The X-Plane Ferrari of the Air
Any other introduction? This says enough; Ferrari versus Sequoia Falco F.8L. That’s strange, since Ferrari is an Italian company while the Sequoia Falco is an American home-build company in Richmond. Whatever, what divides them is no more than the Atlantic Ocean. They have at least one thing in common; the Falco F.8L flies like a rocket … oops, like a Ferrari. It’s not only the speed that makes it a rare airplane, it’s her shape, here maneuverability, here suppleness and the fact she’s a home-built aircraft. With its painting in glossy red, a flying Ferrari!
This review deals with the recent released of the X-Plane 9.50+ Sequoia Falco F.8L from X-Scenery and distributed by X-Aviation. A great looking General Aviation model that not only looks great, it comes standard with a 2D cockpit and a Virtual Cockpit or 3D cockpit. How does it fly; that and more are waiting for you.
For me X-Plane is still pretty new as well as the default X-Plane aircraft or free add-ons. After I had seen the default models, I wasn’t enthusiastic at all. With our previous AVSIM X-Plane review of the Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquise, written by Gene Davis, it turns out X-Scenery is able to create a level of detailed aircraft of a high standard and so is this Falco F.8L.
Curious about his review?
The Sequoia Falco F.8L
Although it’s a home-built aircraft, there’s some information available on the Internet, but it’s much better that we visit the Sequoia Company. But what kind of airplane is the Falco F.8L? To answer that, I found an interesting paragraph on the Segair website.
“ From the day it first flew in 1955, the Falco has been called "the Ferrari of the air". This Italian design is sleek, strong, agile and fast. It offers two seats and control sticks. A bubble canopy for all-around visibility. It's an outstanding cross-country plane, with thousand-mile range and full IFR capability. And fast. A few examples have even topped 230 mph--on the standard 160 hp engine.
A superb aerobatic ship, the Falco is a graceful ballerina in the sky. Cuban eights, loops, rolls, snaps and spins are only a flick of the control stick away. The agility is astonishing, and the handling is legendary. The controls are light and precise, and after pulling through a smooth series of rolls and loops, the comparison with jet aircraft becomes inevitable.
The Falco is strong. Aerobatic certification means the Falco can easily take loads which would break an ordinary airplane. And even for pilots who always keep the wings level, it's essential to have that strength.
The Falco's proven record and engineering puts it in a class by itself. Designed by Stelio Frati, one great aircraft designers of all time. At last, the Falco was certified as a production aircraft. The Falco was built as a production aircraft and has a history of over 40 years of use by pilots in Europe. After many refinements, the Sequoia Falco is a modern, state-of-the-art aircraft built from kits and flown by pilots all over the world.
Compared to ordinary aircraft, the Falco is an Arabian stallion among plow horses. A classic, timeless design that has everything you could ask of an aircraft: looks, speed, efficiency, aerobatics, strength, and--above all--an absolute joy to fly.”
“ The Falco. A plane for all seasons--and all time.”
If I want to, I can find more background information about the real Falco for you, but this review deals with the X-Scenery version and not with the real aircraft. By saying that, I’m wondering what X-Aviation tells us, so let’s have a look at that.
“ The Sequoia Falco F.8L, designed by the renowned Italian aircraft designer Stelio Frati in the 1950s, is considered by many to be the pinnacle of small aircraft design, a veritable masterpiece, offering spirited performance and superb handing qualities.
Our version of the Falco is on the cutting edge of x-plane technology, and offering the first 100% fully interactive cockpit in 3D. Every knob, button and switch is manipulative in 3D and 98% of the aircraft functions exactly as it does in reality....even the circuit breakers might trip under certain circumstances. Also, included is another x-plane, a simulation of the Garmin GTX330 transponder to make your online flying experiences more realistic than could be done previously. You can even download the manual from the Garmin website to learn how to operate it. It offers a full complement of IFR instrumentation and a full-featured autopilot to make things easier on those long cross-country flights. Most x-plane users have gotten so used to the inaccurate idiosyncrasies of x-plane, that they do not even know what they're missing....well it's time to get things right!
This virtual Falco for x-plane is the most complete GA single simulation in x-plane and we believe you will find it to be an enjoyable and immersive experience. If you enjoy GA flying or need a good GA to practice scanning skills on while working the radios and other controls, then this Falco needs to be in your X-Plane hangar!”
What do you get?
The overall package is not just the Falco F.8L software. It’s a little more than that and before going into too many details, let’s give you a step-by-step procedure of how to get this Falco installed and working.
• Verify X-Plane 9.50rc3?
AL Client installation
Gizmo Plug in installation
process of the Falco
You’re lost? Don’t become lost too quickly! I tried to add this here, since I’m also new with X-Plane. The manuals are helpful and in case you have any questions, then it's time to contact X-Aviation Support.
Because of its importance, here’s a little more background information of Gizmo and what is does for you. Extracted from the X-Aviation website I found the following:
“ Gizmo is a suite of software and software tools based on the lua programming language (www.lua.org) and designed specifically for X-Plane. The reason for Gizmo's development is to simplify and speed up add-on development of products and services for X-Plane. This suite of software tools contains multiple parts, including plug-ins that reside within X-Plane's file structure and also text based scripting files.
X-Plane has a plug-in system that allows developers to customize X-Plane through programming, but this SDK (software development kit) is implemented in the C/C++ programming language. In the simplest terms, we use Gizmo because it's much faster to develop features and services for X-Plane and the X-Plane community. Most important, it creates a more robust experience for you as a customer. By using Gizmo, we can bring better products and services to the X-Plane market faster...and that's why we use it!”
For users like you and me it’s great that this tool is used, but don’t stay too long with it. We want to fly and to enjoy the Falco F.8L.
manuals are supplied with the software and what do they offer?
Let’s first summaries the available manuals:
The Falco comes with an “xs_Falco_Install_Instructions.pdf” Acrobat file. As the name suggests, it offers the necessary information how and in what sequence to install the software.
The 2nd manual that deals with the installation and/or configuration comes with the Gizmo software. This “Gizmo_Install_Instructions.pdf” manual shows you in a step-by-step procedure the Gizmo, OpenAL and Plug in installation.
The 3rd and last manual deals to a certain extent with the Falco itself. The “Falco_POH_v1.0.pdf” document tells you all the ins and outs of the POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook). On the first page is stated “Quick & Dirty Version”. No idea what it means, but the manual is not really a POH. It counts in total 9 pages of which three of them are related to the checklist. Apart of the front page, the remaining 5 pages offer some avionics, autopilot, flight operations, licensing and hardware information.
I left out the paragraph that deals with manipulators. The manipulator paragraph is probably the most important section because it explains how to operate certain knobs, switches and other features in the cockpit.
In-coming note regarding the POH from X-Aviation; “Falco F.8L version 1.2 doesn't come with a traditional POH. For many instruments, the Falco offers basic instruments. Almost any person who flies knows what the instruments are, so we've initially release the product without a POH. However, in our coming update we'll be including a more thorough version of documentation for beginners of flying, as well as tips and tricks for aerobatic maneuvers.”
In other words, that’s good news!
what manipulators are? Here’s a small extraction
of the manual:
So what is a manipulator? In the most simplest description, it means you can use the mouse cursor to grab controls onscreen and move them in a natural way similar to the way you would in reality. This has caused some confusion for flight simmers who are used to doing things the "old way" whereby they just click on a switch or button to have it function OR do not expect it to work at all on screen.
The Falco, while not 100% in its operational accuracy or exhaustive in its complexity, is currently the furthest X-Plane aircraft along in its accuracy of interaction and we will be striving for 100%.”
Glossy red Falco F.8L
which Falco configuration file isn’t easy. When you
haven’t read the POH, so let’s help you with this.
The Falco folder comes in two variations:
The additional SI is for those users who prefer to have their instruments / gauges in metric/SI units. From Falco version 1.1 this means the only metric unit is the barometric pressure setting on the altimeter. Indications in millibars as opposed of inches of mercury found on the default Falco variant. As they say, pending user feedback, we will change the SI cockpit texture file to reflect more gauges in SI units.
What I personally miss is the absence of other liveries or textures. The only available livery/texture is the glossy red model. Regrettably, I can’t change this and I’ve got no idea if paint kits are available for this model.
Unfortunately, this Falco add-on comes only in one colour e.g. Ferrari red. I’m still surprised about it and because of this; I contacted Cameron Son of X-Aviation. His answer regarding a paint-kit and/or other liveries is hopeful;
“ In most cases we had made it a point to include paint kits with our aircraft, however, many people disregard them. With the Falco we opted to release without any reason, however, we DO plan to make one available after a few requests have been made for it. The current version 1.2 doesn't offer other liveries. It's an unusual aircraft with fewer than 100 made in the world, so finding an abundant amount of paint schemes is uncommon. With that said, we have talked to the designer of the aircraft and have received some info on other liveries out there. Because the Falco is more of an aircraft built out of passion, we plan to create more liveries at our leisure. Additionally, there have been a couple of third-party repaints made available in the forums at X-Pilot.com”.
It’s not my nature, but I will keep it short. This external model looks really gorgeous. During daylight operations no tiny detail has been forgotten. My first impression was and still is “I don’t see any rivets, dents, bolts or other non aerodynamic protrusions”. Believe me, more real is not possible and it’s because the surrounding scenery can’t reflect that it’s the real world. Then I have my doubts about the glossy look. Home builders are probably proud of their aircraft and do what they can to keep the aircraft new and try to keep their beauty fresh and shiny. Therefore, not having a weathered look, doesn’t interest me at all. This X-Aviation model is as real as it gets!
So many words, so therefore it’s time to have a look for yourself at this simulated Ferrari …. Sorry, the Sequoia Falco F.8L.
As you can see, at daytime it looks great and even at sunrise or was it sunset, it still looks great. The overall look is great and eye for many details can be found while doing my walk-around check. The landing gear with the wheels is really great. Let’s not forget the spinner and propeller. While zooming in, parts still stay sharp and readable. Let’s jump to the canopy and have a look at the opening and sliding mechanism. The sliding feels real and that‘s the same for the latch/lock mechanism in the front of the canopy. Then, on the wing tips as well as at the far end of the tail, the light units.
Such a small airplane with so many great designed navigation and strobe light units. Zooming in at the tail light unit reveals the visible screws, which makes me crazy. During the past several years I've spend hours and hours on Microsoft FS2004 and FSX GA models, but this Falco breaks all records! Probably it has cost as much work creating all those tiny items, but it’s still worth looking at it and worth the overall Falco model. On those spots where you can expect screws or rivets, you’ll find them. You won’t find it on the wing or horizontal or vertical stabilizer. These places are all - I can’t get enough of it – highly polished and finished with glossy paint. In other words, the wing, tail and fuselage skins are all made of plywood, polished and painted.
What else can I add? I talked earlier about the shape, the tiny details, the lamp units and not to forget, the 3D looking light effect of the landing light. Because of this, it’s a good idea to offer some screenshots in the early morning, before starting my daily engine run-up check.
I thought “shall I add some background information in the real Falco”? OK, let’s add something. It’s really worth knowing some background of this remarkable home build model.
As mentioned before, the Falco is mainly made of wood. This means that the wing, horizontal and vertical stabilizer are composed, as done in the good old days; of a mixture from wooden ribs with a plywood skin. This applies also for the wooden fuselage frames with again a plywood skin and worth mentioning; the firewall (separation between the engine and fuselage/cockpit compartment) which is also made of wood.
Hinges and fittings for the flight controls are logically made of metal and bolted to the construction. What do you think of the quadrants and flap shaft? To keep it understandable for everybody including me, I’ll leave all the in-depth details out of this review. Although this review has nothing to do with the wooden Falco, showing you all those home builders around the globe is a little too much.
During my Falco search, I contacted Angus Buchanan, who's a Falco F.8L home builder. Let's have Angus speak about this passion for the Falco.
“ Like people who climb mountains just because they're there, I suspect
I'm building an aircraft just because the irresistible opportunity
I needed to speak to somebody who had done it. So, armed with Charles Wagner's (see Falco Legends) telephone number I rang him at work only to be met by a barrage of questions establishing who I was and why I should be trying to speak to him... only to find that the inquisitor was Charles himself! He insisted that I went to see his 80% complete Falco that evening. On arrival I was assaulted by many more questions -- these included a poorly disguised inquiry into my salary and interrogation why I wouldn't accept a cigarette or a drink! Which part of the interview unlocked the door is uncertain but I was then admitted to the double garage in which G-CWAG was taking shape. I left somewhat shocked that Charles could spend so much time trying to put me off -- but impressed nonetheless.
Less than a week later Charles was on the phone again: "Have you bought the plans yet?" I hadn't. "What in Christ's name are you waiting for?" I had no excuses and the order was obediently placed.
Thus in October 1994 the project began in a 3rd story Scottish flat in a bedroom two inches wider than the stabilizer wing span. As a qualified engineer, then building warships, the drawings were not a struggle and advice was plentiful from all trades in the yard experienced in welding several thousand tonne structures together. I had a good early run on the tail, with my ballet-dancing wife away from home for several months of the year, allowing devotion to the build.
The process has been an adventure so far. I'm in no hurry to finish and realize that the evening half hours I spend building are a luxury -- anybody building merely to fly at the end will be forever frustrated. Interruptions are inevitable over such a long project and I have had my fair share, moving house twice, two children, a job move, and construction several interim projects amongst the main event.
Now several jobs beyond shipping, week days are hard pressed and the weekends have their own demands – not least the lure of a 1947 Stampe biplane at a grass strip down the road. However, my Falco continues and will take into the air one day. The only clock that ticks is against my declaration to be finished in time for my children are old enough to hold a license.”
We can’t finish his story just there. We need to add a few of his skills … I’m sorry …. Falco skills.
The simulated Falco comes with a 2D and 3D or Virtual Cockpit (VC). Keeping the frame rates in mind, just go for the VC and by the way, there’s hardly any difference between the 2D and 3D panel or at least, I haven’t seen it. Most important, the VC is really a pleasure to fly and sit in. I know, I own an above average PC, and thus it’s so easy for me to write “go for the VC”. Just try the VC with your own PC settings and see if you can handle normal frame rates.
What’s important by the way; all these notes are of course based on a Windows 7 x64 PC. I have no idea if you fly X-Plane under Linux or if you own a Macintosh. The Virtual Cockpit is and stays my favorite.
Zooming into the instruments seems no problem and as far as I could see, it all stays sharp. Although, it’s fair to our readers to point out that the Garmin 430W text and indication window looks a little blurry. No idea why the blurry appears since many other instruments, panel text identifications and placards, are unbelievably sharp even with my nose .. Oops, eyes on the panel or instrument. The slightly blurry Garmin 430W isn’t an issue for me. I just wanted to point this out. Since there’s no in-depth manual for example of the Garmin instruments, it’s time to Google around on the Internet. In section “Links and other interesting things”, I’ve collected those for you.
As said about the VC sharpness of the cockpit equipment it is also applicable for the 2D cockpit. The other thing is the more natural way you operate knobs, rheostats or switches. Let's start with the switches. In real, you take the switch and lift it up or down, depending on what you want. In most X-Plane (I assume) and MSFS airplanes, you click a switch, which results in an up or down movement.
Unfortunately, that's far from the reality. In other words, the way you operate a switch in this Falco F.8L is new and highly realistic. In one way or the other, the same for the panel and instrument light knobs on the LH lower side of the instrument panel. Normally you click on the LH or RH side of the knob and the light intensity increases or decreases. However in the real world you grasp the knob and turn it clockwise or counter-clockwise.
In the Falco you can’t grasp the knob with your hands or mouse, but simulated you can put your mouse on top of it. Click and hold the LH mouse button and move the overall mouse in a LH or RH direction. This simulates as if you were rotating the knob. It could sound complicated or difficult, but it isn't. Once you know how it works, it offers a more natural way of operating knobs.
When you see those Virtual Cockpit or 3D cockpit screenshots, you'll come to the same conclusion as I did … gorgeous. All these screenshots are with the panel and instrument light rheostats full ON. This means the maximum lighting conditions are applicable. Without these, it’s a little dark out there. Many things not related to the instruments can be controlled like the previous mentioned canopy. By the way, don’t forget to close the canopy before heading into the sky, since there’s no micro-switch installed and no wind is felt.
Even the simulation of the control stick is a pleasure to look at. With the AP engaged, you still see the small corrections that are made because of external influences.
In-between conclusion; a high quality cockpit and before I forget it; the cockpit, engine and environmental sounds completes it all.
Flying the beautiful Falco
Flying this Falco is fun! Ok, it’s not the same as in real since no Flight Simulator – X-Plane. Microsoft FSX or FS2004 – can give you the real feeling when in the air, but this GA model offers features and flight characteristics or dynamics, that comes close to the reality. Only Falco F.8L owners can, when they fly the X-Aviation Falco F.8L, judge if it’s as real as it gets. On the other hand, having a USA PPL, the flights I did with this X-Aviation model gave me the feeling that the developers did an excellent job. What job and when? I’ll tell you in a minute.
It all starts the moment you do the necessary checks and one of those checks is the engine start. Starting itself is not complicated, but the recorded sound makes it all so real. While I leave the engine running for some time to give the engine oil the time to heat up, I’ll continue with additional checks including entering data into the Garmin equipment. While the GTX330 Transponder isn’t a complicated piece of equipment, it’s always worth knowing something about it.
In case you don’t want to read this manual, then follow this YouTube hot link that reveals visually all the ins and outs of this Garmin equipment.
My test flight is more or less a regular cross-country flight from KEVB (New Smyrna Beach) to the west coast of Florida. I more or less fly on a heading of 270 towards Crystal River and plan a landing on the way back either in Leesburg (KLEE) or Deland-Taylor (KDED). My flight will be at 4000 feet, but when needed, I climb to 6000 feet.
I’m ready to go are you? I’ll apply full power and even with full fuel tanks, the Falco is airborne before I know. As mentioned before, I’ll prefer to fly from within the Virtual Cockpit or 3D cockpit. First because of the unlimited front, aft, left and right views and second because of the frame rate friendly cockpit/aircraft. For many reasons I’ll climb straight out to 4000 feet. This gives me enough altitude for some tests and of course our flight to Crystal River.
Having a POWER PROP and MIXTURE handle, it takes a little more control compared to those aircraft having only a POWER and MIXTURE control. You’re confused what and how to use them? Many free FAA manuals can be found at the FAA website, explaining you how to handle aircraft equipped with these handles. It’s an aircraft that needs constant attention and although there’s a basic AP installed, flying by hand through the clouds, making steep turn where possible, it all feels confident!
During my climb to 4000 feet, it happened that I passed the 2000 feet V/S instrument marking. This means my real V/S was more than 2000 feet/minute however the instrument needle didn’t stop. It went further towards the V/S DOWN indication. A little odd and time to contact X-Aviation about this. It could be that I’m doing something wrong, but V/S indicator behavior like this is new for me.
The answer from X-Aviation is “The PANEL LTS rheostat and the V/S indicator issues are oversights in our Version 1.2 upgrade. They were originally working in 1.0, and we thank you for reporting these. Somehow other people didn't make any mention of this...I'm surprised! Anyhow, we'll get to fixing this and send it out in an update to the masses.”
With the weather like this, comfortable temperatures for the time of the year, flying this simulated X-Plane Falco F.8L is fun and I mean fun! Said many times before; the external model looks gorgeous, many details ranging from a simple navigation and landing light unit, propeller details and including the fuselage, wings and tail. Not only does this make it all a pleasure to fly with, also the cockpit with the instruments, knobs, switches, and what more can be found. This X-Scenery model can for sure compete with an FSX counterpart.
While flying in a western direction over mid Florida – it's so boring flying here and sorry for those who live here – I’ll do some slow flights with and without flaps, steep turns and a few other maneuvers. It’s fun and I’m enjoying every second. There’s so much power in this small highly aerodynamic model, that it’s not strange to compare it with a Ferrari.
Ok, back to our flight details. While approaching Crystal River, I’ll turn around and decide to land at Leesburg airport. Doing the necessary preparations during the descent, I’ll try to find some moments to look outside. Flying in this area at 4000 or 6000 feet, gives you on a good sunny day enough view including the help of some landmarks. Using the NAV equipment or AFD helps of course finding your way, but not necessarily needed.
Apart that this aircraft looks gorgeous and flies great, you can fly it as you want. You want to fly it completely by hand without using any navigation equipment? I would say, go ahead! You want a relaxed VFR flight use the AP and if needed, disconnect the AP for a moment, set the correct vertical speed and/or heading and connect it again. You can do all of this without the Garmin equipment. You want to go for all the Garmin stuff and AP, go ahead. Any combination from beginners to experienced pilots is possible with this plane. Ok, the behavior is not of a Cessna 150/152, but it’s still possible to fly your own way!
Approaching Leesburg Airport from the south-west, over the lake and aiming for runway 31. A little strange because of the weather conditions, but I can do what I want, so here we go.
On our LH side there’s Leesburg city, and a few miles further I see on my RH side Howey in The Hills before making a gently LH turn towards runway 31. I couldn't find a better moment to fly this cross-country trip and to make the necessary screenshots at sunset.
X-Scenery/X-Aviation Falco F.8L; a perfect match!
of the cockpit equipment on-board of the Falco F.8L:
KX 155 (COMM/NAV Device)
Summary / Closing Remarks
After reviewing this X-Scenery Falco, and knowing the price (just 25.00 USD or almost €18.00), I can tell you; when you like GA airplanes, this model is an absolute must for your GA collection. The model is gorgeous and then I don’t mean the external model or the cockpit panel. It’s the Falco itself that offers all what a GA lover likes. The recorded sound is a pleasure to listen to as long as you’re not in a stall or spin. Overall, this X-Scenery Falco F.8L seems “almost” the perfect match!
Why “almost”? The currently supplied POH with software version 1.2 could offer a little more background information. As you read earlier, a more in-depth manual will be included with the next update. That there’s no tutorial that makes sense to me. Having a little more colored models to choose from, would be a good idea. Also applicable for this, something is on its way.
Apart from these items I can only write; while writing this review, more and more MSFS FSX/FS2004 users change or add X-Plane to their inventory. With X-Aviation GA models like this Falco F.8L, Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquise (slightly bigger GA) or their latest release, the Cessna Cornalis TT as well as commercial models like the WIP (Work In Progress) JRollon Project CRJ-200 or the Airbuses from Peter Hager, it’s becoming a serious threat for FSX.
Sequoia Falco F.8L …. It’s really a Ferrari in the Air!
What I Like About The Falco F.8L
What I Don't Like About The Falco F.8L
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