2nd Look - Learjet 24B by Lionheart Creations Ltd
A review by Roger Curtiss
In the beginning, (early 1960s) God (William Lear) created the Learjet and he and everyone else saw that it was good. In fact, it was very good. One would be hard-pressed to find a sexier small jet, it looked so much different from anything else then flying.
Maybe it was the tip tanks...guys just can't seem to get enough of large round objects hanging off a slim frame after all. Regardless, it was a pleasure to learn that Bill Ortis of Lionheart Creations had chosen to reproduce this vixen of the skies. He recreated the 24B model, which, while not the first Lear designed, was an improvement on the original. Sporting increased engine thrust and payload capacity it became quite popular. So much so in fact, that the term Learjet became almost a ubiquitous moniker for early business jets. Ortis says he designed the model using Prepar3d and flies it on that platform but it is also FSX friendly, though not compatible with X-Plane.
What has been produced is a model of beauty.
Simply reproducing the graceful lines of this jet would be an artful exercise in and of itself, but this rendition shows the obvious respect and admiration that Ortis has for this iconic aircraft. Three notes from the documentation provide a pretty good idea of what to expect:
One is a warning that this is a feature-laden aircraft and will likely not work on a low-end computer.
Another is in the EULA, “We are also not responsible for moderate and habitual 'over-flying', leaving one with rings under their eyes and being late for work, excessive wear on joysticks and desk chairs, etc., etc.”
Finally, is this from the introduction to the manual (said manual can be perused from the Lionheart website), “Please note, this is an exotic add-on package with much software coding and extreme (radical resolution) graphics. The intensity of resources needed might be too high on older, slower computers. Please make sure you can run a high end add-on aircraft on your computer 'before' you purchase this plane.”
Having been sufficiently indoctrinated, one need only plunk down the $35.95 purchase price and let the download begin. I elected to install the FSX version and run it through a shakedown. For FSX, the download is a hefty 545.65MB that installs with ease while expanding to 1376MB on the hard drive.
The cockpit is a masterpiece.
Flight deck design of the 1960s was a rather Spartan and utilitarian exercise in engineering and the age of this airplane is apparent when viewing the panel, sporting steam gauges and rows of toggle switches. This is a pilot's aircraft-basic instruments, a rudimentary autopilot, and for navigation-not a keyboard in sight-dust off your VOR, ADF and dead reckoning navigation skills. (Although, to pacify those perhaps lacking in those fundamentals, there is a NAV/GPS toggle switch that allows navigation via an FS flight plan.
Because the Lear burns fuel at a high rate, and also has a limited electrical supply from the batteries, it is best to start out in a cold and dark cockpit state and perform as much of the pre-flight setup as possible before bringing the cockpit alive and spinning the turbines. The option of a ground power unit would have been helpful to ease the process.
But there is a trick to initial setup as various manual and on-screen warnings make abundantly clear.
The L24B should not be started by setting up cold and dark in another aircraft and then switching to this aircraft. Instead one should use the default aircraft, then select the Lear, place it an an airport, shut it down and save it in that state. Once you do that and subsequently awaken it from that state, it will start up as it should and all of the features will function properly.
Sitting in virtual cockpit mode all of the controls can be accessed but some of the instrument panel lettering can be a bit difficult to read so there are 8 sub-panel views that can be called up via keyboard to east that burden. These panels become a necessity if one opts to fly the Lear using the 2D cockpit as the switches are not available on the main panel display.
Having to use these panels made the virtual cockpit the method of choice for me to efficiently fly the aircraft. Incorporating TrackIR in that mode even eliminates the need for the sub-panels.
The toggle switches, of which there are quite a few, have a satisfying solid click when thrown and some even require the mouse button to be held while the mouse is moved in the appropriate direction to actually move the switch.
This airplane is a pure joy to fly. Once ready to go, push the throttles forward and it accelerates like a rocket. Lift the nose and convert that engine power to an initial climb rate of 4000 to 6000 fpm. It can also be a handful to land. Speed control is paramount as it is a rather sensitive craft that demands smooth control movement and that sleek shape needs some persuading to make it go slow.
So finding that fine balance and holding the approach speed is critical. And as if that was not enough of a challenge-woe to the pilot who attempts to land with anything more than a trace amount of fuel in the tip tanks. So fuel planning must be carefully attended to, or use of the fuel jettison switches will be needed prior to landing. The short wing was simply not designed to gracefully handle the weight of fuel at its far ends and what otherwise had been a most pleasant trip will conclude with a less than rewarding arrival.
Adherence to checklists is also paramount in this jet. Failure to activate the engine generators and inverters following engine start will quickly drain the batteries and use of maximum power for more than 15 minutes will spoil your day and guarantee work for the power plant mechanic. These and other unpleasant surprises can be avoided by abiding by checklist procedures.
So, it is obvious I was quite taken by this product. The bad news is it is not perfect. The good news is here are the reasons why:
- The documentation states there are nine different models/liveries provided. I only found eight.
- If using the 2D cockpit, there is no way to work the switch for cabin air. It is not on the main panel or in any of the sub panels. Since activation of this function is needed in order to extinguish a glareshield warning light it is a small problem in that mode. However, since the virtual cockpit is so well done, the necessity of using 2D is rarely an issue.
- This Learjet is a fine addition to the lineup of quality aircraft by Lionheart Creations and it is loaded with features that make its price quite reasonable. If you want a cool airplane with 1960s technology then you cannot go wrong adding this one to your hangar.