When I heard that Friendly Panels had released a Meggitt based avionics package, I was keen to try it, since I fondly remember the Meggitt equipped Piper Meridian from the FS2002 days. The Meggitt Magic Advanced Generation Integrated cockpit design is a glass panel suite with three displays, that provides the GA pilot with the feeling of sitting in a high end business jet. In many ways, this avionics package is the forerunner to some of the current generation of large LCD screen avionics sets that are rapidly emerging onto the high-end GA market, like the Garmin G1000 and the Avidyne Entegra.
Friendly Panels has been around for a while and are best known for providing alternate panel designs for FS aircraft. What I have always liked is the Friendly Panels approach to cockpit layout, with all required gauges in sight, unlike some add-on designs that rely on scores of pop-up windows to provide access to the radio stack, the autopilot, the gear switch etc.
According to the description, the package includes two cockpits - one with a Bendix KLN 94 GPS and one with dual Garmin GNS430s. It also includes a full complement of custom gauges: BENDIX KX 165A NAV-COM RADIO, BENDIX KR 87 ADF, BENDIX KT 76C and GARMIN GTX 330 TRANSPONDERS, DAVTRON DIGITAL CLOCK MB800, Autopilot Meggitt MAGIC 2100, Meggitt MAGIC Electronic Flight Instrument System (PFD and ND), Meggitt MAGIC Engine Instrument Display System EIDS.
Another interesting feature of this package is that it comes with a specially modeled Mooney Bravo in a “ready to fly” configuration. No need to tinker with configuration programs or panel editors – just load up and fly.
Installation & Documentation:
You can find the Mooney Bravo Meggitt pack at the Friendly Panels site. The installation is straightforward, and you end up with four new Mooney models within your FSX Mooney folder, two paints with the Bendix GPS and two equipped with the Garmins.
The documentation is divided into three manuals: one for each of the GPS's and one for the Mooney and it’s Meggitt gauges. Clearly the intent is not to use these gauges in other aircraft, but rather to fly the Mooney aircraft “as is”. The manuals are well laid out and fully illustrated and certainly support the Friendly Panels motto.
Being somewhat familiar with the Meggitt gauges from the Meridian days, I decided to take the GNS430 equipped Mooney for a test flight.
Flying the Mooney:
The Mooney is best started up in the 2D panel. All gauges are in sight and the Meggitt gauges are nicely rendered. Unfortunately, my monitor is a 1680x1050 wide screen model, so the 2D cockpit is slightly stretched in the horizontal dimension. This is a common situation, to the point where some of the newest aircraft releases come with a choice of a regular (4:3) or wide (16:10) 2D cockpit, a great idea.
As you can see from the picture, this is not really much of a problem in the Mooney. The panel looks great and the Meggitt gauges are very legible. The HSI shows up perfectly round which attests to some clever programming! When I re-sized the panel on my monitor by grabbing the edges with the mouse and moving them inward, I could also get the backup analog gauges to appear round, but the Meggitt gauges were correct either way… very nice. See the picture of the re-sized panel below, as a comparison.
I actually do most of my flying from the virtual cockpit, so that is where I next turned my attention – and got my first big disappointment. While the gauges look fine, the actual airplane model is very bare bones, reminding me of long forgotten releases of FS before we got nicely detailed and textured cockpit models. Even the default FSX Mooney has a better virtual cockpit.
As mentioned above, the actual gauges are quite nice. The radios are readable and user friendly, and the actual Meggitt avionics suite is a pleasure to use. All the information is right there and the gauges are nicely anti-aliased (no jaggy lines) and move smoothly. The autopilot is easy to use and has a user friendly display read-out. All the AP settings are also shown on the Primary Flight Display (PFD), so you know what is going on at all times. The EHSI can be set up as an RMI by selecting a few menu options. All in all, a great avionics set that makes you feel as if you are in a much more expensive airplane!
The GPSs, on the other hand, are a mixed affair. The GNS430's are a warmed over version of the default FSX GPS with radios added. Surprisingly, they also have an annoying “feature”, in that the range buttons work backwards from the real thing. “Increasing range” yields Increasing Zoom, as in decreasing range. This is doubly surprising since the FSX GPS has this right. Also, I was unable to get the declutter button to work.
The KLN is not much better, it looks unfinished and has an even more cluttered map screen than the Garmin unit. Hopefully, a future release will see some of these issues improved upon. That said, the basic functions work, and a GPS flight plan is followed correctly by the Meggitt EHSI.
So, this leaves me with a bit of a dilemma… the Meggitt gauges which are the main feature of this package are really well done, but the Mooney and the GPSs are a disappointment. If you fly exclusively from the 2D cockpit, and you are happy with the FSX GPS, this may not matter all that much to you and you might enjoy this package. If you fly mostly from the virtual cockpit, you will likely wish for a more realistic looking model.
The Mooney Bravo Meggitt package by Friendly Panels is a promising attempt to package a high end avionics suite with a suitable aircraft in a ready to fly package. Unlike other add-on avionics packages, there is no need for the user to configure or tinker with panel files. Unfortunately, the included Mooney model does not live up to even default FSX airplane standards. Moreover, the included GPSs have some annoying bugs.
This is a shame, since the Meggitt gauges are actually quite well done and a pleasure to fly in the 2D cockpit. I can only hope that future offerings from Friendly Panels include a better designed total flight experience.
What I Like About The Panels Pack
What I Don't Like About The Panels Pack
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