AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

FSD International
Piper Seneca V
Version 2

Product Information
Publisher: FSD International
Description:  Complete aircraft package.

Download Size:
57.5 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS-X
Reviewed by: Adam Volcek AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - April 14, 2007

Introduction

The Seneca V has been Piper’s personal/business twin for a decade now. It is now one of the few production light twins available and the only US production aircraft with counter-rotating propellers, eliminating the critical engine in a way. The original Seneca made its debut in 1971 as a twin-engine offspring of the Cherokee Six.

Shortly after its introduction, Piper fixed a few faults of the original with the Seneca II by hanging turbocharged engines of the same horsepower. The Seneca III upped the horsepower, albeit for only a couple of minutes, along with a one-piece windshield and various internal improvements. The Seneca IV only had a couple if cosmetic improvements, and finally the Seneca V hung new engines rated at a continuous 220 HP and now features a glass cockpit.

Flying away from the factory, the airplane would cost you $756,500, and with all the options that FSD has included in their package you would have to pay an additional $86,300 bring the total to $842,800. And all this is yours for your FSX pleasure for $32.95, with the download, or $35.95 for a CD.

Installation and Documentation

Activation Finding FSX location All done

Download and installation of the 57.5 MB executable was, for the most part, uneventful, as it should be. The only issue, one that was easily solved, was that the executable must be launched from the same hard drive that Flight Simulator X is located on.

Test System

ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+
Corsair XMS 2GB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 640MB SLI
WD 5x250GB SATA2
Samsung 19” LCD DVI
Windows XP Pro
CH Products USB Yoke
CH Products USB Pedals
CH Products USB Throttle Quad

Flying Time:
25 hours

After opening the file you must first activate the product using the license ID and password you receive after purchasing online. Once that is complete, the install begins after automatically finding your FS location. Now that is complete, you can fly, although I suggest you launch the load editor and check your settings in case you want to change something to better suit your tastes. When it gets done your start menu is graced with an FSD International directory with shortcuts to the load manager, load manager documentation, and the Seneca POH.

I’ll start with the load manager documentation. The document runs you through every option in the load manager, including pictures. Most, I feel, will find the load manager fairly intuitive, and reading the documentation for it probably won’t be necessary.

I was somewhat disappointed with the Seneca POH. Instead of one file with bookmarks to certain areas, each area is covered in its own file. That in itself isn’t bad, but because of the way the files are linked, there isn’t a good way to go back to the main file and to another section except to manually open the main file or a different section. I also noticed that a file from the old version made it into the install, so now you have two checklists, but they appear to be nearly identical.

I found the two sections/files you will want to read most are the instruction guides for both the standard steam panel and the glass panel. They give you a complete rundown of each gauge and clickable hotspot on both panels. I’d pay particular attention to autopilot operation and how to operate the Digital Display Monitoring Panel (DDMP), which is that little gauge above the engine gauges on the standard panel.

External Model & Textures

And we have take-off

The external model is immaculate, with finely detailed parts and a plethora of animated ones. From tip to tail I could not find one thing that was out of place, and I’ve been around one or two. I’m sure a savvy Seneca owner/flyer could find something, but not the average Joe flight simmer. The cockpit and cabin are superbly done and the detail on the outside is mirrored on the inside, even the right seat is occupied by someone who appears to be either looking around and enjoying the sights, or scanning for traffic, take your pick. Inside and out, there was no holding back and the extreme detail in things such as hinges and latches, which actually moves when the doors are opened, proves that a lot of time was spent on the model. It was worth every minute of it, well done team.

The Seneca V comes with one paint scheme, a sort of blue starburst type, however more are available on FSD International’s website. The excellent work on the visual external model continues over to the textures. In my opinion, a good model is worthless without good textures, and the textures included in this package seem to fit the model like a glove. The detail highlights parts of the model like they should. Rivet lines are visible around the entire model, and as it should be with a high quality model, the wheel wells are textured as well. Again, good job team.

Panel

There are two options for the panel. First is with the old standard steam type instruments, and the second is the new glass cockpit version equipped with the Avidyne Entegra Flight Deck. If you have the Reality XP Garmin 530 or the weather radar, you can choose to integrate them into the panels.

A shot of the standard panel A shot of the glass panel On Approach to my home airport

Both 2D and 3D panels are provided and we will first take a look at the 2D, which is still my favorite. Both panels are an excellent representation of its real world counterpart. Even the color of the panel has been recreated. The placement of the instruments has been done nearly identical to where it is located on the real airplane. If they aren’t in view, there are several sub-panels that are available with either hidden click spots or icons. Some instruments are on the small side and could be hard to read for some of us, but the important ones do include a zoomed view by clicking on them.

The biggest advantage where this comes into play is with the avionics stack and with the click of an icon it brings up the full, large sized stack. This is especially true on the glass panel as they have chosen, correctly in my opinion, to display both screens of the Entegra on the main panel and no radios are visible on the main screen.

You really can’t go wrong with the standard panel, and to a certain degree I am still a fan of them, especially on FS. When it comes to the glass, I don’t have any experience with the Avidyne system, so I can’t really judge fairly the fidelity of the simulator to a real world example. However, I can say that the PFD is functional, with no obvious bugs.

The MFD can switch between engine instruments and a moving map, the later which is obviously a reworked default GPS. The engine instruments give you a graphical and textual representation of your key information. As for the moving map GPS, I am not a fan of people just putting on a different faceplate on the default GPS, but I can see how time and money concerns can lead people to resorting to that option. The only thing wrong I have found with the 3D panel is that, for me, it seems too dark and I end up turning on all the panel lights in order to see everything like I want, even in broad daylight. I am willing to bet that this is a problem with FS and not with the designers.

Sound and Flight Dynamics

Here I come There I go

Working at an airport, I have heard several Seneca’s and the sounds included by FSD have a familiar tone to them. While most of those that I have heard have been older models, it doesn’t matter much since all Seneca’s are essentially the same. The sounds are very representative and give an excellent feel for the light twin. It has the lower tone when closer, but gets high pitched when you apply takeoff power, much like the real thing. The shutdown sound is also very close to the real deal. Of course, this is all my opinion from what I have heard.

You can't have everything be perfect, but if it doesn’t fly like what it represents, then all is lost. Taking the Seneca for a spin, I have found the cruise numbers to be nearly spot-on from what Piper puts out in their brochure for the ¾ million-dollar airplane. We all know stalls aren’t a strong point in MSFS, but the warning did go off at the appropriate airspeed.

If I really wanted to get picky I would mention that landing and takeoff distances were both shorter than advertised, but really, not that many people get picky over distances in a light twin. I don’t have any experience in a real world Seneca so I won’t say anything for handling, but in my brief real world twin experience this was close. Overall, I am not going to argue with flight dynamics that are at least halfway decent, especially one coming from the designer of this package.

Load Manager

What a wonderful utility

The load manager is a nifty little utility that enhances your experience with the Seneca V. Despite the name, load manager, you can do much more with it than just adjust how many passengers and how much cargo you are going to take on your trip. In case you have Reality XP’s radar or Garmin 530, you can have the load manager insert them automatically into the panel. FSD International has also included a nice little feature which you control with the load manager, they call it persistent damage modeling.

With the simulated persistent damage modeling, if you overstress the engines, primarily by not paying attention to the time limitations and running at high power for too long, the engines will cease up. Then the only way to get the engine to run again is to launch the load editor and repair the engine. The damage modeling also takes into account the amount of time on the engine. If you do scheduled maintenance every 25 hours, you shouldn’t have much of a problem, but otherwise, you risk a greater chance of the engines developing issues.

Before you start, make sure you select in the load editor how realistic the damage and cost modeling is, and you’ll also want to set the price of your fuel because not only does the Seneca V have damage modeling, it has a cost estimator too. The cost estimator tallies fuel costs plus maintenance costs to give a running number of how much you would owe. The fuel cost is self explanatory, amount of fuel burned times cost of fuel, however after flying around for 4.5 hours, I thought the cost was a little low, and I discovered a bug. The fuel cost estimator only works with the left engine, so you should double the costs to get an accurate number.

The final ability of the load manager is for working with new paint schemes. To insert an additional new paint scheme, which are some available on FSD International’s website, you must first download and install the scheme, then launch the load manager and it will insert the schemes into flight simulator. It’s a two-step process that could be cut into one, but with the load manager you can also view the schemes currently installed, as most should have a preview image.

Bugs

I have found a couple of panel bugs, which is probably the most complex part of any project like this. The Seneca V version 2 has had several updates, so be sure to have the most recent installer or service packs. All of the bugs I found were minor programming errors that slipped through testing, and maybe to some or most, too minor to mention. That conversation is not for this review, so we will continue. I have found that the windshield heat indicator light is backwards in its operation (i.e. switch on, light off, switch off, light on). A hidden click spot that overlaps the DDMP “up cursor selector” prevents its operation unless you find the little area this is still available or just zoom the gauge and work it that way. The flap indicators pointer and pivot point are too far left causing the instrument to look a little strange.

Last on the list is a problem with the glass panel overhead click-spot because the wrong file is being called in the panel configuration file. A quick e-mail discovered that these are all known bugs and FSD is working on another service release to correct them and to enhance a couple of other things.

Performance and Summary

The performance of the standard panel aircraft was on par with that of the default aircraft, however the glass cockpit version did drop around 5 frames on average. Considering the quality of the work, I find this very acceptable and it will take some time before computers come along that can run FSX to its full potential. That will only make this package better.

Overall, I found the Piper Seneca V v2 by FSD International a very pleasing experience. The airplane is an awesome light twin with decent performance and good handling, and the panel made flying a pleasure in both VMC and IMC. The aircraft can be had for a decent price both in the real world and now in the FS world. If light twins are your cup of tea, it’s well worth the money.

 

What I Like About The FSD International Seneca V v2

  • External Model – Could use some more paint schemes but great the way it is.
  • Panels – Excellent representation of the real thing.
  • Load Manager – Damage Modeling, Cost Modeling, and Load Editor…wow.
  • Sound and Flight Dynamics – Not too shabby.

 

What I Don't Like About The FSD International Seneca V v2

  • (Very Minor) Glass Panel - Face Plate on Default GPS – It’s not original GPS, but I understand why.
  • (Minor) Load Manager – Better Way to install paint schemes. One-step instead of two-step process.

 

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Seneca V

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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 to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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