Review: Aerosoft Twotter

Alcander Ioanidis has written a review of the Aerosoft Twotter recently and we’re sharing his words with you here. The Twotter (DeHavilland Twin Otter) is designed for FSX and available from simMarket’s shop Read more… to see what Ioanidis thinks of the airplane,

Review originally published on simFlight Sunday, April 13 2008

The Twin Otter has always been one of my favorite aircraft. It has a lot going for it, two engines, great sound and it is one of those aircraft that is able to take you wherever you want to go. The last serious Twin Otter for FS was the one from LAGO (a shame they still have their sales pages open while they totally stopped development and even worse, support!) and I have flown that one over half the globe. So I was awaiting the new one from Aerosoft eagerly and to spoil the conclusion right now, I was not disappointed!

The Twin Otter is done by Aerosoft the same way they did the Super Cub and the Beaver. They look at all the aircraft they can find, put it in a blender and come up with a ‘fictive’ model that is a blend of all the Twin Otters that fly around. Now this sounds not a good idea, but it is when the aircraft differ so much. Just go to airliners.net and see that any instrument except for a mach meter has been installed in some Twin Otter at some stage. Some are VFR only with the oldest of instruments, others have very modern glass avionics. If Aerosoft would have picked one they (and us customers) would be highly limited and only the customers that wanted exactly THAT model would be happy. Right now you can choose between two cockpits, one with a panel close to what it was when the aircraft was released and one with an updated panel that has a few more modern instruments. More on that later.

Models, liveries
There are 8 different models, and from the original Model 100 on wheels and floats to Model 300 on skies, with something like 20 liveries included and dozens more available from repainters. As with the Beaver this variety of models is one of the strongest points of this package, it makes the Aerosoft Twin Otter as universal as the real aircraft was. I’ve flown it to Lukla in the Himalaya and landed on the coral reefs of tropical islands, it just feels great to have an aircraft you know can get anywhere.

The external model is great, highly detailed and using the full options of FSX. As with other Aerosoft developed aircraft the colors look a bit bland though, not very vibrant. Perhaps they tried to get the faded look of an aircraft that has not been painted in a decade, but if that’s true I miss the dirt and mud on the models. They sure look good, but textures just could have been better as shown by some of the repaints that are available now.
Animations are very nice but let down by the pilots who seem very restless as they keep scanning the gauges all the time. Not great, but you don’t see it a lot when you use the product. The complex flap system is superbly animated and a joy to see working.

Flight model
The flight model in the original 1.00 version had a few things that made it hard to use under some conditions, but these issues were quickly addressed by Aerosoft and now it is one of the best flight models I have ever used. There are a good number of real Twin Otter pilots on the Aerosoft forums and they all confirm it is as it should be, lively yet reliable and without serious vices. Landing a Twin Otter on a large runway of a ‘normal’ airport is almost a desillusion as it is so straight forward and easy. Landing speeds are so slow that with some headwind it seems you are standing still. It’s only when you use the special capacity of the Twin Otter the fun starts. STOL landings and take-offs seem to be fully realistic and it is impressive to see how little runway you actually need. When you are operating from a difficult runway you start to really appreciate the fact the aircraft stays fully controllable, even when you are very close to the stall limit.

If you are aware of the problems FS has with turbo props engines you will start to appreciate the flight model even more. Aerosoft seems to be the only one apart from Digital Aviation (their Cheyenne) that are able to get the complexities into FSX in a realistic manner. This also means you got to understand the way they work and the limitations they have. If you don’t want to spend time to understand the beta and reverse modes of the prop setting you are wasting your money on this aircraft. If you do learn about it you can do an amazing thing Twin Otter pilots do after they brought parachutist to altitude. When the last one has left the cabin they count to 10 and drop one wing and give some rudder to point the nose straight down. To avoid over speeding they keep the props in the beta or even reverse settings. It’s complex but after a few tries fully controllable. Ideally you see the threshold of the runway right below you, keeping the speed 20 knots above stall. At 500 feet you pull the nose up, bleed off the speed some more and land with the props in full reverse, coming to a full stop in front of the next batch of jumpers. The jumpers you dropped off at 10.000 are still way up when you haul the next load to altitude. This is not advised procedure by DeHavilland but everybody who seen Twin Otters at work knows it is one of those aircraft where checklists and procedures rule everything.

There is one thing that needs to be said about the flight model. When you are trying to dock a Twin Otter floater without using a dual control throttle set you got your hands full. There is no water rudder, the engines keep running at close to max RPM and you only use the propeller settings to control thrust. Realistic but it is one of those moments you wish the flight model would not be so realistic.

Cockpit and gauges
Aerosoft is one of the few companies who work with 3d virtual cockpit only and seeing how they done it I understand why. The new view modes of FSX where you can select multiple views in VC give exactly the same functionality and look and feel better. It’s a nice thing that Aerosoft displays a help screen to explain how the VC view modes work the moment you select the 2d cockpit. I realize there are people who prefer 2d panels, but after spending a few hours in the Twin Otter VC, even the near perfect 2d panels of the DA Cheyenne looked flat, lifeless and boring. Very 2002.

The instruments of the Twin Otter are detailed and fully functional. From the warning lights (amazing how many lights you get there when you start flying the aircraft without reading the manual) to the overhead panel that is actually located behind your head. It’s a bit strange to find that some of the levers seem to operate exactly opposite to what you expect when you drag them, but that’s something that I got used to very fast. The ‘standard’ panel with the original radios is my favorite as it is easy to use and looks better but the more modern panel has navigation and communication radios that are nothing short of amazing if you like serious simulation. The Bendix King nav/com transceivers are the same type as you find in the default stack of FSX, but they are now fully realistic and it amazing to see how little functionality MS decided to keep. The next time I am forced to use the default radios I will feel like somebody chopped off an arm. The Bendix King KLN90 GPS is an enigma to me. I understand it is almost totally perfectly simulated but it is very complex, I am just able to load a default FSX flight plan in to it (why don’t all aircraft add-ons allow that?) and get some basic information in flight. The next time I have to stay home with a flu I’ll read the manual (the real one!) a few more times and hope to be able to use the instrument fully.

Framerates
Aerosoft made it clear from the very start of this project (they are always open on their forums during the development stage) that framerates were always the most important limiting factor and that they were always willing to simplify and drop features to allow the user to land on complex FSX airports without having low framerates. Seeing how they make some of the most complex scenery that is a refreshing point of view. FSX is not an aircraft or a scenery, but a combination and Aerosoft seems to understand that. I have been using the Twin Otter on some of their VFR scenery products and never got framerates below 20 fps. Using aircraft from other developers I got many problems with low FPS. It’s great that a development teams claims total realism, but usability always wins for me.

So the Twin Otter virtual cockpit is fast. Very fast, lightning fast in fact, all gauges update totally fluid. When you look at the files you start to understand why. Most of the gauges that have a lot of animations (needles etc) are not in GAU or XML format but are part of the MDL files. Only the gauges that are more or less static (warning lights, navigation radios etc) are to be found in the panel.cfg file. So although the panel is complex and fully functional it has an update rate that seems the same as the total FPS of FS and that makes them so usable. Aerosoft done something I have not seen in FSX before.

Sound
Perhaps this should be kept short. The sounds are incredible and one of the few sound sets that is truly FSX state of the art. When you slew around the aircraft you clearly hear where the engine sucks in air, where it pushes out the heated air and where the propeller moves at high speed. Awesome. And amazingly the sound is very different between the original release and the latest 1.11 version, even though the sound files are not changed. The updates in the air files made the sound different, that’s a nice indication how complex FSX has become. Awesome sound.

Installer, support
In a time where FS add-on companies seem to disappear as fast as they came on-line 3 years ago it is good to see that Aerosoft seems as stable as a German company could be. When asked, Aerosoft told me that they are growing and showed me how they hired 4 people in the last 6 months to prove the point. If you allow me a personal note, I am not surprised, they were bigger then all others to start with and they probably had the money to make the difficult step to FSX where others had more problems. For me that’s important as after sales support means a lot. As with other projects Aerosoft showed that they listen and that they react fast. Not only by some of the best support in the industry, but also by the way they listen and are willing to adapt the product to what the customers want. If you look at the changes between the 1.00 and the latest 1.11 version you see that a lot of the changes are not bugs that are fixed but changes and new stuff that customers asked for. Not naming names, but it is nice to see a company that listens.

Ohh… the sales pages, download and installer? Boring, fast and as expected. Just as you like it. I bought at simMarket for a change, but the product page is roughly the same as I was used to on the Aerosoft shop. Reading the Aerosoft forums it seems a boxed version will be available soon.

Conclusion
It should be clear by now that this is an aircraft that I really like. It’s not one of those FS2004 aircraft that are being dragged into FSX, but a full new development and that shows. Aerosoft knows where the future is and the show their willingness to invest in it. It’s versatile, looks great, flies superb and sounds better. If you don’t know turbine props you will need a few hours to understand them but once you do you are able to do things you never done before. I do not like big aircraft and I do not really like very modern aircraft. I like to fly sturdy aircraft into whacky airports. I liked the Aerosoft Beaver and I sure like the Aerosoft Twin Otter.

Latest news: Missions
While discussing a few issues with Aerosoft I was invited to test out a mission pack that will be released soon as an add-in to the Aerosoft Twin Otter. There seems to be 12 missions that almost all play out in Alaska and that all seem to be nicely done. The sound files are a bit hard to understand in some missions but if you bought the Twin Otter this seems to nice addition and a great way to use the aircraft. Personally I would always prefer flights organized by a Virtual Airline (there are many that cater for VFR flying these days) over the structured missions of FSX. Yet, a nice idea.

PROS CONS
  • Very easy on framerates
  • Great VC
  • Very nice modeling
  • Many different models
  • Some textures do not convince me
  • Some tweaking still going on
INFORMATION

TEST SYSTEM

  • Intel ® Core 2 CPU 6400 slightly tweaked
  • 4Gb RAM
  • GeForce 8800 GTX, 768 MB

Comments are closed.