Given the recent events with Microsoft and Flight Simulator there have been a lot of questions floating around out on the net. While most of those questions go unanswered, there are definitely signs that Austin Meyer’s X-Plane could be the next big contender in the flight simulation market replacing the Flight Simulator line from MS if MS doesn’t make another sim.
X-Plane has always been a strong second in regards to competition
with the MS Flight Simulation line, but now this is where X-Plane
has a real chance to shine and could it be the future of our beloved
For the last month or so I have had a chance to play with the X-Scenery Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquise designed specifically for X-Plane. This aircraft is literally the next generation of X-Plane aircraft as it is rich in detail and is not only tough to fly, but also features a realistic cockpit environment that competes well against many MSFS products.
Purchase, Download, Install and Activate!
The MU-2 can be purchased at X-Aviation.Com for the reasonable price of just $30.00. I remember when the MU-2 came out I couldn’t imagine spending 30 bucks on an X-Plane add-on, but given the price of other add-ons I now find that the price tag is more than reasonable, funny how that works huh?
Once you have purchased the plane you will be given an activation key and you will be prompted to input the key after you install it and run X-plane with the add-on for the first time. It is important to note that the MU-2 is a 1 license, 1 computer install and it is extremely important to make sure you activate it on the computer you are going to use it with otherwise you might run into problems.
Initially I had used the MU-2 with the Beta Release of the latest X-Plane patch and I found that the plane did not like the beta patch at all. So, if you are using 9.22 than you should be okay but if you end up making the jump to the new official patch you will need to get the latest update for the MU-2 that makes it fly correctly in the newest version of X-Plane.
Registered owners of the MU-2 should have received an email with all of the necessary download links and instructions for the new patch, if you haven’t received the patch just contact X-Aviation.com via email.
The MU-2 For X-Plane 9+
I have got to be honest and tell you that before getting into the MU-2, my expectations just weren’t really all that high because I tend to set my standards to that of MSFS aircraft and in all fairness you really can’t approach X-Plane aircraft with those kinds of expectations.
I was amazed when I first looked on at the MU-2, in fact the first time I had it up and running I was flying over Bend Oregon and my Dad, who was standing over my shoulder watching, asked me what plane it was, I told him it was the MU-2 and his next question was “for FSX?”
Visually the MU-2 for X-Plane is simply gorgeous and is one the most detailed aircraft I have seen to date for this sim. The only thing lacking is that there is no visible pilot from the exterior of the plane, this is of little consequence but it does look kind of strange sometimes when viewing the plane from the exterior.
The MU-2 uses a series of plug-ins to give the aircraft its additional functions, such as opening doors and other external eye candy. What is most impressive is that the 3D model is seamless, it doesn’t have parts that don’t fit right or there aren’t parts that leave a big hole in the external model plus all the parts move fluidly giving the aircraft a realistic look and feel.
The add-on comes with seven different liveries and all are based on actual MU-2’s that operate around the world. To access the extra liveries simply go to the aircraft folder menu and click on open livery when you have the MU-2 selected as your current plane.
Flying the MU-2 will require the pilot to use the 3D cockpit mode in X-Plane giving the user a full virtual cockpit experience, which is something that has been significantly absent in most aircraft in X-Plane. All of the switches, rocker switches, dials and instruments function via mouse clicks rather than having to use keyboard commands or even switching to and from a 2D panel. The actual clicking does take some getting used to as you need to hold your mouse button down over a switch, dial or even a door handle and move the mouse in the direction you want to go to get it to work. At first I was a little peeved at this process because the mouse also controls your view in the 3D cockpit mode, but add-in a Track IR and this process becomes much easier with the mouse.
The gauges and all of the internal control devices are all featured and are rich in detail. The gauges update fluidly and everything accessible to the pilot is clickable via the mouse. The best way to explore the cockpit is to use a Track IR if you have one, this will allow you move around freely and get to the systems you need to get to without any real hassle.
The MU-2 is equipped with a GPS, but unfortunately it is the standard GPS system that comes with X-Plane so there is no onboard map like the one in Flight Simulator. The design of the unit that houses the gauge is a little different and makes the default GPS blend in better and more realistically in this type of cockpit environment.
As for sounds in the cockpit, there are no click sounds on switches and surprisingly there are no warning sounds. The “stall” alert is definitely absent in this aircraft as is any type of alarm that would be required in this type of plane. The only sound I was able to get as a warning was that of the autopilot being turned off.
Flying the MU-2
The MU-2 in X-Plane is a complex and different aircraft and the real plane has often been called one of the most complicated aircraft in the world to fly. This actually carries over into the X-Plane model and I have to say that my first time out was less than successful. If you think for a minute that you can jump into the MU-2 and push the throttles forward and expect it to fly, you are in for a big disappointment. I did just this and found myself veering off of the runway and flipping my new plane.
So, that takes me to the manuals. Yes, I said manuals! There is both an operations manual and a tutorial available with this aircraft and it is definitely required reading if you are going to use this add-on properly. The tutorial is also required reading if you are to get the most out of this sim, it is really good at orientating the pilot to the aircraft and gives much needed instruction. I ended up printing both the tutorial and the manual so I could have my own quick reference readily available during flight, I don’t usually print add-on manuals but in this case I wanted to get the most out of it before passing judgment on it.
I decided to forgo the tutorial, and made my own flight using the tutorial simply as a reference when setting the aircraft up. For my test flight I decided to fly from Portland Hillsboro to Bend Oregon with a scenic trip over the Columbia Gorge. Sitting cold and dark in my parking space at Portland Hillsboro I decided to do a quick walk around of the MU-2 before climbing inside. Once in the cockpit I looked over the pre-start checklists and started going over the instrumentation and getting things ready for flight. The one thing the tutorial makes note of is how important it is to have the fuel and cargo weight set properly, otherwise the aircraft will be all over the sky and will not fly properly.
Engine startup is done realistically and can be done completely from the virtual cockpit rather than having to hit one keystroke to do it all. The sound is also consistent throughout the start up process and it is what I would imagine the real MU-2 would sound like on start.
The other important factor when flying the MU-2 is to knowing your way around the cockpit! I spent some time during startup orientating myself to where everything was so I wouldn’t be looking for it later on. The only thing I had a problem with was remembering where the dang autopilot switch was, no matter how many times I looked it up I always forgot and ultimately ended up having to assign a key command to make it easy for me. It’s located between the pilot and copilot seats on the floor in front of the center console!
During takeoff it is extremely important to follow the checklists and reference from the tutorial because if you just go and push the throttles forward the aircraft has the tendency to over torque and it wants to turn to the right and will result in a crash if you don’t brake and throttle down. I found that slowly increasing the throttle on takeoff, applying yaw and setting the trim and flaps to their appropriate settings was the best thing for a successful takeoff.
Once in the air I climbed to my cruising altitude of 15,000 ft and flew west over the Gorge and then made my turn back east making my way towards eastern Oregon. Once I was able to get situated, I set the autopilot and GPS and let the plane do the work. I decided to fly the first leg of my flight manually out to the west before making my turn and I found that the plane requires constant adjustment and input from the pilot to keep it level, but once the autopilot is clicked on the work load is minimal and one can spend some time sightseeing, just don’t bump the yoke like I did!
As I made my way east I was able to maneuver around inside the MU-2 and explore the passenger compartment and look out of the passenger windows. I was again amazed at the level of detail from inside the plane as it just looks phenomenal! It was kind of fun sitting in the rear of the plane looking out over the Columbia Gorge as the plane flew itself and it wasn’t until I was ready to make the turn towards Bend that I switched back to the pilot’s seat.
As I neared Redmond and Bend Oregon I decided to get the plane situated for a straight in landing and of course fly her in manually. I decided to use the autopilot until I was about 30 miles out from the Redmond airport. The sun was setting and the scene was actually quite beautiful for an X-Plane flight, weather was nominal, just a little wind and as clear as the eye could see. Initially I figured I would just fly further out to the east and set up for runway 22 at Roberts Field, but as I lined up I decided to change my approach and fly out over the city of Bend and then come back around for runway 04.
For much of this part of the flight I spent it flying the MU-2 manually so that I could get a better feel for the plane and I came to one conclusion that the plane is definitely hard to fly, there is no question about that, but it feels right.
Upon landing at Roberts Field and parking, I shut down the engines and opened the passenger compartment for de-boarding. I really like that you can walk through the entire aircraft and have a detailed interior without having it affect your frame rates!
What I found out about the MU-2 after this flight and every flight I have used it with since, is that I really like it. It has a definite “real” feeling to it and its model, to put it mildly, is simply gorgeous!
It is definitely a hard plane to fly and requires the simmer to really put effort into his or her flight given its design and complex model. This is one plane that you will definitely need to at least look at the tutorial, if not the ops manual, just to get the most out of it. There is an element of frustration that comes with this plane because while you think you might know how, doesn’t mean you do until you look at the manual.
The sound, well is also an experience and is some of the best sounds I have heard to date from any X-Plane aircraft. If you turn off that background ATC Chatter and just listen to the plane itself you will get lost in it, at least I did and at times I often forgot which sim I was actually using.
Well, X-Plane has always been hit or miss for me; some days I spend hours on it and other days I sit there staring at it thinking what am I doing flying this when I have FSX. I have to say that if the MU-2 is a sign of things to come for X-Plane, then that sentiment of what am I doing here is definitely a past thought.
You guessed it, I definitely recommend this plane! So, if you have X-Plane I would strongly suggest adding this plane to your virtual hanger. The MU-2 is by far the best aircraft add-on for X-Plane and the only thing that I am sorry about is that I waited so long to have a look at it!
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