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Aerobask Pipistrel Panthera v3

Introduction

Aerobask’s Pipistrel Panthera was already a great product. The real life aircraft looks amazing, and Aerobask did a pretty good job making a fun aircraft out of it for X-Plane. Now, Version 3 of the small, fast general aviation airplane brings it up to standard with Aerobask’s modern offerings. Featuring a comprehensive navigational suite, including Dynon Skyview and GTN panels, this small craft is outstanding for online flights and can even do IFR, thanks to its SID/STAR support.

Installation and Documentation

Just drop the Panthera folder into an X-Plane Aircraft folder of your choice. Also, updating should now no longer require redownloading. The X-Updater plugin is included and seems to work properly. This plugin will update the plane. However, after every update you will still need to reactivate, it seems.

Document wise, Aerobask has you covered pretty well. Featuring extensive documentation for the GTN and Skyview systems, as well as checklists, manual for the plane itself, recommended settings, flight planning and a small explanation of the quick look views, there is no shortage of documentation. The manual for the GTN 650/750 counts a hefty 25 pages, whereas the Skyview manual and its addendum come to a healthy 39 pages total. The manuals are quite clear, so looking things up and reading through them for learning purposes shouldn’t be an issue.

Flight dynamics

This is a pretty easy plane to fly and move around on the ground. It starts rolling quite easily and turns smoothly. You don’t have to be very careful about overspeeding quickly, because the engine’s power is distributed quite nicely along the power lever; no suddenly acceleration here. Turns can be a bit dangerous, because you do not want to go too fast; turning tends to be a little ineffective, especially when only using nose wheel steering instead of both that and the rudder. Alternatively, at lower speeds the plane is easy to turn, while not turning on a dime as some other planes seem to like doing.

Once you’re up in the air, after using the powerful engine to get to rotation speed pretty quickly (around 60-70 knots), things are pretty straight-forward. However, it’s not advised to not pay attention to the Panthera while hand flying it. It’s very responsive and light, meaning that small stick inputs can already have very big effects, very quickly. Dropping or raising flaps has a significant impact as is common for GA aircraft, so keep an eye out for that as well.

The autopilot is nice to use, as it doesn’t throw the aircraft around too much. It can overshoot your intended course, but usually does a good job of keeping on the flight line. It never seems to overshoot (or undershoot) the altitude and does a nice job of correcting for crosswinds; even when they get heavy. I’ve flown around with 20 knot crosswinds, and the autopilot still keeps on the magenta line very nicely. Weight compensation is also good; flying with a disbalanced load that has more human weight in the left seats and fuel in the left tanks doesn’t throw it off; it keeps the Panthera level as it should!

I’m not sure how accurately the plane follows the given performance data, however: I tried to replicate the climb and cruise speeds, but found myself consistently slower than the indicated speeds in the provided documentation, even with a relatively low load. Perhaps I should not have loaded any luggage or people beyond the pilot and fuel, but the Manual with the performance data table doesn’t state anything regarding weights.

Landing the Panthera isn’t too difficult; it won’t sink like a brick that easily, but will slow down very quickly when lowering flaps. Keeping the power in and controlling your pitch is essential, as it can catch you off guard with ease. Flaring a little bit before landing, at the right speed, should make sure you can touch down fairly easily and gracefully.

It may not be smart to cut the throttle completely, but once you get good enough at it, you can land it sort of like a Cessna; let it stall onto the runway. Just be sure you’re not too far from it. This can be tricky, as the front visibility in the Panthera is a little poor, due to the high panels and engine; looking forward while descending nose-up at a low speed, or flaring, is challenging.

Interior modeling

Over the years, Aerobask has improved their modeling dramatically. While still having a little bit of a plasticky look to it, which isn’t necessarily good, it is definitely going in the right direction. What I mean by the plasticky look is quite easy: some models, especially in XP10 before PBR, tended to look like a semi-glossy plastic.

This would be most apparent on the outside, but could also happen inside, especially looking out at the plane’s wings, for instance. Luckily, the amount of detail and the precision of the modeling in both textures and positions/relief makes up for that, more and more with each new release.

Moving on to the interior on the Panthera v3, it is gorgeous. Much improved over v2, the level of detail and skill has risen tremendously. Texturing is cleaner and higher resolution, and the different parts of the cockpit fit together properly. The lettering on dials is surprisingly high-resolution, remaining crisp quite easily. That is partially due to my 2560x1440 pixel resolution, though! However, it would be obvious if the dials were low-quality textures, which is not the case. Levers, switches and knobs rotate and move properly, without moving unrealistically and showing very clearly that they have a pivot point in the model.

Flying to the back area we come across seats, windows and doors. These are well made, showing good attention to detail; there are no badly fitted windows due to misaligned animations, or issues with bad texturing or modeling. There’s not much to see, but what is there looks good. The shiny handles, a soda can, upholstery and seatbelts all look good, with more texturing that’s showing a lot of detail.

Exterior modeling

This area has perhaps improved most of all, especially with X-Plane 11’s help. Most of the plastic shine is gone, especially at shallow angles when XP11’s Physically Based Rendering reflections step in. Some of my favorite shots ever have come from the simply stunning reflections the plane generates, combined with its metallic shine. Beautifully shining colors caught my attention right away and have yet to let it go.

Since darker reds are my favorite colors, especially with a nice shine, I’m very happy to see a beautiful dark red accented livery!

Detailing is nicely done, with parts and bits sticking out. Awesome texturing combined with good modeling makes for a very nice airplane to look at. Lines are crisp, curves are nicely rounded instead of badly detailed and jagged. The landing gear is detailed enough to not notice any flaws from a distance. Even the brake calipers and brake disks are modeled; a nice touch of detail. The exhaust is given a reflective layer for the PBR and the wing lights are also modeled. All around a good job.

I can complain a little bit about the liveries, where the bolts/screws on the nose area of the plane are a little stretched out around bends in one or two places (literally just one or two). However, that is only visible when getting right up close to the plane. Perhaps for someone who likes a ride-along view on or near the wing/front of the plane, the textures would be a little low-resolution. However, this will always happen, even with 4K textures, when sufficiently up close.

At night, the Panthera still looks great. Although the textures used for some of the aircraft’s lights can get a bit blocky closer up (as is the case with many aircraft), they do look good from a little further away. With all of them reflecting off the plane’s body and the surrounding terrain, the Panthera’s lighting makes night flights much more immersive.

Sound

Aerobask has done a pretty good job here, that holds up to most comparably priced addons. Inside the cabin, the prop and engine have that nice ‘ploppy’ sound to them at idle. Moving the throttle up slightly already changes the sound, introducing increasingly more energetic noises as you go. Eventually, you’ll hear the air flow and the movement of the propeller blades.

The volume doesn’t change much over the range of the throttle, but I’ve personally always found huge changes to be annoying and possibly painful to the ears (especially at high pitched frequencies), so this is not a problem for me.

Other interior sounds are good, but nothing too overwhelming. The air conditioning fan sound is a static whirr that’s otherwise uninteresting (and even annoying, to me). The red ELT button next to the PFD makes the same horribly loud and insanity-inducing noise as ever in Aerobask planes (which I would assume to be realistic). The row of switches below the PFD, like master/avionics/fuel pump, don’t seem to make sounds.

The same goes for the landing gear lever, unfortunately. Luckily, the canopy does have an opening sound and the engine sounds change based on whether it is closed or open, which is always a welcome addition to immersion.

On the outside, sounds are also decent, but nothing super special. The standard whirr and purr of a light propeller aircraft is pleasant to listen to. It spools up nicely and gradually until it becomes a more aggressive sound that one can recognize as typical for an aircraft of this size. Since I don’t know how the plane sounds in real life, unfortunately, I can’t attest to the realism of this sound set.

Anyway, the way the sound changes as power increases is properly done, as should always be the case for payware aircraft nowadays. There were days when increasing power would give some pretty interesting distorted/clipping effects, especially when increasing power rapidly. Those major flaws are behind us now, though, as pretty much every developer now (or at least those that make payware aircraft) can avoid these mistakes.

Systems

There is a huge amount of detail to talk about here, but I’ll try to keep it relatively brief. The main points will be looked at, including basic functionality, extended functionality/special features, and cooperation between different systems. The one big thing to get out there, though: it supports online networks. It will display other planes’ locations in the PFD and maps on both GNS and Skyviews when connected to networks like Vatsim and PilotEdge, and even integrates with PilotEdge a little more to give you even more possibilities. This kind of support is unprecedented and very welcome.

Basic functionality is definitely present here. From a feature-loaded PFD to an extensive map display, everything you need for a simpler flight is here. Yes, everything one needs for more difficult flights is also present, but to me that falls under extended functionality in the GA category within the X-Plane ecosystem.

Let’s start by talking about the Dynon Skyview system Aerobask models. This airplane has the Touch variant, meaning you can use your mouse, mouse wheel and keyboard to input data. This is an extremely convenient feature that has been super well thought out. Not only is it usable for many different things, including setting autopilot values, entering GPS fixes, setting a transponder code and much more, it also responds quickly and is easy to use.

Click a value right on the display, for instance your selected speed on the left-hand side of the PFD. Then, you can enter it by either clicking the numbers with the mouse, which is precise and quick, or by simply typing on your keyboard. Alternatively, you can just scroll with the mouse wheel to change altitude, heading, navigation source, airspeed, and more.

This kind of beautifully integrated, effortless usability is exactly what X-Plane so direly needs. Where many other implementations can be a bit difficult to work with, or buggy, this is almost flawless and extremely easy and intuitive, once you know about it. I say that, because apart from manuals, it’s not really indicated anywhere. Logically so, but nevertheless; I can imagine a newer X-Plane user just diving in without reading and having no clue that this is possible.

You can, by clicking on the small parts at the top of the displays, get to Transponder settings, displayed communication radio frequencies, autopilot mode selection and even waypoint/airport info. And yes, scroll to zoom is also possible.

The only thing I personally get slightly annoyed by is the clickspots; sometimes, clicking an area triggers a clickspot that doesn’t necessarily make sense. The whole lower part of the PFD, save for the actual inputs like NAV source indicators, adjusts PFD settings like barometer type. This sort of makes sense, as the space is empty and has options for the PFD in general, but it can also be frustrating. Trying to click away from something like entering a new altitude, only to have to then click BACK when you enter a settings menu, is a little frustrating.

Something I quite literally stumbled upon was the Jump function; I accidentally clicked it and found myself teleported to the next waypoint in my flight plan. Small features like this, separate clocks and stopwatches, extensive customization features regarding the available information and its position, and much more, make this little airplane so beautifully good to fly.

From the ability to display any of the map, system and PFD screens on either Skyview Display, to the option to display network traffic (VATSIM/PilotEdge/IVAO) on the map screen as well as the PFD and GPS systems, the entire thing is just so coherent. I have not yet come across this level of cooperation between the systems in an X-Plane GA airplane.

Besides the Skyview, the airplane contains GNS units. These are beautifully integrated with the Skyview system. Flight plans are displayed properly on both systems and you can use a plan view to navigate through the flight plan. This way, you can have the plan itself up on the GNS screen, then navigate through it using the Skyview; this is nice for the visualization of arrival and departure routes.

Speaking of which; yes, this aircraft has full support for STARs, SIDs and transitions. This is one of the nicest things you can have and greatly increases the airplane’s usability in online networks. Combined with ILS support, the Panthera can be used quite easily for IFR flying, even for those with less experience in that field, or people coming from the bigger airliners.

Of course, there will always be improvement points. One that sticks out for me is the fact that enabling the weather radar in the Skyview Map doesn’t seem to actually produce a weather radar overlay. This is minor, but it means this plane has seemingly no weather radar capability, which is a shame considering all the other features that it does have.

The integration between all these systems is really nice; being able to have a terrain overview, a height map that shows red/orange/green depending on how close terrain is, and two separate instances of your flight plan, on the ND and the GNS systems, is beautiful. Actually, you could have four instances of the flight plan; both GNS units, and both Skyview screens, by selecting the MAP screen to be displayed on both Skyview displays. Of course, that’s a bit overkill, but maybe someone can find a use for it.

The point is that with so much versatility, it should not be hard to get everything looking the way you like. Whether you want to view waypoint or airport info or adjust your autopilot settings, it’s all possible to get there in multiple ways. Skyview or GNS, most option are available via both systems, when it comes to flight planning and reviewing, as well as on-the-go information for airport runways, waypoints, frequencies or traffic.

And as a final piece of system-type things: there’s a settings menu, accessed via the icon at the left-hand side of the screen, that lets you set things like fuel load, luggage, and passengers. Doors and reflections are also managed via this pop out option.

Summary

General aviation enthusiast without an aversion to glass cockpits? Get this airplane! Or perhaps another one of Aerobask’s GA fleet with this avionics suite. It’s not too expensive, has a huge amount of functionality, can work very well with online networks and is very well suited for IFR flights. Featuring full SID/STAR support, this GA airplane is a beautiful addition to any IFR (or VFR, for that matter) fan’s hangar.

More information can be found at Aerobask’s website and at the dedicated X-Plane.Org product page.

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email Angelique.van.Campen@gmail.com or to Angelique@X-Plained.com.

With Greetings,
Rick Verhoog

 

 

Add-on: Freeware / Payware Aerobask Pipistrel Panthera v3
Publisher | Developer: X-Plane.Org | Aerobask
Description: Realistic rendition of Pipistrel Panthera
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 350MB (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Rick Verhoog
Published: April 16th 2018
Hardware specifications: - AMD Ryzen 7 1700X
- Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 16GB 3200MHz RAM
- NVidia Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 Windforce G1 Gaming
- AKG K7XX headphones (through DAC and HiFi amplifier)
- Saitek X55 Rhino HOTAS
Software specifications: - Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)
- X-Plane 11.00 and 11.10

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