It has always amazed me. Here we are, the Dash-8, DHC-6 Twin Otter and Saab 340, but nobody seems to have taken the trouble to make decent payware packages out of them. So okay, that’s not entirely true: the FFS Saab 340 was a high fidelity Saab 340 simulation, although it had its problems (some great, some small. Read the review of it here at Avsim if you want to know more). Problem is, the developers have vanished and their plane can’t be gotten anywhere anymore, which is a great pity.
There is also a rather nice simulation of the Dash-8, by PSS, and I believe there also exists a nifty DHC-6 somewhere, but alas, both are for FS2002 and therefore are not that great in the visual department. Of course, we have Aerosoft’s great, and let me repeat that, great DHC-6 product, but it’s only for FSX. Whereas for FS2004, we have no good payware alternatives, and the freeware planes we do have often lack a VC or just don’t look very good (not as good as we’d wish).
And there’s Aerosim. Some of you might remember I reviewed two products by them in recent times: Classic Liners Volume 1 and 2, both for FS2004. If you are not sure what my conclusion was, then here is a small summary:
- Volume 1 was very nice, offering the classic Boeing series, including the B727-100/-200, B737-200 and B747-100/-200/-300. All planes had very nice exterior models with fine detailing, but the VC of the B727 and B737 was a bit lacking, while the B747 VC was a lot better. In the end, I felt the package was a bit overpriced, but nonetheless, it included two aircraft (B737-200 and B747-100) that had never seen the light in FS2004 in the form of a complete package with a VC. I was very pleased with this, and I give credit to Aerosim for taking these planes and making them for FS2004
- Volume 2 was a lot better. It included the DC-8, DC-10 and L-1011 Tristar. The exteriors, again, were very good (although I liked the DC-8 exterior less than the ones of the others), but this time round, the VCs were largely at the same level of the exterior. Especially the L-1011 Tristar had a remarkably nice VC. The DC-10 was equally nice, though noticeably of slightly lesser quality, and the DC-8 was below the DC-10 in terms of texturing, plus it had a hole in it. Still, I found you got more quality for the money you spent on it than with volume 1 and I was pleased with what I saw.
I should add that all the planes had very limited system simulations, although they all had a good working INS, which was easy to use and to understand. The L-1011 Tristar was equipped with a very good FMS and it was a joy to use. As an aside, all of these packages had an approach and landing tutorial, which I regarded as a very helpful tool for people new to our humble hobby.
And now here we are, with a third package by Aerosim. It has been released after Classic Liners Volume 2, and so you may understand my extreme curiosity. Will it be similar to the other packages? Will it be even better than the Volume 2 package? I don’t expect detailed systems, but I’m profoundly interested in the quality of the exterior and interior modeling. So, enough with the blabbering, and let’s get on with the review!
A small history lesson
Originally the de Havilland Canada Dash 8, the Bombardier Dash 8 is the successor to the DHC-7. The DHC-7 was not as successful as the manufacturer had hoped, and so they began designing the DHC-8 in 1980. They had come up with what basically was the DHC-7, but with only two engines. In the process, the short airfield performance was completely dropped as it appeared that most regional carriers were only interested in cost effectiveness. And indeed, carriers like Air Greenland had adopted the DHC-7 for its great STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) capabilities.
The Dash-8 rolled out in 1983, with two new PW120 engines, which got certified later that year. These engines are twice as powerful as the former PT6 engines, also by Pratt and Whitney, and they enabled the Dash-8 to have the same kind of power with fewer engines, which helped lower the weight of the plane. It’s things like this that also helped give the Dash-8 better performance in-flight, such as faster cruise speeds than the DHC-7. Ultimately, this made the Dash-8 one of the most popular regional liners.
The aircraft got to see four variations: -100, -200 and -300, which were the classic versions, and the greatly enlarged -400. The -200 was mainly an engine upgrade, while the -300 and -400 series saw an elongation of the fuselage. The -400 remains the only Dash-8 in production to this day and is planned to be followed up by a new series in 2013/2014: the Dash-8-Q400X.
The DHC-6 Twin Otter is one of those aircraft that is not easy to forget. Development of this plane began back in 1964, and a year later in 1965, saw its first flight. Quickly built and quickly flying, it instantly became a great success amongst bush operators, of which most operated it’s brother, the single engined DHC-3 Otter.
The DHC-3 Otter was a renowned STOL aircraft, and it was imperative that this capability must remain in the DHC-6. De Havilland Canada succeeded in that, even boosting its STOL capabilities by designing trailing edge flaps and spoilers. Plus, the fact that there were two engines made the aircraft that much safer to operate.
Multiple series of this aircraft have seen daylight. Starting with series 1, the prototype, the aircraft completed its maiden flight and the subsequent series 100 was produced as the first DHC-6 series to be commercially available. Series 200 and 300 followed, with the last planes of series 320 being sold in 1988.
The DHC-6 legacy doesn’t stop there, fortunately. First of all, the DHC-6 grew into the DHC-7, a still much loved aircraft, although less popular than the DHC-6. Secondly, the DHC-6 was improved upon in the 400 series. This new series came into being only fairly recently: the first light of a series 400 plane was on 1 October, 2008. Various cockpit systems were updated or newly introduced, and some got removed altogether, like the AC electrical system.
A product initially of Saab and Fairchild, then Fairchild soon quit the aircraft business, and Saab was left alone to do the work. The Saab 340 started out as a cooperation between the earlier mentioned companies, in a 65:35 percent ratio, where Saab was supposed to manufacture the fuselage and vertical stabilizer, and Fairchild basically did much of the rest of the airframe. Final assembly was under supervision of Saab, in Sweden. But when Fairchild ceased to work on aircraft, all the production was moved to Sweden, where Saab continued work on the Saab 340A in 1985, followed by the Saab 340B in 1989. A Saab 340 B Plus followed in 1994.
The Saab 340 is a twin engine turboprop aircraft, designed as a regional plane. 416 units were built, making it moderately successful. It’s still being used by various operators, including Loganair in the UK and American Eagle in America, but also various smaller companies around the world.
Installation and Documentation
You might remember from previous Aerosim products I reviewed, how the installation process was easy and quick, but the installer itself looked sort of ancient. I’m quite happy to report that the installer seems to have shifted to a more standard installer as used by a lot of other add-on developers. Although the process is just as easy as with the older installer, it feels more comfortable and I’m very happy with this decision to use a more standard installer.
So, the installation procedure is quick and easy and hardly requires any input by you. There is an update available, so I installed that one too without any problem. As with previous Aerosim products I reviewed, no folder is made in the Windows Start menu, since you can find the manual in the installation package together with some more information on the product.
The manual is really just like the manuals of the other products I reviewed. The layout is good and it gives you ample information on the specifics of the aircraft, plus images of all 2D panels available to you with clear instructions on what is what. If you can’t find a certain gauge or are not quite sure what a switch is supposed to do, you can easily find it in this manual. For the rest, the manual is well written, save for some grammatical errors, but these are not too distracting.
One thing amazed me however: at the end of the manual, we find a complete startup procedure for the Saab 340! This was all new to me, because this usually means that the system programming is more than the default planes. I skimmed over it and quickly came to the realization that this is not entirely true. The procedures mentioned are quite short and generally involve moving only three or four switches, plus that checklists seem to be mentioned that I can’t seem to locate anywhere. Beside that, there also is a shutoff and parking procedure.
Note this is all for the Saab 340. This sort of gives me the feeling that the Saab 340 is the star of the package, but we have yet to see if this is true. I therefore propose we move on to the exterior models of this package. So far though, things look good.
The Dash 8 is one of the “classic” designs. It’s a very recognizable plane, the nose being so very unlike anything else available. The plane it perhaps resembles most, is the popular Learjet business jets by Bombardier, and unsurprisingly, the Dash-8’s full name is no longer de Havilland Canada Dash-8, but Bombardier Dash-8, giving a certain strong link between the two planes.
The Aerosim model of the Dash-8 is quite successful, I should say. The first two screenshots should give you a good overview of the plane in general. And as you can see, the general appearance is good. The iconic nose looks well modeled, and so does the signature T-tail. The way the engines are shaped looks pretty good too and overall I’m pleased with what I’m seeing here. The fact that the luggage compartment and main passenger door can be opened is also nice, and the animation with which the air stairs are “hoisted” up and down, is also good.
Now, let’s get a bit closer. First up is the nose, and from there we will proceed to the mid part of the fuselage and engines.
The nose from up close tells us a few things: first of all, the actual top of the nose is a bit blocky, texturing is blurry up close, and I’m not quite sure of the rounding of the nose down from the cockpit windows to the tip is really as it should be. I have the feeling the rounding is just a bit too pronounced. I compared this to photographs, but it was very hard to tell. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the nose was right, but might be just slightly off, although it’s probably only ever so slightly.
The texturing is, I fear, just the texturing I have come to expect by Aerosim. Also the texturing of the exterior models of the planes in the previous packages I reviewed, appeared somewhat blurry from up close. Granted, I don’t think you’ll be looking at these planes from this close, so this point can be overlooked to some degree.
Another screenshot shows us that a cabin has been fully modeled! This is something new for Aerosim aircraft, because although the front of the cabin would be modeled, with curtains and all, the windows were always solid. Here we have transparent windows and we see seats all through the cabin. I think it’s quite lovely, although you should expect a slight performance hit. I found the overall performance to be very good, though, so don’t be too worried about that.
The engines look just about perfect if you ask me. The dimensions look good, and the texturing is nice. The landing gear looks a bit simple, but judging from screenshots, this is just the way it is. Some more 3D detail might have been nice but it’s nothing big to worry about. The landing lights look quite fake, however. It’s a bit of a pity, but I’m not sure how this could have been improved upon. From that perspective, I’m inclined to simply let it go and enjoy the roaring of the engine.
The final screenshots shows us the passenger door opened and air stairs have revealed themselves. The animation is nice and smooth, and to my great delight, the texturing of the air stairs themselves is quite sharp. The texturing inside also seems to be nice, with a nice carpet color, although the texturing of the walls inside the plane lack sharpness. The gear, as we see it on this shot, appears quite simple too, even quite blocky. This could have been a lot more detailed, compared to real life screenshots.
Overall, I’m quite fond of this model. It’s sufficiently detailed and the overall appearance is rather realistic.
The FSMarket is dominated by two DHC-6 models: the 300 and 400 series. The difference is rather important, because the nose and length of the fuselage is quite a bit different. I mention this so you don’t get confused about this like I did. The case is, that the series 300 model has a rather long nose, being quite pointy as it extends from the cockpit windows down and ends in a pointy tip: a true cone-shaped nose. This is different from series 400 nose, which resembles the shape of half a ball more than a cone. Alas, the Aerosim model is a series 300 model as can be concluded from the cone-shaped nose and the relatively short rows of windows on both sides of the fuselage.
The above screenshots show a general overview of the exterior model. Things that stick out are the nice amount of detail on the roof, the well modeled shape of the fuselage, the maybe the too blue-ish tint of the passenger windows, the relative sharpness of the texturing (from this distance), and, of course, the fact that we have a modeled passenger cabin. So that said, let’s get into more detail here.
These screenshots give a nice overview of the plane. Starting from the nose and cockpit area of the fuselage, the detail seems nice and the modeling is well executed. The nose gear looks quite okay, with enough detail to make you and FS2004’s performance happy. The cockpit itself looks pretty detailed, and I sort of like how one of the pilots is flicking a switch. The only problem with this, though, is that the pilots do not move. This basically means that he is sitting in that position forever, which should make his arm hurt a great detail.
I like the attention to detail, though, plus that it’s very nice that the window wipers actually work. It’s effect is not noticeable (it probably doesn’t have an effect…), but it’s a very nice touch and it’s exactly the eye for detail I always have wanted to see. For the rest, the hind gear looks good, although it probably isn’t that hard to make.
Going on to the next screenshots, we can see the detail in the back of the engine and the trailing edge of the wing. There is construction here to lower flaps, which is rather nice to look at when it performs its job. All in all it looks quite okay and even the texturing seems relatively sharp, in a manner not present on the Dash-8.
I should add that I have the feeling something is amiss at the very back of the engine, where there is a beam that supports the wing by leaning against the plane’s fuselage. If you look closely, the texturing here is a bit weird. The place the beam is connected to the wing is full white, but if you go to the leading edge of the wing, you notice how the black/white texturing on the engine on the lower side of the wing seems not to quite fit the piece to which the supporting beam is connected. Instead, the black line should not have “curled down”, like is the case now, but it should have gone straight backwards where it would have met the black of the piece that hold the supporting beam, without a problem.
It’s a minor detail, but this, combined with the conspicuous white “thing” at the right edge of the engine, which also doesn’t seem very “in place”, makes it look a bit sloppy. That’s a pity, because I think the model looks very good so far, and a slight texturing issue is causing a bit of a problem here.
Moving on to the last screenshot of this series, we see the tail, and I’m pleased with what we are seeing. The detail isn’t extraordinary but the real plane doesn’t seem to have any more protrusions than this model has. So that said, I can conclude that the tail looks absolutely fine. Plus, to my surprise, the texturing looks quite sharp, even from this close by.
Finally, I opened up all there is to open up here, so we can have a better look inside. Sadly, the luggage compartments seem to be untextured. This could easily have been remedied by a nice texture of metal plates with screws in it or something of the kind, just not to make it look as bare as it does now. I see untextured bits on a model as somewhat of a sin, because it’s so easily corrected with a bit more work.
Although the luggage compartments are untextured, I’m very fond of the texturing of the cabin, the cockpit and especially the pilots. These look so good! Look closely and you see the pilot flying has a watch around his wrist. The detail is very nice. It gives the model a certain liveliness. The cabin improves this sense too, with the very well textured air stairs and nice-looking seats. With the Dash-8 you might have noticed that the seats we saw inside the model, are the same stairs that were using in the jetliners from the two package I reviewed earlier. The seats in this model are different and have been modeled especially for this model, which is a good thing. It’s all sharply textured and well modeled, just the way I like it!
Overall, despite the textured issues around the engines and the untextured luggage compartments, I think this is a very handsome exterior model, and I especially like the overall sharpness of textures on the outside, but particularly on the inside. The cabin has especially been textured and modeled very well.
Finally, we get to look at the Saab 340. I always found this plane a little weird: the small, hind wings are positioned in a rather peculiar angle, and to me it seems that the wings are too small to carry this fuselage. Admittedly, the Boeing 737-200 also seems to have that: small wings for a “fat” plane. It looks a little silly, yet also quite charming. I should add that at this point, ActiveCamera played up, and so I have less exterior screenshots for you than with the other two planes. Still, they give you a good enough impression of the overall looks of the plane.
In general, the model looks very convincing. Certainly from a distance, the plane looks well modeled and well textured, and I like the fact that you can look into the passenger cabin. To me it looks like a modeler with an eye for detail was at work here, without hitting performance too badly.
The nose looks good, although the tip of the nose is again a bit blocky. The cockpit windows however, and the area around it, looks very good and the texturing inside the cockpit looks precise and well made. The slightly blue-ish hue of the windows is also quite nice, although it doesn’t seem to appear on real life models of this plane.
Judging from the same screenshots, though, the shape of the fuselage, front, middle and rear, are all well replicated in the FS2004 model. The gear is probably one of the few things that could have been more detailed or at least textured in a more convincing way. The gear, as it is now, looks rather skinny and dull, while photographs of the actual plane show a multitude of tubes on both the main and nose gear making the overall appearance of the landing gear more “fat”.
For the rest, the animations are good. Flaps, control surfaces, prop animation, and gear movement is all the way you’d expect it. It’s fluent, although I can’t judge preciseness. I guess the animations are as precise as they could be made given the cost of the package (approximately 10 dollars per model). Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the look of the exterior model.
Now comes that part of the model that has always been a bit iffy about Aerosim models: the interior, or Virtual Cockpit. If you remember the review I did of the Classic Liners 1 package, you will be remember that the VC of half the planes included were, in fact, not very good. They were of the level of the default planes, and honestly, this is not the level we should get from a payware package.
The Classic Liners 2 package improved the VC somewhat though, and especially the L-1011 Tristar had a very nice VC. I’m still enjoying the looks of that VC and I love to fly it. Now we will take a look at the VCs of the planes in the third major FS2004 Aerosim package. I’m rather curious: will the level of detail in the VC be improved again, or will it remain at the level of the Classic Liners 2 package?
The Dash-8 has a modern, glass cockpit. Various CRT screens are placed on the main instrument panel, and convey navigation and engine information. It’s pretty much like in a Boeing 757 or 767, in a way. The rendition we get from Aerosim is relatively nice, and can be seen on the screenshot below. I will discuss the VC of this plane in the order of the screenshots, moving from left to right then down, left to right.
First off, a general overview of the VC before we get into more detail. The overall appearance is relatively good. There 3D switches, buttons and levers on the overhead panel and the main instrument panel looks okay with its texturing, but some of the gauges proved to be a bit hard to read. The window frames and ceiling are textured and generally you get the feeling of a Dash-8 cockpit, which is of course what we want. Still, there is a sense of emptiness. A sense of textures not being that great, and of a general sort of let down that is very hard to grasp. Let’s move onto the other screenshots now and see if there is a way to pinpoint the problem of this VC.
The next screenshot shows us mainly the instrument panel and pedestal. The main instrument panel really looks okay; I don’t see any obvious problems, the texturing looks good and the gauges are easy to work with. There are some 3D buttons, like on the autopilot panel, but that’s it, mostly. The great part of it is just flat.
The pedestal is divided into two parts for me: one of higher quality and one of lesser quality. The part where the FMC is located, together with the throttle quadrant (if you can call it that way… I shall call it that because I can’t think of any better term right now), is textured very nicely and looks good. The throttle quadrant is a bit blocky but I don’t think it detracts attention too much. The other part of the pedestal looks a bit desolate, though. It’s flat, and in all honesty, I don’t really like how it looks. If some 3D buttons were added, the entire pedestal would have looked a lot better. As it is now, one half looks good, and the other not so much.
The third screenshot shows us the ceiling with the overhead panel. I’m very satisfied with how it looks. The texturing of the overhead is sharp and a lot of 3D switches have been added, making it look crowded and very believable. The rest of the ceiling also looks good. It gives a sense of a very bright, brown leather. The only thing that didn’t convince me are the black handles just above the center cockpit windows. It looks unfinished, probably because it’s rather blocky and it’s all black. This all-black texturing gives it a sense of being untextured, which could have been remedied to a great extent by making the model more precise.
The fourth screenshot is mainly an overview of the cockpit. Though it’s not brilliant, it doesn’t look bad. The texturing is mostly the problem: if it would have been more precise and more detailed, this cockpit would have been looking very different. This is also a problem I have found on the main instrument panel of the DC-10 in the Classic Liners 2 package, and it’s a pity this routine has not been changed more.
Finally, the last screenshot show us the seats and the back of the cockpit, and this is what disturbs me most. There are some things in this VC that I found a pity, like the handles mentioned earlier but using the seats from the Boeing 737 and 727 of The Classic Liners 1 package as seats for this cockpit? That’s something I find annoying. Especially because it’s evident the developers themselves didn’t think these seats would quite do it, because they placed a black, leathery headrest on it.
At the least the seat should have been made all-black leathery, like the headrest, like in the real cockpit. What we see here is laziness, and I don’t like that. The same goes for the place where the door to the cockpit should have been: it’s just a dull grey. I’m sure an image of a door wouldn’t have been that problematic to place?
So all in all, I guess that if you don’t look back in the cockpit but only towards the main instrument panel and overhead, you will have a very pleasant experience. Because in general, this VC is rather nice in my opinion. It’s just these seats and the back wall of the VC that drag the entire quality of this VC down a fair bit.
Not only in exterior appearance, but also in the interior, the DHC-6 is a very interesting aircraft. Just look around: the throttle quadrant is on the ceiling, which pushes the “normal” overhead to the back of the plane’s ceiling. Furthermore, the main instrument panel is completely filled with all kinds of tiny engine gauges. No CRT screen is to be found, which gives it a very nice, “old-school” feeling. Since I think this is such a special cockpit, I’m very curious whether Aerosim did a good job on this one. In FS2004, this is a very under simulated aircraft: at least the Dash-8 has the PSS offering, which though outdated, seems to be good.
Look at that! What a great sense of detail! The texturing is sharp and very nice to look at. It’s a VC in a completely different league than of the Dash-8, which means the pattern of the other Aerosim packages is present here, too. One plane is of extraordinary quality, another one of less quality, and yet another one of still lesser quality. The DHC-6 seems to be the one of the best quality, if we can believe the modeling of the DHC-6’s VC.
From these first screenshots, we can already see that a fair bit of switches are 3D. These are textured and modeled well. Speaking of texturing, the main panel, doors and overhead all have a rather pleasant sharpness and accuracy of texturing, although the overhead still seems a bit blurrier than the other panels. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to read what every switch on the overhead is for. Then again, none of these switches seems to be active, so you wouldn’t have to know what it’s for anyway. And besides that, I really like the overall texturing here. It’s really very pleasant to look at.
The next screenshots show you some things in a bit more detail. First of all, there is this gauge on the ceiling here, rather pathetically tucked away, far away from any other gauge, but it looks very nice. It could have been a bit less blocky, but it’s clearly readable and the surrounding textures of the ceiling are very good. This is a ceiling that feels genuinely soft, I feel I could touch it and really feel it.
Also the small panel next to the throttle quadrant, which contains the engine start and lighting switches, is well modeled and well textured. I like how the switches seem to be textured in a shiny grey, metal color. It’s a tiny detail but it adds so much to the overall enjoyment of this cockpit that you’d not want it any other way.
The next screenshot shows us the main instrument panel from closer up. From here you can clearly see how much is in 3D: just about every switch, lever, lamp, button and parts of the gauges are 3D. It’s a wonderful sight, and I’m quite thrilled with this level of detail, even more so after the meager representation of the Dash-8.
The texturing of the panel is noticeably blurrier now, but it’s not very distracting. Anyway, most of the time you’re not going to look at the panel from this close, by my guess. Those that use TrackIR might zoom in this far to be able to read a gauge better, although in my opinion that’s hardly necessary: these gauges are very easy to read. I must say that I quite like that the GPS has been placed on the almost pedestal-esque “bulge” in the lower center of the panel. You can now at a glance see important navigation information.
You can also see the entire overhead, ceiling, and back wall of the cockpit. I still maintain I really like the texturing of the ceiling and the overhead – it looks very lifelike. The back wall, in this respect looks a bit less detailed. The texturing of the wall looks less “soft”, and I think it could have had the same detail as the ceiling textures. I’m also not quite sure about the doors.
I suppose the blue squares are meant to be windows, but why are these not transparent? Probably because there is no cabin – but wait! There IS a cabin, so why not have transparent windows (yes, there is a cabin, I’ll show it to you in a minute)?
The seats, thank god, are genuine seats, like they should be in this aircraft. Their texturing is nice, although from this close by it of course looks blurry. That’s no surprise, though. By the way, did I mention these window wipers actually work? When you press the right key combination, the wipers can be seen moving both from within the VC and from the outside view.
One final thing in this last screenshot: look at the control yoke. I think it’s marvelously detailed. The modeling is very good, and the texturing is even better. The shadow at the under side of the yoke really creates the feeling that the edge of the yoke is slightly rounded. Don’t get me wrong, it is slightly rounded in the model but the texturing makes it even prettier. The texturing for the yellow sign and all also looks very realistic, and I find myself being very fond of this VC. Now let’s go back into the plane to give the cabin a look.
This is the first time I’ve seen a cabin modeled in an Aerosim product, and I’m thrilled it’s exactly this aircraft they chose for it. It shouldn’t be surprising though: it’s a relatively small cabin, with not too many seats and not a lot of possible details. I should say that compared to the VC, the quality of the cabin is lower. Although the modeling is quite good (I really like the look of those air stairs), the texturing is noticeably blurry, but it gets the job done.
All in all, I think this is a prime example of the abilities of Aerosim. This interior model is one of the finest I have seen to date in any of their products, and the cabin with wing views makes it even better. It’s comparable to the very nice VC of the L-1011 Tri-Star of the Classic Liners 2 package, but I think it’s probably slightly better than that one. Now, full of good hope, let’s go look at the Saab 340 interior. If I’m correct, the Saab 340 VC should be between the level of detail of the Dash-8 and DHC-6.
The Saab 340 has a rather nice cockpit, in my opinion. It’s quite unlike other cockpits I have seen, in both design and colors used: Boeing is a drab brown, Airbus cockpits are blue/grey, Russian planes are a light blue/green, but there are hardly any planes that actually have a white/beige interior. Well, here is one, and I think it doesn’t look too shabby.
The main instrument panel is filled with all kinds of gauges, both analog and digital. Because of their size, they are not that easy to read, but if you zoom in a bit it quickly becomes easy enough and besides, it’s very easy to simply guess what the gauge says, So, after some practice, you can sit back in the cockpit, see the needle move, and know what it’s probably saying.
There isn’t a lot of 3D detail here, although the gear lights and some knobs on the autopilot panel clearly are 3D, as can be seen on the second screenshots. Texturing is quite nice. The shadow on the main panel gives a nice sense of depth and is generally successful at separating the autopilot panel from the rest of the panel. It’s a nice visual experience.
Let’s move on to the ceiling and the overhead. Generally, there is some nice detail here both in modeling and texturing. For example, there is fan modeled in here and textured in black, with a certain shining to it that makes it look just right. There also is a sun screen, and the window frames have been done nicely too.
Texturing in this department is also rather nice, although the overhead clearly lacks the significant detail of both the DHC-6 and the Dash-8, which both had fully 3D modeled switches all over the overhead panel. We should remember, though, that the Saab 340 doesn’t have a lot of knobs or switches on its overhead panel. Most of them are simple buttons that light up when pressed. It would have been nice if these would have been 3D, but I can understand the choice not to do that. It might have looked more messy that way. As it’s now, the overhead panel looks standard, but okay. The light switches are modeled in any case, and they look good.
Moving on to the back and sides of this VC, I like what I’m seeing. It has some attention to detail, far greater than that of the Dash-8, and it can come close to the DHC-6 in this department. I should add that there is a lot more to put here than with the DHC-6, so more attention to detail is easily accomplished on the side and back walls of this model. Texturing is not always that good, as can be seen in the very right corner of the cockpit on the last screenshot: there is an awkward blue “thing” here, of which I’m not entirely sure what it is. It’s nice that it’s there, but it would have been nice if it were clearer as to what it is.
Finally, the pedestal is of relative detail. Because there are some 3D knobs and the texturing is nice, it by far looks better than at least the lower half of the Dash-8 pedestal. The throttle quadrant looks relatively nice too, and the texturing here is also okay. The only bit that might be disappointing, is the small area just above the throttle quadrant: there are some unidentifiable gauges here. It looks like stuff that has to do with the engines, but sharper texturing might have been nice.
Overall, I think I was right. The Saab 340 VC is indeed the most detailed cockpit of the three. It’s detailed enough to like it and sit in it once in a while, but it’s not as great as the DHC-6. I’d called it moderately good.
We have now looked at three interior models, of which the DHC-6 was simply great, the Saab 340 nice, and the Dash-8 a mixed bag of good parts and bad parts. With that, I suppose it’s like any other Aerosim package. Somehow it’s a bit disappointing. I simply wished that in such cases they either delete one aircraft and make the other aircraft (the Saab 340 in this case) a lot more detailed, or take more time to correctly model the interiors of the lesser aircraft.
The panel has always been a bit of a sensitive part in Aerosim models. Most of it isn’t more complex than the default aircraft, but I noticed some promising stuff in the Classic Liners 2 package, and the package I’m reviewing now, the Propliners package. The Classic Liners 2, for example, presented us with a L-1011 with a very easy to use yet comprehensive FMS, and the other models featured an accurate INS.
How does the Propliners package’s 2D panels fare? It’s a bit of a mixed bag, I’m afraid. First of all, the quality of the panels themselves is okay. They are all presented in the screenshots below.
As you can see, it’s not bad at all. I generally found the panels to look realistic, and the gauges are not hard to read. Overall it’s a nice visual experience. There are not a lot of additional pop-up 2D panels, though, and that’s because there simply is not a lot of extra stuff to push, turn or flip. This brings us to the second part of any panel system: the system simulation.
In this package there is no simulations whatsoever of a FMS. Granted, the Dash-8 is the only aircraft here that even has a FMS, and given the overall lack of detail of that plane, it should not be surprising. But even a simple FMS doesn’t seem to be included, which is a pity. Actually, the entire 2D representation of the Dash-8 panel is lacking in comparison to the other two aircraft. If we look at panel functionality, it should be obvious that the other planes seem to be more functional than the Dash-8.
The DHC-6 is a plane that is rather basic, not only in appearance but also in systems. It simply doesn’t have any high-tech systems, and all you get here is analog gauges. We also can’t expect, therefore, any great system simulation, although the entire “back” part of the overhead doesn’t function. What does function is everything from the throttle quadrant forward. This means we basically have all that is present in a default plane plus generator switches. That’s it though. It’s enough to fly the plane successfully.
The Saab 340 seems to be more advanced in its system simulation. For example, we have a rather large chunk of overhead panel to play with. To my surprise, I found switches here for external power, generators, bus tie and cabin signs (seat belt/no smoking). To have this all working is above the standard of Aerosim panels, and as I mentioned earlier, there is a short start up, shutdown and parking procedure included that makes use of all these switches. While I won’t say this is all great, it’s certainly a refreshing change from the otherwise rather empty 2D environment.
I’m not impressed with the system simulation and I’m a bit miffed that the Dash-8 is again popping out last of the three. On the other hand, I’m rather fond of nicely made 2D panels for the DHC-6 and Saab 340. I think they look particularly good and although the DHC-6 simply does not have that much to simulate, I’m happy that the Saab 340 has above average system simulation.
Sounds are always an important part of an airplane add-on package. Planes without sounds are worth hardly anything in my opinion, and therefore I think sounds can really make or break an add-on package. For example, the violent roaring of the VRS Superbug or the Ariane 737NG series, is just great. It’s a very immersive experience and I always feel surprised by the realism of these sound packages.
It seems as though there are three sound packages here: One for all of them. While I like the DHC-6 sound (it sounds very “proppy” indeed), I like the other packages less, specifically the Dash-8 sound: inside it’s a distinct turboprop sound, but outside I found the sound underwhelming when at low RPM settings. I didn’t have the feeling it was a turboprop sound at all (and I have the cheek now to compare to the ATR72 by Flight1, which has distinct turboprop sounds both inside and outside). To me, it sounded almost like a “normal” engine. Not specifically a jet engine but also not a turboprop engine.
That said, when taking off and upping the RPM, it becomes a lot better and you do get the turboprop feeling. I can’t say much about the validity of the respective engine sounds, but I can imagine they are not as accurate as one may want. One bad thing that I really noticed with the Saab 340 is a distinct skip. It sounds like a recurring audio sample of which beginning and end haven’t been sufficiently edited to make transition between two fragments flawless.
The DHC-6 sounds, as I noted earlier, seem very good to me. Both inside and outside, it really sounds good and it’s a very distinct sound. Certainly when increasing RPM, you get a rather good representation of a turboprop engine, I think. I also tend to like the Saab 340 sounds, despite the skip, but the Dash-8 sounds could have been better at low RPM when listened at from outside.
Finally, the GPWS sounds are the same in all aircraft. That seems weird to me, to say the least. I understand it costs time and money to find correct sounds for all aircraft, but still. I really wish it would have been different sounds. Also, I’m not sure the sounds are at all correct. For one of these planes they might be the correct sounds, but that still means that the other planes have incorrect GPWS sounds.
In general, the sounds are not great. I wouldn’t say they are bad, just not overwhelming. I think it could have been improved upon, for sure.
Taking them for a flight
It’s time to get these planes in the air and see how they fare. Before I start, I want to mention that FS2004 has some problems with turboprop aircraft. The main problem is that the propeller condition levers are set to 100% by default, which is wrong. If you let them stay there, your plane will rocket away upon advancing the throttle only 1 or 2%. You first have to set these condition levers to a lower setting and then you can safely taxi away, setting them higher again for takeoff, for example (although I’m under the impression in the real world not even that is always done).
The flights I did with these planes are touch and goes. Since there is no FMS or INS like in the Classic Liner packages, there was no need to do a complete flight.
Our touch and go session starts at Zurich Kloten airport. If you don’t forget to set the condition levers at a lower setting, you will find ground handling is quite good and taxiing to the runway is no problem. When lined up and increasing RPM, the plane had a rather irritating tendency at “slipping off” the runway. I think this is probably due to my joystick getting old (for a joystick, a year is quite an age!), and the Z-axis is getting more sensitive every day. Therefore, you shouldn’t be too concerned with the “slipping off” behavior.
Once I was in the air, it was time to set the autopilot so it could fly me all the way back. After setting heading and altitude, I was a bit alarmed to notice that I was unable to set the speed. As you can see on the 2D panel screenshots, there certainly is a button labeled “IAS”, but it doesn’t seem to function. You can’t click it. So, manually handling the power levers, I engaged the autopilot and started flying the pattern to get myself lined up with runway 28.
During flight, the autopilot appeared somewhat “bumpy”. I think this was mostly due to the fact that the weather was quite bad, as can be seen on these shots. The resulting turbulence will have had its effect on the performance of the autopilot.
On base leg, things started to get a bit problematic. First of all, I forgot all about the hilly characteristic of the area around Zurich (and the entirety of Switzerland), which soon appeared to make my altitude indicator misbehave for what probably was only 500 feet, since it appeared on my instrument as 2500 feet. This isn’t really a fault of the altimeter, of course, it’s a stupid mistake I made; meaning my preflight preparation wasn’t as good as it should have been.
Still, I wasn’t the only one to make mistakes. Look at the following screenshots, and think for yourself what’s wrong with this landing:
It should be clear: I did not land. I had to perform a go-around for the simple fact that the A/P didn’t follow the glide slope. The HIS clearly indicated that the plane was well above the glide slope, and while the A/P did descend, it didn’t descend enough to make it a successful landing. This is a great problem, although I’m not sure how it should be fixed.
So yes, I did a go-around as can be seen on the following screenshots:
I set the autopilot back to the altitude and heading that were required, flew back, but this time I decided to fly a bit longer before turning to base leg and final respectively. It turned out to be a smart decision, because this time around the A/P had considerably less problems aligning me.
I should note that it wasn’t as perfect as with the other Aerosim packages I reviewed. Still, the plane overshot the ILS signal and had to do more maneuvering than was necessary. I remember fondly how the L-1011 Tristar lined me up perfectly without fussing, something the Dash-8 admittedly didn’t do very well.
Second time on final, the Dash A/P aligned itself with more success, but the glide slope was still a great problem and I had to help the A/P by trimming the nose down quite a bit, as can be seen on the third shot. It looks like a disastrous landing, and admittedly it was, by any normal standards. No, I’m not very happy with how this went. Touch down was soft, but only because I disengaged the autopilot and took the flying into my own hands once more, after which I parked the plane safely at the assigned gate.
I wasn’t quite saturated yet after this flight. The aircraft under performed and I think it was because of the weather. I decided to try again, but now at Manchester EGCC with calm weather. Not only did the autopilot not shake the plane like it did before (so it was due to turbulence indeed), but landing was quite a bit more stable. It landed the plane in a more correct way although it was still a bit above the glide slope.
When I was on the ground though, taxiing still proved to be a challenge. The plane would sometimes still rocket forward even though the condition levers would be at 50%.
In general, this is a rather nice plane to fly but be aware that the auto throttle (for as far you can call it that way on a turboprop) will not work and that the A/P has problems following the glide slope. Also, in bad weather the A/P might seriously under perform.
Back to our little jewel of a plane. I started the flight at an executive airfield mainly meant for business and GA aircraft. The day is sunny and generally just a nice day to go out for a flight.
After pushback and calm yet uneventful taxi to the assigned runway, I move the view around to give the cabin another look. Note that all internal non-cockpit views have been made with help of ActiveCamera. If you don’t have this program or something similar, like DBS’s Walk and Follow, you will not be able to view the cabin at all!
Upping the RPM, the plane pulls itself through the air, closer and closer to lift off speed. Once reached, pull the nose gently upwards. Don’t do it gently or you may find the nose “bumping” up and down, so be careful. I have the feeling these planes (including the Dash-8 and Saab 340) are quite sensitive at low speeds, so be careful when maneuvering.
Basically, this is another touch and go, and therefore will not be very different from the Dash-8 flight. The autopilot seems to have behaved a lot better here though, which is probably largely due to the better weather. Still, aligning me with the runway and following the glide slope was done with considerable more success than the Dash-8 did, yet I can’t see a good reason for one plane to be behaving better than the other. It just doesn’t seem logical to me that planes in the same package that use the same autopilot, will have such differences in operation.
After takeoff, a short climb out and quick turning is initiated. The autopilot is set to the correct heading and altitude although there doesn’t seem to be a speed-hold option. Considering the relative oldness of the plane, I’m not that surprised. The Dash-8 was more of a surprise in that respect, especially because it did have the IAS button on the A/P panel. As a side note, I find it a great pleasure to sit in the cabin and look at the intricate details on the engine and wings, plus I still think the VC is a small work of art.
After flying for a bit, testing out A/P responsiveness and subsequently concluding it does its job very well, it’s time to head back to the airfield and get ourselves aligned with the runway for landing. We fly back to the airport and engage approach mode after dialing the ILS frequency and setting the course. This proved to be a slightly bigger challenge that I previously thought.
It appeared quite a bit harder to set the course: you have to set it with the help of a yellow arrow on the HIS, and there is no specific gauge that gives the exact number. So in this case the course was 92, but it was hard to see if it was set to exactly 92. The gauges usually are easy to read, but such details are lost both in VC and 2D cockpit.
To my great satisfaction, the A/P here performed much better than with the Dash-8. It followed the glide slope perfectly and set us down softly and safely, although I was worried at first it might land me just before the actual start of the runway. Of course, before touchdown you have to disengage the A/P because it doesn’t have an auto land function, only an approach function.
All in all, the DHC-6 is a very satisfying plane to fly. As long you keep an eye on those prop condition levers, everything will be alright.
The last plane I will be test flying here is the Saab 340. I will do this at Manchester EGCC with fair weather conditions, starting at gate 71.
First of all, set the condition levers to, say, 50%. That should make sure that the plane does not rocket forward once you advance throttle 1%. I found this operation to be more of a problem than necessary, and it proved to be the best to do it in the VC. The 2D panel didn’t seem to give you the option of gradually moving the levers back and forth, whereas the VC did.
I must say this got me in some trouble at the gate, because I constantly managed to get the condition levers into the cut off position which made the respective engine shut down. At that point I’d press Ctrl-E so the engine would start up again. However, this behavior seemed to get me into trouble later on.
As you can see on the screenshots, I encountered very weird behavior while taxiing out. Suddenly, all the instruments would simply go dead. After a minute or so they would turn back on again, but for most of the time they were off. I couldn’t do much else than reset the flight because I’d had moved none of the overhead switches governing the generators or battery.
After resetting the flight and not meddling with the engines but instead moving the condition levers to the correct position immediately, I managed to get the plane ready for takeoff at runway 6L. Takeoff was straight forward: I advanced the condition levers to about 85%, advanced the power levers, and the plane propelled itself forward over the runway. Soon, I was airborne.
Before takeoff, I had set the A/P heading indicator to that of the runway and I entered an altitude of 3000 feet. I switched both of these functions on, and after I was airborne all I had to do was turn on the A/P (I had turned on the FD already before taxi). The aircraft practically flew itself for the rest of the flight, although auto throttle doesn’t work on this plane also.
I don’t understand why, because the default autopilot does have an auto throttle function. Isn’t this just a matter of implementing the default auto throttle in this aircraft? I presume there is some hidden reason for not putting the auto throttle function in any of these aircraft, otherwise I wouldn’t know why it’s not included.
Anyway I continued on with my flight, turning per the necessary directions to fly the complete pattern as shown on the screenshots below.
During the flight, I spent most of the time sat in the VC and looked around. Although it seems bare, I genuinely enjoy this cockpit. There is enough texturing, so it doesn’t look empty and it makes the distinct lack of 3D switches less of an issue, contrary to the Dash-8. This leads me to the conclusion that texturing for me is the basis of a good VC and only after that, 3D switches can help improve the general atmosphere. It is not the most important thing, though.
And here we are again: an ILS landing. After the performance of the Dash-8 and DHC-6, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. The Dash-8 had shown the imperfections of the A/P, while the DHC-6 did a flawless approach. The Saab is more like the Dash-8, I quickly found out. It managed to align me flawlessly with the runway but it did overshoot the ILS signal and I soon had to correct a bit.
It captured the glide slope okay, better than the Dash-8 did, and guided the plane down the runway in a good manner. Probably a 100ft above the runway, I disengaged the A/P and set the plane down myself, softly and safely.
The last bit of the flight: taxi. Already during the landing I pulled the condition levers back a bit, ending up with 50% during taxi, which made sure the plane was easy to handle on the ground. For the rest, this was a rather uneventful time, and I safely parked the plane at the gate. I turned off the engines, and to my surprise, the main door opened up and the air stairs were extended.
Overall, I really enjoyed the eventual flight, although it had a somewhat rocky start. All I can advise you on is to not shut down and start up the engines so frequently before (and during…) the flight, or you might end up with unresponsible avionics.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Once more, I am in doubt. I feel exactly the same way as when I reviewed Classic Liners 1: on the one hand there is some serious fun, but some of the planes just don’t do it for me. Let’s do a quick rundown of the planes in the package:
- The DHC-6 is a star, an absolute jewel of a plane. As long as you keep an eye on the condition levers, ground handling is a no brainer and the plane performs very well in the air too. The VC is the best out there for FS2004 DHC-6 models, with accurate details and sublime texturing of most of the cockpit. The cabin with it swing vies is a very nice added bonus, but it’s only really useful for those that have ActiveCamera, or a similar program, installed. This is definitely one of the best aircraft Aerosim produced, and although the system simulation isn’t as great as of the L-1011 (the model doesn’t have any form of computer except the autopilot, it seems), it sure is up there in looks and function, with a brilliant exterior model, and the absolute top of this package.
- The Saab 340 is a very fun to fly aircraft that handles well on the ground (indeed, if you make sure the condition levers are where they should be). Its exterior model is great, and it’s a nice aircraft to look at, with good animations. The VC is of lesser quality, but the texturing makes it an interesting cockpit to fly from. While the modeling of the cockpit is basic, it having hardly any 3D switches, it still looks good. It’s between the Aerosim DC-10 and Boeing 727 VC models.
- The Dash-8 is not so good. While the exterior looks very good, the VC is rather weak because of weak texturing, despite the fact that it has a detailed overhead panel, with numerous switches and buttons. Still, that doesn’t do it. A flat-looking pedestal and bare walls, plus hard to read gauges (you have to zoom in significantly to adequately read the gauges) drag the VC down quite a bit. Ultimately, I also didn’t really like flying this plane, because of erratic behavior during lift-off.
- The sounds of these planes are okay. The DHC-6 has very nice sounds, while it seems the Dash-8 and Saab 340 share the same engine sounds. They are okay, but it seems as though there is a horrible skip somewhere there. I eventually stopped noticing it, but it can be pretty irritating at first.
So, what to do? The package doesn’t come with any approach and landing adventures, which significantly lowers educational value. The basic system simulation makes it less adequate for people that want very realistic planes. Ultimately, I think the product is overpriced by at least $5. The plane quality varies quite a bit and although I think the DHC-6 is one of the prettiest propliners I have seen to date for FS2004, the Dash-8 seems to drag the package down (The Saab 340 still is fun to fly), to the point that I wonder if the price asked is justified. You have to make up your own mind on this one. Don’t expect too much enjoyment from the Dash-8, but the other two aircraft may be great fun to you. I know I’ll fly the DHC-6 regularly and I’ll do some repainting for it, once I have time.
I want to mention the liveries problem again: whereas the Classic Liners 1 and 2 aircraft had a moderate amount of liveries for them, I have hardly seen anything for the propliners. So beware: if you want to fly a specific livery, chances are you have to make it yourself or find a download!
with that, I conclude the Aerosim series of reviews - for now.
I hope to have enlightened you on the products of this company.
All of their packages are subject to varying levels of detail and
quality amongst the planes, which is something they ought to work
on. It’s simply not satisfactory to have three planes, of
which one is awesome and the rest just dwindle below it. Beside
that though, they have some great aircraft that are one of a kind
in the FS Ecosystem (as I like to call it).
What I Like About The Propliners Collection
What I Don't Like About The Propliners Collection
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