AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Package Review

Siai-Marchetti SF.260 

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Rating Guide

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A SF.260 spin as seen from the spot view mode

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Standard height 2D Panel

Publisher: RealAir Simulations
Description:
Single engine trainer (Civilian/Military)
Download Size:
13.2MB
Format:
Downloadable, zipped self-installer file
Simulator:
FS2002
Reviewed by: Steve 'Bear' Cartwright, AVSIM Sr. Staff Reviewer

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with
5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

In 1966, the Siai-Marchetti SF.260, which had been designed by the Italian designer Stelio Frati, was released to the small aircraft market. The SF.260 was developed as a high-performance aircraft (with obvious military overtones) for the civilian market, but despite the civilian application, it was the military of various countries (including NATO) that used the SF.260 as a fighter trainer (there were even a couple of 3rd world countries that equipped the SF.260 with guns) and as basic military aircraft.

Each of the industrialized nations of the world have their own little niche—the USA is very good at designing nuclear subs, jetliners, and 4x4 pickups, the Germans are great with high speed touring sedans, the British are known for their work with very expensive luxury cars, but it is the Italians that have the corner on exotic sports cars, exotically designed sports boats or yachts, and of course sports planes.

The SF.260 is often referred to as the Ferrari of the skies, with its 260 HP Lycoming engine, tapered laminar flow wing, and fighter like tip tanks, this aircraft is sleek, fast, and strong. Capable of cruising at or near 180 knots and having an FAA certification for -2 to + 6 G aerobatic rating approval, this little aircraft is the high performance aircraft pilot's dream.

RealAir Simulations, made up of Rob Young, Sean Moloney, and Peter Sidoli, decided that their first Flight Simulator release would be the Siai-Marchetti SF.260 (all of these fellows' prior work had been pretty much limited to some really outstanding designs for the FLY series of simulators).

Please read through my entire review here, as the three-man team from RealAir Simulations have really stretched the FS aircraft design envelope to new heights. If you are a serious Flight Sim enthusiasts, then you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you missed this one!

Test System

Compaq 7110US with AMD 1.3GHz Athlon
Windows ME
256MB RAM
GeForce2 MMX video card
DVD, CDR-W
JBL speaker/sound system
Saitek 3D Cyborg Gold Flight Controller
Compaq 19" flatscreen Monitor
FS2002Professional Edition

Flying Time:
7 hours (and still counting)


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On this bottom shot, you can clearly see the authenticity of the oil & dirt running back along the underside of the SF.260. Very realistic appearing.

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Note the edging of the non-slip decal on the top of the wing and notice how it shows the typical wear pattern from exposure to the elements and from use.

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Also notice the fuel stains running back from the fuel caps! This is attention to detail.

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The RealAir SF.260 comes in 5 liveries; Redhawks Aerobatic team, Air Combat USA Gray, Belgian Air Force Camo, Belgian Air Force White, and Belgian Air Force Yellow.

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Here's a closeup showing the 4 pop-up windows, which work in the virtual cockpit mode as well.

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The SF.260 is complete with 4 available panels; IFR, Standard Height, Landing, and virtual panel.

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In what is one of the sharpest and clearest VC panels yet, the SF.260 from RealAir Simulations exceeded my expectations once again!

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Top Left: Doing my best impression of the Julie Clark method of low level flight
Top Right: My first attempt at a tailslide, I need more practice!
Bottom Left: Coming out of a barrel-roll
Bottom Right: A powered wing-over.

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Top Left: Spin looking straight up
Top Right: Completing a loop
Bottom Left: Snap-roll at the top of a loop
Bottom Right: Snap-roll.

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#1; Starting to stall and now we push the right rudder
#2; Notice how the nose swings somewhat mildly to the right and down
#3; The rotation speed is now beginning to pick up
#4 - #6; We are in a complete spin now.

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Flying formation with an AI Caravan.

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The forward view from the VC is terrific (top) and the views of the exterior, even closeup, are equally as good!

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Amazingly detailed and very realistic appearing from all angles.

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The SF.260 in "Redhawks" paint, landing and parked in front of the main hanger at Emma Field, Washington State.

Installation and Documentation

Once the file has been downloaded (13.2MB), you simply unzip the auto-installer and follow the directions from there. Nothing to it actually. The only thing I found a bit annoying was that all documentation was contained in the Siai-Marchetti aircraft folder and being as I have about 1,200 folders in my aircraft file in FS2002, it did take a bit to find it. There was also one other odd thing, the SF.260's operational manuals were written in HTML, while the help manual was in the PDF format. I would have preferred that it all be in PDF format, which would have made printing a bit easier.

Despite the minor little thing I had with the documentation being in the aircraft folder, this FS aircraft's documentation is very very complete and very comprehensive (html format for the operations manual and a help file in PDF), covering every conceivable detail of flight operations, your hardware setup, panel operations, etc.. The operations manual is, as I've already stated, very comprehensive and it is laid out in a very easy to understand format, allowing one to quickly find the area they wish. This is where I could understand the reasoning behind having the Operations Manual in the HTML format, because the manual does provide for various links to websites that cover different aspects of the Siai-Marchetti SF.260 aircraft.

The SF.260 is not a particularly complicated aircraft, so the manual could have been a simple 2 or 3 page affair, but the fellows over at RealAir took it to the Nth degree, covering (almost always with screenshots) every single feature and flight characteristic of this little Ferrari of the skies. There is even a page dedicated to the "Hot" keys and how you can easily switch from one panel to another (this FS aircraft has 3 separate 2D panels and of course a dynamic 3D virtual panel-cockpit).

The documentation provided by RealAir Simulations for their Siai-Marchetti is not only adequate to the SF.260, it greatly exceeded what I expected for this aircraft. There is a detailed check list and performance data available on the knee-board, in addition to the regular documentation that is included.

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The documents included with the RealAir Simulations SF.260 is as complete a collection of material as you could hope for (click on image for larger example of a typical page).

Exterior finish/texturing

Since the introduction of FS2002, the influx of new FS aircraft using the Gmax design program has been the SOP (Standard Operation Procedure). The fellows over at RealAir used a combination of 3D Studio Max and the Gmax program to design the SF.260 and one slow walk-around will convince you that Sean Moloney has hit the top of the ladder when it comes to a realistic appearing FS aircraft (exterior texturing and general overall design shape). No detail was overlooked either, as you can spot fuel stains on the top of the wing (also visible from the cockpit) behind the fuel cap, or the oil and dirt stains on the bottom side of the aircraft showing signs of the wind blast spreading it back towards the tail. Close inspection also revealed that the edging of the non-slip decals on the wing roots is tearing, which is typical of any highly used aircraft so equipped. So, not only do you get an FS aircraft that is very realistic in appearance, but you get an FS aircraft that has all the appearance of an aircraft that has been in service. Everything is simply perfect!

The one single download includes 5 separate liveries, including: Air Combat USA Adventures, Belgian Air Force "Yellow", Belgian Air Force "White", Belgian Air Force "Camo", and the "Redhawks" aerobatic display team colors.

All of the various components are animated in true FS2002 form, with rolling tires, sliding canopy, moving suspension, all control surfaces animated, etc.

RealAir has struck a new level for everyone (commercial FS aircraft designers) to strive for, in a accurate and realistic design with their SF.260!

Panel/s

The dynamic 3D virtual panel is slowly becoming the preferred panel of use by most flight simmers, so having a high quality 2D panel when you have designed a top-notch dynamic virtual panel may be somewhat redundant to some folks. Rob Young not only put together a fantastically clear and sharp 3D virtual panel, he has also provided you with three different high quality 2D panels as well. The 2D panels that Rob has included are: an IFR panel, the standard height panel, and a short landing panel! Rob's panels are fully rendered and are easily up to the quality of the FLY panels that RealAir has been designing in the past.

I am one of those individuals that greatly prefers flying from the virtual panel mode, particularly when it is so well done as what Rob has supplied with this aircraft. From all angles, the virtual panel and its gauges are very clear and sharp and you can easily position yourself for a clear view forward while maintaining the ability to read all the necessary instruments for flight operations. Rob has also made all panel functions operational from the virtual cockpit by way of pop-up windows. The radio stack (default Cessna) and GPS (default) are stacked one above the other to the far left, while he has designed a very thin speciality panel (far right) for control of the prop, mixture, and the electrical systems. The fuel selector pops up in the upper right corner of your screen. All panel functions are available from these popup windows.

Overall I give RealAir Simulations a big hardy thumbs up for one of the best 3D dynamic virtual panels yet. Then you combine this with the fact that they have also included 3 different 2D panels, well what can one say, except excellent work by Rob Young on this one.

Sounds

The sounds were also providing by Rob Young and they are all custom made (no default here either) and they are excellent. Very true to the high performance Lycoming 260 horse engine, along with just the perfect amount of wind noise around the rather large one-piece bubble canopy. In addition, you can even hear the high pitched whine of the instrument gyros behind the smooth sounds of your high-powered Lycoming. Far better sounds than the norm and certainly better sounds than I expected.

FDE

As good as everything about this aircraft is, it is the flight dynamics that I most anticipated, because it is Rob Young's reputation in this area that is so well deserved and the rumors that Rob had perfected the FDE in this aircraft so that you could actually "spin" and "spin" it in true and accurate fashion!

I am happy to say that my personal list of flight characteristics that I use any time I'm testing a new FS aircraft now includes the catagory of: "Spin Recovery"! Yes it is true, Rob has designed the first and only aircraft that can accurately spin in Flight Simulator.

To have this FS aircraft fly (spin) and fly accurately, as to its real-world counterpart; you do need to set the aircraft realism sliders to maximum. The documents for this aircraft give you a screenshot showing the minimum settings for this FDE to work correctly and because this opens up several possibilities in aerobatic capabilities, Rob has included a special section in the manual for aerobatic flight (included in the documents as a screenshot tutorial).

The spin that this aircraft is capable of is not to be confused with a slight of hand on Rob's part either. This FS aircraft enters into a spin, increases its spin rotation speed, then recovers precisely as in a real aircraft. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am over Rob's accomplishment with the airfile for this aircraft.

To enter a spin, you maintain your altitude with your power off, then as you begin to enter a stall (unfortunately, Rob has yet to figure out how to duplicate the buffeting associated with a laminar flow wing at stall speeds, but he says he's working on it), one of the wings will generally fall. So, while holding the stick full back, you simply kick and hold the rudder to the left or right, and this aircraft will slowly roll into the rudder while dropping its nose. At first your spin is slow, but after one or two complete rotations, the spin rotation speed greatly increases. After 4 or 5 rotations, you simply push the stick full forward, apply full engine power, reverse your rudder and this aircraft flys right out of the spin, absolute perfection!

I've gotten so confident with this aircraft, I am now working on snaprolls (spins in the horizontal plane), outside snaprolls at the top of a loop, even power hammerheads and the real-world like feel this FS aircraft projects is absolutely superb! Rob Young has really extended the FDE design to new heights and the SF.260 from RealAir is easily now the new standard for all others to match! Good luck everyone!

I think that I may have also discovered a unique characteristic of this aircraft that maybe even Rob was unaware. Being as bush flying is one of my preferred venues, I've been trying to find an FS aircraft that you could side-slip to landing (correctly), but so far I've not been able to do that. I have found several FS aircraft that you can accurately side-slip, but the recovery before landing was always a fatal fault with every airfile I've tried so far. It has been almost like the airfile gets confused or something, as you lose all flight control once you roll out of the slip. What did I find with the RealAir SF.260? Well, this aircraft rolls out of the slip perfectly and the transition from slip to forward flight (in the direction you intended) is smooth and exact.

I even made an attempt at a "Lupshavak" , but I suppose that is simply asking too much from both the airfile and this aircraft! A Lupshavak is an aerobatic maneuver where you can get an aircraft to flip forward, end over end (tail over nose). To do this, you first climb at a steep angle (20 to 30 degree climb angle), go into the knife-edge, cut power, and when the aircraft is nearing stall, you execute an outside snap-roll. When your wings rotate into the horizontal, you quickly reverse your rudder, which stops the rotation, but the energy you've built up transfers into a tail over nose action. This is an extremely violent aerobatic maneuver and back in the nineteen seventies, Harold Krier performed this act and so violent was it, he lost his propeller. I do mean that he literally tore the prop off the engine and was forced to make an emergency landing! So far, I've not been able to get an end over end reaction, but I sure get some wild gyrations with the RealAir SF.260 when I've attempted this maneuver. I doubt that the real-world SF.260 could successfully pull off a Lupshavak, so asking the RealAir SF.260 to successfully complete this maneuver is simply asking for too much!

The real-world SF.260's intended use is not as an aerobatic aircraft, but with finese and concentration, it is approved for and quite capable of performing your basic aerobatic maneuvers, such as a loop, hammerhead, snaproll, spins, and barrel-rolls. The RealAir SF.260 is also quite capable of each of these maneuvers and it performs them exactly as with the real aircraft, but you must also apply the same level of finesse and concentration to pull them off successfully.

I would dearly love to see Rob Young apply his airfile expertise on a Gmax Pitts or the default Extra300!

System Performance

As you can see (above listed specifications) I use a moderately low-end system for running my copy of FS2002, yet I saw no increased performance hits with the RealAir SF.260 as compared to any of the default aircraft. I rarely ever look at my frame rates because those numbers generally mean nothing anyway, but flying the RealAir SF.260 was always a smooth and fluid experience and I saw no particular view or event that caused any problems in this area. I'm sure that most of you will find this to be true as well, especially if your system specs are greater than mine.

Summary

I suppose by now you're under the feeling that I sort of liked the RealAir Simulations Siai-Marchetti SF.260 and frankly that would be an understatement. If flying a high-performance GA aircraft is to your liking and you would like to have an aircraft in your inventory where you can comfortably fly cross-country (170+ knot cruise), fly aerobatics with the best and most accurate airfile for a FS aircraft available, and fly around in a great looking sports plane, then look no further than here. Rob Young, Sean Moloney, and Peter Sidoli of RealAir Simulations have set the new standards in several areas for all other payware FS aircraft designers to achieve. I can wholeheartedly tell you that if flying GA aircraft is something that you enjoy, then this is simply the best $25 you can spend, anywhere, period!

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Taking off from runway 18 at Emma Field in the SF.260 is as easy as pie.

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Having clean lines, the SF.260 is a really nice appearing aircraft.

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There is something kind of appealing with the WWII AGV "Flying Tigers" shark mouth and eyes that I do like.

For further information and to download the SF.260 visit the RealAir Simulations website.

 

What I Like About the SF.260
  • Extraordinarily sharp and clear 3D virtual panel
  • Multiple liveries
  • Exterior textures are about as good as it gets
  • Most accurate and realistic FDE yet for a single-engined FS aircraft
  • Very beautifully presented and comprehensive manual
  • All aircraft functions-operations controllable from Virtual Cockpit
  • Installable bmp for those that experience canopy reflection problems (related to individual's system), though I experienced none
  • Outstanding sound files (even the panel gyros and wind noise volume is very realistic)

 
What I Don't Like About the SF.260
  • Would like to see a rudder trim control
  • Documentation should have been separated from aircraft install folder


 

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

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