This review is on a product that’s six years old. Huh?! No, we are not that far behind at simFlight in our reviews. Over the last year I’ve seen many forum posts wondering where to find a good Bae 146. I came across an Aerosoft package at simMarket for the Bae 146. While checking it out I noticed that they have a package made with Eurowings that consists of the Bae 146, ATR 42/72, A319/A320, and Nice, France, scenery. So, I decided that all four of these are worth looking at again. Keep in mind when reading this that we are not looking at how good it was in 2004, but how good it is now, compared to what has been released since, and is it still worth your hard earned money in 2010.
To start, if you are looking for either of these for FSX, read no further. This package is for FS9 only (see footnote at bottom for FSX compatibility) at a cost of 35.85 Euros. If you only want one of these aircraft, you’re in luck because they are sold separately for 15.34 Euros (A319/A320) or 20.47 Euros (Bae 146 or Atr 42/72). Aerosoft warns on their site that these are not compatible with Windows Vista but I don’t have a problem with them in Windows 7. Are they still worth the price? Let’s jump in and find out.
To make this review shorter I’m going to tell you what is common in each package and then look at the aircraft separately as to their details. Each aircraft comes with a Load Editor, Aircraft Configurator, and a Flight Planner.
The Load Editor is the usual type you get with aircraft with a bonus of being able to click on individual seats to select your load manually or have the Editor create a full load, empty load, or random load. Nice selection of options.
The configurator is only for the 146 and the ATR and simply allows you to start the aircraft with a cold, dark cockpit and enable the TCAS sounds. The Flight Planner is something really special however. It is loaded with actual flights Eurowings flew back in 2004. You select the aircraft and the routes Eurowings flew with that aircraft are shown. Double-click your route from the list and you are given a screen full of information to fly the route as Eurowings did. It’s pretty detailed and included are the route, take-off data, SID/STAR used, etc. Note that there are no plans for the A319/A320 but plans for the CRJ 100 and 200 are included although not part of this package.
The aircraft are equipped with an FMC but it is a common FMC from Flight1. That is, all aircraft in the package use the same FMC. In my system the FMC is sticky and seems locked up at times but it does come alive after a few seconds. I suspect this is a problem with the version of Windows I use (64bit Windows 7) and not the package. Also, when the FMC is in use I lose the anti-aliasing setting and get jaggy edges on all scenery. Again, I suspect this is a Windows 7 issue and not the developers. I recommend Windows 7 users using the FMC only if you have a second monitor or if you fly in windowed mode. If anyone with Vista or XP can let us know if it appears the same in their system it would be appreciated. The default GPS is standard on all aircraft and can be coupled to the AP, so you’re not completely lost without the FMC. Really, only the A319/A320 suffers by using the default GPS in my opinion.
Visually, all aircraft look above average to good and there are a few paint schemes included for each one. Flexing wings in the 146 are a little overdone IMHO but are a nice feature as are animated working gear, flaps, elevators, ailerons, and doors. When the engines are off pylons are placed around the aircraft and an external GPU is present. Some eye candy for those who are into it. Each aircraft is equipped with a passenger view (wing view) and a dashboard view that is good for looking at the ground scenery in front of the aircraft while cruising. For some this may not be used, but I am a geography buff and I like to see what land features I’m coming up onto while following along with an Atlas. Finally, there were no noticable changes in framerates when flying these aircraft.
None of the aircraft come with a VC (Virtual Cockpit). The 2D windows are well done and logically placed click spots allow you to open other 2D windows. If you refuse to fly without a VC, then this package is not for you. Every panel has zoomable gauges, by the way.
The installation is the same for all – an executable file that installs everything where it’s needed. You don’t have to lift a finger. Just how I like it.
One very important item I’ll bring up. The manual states what weights the aircraft were designed for and therefore the performance will be accurate at those weights. They use a typical load flown with Eurowings. When very light or heavy loads are used you’ll find not so accurate flight envelopes and the authors state that it will be within a 20% tolerance of the real aircraft. Not all developers state this but it is a fairly common assumption to make that aircraft are designed for a specific weight performance. It’s a compromise we make for the ability to have various aircraft emulated in the same flight simulator.
Finally, the biggest commonality is in the developer. Aerosoft packages and distributes it, but some of our friends at Digital-Aviation were the developers in cooperation with Eurowings and Aerosoft. If you have the Digital-Aviation F100 package the panel formats will look familiar to you.
Ok, let’s get into the details…
Bae 146 200/300
The 146 comes with the -200, -300, and the -300QT (Quiet Trader cargo) models. They share the same panel and the panel comes with either the analog gauges or EFIS digital type of gauges. Personally, I like the digital one’s as they do provide a little more information in one gauge than the analog one’s do. Here are some shots of the panels.
This first one is the main panel. Every button and knob works on this panel except the brightness controls just above the center annunciators (Windows 7 issue?). The click spots for the other panels are all along the outside of the panel with the AP surface control panel click spot being on the upper part of the dashboard. Handling the 146 using AP is a little different. More similar to the B727 than the 737’s or A320’s we fly today. Once you get used to it however, it is easy, just don’t forget to control the throttle. You can use auto speed but that auto-changes the elevator and trims to make up for the speed loss or gain which I find is more prone to errors on the pilots part. I let the AP climb, descend, and level the plane while I control the throttle. The aircraft burned an average of 2.5 gals per nm during my test flights. That doesn’t sound like much but remember a nm passes in seconds while at cruise speed.
The next shot shows the various pop up panels. The top left is the AP surface controls which will look familiar if you’ve flown the B727. The top right shows the controls for the EFIS. The bottom left is the throttle quandrant along with the trim, flaps, and spoiler controls. The fuel cutoff switch is on each throttle handle. You move the mouse until you see a “-” and then click. The bottom right is the radio panel which has COM, ADF, and Transponder units. The NAV radios are on the main panel. All of these panels are fully functional except the radio where the most common buttons and switches are available (you won’t notice this at all).
The overhead panel below is fully functional, too. Clicking the wipers has no visual effect. I’ve yet to see this in any aircraft yet for FS9 or FSX. To start the 146 you can follow procedures or hit crtl-E. It’s nice that you have a choice as to how much realism you want to follow.
As you can see the panels are well done. The labels are easy to read and it’s easy to tell if a button is in the on or off position. One final look is the panel at night which is well lit and easy on the eyes. Note that the taxi and take-off lights light the ground in front of you nicely.
The most notable characteristic of the 146 is that is has four jet engines. Bae developed this at the request of airlines looking for a short take-off field aircraft with the ability to travel fast to its destination. London, England’s, city center airport was one of the airports it was designed to serve. Airlines in eastern Canada utilized this aircraft to serve some of the small remote airports in the region. I think it looks really neat, like a miniature Antonov AN 124. The shots below shows the detail. The landing gear looks good, but there’s room for improvement on the engines. I will say that the fan blades look like they were given a little extra attention because they look good. The fuselage is not round which takes away from the quality. The detail on the paint looks complete except for rivets which is probably asking for too much in FS9 anyhow.
I have never flown in a 146 in real life so I can only comment on what I have seen at airports, read, or have seen in flight in the cockpit video’s (of which I have a growing collection of different types… but that’s another article). The flight model seems to be well done. The take-off performance feels realistic for a four engine commuter as does the landing. The common problem I find on freeware models of the 146 is the climb performance is unrealistic. It’s as if there was no friction applied to the airframe. That doesn’t happen here. If you take-off according to real life specs, you will get a realistic climb performance. The aircraft is surprisingly easy to handle without AP as well. Climb performance below FL200 is quite pleasing at between 2,000 and 3,000 ft/min, but above FL200 it drops to 1,000 to 1,500 ft/min. I find cruising at FL290 or 300 to be the best. Getting higher takes more effort than the aircraft is capable of, it seems, when flying using the manufacturers suggested limitations in the manual. Given the purpose of this aircraft and the fact it was done with real pilots, I think this is realistic.
Another view below shows the flaps down with the spoilers and lift dumpers deployed. Whenever I see a 146 coming in for approach I always wondered if those swinging doors were going to come flying off the fuselage. It’s a neat little feature of the 146 that makes it unique.
Finally, as a bonus they included a passenger view as seen below. The drawback is that if you use this view in a second window you don’t see the window frame or the engine. Too bad because I’d open this up on a second screen and leave it that way just because it’s cool! If anyone knows a way around this drop me a comment and I’d be buying you a virtual lunch.
OK, so is this worth buying alone? I say it’s still worth the money. If you desire a quality Bae 146, this is it. I know, I know, it’s called the RJ70 or RJ100 now. I still like to call it the 146 and that’s how Aerosoft marketed it so let me be. 🙂
If you are thinking of buying the complete package and want to know if it’s worth it read on…
The ATR 42 entered service in December of 1985 as the -300 model with a -320 model available with more powerful engines. Various models have been introduced which improved performance and seating capacities. The ATR 72 entered service in 1989 and was a stretched version of the 42 and also has had various models introduced over time. This package includes the ATR 42-300 (46 seats), 42-500 (48 seats), 72-200 (66), 72-200/72 (72), 72-200F (freighter), 72-212 (68 seats), and 72-500 (68 seats)Â models.
The panels are well equipped and most buttons will have an effect on the aircraft. The main panel, pictured below,has some imperfections in the way of black spots on the wind screen. At night these show up as white spots and look like stars. This is a simple fix and I’m surprised it hasn’t been taken care of as it’s pretty obvious. Perhaps they were trying to mimic dead bugs. Overall, I like the main panel and there are tooltip hints over the Torque and NP gauges to indicate what your settings should be based on the Power Management Knob position. Very helpful and virtual handshake to the developers to add this so that I don’t have to refer to manuals. No one reads them anyway right!
Below you’ll see the pop-up panels available with the ATR. On the top right you can control the Display Control Panel which changes what you see on the Navigation Display (ND). You’ll see a weather map control. Don’t be fooled… it’s inoperable. The bottom right shows the COM, ADF, and Transponder radios which are functional, and the throttle quadrant is on the bottom left.
The next screen shows the Overhead Panel. All buttons are functional and have an effect on the aircraft with the exception of the fire buttons, the prop brake, and wipers. On all panels you’ll notice that there are buttons or gauges that are specific to each model of ATR.
Visually, they look average from the outside. One flaw in the ATR 42-500 has me annoyed. The tail of the aircraft looks separated from the fuselage. The props used on each variant are correctly modeled, however. The 42-500 and 72-500 models have the 6 blade props instead of the usual 4 blade ones.
As far as the performance goes I have a few warnings. First of all, taxing this baby is difficult as getting the condition and throttle levers at the right setting for a 20 knot taxi seems impossible. It’s either you accelerate too fast and keep your finger on the brake or you move the levers a little until you’re up to speed and then take them back making this change every few seconds. This problem was present on the default FS9 aircraft and most other props I’ve flown so it’s not the fault of the developers. Slowing this aircraft down while descending is difficult at low weights. Descending at 1000 ft/min with throttles idle and condition at 82% resulted in speed being stable but not reduced. In fact getting the aircraft to landing config with the speed at 115 knots is a challenge and must be done way in advance. The touchdown speed seems to be between 80 and 90 knots. I will say however, that the weight of the aircraft does have an effect on those speeds.
The only complaint I have is that the trim is VERY touchy. One click of the numpad 7 or 1 key will make a big difference in the trim setting.
Other than these quirks, I find the aircraft delightful to fly and hand flying is pretty easy but you will need to use the rudder control quite a bit. The engines are powerful and will create a yaw effect to be dealt with especially during take-off. Your cruise speed will be from 230-280 depending on the aircraft model chosen and loads.
Oh yes, one other amusing thing. The ground GPU must be disconnected before moving or you’ll be stuck with it throughout your flight hanging off the side of your aircraft.
Overall I’m satisified with the ATR. You get a variety of models and paint schemes plus the flight model is as good as it can be in FS9. There have been others released since this one, like the Flight1 model, but not a complete line-up like this one. I found myself still wanting to fly this aircraft even after the review was done. This makes it a winner in my opinion.
A319 / A320
There’s some stiff competition out there for the A319/A320. Going into this review I had strong doubts about this being a worthy option to the rest of the competitors.
The first thing that I have to comment on is the smoothness of the animations. The flaps are so smooth you can barely notice a jump or skip as it moves into the set position. I’m really impressed with this. It is the smoothest I have seen, period. The wing detail is rather plain (not plane… punny huh?!), however, which probably makes it smooth.
The panels are nice and pretty clear but the edges are jaggy. I suspect they were designed for a lower resolution than computers are capable of today. Check it out below. Look near the top of the wind screen and the wipers. Also note the black spots near the top center of the screen and wipers that look like black paint had been splattered a little.
The main panel gauges are zoomable. All buttons are functional and as with the other aircraft in this package there are clickspots to take you to another panel and they are logically positioned. The one thing that I am still amazed about with Airbus cockpits is how uncluttered they appear. There isn’t a multitude of buttons and switches all over the place. It almost seems bare in comparison to other manufacturers aircraft and that is well represented with this package.
Below is the overhead panel followed by the pedestal. Again, both look nice and are mostly functional.
The NAV radios are tuned in the upper left FMC screen on the Pedestal, not using the radios themselves. The COM radios are changed at their location. The transponder is changeable but not fully functional. The upper right FMC screen allows you to change some of the options on the aircraft including toggling the “Fly By Wire”.
This is interesting so I thought I’d fly this with and without to see if it really functions like a true A320 with it on and more like a Boeing with it off. With FBW off I was able to put the aircraft into any position I wanted. 360 Loops and 360 rolls were not a problem… no passengers or engineers were harmed during these test flights. I turned on the FBW and while I was able to bank the aircraft 90 degrees and raise the nose about 80, I was not able to go any further and the aircraft started to correct itself. I don’t think this is entirely accurate for an A320 but there is a difference with it on and off.
The Overhead panel is the most functional one I’ve seen with just about every button clickable. The IRS system is present and clickable but has no effect that I can tell. This brings me to the final popup that you will use, the FMC. The route data is properly displayed in the map display. One issue I have is that when I have the A320 loaded, the FMC indicates I’m in the A319 which will produce erroneous data I assume. Also, the V speeds are high for the weight of the aircraft and the weight that the FMC displays is not the same as the weight FS reports.
Flying this baby is a little hard until you reach cruise altitude. You have two choices when it comes to the throttle because there is no CL position as there is in real A319/A320’s. First, you can control the throttle yourself putting it around 90% N1 during take-off and reducing to 88% during the climb (manual recommended settings). You have to make adjustments as you climb to keep it around there. The second option is to set the throttle speed using the Auto Throttle (AT) and then adjust the climb rate to maintain the speed you’ve selected. Either way, it doesn’t use the FMC and you will have to adjust something constantly.
During cruise you can use AP and AT. Descent you will have to go back to adjusting again. Capturing the ILS and GS is a scarey feat. On three flights I clicked the Approach button and the aircraft banked hard to the left and almost did a 180 degree turn before I took control again. A similar control loss happened when it tried to capture the GS. I ended up doing the approach manually for the three test flights I took.
The aircraft behaved as you would expect an Airbus to behave. Climbs are peppy until you reach FL200 when it drags out. Cruise is at high speed and smooth. Descents are ok until you need to slow down to 250 knots. Slowing down the A3xx’s are known to be hard at lower levels and you have to plan your descent rate accordingly, getting down fast to FL110 and then a slow descent from there in order to bleed the speed. This is a personal recommendation based on 722 FS hours on the A319/320/321 and is not a published recommendation of Airbus or Aerosoft.
Due to the issues above I will not use this A319 or A320 again because I have a better one. If you don’t have one this is a cheap version that will introduce into the Airbus line (Note: see my comments in the Final Analysis).
The Airbus’s come with scenery of Nice, France. I won’t review it here but I will tell you that it is ok. Not great and not bad, just ok. A couple of pictures of the Nice scenery are below.
So here’s my analysis:
If you want a Bae 146 only, then buy it separately here for 20.47 Euros. Worth the investment.
If you want an ATR 42/72 package only, buy it separately here for 20.47 Euros. Worth the investment.
If you want an ATR 72 only, then check out other reviews of available ATR 72’s before making your decision.
If you want an A319/A320 package only, look elsewhere and download some freeware Nice, France, scenery. 15.34 Euros for this package may be appealing to some, so beware of the limitations I’ve covered in my review if you choose to buy it here. It’s ok as an introduction to the Airbus’s but you will find yourself wanting a better one after awhile.
If you want the Bae 146 and the ATR package, buy the whole Commuter package here. To pay for the 146 and ATR separately it will cost you 40.94 Euros whereas buying the Commuter package is 35.85 Euros and you’ll get the Nice scenery and the Airbus’s as a bonus.
FSX Compatibility: I moved the files and gauges over to the proper FSX folders and started up the sim. The ATR works except the Prop RPM controls, which is a very important part of the aircraft. Also, several errors occurred when trying to switch aircraft or restarting a flight (ctrl – ;). The same goes for the Bae 146. I did not try the Airbus’s.
Test system: Intel Core 2 3.0 ghz overclocked to 3.3ghz, EVGA 512mb 9800 GT video, FS9 with all updates, 19″ LCD Viewsonic monitor running at 1280×1024 resolution.
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