The Beechcraft Duchess
As we all know right now, this Just Flight GA aircraft is not the first X-Plane 11 aircraft in corporation with Thranda Design. A while ago I reviewed for JF/Thranda Design the Cessna 152, which was also the PPL aircraft during my PPL lessons in KEVB (New Smyrna Beach). What I liked about that aircraft and I also noticed that with the Duchess too, that it is a weathered or used aircraft which gives it in my humble opinion the right look and feel for such an old modeled Beechcraft Duchess 76.
Besides that it flies gorgeous, that it’s a very stable aircraft to fly with – not surprisingly since it’s a well-known twin engine trainer – and during a quick flight impression before I even started with this review, it does what I expected.
When you think about GA aircraft X-Plane 11 development, we’ve got a lot of GA developers around there; Carenado, Alabeo, Thranda Design, vFlyteAir, Airfoillabs, Just Flight, Aerobask, AeroSphere, ASDG, DreamFoil Creations, JRollon, MilViz, Nimbus, RWDesigns, STMA (Shade Tree Micro Aviation), Soulmade Simulations, VSkyLabs, X-Hangar, and so on. Some of the above developers are known within the X-Plane community by almost everybody, other developers did model an aircraft, but at the end they stopped producing new ones.
It seems so easy to model a GA aircraft, but actually it isn’t. Not that I’m a developer and now it all, no no, not at all, but I can imagine what it is when you want to start with such an GA project. You need to do a lot of research, you need a lot of skills and not only to model a 3D aircraft with its components and the 3D cockpit, but also programming skills are very important, assuming you want to model your own instruments, indicators, switches, light units and so on.
Further on, when you start modeling yourself or with a team, it would help a lot if you have some real flying experience and this shouldn’t be immediately main flying experience on the modeled aircraft. Yes, that would help a lot when you have that, but already knowing the feeling of flying a single or twin engine aircraft, is a big plus. All kind of “things” that make modeling not easy.
Anyway, that I know more or less about the “look and feel” of JF/Thranda Design aircraft, I’m looking forward trying to master this twin GA trainer. Ready to go ahead, but first, some background Duchess 76 information with the courtesy of Wikipedia. and Pilot and Plane.
The following interesting article – by the way many articles about the Duchess 76 can be found at the Web – I found on the web which is originally from from Pilot and Plane “This low-priced twin is fitted with two 180-hp Lycoming engines and is designed to carry four people with 180 pounds of luggage and optional equipment at 185 mph for more than 800 miles.
The twin includes doors on both sides of the cabin. Optional avionics are similar to those on the Beechcraft Sierra. The Model 76 makes use of honeycomb-bonded wings for a smoother airfoil design with less drag and a lower manufacturing cost. Unlike other Beech twins, it was marketed through the Aero Centers because its economical and easy-to fly operation made it ideal for multi-engine training, charter, and personal transportation.
Outstanding design characteristics of the Duchess include an aerodynamically advantageous T-tail, which places the horizontal surfaces above the propeller slipstream for better stability and handling, and opposite-rotating propellers to eliminate the “critical engine” aspect of multi-engine flying. In 1980, a 28-volt electrical system was added to provide increased cranking power in cold weather, more power for avionics, and improved parts commonality with other Beech products.
The most recent improvements to the Duchess included a “Throttle Q Switch” that prevents the landing-gear warning horn from sounding when the throttle is retarded if the airspeed is kept above 99 knots; this allowed the pilot to reduce power during descent without having to listen to the gear horn. Also, RCA Weather Scout II radar was available as an option.”
Worth to have a quick look to what can be found at the Wikipedia website. According to Wikipedia “The Beechcraft Model 76 Duchess is an American twin-engined monoplane built by Beechcraft intended partly as a low cost introduction to twin-engine aircraft. Developed as Model PD289 (Preliminary Design 289), the prototype was unveiled on November 4th, 1974, although it had first flown in September 1974. The design used components and the bonded wing construction from Beechcraft’s single-engined Musketeer line.
The first production version flew on 24 May 1977, and the name “Duchess” was chosen through a company competition. Construction of the Duchess was set for a new factory built at the Liberal Division, with deliveries beginning early in 1978.
Production of the Duchess continued until 1983, with no significant changes. A single example was tested with turbocharged engines in 1979, but did not proceed to production. The use of a T-tail on the Model 76 met with mixed critical reception when the aircraft was introduced. Gerald Foster said: ” interest in T-tails was perhaps an affectation triggered by their wide use on jet airliners”. The later Piper Seminole also adopted a T-tail.”
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era are the Cessna 310, the Gulfstream American GA-7 Cougar and the Piper Seminole.
First … a VFR Flight Impression
For this short flight impression I travel from my home town to the airfield of Hilversum (EHHV). I do my walk-around check, the necessary cockpit checks and off I go. My intention for this flight is flying under visual rules so VFR. That doesn’t mean I won’t use any NDB or VOR beacon (ok, perhaps one of two VORs), but I fly basically with the help of finding and using landmarks. I think, but as you know me, I will fly towards the North of the Netherlands, make a quick stop at Texel (EHTX) for a lunch and then back to Hilversum.
Part I – Walk-Around Check
First things first …. a quick, but thorough Duchess inspection. I did see the aircraft already from a distance and was pleasantly surprised that it looks weathered. I mentioned this before, the Duchess 76 is an old type GA twin aircraft and unless it is just repainted, it should look “used” or “weathered”. That said, coming close-by to the aircraft, my thoughts are confirmed. I like this “used” look a lot. It fits the modeled Duchess.
This “weathered” or “used” look can be found everywhere. It’s not “over-dun”. It’s just “that”! It’s just what you may expect from a used painting. That said, it’s not that the aircraft paint has many scratches, or damages. No, it’s in a gentle way dirty, at all places. And at some places you’ll find even more dirt like the underside of the engine cowling, or dirt behind the NLG (Nose Landing Gear) and its doors. But also at or around the hinges like the flap supporting rods. But it must admit that the MLG structs and brakes are on the other hand a bit too clean. Ok, not a problem at all, I just noticed that.
Further on, a lot of time and effort is put into the tiny details which you and I my expect from such a well-known developer. The NLG and MLGs are well modeled and although a bit too clean, they look very nice. With the flap extended, I have a good look to how this is all modeled. What previously said, the flap supporting structs are nice, but that’s also for the ailerons, the wing tips and the upper fuel filler cap for example or just to mention a couple of things.
Oops, and not to forget the engine cowlings. In case you would wondering or ask …no, I haven’t spotted any small inspection panel that is animated besides the three passenger- and cargo doors. Some developers have literally every panel, big or small, animated. It’s just a matter of developer priorities and as we al know, the more panels you animate, the more polygons you use/need which will effect the overall frame rates.
For the moment I’m very happy with what I see. The Duchess comes standard with 12 liveries of which one is the white paint which can be used as the paint kit for your own liveries. Hold on, ho ho (no, it’s not Christmas time), that’s not entirely correct since the aircraft package does offer under the folder DOCUMENTATION a sub-folder Duchess Paint Kit that comes with 3 PhotoShop PSD files. I think, no, after seeing the PSD files, I can confirm that all aircraft have the “used” or “weathered” look. That this used look is difficult to see on the for example N6714R livery is because it’s mainly black, it therefore difficult to see if it is used or not.
Part II – Panel Selector
What is that .. panel selector … not a 3D cockpit impression? Yes, that will come after I’ve discussed this part.
The panel selector – it does actually a bit more then the name suggests – is described on the pages 17 till and including 19 of the Duchess X-Plane manual. So, that’s it, right? No, that’s not right. First things first. The panel selector is by default visible via a grey square with a white arrow in it, positioned on the mid left-hand side of your X-Plane display. When you don’t want to see it, you can scroll with the mouse scroll wheel and it will slowly disappear.
Ok, but I don’t want to see it …… I want to discuss it. Although the manual discusses it briefly, I have to admit that most icons that represent “a function/action” are self-explanatory, but an additional screenshot or explanation would be welcome. First, find below the grey square and the default popup window.
As you can see on the screenshot, some of these icons are grey, some are red. The red ones are those actions/functions that are active. The grey ones are, logically, inactive. In the upper row you’ll find 2 icons that has to do with reflections (the ones that are red). This is a very nice feature although you see it more with other developer too, but when you have not such a fast or older PC or Mac, then besides reducing the rendering settings, it would help to select one of these or both reflections OFF which could save some frame rates. If applicable for you, try it and see what the frame rates do.
From the middle row, I would like to highlight only one icon and that’s the default X-Plane GNS 430 popup function (third icon from the left). It’s easy that this function is added right here in the panel selector, but as we all know that clicking on the build in GNS 430 panel mounted Garmin unit, that this will also give you the 2D popup instrument.
In the lower row you see the second icon from the left which is the checklist function/feature. I know, the checklist is not visible right now since it has on the right-hand top a “close” function while the icon is red … a bit confusing, right? Anyway, the checklist looks very nice, but keep in mind that it is not an interactive checklist meaning that when you click a checklist item, you do it only yourself but the system involved, isn’t checked in the aircraft. Example; when the Duchess is parked, and I select the parking brake OFF, I can tick the red line “parking brake set” which will become green, but the parking brake handle stays OFF!
Part III – Cockpit Check and Power Up
I could keep it short, I could keep it simple by saying that the 3D cockpit is gorgeous, but that isn’t fair, right? It deserves a bit more since it’s really well modeled with great precision and eyes for all those tiny details. From top to bottom, from the far front to the far back (baggage area), it all looks great. You can either study this all yourself, or you can do it during a flight with the AP (Auto Pilot) set for a SEL HDG (selected heading) or NAV (navigation mode, either a VOR beacon or via a flight plan). But keep in mind, it’s a basic AP neitherless, it looks good and works as far as I’ve seen, or as expected.
Anyway, the modeled 3D cockpit and passenger area behind as well as the baggage area, are a pleasure to inspect, together with the open/close features of the pilot / passenger doors and the baggage door on the left-hand side of the fuselage. Where shall I start and with what? Ok, let’s open the left-hand passenger/pilot door, and virtually step inside.
I see so many things; the modeled seats, the left-hand sidewall, the instrument panel, the switching panel below the instruments, the control yoke, the pedals and thus the area modeled below the instrument panel. From a distance the cockpit looks good (even better then that), zooming in even better! Instruments are razor sharp, text on the panels is sharp, decals are readable, photoreal material – I assume that this is used inside the cockpit – completes it all. It gives you really the idea you’re in a real Duchess!
But there’s more to see. For example the weathered look and feel. I mentioned this “used” look already while doing the external walk-around check, but the instrument panel and other objects in the 3D cockpit do all have a “used” look. This is what I like and yes, I know, there are also developers and simmers who prefer a brand new cockpit. I think they have a good point too, but for such an old aircraft like the Duchess 76, a used or weatered cockpit is the most realistic way to model and texture cover this aircraft.
Almost everywhere you can find this “used” look. Check for example once more the screenshots and see how the control wheels are, the engine power handles, the rudder/brake pedals, all the light and related switches on the left-hand lower side of the instrument panel.
But there’s more … the Whiskey compass, the WX-8 indicator, the mounted AP panel, the surroundings of the engine indicators and so on. I could continue for hours, but I think you got the picture, right? It gives me, many many years ago worked in and with those GA aircraft a great feeling that a lot of effort is put into the creation of this Duchess GA add-on aircraft although parts of it are ported from the FSX model.
The 3D cockpit and virtual passenger area are actually one area, but let’s have quick look how the passenger area and baggage area are modeled. What previously mentioned, there’s a control for the baggage door on the left-hand side of the aircraft. It gives access to the baggage area, but actually it also gives access to the area behind the passenger seats. So it’s one area from the far AFT to the instrument panel. Quite normal for these type of aircraft.
Normal or not, it is well modeled and perhaps you won’t look yourself into every corner down here, have a look to the above screenshots and then in particular the last screenshot. This represents the pilot seat construction which is for every seat the same. I must say and I think you agree with me … this is very well modeled with eye for details!
Part IV – Power Up
For this I decide to use the Just Flight build in checklist. I know there’s also a dedicated “clist” checklist from Org user GoofyjP which is another option. Don’t forget that when you prefer this type of checklist, you need to download also from Org user sparker his Xchecklist version 1.37 package.
Following the checklist is easy, but when you think you can do it all out of your mind unless you just flew the real Duchess, it’s better to check where and what to find in the cockpit. It’s not a complex cockpit, but it surely helps when you have read the manual before. I don’t find every step in the checklist self-explanatory. Some steps deal with an outside inspection while others suggest that you need to do things together, but a bit further you fidn out that it was only for one engine. Perhaps I’m going a bit too far and is it all logic for you, but keep in mind, the aircraft could be also flown by new simmers.
I go for runway 07 which means I taxi from the grass in front of the control tower and hangar to a place where I can do the magneto RPM test. With the brakes SET and the RPM set to 2200 RPM, I’m a bit surprised that there’s no “motion” simulation that gives me the feeling that I’m running at high RPM and everything in the cockpit is shaking whil the parknig brakes are set. Perhaps I’m wrong or perhaps I’ve forgotten to check something. Don’t expect too much complexity when following the checklist. As long as you follow each step, it’s OK but is the XChecklist clist file better? That’s for me at the moment no question since I’m testing the functionality of the build in checklist.
By the way, there’s also a checklist item that you need to check the circuit breakers. Keep in mind, these are simulated although I had checked a couple that I pulled out thus e.g. simulated system inactive, but nothing happened. I’ll see if I can find a later moment to check this once more.
Part V – the VFR Flight EHHV – EHTX
What said, I’m taxing to runway 07 – yes yes, I know, it’s all grass but all the runways are in one way or the other marked with small white markings. I’m linnig up, make the takeoff, and after takeoff I make a slight light-hand turn to a heading of 300. Although the AP isn’t connected yet, try to set the HDG bug with the intended heading of 300. My plan is to climb to an altitude of 4000 feet and once everything is done according to the checklist, you can or not, it’s entirely up to you, connect the AP in HDG mode.
Don’t forget to switch ON the AP switch on the switching panel first! When you have forgotten that, the AP panel itself is dead. No button light is illuminated. That’s how you can see it! In the mean time, I check the frequencies for VOR SPY (Spijkerboor 113.30) and VOR HDR (Den Helder 115.55). More then these two I don’t need. I know, it is and was a VFR flight under Visual Flight Rules, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use a VOR or NDB (ADF), right?
While the Duchess passes 3000 feet, I change from AP HDG to AP NAV and when needed, you can adjust via the AP panel the V/S (vertical speed). Something else, but I’m quite sure you found that out yourself already, as with many other GA and commercial aircraft, click away the control wheel(s). This is in particular handy for the left-hand control wheel since it blocks a lot of switches. Using the Garmin GNS 430 as a MAP is easy although what you see is very limited.
It would be much better when you have a second monitor connected to your computer. For me, and many iMac simmers, we need an iPad or iPhone for a second monitor. I’m not sure when you have 2 iMacs if you can connect these two togehter as master and slave monitor. Anyway, to do that, you need to connect an iPad either via an USB cable or via wifi to the iMac and special software that simulates that the iPad is a second monitor is needed too. While writing this, I use the Splashtop XDisplay software which is for the iMac free as well as for iOS (as of this writing April 2019).
I tested tihs second monitor option with my old iPad 3 and our older iPad Pro model 2015 with this software system and I’m pleasantly surprised that it works great. Once this setup is up and running, you can either from within the X-Plane menu Settings, tab Graphics set your preference for monitor 1 or you can simple undock an X-Plane default popup window and drag it to the other monitor, read iPad or iPhone. For sure this also works with Android equipment, but since I don’t have that so I can’t test it. For clarity, see the following screenshots of my iMac Settings-Graphics menu and a screenshot of my iPad showing you the X-Plane popup window IOS (Instructor Operating Station).
In the mean time I’ve leveled off at 4000 feet, AP also set to ALT and I’ve got the time to look around in the cockpit or perhaps I should disconnect the AP and see how easy the Duchess flies. Before I do that, I set the HDG bug to SPY so I know where to fly too. So, lets do it!
Since I’ve got no idea how a real Duchess 76 flies, it’s a bet guessing, but what I do know is that it’s a well-known trainer so it should be a stable and easy to fly aircraft. I have real weather active which means at this moment I see no clouds but at different flight levels some winds. Besides, it flies so easy. You hardly believe it’s flying as real as it gets!
Although flying by hand, Duchess is trimmed, I’m approaching VOR SPY so it’s time to switch to HDR (Den Helder). I had it already tuned and after made active, I also re-align the HDG bug again and continue with the manual flight. In the main time, I check my monitor 1 thus the iPad and see how it all goes on the MAP. Perhaps you would say “having on another monitor the X-Plane IOS isn’t realistic” and when you say that, I must admit that this is true. In real you would you have a paper map of the Netherlands in your hands or perhaps you still have an other visual device that shows you the map.
From an altitude of 4000 feet it’s easy to see the city of Den Helder, particular with this clear sky and relatively good visibility. That said, it’s then also easy to see the island of Texel that lies behind it, and which is the largest Wadden Island. I decided to disconnect the AP, descent to 2000 feet, try to find the corridor that connects the north of North Holland with Texel. With the real weather active, I feel the wind gusts, but it’s not difficult to keep the Duchess on my intended track. I’ve been many times at Texel, and I’ve been also many times at the airport, but I’ve never flown in real to Texel or EHTX. The airport or airfield has no VOR, no NDB, it has nothing so only visuals unless you use a Garmin or other equipment that can give you waypoints, then you’ll find it very easy.
Since it’s a bit hazy due to my installed and adjusted X-Visibility with FlyAgi Tweak Utility (FTU), it’s not easy to find EHTX. Once I see the grass strip or grass area that should be EHTX, I go for a straight in approach. Picking up the checklist, see what has to be done, and that also results in lowering the flaps, and landing gear and with good environmental conditions, the landing isn’t that difficult. Taxing on grass is totally different then on concrete or tarmac. That’s the experience I still know from my US flights in Florida.
All together a nice and relaxed VFR flight. Yes, I know, I did use some of the navigation equipment, but as long as you know you’re flying under Visual Flight Rules and the flight is not filed as IFR, I can use this equipment when it helps me during my flight.
Installation and Documentation
I know, normally you would see this section at the beginning or at the end of a review, but this time I decided to put it in-between the VFR- and IFR flight.
The installation of the JF/Thranda Design Duchess is simple, straightforward and fast. Download the zip package from either Just Flight or in my case from X-Plane.Org. Unzip the package and copy and paste the folder “JF_Duchess_76” into the Aircraft folder. If you prefer another folder, feel free to make your own sub-folder such as Aircraft/Just Flight. Since the product is serial number protected, a serial number has to be entered before the product can be used. Reload the aircraft once you’ve entered and validated.
This was the easiest part and if you want, you could fly now, but first, lets highlight the DOCUMENTATION folder.
This folder contains the following documents and a sub folder:
– Duchess Model 76 ODM X-Plane manual (24 pages) - Duchess Model 76 X-Plane manual (71 pages) - ChangeLog.rtf
Both manuals are worth the reading especially the 71 pages X-Plane manual. It offers a lot of background information, aircraft systems information, an instrument panel description and operation and the panel selector. The “panel selector” which I explained before, is an essential part of the feel, control and look of your Duchess. That said, it’s well explained in the manual and therefore there’s no need for me to do it again.
This manual also included a short tutorial that covers a UK flight. Although it’s a simple aircraft, it’s a good idea to have this flight included. At the end you’ll find the normal- and emergency procedures. You can find this tutorial under the name “Flying the Duchess”. It starts at page 36 and on.
The ODM (Operating Data Manual) covers all kind of performances, more or less self-explanatory. The same self-explanatory file is the changelog text document. And, also briefly discussed before, the DOCUMENTATION folder comes with a “Duchess Paint Kit” sub-folder.
IFR Preprations – Using the Garmin GNS430
It could be an option, right … using the popup Garmin GNS 430.
Using this default add-on X-Plane 11 GNS 430 navigation device could be an interesting option. It’s included in the model, so why not using it and trying to fly with the help of a flight plan. That said, let’s see how and where to create “fms” flight plans.
Creating a Flight Plan
To create a flight plan you could use many programs, but let me highlight a couple of freeware possibilities. Let me start with Routefinder which offers you quickly a flight plan, but this is not in “X-Plane fms” format. If you don’t like Routefinder, you could check out FlightAware, but again, this doesn’t allow you to export it to an fms file format; however, it offers real flight plans.
Another very interesting website is simBrief. Register for free and a wealth of flight planning information becomes available. It should be noted that simBrief prefers that you have a Navigraph account else it will use the data from RouteFinder.
Then there’s the browser-based Online Flight Planner which seems to be a good one although I’m not 100 percent sure if the generated flight plans are as real as they should be. The good news is that it seems to do the same as RouteFinder, but with several export options, of which one is “X-Plane fms”.
One more option but that requires two steps is using SkyVector and X-PlaneTools. We all know SkyVector, but SkyVector saves your flight plan in fpl format which in turn can be converted to fms with X-PlaneTools.
By the way, when you insist on using RouteFinder or FlightAware, you can use the same X-PlaneTools website also for converting these flight plan extension to a “fms” extension. Anyway, copy the created fms file into the X-Plane root folder Output/FMS plans. With the fms file in this folder, you’re able to load the flight plan into the Garmin GNS 430.
You can also go for, and at the moment this is my preferred flight planner, the freeware flight planning tool – and it can do a bit more then only flight planning – LittleNavMap. Besides many other things, this is a great tool in case you need to create flight plans with many types of flight plan extension.
What’s the advantage of a Flight Plan?
Compared to the previous VFR flight, the same flight under IFR conditions would have, in combination with the Garmin GNS430 a lot of advantages. The previous VFR flight is using some VOR beacons I used to make it myself easy, further on only based on visual means thus rivers, roads, airports, coastlines, dunes, cities, windmill parks and so on.
When you do the same flight by using the onboard GNS430, you follow the waypoints that are included – and this could be a combination of waypoints, VOR- or NDB beacons. You always bypass (flying around) restricted areas since you made the flight plan in this way and of course, when restricted areas are applicable.
For this IFR flight I created and used Little NavMap (https://albar965.github.io/littlenavmap.html) which contains the following waypoints and yes, I added some additional waypoints to make, no, to give it a more adventure flight plasn. The flight plan looks are follows; EHTX – BUROG – EH408 – EH406 – NEXAR – NIDOP – BETUS – NOPSU – SPY – EH090 – EH091 – EH643 – EH613 – EH657 – EH619 – WP1 – SUSET – EHHV.
When you look closely to the flight plan you notice that we’re flying back to Hilversum. I think I mentioned that in the beginning, at EHTX I will take a lunch, relax a bit, not too much, and then via a scenic IFR route I’ll fly back to Hilversum, right?
EHTX-EHHV IFR Flight Impression
Part I – Preparations
Ok, the IFR flight is based on the created IFR flight plan from the previous steps. I load the “fms” format flight plan in the X-Plane Output – FMS Plans folder. Since the Duchess is equipped with the default Garmin GNS430, this is then also the right folder to load it within the GNS430. By the way, I named the flight plan EHTXEHHV.fms and in case you want to fly this stretch too, here’s a direct link.
Next we need to load the flight plan in the GNS 430. When you’ve powered the AVIONICS system, the GNS430 will normally startup with the page you see (NAV page showing a TO waypoint or airport ID with the DIS, DTK and BRG (distance to go, desired track to follow and the bearing to fly)). Click the FPL button. Normally you would see the ACTIVE FLIGHT PLAN with the previous flight plan or at least what is left from that flight plan.
Now click once on the right hand inner ring of the PUSH CRSR knob. The previous page (ACTIVE FLIGHT PLAN) is replaced by a “FLIGHT PLAN CATALOG”. It could be that you’ve more “fms” flight plans installed in the Output – FMS Plans folder. If you have only one flight plan in this folder then it’s the one you need else you see more “fms” named flight plans. Whatever is applicable, click once on the middle of this PUSH CRSR knob.
The first flight plan in the list (or perhaps the only flight plan), will be highlighted green. When the first flight plan in the FLIGHT PLAN CATALOG list is highlighted and it’s the one we need, you click the ENT (ENTER) button. If the first flight plan in the list is not the one we need, then move the mouse to the right-hand outer ring and click as many times as needed to highlight your flight plan, followed by the ENT button.
When you followed every step, you should now see after you pressed the ENT button, the first section of the flight plan in the GNS430 display which is EHTX -> BUROG with a DIS-DTK-BRG of 4.7-204-201. When you click the FPL button on the GNS, you will see the active flight plan page with the first 4 waypoints.
Laminar Research has a very nice GNS 430 manual although it’s not really a tutorial, but starting at page 42 they explain the same procedure of loading a flight plan. Perhaps also interesting is that they do a sample flight plan where they insert every waypoint by hand. We had the possibility to load our created flight plan in the Output/FMS Plans folder, but in real you don’t have that for such a small aircraft. In real the pilot needs to enter for a flight like the one we do – EHTX to EHHV – waypoint by waypoint. This explanation – Programming a Flight Plan – starts at page 28. This is just one example of a manual. When you search at the Web, you’ll find more and even movies. Just pick out what you like.
Part II – The IFR Flight Back to EHHV
Basically the IFR flight including all the preparations isn’t much different then the VFR flight where I also used some VOR beacons. One of the big differences with the IFR is loading the stored flight plan or when you entered all the waypoints as practice by yourself into the Garmin, is the fact that the AP follows the flight plan via the NAV AP mode and, don’t forget that, set the Garmin GNS430 to GPS instead of VLOC.
The plan is to level off at 4000 feet. But before we’ve reached 4000 feet, I start doing all the preparations with the Just Flight checklist after I had a lovely lunch and drink. Ones you’re familiar with the JF checklist you can go fast thru it, but as in real, don’t go too fast and don’t do things out of your mind and saying to yourself … Ah, that’s not so important to check, that’s always OK so why check it again! That’s where it starts with problems!
Just for your information ….. “Texel International Airport (ICAO: EHTX) is a small airport located 3.5 NM (6.5 km; 4.0 mi) north northeast of Den Burg on the island of Texel in the north of the Netherlands. It has a customs service to handle international flights making it an international airport, though no scheduled international flights take place from the airport as the name might suggest. Because of this, it has no IATA code assigned to it.”
“The airfield is mainly used by small piston engine aircraft, but turboprops such as the Fokker 50 and small jets such as the Cessna Citation can also land at Texel. A lit platform for helicopters is also available. The biggest aircraft ever at Texel Airport was the Fokker 100, the biggest helicopter was a Mil Mi-26. One of the main activities on Texel Airport is skydiving.”
“The island itself is a popular tourist destination especially during summer and so a lot of private pilots come to the island for recreation. There is also a small museum showing the history of aviation on the island.” (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
I make my takeoff from grass strip runway 04, climb out to 1000 feet following runway HDG and of course, no AP connected. Then I make a left-hand turn, climbing out further to my intended altitude of 4000 feet. When I’m flying along the north coast of the island in a western direction, I select the AP switch on the switching panel, call up the AP 2D panel and click the ON button which means that the AP goes by default in the ATT mode. I set the HDG bug to the heading I’m flying, and then I select the HDG button on the AP panel. There’s no separate vertical speed button, so when the AP engages, it will take the vertical speed at PITCH mode.
While the AP flies the Duchess, and I can relax, I have another thorough look underneath the instrument panel, down below the seats, on-top of the instrument panel or perhaps you would say the glareshield, but you know what I mean, right? I mentioned this before that it’s a “used” interior and exterior model that makes it a great model. All the scratches I see, all the dents I spot, all the paint on specific panels that is damaged or worn out, it’s awesome to see and with such a model I feel myself at home although I don’t have a Twin Engine rating.
As far as I’ve looked around, in every corner, under every panel or seat, I couldn’t spot a forgotten place with no texture on it. The same for gaps, openings in the 3D cockpit model. None of them either. Well done Just Flight and Thranda Design teams.
On the screenshots below you see a lot of things and one of them is the X-Plane MAP where I pass the city and harbor of Ijmuiden, and flying along the coastline in a southern direction. Then, north EHVB (Valkenburg Airport), I turn in a western direction. Ok, I don’t turn or I don’t fly the aircraft, the AP follows the flight plan and flies the aircraft.
I’m coming close to my destination. EHHV is around 16NM from my current point so it’s time to descent a bit. The moment you click on the AP panel the DOWN V/S wheel, the AP goes out of the ALT mode and V/S is now controlled by the AP. The same as in the beginning during my climb.
Since the Duchess flies quite stable, and the weather conditions are very favourable, you could fly this last stretch also by hand and thus disconnect the AP. Keep on watching for EHHV since it’s only a grass field. Perhaps the real airport is better visible from the air then it is in X-Plane, that’s something I don’t know.
As will all descents, I needed to reduce a bit the power to keep my IAS (Indicated Air Speed) in the green band. Perhaps I had chosen the wrong airport since EHHV doesn’t has a ILS nor a VOR or NDB. That said, I can’t test this during the current flight if the APPR or G/S function on the AP panel are working.
Anyway, back to my descent. From the moment I started the descent, I set it to a V/S of -500 feet/min. That gives me a nice path down since approaching the last waypoint SUSET, approximately 4NM out of EHHV, brings me at an altitude of 1500 feet. Perhaps a bit to high, but the advantage is that I can easier spot EHHV from the air as I mentioned in the previous paragraph. At the end it turned out that I’m a bit too high, but that’s not really a problem. Since I’m the only virtual pilot in the air near or around EHHV, different then when approaching the real EHHV, I can make a nice circle and fly around the airport, descent step by step before making my final entrance for runway 07.
Frame Rates (FPS)
This is always a section that should be included in a review, but it’s not always needed for the product to be reviewed. The same with this JF/Thranda Design Beechcraft Duchess 76. The aircraft is very well modeled, it has a lot of details, but doesn’t have complex computer simulation sytems installed like with aircraft that have EFIS, EICAS, ECAM, CMC or whatever system is normal for those big jets. It doesn’t have a Garmin G1000 or equivalent system. Instead, it is all old-fashioned controlled and monitored.
Because of that, you may expect good or high frame rates. And yes, I know, the frame rates are not only depending on the aircraft you fly or test, it also depends on the scenery or utility you’ve installed/using. It’s much more then that. Just to clarify this, it’s also your PC or Mac hardware specifications, your monitor native resolution and active X-Plane resolution, but lets not forget the graphical settings. Some of these are nice, but oh oh, they are frame rate killers.
The following screenshots are showing you what can happen with the frame rates in combination with only freeware add-ons.
That I’m satisfied with the overall frame rates as you can see in the above screenshots makes sense, but keep in mind that complex cloud add-on programs could lower your frame rates dramatically and also the type of clouds and even add-on airports that have too many polygons or are complex modeled, could be a problem too.
By the way, I used for this review the following freeware add-ons:
– EHHV Hilversum by LPNils
– EHTX Texel by LPNils
– FlyWithLua for X-Plane 11 NG 2.7.9
– FlyAGI Tweak Utility 1.10h
– X-Visibility 1.0.3
– Environment+ 1.1 (I used only the cloud textures)
– Zone-Photo ZL16 Ortho packages for the Netherlands
– SimHeaven ZL17 Ortho (no longer available)
Regarding the last two freeware add-on items a couple of words. On my VFR flight to EHTX, I used the SimHeaven ortho scenery textures with a ZL17 quality while on the flight back, I used the ortho material from Zone-Photo with a quality of ZL16. From a height of 4000 feet, you don’t see so much difference, lets be honest in that. The only difference I noticed were the colors of the ground textures. It felt that the ZL17 where a bit brighter, had a bit more color. It’s really a pity that these SimHeaven packages are no longer available. Perhaps I should try it once more and see if I’m able to create with Ortho4XP, new ZL17 ortho textures for the Netherlands.
Additional Just Flight Notes
I think it’s worth to highlight two sections of the Just Flight manual namely recommended X-Plane settings and the rain effect. For the recommended X-Plane settings Just Flight informs you that “For maximum enjoyment of this aircraft in X-Plane we recommend setting your joystick ‘Stability Augmentation’ sliders to 0. This will help prevent control issues, such as running out of pitch trim, and results in more realistic flight behaviour.”
On the page 8 and 9 these steps are explained. It would be a shame when you fly the Duchess and not having the maximum enjoyment of the modeled aircraft.
The rain effect is not something that comes standard with the aircraft nor that X-Plane 11 has well modeled rain drops. Therefore they highlight the presence of an external plugin. According to Just Flight “This aircraft includes support for Librain, a windshield rain effect library developed by Saso Kiselkov for X-Plane 11. Once installed – see page 9 of the Just Flight manual – the Librain effects will now be visible whenever precipitation is enabled in X-Plane 11.”
A last word about Product Auto Update.
I checked the Just Flight manual, I also checked the contents of the unzipped aircraft folder, but I haven’t seen any Auto Updated aircraft function like we know from Skunkcrafts Updater or STMA (Shade Tree Micro Aviation) AutoUpdater. This means that, as of this writing April 2019, updates are only available via the old-fashioned way, this means re-downloading the complete package.
As always I have the feeling if I have discussed everything or that I’ve forgotten something. It looks like that I did it and that I discussed all the parts of the Just Flight / Thranda Design Duchess 76. Therefore I hope that the contents of this review will help you making the right decision. What said in the beginning of this review, there are a lot of developers making twin engine GA aircraft and that makes it even more difficult to make the right choice.
As far as my knowledge goes, most of these developers are all highly skilled in what they model and they all update their models on a regular base which is also important. But perhaps there’s one thing that could change your mind buying the Just Flight / Thranda Design Duchess 76 add-on and that is ….. there’s only one Beechcraft Duchess 76 for X-Plane 11 available. So when you like to fly a twin engine trainer and you like to fly a T-tail then this is your GA aircraft.
For more information you can visit the Just Flight website and of course the X-Plane.Org dedicated JF/Thranda Duchess 76 web page. As of this writing – April 2019 – the Duchess cost 41.99 USD. Perhaps you would like to know from me if the model is worth the price, but that’s as always, entirely up to you. It is well modeled, has a lot of tiny details, flies great and then in particular for those who want to improve there flying skills and also important, it comes from a well-known developer. And if needed, it will be updated on a regular base. Oops, almost forgotten, the review is based on Duchess model package version 1.1.
Angelique van Campen
|Add-on:||Payware Just Flight/Thranda Design Duchess 76|
|Publisher | Developer:||X-Plane.Org | Just Flight | Thranda Design|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of the Beechcraft Duchess 76|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 1.88GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||April 18th 2019|
|Hardware specifications:||- iMac Pro
- Intel 3GHz Intel Xeon W / 4.5Ghz
- Radeon Pro Vega 64 16368 MB
- 64 GB 2666 MHz DDR4
- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Big Sur 11.x)
- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Bootcamp Windows 10)
- 1 external 2TB LaCie Rugged Pro SSD (Big Sur 11.x)
- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro and X-56 Rhino
- Honeycomb Alpha Flight Controls
- Honeycomb Bravo Throttle Quadrant
|Software specifications:||- macOS Big Sur (10.15.x)
- X-Plane 11.5x