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Review: VirtualCol’s Cessna T303 Crusader

This is the VirtualCol version of the Cessna T303 Crusader twin airplane.  It is reasonably well modelled with clean lines and you get 3 repaints in the package (plus a repaint package).  In general the instrumentation is reasonably good, nice and clear and functional, as are the default Baron sounds (internal and external), and it flies extremely well.

As I have said before the beauty of a twin engine plane is that they are usually fast (cruise 230 KIAS) and are ideal for mid-range GA flights and it is capable of both VFR and IFR.  The Interior is well designed with individual leather seats used primarily for luxury business travel.  Unfortunately it does not have facilities for loading, maintenance or repair during use, but that aside, it does handle quite nicely and it flies good distances without any problems.

It is not a great FSX plane but a lot of thought has gone into its design and it is another useful 6-seater twin.   Comparable planes would be: Beechcraft Baron, Cessna 310, Piper Aztec and Piper Seneca.VIRTUALCOL – CESSNA T303 CRUSADER The Templar Review

There were approximately 300 Crusaders built from around 1980, with production ceasing in 1986.  The Crusader was classed as a light twin engine low wing plane with retractable tricyclics gear, capable of carrying 6 people including the pilot.

In the Sim

Installation and activation were reasonably easy but you do need an internet connection in order to register and download a security file which allows the gauges to be displayed. The zip file extracts to a folder which contains the exe files for both FS9 and FSX.

Figure 2 VCol T303 Crusader — Oops forgot to dl the security file.

Figure 3 VCol T303 Crusader All gauges in place

Settings: On my system in the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” I was presented with the tab for “VirtualCol FS Software” and this allows the choice of all 3 Crusader repaints.  My flight control settings were set full right — as realistic as you can get.

The Guide: The user manual is 17 pages in length and it adequately describes the various features of the T303, including:

  • 1)      Airplane detail,
  • 2)      Model Detail
  • Animations
  • Paint Kit
  • Textures
  • 3)      Panels & Gauges
  • 4)      Checklist
  • 5)      Installation

The manual is well laid out with clear illustrations and has good annotations as to what the various, gauges, knobs, switches, etc do.  Personally I would have liked to have seen the Installation instructions on the first and not the last page.  There are no instructions for uninstalling.  The T303 is a simple conventional plane so the average simmer will have no problems in understanding the various controls, gauges, etc.  Some of the manual still contains some Spanish descriptions, so a little editing is needed.

The Viz

The models are good without being outstanding in fact in my opinion they were of about the same standard as seen say in the default FSX Baron.  There are some jagged edges to some of the knobs and curved surfaces, but the gauges are clear and readable.  There is the bonus of an excellent 2D model as well as a 3D — VC model and you can choose which you will use to fly.  The models are only for “vanilla” FSX, ie they do not work in “DX10 Preview” mode, but the developer hints that this will be rectified.  In the 2-D panels there are 6 pop-up icons that toggle the Kneeboard, GPS, A/P, Throttle Console, Lateral Console, Full Captain Panel, and First Officer Panel and also opens the FS Map Window.  These can also be accessed in the VC by using the appropriate combination of “Shift + Number” key, eg SHIFT + 4 displays the GPS as a pop-up.

Figure 4 VCol T303 Crusader Right Seat View

Figure 5 VCol T303 Crusader VC Radio Stack View

Figure 6 VCol T303 Crusader VC Switches

Figure 7 VCol T303 Crusader 2-D Panel Note Pop Up icons on left

Figure 8 VCol T303 Crusader 2D GPS & Auto Pilot Pop Up

Figure 9 VCol T303 Crusader 2D Showing Throttle & Lighting Consoles

Figure 10 VCol T303 Crusader 2D Mini Panel via “W” key

The interior is reasonable being equivalent to around the FSX default standard with the “leather” seats, etc looking inviting and appearing to be comfortable for the 2 — 3 hours that you may be flying.

Figure 11 VCol T303 Crusader VC The Seats

There are 3 repaints all with the same instrumentation.  Some of the gauges have been designed for the VirtualCol Crusader but they also use quite a few of the default FSX gauges including the GPS 500, autopilot, etc.  The instruments modelled must be post 1982 as in the VirtualCol T303 an anti-ice equipment is included and this introduced in the real plane in 1982.  At the end of the review, I changed the default GPS 500/295 for the Simflyer GNS 530 series and to me that was a major improvement.  I had one repaint the Red/Black Variant that had a black fuselage that I could not resolve by the end of the review.

Figure 12 VCol T303 Crusader Grey & Black at Sitka

Figure 13 VCol T303 Crusader Blue Variant on Final

Figure 14 VCol T303 Crusader Red & Black Variant but showing an all black fuselage.

The animations actually are quite good, with various doors opening and closing, including cargo doors and engine covers.  The models display a “tread” strip on the wing allowing access to the plane. The commands for the various animations are documented in the user manual including how to reassign FSX commands so that the animations could occur.  I particularly liked the “security parking” option which surround the planes with traffic cones and place the wheel chocks. Cool!!   Variations on the Shift E +numerical keys open and close the various doors.  Night lighting in the cockpit looked good and the landing/taxi light(s) seemed to be modelled accurately.

Figure 15 VCol T303 Crusader All doors open and parking brakes applied

Figure 16 VCol T303 Crusader Passenger Door open at night

Figure 17 VCol T303 Crusader Landing & Taxi Lights

Figure 18 VCol T303 Crusader Cockpit Lighting at night

Figure 19 VCol T303 Crusader Throttle console & Instrument panel at night

Figure 19A Night Parking with chocks

Figure 20 VCol T303 Crusader VC general view and taxiing view at night

Figure 21  Main VC panel at night

I did not see any significant drop in performance (frame rates) in FSX in this plane.  Again due to a high dash and long nose forward visibility is not brilliant but using the TrackIR makes it a lot easier to see when taxiing, etc.  (see figure 21).

On normal fuel usage (approx 30 US gallons/Hr [110L/Hr]) you can fly for around 5 to 5½ hours, i.e. up to around 1000 NM or less with a realistic 45 minute reserve

3rd Party Repaints

I couldn’t find many repaints out there including a search on the AVSIM library.

Instruments in the Interior:

As said earlier there is only one cockpit layout for the 3 repaints.   This depicts a full avionics suite of instruments including the default Bendix King auto-pilot.  In the VC/2D panels none of the gauges “pop-up” on clicking ie enlarge so that they be read easily whilst flying.  One small problem that I noticed with the 2-D lighting, etc console pressing the anti-ice button did not display the anti-ice light in the annunciator panel but pressing the “Prop Sync” button did illuminate the anti-ice light!  This worked perfectly in the VC. See Pictures above particularly Figure 9 which shows PropSync on, Anti-Ice off but Anti-ice is illuminated in the panel.

Pressing F10 displays the 2-D panel and by pressing “W” you do get an unrestricted view forward.  Great for VFR manoeuvres!  See Figures 7 — 10 above)

The Payload

These are set within the Sim, you can load a pilot, co-pilot and 4 passengers plus fuel and there is also a provision to load two quantities of luggage.  There do seem to be any animations either for passengers or baggage, with only a pilot being depicted in the model.

Twin Engined Aircraft — Counter Rotating Propellers — courtesy Wikipedia

On a twin engine plane, the propellers on both engines usually rotate clockwise (as viewed from the rear of the aircraft). Counter-rotating propellers spin clockwise on the left engine and counter-clockwise on the right. The advantage of such designs is that counter-rotating propellers balance the effects of torque and p-factor, eliminating the problem of the critical engine.  This was well modelled in the Virtualcol T303 where I saw virtually no torque effects on take-off or cruising.

Note:  The disadvantage of counter-rotating propellers is that in order to reverse the rotation of one propeller, a gearbox is needed and/or the engine installation is complicated. This can lead to an increase weight and/or increased maintenance and spare parts costs for the engines and propellers.

Propeller Synchronisation

In the Virtual Col T303 there is a ‘Prop Sync’ button that when switched on shows whether both engines are spinning at the same speed. This feature eliminates much of the torque effect which is usually seen if the engines were spinning at different speeds.  I used it in the on and off position and I could not detect any difference in flight characteristics, eg p-factor.

In the air

Two 185kW (250hp) Continental TSIO520AE turbocharged and fuel injected flat six piston engines driving three blade constant speed counter rotating McCauley propellers.

The engine can be started either manually, or using the Ctrl + E hack.  As usual, I set all my controls in FSX to realistic ie to the far right.  Taxiing is typical for a twin engine, using engine, rudder and brakes to make turns, and although forward vision is restricted you can still taxi relatively easily.  The Crusader rotates around 80KIAS (around 1250’ ground roll) depending on load, flaps, etc it climbs rapidly at around 1500’/min with a cruise speed of 200 KIAS at 20,000’ which it achieves in around 20 minutes with full fuel with no passengers.  Using Real Trim I was able to trim for level flight using the throttle and propeller pitch.  There is no handling difference that I could see between the 3 repaints.  It is very smooth to fly and trims out nicely by adjusting the throttle and trim control.

Stalls

I implemented a stall at 10,000’ using power off and full flaps and the stall occurred around 70 KIAS,  Recovery using the usual techniques (yoke forward, apply full power and followed by pitching up) was uneventful.  It was quite difficult to induce a stall as this is a basically stable aircraft.  I did not attempt a spin stall in this plane.

Landing

This plane can land (with gear down and with one notch of flaps) at around 85 — 95 KIAS so you come in relatively fast.  The landing distance is between 800’ — 1,000’ so it could be used for short airfield work.  Trees at the end of the run almost double the landing distance.  I had no issues landing the plane.

Figure 22 VCol T303 Crusader Almost there!

Figure 23 VCol T303 Crusader Touchdown

Sounds

The sounds are the same ones used for the default Baron, and I guess that it would have been good had the developer used sounds from a real-life T303.

Miscellaneous

Included in the models is a repaint kit, presumably for painting your own variants.  Dual flight controls are provided as standard equipment in the “real-world” Crusader and these are modelled in the VCol sim.

Support

This was by email and was a little hit or miss.  The developer acknowledged a couple of errors, fixed them but when I re-downloaded from the VCol site, initially there was no download link, which was then provided but then the file that I re-downloaded still had the original error that I had reported.  Support was also slow and may have been hampered by my use of English and not Spanish.

Summing Up:  The VCol T303 Crusader is a basic twin-engined fast executive commuter airplane, being useful for both VFR and IFR flights.  It has reasonable looks but it somehow lacks the finesse and detail to make it into a great flying simmer.  In fact, I found the detail in the plane and its instruments to be roughly on a par with the default FSX planes.  In the air it handles very well, no vices and it is easy to fly, ie it is not a complicated piece of software.  Because of the issues that I experienced I can only say that this is a nice GA plane that is possibly in need of a make-over in the near future.

WOW Factor: 6/10

Peter Hayes, Australia, June 2010.

Table of the Important Bits:

Publisher:

VirtualCol

Supplier:

http://secure.simmarket.com/virtualcol-cessna-t303-crusader.phtml

Download
File Size:

20+MB (zip file)

Installation
File Size:

75 MB “exe” file includes Fs2004 version and Paint Kit.  In FSX VirtualCol Folder is 3.5MB and the Plane is 42 MB

Simulator Requirement:

FSX supports SP2 (or Acceleration/Gold) does not support DX10;

Operating System

Win XP, Vista and/or Win 7;

Variants:

One

Paint Schemes

3 different paint schemes

Cockpit

3D (VC) and 2D

Supplementary:

N/A

Testing System:

Intel E8600, 4GB DDR 800 RAM, Vista 64 SP2, nVidia 9800 GT, 257.14 Driver;
FSX SP1 + SP2; 750GB SATA II Seagate 7200 HDD.  Logitech G940 system plus Saitek Throttle Module.
No Tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.

Scenery:

FSX standard, GEXn, UTX, FSGenesis LC/Mesh; FEX

Installation:

Installation is good via a self extracting exe file.  Should be installed with Admin rights — VISTA right click “Run as administrator”.  However you need to register on the Virtual Col Website and download a security file (1.2MB) in order to load the gauges.

Manuals / Documentation

User Manual 17 pages

Support:

http://www.virtualcol.com/contacto.php

Forum:

N/A

Homepage

http://products.virtualcol.com/index.php

Uninstallation

Not mentioned.

Updates

N/A


Comparison with Real Life variants:

Figure 24 Cessna T303 Real life 1453156 courtesy James Binder airliners net.jpg

Figure 25 VCol T303 Crusader same view as Figure 24

Figure 26 Real life T303 Crusader Courtesy 0089521 Miguel Snoep airliners net.jpg

Figure 27 VCol T303 Crusader same profile as figure 26

Figure 28 Cockpit Layout 1329996 courtesy Daniel Rybka airliners net.jpg

Figure 29 VCol T303 Crusader Cockpit Layout

In Flight

Figure 30 VCol T303 Crusader Sitka

Figure 31 VCol T303 Crusader Landing soon

Figure 32 VCol T303 Crusader near Sitka

Figure 33 VCol T303 Crusader Close-up in flight

Figure 34 VCol T303 Crusader Cruisin’

Figure 35 VCol T303 Crusader Pilot at work

Performance Specifications (ref: Wikipedia & Carenado)

Horsepower: 2× Continental TSIO-520-AE/LTSIO-520-AE turbocharged and fuel injected air-cooled flat-six piston engine, driving three blade constant speed counter rotating McCauley propeller (250 hp (186 kW) each engine

Gross Weight: 5150 lbs (2336 Kg)

Top Speed: 216 KIAS (400 km/hr) @ 18,000’

Empty Weight: 3305 lbs (1500 Kg)

Cruise Speed: 196 KIAS (363 Km/hr) @ 20,000’

Fuel Capacity: 102 gal (380 L)

Stall Speed: 62 KIAS (115 Km/Hr) Flaps Down

Range: 1000 nm (1890 Km)

Rate Of Climb: 1480 fpm (450m/min)


Ceiling: 25000 ft (7620 m)

Capacity: 1 Pilot + 5 passengers

Length: 30 ft 5 in (9.27 m)

Wingspan: 39 ft 0½ in (11.90 m)

Height: 13 ft 4 in (4.06 m)

Wing area: 189.2 sq ft (17.58 m²)

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