A review by Mike Cameron. For my second X-Plane review I am going to be reviewing the Simcoders Reality Expansion Pack for the Carenado Cessna Turbo 210M Centurion II. I was originally planning to review both the aircraft and the expansion pack but after some thought I decided to review just the expansion pack because this is an older Carenado aircraft and probably has been reviewed several times already. That being said as I review this product, I will also try to comment about the aircraft features when I see them and will also capture screen grabs of the wonderful Carenado textures and features.
As the name of this product implies, the Simcoders Reality Expansion Pack adds realistic features to the Carenado CT210M. Most of the enhancements work in the background unless you operate the aircraft outside of its limits and you will be told by this program. Other program features you will be in control and will be a large part of this review. Some of the many features of this product include:
- Realistic Animations and Sounds including – realistic cylinders compression which enhances propeller movements at very low RPM’s and at startup and shutdown.
- Correct Power Output
- Correct Fuel Flow
- Realistic Startup Procedures
Realistic Engine Issues Including –
- Vapor Lock & Fuel Flooding Which Prevent Engine Startup.
- Oil Characteristics can Affect Engine Behavior.
- Spark Plug Fowling.
- Incorrect Mixture Leaning May Cause Engine Damage.
- Realistic Turbocharger Waste Gate Operation.
- Engine Pre-heater and Winterization Kit For Those Cold Days.
- Maintenance Hangar.
- Pre-flight Inspection and On Screen Checklist.
- Realistic Battery Operation and Avionics Failures.
- Realistic Ground Roll Physics, Nose Wheel Taxi, Gear Failure and Brake Sounds.
- Realistic Oxygen System
As you can see, the Simcoders Reality Expansion Pack greatly enhances the simulation experience for the Carenado CT210M aircraft for X-Plane 10.
This is very easy, first install the Carenado aircraft. Unpack the REP folder and place the enclosed “REP” folder into the C210 aircraft “Plugins” folder. Start XP10 and load the Carenado T210M. Click “Understood” if prompted by the popup message. Select “Simcoders” and “Enable Package” from this aircraft’s “Plugin’s” menu item. Type the product “License Key” when requested and this is a very short and uncomplicated so entering it should not be an issue. The expansion pack files will now install and when this is completed the program will ask you to reload the aircraft but I recommend exiting X-Plane, restarting and loading the Carenado T210M. This aircraft is now enhanced for a more realistic simulation experience. A very detailed PDF manual is included along with a compatibility file for Saitek hardware. The Reality Expansion Pack is also compatible with Head Shake Version 1.5 or higher. Lastly, adjust the XP10 sounds as recommended by the manual.
Getting Started and In Cockpit Options
After activating the expansion pack and reloading the CT210M, five small icons have been added to the left side of the cockpit. The top icon is for the aircraft’s kneeboard with the checklists and reference information. The kneeboard can also be accessed by moving the mouse over the right side of the cockpit. I find this auto view option very annoying because I sometimes open it when I do not want to view it. It would be nice to disable this because I prefer the printed checklists but at least I can move this window to another area so that it is not in my way if I want to look at it. The second icon is used to open the “Walk-a-Round” feature which I will review in the next section. The “Hand” icon activates the tow bar and automatically switches to an exterior view from the nose with the tow bar attached. It is hard to read from my screen grab but I immediately receive a REP warning message that I need to release the parking brake before using the tow bar, which makes sense. The tow bar is very easy to use, simply use your joystick/yoke pitch and roll controls to position your aircraft on the ramp. Which brings me to a minor issue that I experienced, I could not get this realistic feature to work on a grass or soft surface. I could only move my aircraft on a hard ramp surface. Click on the icon again to return to the cockpit view.
The fourth icon is a feature that I have come to know very well since I have been using the Reality Expansion Pack for the Carenado T210M, the “Maintenance Hangar”. This window has five tabs along the top for checking the status of the carious aircraft systems that REP monitors. The many features include access to the winterization options, refill or change the oil, oxygen system & spark plugs and perform other T210M maintenance tasks. I am including screen grabs here of the newly installed expansion pack to display what it should look like with everything running well and all fluids full. After a flight I will capture these screen grabs again to see how badly I treated my new aircraft. A have a couple of small issues that I have with the “Maintenance Hangar” and the manual. I like the realism to be able to select the oil grade and the spark plug type but it would have been nice to have more information either in the manual or via tool tips as to why or when you would use the various options. The other issue that I have is that the oxygen load depletes quick even when I am on the ground with no systems powered on.
The last REP icon is for realistic “Weight and Balance” loading. The manual does an outstanding job explaining this feature and it is very easy to use. This window provides all of the information that you will need for proper loading of this aircraft and the best part is that it performs all of the calculations. Simply enter the various weights on the left side of the window and as long as the takeoff and landing settings on the right side remain in the green, you are good to go. The issue I have with this feature and one that will need to be fixed is that the load stations are labeled as Kilograms but the default weights in the front row seem more like pounds instead of kilograms. The pilot is listed as 150kg and the copilot is 200kg and when I convert these too pounds they would be 331 and 441 pounds, a pretty heavy crew. What I think is happening is that that Simcoders put the entire default load in these two positions but for a program with “Reality” in the title I wish they would have started with realistic weights. I adjust these amounts and place 50kg in the baggage compartment. It is now time to enter the passenger compartment weights and I thought I would start with 363kg and when divided by four is roughly 91kg per seat. As you can see with this load, I am clearly outside of the weight and balance limits so I reduce the passenger weights for this trip and when the weight and balance is acceptable, select “Apply” to load the aircraft. It is now time to perform the preflight inspection.
Before starting the external pre-flight inspection I want to load an Alaska airport using real world time (winter) and weather to demonstrate another realistic REP feature, the engine pre-heater. One thing that I like about the X-Plane simulator platform is the abundance of quality free scenery’s that are available to download and install. The airport that I am going to depart from in the next section is Icy Bay Airport developed by R Design. I verify the weather and according to the report it is -.9 C or 30.2 F so it should be cold enough that I will need to use the engine heater. REP suggests this with the warning message across the top of the screen and for the rest of the review I will crop the screen grabs with these messages to be easier to read when published. The engine pre-heater is selected from the “Engine Tools” window from the Maintenance Hangar. Selecting the heater will also make static object of the heater visible along with very realistic sound effects. According to the manual it takes about 30 to 60 minutes to realistically pre-heat the C210 engine. The Reality Expansion Pack provides a “Fast Warmup” to instantly warm the engine which is what I use because I do not have time to wait up to 60 minutes to fly my simulated aircraft. I decided to turn off real world weather for the rest of this review because in Alaska at this time of year with real weather, it is too dark to capture screen grabs.
Before starting the preflight inspection, activate the Carenado static elements so procedures related to them will be simulated this greatly adds to the experience. To start the preflight and walk around process I select the second icon from the top. A new window will open with the procedures and a progress graphic. I recommend adjusting your cockpit view before starting this so that you can see the entire cockpit because during the walk around you cannot pan your view around the cockpit. Hopefully this gets fixed because I could not perform the fuel control and oxygen checks because even with the adjusted view levels I could not see these controls during the preflight. The exterior inspection also allows me to see the wonderful Carenado CT210M exterior features such as the detailed luggage in the baggage compartment during this inspection. The REP external inspection is very easy and allows you to interact with the aircraft by clicking on the box inside the procedure window and the corresponding surface area will be animated realistically as if you were physically there. Missing though as far as I can tell is the ability to inspect for damaged parts which would greatly enhance this simulation. What I do like is that the camera views for each of inspection areas are properly positioned. I also love the sound effects associated when inspecting the various control surfaces. The fuel and oil inspections are self-explanatory but I wish the fuel inspection was more realistic where the pilot can see if there is visible contamination instead of just be told, but still this better than nothing with the aircraft without this expansion pack. Another thing that is nice about the REP exterior inspection is that if you need to add oil, the pilot can open the “Maintenance Hangar” and refill the oil which is great! I really like the quality of the Carenado exterior features and textures. After completing the inspection pressing the icon again will close the preflight window and return to the cockpit view which is also nice.
Engine Start and First Review Flight
The CT210M is now ready for engine start and I am going to be using the printed checklists because I prefer the printed document instead using the included onscreen checklist. I am also using the REP checklist instead of the one supplied by Carenado. Even before I can start the engine, REP is sending me warning messages. In this case I left the fuel pump turned on with full throttle for too long and it said that I had flooded the engine. I followed the on screen procedures for a flooded engine start and REP instantly sends me another couple messages about reducing the throttle and also avoiding high RPM’s until the oil temperature warms up which will take some time, so be patient. For this short flight I am going to fly along the shoreline to Yakataga (PACY). According to the X-Plane map the USS Nimitz are nearby so I plan to fly near them to see how they look in the simulator. I did not have any issues with the “Before Takeoff” checklist and because this is a Reality Expansion Pack the magneto and propeller checks are realistically simulated. When performing the flight controls check, I notice what looks like some serious smoke coming from somewhere so I decide to shut down and open the “Maintenance Hangar”. Everything appears to be in working order so hopefully these are the effects generated when taxiing on a gravel airstrip and not a program issue. Before I could restart the engine REP reported that the aircraft was experiencing vapor lock so I perform the required procedure (mixture off and fuel pump on for 30 seconds). I like the fuel pump sound effect that Carenado provides. I line up to takeoff but I do not think that the Carenado CT210M likes gravel surfaced airstrips because the aircraft acts as if the wheels are stuck in the ground so I apply power too aggressively and destroyed the engine, back to maintenance! I try again and manage to takeoff without issue. I clear terrain and then reduce power, RPM and raise the flaps. I start my gradual climb and fly towards the USS Nimitz. There are also several hot air balloons flying on this beautiful day and there are some nice looking AI cruise ships included with the default XP10 scenery. REP will always provide you with onscreen tips when you do something wrong. For example, when I raised the landing gear, REP told me that I should tap the brakes before retracting the gear. The smoke textures that I saw on the ground disappeared as soon as I was in the air so this answers my previous question that it was related to the surface. I continue my flight and decide to setup my approach into Yakataga. The “Descent”, “Before Landing” and “Normal Landing” procedures are self-explanatory and other then remembering to lower the gear, the “Descent” checklist reminds the pilot to use full rich mixture if using idle throttle for the descent. On previous flights I would sometimes lower the landing gear at too fast of airspeed and REP warned me about this and I like that it told me the proper airspeed for lowering the gear. I wait until I am at the proper airspeed (100 knots) on this flight even though the REP printed checklist says it is ok to lower the gear below 165 knots. Another warning that I received from REP is to be in straight and level flight when lowering the flaps. I did not realize how unrealistically I have been operating simulated aircraft and the Reality Expansion Pack is a wonderful learning tool. Yakataga is not enhanced in X-Plane so I approach and land without issue. I then follow the shutdown procedures without issue and open the “Maintenance Hangar” to see how I treated my aircraft. Other than the depleted oxygen, the only major issue is with the landing gear and probably was caused by incorrect unpaved airstrip operations.
Another Longer Flight
For my second review flight I am going to perform a longer flight from Juneau International Airport (PAJN) to Wrangell Airport (PAWG). Both airports are quality freeware scenery products with PAJN developed by MISTERX6 and PAWG developed by RDESIGN. I am also going to climb and cruise at 12,000 feet on this 107 mile cross country flight so I will be able to use the REP oxygen system. I loaded the aircraft with a 1663kg takeoff weight which is within the safe takeoff limits. Today’s flight will use the clear X-Plane weather theme because the real weather is not very nice on this cold February day. I perform the preflight, start the engine and program the GPS but despite my best efforts, REP still reports that I started the engine with too much power. I reduce the throttle quickly and hopefully have not done too much damage to my engine. My Saitek autopilot started to act up on this flight, I enter my cruise altitude without issue but when I enter the desired vertical speed rate, this action also activated the autopilot and started to control the power, which is not good. The parking brake held my aircraft in place but REP warned me about avoiding excessive manifold pressure until the engine is warm. I take off and do my best not to apply power to aggressively and reduce power shortly after departure. For some reason the airspeed does not want to increase while I climb and the stall warning horn starts to sound along with constant REP warning messages. I scan the cockpit and discover the issue; I forgot to verify that the elevator trim during preflight and it was at an incorrect position, which will teach me not to try to do everything from memory. I will have to be more careful on future flights. After adjusting the trim, my airspeed increases, continue my climb and enjoy the beautiful Alaskan scenery. I receive warnings about adjusting my mixture to avoid engine damage but I wish REP would provide more information or suggestions instead of just providing warnings. As I approach 10,000 feet, I turn on the autopilot and the oxygen system. The autopilot does a nice job controlling power for a nice steady climb without becoming too slow. At 12,000 feet I perform the “Cruise” checklist procedures without issue and continue to enjoy the scenery outside. I like that the checklists are detailed enough to included recommended power settings instead of just saying “adjust power” for climb, cruise or descent. The Carenado instrument panel lighting is very nice. At this point of the flight, the autopilot for some reason does not want to maintain altitude and the airspeed starts decreasing. I am close enough the beginning descent point of the flight that I take manual control of the CT210M and begin my descent into Wrangell. As I descend below 10,000 feet, I turn off the oxygen system and verify that this system was working properly by looking at the oxygen gauge and it has which is another very realistic feature of this program. I setup my approach and try to slow the aircraft so I can start the approach for landing into PAWG. I manage to land without issue but REP instantly starts warning me about my power settings but at least I did not damage the landing gear. I shutdown and open the “Maintenance Hangar” to see how I treated my aircraft. Other than a depleted battery, which I do not understand because I had the alternator on the entire flight, the rest of the systems look good and the oxygen level matches what the oxygen gauge displayed which is great.
The Reality Expansion Pack for the Carenado T210M is available from xplane.org and fspilotshop.com so unlike some X-Plane products I consider it very accessible.
The retail price is $19.95 which I consider affordable for the amount of realism that the REP product adds to this older Carenado aircraft. I did see the REP products on sale last year during the holiday sales so from time to time it will be more affordable.
Ease of Installation
As with most X-Plane expansion products, the Reality Expansion Pack is very easy to install and I like that it has an easy serial key to enter instead of a long complicated one. The installation instructions do not say to do this but I recommend shutting the simulator down and restarting your computer after activation rather than just reloading the aircraft. The included documentation is excellent.
Features & System Performance
This program has everything that you would want for a more realistic simulated experience with the Carenado T210M aircraft. Besides all of the features that you can see such as the preflight inspection, maintenance, realistic weight & balance and more, REP is also working behind the scenes to realistically simulate and monitor the aircraft’s various systems. I did not have performance issues when using this product and if your computer meets the system requirements for the aircraft, it should not have issues with the Reality Expansion Pack.
There really is not too much more for me to say here. If you own any of the Carenado aircraft that Simcoders has created a Reality Expansion Pack for (this aircraft, Bonanza F33, A36 and the B58 Baron) I recommend purchasing REP for that aircraft for the most realistic simulated experience possible. I purchased the Beechcraft Bonanza F33 and A36 during the Carenado holiday sale and look forward to purchasing the REP products for those aircraft in the near future. I want to thank Simcoders and xplane.org for supplying the review copy of the Reality Expansion Pack for the Carenado T210M aircraft. Product details are available here and the support forum here.
- Intel Desktop Computer
- Intel i5 4670K 3.4Ghz Non OC Processor
- 8GB DDR3 1833 Memory
- 2TB SATA HD (7200 RPM)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX970 Video Card with 4GB GDDR5 Memory
- Saitek Cessna Pro Flight Yoke, Rudder Pedals
- Go Flight GF-LGT-II Landing Gear and Trim Control Module
- Go Flight GF-SECM Single Engine Switch Control Module
- X-Plane 10 – 64Bit
- Windows 7 – 64 Bit
- Sky Maxx Pro V4 and Real Weather Connector
- Various Free X-Plane Scenery and Plugins
Flight Test Time: 25 hours