by Werner Gillespie
There are a few facts in the flightsim world – one of them is that we have always been spoilt for choice when it comes to certain types of aircraft. In recent years the likes of PMDG and other top tier developers have ensured that we have access to incredibly realistic tubeliners allowing us to simulate in the most minute details the operations of aircraft like the 737NG, 747 and the 777.
There are also other developers who have started to look towards giving another part of the flightsim community what it wants – more and more realism in terms of the Airbus series, and although I am not necessarily a big Bus fan, I have to admit that the advances in the simulations depicting these airplanes are becoming ever more realistic and ever more advanced. A2A have done a stellar job in getting the general aviation guys and girls something to drool over and so on and so forth.
However there is another fact in the community – we have a distinct lack of light business jets! The only high quality business jet that comes to mind quickly is the Cessna Mustang by Flight1 software which, although I don’t own it personally, looks amazing. One of my dreams has always been to have what many would perceive to be the ultimate in business jets – a high quality Learjet.
Ever since the early days of flightsim, or at least early days for me being FS95, one of the jets that caught my eye and I loved to fly was the Lear 35A in FS95. You had to master the lower and slower first obviously before going to the 737 and then what can only be described as a little rocket ship, the Lear 35A! In the later sims it was the Lear 45.
However, these jets, all of them default FS aircraft, lacked the heart and soul of the real thing. All credit to Microsoft for creating a serious simming platform, and add to that the fact that back in the day virtual cockpits were unheard of, it was the best we had, but in recent years with the advances of technology and hardware, I kept hoping that we would see a high quality Lear at some stage, and it is with the most profound sense of joy that I learned of the existence of the aircraft of this review, the Lear 35A by Flysimware.
INSTALLATION AND DOCUMENTATION
The download is around 146 MB in size and completes within a few minutes with a reasonable internet connection. You need to setup a store account with the developers on their website here:
Upon doing so, you can purchase the aircraft and it is then added to your store account upon which you can download the aircraft. Your installation key is held online in your store account and you can simply copy and paste into the installer when it is run and the key requested. The installer is a straightforward application you can double click, execute and then follow the easy to follow instructions online. Installation completed easily with no vices.
There is also a separate HTML-based load manager for fuel and passengers you need to download from the store. It is free upon purchasing the aircraft and it is a must in order to get the full experience as you will see later on in this review. You need to read and follow the installation instructions carefully for the load manager, however, that being said, it is an easy process and does not require you to be a programmer – also a simple process working exactly as advertised with no vices. I will get back to the functioning of the load manager later during the review.
The manual for the aircraft is also downloadable from the store at no charge. It is not automatically added during the installation of the package. The manual is fairly basic – it does not do an in depth coverage of all the systems of the aircraft and can almost be likened to the Captain Sim manuals to a certain extent. It gives you an illustrated overview of the systems and where to find what in the virtual cockpit. It also tells you in no uncertain terms which systems are and are not simulated. I will refer to this again later in the review. The manual is what is – a concise tour of the aircraft and no in depth explanation of systems. That being said it does what it is supposed to do and you won’t need to Google for tutorials because you cannot get the aircraft started up and running.
I should also mention that the load manager has a section which graphically illustrates how to get the engines started and how to operate the cabin door which has been faithfully modelled on the real deal. More on that later as well.
I should also mention at this stage that I wanted to see just how deep this sim truly runs and got a copy of the real Lear 35A manual from the internet and I will compare it to this for the pre-flight part of the review for normal flight operations.
All in all, no problems with downloading, installing and getting the package ready to use.
The exterior models are very nicely done! It certainly looks the part – this statement is made based on extensive research of the Lear 35A on the internet, both videos and photos. I have to make disclaimer here and say that I have never had the pleasure of being in or near one of these classics so I don’t have firsthand experience with them. I include a couple of screenshots for you have a look at how it appears.
You will notice that you have 9 different models including a cargo variant (of a real world cargo operator by the way), and indeed you have an option of flying cargo instead of passengers and luggage which you can load to your leisure from the load manager. You will however note that once you have a look at the models in FSX (listed as the Gates Learjet), you will see 18 models, two of each individual model. Why?
This has to do with you either being the owner of the Flight1 GNS system or not, each model having the option for either operating the default GNS530 Garmin unit or the fancy and separately sold GNS unit from Flight1. I will discuss this in a little more detail later on as well.
As you can see from the screenshots, it is very well modelled and I have no complaints about it. Very nice exterior model indeed!
As with the exterior, the interior is very nicely done – you will see an aircraft that has been lived in but also very well maintained. Remember we are talking about an aircraft that has been around since the late 1960’s but has not been battered if you will like the tubeliners flying the line every day. One can liken them to the King Airs etc. Therefore, in the cockpit you will find a very nuanced depiction of what is as I said, a well lived in but meticulously maintained aircraft. It looks pristine, but if you look closely around the instrument panel, you will find the tell tale signs of wear and tear, the little nicks and cuts.
It is a good mix between the time of design with the older look on the instruments, but is slightly modernised as can be seen from the Garmin units. This is of course in keeping with reality as well. Older aircraft still flying today has been modernised to fit the bill for being legally allowed to fly under more modern flight regulations as well as utilising new technology to lighten the workload for the crew.
You get the feel of the somewhat tight and small confines of what is the Lear 35A’s cockpit. I should also mention that apart from the odd pop-up gauges, there is no 2D panel and the aircraft has to be flown from the VC. That being said, the VC is very well done, very user friendly and is a joy to fly the aircraft from. I am really impressed by the job the developers did in creating this VC.
You will notice the absence of an overhead panel – for the Lear enthusiasts you will know this is perfectly normal. For those new to the Lear, it does not have an overhead panel. Bear in mind that the aircraft, despite being a jet, does not have the complex systems that today’s airliners have. Again, think Cessna Mustang, but years before the birth of the Mustang.
The interior oozes luxury and typical Lear quality. Just look at the Leather upholstery to the left of your instrument panel – looks good enough to want to touch! The windows have reflections from inside the cockpit as we have become used to in recent years as well. Almost every switch is clickable and functions.
Here are a few screenshots of the interior of the aircraft:
I have no gripes about the interior of the aircraft – again a stellar job by the developers.
GNS VS GTN
Now before I get into flying the aircraft there are some other areas that require some further explanation and clarification. As I said, regarding the different models, each one of the nine different repaints and models therefore provided by the developer has one of two options for navigation – you have to pick the repaint or the model that applies to your situation for each of the nine models.
Each repaint has the option to be used with either the default Garmin GNS 530 unit or the spectacular Flight1 Garmin 600 and 700 series GPS systems. If you have the Flight1 product you can install it into the aircraft and your Bendix unit on the right hand side of the two displays will be functional. Without the Flight1 system installed, you will have a dummy display for the Bendix which does not switch on. I will not attempt to give any further explanation of the Flight1 system as I do not own it and the review is conducted by using the standard Garmin GNS530 unit.
As far as I understand it the Flight1 system comes with a fully integrated VNAV (vertical navigation) capability which the Garmin GNS 530 does not possess. The GNS unit does have a VNAV display which gives you strictly advisory callouts for vertical profiles. It gets the job done however you are still in control of the vertical profile of the aircraft whereas with the Flight1 software, you have full VNAV capability.
So the long and the short of it is that if you have the GTN from Flight1 use the GTN capable model, if not use the GNS unit.
Another area which I want to outline is the load manager. As said earlier, you download it from the store and follow the installation instructions provided which is not that difficult.
The load manager also give you access to other external features of the aircraft, like locking the door which you have to do before taking off, toe make the pilots visible or invisible, to have them wear sunglasses or not and to put on the engine covers and sun shades for the windshield.
Moving past the estetics, you have the ability the load a full complement of pax with their luggage or take them all out and put some cargo in there for a cargo flight. You also have the ability to load a light, medium or full load of fuel. There is also a full schematic on the fuel flow and which pumps and crossfeeds are functioning and shows the fuel load and how it diminishes in real time.
I also gives you graphical instructions on how to use the controls to start the engines and how to operate the door lock which is somewhat more complicated as it functions exactly like the real door.
All in all the utility is easy to use, very user friendly, and it does what it needs to do. It is not overly fancy and the developer has noted that they will produce an auto installer for it soon.
Again, here are some screenshots of the manager in operation:
FLYING THE LEAR
Now flying this aircraft is deceptively simple. This is the case because as I said earlier it is not as complex as an airliner is to fly with the entrenched systems like the 737 NG or a 747-400 for example.
The deception lies in the fact that you can fly the aircraft in one of two ways – you can simply use the normal FSX-style checklists on the kneeboard which will get you going or you can work from the real world Learjet 35A manual to a large extent. I should also mention that there is no cold and dark option – you have to start with another aircraft, shut it down and then pick the Lear. Not a major problem at all.
What I have done is adopt a “best of both worlds” approach to doing the pre-flight setup on the 35A. The electrical system is almost completely modelled which means that I can do a test of the Emergency Battery just like it is described in the real word manual. This involved switching it to standby and to on and making sure the gyros in the instruments start to erect and the flags disappear. The main battery tests can also be performed according to the real manual. This involves switching on battery no 1, making sure the voltage is good, switching on battery no 2 and simultaneously switching off battery no 1 and making sure that you still have good voltage.
The same is possible for the inverters. Switch on no 1, make sure there is good load, the switch on no 2 whilst simultaneously switching off no 1 and confirming a good load. Thereafter a quick run through the annunciator lights, setting up the pressurization system which does work like it should, setting up the lights, closing and locking the door, getting your clearances and you are good to go.
The engine start procedure is also simple but unique in a way to the Lear. The fuel computers have to be switched on, which helps to manage the start of the engines, the pumps are turned on by turning on the pump switches (not the standby pumps) on the pedestal, and clipping the thrust levers into the right detent on the throttle quadrant by left-clicking on them. You are good to start!
The engine start is only slight better than the default FSX start where after the 20% and fuel flow being initiated the engine jumps to life dramatically. Once the 20% mark is reached, you place the relevant engine thrust lever back into the idle position and the fuel flow is initiated, and light up follows. Despite the little gripe about the jump to life, the engine start is quick and painless.
After start, set the flaps and avionics up, test your flight controls, set the lights and audio panels and you are ready to taxi.
You can load an FSX flightplan and after loading it it will automatically be loaded into the GNS 530 as well. No flight management computers to program etc. I usually go to the SimBrief website which give me a proper flightplan and then have the flightplan downloaded as an FSX flightplan to load into FSX.
Performance data for the take off is obtained by either using the basic figures provided for by the FSX reference sheets for the aircraft or by referencing the real world figures in the manual.
I take my take off figures from the manual. I can happily report that the flight model (FDE) is very true to the manual indeed! This aircraft can be flown by the numbers 100% of the time.
Once you are ready to taxi out, you will notice that you require quite a bit of thrust, close 70% to get the aircraft moving upon which you will have to reduce it to keep the aircraft under control during the taxi. When taxiing the aircraft the behaviour felt more than believable to me.
Upon reaching the runway, we turn on the lights, pitot heaters, anti-ice as is required and the passenger signs.
Once you open the throttles, usually to around 94% in most conditions, prepare to launch! The take off run is very short and the rotation speed, usually around 100-108 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) arrives very quickly! Almost immediately after positive rate and gear retraction, you bring the engines back to around 89-90% N1 in most cases for noise abatement but also for managing the climb.
Make no mistake – you have to plan ahead in this aircraft. Once you are behind catching up can be very difficult! I again reiterate that this is like flying a little rocket ship. The aircraft hand flies beautifully and apart from having to use a bit of rudder during the turns, there is not much in the way of difficult handling characteristics in respect of this aircraft. It feels very much akin to the NGX from PMDG in terms of feeling like it is “on rails” at times. It has very stable flight characteristics. I love it!
If you are flying SID’s bear the altitude restraints very carefully in mind due to the extreme performance of this aircraft. Plan ahead! The autopilot system of this jet, as I have alluded to previously, is not the LNAV/VNAV variety in the latest iterations of the Airbus or Boeing companies. It is far more akin to the 707/727 style autopilot in that the pilot is still the airman and the autopilot merely assists.
Once you have completed the initial take off and climb you’ll want to start to get assistance from the autopilot. To get the autopilot to climb to a selected altitude, you dial the altitude into the altitude gauge, you select the autopilot on by pushing the ENG button on the glareshield, and then you press ALT SEL on the glareshield. An amber armed indication will illuminate beneath the button indicating that the aircraft will capture the altitude once you reach the desired altitude. After this you can choose whether you want to climb in vertical speed or V/S mode or whether you want to use the IAS/MACH mode. Should you wish to climb at a specific vertical speed simply rotate the aircraft manually to the desired vertical speed and then select the switch on the glareshield which will engage the vertical speed mode. If you wish to climb at a certain airspeed, simply trim the aircraft manually for the selected speed, and engage the IAS/MACH button. That’s it.
The 35A’s manual calls for a speed profile of 250 KIAS up to 32000-34000 feet, after which a Mach .70 climb profile is maintained. So all I do is trim the aircraft at a power setting for 250 KIAS and engage the autopilot asking it to hold this speed presto, I simply increase the power in accordance with the profile provided for in the real world manual according to temperature and the aircraft climbs at 250 KIAS without any further issues. I do have to add that should you wish to hand fly the aircraft and manage the trim and airspeed manually this is a non-issue provided you can stay ahead of the aircraft and not let it get away from you especially under ATC conditions with speed and altitude constraints whilst flying SID’s. It is easy to fly.
Once you are on an intercept heading with the flightplan in the 530 system, you switch the NAV/GPS button to GPS and engage the NAV button on the glareshield. The aircraft will first arm and then intercept the and CAP (capture) the flight route. Notice that the CAP annunciation is also the mode annunciation for capturing the altitude.
Once the aircraft reaches the Mach .70 region, I disengage the speed hold and manually trim the aircraft to maintain the desired March no and alternates between manually trimming and using the V/S mode on the autopilot. Be careful with trimming at high speeds and altitudes! Although this is pretty common knowledge that the controls become more sensitive at higher altitudes and speeds, this is especially true of the 35A. It is easy to get the V/S running away with you if you overdo it. Again, stay ahead of the aircraft.’
Even fully loaded I easily get the 35A up to the service ceiling of 45 000 feet in about 17 minutes. It captures the altitude and eases into the cruise. No vices or gremlins in the autopilot system so far. Very nice!
The 35A does not have auto throttles so you need to manually set the power on the engines and from there it is simply a case of monitoring the systems and thrust settings through the duration of the cruise.
Descent and approach phases of flight are just as stable and uneventful as climbing it to cruise. You will have to set a new altitude, select the altitude hold switch on the glareshield off, pitch the aircraft down to a specific vertical speed as predetermined by your own calculations (no FMC remember), and engage the autopilot on V/S mode and then manually manage the thrust and V/S to follow a proper descent profile. The old 3 to 1 rule can be used here and so again, a lot of old school piloting and techniques accompany the flight.
The aircraft is very stable during descent. Even using the controls and hand flying the aircraft by trimming it to descent at a fixed vertical speed, you can count on a stable and easily maintainable rate of descent. That same feeling of “flying on rails”applies here.
As the aircraft is slowed down for the approach phase and according to the real world manual, a good approach can be flown by starting to deploy flaps at 200 KIAS (8 degrees), 150 KIAS (20 degrees) and by my own experience, about 10 KIAS above the VTHR (threshold speed) for your weight. As expected the aircraft does become slightly sluggish when the gear and flaps are down but it is still far more nimble than any Boeing or Airbus you have flown before.
Shooting the approach is a pure joy, whether doing it manually or by using the autopilot. If using the autopilot, you manually program the ILS frequency in the GNS530 unit and arm the NAV button on the glareshield. This will turn to CAP for capture once the ILS localizer has been intercepted. You also need to arm the GS button to intercept the glideslope, which will also turn to CAP for capture once the glideslope has been intercepted. The automatics work just as beautifully as in all other departments. You just have to manage the speed and you can then disengage the automatic systems to take over for manual landing. The aircraft does NOT have autoland capabilities.
If you choose to hand fly the aircraft all the way in, there are no vices to report, simply hold the approach speed, and trim VERY lightly to maintain the glideslope. Nothing to it.
Touch down and roll out is solid and smooth, it really has a very satisfying sensation to have the wheels touch down and to roll the aircraft out onto the runway. You have to arm the thrust reversers during approach for them to deploy. The braking is sharp but you will run a little farther down the runway than you may think before stopping! This is realistic though having been in a position to watch similar types of aircraft at our local airfield that land there from time to time. They gobble up runway no matter what. You again to engage the nose wheel steering as when taxing out to the runway for take off described above.
Taxing in and shutting down is very simple. You can then put all the chocks and sun shades etc in as described earlier in the review.
Again, no matter if you choose to use the real world procedures on the simplified ones that accompany the package, this aircraft is a dream to fly – it is deceptively simple, it handles beautifully, it is stable and it is a little rocket ship! There really is not a single thing that I can point out about the flight model that I didn’t like or enjoy. Sure, a few things are simulated, but they are clearly pointed out in the manual that have been written for this package and you know what you get. And to be honest, not an awful lot has been left out. Remember, this isn’t a Boeing or a Bus. This is, again, a 60’s design really that still has some elements of the older style jets and starting to incorporate the more modern stuff you see today, a hybrid if you will. I was thoroughly impressed and give this a big thumbs up!
I purposely wanted to do a separate section on the sound. You often find that developers can get the engine sounds right, but when in cruise the wind noise don’t “take over” as it is supposed to for example. This can destroy the experience for me. So the question is, how well does the sound set compare to the rest of the package?
The soundset was created by TSS (Turbine Sound Studios) and I was again thoroughly impressed by it! I have watched a lot of good videos on the internet about the 35A and what it sounds like. I compared this to the experience of the 35A and it was very close indeed. The wind noise was beautiful and the engine sounds when they spool up, the mechanics when gear is extended or retracted, the flaps when extended or retracted and the sounds when the hydraulics are turned on or off when the engines are shut down etc, it is all there and they sound really, really good!
So from startup to shut down, the aircraft sounds authentic and it completes the package as far as I am concerned. Really well done by the developers.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY
Just a few quick notes on some other issues – the aircraft does not have an advanced failure model. IN other words, you will not overheat the engines by incorrectly starting them for example. You will not get service based failures and things like that. The aircraft is simulated in some detail and that is that.
I have alluded to the fact that engine start is fairly similar to the default FSX start, although it sounds different due to the great soundpack. It is not terrible, but it is one area I would have liked to have been better simulated. The real feel of starting the 35A’s engines is not quite there. Not a deal braker by any means, just a thought.
There are no 2D flyable panels and apart from the few pop-up panels the aircraft has to be flown from the VC which is excellent as I have already mentioned.
So then what are the final thoughts on this beast? The short answer is I love it! It is not as complex a simulation as the PMDG stuff but as far as the Learjet goes, it isn’t off by much! The systems are far from being “vanilla or default FSX”. It has just the right mix between the old and the new with the original 35A cockpit with the added GNS 530 unit or the payware Flight1 monster installed.
The aircraft flies like you would expect it to fly. It is stable and is seemingly exactly what it purports to be – a 35A. It also looks beautiful and you certainly won’t be disappointed either with the internal of external of the aircraft and the VC is lovely.
As far as the price is concerned, it will set you back US$ 41.99. Is that a fair price? For me the answer is yes. Again, it comes back to the package that you are getting. You are not just getting good sounds or a decent VC and nothing to support that – it all interlocks beautifully to bring everything together for the final experience.
So would I recommend it? One word answer – yes! If Lears are your thing, don’t think twice – get it, you will enjoy it!
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT IT
- Great sounds
- Excellent VC
- Great modularity in being able to put the payware Flight1 Garmin system in the aircraft.
- It comes with a payload and fuel manager
- Very accurate FDE
- A great package
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT IT
- The engine start, a little more work could be done here but as I said it isn’t terribly bad.