Thranda’s BN-2A-27 Islander
100,000 Rivets Flying in Formation
Thranda’s latest entry for your X-Plane 12 hangar is the Britten-Norman BN2-Islander. The modeled variant is the BN-2A-27 that received its type certificate in August of 1974. The modifications from the original BN2 include an increased takeoff weight, droop flaps, increased wingspan and fuel capacity, modifications to the wing leading edge, and two 260hp, air-cooled, carbureted, and normally aspirated Lycoming O-540-E45C5 engines.
The focus for this aircraft is on producing a rugged and durable aircraft that has good field performance, low operating costs and is easy to maintain. Payload is emphasized over performance and, as such, is a rather slow twin engine aircraft with a rated cruise speed of 134 knots and a useful load of 2685 pounds. Various reports indicate the engine volume within the cabin is very noticeable. The Islander does not have a center isle and uses three exterior doors for boarding its up to nine passengers and pilot. Our current model is configured for up to seven passengers and a pilot in a passenger / cargo configuration.
The BN2 series of aircraft has proven to be an adaptable and low-cost solution for various mission needs. The versatility of this series has resulted in its ongoing daily use by some 500 companies and organizations in over 120 countries. The company has produced over 1280 aircraft in the BN2 series over the course of its 58-year production run. The Islander is used by regional transit operators and various military and government entities.
Installation and Documentation
The Islander is obtained in a zip archive file format. The file is expanded into the Aircraft sub-folder of the X-Plane installation directory. Upon first use, it is necessary to enter the serial number provided to activate the aircraft. Once the number is entered, the aircraft needs to be reloaded using that option on the Developer menu in X-Plane. The recommended method for reloading the aircraft is to restart X-Plane.
The model is kept up to date via the Skunkcraft updater that needs to be acquired separately. The Islander cannot be updated if it is the currently loaded aircraft, so you will need to start a flight with a different aircraft to update it.
A best practice install of the model would be to install the aircraft, activate it, start a flight with a different aircraft, then run the Skunkcraft updater to be sure you have the latest version of the Islander. Once you have completed the update process or are informed you have the latest version, restart X-Plane and select the Islander to begin your first flight adventure with your new aircraft.
The Thranda Menu
Much of what constitutes the dynamic generation series of aircraft from Thranda is found on the Thranda pop up menu. The menu is accessed by clicking on the grey arrow button that you will see on the left side of your screen once the Islander is loaded. One note on the arrow button: if you do not want to see it while flying, you can hover your mouse cursor over it and use your mouse wheel to change the transparency level of the button.
Note the small vertical grey bar against the edge of your screen. You will need to know where it is if you make the button transparent and want to position your mouse cursor where using the mouse wheel will bring it back to opaque. By the way, this menu does not move to different locations on the screen. It does, however, respond to the user interface size option on the X-Plane graphics settings page. If you are running the simulator at a very high resolution and are having trouble reading the Thranda menu, increase this setting and the menu will increase in size.
With the pop-up menu, you can control the operating parts of the aircraft such as the doors, cowl covers, and ground equipment. You can change your livery on the fly, configure the interior of the aircraft and adjust the weight and balance. Adjusting the sound volumes and camera views as well as activating the slew mode are done here as well. One of the most exciting features, customizing your instrument panel, is done through this menu. Finally, you can adjust the DynaFeel Intensity and change your preferred yoke style.
This menu is broken into four quadrants by the presence of the aircraft representation. The first option in the upper left corner provides access to the electric tug you operate with your flight controller to move the Islander around. Pulling forward moves the tug and the Islander forward while pushing back does the opposite.
You can turn the tug using whatever you have assigned to the yaw axis or by using your mouse scroll wheel when you see a double arrow cursor over the white dot that appears just in front of the spinner here on the menu. When you activate the tug, the green click point on the bonnet, that can also be used to activate the tug, should turn red. You will also see a green “zero” to the right of the nose that will give you an indication of how fast you are moving the plane with the tug.
Window reflections and panel reflections will provide you with a more realistic, as well as a more obscured, view of the instruments and the view outside the cockpit. Some of the instruments, and the windscreen, have particularly high amounts of reflection as we shall see. Unlike other Thranda models, there is no option for a GPU unit on this menu.
The top right quadrant contains three options for controlling the covers, tie downs, and doors. The position or state of an item is indicated by its color, red or green. In the case of the covers and tie-downs, green is the proper color for flight and red means they are in place and the aircraft is parked. You have the option of clicking on the individual spot for the item you wish to manipulate or selecting the “all” option in this upper right quadrant to change the status of all items in that category at one time. The doors are selectable and can be manipulated directly with click points on the aircraft representation as are the individual covers and tie downs.
The lower right quadrant contains options for the external and internal lights. These two items work the same way the selections above them do. You do need to have the battery turned on to enable the lights to work. If one or more exterior lights are on, the indicator will be a white dot. If all are off, the indicator is black. You can select individual lights to turn them off or on.
The interior lights are also individually selectable on the aircraft schematic. A tiny oddity exists in that the rear most interior lights will not activate the light on indicator dot and, if the cockpit panel lights are on, individually turning off all interior lights will not extinguish this dot either. If you have difficulty finding the interior light click spots, turning on the “show instrument click regions” option on the View menu will outline them with white squares.
At the very bottom of this quadrant is the Show/Hide Checklist option which brings up the Islander’s normal procedures checklist for you to follow from pre-flight inspection to shutting down and securing the aircraft. This is followed by the emergency procedures check list. The checklist is both movable and resizable and can be assigned to either a keystroke or controller button.
In the final quadrant at lower left, are four additional options that allow for control of ground operations. This is one way to set the brakes if you care not to do it from within the cockpit. You may control the chocks individually from the “all tie-downs” options. Lastly is the Startup Running option. This will allow you to have the Islander load into the simulator with engines running.
As soon as you click on this, your current flight will end, and X-Plane will go into its load new flight routine. The Islander comes back with everything ready for takeoff. It is advisable to double check all your switch settings. When you tick this off, the same thing happens except the Islander reappears in its cold and dark state and again, checking switch settings is a good idea.
The next section of the menu controls the appearance of your Islander. There is a lot of depth to this menu that allows for many customizations. You can select an existing livery from the aircraft’s livery folder by scrolling through the preview images using the Prev and Next buttons or by using your mouse scroll wheel while hovering over the image. You can also enter the Dynamic Livery area where you have the capability to create your own paint scheme based on either a Classic or Modern design. This menu also allows you to control how shiny and or reflective your aircraft will be and how dirty it will be.
By default, when you select this menu, you will see that painted liveries is active and there is a small preview of your current livery. Under the preview are the notations “Dirt” and “Scratches” followed by numbers. You position your mouse over the number and use the wheel to change it. The higher the number, the dirtier and more scratched up your plane becomes. Now you can have your aircraft looking just as new or beat up as you think it should.
The Islander Manual found in the Documentation folder of your Islander installation exhaustively covers every part of this menu. There are a couple of things to be aware of about the dynamic livery options that are not mentioned. The first is that assigning a high level of metalness or roughness results in a grey preview image that impedes the display of your chosen color.
For this reason, you may want to complete your color scheme first and then assign your selections for metal and rough. Secondly, your color tones or shades will change as you change the metal and rough characteristics of your aircraft surface. Lastly, you may need to swap out to a painted livery and come back to your custom livery to get all the changes to take effect if applying your dynamic livery a couple of times does not reflect the change you made.
A few additional notes about this menu. If you want a visual guide of what area each item on the paint list covers, go to the MYEYES liveries and see the wild schemes created by Thranda. You can swap between Classic and Modern themes and the livery will uniquely color each area mentioned in the list.
This interactive screen gives you more control over passenger and cargo weight than the default X-Plane options does. Additionally, you can remove the five passenger seats to increase your cargo capacity. This is done by toggling the red “x” at each seat location on the diagram. Each seat adds or subtracts 15 pounds from the total weight of the aircraft and can have a maximum weight of 350 pounds.
The cargo depiction is different for each seat with differing minimums to get the first item to appear. The visuals for the cargo reach their maximum prior to reaching the maximum capacity for each area.
This menu is pretty much self-explanatory. It is a handy way to switch your viewpoints if you don’t want to assign them to your controller or keyboard. These are the defaults set by Thranda. If you reassign the view number to your own selected view, the simulated keypad will take you to those set views and not the default views listed. You can still access the Thranda default views by clicking on the green dots around the airplane silhouette.
The FOV slider is a convenient way to widen or narrow your field of view without having to interrupt your flight to go out to X-Plane’s graphics setting menu where this setting is otherwise located. I was only able to get this control to move by moving the mouse cursor over it until I got a two headed arrow cursor, and then scrolling with my mouse wheel button in the direction I wanted the slider to move. Clicking on either side of the button or attempting to click and drag the button resulted in the entire menu window trying to move.
Audio / Slew
This menu allows you to alter sound volumes per channel. Again, these are native X-Plane settings, but Thranda has been providing a way to do this while you are in flight since the beginning of the dynamic generation series. This can be very convenient particularly when the engine sounds are drowning out the radio volumes. Another option is to click on the headset jack in the 3D cockpit to mute the engine sounds temporarily.
The slew feature allows you to quickly change the position of the Islander. You can do this while the aircraft is on the ground or in the air. There is an indicator informing you if ground mode is active directly under the Slew Mode button. This feature tends to be more precise than the built in X-Plane function found on the sectional map.
The one variable missing here that is on the default is the ability to set pitch angle. Other than that, heading, altitude, and location are easily set by clicking on the corresponding buttons and dragging them to move your aircraft.
This menu allows the operator to customize their aircraft instruments to their liking. You can choose from any of fifty-two different instruments including the Reality XP GTN 750 and GTN 650 if you own those add-ons. If you want to know more about the RealityXP package, you can find the information here.
I highly recommend you reference the Thranda manual in the Documentation folder if this is your first time with this feature. So, let’s get an overview of how this works and then you can follow up and get all the details in the Islander Manual.
The panel menu is a bit crowded and can seem a bit overwhelming the first time you see it. The image of the panel is a preview image of the currently in use panel. The panel number is shown under the preview image. There are many options included on this one screen that allow you to select a preconfigured or saved panel, enter panel layout mode that will cover the panel with all kinds of green highlights, and add, save, and delete panel presets. A new panel will always start with duplicating the currently active panel. The Islander ships with 5 pre-configured options.
A word of caution for all click points on this menu. They are very close together and, at high resolution settings, you can very easily think you are clicking on one and hit the other. I lost a completed panel doing this when I clicked on the “Add Duplicate” area and “Remove Last” is what happened, and I lost my panel.
You may find that you want to increase the X-Plane interface size on the X-Plane graphics settings screen, but you will need to reload the aircraft either by using the option on the X-Plane developer menu or by switching to a different aircraft and coming back to the Islander. If you reduce the interface size after you are done with your panel, you will need to repeat the reloading. At this point, it is best practice to close X-Plane and restart it. Make sure you save your panel first.
The layout feature utilizes the X-Plane feature for highlighting instrument click spots. For this reason, you need to keep in mind that not everything that is highlighted can be moved or removed from the panel. The gauges and features that can be customized are highlighted with a green octagon, most of which have circles at the four cardinal points.
The center of the octagon allows you to click and drag the item on the x- and y-axes. The bottom green circle allows you to click and drag to adjust the location along the z-axis. The top circle will tip the instrument and the right one will rotate it. The left one is listed as controlling the lighting intensity.
The Islander is unique in the Thranda Dynamic Range Series in that it is, thus far, the only model with a second panel that can be customized even though it is not shown on the menu. This panel is the overhead panel which includes the area over the right side window. Again, not everything in green can be moved or changed.
The individual instrument tab allows you to work with each instrument. Here is where you activate an instrument you want and deactivate the ones you don’t want. The instrument is bright and opaque when “on” and dim and translucent when “off”. Of note on this tab is the second button from the top.
That button allows you to change from working with an individual instrument to working with the GPS units. Towards the bottom, there is a lighting index number. This allows you to dictate what group an instrument is assigned to when it comes time to turn on the lights.
One glitch that can happen and is good to be aware of is the “lost” instrument. If you are activating an instrument using the individual instrument tab and cannot find it on screen, it may have become “lost” behind the panel by being set too far back on the z-axis.
Once there, it cannot be selected and moved by the mouse. There are two ways to get it back. The first is utilizing the numerical method on the individual instrument tab as described above. The other is to move the camera behind the panel to find it and then you can click on the lower circle to drag it on its z-axis to bring it out in front again.
It is a good idea to back up the file that defines your panel once you are satisfied with it. The file bears the name Panel#.json where # is the number assigned to your panel noted in the red text at the bottom of the menu. Those files are found in the “Thranda_BN2A_Islander\objects\Inst” folder. Always remember to save your panels because they do not survive restarting or reloading the aircraft if you haven’t.
We now arrive at the last section of the Thranda menu that has four sections for miscellaneous configuration options and flight adjustments.
The upper left quadrant allows for equipping the aircraft with slightly larger tundra tires for unimproved and off field use. They will raise the aircraft slightly and alter the ground handling feel.
The upper right allows you to configure your Islander with De-Icing boots. This adds switches to the panel beneath the pitot and stall warn heaters switch for controlling the de-icing equipment. Boots are added to the wing and horizontal stabilizer leading edges and electric propellor heat is now available. For this simulation, the equipment does not add any weight to the aircraft.
Control “feel” is controlled by the DynaFeel Intensity sliders for pitch, roll, and yaw. I refer you to page 16 of the Islander Manual for the technical description of what light and heavy means. The simple version is that light means the Islander responds the same at all speeds while heavy means the pilot must exert more energy at the controls to get similar results at high speeds that he or she would get at lower speeds with less effort.
Does this work?
To be honest, I don’t know exactly how one describes “feel” in a simulator that is entirely visual, but I did notice a difference in flying the Islander when I changed this setting. Some of it seemed subtle, but an experienced pilot that knows what they are looking for may discern more than I. That said, the manual makes the point that the plane has been carefully tuned to respond accurately with this setting at 100 percent.
The final options in the lower left quadrant allow you to change the front passenger windows from flat glass to a bubbled window that allows the passengers to lean a bit further to see a little more during flight. Lastly, the pilot option allows you to flip-flop the female and male pilot / co-pilot positions. Option 1 uses the female as PIC while Option 2 sets the male in that position.
Outside the Islander
The first order of business upon getting ready for a flight is to have a flight plan. The second is to conduct a pre-flight check of the aircraft that begins with the externals. Here, then, is our second step in flight preparation.
Starting at the front of the aircraft, with a focus on the fuselage suspended from the sturdy looking wing assembly, we see the prelude of what to expect for the rest of the model. Texture work, details, and well-fitting seams and joins are immediately visible in this single view. The rivet work is exemplary, and the raised edges of the windscreen frame are spot on. Also evident at first glance are the tires with an appropriate matte material property.
Before I continue the tour of the exterior, I am going to tell you that I have gone over this model and can state that the textures, details, materials, and modeling are entirely up to the Thranda standard. For those not familiar with Thranda, that basically translates to a tireless effort at perfection, and it shows in the results.
For that reason, I am not going to continuously repeat how good these features are but will rather briefly highlight what you will see should you purchase this model starting with a view of the landing gear where Thranda demonstrates an expertise with flexible hosing and small part intricacies.
Now, look up from that main gear and marvel at the exhaust work and the housing buckles. What is different for this Thranda model is we do not have access to an engine model since the housings are not removable.
Backing out from under the wing, we can observe the accurate flap and aileron braces. Testing the moving surfaces reveals the smoothness of the animation and the range of deflection which appears to be realistic.
Climbing up, we can check the topside of the wing and note the rippling of the skin, complete and accurate rivet work, and fuel tank caps. You can’t miss the smooth, upward sweep of the wing tip fuel tanks and the correctly placed navigation lights.
Getting our feet back on the ground, we can see the leading edge of the Lycoming engine from the front of the nacelle. In a departure from their previous efforts, Thranda has not provided an uncovered view of the engine although the nacelle locks look so authentic it almost seems like you could reach out and flip them open.
Moving along the fuselage, the focus of attention here is the four operational doors. On the left is the pilot’s door, a passenger door for the rear seat, and the cargo door. On the right side, there is one door for access to the front and middle passenger rows that requires a passage under the wing and between the fuselage and engine nacelle.
This door is certainly not used with the engines running. Door animations are smooth, if a little quick, and the right-side door needs lubrication as evidenced by the squeak on operation.
Beyond the doors is the empennage with fully operational stabilizers and rudder. The animations are smooth, and the deflection ranges appear to be realistic. All the supportive hardware is properly detailed, connected, and animated.
Our last consideration for the exterior of the aircraft is the glass. All the glass is well represented with an appropriate amount of both translucency and reflection. The windscreen is marred with some scratches and spotted with dirt even if the dirt setting for the livery is set to zero. No glass in X-Plane 12 is complete without rain effects and the Islander’s is excellent.
Exterior lighting consists of navigation lights on the left- and right-wing tips and at the end of the empennage. There is a red flashing beacon at the top of the fuselage and independently operated landing lights at the leading edge of each wing. All lights appear to be accurate in both day and night conditions and the landing lights have a useful level of luminosity.
Passenger’s View of the Islander
Before looking at the interior of the Thranda BN2 Islander, I thought I’d share these comments I found while researching the Islander. These are from articles by two different people on two different flights on two different Islanders both flown by the same company.
“The airplane rumbled to life and ambled its way to the runway before taking off noisily into the cloudy skies. As you probably have guessed, there isn’t much in the way of passenger comforts here. The airplane seats nine plus the pilot across several rows of tight, bench-style seating. No Wi-Fi, no power, no IFE, just a safety card, lifejacket, flashlight, and a view.” – Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren
“The interior is by no means comfortable, not even by general aviation airplane standards. Single passengers generally need to share a bench with a stranger in the tight fuselage. There was barely any padding or insulation on the wall, so the cabin was very noisy inflight. However, I found myself appreciating that intimacy with the machine.” – Fangzhong Guo
The front row seats, accessed from the right side of the plane, must be tilted forward to allow passengers to access the middle row. Once those passengers (and I would assume the person using the right front seat since access appears to be an awkward climb in from the back or an unlikely slide across the pilot’s seat) have embarked, those sitting in the first row may board.
Thranda’s modeling aplomb is again on display with details and textures everywhere you look. It is almost possible to feel the discomfort of having to climb over that metal bar connecting the two front seats to get into the right one. Every once in a while, I find myself scratching my head over an aircraft designer’s choice and this is definitely one of those times. Not to mention that anyone using this door has already had to duck under the wing and avoid knocking their heads on the engine nacelle.
Passengers sitting in the rear row have it easy. This seat is a nicely crafted bench seat composed of padding covered with two different fabrics fastened to a metal frame. The tradeoff for these two passengers is they must sit hip to hip on this shared seat. So, the front passengers have a small payoff for their struggles to board.
Once boarding is complete, there is an opportunity to look around the cramped confines of this aircraft. As noted, the seat fabrics are very well defined, and the seat backs include pockets. A nice touch here would be to have emergency procedure cards showing in those pockets.
The carpet liner is in excellent condition and the walls are smooth and blemish-free. The overhead liner appears to be of a fabric construction although it does remind me of corrugated cardboard. Consistent with Thranda models are the nicely draped seat belts and cargo netting.
Speaking of cargo, that area is accessed either from the interior or by the external cargo door. The amount of cargo, as we have seen in the Weights and Balance menu section, is determined by the amount of weight that is dialed in for the cargo area.
A few details will complete our review of the inside. These include detailed hardware and consummate glass work. The glass work also shows us the lousy views our passengers have during their flight.
The accurate and very satisfactory interior lighting consists of movable seat lights for each passenger and one cabin light, controlled by a switch on the cockpit panel, in the cargo area. Passenger seat lights can be operated from within the cabin by clicking on the red button next to the light.
The lights can also be repositioned by dragging your mouse over them. They move in the opposite direction from the one you move your mouse in, but I think it would make more sense for them to move in the same direction. You may also recall that these lights can be controlled via the General tab on the Thranda Menu.
Over the pilot’s head are two lights that are controlled only by clicking directly on them. The map light is movable and introduces another little niggle for this model. The heel of the light fixture cuts through the edge of the ceiling indentation created for it. The second light is a recessed panel. The map light provides a very good flood over the pilot’s section of the panel, but, strangely, the recessed light does not seem to illuminate anything.
The last light is the one controlled by the Passenger Notices switch on the command panel. This is the no smoking and seat belt advisory panel mounted on the roof behind the pilot’s head.
From here, we move to where we started and that is the pilot’s seat.
From the Pilot’s Seat
Fortunately for the pilot, access to the control seat of the Islander is a simple affair, open the door and climb in. So, let’s begin with the door where you will find an operational window that drops down with a click on either of the securing knobs. There is also an emergency handle but that is not operational. Clicking on the door handle will open or close the door with a satisfying click sound.
Now, of course, we turn our attention to our flight controls. The yoke and pedals welcome us into our seat and provide a sense of reality. The yoke is a simple affair with one button to disconnect autopilot functions and the tread on the pedals is clearly defined.
The co-pilot’s seat features the same yoke but does not include the brake pedals. Clicking on the yoke allows you to move it with the mouse. Clicking on the column near the panel will remove it from view which needs to be done for each one since they are individually selectable.
The yoke needs to be removed to access the bank of toggle switches along with the rotary dial controls hidden behind it. These switches control the lighting and de-icing features found on the aircraft as well as the master switches covered with a red safety bar. The switches all operate with a satisfactory sound effect to accompany them.
The glare shield and panel background are immersive, and the assortment of gauges are clear and legible. Turning on the instrument reflections from the General tab of the Thranda menu makes it more difficult to see them under certain lighting conditions.
The instruments and gauges that you will see on the panel will depend on what pre-made layout you choose or what custom layout you make for yourself. With the proper assortment selected, you will have instruments to cover all the operational aircraft systems from electrical to fuel leaning. All the gauges and radios are back lit by default but you can add light posts from the Panel section of the Thranda menu for brighter light on select instruments.
The Islander features an overhead panel with controls both over the pilot’s door and over the co-pilot’s window. Some of these gauges can be moved with the Panel feature. It is on the bulkhead that you will find the flap indicator gauge and fuel information features. Overhead is the fuel control switches whose use is explained in the manual.
The central pedestal contains the throttle, propellor, and mixture controls. It also features the flap actuator and trim wheel. In a seemingly unconventional manner, the trim wheel is located on the opposite side of the pilot and the indicator is on the pilot’s side away from the wheel.
The knob on the pilot’s side does not appear to have a function. Rudder trim is located on the ceiling aft of the fuel gauges. While the Islander does not feature aileron trim, the manual indicates that Thranda has modeled it for convenience, and it can be controlled by designated keystrokes.
Of particular note here is the lower part of the pedestal where the carb heat sliders are located. These sliders are often needed at any stage of flight, but particularly during an approach when power is reduced, so you may either want to set up a custom view to quickly switch to them or assign control buttons or keystrokes to operate them.
Lastly is the circuit breaker panel which is located by default behind the co-pilot’s yoke. Every circuit breaker is operational and will effect the designated system. Oddly, the overhead map light is linked to the L/Light Port breaker. The Map Lights breaker does not appear to have anything connected to it.
The Test Flight
The conditions for the flight are those of the standard day at ground level: a temperature of 15 °C and pressure of 1013 hPa. Variation is set to none and evolution over time is set as static. Sky conditions are clear with calm winds.
The aircraft is carrying the default fuel weight and the default pilot weight of 175. De-Ice boots are not installed, the tires or normal, and the windows are flat. DynaFeel Intensity is 100% for all scales and Panel “0” is the one being used. Carb Heat is set to off. The test is being conducted is the twelve-minmute flight from KWST (elev. 81 ft.) to KBID (elev. 108 ft.) flown regularly by New England Airlines.
These are the performance numbers from the Thranda manual for the Islander that I am going to keep in mind while conducting my test flight of the Islander.
– Airspeeds (knots indicated)
– Vso: 43 knots / 49 mph (max weight, approx.)
– Vs1: 50 knots / 57 mph (max weight, approx.)
– Vx: 65 knots / 75 mph (max weight, sea level)
– Vy: 65 knots / 75 mph (max weight, sea level)
– Vmc: 39
– Va: 107
– Vfe 0-25 degrees: 114
– Vfe 25-56 degrees: 88
– Vno: 134
– Vne: 177
Interestingly, the checklist calls for selecting an internal or external power source, but this does not seem to be an available option for the Islander as no GPU is available with this model. Do be forewarned: battery drain is simulated and if you sit for too long going through the checklist you will not be able to start the engines. To complete the radios off item, it is necessary to individually turn off each radio or GPS unit since there is no avionics switch to operate them simultaneously.
Upon initiation of the starting procedure, I notice there is no setting supplied for the mixture levers, so I am setting them to “full”. I am also making the seemingly logical assumption that magnetos No. 1 and No. 2 are left and right respectively. (After a conversation with the developers, update 1.0.3 was released and the mixture setting is full rich and is the last item on the Pre-Starting Checks page of the checklist. They confirmed that the difference in terminology regarding the magnetos reflects the real-life checklist.)
With my chosen settings, I start the starboard engine and my RPM settles in at 1400 so I can turn on the right (No. 2) magneto. Repeating the procedure with the left engine results in a successful ignition identical to the starboard engine. Both engines start with a surge in manifold pressure which quickly settles back to normal.
The engine sounds are deep but, according to everything I’ve read, I expected them to be a bit louder. Here is what I think people are talking about.
A click on the Audio jack (providing you have it installed) on the front panel makes the engine noise just barely audible.
Taxiing to the runway is a simple matter of introducing enough power to get the Islander rolling and then backing off the throttle to avoid it quickly gaining too much speed to control. The aircraft is responsive to rudder pedal input for steering. It has a rather wide turning radius which requires situational awareness to avoid mishaps.
Once at the threshold, I set the flaps for takeoff, make the final checks, and increase the throttle to begin the roll. According to the Islander’s owner handbook, the rotation speed for my configuration of 4510 lbs take off weight should be about 60 mph and I should maintain 75 mph for the climb to my selected altitude of 2500 feet. My rate of climb should be about 950 feet per minute.
As the aircraft picks up speed, it gets a little squirrely keeping it on the centerline so, even though the single engine pull is absent, some application of the rudder is necessary to maintain the takeoff heading. With a slight amount of back pressure on the stick, the nose lifts almost of its own accord at 65 mph. The departure from the ground is smooth and the Islander quickly increases speed to the desired 75 mph.
At this point, several things need to happen. I set the autopilot to a climb of 900 feet, increase the throttle, pull back the prop levers to get the RPM into the green range, retract the flaps, and activate the autopilot navigation. Once the aircraft is stable, the fuel pumps are turned off and I pull back on the throttle to maintain the manifold pressure around 22 which gives me a cruising speed of 143 mph so I reduce it to 20 and the plane slows to a comfortable 133 mph.
This is such a short flight, there is only a moment to take a breath and realize the view out the pilot’s window is spectacular due to the overhead wind configuration and the pilot’s seat being far enough in front of the wing to not have too much of the engine obstructing the view.
The Islander flies smoothly and handles easily in calm air. Thus far it has been able to live up to the published numbers but the challenge of the KBID runway looms. The runway is 2502 feet end to end and the Islander needs 1410 feet for landing over a 50-foot obstacle which would include the trees not far off the threshold of the runway.
Very quickly (this is a 12-minute flight, after all) the top of my descent is upon me and the throttle and pitch have to be adjusted to reduce altitude to 1700 feet to begin the final approach. It took several times for me to figure out how to get the Islander into KBID in a reasonably smooth way. Part of this is the result of both the Garmin 530 and the RealityXP Garmin 750 bringing me into the runway with an incorrect heading. The runway seems to be on a heading of about 94-95° when the charts indicate the heading should be 99°.
Another difficulty lie in realizing that I could not land the Islander following the angle given to me by the PAPI lights. I don’t know if the PAPI lights are off, but to land the Islander gently at stall speed in landing configuration required my approaching with the PAPI telling me I was too low. Coming in at the angle indicated by the PAPI would not allow me to land at less than 60 mph which required some hard braking to not run off the end of the runway or a very steep flare to introduce stall speed which tended to bounce the nose gear off the tarmac.
Once the approach and landing were figured out correctly, the plane lands smoothly with the stall being induced with a shallow flare and the mains touching gently on the tarmac. The nose wheel settles gently and gentle braking brings the aircraft to a stop in a very short distance.
For a closing on the flight experience, I did try to fly the Islander with the right engine out. With a few adjustments, the aircraft was easily controllable when following the procedures for single engine operation. I was able to clear a hillside between myself and the runway and maintain a stable flight all the way to touchdown.
Thranda’s dynamic generation series continues to reside at the top of current GA aircraft offerings and the Islander is an admirable addition to the series. The ability to customize your paint job (including how much dirt you choose to sport), wheel choice, de-icing capabilities, and instrument panel can provide you with hours of varying flight experiences all with one model.
Of course, this does not come free in terms of performance. On my system, it costs me about 20 – 25 fps to run the default Islander with panel “0” versus the default Cessna analog. According to the plugin admin, 15 of that is used by the SASL aircraft plugin.
There are no less than four variants of the Britten-Norman BN2 available for X-Plane pilots which speaks to the apparent popularity of this twin engine, highly configurable aircraft that can take on any role from regional passenger transit to specialized military operations.
The two models available through the X-Plane.org store were released in the store one day apart from each other, and both list at the same price. I have not had any experience with any of the other models so I cannot offer you a side-by-side comparison.
The Thranda model is unique amongst the offerings in that it is the only model of the BN-2A with the other three being variants of the 2B. This model is also the only offering with a fully customizable instrument control panel. Other than that, I cannot give you any specific reasons why you might choose the Thranda model over one of the others. Then again, maybe the Thranda version of the BN-2A goes side by side in your hangar with one of the BN-2B models.
Comparisons aside, the aircraft we have been considering is obviously another standout Thranda offering. The modeling is solid and expertly done with few exceptions. We did see an issue with the two lights over the pilot’s head where the map light broke through the recess area and the flat panel light didn’t illuminate anything.
The lighting used in the aircraft is very well done, inside and out, and the panel illumination is very satisfying. The sounds are all very good except for the engine sound volume from inside the cabin. The flight experience appears to bear up to published numbers and seems realistic. If it doesn’t seem that way for you, you can adjust the “feel” of the controls to what you think it should be via the DynaFeel control panel.
Fans of the BN2, bush pilots, twin engine aficionados, and pilots operating regional airlines cannot go wrong with this installment of the Britten-Norman BN-2A-27 Islander. It is a solid purchase that is worth the asking price, and it will very likely hold its value through the life of X-Plane 12 since Thranda has a history of updating aircraft as needed for incremental changes made to the sim by Laminar. That it is offered to the community by a developer with a high level of commitment to the X-Plane simulator, and a high level of commitment to its customers as demonstrated by the excellent support provided through their dedicated forum at X-Plane.org, only adds to the value of the Islander.
Until next time, Cheers and Blue Skies.
Something Extra For Your Entertainment
(Trust me, it will have you laughing!)
While I was doing my research on the Islander, I came across an archive of an old forum post by an anonymous person that is so creative and humorous, I felt compelled to share it with my readers. I have placed it here at the very end of the review since it has nothing to do with the Thranda model and should not be considered when making your deliberations over purchasing the Thranda BN 2A-27 Islander. This post has not been edited by myself so any errors from the original remain.
Undaunted by technical realities, the design team at Pilatus Britten – Norman has announced plans for the BN2-XL, promising more noise, reduced payload, a lower cruise speed, and increased pilot workload.
We spoke to Mr. Fred Gribble, former British Rail boilermaker, and now Chief Project Engineer. Fred was responsible for developing many original and creative design flaws in the service of his former employer, and will be incorporating these in the new BN2-XL technology under a licensing agreement. Fred reassured BN-2 pilots, however, that all fundamental design flaws of the original model had been retained. Further good news is that the XL version is available as a retrofit.
Among the new measures is that of locking the ailerons in the central position, following airborne and simulator tests which showed that whilst pilots of average strength were able to achieve up to 30 degrees of control wheel deflection, this produced no appreciable variation in the net flight of the aircraft. Thus the removal of costly and unnecessary linkages has been possible, and the rudder has been nominated as the primary directional control. In keeping with this new philosophy, but to retain commonality for crews transitioning to the XL, additional resistance to foot pressure has been built in to the rudder pedals to prevent over-controlling in gusty conditions (defined as those in which wind velocity exceeds 3 knots).
An outstanding feature of Islander technology has always been the adaptation of the O-540 engine which, when mounted in any other aircraft in the free world (except the Trislander) is known for its low vibration levels. The Islander adaptations cause it to shake and batter the airframe, gradually crystallise the main spar, desynchronise the accompanying engine, and simulate the sound of fifty skeletons fornicating in an aluminium dustbin. PBN will not disclose the technology they applied in preserving this effect in the XL but Mr. Gribble assures us it will be perpetrated in later models and sees it as a strong selling point. “After all, the Concorde makes a lot of noise” he said, “and look how fast that goes.”
However design documents clandestinely recovered from the PBN shredder have solved a question that has puzzled aerodynamicists and pilots for many years, disclosing that it is actually noise which causes the BN2 to fly. The vibration set up by the engines, and amplified by the airframe, in turn causes the air molecules above the wing to oscillate at atomic frequency, reducing their density and creating lift. This can be demonstrated by sudden closure of the throttles, which causes the aircraft to fall from the sky. As a result, lift is proportional to noise, rather than speed, explaining amongst other things the aircraft’s remarkable takeoff performance.
In the driver’s cab (as Gribble describes it) ergonomic measures will ensure that long-term PBN pilots’ deafness does not cause in-flight dozing. Orthopaedic surgeons have designed a cockpit layout and seat to maximise backache, en-route insomnia, chronic irritability, and terminal (post-flight) lethargy. Redesigned “bullworker” elastic aileron cables, now disconnected from the control surfaces, increase pilot workload and fitness. Special noise retention cabin lining is an innovation on the XL, and it is hoped in later models to develop cabin noise to a level which will enable pilots to relate ear-pain directly to engine power, eliminating the need for engine instruments altogether.
We were offered an opportunity to fly the XL at Britten-Norman’s development facility, adjacent to the British Rail tearooms at Little Chortling. (The flight was originally to have been conducted at the Pilatus plant but aircraft of BN design are now prohibited from operating in Swiss airspace during avalanche season). For our mission profile, the XL was loaded with coal for a standard 100 N.M. trip with British Rail reserves, carrying one pilot and nine passengers to maximise discomfort. Passenger loading is unchanged, the normal under-wing protrusions inflicting serious lacerations on 71% of boarding passengers, and there was the usual confusion in selecting a door appropriate to the allocated seat. The facility for the clothing of embarking passengers to remove oil slicks from engine cowls during loading has been thoughtfully retained.
Start-up is standard, and taxiing, as in the BN2 is accomplished by brute force. Takeoff calculations called for a 250-decibel power setting, and the rotation force for the (neutral) C of G was calculated at 180 ft/lbs. of backpressure.
Initial warning of an engine failure during takeoff is provided by a reduction in vibration of the flight instrument panel. Complete seizure of one engine is indicated by the momentary illusion that the engines have suddenly and inexplicably become synchronised. Otherwise, identification of the failed engine is achieved by comparing the vibration levels of the windows on either side of the cabin. (Relative passenger pallor has been found to be an unreliable guide on many BN2 routes because of ethnic consideration).
Shortly after takeoff the XL’s chief test pilot, Capt. Mike “Muscles” Mulligan demonstrated the extent to which modern aeronautical design has left the BN2 untouched; he simulated pilot incapacitation by slumping forward onto the control column, simultaneously applying full right rudder and bleeding from the ears. The XL, like its predecessor, demonstrated total control rigidity and continued undisturbed. Power was then reduced to 249 decibels for cruise, and we carried out some comparisons of actual flight performance with graph predictions. At 5000 ft and ISA, we achieved a vibration amplitude of 500 CPS and 240 decibels, for a fuel flow of 210 lb/hr, making the BN2-XL the most efficient converter of fuel to noise after the Titan rocket.
Exploring the Constant noise/Variable noise concepts, we found that in a VNE dive, vibration reached its design maximum at 1000 CPS, at which point the limiting factor is the emulsification of human tissue. The catatonic condition of long-term BN2 pilots is attributed to this syndrome, which commences in the cerebral cortex and spreads outwards. We asked Capt. Mulligan what he considered the outstanding features of the XL. He cupped his hand behind his ear and shouted “Whazzat?”
We returned to Britten-Norman convinced that the XL model retains the marque’s most memorable features, whilst showing some significant and worthwhile regressions.
PBN are not, however, resting on their laurels. Plans are already advanced for the Trislander XL and noise tunnel testing has commenced. The basis of preliminary design and performance specifications is that lift increases as the square of the noise, and as the principle of acoustic lift is further developed, a later five-engined vertical take-off model is also a possibility.”
All in all, a wonderful aeroplane.
|Add-on:||Payware Thranda Britten-Norman Islander|
|Publisher | Developer:||X-Plane.Org | Thranda|
|Description:||Highly realistic Britten-Norman BN-2A-27 Islander|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 2.85GB (download)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||August 2nd 2023|
|Hardware specifications:||- Ryzen 9 5950X CPU @ 3.40GHz
- 64 GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 10 GB GDDR6X
- Honeycomb Alpha Yoke
- Honeycomb Bravo Quadrant
- CH Products Pedals
|Software specifications:||- Windows 11
- X-Plane 12.05