The Cessna Mustang is a bold and new look at light jets by an established leader in corporate jet production. The Cessna Citation series has been a sales leader for decades now and they were the first corporate jet manufacturer to offer single pilot jets back in the ‘70’s. Fast forward to the 21st century and now you have more modern construction, high efficiency fanjet engines and all glass panel avionics only dreamed of even just ten years ago. In fact unless you are flying a Gulfstream 5 or newer this aircraft has better avionics than earlier Gulfstreams.
Now we’ve been watching flight simulation add-on companies produce sim versions of many popular and even rare/unique aircraft for years. What marks this particular add-on as unique is that Cessna actually partnered with Flight1 for the development of this Cessna Mustang simulation. That means Flight1 had access to information and data normally inaccessible to a sim developer. If you go to the Cessna site for the Mustang, guess what? You’ll find a link to the Flight1 version to take a virtual test flight. Pretty impressive endorsement alright but it took two years of development on Flight1’s part to get it there.
So what are my qualifications to review this simulation? I’ve been involved with flight simulators since 1986 when I was first licensed as a pilot. In 23 years of flying I’ve piloted 17 different aircraft types so far, singles, twins, piston, turboprop, even a helicopter. The past ten years of which have frequently been in Garmin equipped aircraft utilizing the GNS430 or GNS530. I’ve completed ground familiarization with the Garmin G1000 in the Cessna 172, 182T, and the three tube G1000 installation in a STC modified Beechcraft King Air C90.
More specifically I’ve flown with the Garmin G1000 equipment in a Diamond DA40, Beechcraft Baron G58, and a Socata TBM850. The latter also equipped with the three tube G1000 as seen in the Cessna Mustang. This is to say that I am not just familiar with this avionics suite but have a practical knowledge of how this equipment gets used in real life, day in - day out flights, not just armchair discussions of what it is capable of doing.
Installation and Documentation
I’m going to preface this discussion on installation to talk about computer specifications and FSX in general. Never in the history of the Microsoft Flight Simulator title has the necessity of high computing horsepower been as true as the FSX title. Not just high CPU speeds but also of matching components as to prevent bottlenecks in processing and graphics computing. A quick look at AVSIM’s or any other MSFS forum and you will find daily posts on setting up your computer for FSX, what type of computer to buy for FSX, which graphics card to upgrade to for FSX.
My prior computer was an Athlon FX60 running on a A8N SLI Premium motherboard with 2 Gigs of DDR2 ram, a 7,200 rpm 300 Gig hard drive and an ATI HD3870 512 Meg graphics card using Windows XP Pro 32 bit. I wasn’t really all that happy with the performance I was getting running FSX and found I much preferred running FS9 (FS2004).
I finally went through the process of using Nick Needham’s walk through for setting up the computer, installing the operating system and its settings, installing FSX and its settings and running O&O defrag per his instructions. I was amazed at the improvement and found that system could handle FSX. Then I installed the Flight1 Cessna Mustang and found that while the system could handle it, it was even more sensitive to any weather. Basically I could fly the Mustang or fly with clouds but not both.
The limitation was mostly due to the ATI card’s handling of clouds but the added CPU cycles caused by the G1000 simulation was also to blame. What I am trying to convey to the reader is that if your system is barely handling FSX now you would be best to wait for your next computer upgrade for this simulation.
My Athlon system had a meltdown and instead of being able to research, plan and take time with a replacement like I had in the past, I needed a computer fixed that day and so my present system is a compromise of what the local store had for hard drive, memory, CPU and motherboard combo. I did decide to install Vista Ultimate 64 bit as the operating system since I had always wanted to experience DX10, even if it was only partially utilized in FSX.
After getting FSX up and running I was quite impressed with the improved performance. I was able to use settings unheard of with the prior computer and now enjoy a pretty smooth graphical experience flying in FSX. I installed the F1 Mustang and to my surprise it brought the new computer to its knees. Frame rates below 10, a real slideshow and it didn’t seem to matter how I tried to manipulate the settings in FSX. Life now sucked!
Enter Nick Needham again, this time with some firsthand advice to me of getting rid of the ATI card I was using and having him look over the components I was using to match up a graphics card that wouldn’t cause a bottleneck. A nVidia GTX260 with 896 Megs fit the bill but I needed a substantial increase in wattage for the power supply so the computer case was disassembled again for the upgrade.
FSX looked much better but alas the Mustang was still not performing in a fashion that I found acceptable. Why would the new computer with quad processer be so finicky compared with the last? I could run the Stang on the Athlon system; this new one was really fighting me and ticking me off every time I’d try to futz with it more. Finally after some reading on overclocking the CPU, I gave that a try and found it to be the magic bullet. Nick told me his experience was any CPU clock speed less than 2.6 MHz seemed to not work well with the F1 Stang and it certainly had shown itself to be true with my story.
There are certainly a number of self proclaimed gurus out there in the forums giving advice on how to set up your computer and which components to buy. Nick has the work experience, engineering background and first hand knowledge to back up what he says. If you follow his advice to the “T” you will find FSX a much more enjoyable experience.
Whether you download the Flight1 Cessna Mustang or purchase the CD, installation is a breeze. With the download you make your purchase on the first run through with the Flight1 wrapper, if re-installing you can either verify your account which you established with the purchase and utilize your Flight1 logon for keyless reinstall or utilize the unique key identifier and password like many of us have used for years.
Make sure your antivirus and any aftermarket firewall are disabled during the installation process and if you are using Vista make sure the UAC is also off (in fact leave it off when using FSX). After installation of any complex aftermarket aircraft I find that a computer reboot ensures proper loading of any background files into the operating system and recommend it with this one as well. You are ready to select the Mustang and fly it after these steps but I highly recommend a read through of the manual before doing so.
The manual is very well written and includes many screenshots with highlighting of specific areas of interest. Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the Mustang’s operations and you will reward yourself with an easy first time flight. In fact once you understand the systems setup in the Stang and how to start it up and get it ready to fly, it is actually incredibly easy. So much so you might think that very little is going on and it is not as complex as other add-on aircraft out there that may have more gauges, that is not the case.
The background programming to make for this seamless G1000 simulation is happening constantly and what may seem a simple onscreen representation most times is pulling from several data sources that are also being updated continuously. There is a reason that this kind of glass panel integrated avionics suites have become so popular in general aviation, they take a considerable workload off the pilot by presenting so much information at a glance.
If you have the CD version of the Garmin G1000 training software you might already know that it won’t display both the PFD and MFD at the same time and even without the complex flight dynamics programming nor external visuals that FSX has, it will pull even modern CPU’s down to a surprisingly slow pace.
If you have any G1000 training material, training videos, books, etc go ahead and get them out. For the most part you are going to be able to use them with this simulation of the G1000. In fact if you are training to fly in any G1000 equipped aircraft, this simulation is going to be pertinent and helpful with gaining familiarity with the operation of the Garmin G1000 since the programming logic is in keeping with the real world unit, no bad habits to learn here.
After your purchase of the Stang you will also want to head over to the dedicated forum for the Flight1 Cessna Mustang. You will need to create a user log in and verify that you are a purchaser of the software to gain full access to the site. This is a necessary evil that many sim developers have had to go to in order to prevent those that choose to steal software from gaining access to free support.
On that site there are several repaints available, some utilities for planning and most importantly for the new user some well written tutorials that will walk you through step by step the startup and programming of the G1000 for a flight plan and how to best utilize the autopilot functions for a smooth, uneventful flight.
Now Let’s Have a Look See
Whew, OK we got the software purchased, installed and now we’re ready to load up this new puppy and take a look at it. You will find that there are several repaints including one of the “green” unpainted test aircraft. Depending on how you have your FSX set up you will either find yourself initially in the 2D cockpit or virtual cockpit. Both types of panel displays are included which is good for those that have a preference.
The 2D representations of the Garmin displays are easier to read but that is purely a function of how many pixels are available for rendering. If you are using the 2D panels you might notice that they only include standard 4:3 ratio versions of them. Those of us with widescreen monitors (do they even sell 4:3 monitors anymore?) will get the squished display of the panel and can either resize it to make it look better or you might prefer using the virtual cockpit view and set up a viewing angle that is to your personal preference.
You will find that navigation of the 2D panels is very intuitive with shadowed arrows you can click on for changing 2D panel views. There is also a panel manager with icons for most of the pop-up panels which displays on the upper right or upper left side of your screen depending on whether you are viewing the pilot’s or copilot’s view. You can close this panel manager but if you need to reopen it, just click on the ventilation duct and it will re-appear.
These pop-up panels are also available by keystroke combinations and there are also little magnifying glasses on the panel that if you click them, the pop-up will appear. The centers of the PFD and MFD will also work as click spots for their respective pop-ups. If you choose the fly from the virtual cockpit you will find that most of these pop-up panels are still available, including clicking on the ventilation duct to bring up the panel manager.
The yokes can be hidden by clicking on their mounts to make the switch panel more accessible. The PFD and MFD retain the same click spots in their centers to bring up their pop-up zoomed displays. This is a real aid if trying to click the small buttons or clicking on the knobs on the PFD and on the MFD; you will notice that there is a shadow image of the MFD controller in the upper right hand corner of the MFD bezel. Clicking this will bring up the pop-up panel for the MFD controller allowing for easy mouse control. This MFD controller is what gives the G1000 system a real FMS type feel to its operation. Flight plan entry and modification is very easy as you will see on our demo flight.
The virtual cockpit and virtual cabin are works of pure aviation art. The 3D modeling is very smooth and try as I may, I couldn’t find the odd reflective area or shadowing that I have noticed on default aircraft and many payware add-ons.
I have an idea that the developer was using a Track IR unit to go over the 3D work making sure there weren’t any holes or notable areas for criticism. High marks for such a good modeling job on the interior.
Move to the spot view and you will find the work didn’t end on the interior. The same kind of attention to detail that has earned Flight1 its reputation continues on the exterior model. The Cessna Mustang has a very smooth looking body since it uses a ripple free bonded aluminum construction so you don’t see a bunch of rivets or lines along the body or wings, just long smooth gentle curves. There is a Cessna Mustang sitting on the Aurora airport that I see almost every week. I can tell you that Flight1 has correctly captured the look of this aircraft and yes it is fun to imagine that you own one, even if it is on the computer.
Something that FSX started doing is providing coding for additional camera views. These allow for quick navigation to alternate views, on the interior for different parts of the panel and seating areas, also window views. On the exterior they provide some unique perspectives like along an engine pod, under the wing for watching the landing gear retract or up on top of the rudder looking down on the fuselage. These have to be programmed and Flight1 provided enough to keep you having fun looking at your new toy for a while.
While we are outside viewing the external model let’s bring up the panel manager and look at a few options. From the Auxiliary Control Panel you can control if the pilot and if the copilot are visible, even if they are wearing sunglasses. From the exterior tab on this same control panel you can open any of the aircraft’s doors, roll out a red carpet for entry, put the pitot and engine covers on, chock the wheels and place cones around the aircraft.
You can even have the pilot wait at the wing where he will impatiently tap his hand on the wing. Just like me, he is ready to fly so let’s go.
A Real Test Flight
I mentioned earlier that I had recently flown a new Socata TBM850 with the three tube Garmin G1000 avionics suite. That flight was conducted from Aurora State airport (KUAO) to the coastal town of Florence (6S2) both located in the beautiful state of Oregon.
The TBM850 and Cessna Mustang actually have some very similar performance numbers and I found that the Mustang was a very good means of recreating that flight experience. Now I bring this flight up and use it in this review not to brag about flying a TBM850 (which was pretty cool by the way), but to give a real world perspective on how aircraft with this kind of instrumentation are flown and how the avionics get used for those flights.
Everything that we did on our flight, as well as the flights I have taken using the G1000 in the Diamond and the Beech Baron G58, I can do with the Flight1 Cessna Mustang’s simulation of the G1000. The TBM850 was equipped with synthetic vision which while a neat feature didn’t actually make any difference as to how we programmed or used the instrumentation in this flight. Had we been flying a night IFR approach into Hailey Idaho, the synthetic vision would have been a welcome addition.
We requested a direct flight to Florence taking the aircraft up to 26,000 feet to demonstrate the performance at altitude which meant we would be at that altitude for a very short time, Florence is only 95 nautical miles if flown direct. Our clearance came back to fly to the Newberg VOR where we would be vectored out of the Portland area and then direct Florence. Our initial altitude would be 8,000 feet.
We took off and headed direct to the Newberg VOR and were told to do a 180 and head back toward Aurora, I think our altitude clearance after passing Newberg was to climb to 14,000. After turning back towards Aurora we were told to fly a heading of 180 degrees and climb to 26,000 which we did. We reached 26,000 in about 12 minutes and accelerated to 312 knots true airspeed and were given the direct routing during that climb out. I said we were at altitude a short time which also means we had a rather quick descent to make which we initially set the vertical speed to 4,000 feet per minute.
It was a clear day so there was no difficulty finding the Florence airport and we landed using a standard left turn pattern. We swapped seats and took off again for Aurora, this time we wouldn’t go as high and I initially headed out North along the coast to overfly a home my father had looked at North of town on a hillside. We were at 2,000 feet when we turned direct toward Aurora and climbed to 14,000 feet. On our descent into Aurora, the Socata demo pilot asked if I wanted to fly a GPS WAAS approach. Of course I said yes, so we asked for the LPV into runway 35 and were directed to the DUBMY intersection which is the initial approach fix (IAF) for this approach.
We punched it into the G1000 and the autopilot flew it and intercepted the GPS derived glide slope. I turned off the autopilot and yaw damper at 500 feet above the ground and landed the aircraft. The newer database in the TBM850 didn’t force the holding pattern so in this simulated flight I advanced the flight plan as shown in the photos.
The flight dynamics for the Flight1 Cessna Mustang were done by FDE guru Jerry Beckwith and have the feel and authority I would expect out of this jet. The TBM850 has a very nice balance to it but the controls are noticeably heavy, like an oversized Mooney. I am told by the pilots I know that fly Citations that the Citation is actually a little lighter on the controls and this simulation feels like it.
Jerry is one of the handful of people I know that can work this kind of magic with numbers to make the sim respond and act like the real aircraft does and match real world performance numbers at the same time.
I found the Flight1 Cessna Mustang to be a highly accurate depiction of its real world counterpart. Taken and viewed in its parts, external visual model, 2D panels, virtual cockpit, virtual cabin, sound set, flight dynamics they are all representative of the state of the art in FSX add-on aircraft.
Everything was done to a higher standard than their previous release which was also to a high standard. The standout feature I can report is the faithful reproduction of the G1000 avionics suite. This kind of automation in the cockpit is not only smoother for the passengers, it provides a much heightened situational awareness and simplicity for following a clearance and amending that clearance in flight all the while monitoring all those other things you had to hunt around the panel for.
May the good old days never return, this is neat stuff. If you don’t already have it, put it on your Christmas list.
What I Like About The Cessna Mustang
What I Don't Like About The Cessna Mustang
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