AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

PSS Dash 8 Package

Rating Guide

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Dash 8-300 Panel

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Dash 8-300Q Panel

Publisher: Phoenix Software Simulations
Fully-featured aircraft, panel and sound package for this venerable commuter.
Download Size:
889 k/b
Executable Auto Install Via Internet
Package Type:
Reviewed by: Pardave Lehry, AVSIM Associate Editor

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with
5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

Phoenix Software Simulation: A name that has become synonymous with quality and technologically advanced products. First the 777-200, then the 747-400 and just recently the Airbus A320 series. Each product pushed the technology envelope further with every release. And now, Graham Waterfield and his entire team is back, but this time, they went to a smaller, but venerable aircraft: the de havilland Canada Dash 8, perhaps the most successful regional turbo-prop aircraft in the world.


The deHavilland Aircraft Company started off in England. On April 25th, 1928 the company set up base in Mount Dennis, Ontario, Canada to build aircraft that were shipped from England. Thus, deHavilland Canada was formed. Since its formation, the company has produced some of the most rugged and famous aircraft in aviation history. Designing aircraft for the harsh terrain of Northern Canada such as the Buffalo and the Caribou, as well as aircraft to serve coastal communities such as the Beaver and Otter, both of which are still flying today, deHavilland Canada filled a niche market, producing some top notch aircraft. For a short while, the company was owned by Boeing but was sold to Bombardier Aerospace of Montreal in 1992.

The Beautiful deHavilland Beaver, in Harbour Air colors.

The Dash 8 project started in 1983, with the 100 series taking its first flight on June 20th. You may think that the 200 series was next, but that came after the 300 series. June 12, 1995 brought the announcement of the 400 series, with Great China Airlines being the launch customer.

The Aircraft

The Dash 8 300 series is powered by two Pratt and Whitney Canada PW123 engines, turning at 2500 shaft horsepower. The props are Hamilton Standard four-bladed reversible pitch blades. The aircraft first flew in 1987, while still under the ownership of Boeing and entered service in 1989 with Time Air, which eventually went on to become Canadian Regional. This model was 11 feet longer than the 100 and 200 series, allowing for a capacity of 56 seats. The range increased to 1558km, while the longer range version had a range of 2034km non-stop.

Test System

AMD Athlon XP 1700+
Sapphire Radeon 9700 Pro
512MB PC2100 RAM
Sound Blaster Audigy
Panasonic 19" Monitor
Windows XP Professional
MS Sidewinder Joystick

Flying Time:
20 hours over 2 weeks

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Here's the house colors model with the door open. Attention to detail is a signature feature of any PSS package and there's no exception here.

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Along with the passenger door, the cargo door at the back of the aircraft also opens and reveals more detail.

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Absolutely amazing. Even the head liners on the seats are there.

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This is the panel for the -300 series. You'll find some digital readouts, but for the most part, it's a completely analog panel.

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A key feature of the panel is the ability to undock main parts of the panel to make them easier to read, similar to what is available in the Airbus package and with add-ons like Project Magenta. Here, we've undocked the left side of the panel.

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And here, we've undocked the engine stack, making it much easier to read.

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The overhead panel looks intimidating but it's actually quite easy to operate. If you fly any of the previous PSS packages, you'll feel right at home with the start sequence. Here, the overhead panel is cold.

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And here, we've powered her up, have the APU running and are using the generator to power the aircraft. The cool thing that I liked is the battery temperature gauge. It's not just a dummy gauge. It actually works.

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The center pedestal. The main difference between the -300 and -300Q panel is the inclusion of the glass instruments on the -300Q. And the main difference between the center pedestal for the two panels is the inclusion of a module that allows you to adjust the EHSI. The weather radar works but it doesn't display any pertinent information.

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The Warnings and Cautions panel. Your indication that you've set up everything right is that there will be no lights on this panel.

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The Dash 8 FMC. It's not a complex one like Boeing or Airbus but it does make flying the aircraft a lot easier. Program the route and you're done.

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As mentioned above, the main difference between the -300 and 300Q panel is the transformation of the ADI, HSI and VSI to electronic format.

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Thanks to FS2002, virtual cockpits are becoming the norm and they're becoming more advanced. You can actually fly the aircraft using the virtual cockpit, and move around the cockpit as if you were really sitting there.

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It would have been nice to have a co-pilot sitting in the seat. After all, there is one in the real world.

Installation and Documentation

If you've installed the PSS Airbus package, you'll feel right at home. In an effort to combat piracy, the installation program downloads the files needed for installation from the PSS servers. So if you're on a slow connection like dial-up and purchased the entire package, it may take a while.

Documentation comes in the form of six separate PDF files, available for free. The first three are required as they explain the package and its usage. The net two are tutorials, while the last file contains the checklists. The documentation has the unique PSS signature, chock full of detail and charts required to fly the aircraft. The Dash 8 is quite a bit different in how an Airbus or Boeing works and I recommend you go through the documentation, or at the very least, fly the three tutorial flights because you may think that a certain function is engaged a particular way (engaging the LNAV mode for example) but in actual fact is done a completely different way.

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Flying the Aircraft

I'm a seasoned jet jockey. All my flight simulation time has been accumulated flying jets of various sizes with my favorite right now being the 767-300 and A330. So when I jumped behind the yoke of the Dash 8 and took off, I quickly (very quickly) realized that flying this aircraft is going to require easing up on the controls. Flying using the same heavy hand isn't going to work.

Handling the aircraft on the ground is not like a heavy aircraft. You'll quickly notice that the turning radius is a lot tighter. The aircraft has a tendency to pick up speed very quickly once it starts to move so keep your finger/toes on the brakes or ease back on the pitch controls. Take a turn too fast and you'll be doing some ground loops and making passengers sick. Rotation speeds are around 100 to 110 knots for an average load. Climb rates are also slower, somewhere around 1200-1500 feet per minute. But then again, you're not climbing to FL410.

Landing can be quite a challenge. On my first flight coming into Montreal Dorval Airport with a medium crosswind gusting at times, I had to crab the aircraft big time, and even then it was a challenge keeping it lined up. When I watch these aircraft come in for landing at work, they are almost always crabbed. Rarely do they come in without crabbing.

The exterior of the aircraft looks simply marvellous. You can purchase a series of paint schemes from around the world. The attention to detail is extraordinary. You will find the usual features such as moving wheels, moving flight controls, moving landing gear, and see-through windows. What you will also find are the entry and cargo doors open and close, giving you the chance to view more detail.

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The Panel

You may think that the Dash 8 isn't all that technologically advanced. And that's true if you compare it to something like a 777 or 747. But its easier to fly than a 747 or 777, and way easier to fly than something that has no avionics or flight management computers. The panel consists of the main panel and seven pop-up windows. Of these, three are just parts of the main instrument panel that undock and become bigger and easier to see. The main panel consists of your standard instruments, along with standard engine gauges. Along with these, you'll also find torque gauges, propeller RPM gauges (as opposed to N1), ITT gauges (as opposed to EGT) and Low Pressure and High Pressure Gas Generator Speed Indicators. The PW123 engines are what's known as free-turbine engines—meaning that unlike a traditional gas turbine engine where a set of turbine blades are attached to a set of compressor blades, the compressor section and turbine section are independent of each other. Also, unlike a conventional gas turbine engine where the air goes in through the front and out the back, the air on the PW123 goes in the back and comes out the front, meaning the compressor section is located at the back of the engine and the turbine section is located at the front of the engine. In a nutshell, the gas generator produces the required energy to drive the free turbine section and these gauges tell you how fast the respective gas generator sections are spinning.

On the engine portion of the panel, you will also find the engine control portion, the fuel panel, and the auto-feather controls. The engine control portion is pretty easy to understand. Because the Dash 8 has no auto-throttle system, the throttles must be set manually. And to help in settings like Takeoff Power, Maximum Continuous Power, Maximum Climb Power and Maximum Cruise Power, the ECU portion has a four-position switch that can be dialled to any of the four above mentioned positions and a bug on the torque gauges will move to the calculated setting.

Finally, the auto-feather portion. You may be wondering what feathering is. With a normal turbine engine, there's nothing in the way of the air stream that could create excess drag. But on any propeller driven aircraft, you have this (in some cases massive) propeller on the front of the engine. If the engine ever failed, this propeller will windmill, creating excess drag. Feathering a propeller means the pitch of the blades is set so that if an engine is shut down in flight, the propeller won't windmill and create excess drag. All aircraft that have variable pitch propellers have the ability for the blades to be moved to the feather position. The Dash 8 has an auto-feather system where if the torque drops below a pre-set value and the auto-feather system is armed, the blades will be feathered automatically.

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Some of the other pop up panels include the throttle quadrant, the warning and cautions panel, the FMC and the overhead panel. In true PSS fashion, the overhead panel is modelled quite completely with very few static switches. The start-up sequence is the same for any aircraft: battery or external power, APU, APU generator, bleed air for the engines (if required) and engine start. With the Dash 8 though, there are a series of other steps that have to be completed (such as turning invertors on) so it's a good idea to go through the manual. It took some time to figure out the start sequence and find the switches on the panel.

The FMC and autopilot system is also controlled differently. With the standard Boeing or Airbus aircraft, you have LNAV and VNAV. Engaging them is as simple as pressing the button on the glareshield. However the Dash 8 has no VNAV. The FMC is also a very basic one that allows you to program a flight plan but not program things like speed and altitude restrictions. You still have to enter things like zero fuel weight, number of passengers and cargo. But that's about it. For an aircraft like the Dash 8 that is a short haul aircraft, a basic FMC like this is ideal. It's just that you won't be looking down at it like you would with a more advanced FMC.

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Sounds and Utilities

When it comes to aircraft sounds, the ones that have come with the PSS packages have always been outstanding. The CFM56 sounds found in the Airbus package were the most realistic I've heard yet. And there is no exception here. The engine sounds have a distinctive propeller hum to them, both at high power and low power settings. Mike Hambley has done it again.

The package also comes with a program that allows you to change the configuration of the aircraft such as number of passengers and cargo, as well as one that allows you to set various parameters of the panel and custom map the keyboard to suit your tastes.

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PSS has created a portfolio of products that cater to everybody. From general aviation aircraft to the heavy iron, each product is unique and shows the dedication this team puts into each product. Instead of rushing the product out to make a quick buck, they take the time to get it right the first time. And the Dash 8 continues the tradition. The attention to detail is excellent. The aircraft exterior looks fantastic. And what's better is that you get all this without a noticeable hit on frame rates. On my Athlon XP 1700+, it was normal flying all the way. If you own previous PSS products, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you don't, then you owe it to yourself to purchase at least one product and see what all the fuss is about. Check out their website here for a complete listing of their products as well as downloads for manuals.

What I Like About the Dash 8 Package
  • A fabulous package that accurately models the Dash 8
  • The ability to undock main parts of the panel to allow for easier reading
  • An easy to use FMC
  • An awesome virtual cockpit
  • Excellent aircraft textures and attention to detail
  • A well-rounded package that provides true value for your money

What I Don't Like About the Dash 8 Package
  • The flight model can be a little touchy and requires some getting used to, but maybe that's because I've got a heavy hand from flying jets

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