Review for FSX/P3D
by Marlon Carter
When it comes to general aviation, earning the right to fly a multi-engine aircraft is the ultimate accomplishment for an aspiring pilot. Over the years, companies such as Beechcraft and Piper have all played a significant role in producing twin engine trainer aircraft that all pilots today have flown at some point in their training. Looking forward, we now have a new twin-engine trainer that has quickly become very popular among pilots. In 2002, Diamond Aircraft Industries first flew their all new twin-engine aircraft called the DA42 Twin Star. What makes this aircraft so unique? Well first of all, the airframe is made up largely from carbon composite material and is equipped with a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit right out of the factory. In addition to the new material and upgraded cockpit avionics, the DA42 is one of the few aircraft that uses diesel fuel instead of AVGAS and it sees a remarkable improvement in fuel consumption. Further development on the DA42 includes Fly-By-Wire, Flight Envelope Protection and Autoland capabilities!
The DA42’s future as the primary multi-engine trainer of choice seems to be secure and it comes as no surprise that this aircraft has caught the attention of the FS community with the release of the Alabeo DA42 Twin Star. Here is a list of some of the features packed into this aircraft.
6 HD liveries
1 Blank texture
Normal Procedures PDF
Emergency Procedures PDF
Performance tables PDF
Quick Reference PDF
KFC225 Autopilot PDF
Alabeo G1000 PDF
The fact that Alabeo and Carendo work hand in hand is clearly seen in the documentation that has been provided with this aircraft. While there is a fairly detailed operation manual included, it focuses on the normal procedures of flying the aircraft rather than how various systems of the aircraft work. For example, there is nothing said on the fuel system or any other system of the aircraft
As far as the G1000 is concerned, the manual gives you all the information you need for what has been provided in this product. The Alabeo G1000 is very much the same as the G1000 seen on Carenado aircraft and they include numerous features. While the G1000 is OK, there is still room for improvement as we will see in the flight report. All in all, the documentation is OK, but it lacks a lot vital information for users to familiarize themselves with this aircraft. Another area of disappointment was that the autopilot documentation was incorrect and it was actually for a similar but very different autopilot model.
For exterior models, Alabeo has always done a fantastic job. The smooth lines, reflective HD textures and stunning visual details are all part of this amazing product. The DA42 has a very unique look and it was surprising to see the accuracy of this model as you examine the engine cowl, canopy and the tail section of this aircraft. Some of the exterior features that stand out the most are the volumetric prop effect, blade shine effect and the new wing flex! While some of these features have been present in previous products, the new wing flex feature is new to the world of GA aircraft. The wing flex effect isn’t as obvious as on an A330, but it definitely reflects the realistic flex of the aircraft while in flight.
Another aspect of the exterior model that has to be mentions is the stunning HD liveries. These liveries are of the highest quality and they bring this aircraft to life through the use of reflective shine and meticulous detailing. Right out of the box, it is hard to imagine anyone not being pleased by the 6 amazing liveries that have been provided. Ultimately, the exterior model is immaculate and I honestly believe that the individual(s) who modeled this aircraft are very gifted and they have a unique eye for detail. Here are a few screenshots that nicely showcases the amazing quality of this model.
Moving into the interior of the aircraft, the quality that shine on the outside is perfectly reflected on the inside. The cockpit panel perfectly captures the look of a modern trainer with the G1000 being the centerpiece. The cockpit writing and displays are all very high quality with the gauges having an option for showing reflections. The quality of the seats was very impressive as they captured the look and feel of the real aircraft. From the interior, one can also admire the window scratch effect which gives a realistic feel to flying an aircraft of this nature.
About year ago, I had the opportunity to fly onboard the DA40 and I was left speechless with the vast view outside from the cockpit. For anyone who has become familiar with flying the high wing Cessna aircraft, flying the DA42 (which has the same view as the DA40), will be a breath of fresh air. I found this to be the case with the simulated version of the DA42 and a new experience to flying VFR.At night, the cockpit detail is also enhanced by individual lighting controls that can be adjusted for intensity in some cases. This gives the user full control over their preference of having full cockpit lighting or a more subtle lighting that allows you to enjoy the scenery outside.
While the overall quality of the interior deserves high praises, there were a few minor errors that I will point out in the flight report section of this review. Ultimately, I think these screenshots will speak for themselves and can attest to the high level of detail found in the cockpit.
Our test flight for today takes us from TLPC to TVSM. While this is a short flight for a twin engine aircraft, we will be putting this aircraft through its paces to see how well it performs. Before taking off, I decided to load up the aircraft to provide a much more realistic flight scenario. After loading up the aircraft to simulate 3 adults and baggage, I started up the aircraft as per the normal procedures manual. Following the manual wasn’t a very difficult task and it created a sense of purpose while using the aircraft. One of the innovations of the DA-42 and other G1000 equipped aircraft is that the displays can be turned on to monitor your engine instruments during the startup. After the startup procedure was completed (which is very simple), I loaded up our flightplan to Mustique Island which can be done via the FSX flight planner or through the G1000 itself. In the past, the G1000 used by Carenado/Alabeo didn’t allow you to load a custom flight plan by typing in selected waypoints. In the previous version you had to rely on the default FSX flight planner which wasn’t very enjoyable. In their more recent version of the G1000, you now have the ability to type individual waypoints into your flightplan. Doing this was a very easy task and it was made even easier since you can also use your keyboard to type in the waypoints.
Taxying the aircraft felt very realistic. Alabeo has managed to find the perfect balance between thrust and ground friction for a very smooth experience even when turning. When darting down the runway for takeoff, it’s quite apparent from the handling that you are flying a twin engine aircraft. Both the performance and the slight P-Factor elements of this aircraft seem to be very consistent with what you would expect from the real aircraft. Once in the air, the aircraft is a joy to fly by hand. I have always been an advocate for hand flying and this aircraft has a very balanced flight model that is quite convincing. If you fly with weather programs such as ASN, the shifting winds will also add a bit of dynamics to your flying as the aircraft flies through areas of turbulence.
After passing 4000 feet, I decided to turn on the autopilot to test its stability and how accurately the system was modelled. The initial release had a few issues which were quickly cleared up, but I found that the autopilot unit was very basic in its operation and it lacked many of the features seen and heard in the real unit such as the altitude call outs when intercepting a selected altitude. If we were to ignore these finer details, I would say that the autopilot does its job of managing the aircraft quite well.
While cruising at 6000 feet, I would normally take the time to examine some of the systems of an aircraft. However, with the DA42, the main system of this aircraft comprises of the G1000 and its many features. While the G1000 isn’t as realistic as the ones you find in Flight1 products (no ADF, Transponder is always ON etc.), it serves its purpose quite nicely with a few features that are very unique. One of these features is the electronic checklist which is very easy to use and it covered both normal and abnormal procedures. The overall quality of the map display was basically the same as you would find in the default GPS but with a few added features for terrain displays. In addition to a few enhancements, the optional reflective displays gave the G1000 a refreshing look.
Moving away from the G1000, another interesting “feature” of this aircraft was the De-icing System. I was hoping that Alabeo would have modelled this system accurately, but even with working switches, this system seems to be non-functional. This was a bit of a disappointment since the aircraft doesn’t offer much to begin with and if you typically fly in winter conditions, flying would have been much more interesting if this system were functional with perhaps some visual icing effects. Other systems such as the fuel system seemed to be working quite nicely as far as turning it on and off are concerned, but I have some doubts as to the accuracy of the fuel consumption which seems to use fuel from the auxiliary tanks first before using from the main tanks.
While landing at Mustique, I thought it would be a nice idea to try a single engine landing to test how well the aircraft flies. After shutting down engine number 1, the yaw effect was quite significant as you would expect. While this made landing the aircraft quite a challenge as this unique airport, the rudder controls were effective in keeping the aircraft on (or close to) the centerline. In the end, I think everyone will enjoy flying this aircraft with its immersive sound and superb handling. While to the hardcore enthusiast this product maybe lacking in some areas, I think that it is a balanced product with room for improvement.
In conclusion, I think that Alabeo did a great job in recreating this modern twin trainer. The exterior and the interior both capture the essence of the aircraft and there is no mistaking the fact that you are flying a modern aircraft. When it comes to documentation, this product lacks some essential information on the basic systems of the aircraft and it doesn’t tell you how they work or whether they have been fully modelled. The G1000 is basically the same G1000 unit seen in previously released Carenado products and is a bit outdated in terms of functionality. Some of the basic features that are lacking were mentioned in the flight report but I am hopeful that Alabeo/Carenado will update this unit for any future products by adding transponder that can be turned off and perhaps a higher quality interface.
As far as the flight model is concerned, I enjoyed flying this aircraft both manually and by using the autopilot. After comparing my own experience with the DA-40 and videos of the DA-42, I found that the flight model was balanced. All in all, the DA-42 is a good product and one that everyone can find enjoyment in using. The only sensitive area of the product is the price which is a bit on the high side. However, if paying $34.95 isn’t a problem, you will be purchasing the best DA-42 on the FS market with stunning visuals and a balanced simulation of its systems. While I would recommend this product to the FS community, I would also say that Alabeo has a unique opportunity to further enhance this product to be one of the best twin trainers out there and I am hopeful that future service packs will correct some of the mistakes and add more features. Well done Alabeo, but there is still room for improvement.