop-up from the brim of the dash cover that gives quick access to panels like switches and the fuel lever.  There is even a rear seat view, but it is not as cool as that included in the 172N. Why? Because the view is from the luggage deck, so a large portion of the screen is useless compared to the full cinematic view of the 172N.

The sound of the virtual Continental engine is spot on.  I always thought these engines sounded like they were over revved up all the time and this feeling came through in this package.  Even subtle changes to the throttle position produces variations in pitch (and you can almost feel the vibration) of the engine.  While not as entertaining or throaty as the Lycoming engines, this one still provides an authentic experience for the ears.

Even still, the overall package of the Beechcraft F33A is superb.  While I am critical of the chosen rear seat view, I am quite happy to report that the Beechcraft does live up to the hype we’ve been seeing on Carenado’s Facebook page for the past few months.  The only thing better would be the V-tail model (which my grandfather was part of the engineering team that designed it), which shares the same fuselage, but uses the distinctive V-tail design.

< for other reviews of Carenado models click here >

So, if you haven’t already, buy this thing…  the virtual pilot inside you will thank you later!

A Seriously Impressive Duke

With climb rate of 4,000 ft/min and two glorious turboprop engines attached to its six seat fuselage, you can’t help but question the sanity of such a thing.  Its like putting a V-8 in a Miata and wondering why the tires are bald after one lap.

One mean looking airplane!

As insane as it seems, it actually makes a lot of sense as an alternative to flying a jet.  Why not put jet-like performance on an aircraft that can deliver much lower operating costs?   Enter the Real Air Simulations Beechcraft Turbine Duke for FSX.  It is a regular six seat Duke twin-engine aircraft retro-fitted with PT6A turbine engines that take this bird to a new level.

Real Air Simulations is known for producing realism, putting an emphasis on flight dynamics and system operation rather than eye candy.  That isn’t to say the Duke’s model is poor, but the package is much more refined and complete compared to other payware offerings.  With this model, engine failure is quite real, so managing torque and prop speed is essential as I found out on a test flight when I blew both engines and had to make an emergency landing.

Take care of those engines!

While some might balk at the nearly $50 US price tag, the level of detail of this model is well worth it.  You aren’t paying for eye candy alone, but also realistic engine function and flight dynamics.    I’ve flown the Turbine Duke in FSX on three flights and have to say that I am extremely impressed.  This is probably the best commercial add-on for FSX yet.   A full review is coming soon, so check back in the next few days.

 

X-Plane’s Santa Barbara

For the past few months, I have been a proud owner of X-Plane, the “alternative” flight simulator.   With the demise of the Microsoft Flight Simulator Development team,  I, like many other people, took advantage of discounted pricing and purchased X-Plane.   While it takes a little getting used and a fair amount of configuration, X-Plane offers a competitive package to the MSFS products.  But this post isn’t about comparing MSFS to X-Plane.

No, in fact, this post is about me showing my delight to finally have my hometown airport available for X-Plane.  Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (KSBA) has been beautifully modeled by Partnair and is available for download at x-plane.org.

Approaching Santa Barbara over Summerland

While not as detailed as Al Wheeler’s Central Coast Scenery of the MSFS products, it is far better than the empty default scenery in X-Plane.  There are things like rows of trailers parked in the short-term parking lot and some detail around the tower is missing, but the big pieces are there!  The tower, the antique passenger terminal, the T-hangers, and the runways (of course!).   I hope that with future development, this scenery can be improved upon.

Baron at SBA's passenger terminal.

Who knows, maybe someday this scenery will include the new terminal which is currently under construction.  The two story, modern building provides a much needed update to the crammed, inhospitable terminal of today.

No matter what, updates or not, this scenery has made me revisit the X-Plane simulator.  I am looking forward to spend many more hours flying its alternative skies and making countless approaches into Santa Barbara… after all, this is X-Plane’s Santa Barbara.

Cheers!

Note: The Beechcraft Baron 58 is by Alcala-Sim and is available for X-Plane 9.x at this link.

A Beechcraft B1900D for FSX

Beechcraft has been at higher end of the aviation market for quite some time. Their original Bonanza model was a huge success. For modern business traveling pilots, the KingAir series offers incredible performance and reliability unmatched by anything else. With its first flight in 1982, the 1900C model was a heavily modified KingAir 200 model with 19 seats and more powerful engines.

The 1900D model, an improved version of the 1900C first flew in 1990. This improved version, modeled by Premier Aircraft Design (PAD) for FSX, had a taller fuselage to aid in standing up, more powerful engines (of course!), and larger doors and windows. The 1900 model has been adapted to numerous roles including military, executive, and maritime patrol. Production ended in October 2002, but many airlines still fly the 1900, including the largest operator of the type, Mesa Airlines.

The working end of the 1900

PAD’s 1900D model is exquisite from nose to tail. With a full virtual cockpit and a great sound set, this baby is a great addition to your hangar. While the initial release livery is that of Air Labrador, the dark blue paint perfectly complements its curvy, but yet boxy lines. It leaves the pavement with vigor and flies like a Cirrus. I am looking forward to spending many more hours in the cockpit of this bird… not to mention more repaints!

flying over head

Happy regional flying! Make sure to drop the guys at PAD a note of appreciation for this model.

 

Update 27jun08: The ERA Aviation livery has been released for both FS9 and FSX.  It is a beauty, so stop be PAD’s site and grab her.  Coming soon is a 1990’s United Express livery…