To be honest, before I was assigned this review I had never heard of this aircraft. Upon reading the manual, the SJ30 is another light biz jet which first flew in October last year and the first deliveries are expected in the first half of 2006. It seems these days more aircraft manufacturers are entering the business jet market, so I was eager to learn about this particular aircraft and take Bill Lyons’ model out for a fly.
Bill Lyons has always brought the flight simming community exciting packages, not just including one aircraft, but usually with add-on scenery and included flights for the user's convenience. This is the first time Bill has created a jet (to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong) so I was interested to see how he would take the transition from the usual vintage aircraft to a sleek biz jet.
After purchasing the package from either Sim Market or FS Addon, you download a secure 20 megabyte .zip file. In this file is a single auto installer. Once you’ve opened the installer, it will guide you through the installation process. It does require a serial number to install, which is supplied via email. To sum it up - Simple and quick.
In your FS9 root folder, you will find a new folder titled FSAddon. In this directory is the manual and a full aircraft checklist, both in .pdf format. The manual is 32 pages long, in full colour and with screenshots. It starts off with an interesting fictional story about a corporate jet pilot, flying celebrities around the world. I really enjoyed this feature; it certainly put me in the mood to go out and fly her!
The manual covers everything you’d need to get started flying the SJ30. Inside are specifications on the real aircraft with a brief history, how to obtain access to support, detailed info about the package and how to fully utilize the SJ30 to its capability. One thing I did notice, the support forum link led me to a French scenery design forum – I was a bit confused!
If you’re unsure about the exterior quality of the SJ30, download one of Bill’s fantastic vintage aircraft here at the Avsim file library. This model lives up to all expectations. It features all the regular eye candy you’d expect from any payware aircraft, such as full moving control surfaces, rotating fan blades, detailed gear, wing flex and an opening door. When the main door is open you will see a little red carpet for your respected VIP to hop out onto.
To view the accurateness of Bill’s model, I searched for real photos of the SJ30 on Airliners.net, and from what I can see – this rendition of the airplane is perfect. I did not notice anything which differs from the model in the simulator to what I saw in the photographs. All the more to seriously consider this package. Unfortunately, the model doesn’t feature strobe lights on the wings, only on the tail (which is controlled by the NAV light switch). Another lighting issue is that the taxi lights are not visible in any of the views, only when the landing lights are on. Bill has mentioned that this is an FS2004 issue which cannot be avoided. No biggie at all, but It would be nice to taxi without the landing lights illuminating the entire taxi way and beyond. A further lighting issue was the cockpit flickered from the beacon light, Bill recommended maxing out Hardware Rendered Lights, unfortunately this still occurs.
The great thing about this package is the simple and easy to use panel. No complicated FMC’s or confusing overhead panels here, just a well designed panel which does all you’d expect it to do.
The panel itself has clear and easy to read gauges, which makes flying a lot more enjoyable. One thing I did notice both with the 2D panel and Virtual Cockpit, was the strange view point which makes taxiing slightly complicated. The main panel bitmap gives the user the illusion you are facing one way, while taxiing in the other. I corrected this by panning slightly to the left in the VC. This is not a bug, but a bit strange nonetheless.
As I mentioned above, there is no complex panel (or any other systems for that matter) included in this package. A simply GPS pop-up is available and a little overhead panel to control the lights and pitot settings. Perhaps one of the features I enjoyed most about the aircraft, was the Flight Data Computer (FDC) designed by George Aubele. The FDC is right beside the navigation display, and features handy information such as winds, fuel consumption and usage, stall speeds and your COM and NAV radios. The specific screen you see can easily be changed by clicking one of the small buttons under the gauge.
The sounds are simply a joy to listen to. The in-cockpit sounds are quiet, but are truly a pleasure as you push the throttles forward and roll down the runway. I personally enjoyed the sounds of the reversers after landing.
I often go spotting at my local airport (which regularly hosts international visitors in their biz jets) and I love listening to the sound as the thrust buckets open. Bill did a fantastic job of creating realistic sounds with this aircraft; I will even alias them to a few other jets!
As with all keen flight simmers, flight dynamics are usually one of the top priorities before purchasing a commercial aircraft. The SJ30 performs incredibly; this aircraft has the capability to pull some G’s if in the wrong hands!
The airplane handles great at high altitudes (service ceiling of 49,000ft), and has an amazingly low stall speed – which makes this aircraft awesome to handle when flying into those small exotic airstrips. Fully loaded, the SJ30 has the capability to take off in a mere 4,000ft. Although I’ve never flown anything close to the size of this airplane, the flight dynamics feel “right”. I can assure the user that you will not be disappointed with how she performs.
As displayed on the product info pages at FS Addon and Sim Market, this airplane literally wants to (and can be) fully flown from the Virtual Cockpit (VC). Being a VC flier myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the views outside and inside of this aircraft. All switches, knobs and levers can be properly operated in the VC by using the mouse – no need to switch to the 2D panel for a simple “gear down” command.
The night lighting is good, but not fantastic. The cabin and cockpit lighting can be controlled by the switches on the overhead, but the panel or VC does not include normal background lighting. However, the screens and gauges are bright at night by default, so this is not a big issue.
One of the fantastic features included, is the ability to simply switch your copilot and celebrity passenger on or off to your preference. Your celebrity VIP types on his/her laptop, and looks out the window. I found the copilot does seem to block out a lot of the view when panning in the VC – so I switched him off! A fantastic VC which does not hurt frame rates at all, a great job well done.
FS9 Settings: Scenery and autogen complexity: dense. AI Density at 75%. Sight distance maxed out. 3D clouds 50%, with detailed clouds. Mip mapping quality at 4, Hardware Rendered Lights 6. Trillinear texture filtering. Anti Aliasing 4x, anisotropic filtering 16x. Computer specs above.
Now we come to one of the most important aspects of any add-on – frame rates. You do not need a high-end system to run the SJ30. I noticed I get the same frame rates with this aircraft as I do with the default Microsoft ones, perhaps even better. Frame rates shouldn’t be an issue with anyone; I was able to fly into KJFK without any serious hic-ups.
If you’re a simmer who demands complex systems such as FMC’s, detailed Virtual Cockpits which match the real airplane, then this package probably isn’t for you. However, if you don’t want to mess around on the ground and want to fly – then you’ll get a heck of a lot of enjoyment out of this plane. This is an all around fantastic package, which includes some awesome scenery to add to the fun.
I have really enjoyed both reviewing and flying this airplane, and I look forward to flying many more holiday vacations. This package is well worth a look at and has an attractable price tag on it. Considering the price, this package in general and the fun in which it can bring, should not be overlooked.
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