AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Flight1 Cessna 421C 'Golden Eagle'

Rating Guide

Click for larger image
2D Panel with Garmin GPS

Click for larger image
Excellent virtual cockpit

Publisher: Flight1
Developers: Jim Rhoads, Roger Dial, Steve Small, Nick Jacobs, Mike Hambly and Tom Main
Description:
Fully-featured aircraft, panel and sound package for this 1960s-designed turbocharged plane.
Download Size:
Installers:
30Mb
Format:
Executable
Auto install via internet connectivity.
Simulators:
FS2002
Reviewed by: Robert Jubb, AVSIM Staff Reviewer

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with
5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

Flight1 have been, for many years, one of the major names in Flight Simulation. As well as publishing products on behalf of DreamFleet and Lago, Flight1 Software have also designed and released their own software. For FS2002, we have seen an amazing variety of products to come out of the Flight1 camp. This ranges from the Emma Field scenery by Lago, their in-house designed Piper Meridian, and on to the Boeing 737-400 package by DreamFleet. Each one of these, whether designed by Flight1 or one of its partners, has been groundbreaking in both design and functionality. Flight1, it would seem, know how to pick a winner, and this Cessna 421C Golden Eagle by Jim Rhoads, Roger Dial, Steve Small, Nick Jacobs, Mike Hambly and Tom Main really is no different.

History

The 421C Golden Eagle, designed in the 1960s, sprouted from the initial design and success of the Cessna 400. However, this new aircraft, with improved reliability, comfort and speed, could fly up to a service ceiling of 30,000 feet at up to 256 knots. When the aircraft was initially released, no comparable twin turboprop could fly faster, farther, higher or carry as much load. The performance of the Golden Eagle matches that of many turboprops, but costs hundreds of thousands less to operate. Still highly competitive and built for the business aviation market, the Golden Eagle allows small and medium sized businesses to close critical deals and expand opportunities.

The Aircraft

The Golden Eagle is powered by two Continental turbo charged, fuel injected 6 cylinder GTSIO-520-L 375hp engines. These highly powered engines allow the Golden Eagle to achieve the desired speed, and to do so with outstanding fuel efficiency. The engines and airframe on the Golden Eagle provide a maximum useful load of 2,928 lbs with a maximum cruise of 243 knots. This gives excellent mission capability and a wide variety of passenger/cargo/fuel loads.

The wing on the aircraft is bonded to eliminate rivets and minimize drag. This "wet wing" design also allows for huge fuel capability, yet simplifies fuel management. This wing provides great efficiency for better performance at high speeds and high altitudes, plus more stable handling at low speeds during take-off and landing. On top of all this, the Golden Eagle can operate from a shorter field and climb to altitude more quickly than rival aircraft. This allows access to a variety of airfields as well as letting you clear high-density traffic areas faster and get to altitude more quickly.

Test System

AMD Athlon XP 2400+
Gainward GeForce 4 Ti4200 AGP8x
512MB PC2100 RAM
Sound Blaster Audigy
Iiyama 22" Monitor
Windows XP Professional
Saitek X45

Flying Time:
10 hours over 4 days

 
Click for larger image
Out of PANC. Beautifully crafted exterior makes this a real winner.

Click for larger image
A view of the Virtual Cockpit...

Click for larger image
...and another view

Click for larger image
Here's a series of exterior views...

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Installation and Documentation

The installation procedure for the Golden Eagle takes advantage of Flight1's innovative "super downloads" in that the aircraft is downloaded, then purchased. The user then enters the information required in the fields provided, and a key is produced for the user to use with the software. This key can then be put on floppy disk or compact disc for easy retrieval in the future if re-installation is required. The installation program also asks you for a refresh rate for the virtual cockpit gauges, based on the performance of your computer. Flight1's Text-o-matic software is also included with this download, making it simple to add various custom liveries.

Jim Rhoads produced all the documentation, which is wonderfully detailed and in-depth. The manual for the Golden Eagle, accessible in Start/Programs/Flight 1 Software after the aircraft has been installed, is a 41-page Adobe Acrobat Reader document that outlines many important features and information. As well as the background information on the aircraft, information is also specified on the airspeed limitations table, ranging from the minimum controllable airspeed (VMCA) of an extraordinarily slow 80KIAS, right up to the VNE of 240KIAS. The airspeed arc markings table explain the color coding as seen on the airspeed indicator in both the normal 2D and virtual 3D panels. The next few pages are full of tables describing, in detail, takeoff distances, landing distances, weight limitations and stall speeds.

Page 13 is where we get into the most important aspect of the manual, the checklist. This four-page checklist gives the user all the information required to startup, taxi, takeoff, fly, land and shutdown the aircraft. Pages 18 thru 39 explain, in detail, the complicated and comprehensive panel set featured with this aircraft. This includes the operation of the Garmin instrument cluster, (which we will come to later in greater detail).

Also included in the package is a tutorial flight in which you can further familiarize yourself with the cockpit. The 22 page document takes the user on a flight from Fort Wayne (KFWA) to Chicago's O'Hare Field (KORD), and begins with a cold and dark cockpit. The tutorial goes over, in detail, the pre-flight cockpit check and start-up procedure, as in any aircraft. The tutorial also covers using the GTX-327 transponder included with this aircraft. As opposed to aircraft tutorials for other products, which tend to be hopelessly generic, the Flight1 team here have really turned this around to what is deadly important to the Golden Eagle. This includes the in-depth use of the radio sets, preferred choice of VOR indicator for ILS approaches, as well as the do's and dont's of taxiing, taking-off, flying, landing and shutting down. All in all, a well written, easy to digest document covering the correct operation of the C421.

Flying the Aircraft

FS2002 has brought about a new wave of VFR and small turbocharged aircraft. In one of my recent reviews, Carenado's Piper Dakota, I hinted at this and the fact that, if accomplished correctly, VFR flying with planes in this class can change the whole Flight Simulator flying experience. If a relative newcomer such as Carenado can produce such a well-rounded package, what can the veteran developer Flight1 produce? The answer is an aircraft such as I have never seen before.

Taxiing the aircraft, as ever with a small aircraft such as this, is very simple. The 2D panel offers quite limited visibility as far as being able to see the taxiways lines are concerned, although the 3D virtual cockpit offers an unimpeded view over the nose. With a combined engine output of 750 hp, only about 1200 rpm of engine thrust is required to get the aircraft moving on the ground.

The flight dynamics for this aircraft were done by renowned author Steve Small—and when Flight1 say that these have been validated by real-world Golden Eagle pilots, you better believe it. With both engines in the red, at 2,250rpm, and zero flap, the aircraft accelerates and lifts away from the runway at approximately 95 knots. With both throttles firmly against the firewall, the aircraft continues to maintain a 1500 FPM climb at 155 knots. Very respectable for the size of this airliner, and kudos to Steve Small on the FDEs here. As one continues the climb, a very gradual acceleration can be seen, achieving 160 knots at approximately 9000 feet.

Trim. An area almost criminally missed in many flight dynamic offerings around the hobby. While I had to attend to business beyond the duty of the AVSIM call, I left the aircraft, trimmed, and climbing thought 12000 feet, at +1,250 FPM. Returning to the aircraft just about three hours later, I found it to be sustaining level flight at FL302. So, with an aircraft that has a service ceiling of FL300, these flight dynamics are incredibly accurate.

Having never to touch the yoke until the last stages of the visual approach into Hamilton, Ontario, the aircraft seamlessly flew a trimmed descent from FL300 to 4000 feet. This aircraft trims beautifully, and should seriously be considered by anyone undergoing training for a PPL, in which the teachings of Power, Attitude and Trim are paramount.

A virtual pilot who hasn't flown small twins will require some practice in order to land this aircraft correctly. In the six or so landings I have made with this aircraft, I found it very difficult to land without bouncing at least once. A steady hand combined with practice will prevail in this area.

The Model

The exterior model of the Golden Eagle, produced in Discreets' GMax software, by Roger Dial, is simply one of a kind. As well as being elegantly carved—with a level of detail superior to most aircraft available today—this aircraft enjoys both reflective paintwork and windows, based upon the original real-world aircraft, N3968G, owned by Keith Moser. It is clear from the outset that many, many hours have gone into the GMax construction of this aircraft. From the flaps to the almost perfect compression of the suspension, absolutely every part of this aircraft has been crafted meticulously by Roger. The 421C also hosts many animated parts, including rolling wheels, working suspension, gear actuating arms sliding in-and-out of the cylinders, as well as the control surfaces. When the aircraft is on the ground, it is possible to open the animated door, in which the rear-left seat slides backwards to allow easy access. All-in-all, a brilliantly designed exterior model that really shows how complex hulls can be recreated for Microsoft Flight Simulator.

From the outside, this aircraft features a rather buxom lady sitting in the pilot not-flying seat. When inside the aircraft, this person doesn't appear. This is the only discrepancy I can see between the interior and the exterior of this otherwise very sound model.

The Panel

The 2D panel in the Golden Eagle has been designed by both Roger Dial and Flight1 front-man Tom Main; Nick Jacobs did the gauge programming. Offering a wealth of features, that can only be explained using the manual. Not happy with just a standard 2D view? The team have also included a "Cruise/Landing" view that can be accessed by clicking the "eyebrow" in the cockpit. This alternative view offers the gauges at a more realistic and conventional size than what has been seen previously in panels, and as a result, gives a greater view perspective out of the front windows of your Golden Eagle. The Simicons, located in the lower left-hand area of the panel, give us access to other features of the panel, which include the Control Panel, Main Instruments, Digital Display Options for Altimeter and Airspeed, Fuel Totalizer, Throttle Quadrant, Transponder and Audio Panel. The autopilot works roughly along the same lines as the ones located in the default 737/777 in Microsoft Flight Simulator, which Heading, Nav, Approach, Backcourse, Altitude and Vertical Speed settings.

The jewel of this panel has to be the Garmin 530 panel mounted GPS system. The type on which it is modelled, the GNS-530, represents the biggest single idea in avionics in years. It is a WAAS upgradeable IFR GPS, COM, VOR, LOC, and glide-slope with color moving map display. An enormous Jeppesen database includes all airports, VORs, NDBs, Intersections, FSS, Approaches, SID/STARs and SUA information. The 5" LCD color display also gives easy and clear reference to your position relative to towns, cities, highways, roadways, rivers, lakes and coastlines. With a price tag of almost $10,000, this really is quite a piece of kit. However, with a system of such increased performance over what has been seen before, Flight1 have only programmed a very small percentage of what is actually on this equipment in real life. Even with this limited functionality, it is still a wonderful piece of equipment that brightens up this panel, and breaks new ground in flight simulation development.

Also included on the Garmin 530 in the panel is a program called "Sky Watch" which allows the virtual user to use the GPS screen as a real-time TCAS instrument that works flawlessly with the AI traffic in the surrounding sky. This particular tool can be a lot of fun when approaching or departing busy airports or terminal areas.

Sounds and Utilities

Cessna, when designing the 421, were very particular about the cabin noise of this aircraft. So, as a result, don't expect throaty bass sounds that will make your desk shake, it isn't going to happen. However, sound guru Mike Hambly has created a near perfect set of sounds that as well as encompassing the power of the engines, hint at their subtle quietness and resonance. A brilliant attempt at what must have been very difficult sound-set to produce.

Flight1 and their associates have made outstanding contributions with their flight simulation utilities, and this aircraft is no exception. As well as the Text-o-matic, included to greatly assist in the adding of extra liveries to the aircraft, Flight1 have also included their Config Manager, which allows the user to enter the weight of the pilot, co-pilot, passenger weights, cargo weights, nose-locker cargo and aft-cabin cargo. These simple yet extraordinarily functional utilities greatly add to the all-round realism of flying this aircraft.

Conclusion

At the time of its release this package was groundbreaking. There really is nothing more to say. From the visual model, through to the 2D and 3D cockpits, featuring various utilities and instrument clusters, Flight1 created a fantastic aircraft. Who said an aircraft has to be big to be enjoyed in Flight Simulation? This aircraft, combined with some excellent mesh scenery for those hard-to-reach areas almost reinvents the Flight Simulator. With an impressive 2D panel, landing/cruise view, virtual cockpit and visual model, not to mention the exceptional instrument cluster, what isn't there to like?

As well as being a fantastic pleasure aircraft, this aircraft is particularly suited to those on their PPL looking to move up to multi-engine aircraft. With the manual by your side, this aircraft can be made into a very useful training tool, with the engine management being an exercise in itself. This Cessna 421C is a shining example of what can be achieved with Microsoft's Flight Simulator.

With 20+ freeware textures available in the AVSIM File Library, and the associated utilities, this aircraft should have a place in every simmer's virtual hangar. Arguably this is the best $22.95 you can spend.

To find out more, visit the Flight1 website.

What I Like About the Flight1 421C Golden Eagle
  • Realistic Aircraft Model
  • Excellent Flight Dynamics
  • Clear, easy to read 2D Panel
  • Excellent Virtual Cockpit
  • Attention to detail throughout
  • A well-rounded package that provides true value for your money
  • Documentation
  • Security conscious installation
  • Load-editing software
  • Additional liveries are easy to create

What I Don't Like About the Flight1 421C Golden Eagle
  • Nothing - a brilliant all-round performer.

Click below to add your comments!

Tell A Friend About this Review!

Standard Disclaimer
The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

2003 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved