So we take a brief pause in Hornet-Mania to take a whirl in an X-Plane module I picked up today. I actually had tried it for a magazine review quite a few years ago and loved it. Well, the developer picked it up, dusted it off, and revamped it a bit for X-Plane 11 and it was on sale this weekend and I always love another pair of shoes in the closet.
As usual, I went with the Cold & Dark Challenge, which is always fun to do with a beer in front of you…resisting the urge to open a manual.
This was the first aircraft in a long, long time (other than light GA stuff) that I’ve actually been able to sort through the systems with almost no help. I only needed two bits of help…and we’ll get to that in a minute.
The overhead is nicely laid out and comprehensible to this aging pilot-dude. There weren’t too many switches with odd names or head scratching functions.
I went with the tried and true Plane Starting Method that usually seems to work.
Find the battery.
Find the fuel cutoff levers.
Find the starter.
Battery ON (two actually)
Starter to left/start…err…nothing…
Look around a bit…try bumping the condition lever to the start position FIRST, then hitting the starter - BINGO! (Some planes you hit start and THEN add fuel…apparently not the Saab 340A).
Engine winds up…but prop looks kinda funny so I realize the prop lever isn’t quite far enough forward. It spins up further.
Find a generator, turn that on. Find A/C power, turn that on. Boing…everything springs to life. The plane makes airy and hydraulicy noises. All good.
Second engine start similar to the first. Find some other switches that I’m led to by caution panel annunciators…bleed switches on, emer pax lighting armed, and a few others.
Soon I have a dark panel except for the parking brake, so I’m ready to go.
So this is where I run into a “I’m gonna have to look this up”. There is a knob on the left side of the cockpit that must be pushed down to enable nosewheel steering. I would have found it eventually…but there was that. And the second thing was how to get rid of the chocks and ground handling stuff. I had to look that up to realize there is a right hand menu that pops up when you put your mouse over there…and all kinds of cool stuff are on those menus.
I put in one notch of flaps…not knowing what the proper takeoff setting is. And blasted out of my new Salt Lake City scenery (gorgeous!)…
I WAG’ed the power setting for the takeoff and climb. 90% sounded close enough without risking hitting some ITT or torque limit. I’ll look all that up later.
It is a fantastically old school airplane that I felt instantly comfortable with. A flight director, ADI, HSI format that feels familiar…like a Collins EFIS-84 (heck…it might be). AP/YD switches on to engage and then it flies like any other plane. I love, love, love that the developer made the heading select knob run FAST…like you just have to slide your mouse a bit and it moves around the arc pretty quick. I hate pushing and holding a button for sixty seconds in some planes to get the HDG bug to spin around the HSI…I’ve never been in a plane where you couldn’t set one in a couple seconds.
Did a short circuit down south of the field to get set up on the ILS…captured it high but the autopilot handled the LOC intercept just great and I came down onto the glideslope. Used the Fast/Slow indexer on the left side of the ADI to WAG an approach speed.
Night lighting is really nice with a ton of options. I elected to use the cockpit flood light since I wasn’t totally familiar with the layout…but that can be turned off to give a darker and more moody cockpit…
A nifty feature…don’t know if this is something that X-Plane 11 has featured…but I love the way the landing lights cast a glow through the air. It really gives a feeling that the air has mass and thickness…and feels right…
I also really like that the Saab’s landing lights actually illuminate the ground really far out. It feels like the Moon Beam lights in our newer Citation. Love it…
Anyway - a fantastic looking and flying airplane. $29.95 well spent and I can’t wait to explore more of it. It has cargo, pax, and military versions with tons of liveries.