First payware aircraft for Aerofly FS2 – Just Flight’s Duchess Model 76
Review by Ray Marshall, Contributing Reviewer April 25, 2019
The background and history of the Duchess Model 76 is lengthy so you may wish to scroll down to “We Jump to Present Day” and starting reading specifically about the Just Flight’s Duchess Model 76 for Aerofly FS2. You can come back and read the introduction and background information at a later date.
Beechcraft has been a brand of Textron Aviation since 2014. Originally, it was a brand of Beech Aircraft Corporation, an American manufacturer of general aviation, commercial, and military aircraft. Between Beech and Textron were several years as a Raytheon and Hawker company.
Ask one of the older guys about Beech airplanes and he might say let me tell you about the Twin Beech – the model 18, big loud engines, twin tail, tailwheeler. The really old guys remember Beech as the maker of the Staggerwing. The ancient guys might remember reading about Walter and Olive Beech building airplanes at their own airport in Wichita, Kansas in the early 1930s.
But, most modern day pilots will instantly start talking about the Bonanza. Sure enough, my very first airplane ride was in the left back seat of the local doctor’s V-tail Bonanza. Seems like that was a lifetime ago. Well, actually it was a lifetime ago. The Bonanza has been in production since 1947, longer than any other airplane model.
Now the really modern day pilot, those you might find at your local airport in the coffee shop, might mention learning to fly at one of the many Beech Aero Centers in a Skipper or Musketeer, or maybe a Sierra. These are the pilots that did not learn in a Cessna 150/152 or a Piper Cherokee 140 or an American Yankee.
These Beech trained pilots did not have available a step up airplane to get their multi-engine rating or their commercial license. Sure, Beech had the Baron in several models, but no one, not even Beech ever considered a Baron as a trainer.
So what is a Skipper? Think Piper Tomahawk lookalike. It is hard to tell the difference unless you know one or the other. The Skipper actually came first. What about the Musketeer? That was a family of single engine trainers with more name changes than any one airplane deserves. It could be a Sport, a Sundowner, or a high end Sierra or any arrangement of numbers. OK, so why do I need to know about the Beech Musketeers? A pilot who flies Sport trainers, Sundowners and Sierras will feel at home in a Duchess. The fuselage has the same contours, the doors are identical, the cabin is virtually the same, and the instrument panel will be quite familiar to someone who’s risen through the ranks.
These Beech trainers are important to this conversation and it will become clear what part they played in the design and production of the Duchess. First let me tell you how Beech came to have a Duchess.
Somewhere around the mid-1970s, the growing Beech Aero Centers, the flight training division of Beech, started putting pressure on the home office to seriously consider building their own light twin trainer. Their interest was simply build a step-up twin trainer so the students could stay at the Beech training centers for their multi-engine and advanced ratings. They could then fly more hours and maybe start renting a Baron, then buy their own Baron, Duke or even a Beechjet, if we ever build or buy one, then upgrade to the ultimate – the Beech Starship. I guess the logic was if it works for Cessna, it just might work here at Beech.
Beech seems to have broken with tradition, and made every attempt to design and build their light twin trainer on the cheap. Using the existing parts bins and taking the entire cabin – doors, windows, seats, panel – basically everything, from the Musketeer family. Then adding a little width and depth to beef up the wings to hold a small engine and cutting out a wheel well to store the landing gear plus adding a borrowed T-tail design from the King Air family. I seem to remember that most of the nose gear came from a Bonanza.
When you sit in a Sundowner or Sierra, you will instantly recognize the same seats, windows, yokes, rudder pedals, rocker switches and several of the gauges as the Duchess. They aren’t similar, they are exactly the same. That is what happens when you use the existing parts bin for your basic design. Not that this is all bad by any means, it is just so different from how they built the Bonanzas and King Airs – these continue to have that well-earned Beech quality of old.
The resemblance between the Duchess and Sierra is but skin deep, though; structurally, the airplanes are worlds apart. The wings have the same basic airfoil section, but their internal structure is quite different. Same goes for the fuselage. It is the tail that the Duchess carries that is unlike any of those other small Beeches. All of which says that this is a new airplane, not a twin Sierra.
The Duchess seats four and is tailored to the number of passengers and the amount of baggage the airplane can carry; more seats would be meaningless with the current small engines.
So after several years of give and take between the design department, the Beech Aero Centers, the Home Office and the bean counters the Beech Duchess 76 was FAA-certified in January 1978. It came with doors on both sides of the cabin, and avionics similar to those found in the Beechcraft Sierra. The Model 76 construction process used honeycomb-bonded wings to save manufacturing costs, but got a smooth airfoil design in the process.
A new design characteristic of the new Duchess was the T-tail, which placed the horizontal tail surfaces above the propeller slipstream for better stability and handling. The opposite-rotating propellers were added to eliminate the ‘critical engine” aspect of wing-mounted multi-engine flying. This was influenced by the same designers that built the early King Airs. Suggested price in 1978 was $81,950. The first 200 production units went directly to the Beech Training Centers.
Beech's new Duchess was temporarily grounded because the rudder trim-tab push-rod became disconnected during a flight. Sixty-three of the light twins were affected. Beech designed new, stronger push-rods for both rudder and elevator trim tabs. In 1980, a 28-volt electrical system was added to provide increased cranking power in cold weather, more power for avionics and better parts commonality with other Beech products.
The engine of choice was the 180-hp Lycoming spinning a 2-bladed, constant speed, full-feathering 76 inch Hartzell propeller. Cruise Speed at 75% power at 8,000 ft is 164 kts. Dropping down to 65% power at 8,000 ft we still get a respectable 156 kts cruise while burning only 112 pph of fuel. Endurance is 5.1 hours at 65% power and 8,000 feet. These are all very respectable specs for a light twin. Best climb rate at sea level is an impressive 1,248 fpm @ 97 kts. This is a climb gradient of 772 ft/nm.
The single engines specs are a whole different story. Single-engine climb at sea level drops to 235 feet per minute @ 85 kts with a climb gradient of only 162 ft/nm. This is not very impressive, because you can seldom achieve book values while flying in emergency conditions. This performance continues to decrease with altitude to where it reaches near zero at the single-engine service ceiling of 6,170 feet.
One strong point for the Duchess that can work for the air charter operator is this single-engine ceiling exceeds the 5,000 foot minimum for IFR air-taxi operations. Having doors on both sides of the cabin is also a big plus for air-taxi work. Another big factor favoring the air-taxi and charter operations is the hefty trailing link main landing gear. This practically guarantees a smooth and soft landing every time. The spring-loaded nose gear will also help maneuvering around on the ground.
They had a Beech employee-wide contest to name this new trainer. 25 Beech employees submitted Duchess as their name of choice. All twenty-five received a Saving Bond for the winning name. Thus, within a few years, the Duchess 76 was a mainstay at every Beech training center. The flight centers loved it. They could keep their pilots in training longer and keep them at home.
A massive advertising campaign for the Beech Aero Clubs used the Beech Duchess 76 in their full page ads. A no obligation coupon would get you a very nice brochure included with the “whole kit and caboodle” as the ad stated.
A steady supply of trainers continued for about 4 years but dropped to a trickle as the 1981 economic depression gained momentum. The aircraft industry was hit especially hard, and caused many airplane manufactures to shut down almost all production lines and many went out of business or merged or were gobbled up by one of the big companies.
There were multiple reasons for the economic recession, but the prime reason was the oversupply of young lawyers that were not able to find meaningful employment so they chose to sue anybody and everybody for any crazy reason. The deep pockets of airplane manufactures became prime targets for mostly frivolous lawsuits, but a few sympathetic judges awarded multi-million dollar awards for deaths resulting from airplane crashes.
It didn’t seem to matter the pilot was drunk, stole the airplane, did not have a valid license to fly that particular airplane and crashed on takeoff with the control lock still in place. The surviving spouse and two small kids deserved the 100 million dollars or so for their grief. It didn’t take but a few of these outlandish awards to halt production due to the outrageously high liability insurance premiums to protect the manufacturers.
The Beech Duchess 76 continued to be well received by the training centers and the advanced students loved it. They felt at home since the look and feel was exactly the same as their primary trainer, the Musketeer, but the Duchess had two engines with more gauges, an autopilot and retractable landing gear. It was a perfect fit for those wanting to fly an advanced multi-engine airplane.
It was much harder for the marketing department to compete with the new Piper Seminole and Grumman American Cougar. But, it didn’t stop them from running double page ads in Flying Magazine every month touting their trainer was really a business airplane, just slightly underpowered with 2 less seats than most people wanted.
A total of 437 Duchess twin trainers were delivered between 1978 and 1982. A few of those are still flying today and are providing multi-engine training equipment at many of the national training centers. The Duchess has enjoyed a better than average safety record over the years. This is probably attributed to the fact that it has been primarily used as a multi-engine trainer and not as a business plane flying over mountains at night and in bad weather like other small twins.
Interestingly, practically every Duchess 76 advertised for sale looks almost exactly like it did when delivered back in the early 1980s. Not many will be found with a Garmin GTN750 or a high end autopilot. This also can be attributed to probably being used as a trainer and thereby not needing, nor justifying the more expensive avionics upgrades.
The highly detailed simulation of the Duchess Model 76 has been developed by Just Flight’s In-house team following comprehensive, hands-on research with two real-life Duchess aircraft, G-BZRB and G_GCCL.
These two real world Duchess’ that Just Flight used to define their design are evidently both better equipped than the average present day Duchess. Most of the ones that I see online have an earlier model autopilot and practically none of them have the full complement of avionics that includes a Century 4 AP, GPS w/nav1, a modern digital nav2 receiver, an ADF receiver, and transponder. Many have some of these items, but, none seem to have them all.
Due to the limited production run and the generally low end specifications with small engines the Duchess never received any speed or STC mods for added features or enhancements. Seldom do you see 3-bladed modern props or a speed fairing kit on a Duchess to squeeze another few knots of cruise speed or an extra 50 miles of range. This is not necessarily a limitation of the Duchess, it is simply the low production numbers and that most modern single engine planes have 6 full seats compared to the Duchess’ 4 seats and most of these singles will have better performance without the extra weight and expense of a second engine.
The 4 seat cabin certainly seems roomy enough and a very comfortable place for four in the flight simulator. The straight tall seats helps you maintain good posture, which is important for long flights without backache, and the cabin height allows eye position to be high in relation to the instrument panel – meaning superb visibility.
If you Google Beech Duchess 76 you will get an overwhelming response for Just Flight’s Duchess 76 rather than the Beechcraft Duchess. This is easily understood since Just Flight has made a Duchess 76 model for just about every flight simulator and in some cases more than one model and the number of real world Beech models still flying is decreasing every year.
The early Just Flight models were for Microsoft FS2004 and was a prominent member of the original Flying Club software for FSX. Recently more refined models are being offered for X-Plane 11 and P3D v4. There was even a stripped down model for Aerofly FS1 somewhere along the way.
The Duchess in these recent releases for XP and P3D is a much more capable aircraft than the early days of FSX or FS1. This is mainly due to the optional state of the art avionics and the additional features both inside and outside the aircraft. Major items inside like the Flight1 GTN series, flight computer, panel popups, etc, and outside like rain effects, chocks and tie downs.
I would not be surprised in the long run if Just Flight’s Duchess 76 enjoys a better reputation than the original Beech model. This might be the flight simulation equivalent of the Beech Bonanza. The good news for us is that Just Flight has enjoyed being able to refine, port, and upgrade the Duchess for all these different flight sim platforms as more and better 3rd party add ons become available.
No doubt several of us have been flying a Just Flight Duchess for many years now. My first experience was when I received a Christmas present of the Flying Club 2 CD 7 or 8 years ago. It was one of my favorites for quite some time. You could even edit the crew and passenger’s faces to look like you, your kids or friends.
The internet is full of Duchess 76 data
With the Just Flight Duchess 76 basically mirroring the real world Beech Duchess 76 version, any handbook, checklist, or performance chart should be good enough and accurate enough for flight sim use. A simple search will return pages and pages of downloadable data. Sure, some is garbage and some will ask for a credit card for a free download. These are to be avoided.
Should you be seeking an official Pilot Operating Handbook, POH, for the Duchess 76, you will find several to choose from. Some are clean copies, some are abbreviated, and some are simply outstanding quality. My favorite has 272 pages and was revised in July, 1994 and is a combination of the POH and the FAA Approved Airplane Flight Manual.
The same applies to checklists and study guides. Because the Duchess 76 is used in many flight training schools, you will find some very detailed and well written descriptions of the various systems, maneuvers, and memory items.
I found an excellent free Maneuvers Checklist online. 3 examples.
If you wish to spend a little of your hard earned money, you can find some very high quality spiral bound, 4 color, QREF manuals for about $25. These might only appeal to those pilots that are not flying exclusively VR. An example of a few pages.
For those few that would like to learn to fly all the flight maneuvers required for the Private and Commercial Pilot Practical Tests in the Duchess 76, a manual, revised for 2018, and specific to the BE-76 is available. Look for “Flight Maneuvers Standardization Manual for the Beechcraft Duchess”, Step by Step Procedures by Chris Whittle and Joshua Lehman, both ATP, CFII, MEI. Forty pages, less than $15.
We jump to present day.
It was a beautiful day, a little over a month ago, when someone broke the news that Just Flight was bringing their Duchess 76 to Aerofly FS2. I know I was excited as were several others that made immediate posts that they were ready to buy sight unseen.
This gives Just Flight the distinction of being the first mainline developer to provide a payware aircraft for Aerofly FS2. This may be considered a port over from another flight sim, but, due to the fact that Aerofly FS2 does not share a single piece of code with any of the other flight sims, I think it is more accurate to consider the Just Flight Duchess 76 as an original design for Aerofly FS2.
They just chose a thoroughly familiar model with a vault full of measurements and data for performance and sounds, and probably a thousand on-site photos. Not only that but they enjoy a rich history of marketing and supporting the Duchess. There is probably not a square inch of these two aircraft that has not been photographed and measured by the on-site evaluation teams over the years. The owners must love it because they get a flight simulator model of their very own airplane accurate right down to the nitty gritty. Now how neat is that?
I’m sure many of the Aerofly FS2 users have some high expectations for the first payware aircraft and may be expecting more than can be delivered. I received notification of an available download on Friday afternoon and was flying the Duchess out of my favorite airport in South Florida within 30 minutes.
This pre-release version was labeled Duchess_rtm. I was promised a market released edition at a later date, but, this was close enough to start writing the review. Everything was according to Hoyle, until the Easter holidays arrived just as I was ready to submit a long list of questions. Something this simple was not going to take my fingers off the keyboard. It wasn’t but a few days until the ‘available for purchase’ banner was showing at the Just Flight Aerofly FS2 Duchess spot.
Fortunately, I have experience flying both real world twins and several years of flying many flight simulator twins. Good thing, the manuals were not included in the download – they were still being finalized when I got my early copy.
Even though the AFS2 version looks and acts like the existing competitive sim models, they are not the same. The environment for AFS2 is very different and the available scenery is totally different. As it turns out, the included flight tutorial for the competitive sims could not be used because that flight plan takes place in England, and AFS2 currently does not have any scenery in the U.K.
Not that this is an insurmountable problem, it was just the timing of the Easter holidays and the urgency to get the Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2 released for sale.
The decision was to go ahead and release it without a flight tutorial, but, to follow up with new flight tutorial someplace in the AFS2 default DLC world. This narrows it down to the Southwest USA, or more specifically, California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada or Colorado.
There are always a few last minutes things that didn’t make the deadline fully complete or just right so a timely update should already be in the works.
I consider a flight tutorial to be one of the most important documents that can be included with a new airplane in a new flight sim. There are so many unknowns as to how a flight plan comes together in a new airplane. The tutorial, provided it is well written by knowledgeable pilots, can be invaluable for “show and tell” with the avionics interaction.
New Release banner in the corner
The first signs of the “Now for Sale” was the red New Release banner showing up on April 17, 2019, just in time for the early adopters waiting to purchase to fly the Duchess in AFS2 skies over the Easter weekend.
Just Flight offers the Aerofly FS2 for download only for either Windows or Mac. After purchase a download link will be placed in your Just Flight account for an EXE file. After downloading and the necessary agreements, the installation is automatically installed in the Duchess76 file in your personal Aircraft folder. After a normal startup of Aerofly FS2 you find the Just Flight Duchess ready for selection from your Aircraft folder.
The Just Flight Duchess 76 for AFS2 is a very forgiving airplane provided to keep the airspeed sufficiently high enough to avoid a stall or spin.
Any Duchess, whether built by Beech or Just Flight, is not going to be found on a list of high performance aircraft. Two small conventional engines with two-bladed props will normally not get you into trouble as long as you respect the capabilities and limitations. Beech considered adding a turbocharged version but, it just didn’t make sense to add a turbo to a trainer so it never happened.
Most of your flights in the Duchess will be at altitudes where you can fly without supplemental oxygen. For most folks, 12,000 feet will be the top end and most cross country flights will be between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. There are not many reasons to keep climbing past 8,000 feet. Weather might be the only valid reason and that would be to stay on top of a cloud buildup.
So how is our AFS2 Duchess equipped?
Quite well, actually, but could be improved with a functional GPS. Today, you can fly day and night, VFR and IFR, make various approaches, including an ILS, localizer, and ADF as well as a visual approach. You have an excellent autopilot, a DME readout, a transponder, 2 Nav/Comms and an ADF receiver.
Before we get into specifics, I would like to call your attention to the basic panel layout of the Duchess. If you like round gauges, like me, you will absolutely love the Duchess panel. All the flight instruments and engine instruments are right in your face. This means you don’t have to spend time with your head down around your knees looking for the tach setting like in most Pipers. The avionics stack, double stack counting the Century IV autopilot is easy enough to use even though it might require a shift in your selected view or backing up your eyepoint to take in the full panel.
The three airfoil trim adjustments are all together between the two front seats, flat on the floor. In the real world each of these can be adjusted or tweaked without ever looking down at all. In the sim, it is not as easy, but still a very nice design and a good layout.
One thing that drives me crazy is how it happens that the 3 green lights to confirm the landing gear is down and locked is totally hidden by the pilot’s yoke. Your view of the 3 greens is not partially obstructed, all three are totally hidden. In the real world just briefly lowering either wing will move the yoke enough to reveal whether the gear lights are green or not. In the flight sim you can check the hidden gear lights with the smallest movement of the yoke. Just don’t get busy with an approach and forget to peek behind the yoke to verify 3 greens.
What are we going to get with the Just Flight Duchess?
The question most asked in the forums is what are we going to get with this Just Flight Duchess? The guesses range from “nothing more than we find in a similar default aircraft” (otherwise IPACS would have already upgraded our existing airplanes) to “it should be just like the latest models being built for the competitors”. The answer is somewhere in the middle of the two guesses, which is also a guess in the forums.
You need to read the entire review if you are looking for nitty gritty details or have something very specific in mind, but generally, we are getting a heck of a lot more than most of the default planes have to offer. But, we are also not getting some of the really nifty stuff that is in the XP and P3D models. I think we should keep an open mind for future updates and upgrades as things develop and new discoveries are made. I will not keep you in suspense as you read some of the background and historical stuff.
The Just Flight Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2 comes very highly recommended and is an absolute pleasure to fly in the AFS2 scenery environment. You might say that Just Flight has kicked open the doors that have been guarding the cookie jar and has moved up the timetable for fully capable IFR flight in AFS2.
No, we won’t have a Checklist Panel, Panel Configuration Selectors, Flight Computer, rain effects, chocks, and a few of these type features, but we will have Cold and Dark or Ready to Fly, engine management with full feathering props, fuel transfers, and engines that stop running when the gas runs out. Not failures, but close.
Deeper, more complex systems than we currently have, functional electrical distribution systems that quit running when a breaker pops, emergency hydraulics for gear failures and enough cockpit management to keep things interesting. Functioning carburetor heat, cowl flaps for engine cooling, functioning mixture controls for precise fuel/air ratios for max power, or minimum fuel burn. Functioning EGT gauges for adjusting the proper mixture.
So how much animation comes with the Just Flight Duchess 76 for AFS2?
There was a time when talking about animation, we simply said all standard animations are included with the addition or exception of anything special that was added or unexpected or was missing and we thought it should be included. Well, with AFS2 airplanes having quite limited animations, other than the special work for the Cessna 172 Mod, we can’t use that approach.
Let’s start with what I think most every user would expect. This would be the Flaps and Landing Gear, Ailerons, Elevator and Rudder. Moveable dual yokes, that can be hidden with a click at the bases and dual side rudders that move correctly. Flaps extend or retract switch, parking brake pull knob, switches that move, knobs that rotate. Push buttons that operate something, etc. Movable throttles, propeller controls, and mixture handles. The rocker switches all rock on and off. The landing gear operator on the panel that looks like a wheel to operate the landing gear.
The tires roll, but stop when brakes are applied. (a good thing to do prior to retracting the landing gear). Oh, and the propellers turn. Actually, not everyone might notice but the left one turn clockwise and the right one turns counter-clockwise. This mostly eliminates the critical engine problem with both props turning the same direction.
The Duchess has those basic flight control movements and a few things unique to the Duchess, plus the Passenger Door, Pilot’s Door and the little window inside the pilot’s side window. And yes the door handles themselves move as does the latch for the small hinged window. Not only do these doors and windows open and close, but the outside sounds increase when they open. This is typically called wind noise, but not all simulator add ons include this.
Additional items that operate or move are Cowl Flaps used for cooling the engines. There are several push to test buttons that light up when tested, and all the expected twist and turn instrument knobs work correctly.
The exception list, as such, is the baggage door does not open and close, and the sun visors are not animated. No doubt, these will be added to the animated list in a future update. As a matter of fact, I just read the promo page at Just Flight for this AFS2 model Duchess and it states, among a lot of other features, that baggage door, sun visors and engine exhausts are animated. Nice. We can look for these additions to be added in one of the updates.
While at the Just Flight web site I also read that “Aircraft configuration system that will allow you to choose between ‘cold and dark’ or ‘ready for takeoff’. That will be an improvement over having to choose a parking spot or a runway number like I thought was the choice. Kudos for the design team.
The full-feathering propellers work like a charm. The performance instantly goes south with the loss of an engine but, that is exactly what happens in a Beechcraft Duchess.
Bottom line is the Duchess animations are better than normal, but, with room for a few more.
What about systems depth?
The Duchess brings a few new things to the AFS2 quiet skies. The animations will break new ground with both the passenger door and the pilots door opening and closing as well as the small pilot’s window. Operating cowl flaps might be new to some but, I’m not sure the engine temp gauges actually reflect open, closed, and partially open cowl flaps. If not, it will give us something to look forward to for updates.
Engaging the individual boost pumps do show an instant boost in fuel pressure on the gauges. The Duchess 76 comes with a fully operating autopilot. Yes, it is somewhat old school, but does what it does, very well and is super easy to use. You will always know the status of your autopilot with a brief glance. Large bright white annunciators for each active function.
It has been a long time since I flew a real world Duchess but I tend to remember the rate of climb with both engines churning was fairly impressive but the single-engine performance was marginal at best, especially if you were anywhere near the gross weight of 3,900 pounds. If you happen to be cruising along at say 10,000 feet and lost an engine, you had no choice but to head for a much lower altitude right away and you better hope you were VFR or you were required to declare an emergency for an IFR descent. I don’t have the poh in front of me, but, the service ceiling with one engine out is a little over 6,100 feet.
The individual fuel quantity gauges do in fact show fuel quantity deceasing over time. I don’t think we can actually calculate fuel flows just yet, but there is hope. And yes, the engine will quit running when fuel in the tank reaches zero. Even knowing this, it still is a surprise when the coughing starts and the plane yaws to the dead engine. Time to feather. This works very well also.
The engine fuel air mixture does work, but, I’m not sure the EGT gauge is fully calibrated just yet. No doubt it is in the plan to be able to fine tune the engine power settings. The EGT needles do indeed move in reaction to the mixture lever but, I failed to find the peaks and valleys needed for max power or min fuel flow.
One new feature is the analog clock movement of 20 minutes for each tap of the T or Shift+T key. I still don’t know how to set time to a specific time in AFS2.
You can lower the landing gear manually by inserting a key on the floor in front of the pilot’s seat. (Hydraulic failure) This is for emergencies only and the gear drops and locks, rather rapidly. You will need to land and reset the aircraft to undo this, so it is not intended as a practice item.
As far as I can tell each and every breaker, all 34 of them, are animated and correctly connected to whatever circuit is to be protected. A left click will provide the PULL to open a circuit and a second left click will RESET or push in the popped breaker. All circuits are very clearly labeled with the amperage shown in the center of the breaker. Circuit protectors range from 2 – 30 amps with one 50 amp bus breaker for each bus. These are the ISO breakers and are easily spotted with indicators like this ( 50 ).
I can see this feature would be especially beneficial to a flight instructor, and should be a standard item on all checklists.
Cold and Dark.
Yes, absolutely. Depending on where you are when you start the sim. Using a parking area, or the white airplane icon, the startup from cold and dark is required.
Should you choose to start the sim on the runway numbers or on a green airplane icon, then the engines will be running, the flaps will be set for takeoff, and your landing, navigation, and strobe lights will be set in the on position. I’m not sure about the cowl flaps setting, but the full selector will be set to on for both fuel tanks. You would want to check the trim settings and flight control movements.
I am a big believer in using checklists, even if they are short and mental, although a nice laminated normal checklist on one side and a red-bordered emergency checklist on the other side is highly recommended. Even if you only fly in the flight sim. I have used GUMP all my life and I have never landed gear up or ran out of fuel. Gas, Undercarriage, Mixtures, Props. Simple but effective. You can find comprehensive checklists in the manuals and download others from the web.\
Sometimes it may be a super simple checklist that saves your life and your plane. For instance, should you lose an engine, the checklist here is enough to make sure you don’t miss an important item.
Or you can wait a day or two and check the forums. One of our guys, maybe more, just loves to make checklists. You can download one of his if you choose.
A Flight Tutorial will be Included soon.
As far as I know, this will be an added section to the Operations Manual and cover about 20 pages with nitty gritty details, all accompanied by photos and illustrations. Most likely it will be a flight less than an hour, with a minimum of 3 checkpoints and will use everything in the avionics stack. The preflight will be from Cold and Dark and will be a comprehensive check of magnetos, exercising each prop, and setting trim tabs.
All speeds will be used with given speeds for rotation, climb out, cruise, descent and approach. The judicious use of various propeller settings with selected manifold pressure settings to achieve recommended speeds or fuel flows. The flight will make use of the HSI, DME readout, setting Heading, identifying an NDB, nav courses for tracking to and from VOR stations, and using the autopilot. The approach and landing could well be a visual approach to landing or could be a Localizer or full ILS approach. We will just have to wait and see.
The engine and switch sounds based on access to two real world model Duchess airplanes can be considered good. The website states the Authentic Sound Set is from Turbine Sound Studios. The wind and environmental sounds are impressive. I enjoy opening the small hinged pilot window to yell clear when starting the engines and hearing the sound of the wind, then closing the window and enjoying the quiet cockpit. Sometimes I just sit there opening and closing the little window to marvel at the well done development work.
The switch sounds and the click when popping a circuit breaker is well done, however, the engine sounds are just satisfactory. I hear a repetitive loop click in the engine sounds. For improvement, more sounds need to be added. For instance, when you exercise the props, you should hear a very different sound than when they are not being exercised. This sound is not present in the download that I am using for this review. Another missing sound is the sounds of the magneto check. When the engine rpm drops and returns as I test the Left, Right, and Both magnetos, I should be able to hear that change in rpm. The proper rpm drop is there but the sound is not.
When on short final at the proper approach speed and configuration I expect the engine/propeller sounds to be reduced, maybe even greatly reduced, as compared to say economy cruise conditions. I don’t experience that in the Duchess. The current build’s engine/propeller/environmental sounds give me the impression that I am not about to land, but sound more like a higher rpm and higher manifold pressure setting – more like economy cruise settings.
I may be too critical on this issue, but, I feel as this is our first payware aircraft we need to keep our expected standards at a sufficiently high level. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that this Just Flight Duchess 76 add on will elevate the Aerofly FS2 sim in general. Hopefully, the users will demand a high level and not settle for anything less in any of the add ons.
You can hear and feel, if you have a buttkicker, the gear and flap movements. If you listen closely you can hear the sounds of most of the switches being engaged or disengaged. Nice. The flap movements sound just like the real thing, as they should. Same for the gear retraction and extensions.
Very predictable flight characteristics. I am still getting use to the low powered engines. No sudden moves and don’t expect any overachieving. Slow and steady should be expected.
I spent more time than normal for a review with one engine feathered and have come to the conclusion that as soon as one loses an engine, grab that emergency checklist and clean up the condition. With the dead engine feathered and the proper trim applied, and flying at the proper speed, you had better be selecting a target airport or runway to get on the ground. I would never consider continuing a flight in the Duchess with one engine inoperable. There is just not enough margin between holding an altitude and slowing losing altitude.
11 Repaints + some custom repaints are already in work.
9 liveries are included and a PSD type paintkit will be available for downloading. One C, one D, one EC, one F, four Gs, and one N registration. All interiors are the same gray color scheme. We seem to have been shorted a couple of liveries that are included in the XP and P3D version.
Oops, I just read at the website that we were only getting 5 repaints, sounds like we might be 4 ahead, rather than 2 short. Duh. Anyway, here they are:
I just got word that another two repaints will be made available in an update. These will be the one for our downunder friends in AU and a pretty red/white one for New Zealand.
My screenshots do not do justice to just how good the paint looks. I have never bothered to learn about bump and specular mapping and things that make the aircraft look so nice. I do understand that HD textures do look better but also require more cpu oomph. These must be a good balance because they look great and I don’t notice any drag on the FPS. (Ctrl + F1 to read FPS)
I did see that the paints for previous versions were made by David Sweetman and he is usually considered in the top tier of all simulator repainters. Not to knock David or anyone else, but that single black N# choice failed to blow my skirt up. You know what they say – to each his own. I guess that is why my favorites are custom paints. Go to https://flight-sim.org and check for user contributed JF Duchess 76 repaints. The first one uploaded is a very nice N5076V. Thanks GACSavannah.
As real as it gets
We often hear this comment when reading about add ons for our flight simulators, but, in this case I would like to call one to your attention. Here is a comparison image of the real world Beech Duchess Model 76, D-GIGY, photographed at EDLK, an airport in Germany and the comparison screenshot by me take in the skies of South Florida. Notice the bare metal plate on the forward fuselage in both images. This is a repair for damage to the fuselage skin caused by ice being thrown off the propellers. Even though the Model 76 is not approved for flight into known icing conditions, this occasionally happens in the real world. Just Flight chose to make this repaint “as real as it gets”.
I’m sure many of the AFS2 users are only interested in the VR capabilities of the new Just Flight Duchess for FS2. I venture a guess that these folks will not be disappointed. Of course, it all depends on your expectations but, the panel has an excellent layout, big easy to read gauges, the autopilot has easy to use push buttons with large white annunciators. Most of the switches are in a row near your knees, and partially hidden by the yoke, which is removable with a click near the base. You can zoom in as close as you like and those big gauges will remain clear as a bell.
There are another two switches on the copilot side of the panel to the right of the GPS430 and below the autopilot. These are the Radio Master and the WX-8 Weather Radar switches. An inop Stormscope is mounted between the hour meter and the AP. I don’t think it will be useful in AFS2 for some time and it sounds like you may also need a 3rd party weather add on.
The pedestal mounted trims should be easy to see and use, however, the carburetor heat controls are partially hidden by the TPM unit, Cowl flaps control are vertical with full open being full down and full up for closed. Partial or half open is in the middle. The Fuel Selectors are very visible and operate with one smooth movement from off to on. The throttles, props, and mixture controls are standard vanilla as is the flap handle. The flap gauge is not the best in the world, but a quick glance out the window should confirm the settings for you. The flap settings are 10 degrees, 20 degrees and full down (35 deg).
If there is a weak spot it is going to be the imitation GPS430. It is not a GPS, but uses the frame of one and has the FS2 moving map display that may to too small to be useful. You can zoom the map in and out with the range keys. The Nav/Comm 1 is built into the GPS unit and it is defaulted as the prime nav unit. The frequencies are set using the age old twist and turn and press on the outer knob and inner knob in the lower left corner. The readout is marginal at best for the standby and active frequencies for either nav or comm.
A placard reminds us the max extended flap speed is 110 knots. (top of the white band on the airspeed indicator.)
I prefer using the KX-165A Nav/Com 2 with the larger and brighter digital readout over the GPS430 look alike.
The KT76A Transponder is a standard with twist and turn knobs for selections and the same for operation. Large easy to read numbers for easy use.
The Bendix/King KMA 28 Audio Panel is at the top of the avionics stack directly underneath the glareshield. Most of the selectors will not be used for a while in AFS2 until we see ATC arrive. The Marker Beacon lights are in the upper left corner which is an ideal location for those times when you need to verify crossing those markers and you are searching for the first sight of approach lights in the fog. They may or may not work. I flew lots of approaches, but, never did see any of the Beacon lights come on.
An easy to see small white indicator light is located on the push button to verify your selections when using the Audio Panel.
The Bendix/King KR 87 ADF is a standard panel unit with a row of push buttons and the customary twist and turn inner outer knob for selecting frequencies.
The Bendix/King KDI-574 DME indicator is mounted just below the glareshield directly above the fuel gauges. Selecting Nav1, Nav2, or hold on the might also require some small finger twists and turn finesse. Most of these settings should be accomplished on the ground during the flight setup and not in a climbing turn in most cases.
If you do use the Nav1 for VOR or approach frequencies, you can store two additional settings in the Nav2 display to have them readily available when needed later on in a VR flight. This is just for memory recall, you still have to input them into the default Nav1 receiver.
The Century 4 autopilot was state of the art in 1980/81 when the Duchess was coming off the production lines. This is a very capable and very easy to use autopilot. I have to admit that I have limited experience with these units and know very little about the full capabilities of the Century series autopilots.
The basic stuff like engaging with attitude hold on is certainly nice, as long as you don’t forget it and reach over and press the on button while in a climbing turn with the Heading bug not set for your intended course. I do remember they had a good reputation and was a trusted friend with the pilots of that age.
This autopilot is so very easy to use – what you see is what you get and it seems to glide the Duchess into the intercepts rather than making exaggerated turns like some APs. The only difficultly I am having flying VOR to VOR and making ILS approaches is adding the proper frequencies using the fuzzy resolution and tiny numbers in the imitation GPS.
My favorite airport is in the Miami, Florida area so I am familiar with most of the VORs and approaches. It just happens that the ILS for runway 30 at KMIA is one of the default frequencies in the GPS. This makes it a little easier to set that approach with the ILS preset. Dial in the course using the S or D key or the slow method of using the mouse and cross the beach at 1,600 feet. This is a very scenic approach with the South Florida dlc.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Just Flight Duchess breaks new ground for Aerofly FS2 with this fully capable IFR twin trainer. I can already hear the cries for help asking how to enable the use of approach charts while flying VR.
The exterior lights are pretty much as expected, but I think the flash of the white strobes look unique. All Aerofly FS2 selected takeoffs and landings get automatic landing and taxi lights as well as the standard navigation lights. The location of the rocker switches makes it easy to turn them off if you get tired of flying around with your landing lights on in your screenshots.
The interior lights are another story. Nothing routine here. Two rheostats provide control of the interior lighting. Both are located to the right of the TPM unit. They are both pretty much hidden from the pilot’s view, but are located directly above the Parking Brake pull knob and immediately left of the Wing Flap indicator gauge. The top knob controls the individual Instrument lighting and is labeled INSTR FLOOD. The other control located immediately below the Flood control is labelled POST Lights and provided some more general lighting.
I noticed the Avionics switch does not have any lighting for the switch or the label for the switch, but the POST light control will illuminate it.
I find the overall lighting plan very well implemented. I like to fly with just enough instrument lighting to see the instruments, but not enough to add glare.
The Operations Manual (Flight Manual)
The Operations Manual is a 45 page pdf file that covers just about everything about the Aerofly FS2 Duchess 76 except the Flight Tutorial and Performance charts, tables and graphs. The Flight Tutorial will be added in a future update. The Operating Data Manual is included as a separate pdf file.
The first 9 pages covers the general description, limitations, repaints, installation and support information. The Systems Guide provides an overview of each aircraft system. The Panel Guide breaks down the panel to subpanels, and upper, lower, right, left, etc, with a section for each avionics unit.
The Autopilot has its own section, followed by Normal Procedures and Emergency Procedures. The Normal and Emergency Procedures section is where you will find the detailed checklists with recommended speeds and conditions.
Every known condition is covered somewhere in this manual, so rather than go online and pester the other users in the forums with your questions, try reading the manual, then reread it, and then read it one more time. I think you will experience more enjoyment flying the Duchess 76 when you fully understand the capabilities and limitations.
I recommend you spend some quality time with these documents. This manual is loaded with screenshots with keyed references to the text descriptions. An example is the KX 165 Nav/Com2 radio.
The power curves, graphs and charts.
The smaller of the two manuals, the Operating Data Manual, contains 20 + pages of performance information. Here you will find all the necessary charts and graphs to calculate or select for take-offs, climb, level flights, descent, and landing. Many are presented as x,y plot graphs, many are presented as tables for different altitudes, temperatures, and power settings.
Some are profile charts for range and endurance; some vary with airplane configuration, such as flaps up, or flaps down, or at gross weight or reduced weights such as cruise conditions. All the climb, cruise, descent and landing charts for 2 engines operating and for one engine inoperative. There is a special chart for takeoff with one engine feathered.
These charts appear to be direct copies of actual performance data from the Beech Duchess 76 that was used as the design input.
Pilots should learn the disciplines of using a complete set of performance charts to understand the possible and impossible in advance.
Some things are just more important than others when flying a light twin. With how to handle the loss of an engine being number one. Naturally, one must practice losing that engine at the most inopportune time, which is near the point where the airplane start flying. This is the accelerate-go calculation, the distance required to continue the takeoff over a 50-foot obstacle after losing an engine at liftoff. These calculations mean little to the flight simulator pilot, because we can just continue on and fly through the trees, but, should you decide to take your desktop training to the local airport, it may save your life one day.
Flying the Just Flight Duchess 76 in the Aerofly FS2 skies
With 10 degrees of flaps deployed, the Duchess accelerates rapidly and gets a bit light on the gear just as the airspeed needle passes the 70 knots mark. It continues to gain speed and with the lightest of back pressure on the yoke and is off and climbing. Eighty-five knots is the best two-engine rate-of-climb speed, as well as, Vyse, the best single-engine rate-of-climb, and this relatively low speed coupled with the aggressive 1,250 fpm rate of climb makes for an exhilarating climb out.
Seldom, if ever, will you lose an engine on takeoff while flying in AFS2, so this should be the norm. Just practice letting the Duchess accelerate to that magic 85 knot mark and practice your climb outs at exactly 85 knots. Long climbs and climbs to altitude are usually performed at 100 knots to provide better straight ahead visibility and better engine cooling. Don’t forget to use those engine cowl flaps.
At my grass surfaced airport in South Florida, we have small markers every 500 feet on the side of the runway. The Duchess breaks ground at exactly the 2nd one for me – that is a standard 1,000 foot ground run. Provided I hold the 85 knot best climb speed I will be at a very comfortable altitude as I cross the streets that borders both ends of our little neighborhood airport.
Beechcraft has a reputation for providing performance information and charts that are realistic and achievable. You should be able to check the performance of your Just Flight Duchess 76 against those same charts. Keep notes on the performance of your flights vs those charts and graphs.
Of course, today we can’t actually monitor our fuel burn rates and calculate our weights and balance, but, one day this may be possible. It would be interesting if we could choose to fly at say 3,400 pounds gross weight, and select our fuel load when we are alone and practicing rather than always being at full gross weight of 3,900 pounds as fixed for the add on. Increased performance would be the goal with no baggage and 3 empty seats. Just thinking.
Your first familiarization Duchess flight.
This Duchess is different from any of our other add ons, so please take the time to at least skim through the manual and read anything that catches your eye. You might be surprised at how little you actually know about a new airplane’s performance and operation.
I am purposely not going to tell you how to start the engines in case you can’t figure it out, you will be forced to read the How to Start portion of the manual.
One caution. The Duchess is not listed in the High Performance Twin list. Proceed with caution. After rotation, let the airspeed built up to the recommended climb speed for the conditions before retracting the landing gear. Delay flap retraction for another few minutes after you have a good stable climb profile.
Now you can turn on the Autopilot, if you like. The ON button sets to AP to the Maintain ATT mode with no additional mode selections. You can use the Pitch UP or DN on the right side of the AP to adjust the attitude. A couple of clicks either way and you can see the results on the VSI.
The RPM is going to be in the red until you make a small reduction. A very small reduction using the Propeller levers will bring the needle out of the red.
So now you have some altitude, the Duchess is cleaned up and you are all google-eyed. Whenever you are ready, I recommend you spend some time performing slow flight to get the feel of the Duchess. You should know your memory speeds from glancing through the manual and you have the color bands on the airspeed indicator to help you with flap restrictions and stall speeds.
Stalls are very gentle but, you need to see and feel them. Make a few 360 or 720 degree turns while holding a given airspeed and without gaining or losing more than 100 feet of altitude. Roll from one direction to the other and repeat.
I don’t recommend you make your first take offs or landings at a real short runway or one with lots of obstructions. Find a nice quiet airport with a couple of wide and long runways and practice touch and goes, or circuits, to get familiar with the climb out and approach attitudes, speeds, sounds, and feel.
Aerofly FS2 does a good job of letting us start an approach to any runway at a decent distance with generally the proper configuration. Well, at least the gear is down and locked, the flaps are set for landing, and the proper lights are on. What might not be set for the Duchess is the correct power. You might find the props full forward with rpm in the red, and the Manifold Pressure at near zero with the airplane almost at stall speed. Just be ready to make some instant corrections if you choose this method of starting approaches in the Duchess.
I recommend adding throttle as you lower the nose to gain some airspeed, then reducing the rpm to somewhere in the green and slowly bringing the nose up to level or nearly level after you have sufficient airspeed. Now you can start your approach.
Once you are comfortable with the speeds and attitudes, you might want to try the engine out procedure. There a lots of ways of doing this, but a simple, straight forward and fun way is to grab one of the mixture handles and pull it all the way back. Most likely, you have just lost an engine, as they say.
If you do nothing else, you best pick you spot to land or crash land because you are not going to be in the air much longer with a windmilling prop.
Assuming you are flying with the gear up and flaps retracted, continue with the procedure below, if not, get the gear up and the flap retracted while starting the rest of the clean up.
The goal is not to lose anymore altitude than necessary as you “clean up the plane for single engine operation”. This starts with pushing both propeller levers full forward, and getting to your best rate of climb speed as quickly as you can. While getting to the correct speed, you can identify which engine is dead (assuming you are not looking at which mixture is retarded) Dead rudder, dead engine is the key. If not, look out and see which way the airplane is turning. The turn path will be toward the dead engine.
Once you have identified the dead engine, pull the propeller lever for that engine back to the stops. Now bring the throttle back to the stops. You should now be looking at a feathered propeller.
Assuming you have stopped the turning effect of the good engine, you will need to roll toward the good engine with about a 5 degree roll. Hold this with yoke and rudder for now but, but, use your trim tabs when you have time.
You now need to turn off the fuel for the feathered engine. Before you move the fuel lever, double check, then check again that you are turning off the correct fuel tank. Now turn off the magnetos and all switches for the dead engine. Take a deep breath, congratulate yourself, and call ATC and report that you have an engine out. Sometimes they may ask how many engines do you have. They are not being smart, you could have 3 good ones until you tell them what type aircraft you are flying. (Calling ATC won’t be possible in AFS2 for a while)
Now, you need to find a place fairly close by to land. You can play around a bit getting the feel of flying with one good engine but keep an eye on the altimeter and the VSI rate of descent. The Duchess really does not like to fly with only one good engine for very long or very far.
You can choose to restart the engine and make a normal approach and landing or make an engine-out landing.
Here are a few things not to do with your new Duchess Model 76
Some recommendations for the Just Flight Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2
I would like to see an improved method of selecting Cold and Dark or Ready to Fly. Some sort of selection for one or the another, not by placement of the aircraft. Maybe on one of the Aerofly FS2 control screens, similar to selecting the R-22 standard or check a box for Expert. When we select the Duchess 76 we could have a box for Cold and Dark and another box for Ready to Fly and choose a default.
I would expect most all the users to be asking for some simple method of selecting the starting fuel quantity. If no one else comes up with a neat method, maybe it could be added to the Aircraft Selection page – ½ ¾ or default for full tanks.
I would also like to hear more and better engine/propeller/environmental sounds. There has to be more and better sounds when reducing power and adding power. No loops allowed, these need to be purged.
I would especially like to see an upgrade to the GPS430 imitation. I would like to see the Moving Map removed and a bonafide GPS installed that will handle flight plans, direct, and maybe a few other basic pages.
This is not really a recommendation, I am sure it is already in work, but, I would like to see the Mixture controls and EGT needles fine-tuned to be able to squeeze a few extra horsepower or burn a few less liters of fuel per hour.
Not knowing whether this is even possible in Aerofly FS2, but I would like to see some landing lights that actually light up the runways, some rain drop effects, some popup checklists, a flight computer and panel selections (maybe starting fuel quantity and C & D or Ready to Fly), and if none are workable, how about a bug spat on the windscreen.
I saved the most important one for the VR only flyers for last. There is no doubt the first item on their wish list is going to be some sort of popup for notes in the cockpit while actively flying in VR. This could be any notes.txt file that could be called up or hidden. It might be a user’s list of frequencies, a simple flight plan with directions and altitudes, or maybe even an approach chart. Just something that avoids stopping the immersion by having to take off the googles to check notes or such.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This first edition of the first payware aircraft for Aerofly FS2 surely breaks some new ground. No, it is not perfect, but it comes a long way, a very long way for a first iteration. I certainly have enjoyed discovering the new and innovative parts and pieces and am looking forward to even more.
The Duchess is a friendly and versatile airplane, easily adaptable for practicing navigation and approaches, simulated charter roles, or any personal choices we may have for our simulator flying. The panel layout, 3D gauges, rocker switches and large push button autopilot are all VR friendly.
I did not see any negative impact on the frame rates when flying the Just Flight Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2. This alone will be a big selling point.
The new to Aerofly FS2 animations, such as both doors opening and closing, the small pilot’s window with increased engine noise when opened, operating cowl flaps, operating mixtures and EGT gauges, full-feathering propellers, coupled with a cold and dark start option should appeal to practically all users.
The well-used, well-worn, somewhat dirty, real as it gets look will appeal to many. The exterior repaint is typical of a flying club where no one seems to want to crawl underneath and clean all the dirt and grimy oil stains from the once white underbelly.
The Just Flight Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2 does not enjoy many of the features that may be taken for granted when flying in a flight sim in its 11th major edition. I think it is important to remember that Aerofly FS2 is actually still first generation, so can you imagine where it might be with another 10 major editions and upgrades?
My opinion is that Just Flight has hit a home run with this Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2. No doubt, whatsoever, the envelope has been expanded, and more than a little. The bar is now set much higher than previously thought possible and the Aerofly FS2 flight sim is now better with these expansions and improvements.
I like to say the cookie jar has been raided and the jar was left open for even more mooching. Somehow, Just Flight has found the key to the goody locker and I doubt they have shown us the whole picture, just yet. I would bet there is more to come and possibly just around the corner. Not just a few little things here and there, but, big wham bam type improvements. No promises, because I am not in the loop, but, I feel the Earth just beginning to shake a little, and that is a good sign.
Very Highly Recommended – Buy Now, enjoy forever.
Scott @ Just Flight for promo pack for review
Richard @ Just Flight for answering all my questions
HiFlyer, HerveF, and GACSavannah for editing assistance
These are the two latest repaints to be added at the last minute.
Edited by Chuck_Jodry-VJPL