AVSIM Online

Commercial Software Review

                                                                                                                   

 

Rating Guide

Publisher: Precision Manuals Development Group

 

Description: Commuter Airliner simulation

 

Download Size: 25 MB

Format: Software Download

Simulation Type:
FS2004

 

Reviewed by: Bert Pieké – Staff Reviewer

 

The AVSIM Commercial Rating System: 1-Star to 5 Stars in one-half star increments. As a general rule, a 3-Star rating indicates the product matches the best technology currently available in that genre. A 4-Star rating requires the product be good enough to reset that current notion of what is "best" and the rare 5-Star rating reserved for those exceptional products which mark a quantum leap in the thinking and technology of the genre.
Complete details of the rating system may be found here
.

 

 

Introduction

It was with great anticipation that I took a first look at PMDG’s latest creation, a simulation of the B1900D commuter turboprop twin, and the first member of the newly branded PMDG Express family. PMDG had taken great pains to explain prior to release that this simulation would be a break from their tradition of supplying complete systems simulations (757, 737NG) and instead providing an aircraft that could be flown without first studying for an ATP exam, and at a reduced price.

Since I fly mainly GA aircraft, with the odd 737 flight thrown in for an additional challenge, I wondered what a twin turboprop would feel like and where exactly PMDG had shaved off the detail that allowed them to cut the price in half.  It is not easy to describe what constitutes a great aircraft add-on, but most of us recognise the real “keepers” when we have a chance to test fly one, and I wondered if maybe this aircraft had been “dumbed down” to the point where it would not find a permanent home on my hard drive. I was also intrigued that this aircraft ships with an optional panel configuration file that allowed me to use one of my absolute favourite gauge packages, the Jet Line 2 instruments by Reality XP. So without further ado… here are the answers.

Installation and Documentation

This package can be ordered on the PMDG website (www.precisionmanuals.com) as an e-commerce purchase.  Shortly after ordering, you receive a personalized download link via e-mail.  Hopefully, you have a good Internet connection, as the B1900 arrives as a 25 MB zipped download. Inside the zip file, you’ll find a read-me file and an executable installer program.  You then select either your FS2002 or FS2004 directory and all files, including a 14-page Reference manual are installed on your computer. This worked without a hitch on my system.

The External Model

I would not call the Beech B1900D a good-looking airplane. The base design is based on the elegant King Air 200, but by the time the passenger capacity was increased from 8 to 19 and the tail section of the airplane was redesigned with several sets of horizontal and vertical stabilizers to offset the effect of the longer and now full height cabin, the overall look is most kindly described as “functional”.

So how does the PMDG version look? Well, wherever the development effort was reduced, it was not on the exterior model. As the attached pictures attest, the PMDG B1900 looks amazingly realistic from any angle. Somehow they got the look just right. Not only are all details executed beautifully, but the overall shape of the fuselage and wings, complete with winglets is very convincing. In addition, the animation sequences are first rate. The stairs are lowered, equipped with a handrail that is slack at first, but gradually tightens up as the stairs reach their full extension. I had to watch it several times to fully appreciate how well this is done.

The default package includes a “factory” PMDG model. If you would like to equip your aircraft with a favourite paint scheme, there is a good chance that you can find it in the PMDG downloads section under B1900 Liveries. A look at the downloads section at the PMDG website shows a list of 27 available liveries (from Air New Zealand to Proteus Airlines) that can be downloaded at no additional charge. The liveries come professionally packaged with a preview picture, an installer, and a user rating which helps you select only those liveries that you would like to audition for your personal fleet. The liveries that I ended up selecting were all highly rated and looked lovely. Just the right amount of oil traces on the wings makes the overall appearance so realistic that you end up looking at the screenshots and wondering which one is the model and which one is the real thing. See the two shots of the Arizona Express Airlines version as an example.

                                                  
 

The Interior

PMDG provides a choice of 2D panel, VC, and VC + cabin configurations. When loading up the 2D panel choice, the first signs that the “Express” line follows a different path than the previous PMDG standard become evident. The main panel is excellent photo quality and gives you a good sense of “being there”, but a number of the displayed switches are there for cosmetic use only and cannot be clicked. Even more noticeably, the gauges are the standard gauges from the FS9 King Air. I must admit that I have never liked the King Air glass instruments, they are not crisp enough to be really satisfying and they leave the cockpit looking somewhat cartoonish. Luckily, there is a way out of this… more on that below. Looking around in other directions does not improve the situation, the bitmaps are of inconsistent quality, and the overall effect is less than I might have expected.

The next test, the VC option, turns out much better. The virtual cockpit is very well depicted and the night lighting is truly spectacular. Pictures do not really do it justice… you have to get the full panning view to take it all in, but this is very well done! I tend to judge a virtual cockpit design by how well it matches the 2D panel look. Some otherwise nice designs do not pass this test, the instruments are spaced differently or the colours do not match and the overall result is two cockpits that appear to have been taken from different photographs. Not so here, the cockpit looks very much the same when either in 2D or VC, and attention to individual detail is first class. As an example, the VC yokes are nicely modelled in 3 dimensions and the shafts that the yokes are attached to appear to have a thin lubrication layer and move seamlessly into the bearings on the panel.

The third option, VC + cabin adds to the fun factor. The interior cabin is there with full passenger seating, and the stairs are visible, folded up against the bulkhead. Not something that adds to the flying experience, but it does add realism if you appreciate the eye candy. Below some pictures published on the PMDG website.

                                             

Last, but not least, there is the option of adding a set of Reality XP replacement gauges for the glass instruments. This option may well be what puts the B1900 over the top. Removing the King Air ADI and EHSI and adding in the very best gauge set on the market, the Reality XP Jet Line 2 gauges, totally transforms the cockpit. I’ve provided pictures of the before and after look, but it is the dynamic motion of these gauges that really does the job. They are the smoothest gauges around and a real pleasure to work with.

Now that I had found the right balance of the available options, I set about to add the one item that PMDG left out, the Beechcraft yoke in the 2D view. After posting a request in the PMDG support forum, the B1900 project manager, Vin Scimone was kind enough to send me a raw bitmap of a B1900 yoke which I was able to touch up and use in the cockpit. You can now find this yoke add-on in the Avsim library and I recommend that you get it if you use the B1900. Below is a picture of the final cockpit layout.

 

                                             

So what to make of this package that arrives as set of building blocks, with some user assembly required? You will want to do your own experimenting, but I found that the combination that works for me is the VC option, with the Jet Line 2 gauges. This still gives me the 2D cockpit view, which is my preferred view for flying, but uses the virtual cockpit for the side views. Some PC pilots have indicated that they do not use the 2D view at all, and do all their flying from the virtual cockpit. I, for one, am not in that camp; especially since gauge motion in the VC is a bit jerky, even on fast machines (this appears to be an FS9 limitation and by no means unique to this airplane). I did away with the in-cabin views; they are nice, but I try to minimize anything that might impact performance and most of the time I never leave the cockpit anyway. Below are some screen shots of the VC. As you can tell, the night views in particular are truly spectacular.

                                          

Test System

 

 

Pentium 4 2.8 GHz

512 MB RAM

Windows XP-Pro

GeForce4 Ti4200

 

Testing Time:

 

41 Hours

 

Flying the B1900D

As I mentioned above, I mainly fly light aircraft, and going to a Cessna 421 or 310 is already quite a step up. So, I wondered how much trouble I might have adjusting to this commuter airliner with its twin 1280 shaft horsepower turboprop engines. The cockpit layout is uncluttered with key instruments including the autopilot panel, as well as the radios in easy view. The engines give off a satisfying sound as you spool them up and the plane handles nicely on the ground and allows you to taxi to the runway without any embarrassing trips across the grass.

After moving the throttles to takeoff thrust and letting go of the brakes, you immediately notice the strong acceleration. At about 105 knots you gently rotate and pull the airplane into the air and as soon as the VSI shows positive rate of climb, retract the landing gear. It does not take long to get comfortable with the airplane; it responds well to control inputs and handles well in the air. As I spent more time with this airplane, I appreciated the overall package more and more. The instruments are all close at hand and very legible. The radios are easy to adjust and the autopilot is very capable. The only thing I noticed, was an under damped tendency of the autopilot ILS capture which made it hunt from side to side. PMDG has indicated that they are aware of this and plan to release a service update with a fix.

System Performance

I noticed no impact on frame rates what so ever. Both the 2D and virtual cockpits performed at a steady 25 fps on my system and the only time I noticed a performance hit, was a 2 fps drop when I popped up the enlarged view of the instruments. In spite of the considerable detail on the exterior model, this plane behaves beautifully in spot view as well and given the nicely detailed design, you’ll find yourself hitting the Shift-S key from time to time to admire the outside views.

 Summary

PMDG set out to find a new balance with their Express line _ aiming at no compromise in exterior design or handling, but with simplified systems and instrumentation; basically great to look at, but easy to fly _ and they succeeded. The true test is how an airplane grows on you as you spend more time in it and here is where the B1900 stands out. Like a favourite jacket, it fits comfortably and is a pleasure to fly, and to rediscover when not used for a while.

In spite of some initial misgivings, it is now one of my favourite aircraft and I enjoy powering up the engines and taking it for a flight. When combined with the Reality XP Jet Line 2 gauges it makes for a very nice package indeed. The initial cost advantage of the “stripped down” Express version is somewhat negated by buying a separate gauge set, but since I already used these gauges in several of my other add-on aircraft, it worked out to only pennies per hour of flying pleasure. As the PMDG user forum at Avsim attests, most users are pleased with the B1900D and are urging PMDG to add new aircraft to this line up. All in all, a very promising first launch of what I hope will be a growing family!

 

 

What I Like About the PMDG B1900D ...

  • Good balance of detail and simplicity
  • Very crisp and readable cockpits, great VC
  • Beautifully modelled exterior
  • Well behaved and easy to fly by hand
  • As easy as you want it to be
  • Fun to fly

 

What I Don't Like About the PMDG B1900D ...

  • King Air instruments
  • 2D interior views
  • Sluggish autopilot on ILS

 

Click below to add your comments!

 

 

 

Tell A Friend About this Review!

Standard Disclaimer
The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

© 2004 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved