Review: ORBX – LANCAIR IV-P

Quick Summary:
This is a fantastic SUV-like aircraft from Orbx! With a low power to weight ratio this is one very fast (and safe) economical cross-country touring aircraft, described aptly by someone as the ‘Formula 1 of GA aircraft’.  We might well have a successor to the fabulous Piper Meridian in ‘mini’ form!  Orbx are more readily known for their very fine scenery and airport add-ons for FSX, but by applying the same principles, (ie using a dedicated talented team, hard work, and accepting nothing short of perfection) as they do to the FTX series they have produced yet another quality product.  The plane is top notch in that it has incredible aesthetically pleasing detail, realistic flight dynamics, cabin, instruments and systems functionality plus a bonus of realistic sounds.  It took the team two years to develop the plane and the resulting models clearly show that it was time well spent!  Come on in and joust with the ‘Lancair’ developed by Lance Neibauer!

The ORBX – LANCAIR IV-P — The Jousting or Chirurgical Review

Background: (Courtesy of Wikipedia; Lancair.com):
Basically, the Lancair IV and IV-P are both 4-seat low-wing (tricyclic) retractable-gear composite monoplanes powered by a huge 550 cubic inch Continental turbo-normalised piston engine, ie a twin 350 hp (261 kW) turbocharged engine.  FTX have modelled the Lancair IV-P which is a pressurized (kit) plane, which means that it can fly at altitudes up to 30,000′.

Pressurisation: In cabin pressurisation compressed air is pumped into the aircraft cabin at altitudes > 9,000′ – 10,000′ (3,000 m +) in an attempt to maintain a safe and comfortable environment.  For example, pressurisation prevents altitude sickness which can occur at altitudes >10,000′ (3,050 m) and oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) which can occur at altitudes >14,000′ (4,265 m) ie in conditions of low outside atmospheric pressure.  The pressure differential maintained is ≈9 psi ie designed to emulate a cabin pressure at around that found at ‘sea level’, this figure also maintains the integrity of the aircraft’s shape without having to excessively ‘beef up’ the structure.  We think that an atmospheric pressure (AP) of 14.7 psi (= 1 Atmosphere) is completely normal, ie that is the pressure we experience daily (for those of us that don’t live in the Himalayas or other high altitude settlements).  For example from a commercial tube-liner, say a Boeing 767 flying at FL39 (with an AP of ≈3 psi versus 14.7 psi at sea level), the captain would usually pressurise the cabin to emulate an altitude of ≈ 6,000′ — 8,000′ (about 75% of the AP at sea level) and keep you breathing and comfortable, it is not necessary to pressurise the plane to 0′.  Remember how your ears pop when you descend, this is due to the change in atmospheric pressure?  All of this is very well modelled in the FTX Lancair IV-P and maintains as in real life a ≈5.0 psi cabin differential.

Being made of composite materials as opposed to metal the Lancair IV-P is light and at the same time extremely strong with wing and body stiffness being maintained under all flight conditions.  The design and flight dynamics were all developed using advanced techniques including complex computer modelling.

Using advanced composites allowed Lancair to develop a complex aerodynamic shape (impossible in aluminium) maintaining precise airfoil contours and surface finishes thus providing high levels of laminar flow available on this plane.  As Lancair states, ‘these composites do not rot, rust or corrode, and can configures precisely to perfect the load bearing structure.  Further, composites have a near infinite fatigue life and the carbon fibre Lancair uses is, weight for weight , up to 3 x stronger than steel’.

Installation:
Installation:  Using the download option, you extract the zip file and run the OrbxLancairIV-P100.exe file produced.  You the fill in your order number, date of purchase and key and the installation is seamless.  In the manual you are also given a method for installing from the DVD edition (as available).  The configuration in the FSX scenery library is usually automatic but again the manual displays a manual method if needed.

Aircraft Selection:
On my system in the Current aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” I was presented with the tab for “Orbx Simulation Systems” and this allows the choice of all 18 liveries (9 HD).

Realism Settings:
Custom:
I did start the review with the realism effects toned down, but once I got the hang of the torque effect I updated my realism settings to full right ie more realistic.  The manual covers the aspect of the torque effect during the take-off roll.

The Manual and Documentation:
Another excellent manual (user guide) that is it is quite well written in a clear fashion.  It covers all aspects of the plane including system requirements, installation, flying guide, systems, gauges radios, etc being illustrated with clear annotated pictures of the salient features.  The detail is clear and really you do need to read it and the POH before you attempt to fly the plane.  The instruments are well described with annotations and you can soon deduce what does what, where and when.  There are quite a few clickable standard knobs and switches that operate various systems including battery and lights etc, and these are described in detail.  The switches can be click toggle operated or by using the mouse and Orbx recommends the latter in the manual.

The Pilots Operating Handbook, as expected, the technical data needed to build and operate this aircraft.  It covers in good detail, general information, systems description, weight & balance parameters, performance and normal & emergency procedures data, ground handling and climatic considerations.

Paint Kit: There is also documentation for the included paint kit so that you can produce your very own variant.

Lancair IV-P Tutorial Flight:
This is a great way to get to know this plane, it shows in great detail how to prepare the cockpit and start the engine, set up the navigation parameters, taxi, take-off, achieve cruise altitude and speed, descend to your destination airport, approach, final and landing procedures and finally parking and engine shutdown.  It really is an excellent document and I found it invaluable in writing this review.  For the best experience you do need Au Gold and Orbx YSTW and YBBN, although I applied the same flight to two similar airports in the USA and it worked fine, once I had modified the IFR etc details.

Aircraft Systems:
The Orbx Lancair IV-P is built with the Continental TSIO-550E turbo charged engine, sipping AVGAS and driving a 4 bladed, constant speed, 75″, and wood composite propeller @ 2750 rpm.  In the real world other propeller configurations are possible.

The Visual Aspect:
In a word, outstanding!  Visually the planes have nice clean lines and are good representations of the IV-P especially when compared to the ‘real deal’.  Orbx have produced some very nice models with the IV-P depicting extremely detailed areas showing off the sheen and reflectivity of the exterior in an almost 3 dimensional visualisation.  The skin ripples and shimmers and there are some great shadow effects which change in relation of the aircraft to the position of the sun.  You can always spot a good model by looking at the nacelles on the front of the plane just behind the propeller, in the OrbX model these are smooth and round without any jaggedness even at high resolutions.  All of the 18 liveries look great all sharing the same attention to detail down to the rivets on the aircraft’s skin.  The Interior seating was also very detailed with different colours to match the skin.

Orbx Lancair IV-P showing high detail — look how smooth and round the engine air-intake nacelles appear.


Matches the actual real deal pretty impressively.

The above Lancair IV-P, the picture taken by Carlos Aleman has a fascinating story behind it:  Carlos says, “This aircraft is kind of unique in certain way. The owner/pilot of this Aircraft is Mr. N*** Q*******, a great pilot and one of the finest human beings that I know.   Mr ******* is handicapped from the waist down, ie he has no movement on his legs and so in order to fly the aircraft, he has had it modified to include an extra hand control for the rudder and brakes. The aircraft has been converted recently with a glass panel, which I believe is a Garmin 600 conversion. This aircraft is based at Million Air FBO in San Juan (Isla Grande) airport where I work.”

Liveries:
There are 18 (9 HD) liveries all apparently based on real-life variants from various parts of the world.  The HD versions are depicted below.



Functions and Pilot Access:
The port door opens to allow the pilot to get in and out and there is also a cargo/baggage door (Shift+E+2)

Pressing:

  • Shift+1 with the aircraft loaded into FSX allows you via a pop-up panel, to hide the pilot, place luggage, chock the wheels and apply various covers.
  • Shift +2 displays the 2 x GNS430 Pop-Up
  • Shift +3 displays the Bendix/King KR-87 ADF Receiver & STEC 55x (Autopilot)
  • Shift +4 displays the Sandel SN3308 Electronic HSI


Specifications (Courtesy Lancair):

  • Engine                              Cont. TSIO-550
  • Horsepower                    350 h.p. @ 2600 rpm
  • Propeller                          3 blade, constant speed
  • Pressurization                 5 psi
  • Empty Weight                 2,000 lbs. (900Kg)
  • Gross Weight                  3,550 lbs. (1610 Kg)
  • Fuel Capacity                  90 gal. (110 gal. with extended tanks) (340 to 420 L)
  • Useful Load                     1,550 lbs. (700Kg)
  • Baggage Capacity           150 lbs. (70Kg)
  • Cabin Seats                      4 (incl pilot)

Performance (Courtesy Lancair):

  • Cruise                              330 mph @ 24,000 ft. (290 KCAS)
  • Fuel Consumption         18-22 gph (70 — 83 L/Hr)
  • Maximum Range           1550 sm (@ 8,000 ft.) (2,500 Km)
  • Endurance                       ≈6 hours
  • Rate of Climb                  2,000 fpm (solo), 1,500 fpm (gross)
  • Takeoff Distance            1,500 ft. (gross @ sea level)
  • Landing Roll                    1,900 ft.
  • Stall Speed                      75 mph (dirty); 73 mph (dirty and with optional winglets) (65 KIAS)

Frame Rates or FPS:
I only reviewed the HD versions and I did not see any significant drop in performance (frame rates) in FSX in this plane.  The plane was smooth in all operations.  In my opinion the HD textures are the only ones that you want to use.

Instruments in the Interior:
These are comprehensively covered in the manual, and this should be read so that you understand what the advanced features modelled in this Orbx IV-P do.  The instruments are comprehensive, clear, intuitive, and extremely complex requiring a fair learning curve to master them.  There is an option to use the Reality XP Garmin gauges, but I did not cover these in my review other than to say to get the ultimate real feel you would use these gauges where possible.  The gauges are all rendered in “3D” mode and have that crisp reach out and touch feel about them.  There are well over 60 gauges/instruments/knobs/levers, etc that you may have to change and/or monitor before, during, and after flight.  As ever, they include including the ‘usual suspects’ needed to fly this aircraft including the basic (although very sophisticated) navigation and control instruments and gauges.  The more exotic instruments/gauges include, a VM1000 which is multi-input monitoring gauge and this is extremely useful in setting amongst others the engine rpm, leaning to optimum EGT and monitoring fuel flow or computing how much is left.  This is definitely one instrument to master to get the best out of this plane.  The other instrument to note and learn is the Sandel SN3308 (HSI) which covers navigation, bearing pointers and a moving map.  Other instruments (equally important) include a digital chronometer, the AOA instrument (vital for getting the angle of attack correct), the S-TEC 55x (autopilot), KR-87 (ADF), KT-76C (transponder), the GMA340 audio panel and finally the double GNS430’s.  As I state earlier, the functions and operations of all of these instruments are covered in the manual and need to be absorbed to get the best out of this plane.  A TrackIR would be a bonus allowing you to easily zoom in and read the instruments without flying into something, but there some pop-ups of the major gauges (see pictures above and described below)!

Due to the advanced 3D modelling techniques used, there are no 2D panels, and quite frankly you do not need them.  There appears to be only one cockpit/panel/seating layout for the 18 included repaints, I did not spot any major differences between them, except that there are different interior colours for a particular re-paint.  The cockpit and the instruments are illuminated at night via panel switches and the instrument lighting effects are very good, with the landing lights at night giving good illumination.  The landing, taxiing, navigation and strobe, etc lights are all modelled and controlled from switches in the cockpit.  However, you can use all of the FSX light switching operators ie variants of “L” to control the lights, except for the cabin lights which have their own special method described in the manual.

Another interesting story on this panel, Marcelo tells me, ‘ By way of information, this Lancair IV-P was built here in Argentina in the city where I live (Posadas/Misiones).  My friend Victor Mejalenko built the kit plane and worked nearly 3 years to complete it.  In 2006 he made the journey to Oshkosh to attend the convention winning the 3rd prize in the experimental Kit category.’

Pretty good match eh?


Pressurisation:
In order to get fly this plane in excess of 10,000′ it needs to be pressurised at the altitude that you intend to fly (see above)  The manual covers this aspect in great detail, including sealing the door, and then setting your altitude and climb rate e.g. 1500 fpm on the built-in pressurisation gauge.  The pressure differential used is ≈5 psi.  You use the reverse procedure for descending to your landing point, ie setting the airport altitude and your rate of descent, equalising the pressure on landing.

The Payload:
Disappointingly the payload and fuel is set via the default FSX payload option, it would have been nice for a dedicated payload (and maintenance) manager to have been included with this model.  However it is ‘accurate’ in that once full loaded this feels to be a different plane much more sluggish and not as responsive until it gets into the air and gets to a decent speed.  I managed to load a full 560 lbs (250 Kg) in pilot, passengers and baggage but based on these weights the two rear passenger would have to quite small and you would then only be able to load 50 lbs (23Kg) of luggage.  Load up only one tank with fuel and run the plane off the ’empty’ tank and you soon run out of gas and airspace.  There is also no maintenance or wear program associated with the IV-P.


The Fuel System:
There are twin tanks left and right and either or both are selectable, plus a Fuel Pump and a Fuel Gauge and sipping calculator on the VM100.

Other Features:
Pressurisation has been covered above.

Hydraulics: Fully featured for the flaps and gear and the hydraulics gauge (see above) gives an indication of the pressure fluctuations per operation.

Cabin Heating & Cooling: This is also modelled allowing hot and cold air into the cabin with the temperature being displayed on the right hand scale of the air temperature gauge.  Idin’t notice any change in temperature in my room when using this gauge.

Starting the Engine:
The engine can be started manually, or by using Ctrl + E in FSX.  The manual start procedure is extremely realistic and is covered fully in the manual and tutorial flight.  One caveat here if you load this plane with your throttle at idle as you open the sim, the engine may stop and you then have to resort to starting it manually.  I got around this by advancing on my throttle to the first notch with my feet applying the brakes, once open I applied the parking brakes and gradually reduced the engine rpm to around 1000 rpm and after warming up down to idle at ≈700 rpm.

Flight Settings and Taxiing:
As I state above after a few exploratory test flights with simple controls, I was able to set the controls in FSX to realistic ie to the far right.  The Lancair IV-P has a tricycle (retractable) gear arrangement so that the vision for taxiing is quite good allowing you to negotiate the taxiways fairly easily.  Due to the caster (free turning) configuration of the nose wheel, I steered the plane using my Saitek pedals and used the right or left brakes to make the necessary turns.

Take-Off:
For take-off I followed the guidelines detailed in the manual, the POH and the tutorial flight following the checklists, etc wrt weight and balance and the pre-starting check.   In this plane you set the Flaps to 10 – 15° and set the elevator trim slightly up.  With the IV-P you need to set the rudder pedals deflected right,  advance the throttle slowly (0 to full in about 5 secs) and smoothly, do it too fast and the torque effect will have you off the runway faster than you can say John Venema.  I also found that rolling take-offs made it a lot easier to maintain a straight line.  As I am wont to do, I flew take-offs with and without flaps and fully loaded or unloaded.  There was quite a variation in how the plane handled feeling heaver and more sluggish when fully loaded and attaining a shorter take-off roll with full flaps.  The ground runs seemed varied according to runway type, headwind and load, but are in the order of around 1500′.  Once you are airborne you lift the gear fairly quickly and retract the flaps once you >100KIAS.  I followed the take-off speeds as detailed in the manual, ie rotate at ≈70 KIAS and lift off at around 85 -90 KIAS accelerating fast to 140 – 150 KIAS  for the best rate of climb of around 1100 — 1300 ft/min.  The climbing rate was consistent all the way up to FL200 which took around 20 minutes to achieve, and was at a cruising height of around 25,000′ in  another 5 minutes.   You do need to keep some forward pressure on the stick otherwise the rate of climb increases and you could be in danger of stalling.  Once airborne the IV-P comes into its own, it does have a tending to pull to the left but I trimmed this out reasonably easily. The higher payload did not seem to alter the way that the plane feels once in the air.

In Flight:
For the review I cruised at around 25,000′ and it this altitude I maintained smooth level flight using the throttle, prop and trim.  The maximum speed is 290 KCAS at 24,000′ (220 KCAS at sea level) and I found that (for me) the best cruise speed 230 – 240 KCAS.  At cruise altitude, I leaned the mixture; I adjusted the rpm to 2400 – 2500 (65% power setting) ≈180 – 190 KIAS.  Once at cruise altitude, there is an excellent autopilot, namely the S-TEC 55X which supports full ILS approaches.  It is important to trim the plane to level straight flight before engaging the autopilot.  I have to admit that I didn’t use it very much as the plane was too much fun to fly!  As I’ve written many times previously, any plane needs to be able to carry out the basics of flight, including, straight-and-level flight, turns, climbs, and descents, and the Orbx/FTX Lancair IV-P does all of these and much more.


Stalls:
The stall was induced in level flight, at 10,000′ neutral trim at around 70 – 80 KIAS with a bit of ‘stick-shaking’, the controls became very ‘woolly’ and the wing dropped very rapidly, resulting a death-defying spin that was just correctable using the appropriate techniques.  The stall speed was lower with full flaps and gear down and just as ‘difficult’ to recover and it felt pretty realistic!


Aerobatics (simple): (Just for fun)
Again, following the techniques I used when flying the Addictive Simulations — PITTS Special S1, I attempted the five basic aerobatic flight manoeuvrers:

  • 1.     Lines (horizontal & vertical),
  • 2.     Loops,
  • 3.     Rolls, and
  • 4.     Spins.

What an experience the IV=P is very agile but very easy to over-speed and stress the airframe when attempting some of these manoeuvres.  It is certainly fast and too low the ground comes up molto rapido to make your destructive acquaintance.  I need to practice.


Landing and Approach:
For landing, mixture is rich (<FL10 plus fuel pump off), prop pitch is full, cockpit pressurisation set, elevator trim slightly up, and speed is reduced to about 170 (140 — 200) KIAS, MP 15 psi at a height of 5,000’.  Descending, on approach, I reduced speed progressively to around 120 — 130 KIAS at around 2,000 – 2,500’ to deploy gear and flaps, reducing to around 90 -100 KIAS over the threshold.  I didn’t always get it right and coming in fast with the IV-P fully loaded takes it a long time to come to a voluntary halt, come in too slow and the controls are jelly like and you could end up anywhere.

Taxiing/Parking:
I used the classic textbook settings, propeller setting low, flaps up, pressurisation equal and door seal deflated, taxing was controllable at around 1200 — 1300 rpm.  To stop the engine, I reduced the rpm to 700 — 1000, waited a few minutes and then I cut the mixture, turned off the lights, alternator and avionics and set the handbrake and alighted onto the tarmac.

Sounds:
The sounds are excellent giving a sense of realism inside and out and they appear to be based on a real world Continental turbocharged engine.  The ancillary and warning sounds and comments are also very realistic and can be heard quite clearly.

Repaints:
Quite a few (see links below) there is even a special repaint for DVD customers only, this is called the REX repaint by Tim Fuchs and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Support:
Support is via the FTX pay-ware forum and no question goes unanswered and usually unsolved.

Summing Up:
A very fine SUV aircraft and another winner from Orbx.  It oozes quality and with 18 repaint variants the quantity is certainly there.  The flight dynamics were excellent, you really have to fly this plane at all times and constantly monitoring the instrumentation makes it a full time job.  The exteriors are visually stunning, sounds great and the instruments complex and top notch.  This is a quality product and I can’t wait to try the VS DC3 when it is released.  I believe that there is a service pack in the pipeline and I await that with interest.  The manual, POH and tutorial flight are excellent; covering all aspects of the operation of a Lancair IV-P.  I reckon that by the time that you have flown this in the sim for a few hours you would actually be able to fly the real deal!  Well, in theory anyway!  If you want a fast, comfortable, touring plane then the Orbx Lancair Iv-P is for you, especially with a 1000 + service range.  It is definitely one that I am glad to have in my hangar!!

WOW Factor: 9¾/10
Peter Hayes, Australia, January 2011.

A Collection of the Important Bits:

  • Publisher: OrbX (FTX)
  • Supplier: Boxed version via Aerosoft/simMarket:
  • Direct Download: here
  • Download File Size: 390 MB + 13 MB Patch
  • Installed File Size: ≈1.32GB (with Patch)
  • Simulator Requirement: FSX SP1, SP2 (Acceleration/Gold)
  • OS Requirements: Win XP, Vista and/or Win 7;
  • Testing System: Intel E8600, 4GB DDR 800 RAM, Vista 64 SP2, nVidia GTX260 GT,
    nvidia 258.96 Driver; FSX SP1 + SP2; 500GB SATA II Seagate Momentus X HDD. 
    No tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.
  • Paint Schemes: 18 Different paint schemes including 9 HD texture sets
  • Cockpit: 3D (VC) only
  • Scenery: FSX Default; FS Genesis, UTX USA/Canada; FEX; GEXn; ASE,
    FTX PNW, PF etc plus OrbX “BOB”
  • Installation: Automatic via a self extracting “exe” file, entering order number,
    date and code.
  • Manual: One manual (user guide) 100pp plus
  • 43pp Pilots Operating Handbook
  • 14pp Tutorial Flight (uses optimally AU Gold & OrbX YSTW & YBBN
  • Demo: N/A
  • Support: here
  • Main Forum: here
  • Homepage: here
  • Updates Patch imminent.
  • Uninstall Procedure described in the manual
  • Orbx Object Libraries: here
  • Paint Kit: Included and comprehensive with  instructions
  • Repaints: Numerous including:
  • iblueyonder
  • OzX


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