AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Flight 1 Cessna 441 Conquest II

(FS9 and updated FSX versions)

Product Information
Publisher: Flight 1
Description:  A look at the updated Flight 1 Cessna 441 Conquest II, with an examination of FS9 and FSX differences.

Download Size:
63.6 MB (FSX) 70.5 MB (FS9)

Format:
Download or CD
Simulation Type:
FS9 & FSX
Reviewed by: Alan Bradbury AVSIM Staff Reviewer - August 29, 2007

A Bit About The Real Thing

The 441 Conquest II was Cessna’s first foray into the world of turboprops, intended to be the bridge between its piston aircraft and its jets. It arrived at the same time as the first Star Wars movie, in 1977. Newer movies may have come along, and newer aircraft too, but like that old film, the 441 is also a classic.

In essence, the 441 is a pressurized Cessna 404 Titan with turboprop engines and slightly longer wings, although many think of it as the turboprop version of Cessna’s 421 Golden Eagle. Such a comparison could be regarded as something of an insult, since the 421 was a bit of a flop. But in fairness, the 421 was not a flop as a design, rather a victim of bad timing and 70’s fuel price hikes. Which is where turbo economy and the 441 came in.

In 1980, the 441 concept also gave birth to a less well-endowed stablemate, the Cessna 425 Conquest I. But, when originally introduced, the 425 was named the Corsair. In 1983 however, Cessna consolidated its model range, and the 425 was renamed the Conquest I. Thus, the 441 became the Conquest II. Yes, I know it’s confusing isn’t it? But at least you know where the name comes from now.

Fast-forward to the present and you’ll find Reims Cessna’s current twin-turbo offering, the F406 Caravan II, actually uses the wing design of the 441 Conquest II and the non-pressurized 441 fuselage which you find on the Titan. This indicates that despite the age of the 441 design, it is still a viable concept. But if you thought that leaves the original 441 only of interest to those looking to buy a twin turboprop second-hand for about 100,000 dollars, think again. No less an organization than NASA still currently uses the 441 as a chase plane, and that’s because the real thing has a trick or two up its aluminum sleeve.

And the trick is this: As confusing as the 441’s lineage might sound, that is where the confusion ends, because the 441 is about as simple a pressurized twin-turboprop as you could get. As you’ll see, that’s a good thing, but first things first.

The Virtual Version

Flight 1’s Cessna 441 Conquest II was originally developed for Flight Simulator 2004, or FS9 as most people call it, but has been tweaked and modified to work in FSX. This review covers the changes and differences between the two, and should give you enough information on the product whether you use FSX, FS9, or even both.

Installation

Flight 1 buyers are blessed with two of the easiest ways to purchase and install aircraft, in that they can either buy its offerings on disk, or via one of the best download setups there is, at their web site: www.flight1.com.

The disk version installs as you would expect, however, the download works a little differently: First you download the add-on you want from the Flight 1 web site, and upon installing your downloaded file, you are given a menu, prompting you to add your personal info. Having checked that you are currently online, you then fill out your credit card details, and a few seconds later - providing your credit is good - you get an install code which you can choose to save somewhere nice and safe on your hard disk. The installation application then asks you to locate that code, and away you go, with everything being installed automatically in the correct version of FS for the download you picked. It has to be said this seems to work faultlessly, and is a great system.

A nice aspect of this is that for the vast majority of Flight 1 purchases these days, your installation code is good for both FS9 and FSX versions, so you only pay once for an aircraft that will work in both FS9 and FSX. Simply download the other version you want from Flight 1, and install it with the same code you used for your first purchase. Two for the price of one - you got to love that!

In addition to installing everything in FS in as painless a fashion as possible, you’ll also end up with a Flight 1 section in your Start, Program Menu, where you’ll find the manual, repaint utilities and all manner of fun things to make driving your new aeroplane simple and fun.

The FSX download comes in at 63.6Mb, with the FS9 version weighing in at 70.5Mb. Previous customers who have the CD version for FS9 can obtain an FSX update download at 25Mb in size; this has instructions for installation included with it.

Documentation

Chief among the 441 documentation, accessible via your start menu, is the User Guide. This looks pleasingly like the one you get with the real aeroplane when you buy one from Mister Cessna, and is just as useful too. At 81 pages, you needn’t worry about having to read some huge tome either; this makes printing it out feasible without the necessity to destroy half a Brazilian rain forest.

The manual covers pretty much everything you need to know, but it is fair to say that reasonably experienced simmers can probably just skim the 441 manual for aircraft-specific data such as stall speeds, flap limits and the like, and be more or less ready to go. The manual also attempts to point out occurrences where switches and dials are mere eye candy and not really functional because of limited FS support in the simulation, and this is useful to know.

The manual is the same for the FSX and FS9 versions, not having been updated to point out that FSX supports more nuts and bolts systems on the aircraft. This should really have been addressed, as seeing a PDF manual for a new release with the date 2004 staring back at you from the folio is not something which inspires confidence. In practice, there is of course nothing to stop you from using the switches that are not really doing anything just out of good piloting discipline. But if you have flown the FS9 441 and never bothered with the switches which seem to do nothing, you’ll be missing out, because some of them now actually do stuff in the FSX 441.

Test System

PC

P4 3.2G
2GB RAM
ATI X800 RCI-X
Windows XP (SP2)

Laptop

HP Pavilion Dual Core
2GB RAM
Built-in Graphics Card
MS Vista.

Flying Time:
26 hours

Where things differ between the FS9 and FSX versions in terms of what you get, is that the FS9 install will give you two more PDFs on your start menu. An 11-page tutorial flight, for which you’ll also find a related flight in your FS folder with some custom scripting, which is obviously why this hasn’t made the jump to FSX. Additionally, this PDF offers a few ‘quick and dirty’ checklists. Another FS9-only start menu offering is the 10-page Text-o-Matic PDF manual.

For those of you unfamiliar with Text-o-Matic - not many I would imagine - it is a little utility which allows you to download a repaint texture, then automatically have it turned into an aircraft in your FS installation. This is instead of the manual copying, pasting and editing of configuration files that sometimes accompanies getting a repaint to work.

I daresay most people who frequent AVSIM will not really find this an issue though. Anyone who is smart enough to figure out how to buy something like the 441 online from a web site, will probably not actually need to read a manual to figure out how Text-o-Matic works. Nevertheless, it was nice of them to put a manual there instead of simply assuming that we all knew what it was.

The reason you don’t get it with the FSX version is, I believe, because of the implementation of .DDS files for textures in Microsoft’s latest FS incarnation, which makes the system somewhat trickier. No doubt someone will figure a way around this issue at some point, but for now, you’re going to be manually adding repaints to your FSX 441.

There is plenty of support on the Flight1 (and indeed AVSIM) forums to talk you through this procedure, so it is not exactly the end of the world to find this feature gone from the FSX variant. Of course, since you get both the FSX and FS9 versions for one purchase price, if you want them both, there is no reason to feel you’re missing out if you really desire the manuals. And the tutorial flight PDF with the FS9 install is certainly worth a quick look, for the checklists if nothing else.

Both the FS9 and the FSX versions of Flight 1’s 441 also get a configuration manager, again accessible via the start menu. Despite its grandiose name, all it really does is allow you to save the aircraft in a setup of your preference, so your 441 is ready to go in the simulation. But, it does offer the option of choosing low or high-resolution cockpit instruments too, and this might have a bearing on FSX users who are clawing for more frames per second.

One word of caution however, while generally adequate – although not quite so pretty – the low-res instruments do make selecting precise headings for ILS approaches a bit trickier than is the case with the high-res dials. In fact, most of the dials feature a clickable hotspot that enables digital readouts, but this does not cover every eventuality.

Generally speaking, the documentation and bells and whistles aside from the actual aircraft err on the generous side, and show an attention to detail which smacks of quality. Although the failure to update the User Guide to an FSX-related document for that version is a bit sloppy, even simply changing the date on it would have displayed a bit more care and attention in the quality control department.

If you want to see first-hand what the manual and tutorial is like, you can download it free from the Flight1 Cessna 441 Conquest II page, it's 3.8Mb in size.

The Flight 1 Aircraft

Now that we’ve got all the boring stuff out of the way, on to the bit you really want to know – is it any good, and what has changed?

The Cessna 441 has more doors than an obsessive Jim Morrison fan, screenshot artists will find much to like about the exterior model, even more so with its FSX enhancements

Well, starting from the outside, what you have is a visually pleasing aeroplane that is well modeled and looks impressively shiny for a thirty year-old bus. There’s very little to choose in appearance between the FSX and FS9 model incarnations, and what differences there are, largely come down to the simulation’s display capabilities, with three notable exceptions.

The first update addresses a complaint which people had with the original FS9 Flight 1 Cessna 441, this being that the front wheel didn’t actually sit in contact with the ground. And it still doesn’t. But it is now barely noticeable as the FSX aircraft model has been lowered a bit, this also has the effect of making the main tires look like they are flattening a little under the weight of the aircraft, as they now sink slightly into the runway surface. While not perfect, it is much improved, and given the limitations of undercarriage suspension animation in FS, it’s clearly about the best we can expect.

The next change is the props in FSX, although visually they appear identical to the FS9 incarnation with good detailing even down to the maker’s logo on the blades. In FS9, they did not actually feather, remaining resolutely broad to the airflow even when you used the cockpit feather button. In the FSX version, they do feather, this may not be a huge issue to many, but given that single engine ops in twin turboprops is one of the fun things you can try, this makes a vast difference to the level of authenticity on the external views.

Finally, the external model on the FSX variant now has genuinely animated retractable/extendable landing lights. Again their lack might not have been a deal-breaker for many, but they are now there and look pretty good. Aside from these changes, the FSX model remains unchanged from the FS9 one, and this is because it was great to start off with. So clearly Flight 1 didn’t see any point in attempting to fix something which was not broken!

FSX sees the props now animate when they feather, and aircraft sits on the ground better as well. The landing lights now extend and retract too.

Frame rates are good for this model in both FS9 and FSX. This may be because there is no over-the-top modeling of every single wire and tube in the undercarriage wheel wells and most of the fuselage detail is done with excellent texturing as opposed to polygons. Unless you are a mechanic about to crawl over the thing with a microscope, this is no great loss. The undercarriage itself, being of the slightly less common trailing-link type, is in fact still well rendered, with all fairings and scissors links etc as they appear on the real thing. The usual suspects that we have come to expect are in evidence with correctly portrayed flap animations, control surfaces, trim tabs and suspension all looking and working as you’d want. So, apart from a now barely noticeable gap between the ground and the front tire on the FSX version, this is a good-looking rendition of the real thing.

Press the FS key to open the main door and you might want to stand back a bit, as the 441 has cargo doors all over it. These open to reveal some luggage in the holds, which being attaché cases, look suspiciously like you might have just arrived from Columbia with 20 million dollars worth of nose candy. So if your flying fantasy involves Miami Vice and shiny eighties suits, the 441 is definitely good to go. An option to include some passengers would have been nice, but sadly they're not there in either FS9 or FSX. So you’re going to be rattling around those 11 seats on your own I’m afraid.

On first acquaintance, you might be tempted to think that the model is suspiciously devoid of ‘sticky-out bits’, but that is in fact a reasonably accurate portrayal. This is because the 441 is fast, very fast in fact, and that need for speed called for a particularly clean design. Occasionally one sees a 441 with more traditional antenna wires attached to the tail fin, or some extra blade antennas on the cabin roof. Still, the Flight 1 Cessna 441’s appearance is in-keeping with the avionics fit with which it is modeled. One minus point however, is that you are stuck with that default Cessna burgundy/brown paint scheme. But, given the rate at which repaints manifest themselves, and in view of the fact that this aircraft in FS9 form has been around for the best part of three years, this is not exactly a major issue.

The texture that you do initially get is well done, with the Cessna logo in evidence on the vertical stabilizer, a nice alpha channel shine, and very convincing window transparency. But more importantly, the textures work at all angles and distances with no blurring or dodgy bit-mapping when viewing from a distance. The view of the panel in the cockpit from the exterior view is particularly worthy of note, since it is really nicely achieved. So, although it is not the most stunning, jaw dropping detailed model ever, it is very nice and - ably assisted by the smooth lines of the 441 – you have to say it is a bit of a looker. It looks great at night too, with the lighting being particularly convincing.

I would be tempted to ripple the skin a bit and pick out the cowling lines and fasteners a bit more if I was to do a repaint. This kind of thing is often evident on many aircraft pushing thirty years, but one cannot really blame Flight 1 for texturing the thing to portray a pristine variant. When you consider that even an early model 441 will set you back over $100,000, there aren’t many of this model that haven’t been reasonably well cared for.

Virtual cockpit approach view is outstanding in both FS9 and FSX, so there’s no need for all that shuffling your view around, even without TrackIR

Inside the cabin, the first thing you notice is that the point of view is just about perfect. With the advent of virtual cockpits, this is not always easy to achieve, but it has to be said that it most certainly has been managed here. Like a lot of twin turboprops, what strikes you most on the initial view from the driver’s seat is the dirty great big Garrett TPE331 turboprop engine cowlings sitting alongside you, which make it feel like some sort of modern-day Beaufighter. The view of these big old engines does much to convince you that you’re ‘in’ the aircraft, and the props also look great whirling away just a couple of feet from you. This is where the FSX model scores when you feather a prop, as it is plainly visible from the cockpit.

Even though the real aeroplane engine’s main shafts turn at nearly 42,000-rpm, the props themselves rotate at a far more sedate 2,000 rpm. This means that despite the aircraft’s power and the proximity of those engines to the driver’s seat, the noise from the props is entirely tolerable given that turboprops generally operate at full power for most of the flight. In short, even on realistic settings the 441 won’t deafen you. FSX does seem to make the sounds more believable than in FS9, but why this might be is hard to say as they do appear to be exactly the same .WAV files in both the FS9 and FSX aircraft folders. Incidentally, the sounds that it features are recorded from the real thing, so it is a convincing experience aurally with all the correct chimes and warning noises you find on a real one.

The cockpit layout does vary slightly from the real thing, but this has been done sympathetically and with good sound reasoning behind the decision. The default eye point is great, but it doesn’t take in the entire panel unless you zoom out a bit. Consequently, some things have been shifted around ever so slightly to compensate.

I think you’d have to be a real rivet-counter to notice, or even complain, and it certainly doesn’t detract from the product, particularly in view of the fact that there may indeed be a 441 out there with its avionics laid out like that. This is an aircraft for which there are many avionics upgrades in the real world, including digital engine instruments. However, what you get from Flight 1 are the original steam-driven ones Cessna designed it with, and to be honest, it is the better for that simplicity. The instruments themselves are not default FS ones either, they have been designed with this aircraft in mind, and so the bug markers on the ASI, for example, are of use for determining flap limiting speeds, best single engine climb speeds etc.

In high-resolution flavour, the dials are crisp and work smoothly, but obviously there is more fluidity if you go with the lower resolution ones which in most instances do the job well enough. To the right, the radio stack is a fairly accurate rendition of the one you get in many of the real 441's, with some minor concessions to user-friendliness in terms of how the autopilot operates, since it uses the default FS gear with a nice new front end.

But it really is well represented in terms of looks and functionality, and you’ll probably look a long way to find a prettier one, or indeed one with more clarity. It works great too, with very intuitive click spots on the 2D incarnation, although the click spots for the radio stack in the virtual cockpit can be a little bit temperamental - more on this later.

Further right on the passenger side you get dual controls and a basic blind flying panel, certainly adequate for VFR flight if you are mad enough to use the 441 for a low-level sight-seeing flight. So this is an aircraft capable of realistically taking advantage of the dual-control multiplayer possibilities FSX offers, although you will have to manually shift your viewpoint over to the right seat, as there is no menu option to put you there. This means TrackIR from the right seat is out without manually altering the configuration file, although this would be an obscure desire for most users.

One area that has not received much in the way of simulation in flight simulator is the pressurization aspect of aircraft, with most add-on aircraft having to content themselves with switches that are merely eye-candy. Then again, even Level-D simulators that airlines use would have a hard time actually giving you hypoxia, so to complain is a tad picky! However, the switches in the Flight 1 Cessna 441 do all work in terms of being able to adjust them, so you can simulate pressurizing the aircraft if you want to. Personally, I’d like to see some add-on aircraft that blacked out the screen at eighteen thousand feet if you forgot to pressurize them. To any developers reading this, that was a hint by the way.

Staying in Flight Sim’s airless 3D realm for the moment, the 441 virtual cockpit is nicely done and well rendered in terms of texture placement and polygon counts, but it perhaps looks a little too crisp and clean for an aircraft of its supposed age. I would have preferred to see some wear and tear on controls such as the aileron trim knob, which is almost always very worn-looking in the real thing. Despite the pilot of this aircraft having previously treated it with kid gloves to reduce wear on the controls, he is evidently a bit of a snack fan, as there is a rather hastily gathered lunch sitting on the passenger seat, a rather nice touch, I thought.

Perhaps a little too clean and tidy for some people’s tastes, the virtual cockpit is nevertheless well done and features some nice detailing. And with the aircraft sitting so low, it does provide a great view when in the air as well as on the ground Nice passenger cabin has repeater instruments just visible here, on the cockpit rear bulkhead, making enjoying the cabin view a bit more of a practical proposition

In the luxuriously-appointed passenger compartment, you’ll find someone has thoughtfully left a magazine on the table in-between the seats. Moving your viewpoint to these seats reveals repeater instruments on the bulkhead for airspeed indicator and altimeter. This is another nice touch, and not merely eye candy either as it makes sitting back as a passenger with the autopilot on less of a worry. Which it should be since this thing loves belting along with the ASI needle cosying-up close to the barber-pole. We’ve all seen better and worse interiors, and while this is perhaps not the pinnacle of interior modeling, in general it does not disappoint.

In terms of usability, this is where the FS9 and FSX variants take separate roads, despite ostensibly offering all the same panels. Many have lamented the march toward the passing of the 2D cockpit and this aircraft is perhaps demonstrative of why those singing that lament may have a point. Like a lot of add-on aircraft, this one comes with several custom pop-up panels. And again, like many other add-ons, there is a management panel which allows you to quickly call on these with mouse clicks.

All the switches highlighted here do not function in the virtual cockpit of either the FS9 or the updated FSX version. Visible above the yellow highlight box I have added, is the left of three toggle switches, which brings up the eight control panel icons seen on the right, the other two toggle switches being for autopilot and GPS couple

In the case of the 441, this sits unobtrusively on the right hand side of the screen when you call it up either from the menus or from a switch on the lower left fascia. This control panel allows access to enlarged 2D versions of the GPS, radio stack, throttle quadrant, side panel with electrical and de-icing controls, lighting switches, briefing card and warning light annunciator panel etc. In the FS9 aircraft, once opened in the 2D cockpit, this panel manager stays there. But like many other FSX aircraft with no easily toggling 2D panel, keeping this panel manager in view is trickier in the latest MS offering. It stubbornly refuses to stay on screen even when selected with the cockpit switch if you change views, requiring the switch to be toggled twice to get the control panel back.

With a fully functioning 3D clickable cockpit and TrackIR, this would be less of an issue. But the side panel is not clickable in the Flight 1 441’s virtual cockpit, and while pretty much everything else is, sometimes finding the hotspots can be a bit finicky, especially while flying at night.

Although the Flight 1 441 is certainly not alone in having this issue. The worst aspect of this feature, or rather lack of feature, is that the de-icing, feathering, generator, lighting and battery toggle switches on the side panels in the virtual cockpit do not reflect the settings you have on them via the 2D panel. In an aircraft that is certified up to 35,000 feet - and can actually go a lot higher - some of this stuff is operationally important.

Five years ago it was accepted that not every switch would move in a virtual cockpit, but these days this is the what we have come to expect, especially since FSX almost forces you into the 3D realm. So this really should have been addressed for the FSX variant, doubly so when you consider that the 441 is not exactly over-endowed with complex avionics.

What this boils down to, is that the FS9 version is in fact slightly easier to use, and I imagine even champions of the ‘virtual cockpit-only’ approach would be forced to admit this. The saving grace to this is that for almost all of the normal operations in the 441, the vast majority of controls are of the ‘set and forget’ variety. It only really becomes an issue when things go pear-shaped, such as when you lose an engine or suffer icing problems.

Turning and Burning

If you were expecting to see a mass of confusing dials and such in the 441, you are in for a pleasant surprise. For apart from the torque and temperature gauges, there isn’t much a standard spam-can driver wouldn’t readily recognize.

The 441’s cockpit is not a scary prospect even if you are only used to the default FS Cessna. You may just be able to see on the GPS that because of a hefty tailwind at 35,000 feet, we are making a ground speed of 360 knots, and that’s not even at full throttle!

Anyone who can fly a default Cessna 172 would certainly not feel overwhelmed by the instrument layout of the 441, and this is perhaps the real beauty of this aircraft over and above everything else. It really does what Cessna originally intended, in that it provides the perfect link between pistons and jets. All of which means that jet fans are going to like it because it has the kind of performance they demand, and piston fans are going to be similarly disposed because they can drive it without going to night school for a year to learn how it all works. A rare privilege indeed for an add-on aircraft.

It’s fair to say that it is really a perfect hybrid of what both types of flyers want. This alone makes it one of the best real and simulated routes to high-level, high-speed flights, and is strong motivation for VFR fans to get into the bigger stuff relatively painlessly. If you want to graduate to sophisticated add-on airliners from flying a spam-can, the 441 may well be the perfect stepping-stone for learning flight profiles.

In-Flight Entertainment

The FSX version definitely takes advantage of the newer sim’s improved flight modeling. And although the FS9 variant is no slouch in this department, you can tell the difference. Both variants have a pleasing flight model, and in both cases the flight model adheres faithfully to what the book says the 441 will do. But there is definitely more of a challenge to be had from the FSX variant as it bumps along on FSX’s improved air mass, and you can expect the FSX model to depart from controlled flight more easily if you take liberties with it.

On the subject of which, this aircraft does emulate spins very well in both sims. In fact, they are quite viciously realistic in the FSX version. I would recommend getting this thing out of a spin fairly rapidly too, as it builds speed very fast upon stabilizing after recovery. One suspects that the point at which FS decides you have ripped the wings off might be a little early, and could maybe do with a minor configuration tweak, but g-tolerances are pretty much what the book says.

Naturally, things would not be going well if you were to get into such a situation in the real thing, the realistic spin departure does indicate that this is no ‘Friday afternoon’ attempt at producing a flight model. If you want to spin it incidentally, drop the flaps all the way, pitch it up to about 25 degrees and kick full rudder as it stalls. Standard stall recovery technique works fine to get it out of trouble.

A pleasing aspect of both the real and simulated Cessna 441, is the extremely good aileron authority it offers, even right down to approaching the stall. You can quite easily control the 441 in crosswind landings at threshold speeds with both the into-wind and wing-down techniques working equally well.

The book states that at light loads, the 441 will stall at 62 knots with the flaps and gear down, and this is exactly the case with the Flight 1 441. Yet with great aileron authority at your command, the touchdown is almost a non-event. The 441 has to be one of the easiest twins ever to land, and the impressively short landing roll, even without employing reverse, means it can get into a lot of places others cannot. However, as already pointed out, that most certainly does not mean it has a simplistic flight model. Rather it is a testament to the soundness of the original design on the real thing and the care with which the FS flight model has been created to emulate it. Again, that points to it making a good transition aircraft for single-engine flyers.

With such benign handling characteristics, it should come as no surprise that the 441 should not be feared with an engine failure. Decent aileron and rudder authority, combined with nice trim controls for both, mean that it is quite possible to trim the thing to fly hands-off with an engine out, and the feathering procedure is mercifully simple too. With all that turbo power on tap, it can easily maintain height on one engine. With good control authority, turns toward the live engine are quite possible, but the FSX flight model makes a more convincing show of this. One can definitely be a little less precise in this situation with the FS9 model, where doing so in FSX would see you digging a hole in the ground. However, apart from being noticeable in this one specific part of the envelope, it’s fair to say that the FS9 version is also very believable.

Both the FSX and FS9 versions make a single-engine landing easier than in most aircraft, and this is in large part due to the fact that most of the approach to landing will see you at little or no throttle, and certainly no throttle in the last fifty feet. I did notice the FSX variant seems to lose speed ever so slightly quicker with the power off than its FS9 incarnation - another clue to the advances of FSX air mass modeling more than anything else. Just remember that when you take the power off this thing with a lot of trim on, you will need to re-trim it or manually correct it, as those control surfaces have a lot of guts.

The feathering props of the FSX version make a single-engine approach more convincing from the cockpit The non-animated feathering of the FS9 version on external view

Losing an engine at low speed on the take-off roll is also exactly like the real thing. And in similar fashion to the real world, if one rubber band snaps before you’ve got some good directional stability and air over the control surfaces, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that you are going to go off the runway if you don’t back the power off instantly. Full marks to Flight 1 for this, although you might not exactly fall in love with this aspect of things.

It is how the real aircraft behaves, and has ended up in a few 441 non-fatal write-offs in the real world. So learning those v1 engine failure routines is paramount if you fly on real settings with either sim variant. On the plus side, this makes it a great twin trainer too, despite the fact that this is not really what Cessna intended it for.

With regard to normal flight operations, this aircraft in either FS9 or FSX, is simply a joy to fly. ‘A real pilot’s aircraft’ may be an overused phrase, but it might have been coined to describe the Cessna 441 and careful attention to flight planning will pay real dividends in making for an enjoyable flight in FSX or FS9.

If you are the kind of person who just loads up an aircraft and goes with whatever fuel is onboard, this aircraft will make you change your ways. With light loads, this thing can maintain a blistering rate of climb right up to its certified service ceiling of 35,000. So taking more fuel than you need for your trip will rob you of the joyful experience that is selecting 1000 fpm-plus climb rates on the autopilot and sitting back until the altitude alert warning chimes to let you know you are all the way upstairs. Right where the heavy metal, Citations and Lear Jets live.

A noticeable difference twixt the FS9 and FSX versions when you do get up there, is how the more sophisticated FSX flight model capabilities bounce you around, and the 441 can ‘hunt’ a little on the autopilot in high wind speeds and turbulence with the FSX variant. So, there is perhaps more reason to pay attention to loading on the newer version where overloading or an off-kilter CoG will certainly not help matters. This can manifest itself in the big Cessna developing an almost imperceptible porpoise motion that anyone who has ever ridden on a C-130 will be nauseatingly familiar with. Again this is great, because that’s what the real thing does in similar circumstances, although this is probably more creditable to FSX than Flight 1.

Of course the great thing about being ‘up there where you belong’ in an aircraft with such a high service ceiling, is that you can take advantage of winds aloft to speed you on your way. Expect to be reading those METARS a bit more closely than you normally do when you drive the 441, as it’s quite possible to belt along with a ground speed of well over 400 miles per hour in this thing, with the assistance of a favorable tailwind.

Some decent third-party weather software for FS is a useful addition if you intend to use this aeroplane (I found Weather Maker RX handy for this). This is because the 441 can go right over the bad stuff. And you needn’t worry about dropping down for a while to miss stuff either, because you’ll be back up there in no time once you’ve passed it, thanks to the stellar rate of climb this thing is blessed with.

This speedy aspect and the ability to get over weather, is why the Cessna 441 is widely used as an air ambulance around the world. And while attractive to many, I suspect it may serve to educate many more about planning descents properly too. With such a slippery airframe and high cruise speed, the airliner pilot’s skill in working out when to begin descending for your approach is something that pilots who fly the 441 will have to get used to. And they better had too, because unlike the heavy metal, this thing has no spoilers to speed your descent or slow you down.

In practice, taking however many thousand feet you want to descend, multiplying it by three and regarding the figure you get as a good indication of how many miles you’ll need to get down to where you want to be, will work in most cases. So don’t fret if you are not so familiar with flying high, as the 441 will teach you good habits. Remembering to do this should negate the need for those embarrassing 4,000-fpm descent rates that ATC are demanding of you.

As evidence of this, many of the screenshots for this review were taken on a flight from Galway (Ireland) to Manchester (England) and from 35,000 feet. I began my descent for Manchester while crossing over the coast of Wales! With this in mind, it has to be said that the FSX variant is more inclined to lose some speed in a descent with the power off than its FS9 buddy, and this is not only more convincing, but more useful too.

With such a slippery steed at your command, one that is more than happy to keep plenty of speed on whilst going downhill with the throttle backed right off, you need to keep this tendency in mind when asking for descent clearances from ATC. You’ll find earlier is generally better. This is akin to what real world pilots have to deal with, so yet again, it’s all good stuff for learning.

One other important point to note is that such high speeds can make for difficult oblique angle interceptions of an ILS localizer. While I can report that the autopilot on the Flight 1 Cessna 441 did seem to cope admirably with ILS approaches in crosswinds, it was less happy about really tight turns onto a localizer, and this has not changed in FSX. Although this is largely owing to the 441’s autopilot being based on the default FS one, it does have a bearing on ‘staying ahead of the aircraft’. Anyway, forget the autopilot, this is a lovely aircraft to fly by hand!

For the real propeller-heads out there, Pilot magazine flight-tested a 441 back in its January 1981 issue, so if you really want to compare the FS version to the real thing, you can buy a photocopy of the test from them! Or, you can take it from me if you prefer - it’s pretty close in most respects.

Stability and Integration With Other Utilities

The Flight 1 Cessna 441 is a deceptively simple aircraft, and because this is so, it belies the capabilities and opportunities it offers a simmer. With a range of over 1,200 miles, this thing can get about a bit and do it quickly too. This means it is also a great introduction to more sophisticated simulator outings which opens up the world of long range flights under ATC control from VATSIM, Radar Contact, Vox ATC and the like.

Although a simple aircraft in terms of operation, that simplicity also means it gels well with co-pilot utilities too, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy those aspects of your simming. All the utilities I tried the Cessna 441 in combination with (in both FS9 and FSX) threw up no anomalies, and this would appear to make it a great IFR trainer, one which the likes of virtual airlines may well want to consider. Although it should be pointed out that it might be considered a bit short on avionics in comparison to some well-equipped IFR aircraft.

There is one caveat here though, sophisticated payware add-on aircraft often require you to load up a default aircraft first to allow things to initialize in the sim properly. Generally speaking, this is to allow a custom navaid or system to get up and running, and even though the FSX 441 should not need this precaution, I did find that (just once in very many flights) it was necessary in order to get it to work properly.

This was the only issue I came across. Apparently, the odd user on the Flight 1 forums has said some of the turbo gauges were occasionally not working as they should, but I found them to work just fine every time.

Conclusion

Flight 1 seem to have really taken FSX to heart, with many of its offerings now FSX compatible and all this while not abandoning FS9. They also seem to be ahead of the game in comparison to many other developers in achieving this. A case of Flight 1 One, Competitors Nil you might say!

Granted the Cessna 441 Conquest II does not exactly push the envelope as far as hugely complex systems go, but what it does, it does well in FS9 and FSX. So while not unreasonably priced (especially considering you effectively get two for the price of one), I think this is a small price to pay for an aircraft usable for so many different types of simulated flight.

For anyone who is looking to get into complex flying as painlessly as possible, it is hard to beat, and yet it has enough capability not to disappoint even the most seasoned jet veteran. The fact that it has seen a slight improvement in several aspects for the FSX incarnation doesn’t hurt either.

There are alternatives to the Cessna 441 out there, but as a package that ticks all the boxes from a capability point of view, it has few competitors indeed. With this in mind, you can see why Flight 1 originally chose to create it. Those who are more inclined to want to mess with switches in a turbo twin might prefer something like an ATR or a King Air, both of which are available at Flight 1. But if you prefer set-and-forget simplicity with performance, the 441 will definitely float your boat.

As a model updated for FSX, it is not without faults. The most notable being the virtual cockpit having some switches inoperable. But, considering the tectonic rate at which add-on aircraft are appearing for FSX, and the combination of simplicity and performance which keeps those FSX frame rates high with this bird, the 441 definitely has more plusses than minuses.

I think people will like the FSX 441. To quote the original Cessna 441 manual: ‘the propjet that is going to change a lot of travel plans’.

Reviewer's Comments:

Test systems

I tested the Flight 1 Cessna on two systems, the main one being a desktop, running Windows XP SP3, using a Intel Pentium 4 3.2 Ghz processor, 2 gigs of RAM and an ATI X800 Pci-X graphics card. The other system being a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion laptop, running Windows Vista (32 bit version), with an Intel Pentium Core Duo Processor, 2 gigs of RAM and the laptop’s built-in graphics card (which works surprisingly well with FSX). All versions of FS were with the most up-to-date patches available.

Flight test time

The testing comprised approximately 26 hours of comparative flights with the FS9 and FSX versions. This was broken down into several IFR and VFR flights with a combination of real-world weather downloads and some ‘extreme’ weather. Meteorological set-ups ranged from intense cold, with minus 83 temperatures and very strong CB activity, to real world summer weather downloads offering smooth VFR conditions. The various weather set-ups enabled detailed examination of normal flight regimes, as well as rough air penetration speeds and icing vulnerability.

 

What I Like About The Cessna 441

  • Flight model that really does the real thing justice now it can enjoy FSX’s superior air-mass capabilities
  • Good frame rates in both FS9 and FSX variants, and usable in both for one price

 

What I Don't Like About The Cessna 441

  • Lax updating of the FSX documentation
  • Some fairly essential controls not operational in the virtual cockpit, the only real minus point

 

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