Reviewed By: Werner Gillespie
Beechcraft King Air, a name which is invariably associated with sleek, luxurious and beautiful turboprop aircraft. The King Air 90B, which is the subject of this review, was initially conceived in 1961 as the model 120. In May 1963, the program became a concept of modifying an existing Queen Air design with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-6 engines, which was to be labelled the Model 87.
On the 14th of July 1963, Beechcraft announced that a new type had been born and thus announced to the world the arrival of what is known today as the King Air. The US army also took a keen interest and after only a few months of testing, the army took delivery of the Model 87 King Air which was dubbed the NU-8F.
During January 1965, the first definitive model, dubbed the Model 65-90, fitted with Pratt & Whitney PT6A-6 engines, took off for its maiden flight. The first production aircraft was built by the 8th of October of 1965 and by the end of that same month, 152 firm orders were placed. By the end of that same year, the first 7 had been built.
During 1966 and upon completion of 112 Model 65-90’s production was altered and production of the Model 65-A90 fitted with PT6A-20 engines was commenced. This model proved to be highly popular and successful, the company having built 206 of them during a two year period.
Shortly thereafter, production switched to the Model B90, the first of which left production in 1968.
As can clearly be seen, this aircraft has some pedigree and has been sorely missing from FSX – until now! Carenado recently released their version of the B90 model. Let’s go for a flight!
Installation and documentation
The installation file that can be downloaded from Carenado’s website is small by today’s standards, only 148 megabytes. Downloading it was quick and easy.
You receive the package in a zipped file which you have to extract. This will give you the installer, a readme file containing short and simple instructions and another readme file with some notes for those users running Prepar3d.
Once you start the installation, you are required to enter your installation details received upon purchasing the aircraft and the installation is quick and easy, no catches anywhere.
After installation, you will find the following manuals in your Microsoft Flight Simulator X\Carenado\C90B King Air\ folder:
1. C90B Avidyne Multi Function Display;
2. C90B EFIS;
3. C90B Emergency Checklist;
4. C90B Normal Checklist;
5. C90B Performance Tables;
6. C90B Reference;
7. C90B Terrain Awareness Annunciator Control Unit;
8. Carenado GPS400 User Guide;
10. GPS Annunciation Control Unit; and
11. Recommended Settings.
All of these manuals span across 58 pages, so it is all about the flying and not so much about the reading! It must also be said that although these manuals are concise, they are well written and very user friendly. The manuals dealing with the Avidyne unit and the GPS 400 unit are basic and to the point, but will get you operating these units without any difficulties, provided you follow the instructions. The instructions about the EFIS and Autopilot follows suit and although basic, will get you flying in no time at all.
The manuals contain a basic description of all the functions and what they do, but does not give a detailed description of the minute things of each unit or system. They do not intend to be manuals that will teach you every little thing there is to know about these units, like what goes on below the instrument cover, things that the average desktop simmer will never need to know in his/her life. The object is to get you flying and that is exactly what it does, period.
The checklists are well written and correspond very closely with the real deal. There are some omissions from the checklist, mainly to do with checks building up to the take off, but nothing serious. Again, the checklists get the job done.
The performance sheets are the real deal and it will give you vital information you will need to climb the aircraft to cruise altitude and then to set the cruise power properly.
The most important document to read before we get underway is the Recommended Settings manual, which gives detailed descriptions of all settings to be altered to experience the aircraft in all its visual glory as well as getting the most from the actual flight model itself, which Carenado stresses they have spent a lot of time on to accurately model. Following the instructions in any of the manuals is quick and easy, you should not experience any difficulties in following them.
The documentation then is concise, well written, user friendly and they get the job done rather well!
To start the aircraft “cold and dark”, if one intends to start it that way, will require you to follow the old Cessna trick. You will load up a Cessna or similar aircraft, turn off the battery and avionics master switch and then select the King Air straight after that in order for you to have a cold and dark state in your cockpit.
There are no external loading utilities for the aircraft, all fuel and payload settings are to be changed inside FSX’s default Fuel and Payload menu.
There is also no downloadable paint kit; however the aircraft comes with a white paint scheme which can be used to “build” a paint kit.
You also have the option of using a full High Definition VC, or a “Lite” version, which essentially excludes the cabin from the package, thus reducing the amount of polygons rendered and subsequently improving system performance. For those of you who own any of the FSX Captain Sim products, this should sound familiar!
This release only comes with a VC; there are no 2D panels from which the aircraft can be flown.
One look at this VC and you realise that you are dealing with a masterpiece! The cockpit just looks 3D straight away and one of the features that stand out for me is the little roundels encircling the steam gauges. These really look like they stand out from the flatness of the panel.
Normal view in the VC
Great detail on those steam gauges!
When you look down right in front of you, you will see the flight yoke with the digital clock on it, and depending on the light falling into the cockpit, it has that typical LCD type reaction to the light, creating a photo real clock. Gorgeous!
The chronometer and yoke
The panel height and perspective has been realistically modelled and you definitely get the feeling of being inside a King Air!
The overhead panel has been modelled to the same standard of detail and looks absolutely delicious! The same roundel accentuation is modelled into it and everything you would find in the real overhead is there.
The overhead panel
The windows all show reflections from the inside of the cabin, another really nice feature, which could be turned off, but more on that a little later on. The side windows in the cockpit can also be opened and closed according to your preference when on the ground, exactly like the real deal.
Reflections in the windows
The N1 and Torque gauges also contain digital readouts. Not that you would absolutely require it in this case - one of the best things about this VC is that all the analogue instruments are beautifully modelled and readability is not an issue at all! One of the areas that some developers sometimes struggle with is readability in the VC-mode, however in this case, the VC passed the test with flying colours! All the marking and readings on the pedestal and throttle quadrant is clearly visible.
The VC is, in the absence of a 2D panel, obviously designed to be fully functional. This does have one issue. If you look directly in front of you and look down to the lower part of the panel where all the prop switches, anti-ice, auto feather, ignition switches and the like are situated, you will find that the yoke gets in the way and you sometimes have to rotate the yoke one way or the other or push or pull the yoke all the way in or out.
This is of course a desktop simulation issue, since you cannot bend forward or duck under the yoke or lean to the left or right to get something done, and in my opinion does not detract from the simulation at all. There are two reasons for this:
1. Once you start to know the layout of the cockpit and the switches down there, you don’t have to read to know what is where; and
2. You can press the “A” key several time to cycle through several VC sub-panels.
These sub-panels are beautifully modelled and are as crisp and clear as the rest of the VC and they are zoomed in for easily locating the desired switch or system. By pressing the “A” key, you will cycle through the following views:
1. Wide angle view of the VC from behind the First Officer’s head;
2. Full face view of the Avidyne and GPS systems, which include the altitude selector and several of the NAV radio equipment;
3. The fuel system;
4. Lower full face view of the main panel from the Captain’s seat;
5. Top down view of the throttle quadrant;
6. Full face upper view of the overhead panel;
7. Full face view of the lower panel on the Captain’s side;
8. Top down view of the autopilot and pressurization system;
9. Full face and zoomed in view of the flaps, cabin climb and cabin altitude gauges; and
10. Cabin views from each of the two sides of the aircraft.
So should you get stuck with visibility in any way, it will be easy to call up these sub-panels to quickly locate and set the proper switches for each phase of flight.
Another option is to use the Shift+”X” keys to cycle through several 2D panels, which are:
1. 2D Avidyne MFD (no working radar in the 2D panel version);
2. The GPS400 unit;
3. EFIS and HSI unit in one view;
4. 2D autopilot view; and
5. A menu turning reflections and static equipment on or off.
The VC is fully clickable and functional, and very few of the systems are not modelled, but more on that a little later on...
If you want to see the VC come to life, fly it at night and turn the lighting on - absolutely gorgeous! It is like the matrix in a way - you cannot be told what it is and how it looks, you have to go and experience it for yourself!
VC at night time
So the VC is beautifully modelled and should become second nature to operate very quickly.
The only thing that is missing here is a few nicks and cuts to show that the aircraft has seen some service. This is however an element of personal preference and in no way detracts from the beauty of this VC!
As can be seen from the screenshots I have taken, you will notice that the same level of detail that went into designing the interior have also found its way to the exterior of the aircraft.
All the parts look gorgeous and they work the way you would expect them to in the real aircraft. The only missing element as far as I am concerned is a more “weathered” look, as if the aircraft has seen a little service, which is not modelled here. It looks brand new. It has to be said however that this element is simply personal preference and in no way detracts from the overall package.
The screenshots do all the talking here!
Exterior - front
Exterior - left
Exterior - right
Exterior - rear
One of the things you will immediately notice, and my most favourite cockpit addition, is the Avidyne MFD system. This instrument provides you with the capabilities of a FMC in an airliner cockpit; however you cannot link it to the autopilot for navigation purposes.
The information you can obtain from the system is the following:
1. A general GPS flight map showing the flight progress.
2. The TAWS-system, which will show you when you are flying in areas which poses a danger to you and the aircraft’s physical well-being in a similar way to the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) of a Boeing or an Airbus. This is a wonderful system to have when flying in unknown territory or bad visibility.
3. Trip information, which is akin to the “LEGS” page on an FMC in an airliner. This stops you from having to sit with your nose in the Navigation Log to try and keep track of distance to your destination and the distance to the top of your descent.
4. The Airports Nearest to Position page, which is one of my personal favourites! By selecting an airport it will provide you with an airport layout with all navigation and communication frequencies for that airport. Very useful indeed!
5. The Aux page which allows you to change various settings for the system.
6. The radar page, which is only available when using the system in VC mode. To get it to display anything you have to be in some bad weather, as it acts upon cloudiness information alone. Very nicely done!
The Avidyne at work - the weather radar display
The EFIS is modelled as you would expect it and so too is the autopilot. The only functions that you cannot use on the autopilot is the VS (vertical speed) and the IAS (Indicated Air Speed) functions.
The fuel system is realistically modelled. All procedures for checking the various bits and pieces can be followed to the letter.
The chronometer function on the yoke works properly as well. I have found that the cabin will still pressurize with the bleeds open or closed which casts a bit of suspicion on the pressurization system, but this is nothing major.
I have also found that the electrical and de-icing systems function properly. The only gripe I have about the electrical system is that the reset function on the generators don’t seem to operate as I cannot get the generators into “reset”, but again, it can be just as easily accomplished by switching the generator off and back on again - not the proper procedure, but a good way to do it if you absolutely have to! The annunciation systems also function realistically.
The reason given by Carenado as to why some of the systems are not modelled or completely modelled, is that these are restricted by the way FSX operates. Having said that, Carenado also confirmed that the aircraft is built around native FSX technology, nothing more. This a more than fair comment and I can only say that even for the purist, most of these little items can or will be overlooked.
So in summarising then, the systems programming is substantial and a lot of detail was given to reproducing the Avidyne and GPS400 units accurately and that in itself is a marvellous addition to the sim. They more than compensate for the few little items which did not get modelled due to FSX’s restrictions and the systems’ operation of this aircraft is an enjoyable experience with a lot of realism added into it.
Sound, and not just one item of the sound package, but the package as a whole, forms one of the most important parts of completing the immersion of the simulation. It can either round off or detract from the package if the sound package in itself is not properly rounded off.
Now, I have never had the pleasure to be in the cockpit of a King Air before, at least not one that is in flight. What I decided to do therefore, was to have a look at various quality cockpit videos of King Airs, and mores specifically the model 90 whilst in flight, and I can guarantee that the prospective Captain will enjoy the sound of the package. It is realistic and adds another touch of class to the what has already been said in the passages above.
I really enjoyed the sound package and I have every reason to believe that other users will be doing the same! It really captures the heart and soul of the King Air’s PT6A engines!
Okay, so we have established that the aircraft systems are quite good and that it looks and sounds authentic, so the next obvious question is how well does it fly?
First of all, we have to think about what we are about to do here. We have two turbine engines generating at the maximum 1315 lbs-feet of torque, which amounts to 2630 lbs-feet in total. We have two large propellers which will turn at around 2200 rpm at take off and they will spin counter clockwise and they are not contra-rotating propellers. If you have ever doubted this, ask a few Cessna 182 pilots about their first outings in this fairly small aircraft when converting from a C-172. Many a pilot have ended up next to the runway due the sharp increase in torque caused by the larger and more powerful engine which powers the C-182.
Right, so that tells us two things - firstly, once those props get up to speed, the torque which is generated will cause the aircraft to tend to veer quite drastically in the direction of the propeller spin, which is to the left of the runway, and two, once the wheels leave terra firma, the stabilizing effect of the wheels will cease and we will have a moment which centres around the shafts of the propellers causing the left wing to drop a bit since again, the propellers are spinning counter clockwise.
This I can say with certainty has been beautifully modelled! You will have to watch the take off run and it takes a bit of practice to get it right. Another thing you will have to be careful with is not to let the propellers “run away”. Don’t simply ram the throttles all the way forward like a Concorde and expect it to have no results - you will get nasty results!
The engines won’t get damaged but you will experience what can happen when the props run away and overspeeds. This is but one of the nuances you will encounter while still learning to operate the aircraft. Treat those throttles with respect!
Secondly, if you have difficulty mastering managing the yaw on take off, just trim the rudder to about 3% and the ailerons by 1% to opposite side of the induced yaw and wing droop. It doesn’t take the effect away, but makes it easier to cope with!
You will also have to expect slowish climb outs. This is not a pure jet aircraft!
I have found the handling to be very stable. The only gripe I have is that the pitch may be a little too sensitive, but calibrating your controls will deal with this quite well.
I have found that engaging the autopilot and doing a fully automated climb to cruise altitude has produced no vices and the autopilot flies the aircraft smoothly and predictably, provided of course that you operate the autopilot as described in the accompanying manuals. Do something silly and you will get silly results, but that goes without saying!
Putting the aircraft into the cruise and flying it in the cruise whilst on autopilot or simply by manually trimming it, produces smooth and predictable results. It handles bad weather and light to moderate turbulence in very much the same way you would expect for a light twin.
Descending the aircraft is a breeze - again the aircraft is stable. There are no vices in this flight regime, either in automatic flight or by trimming it for manual flight.
Flying an approach and landing is straightforward, whether you choose to fly the approach manually or on ILS. The only gripe I have is that the ILS tends to be a bit sluggish when intercepting, but this is due to the fact that FSX native systems are used and can easily be overcome by choosing to use a slightly less steep intercept angle on the localiser.
Hand flying an approach is just wonderful! The view from the VC straight down the nose of the aircraft puts all the most vital instruments right in your field of vision and glancing down to them whilst keeping track of the runway itself is a breeze! Even hand flying more demanding instrument approaches are straightforward here with the setup.
One thing you will have to be cautious of is the gyro drift. Watch it during your flight or you will experience incorrect headings when the need arises to use you headings, like when you have to set up for landing!
You will find that the aircraft is quite capable of taxiing on idle power with the condition levers set fully forward, even when fully loaded - this is a true King Air feature and not a mistake by the developers.
I have also found that this can cause the aircraft to run away with you during taxi. Solution? Use a lower setting on your condition levers, or you can do what the real King Air pilots do - taxi with a bit of REVERSE! Yeah, you’ve got it! It is an old King Air rule not to use brakes when taxiing at all, just use a bit of reverse.
Now, let me be clear about this, I am not a real world King Air pilot, but folks, there are lots of real world King Air pilots out there on the net and in the various forums who make invaluable contributions to our simulation experiences. It is in such forums that I have made these discoveries and it greatly adds to what has been done realism wise.
Let me also be clear about something else - all the information you need to get a enjoying simulation experience are contained in the documents. It is an aircraft that the relatively inexperienced simmer can take and get used to quite quickly. But it is also my belief that real King Air pilots will find all the little nuances, or most of them anyway, that makes the King Air the amazing aircraft that it turned out to be!
What I also found is that when comparing the indicated outside air temperature to the tables provided for climb and cruise, the book values were all present and correct! You can use all the power settings as indicated and the aircraft will not disappoint. This is an aircraft that can most definitely be flown by the book performance wise.
So then, in summary on the flight model - I loved it! The few niggles that I have mentioned here does not detract from the enjoyment of the simulation. I verily believe that if you are looking for a realistic and enjoyable experience in a King Air 90 for FSX, you have to look no further. This is it!
On a side note...
On the recommendation by a fellow forum member, I spent the $ 5.00 and purchased the real King Air 90 pilot operating handbook from the King Air Training website.
This obviously contains some more performance charts and flight planning information Carenado did not include in the original package. Now, if you are really interested in getting down to the nitty gritty in flight planning and performance calculation, this won’t disappoint! Again folks, this is not required - all the information you need to fly this aircraft is in the download you buy from Carenado.
I used the information to calculate a de-rated take off and once again, the numbers were present and correct!
Carenado did say they had the flight model tested by real world King Air pilots. Enough said then!
So then, what sort of performance hit does this have on your system? I tested this sim on a Intel Core2Quad Q9550 CPU which is not over clocked, running 6 GB RAM and a GeForce 480GTX with 768 MB video memory.
While using both the Lite and full VC versions, I easily clocked 40 fps at KORD on the ground whilst being airborne generates a fair amount of frames per second more. I do not have all my FSX display settings maxed out.
I use the venetubo website’s tweaks to my system. This basically sets my scenery at Medium High. I mainly fly online, so I do not use AI traffic, although even when turning AI traffic on and pushing it up to about 30% I noticed no drop in performance. I also tested the package with bad weather take offs and landings and I have to say that I lost no more than 3-5 fps.
I verily believe that if you have a mid range system you won’t be having any difficulties in running the aircraft smoothly.
In conclusion? Here we have an aircraft which is built around FSX native technology which does have a few niggles with it, but in short, is a pleasure to fly! Carenado have created an aircraft which can be flown and enjoyed by the novice as well as the experienced simmer, and also an aircraft which can be flown by the numbers.
The aircraft is beautiful to look at, it flies magnificently, and it sounds great. In conclusion, one can say that despite the few niggles here and there, this is a marvellously rounded off package which for me, after having studied King Air videos and the real King Air POH, captures the heart and soul of the aircraft.
I mainly fly pure jet airliners, but this is certainly a twin turboprop that takes a place amongst my favourites in my personal hangar and I will be logging hundreds and thousands of hours with it in the future. And the price? Believe me; it is well worth the $ 39.95 that you will be spending on it!
What I Like About the Beechcraft King Air 90B
- The sounds
- The flight model - can be flown by the book, but have the little nuances to round off the flight model!
- The beautifully modelled VC
- The specially modelled Avidyne and GPS400 units
- A working weather radar
- Concise but useful and user friendly manuals included in the package
- The price!
- Many different liveries to choose from, including military versions
What I Don't Like About the Beechcraft King Air 90B
- No tutorial flight
- There might have been a more weathered look to the aircraft