Surprises are always great unless they involve death or car crashes. Luckily for the X-Plane community, this post doesn’t have anything to do with death or car crashes. That means good news for the general aviation crowd running X-Plane (9 or 10 works).
The great news is the .Org (X-Plane.org) purchased from Shade Tree Micro Aviation (STMA, checkout their awesome DHC-3 Otter!) their Cessna Skylane Turbo RG model and have made it free to their members. Whenever a former payware aircraft goes freeware, you have to take a step back and bring your expectations down a level. In this case, they don’t have to come down too far.
I took the Skylane out for a test flight from Three Forks, MT to Bozeman, MT and have to say my expectations were beyond met. Granted this is an older model and you can tell it is more of X-Plane 8.6 refinement, but the panel, virtual cockpit, flight dynamics, and overall package are superb. While perhaps lower in quality compared to Carenado’s payware, the overall package delivered here for free sets it apart.
The modeled interior is a welcoming place to spend a few hours. While the refinement will likely be hard for some to get over, the fact is that the interior is there. Seating for four, door handles, and yokes have been fully modeled. While I was a bit disappointed with the 2D-like panel in the virtual cockpit, you have to remind yourself that everything you need is there; light switches, HSI, altimeter, throttles, etc.
The Skylane Turbo packs a bunch with over 200-hp and a cruise speed of 150+ knots. The retractable gear is also fully animated and its just cool to watch it fold back into the stowed position with this model. The flight dynamics are “reactive” yet forgiving. True to the X-Plane feel, you have to fly this plane or set the auto pilot.
Perhaps one of the best features is the return you get in frame rates. Running this model on X-Plane 9.70 on my old 2007 iMac with settings cranked fairly high, I was able to get 45+ fps, easy. That means more processor power for the world around you.
So, if you haven’t already skipped to this part (who reads these posts anyway?), you can download the model over at the .Org. Just make sure to say a thank you to Shade Tree Micro Aviation and the .Org while you are over there.