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Carenado 690B Turbo Commander

Introduction

Wikipedia, Plane and Pilot Magazine and Twin Commander.com explain that the Turbo Commander is part of the Aero Commander 500 family built by the Aero Commander company which became a division of Rockwell International from 1965.

The family contains many variants and the Turbo Commander first appeared in 1965 as a pressurised version of the Grand Commander. Power was supplied by twin 605-hp AiResearch turboprop engines, each driving a three-blade constant-speed reversible-pitch propeller. This model became known as the Turbo Hawk and was built until 1971 when it was replaced by the Turbo Commander 681B, another pressurised version similar to the Shrike Commander.

A pair of 605-hp turboprops were still used until the 690 was introduced in 1972 with 717-hp power-plants. The Turbo Commander cabin can be pressurised to 5.2 psi. and the operational ceiling is 31,000 feet. Interior temperature is controlled by a high-volume climate system, and heated windshields provide maximum visibility in all weather conditions.

The Turbo Commander is also certified for flight into known-icing conditions, and all deicing equipment is standard. While the 690A is just minutes slower that most business jets on a 900 to 1,000 mile business trip, fuel consumption is about 50% less.

The combination of reversible props, tough landing gear, high-wing, and 14-inch prop clearance are custom-tailored for short, rough landing strips. Engines that are flat-rated from 840 hp, to a nominal 700 hp help the 690A climb directly to the best cruise altitude without lengthy step climbing. The 690B was offered in the Executive I and Executive II models.

Many features that are usually considered optional are standard equipment in the Executive I, including avionics and cabin accommodations. The Executive II was for owners who wanted to select their own avionics and interior appointments. 217 of the 690B variant were built and are used by the Argentine Army, Iran Army Aviation, Iran Navy Aviation, Pakistan Army Aviation, Philippine Air Force, Iranian Police Force and the Texas Highway Patrol.

Specifications:
Seats 7-10.
Wing Span: 14.19M (46.55 feet)
Length : 13.52M (44.35 feet)
Height: 4.56M (14.95 feet)
Empty Weight:2810 KG (6195 lbs)
Take Off Weight: 4683KG (10325 lbs)
Fuel capacity: 389 Gallons.

Power Plant:
Honeywell TPE-331-5-251or TPE-331-5-252 single-shaft turbo-prop with integral gearbox, two-stage centrifugal compressor, three-stage axial turbine and single annular combustion chamber

Propellers:
Hartzell 3 blade, constant speed, full feathering and reversible

Perfomance:
Maximum Cruise 330 knots
Normal Cruise 326 knots
Stall Speed 82 knots.

Cruising Ranges:
Long range cruise at 288mph/250.3knots/463.4kmh(TAS) average at 31,000 ft., 9,449 meters, (96% rpm) with 45 min. fuel reserve: 1,688 SM, 1,467 NM, 2,717 KM

High speed cruise range at 320mph/278knots/515kmh (TAS) average at 25,000 ft., 7,620 meters (96% rpm) with 45 min. fuel reserve: 1,192 SM, 1,036 NM, 1,918 KM

Installation and Documentation

Download speeds will vary with internet connection but the process involves downloading one folder which can then be copied in to the users appropriate aircraft folder. This is a straight forward process and the aircraft is loaded in the normal manner when starting a flight. On the first occasion an activation code, supplied with the download, is required and once input the aircraft has to be loaded again.

Again a simple exercise. The aircraft is supplied with a default, plain, livery and six others. The folder contains 22 items, one of which is the Documentation Folder. As described in the product description this folder contains normal and emergency procedures PDFs, Performance Tables PDF, Quick Reference PDF, Recommended Settings PDF and a Systems

Reference Guide PDF. All are useful, clear and detailed documents. Whilst there is no cockpit diagram, something that would be useful to a new user, the systems guide describes the key components and includes screen shots to illustrate what to look for in the cockpit. This is an extremely helpful and useful document, assisting the less experienced user to make maximum use of the systems the model has to offer.

Exterior Modelling

Approaching the aircraft from the from right the brightness of the livery and crispness of detail is immediately apparent. The model shows light, shadow and reflection to a high level of realism and moving in relation to the aircraft causes the reflection in the propeller cone to change to illustrate the appropriate part of the surroundings. With the static elements attached the cockpit is empty, no crew figures, and chocks and remove before flight labels are visible.

The on screen menu allows for the pilot and baggage doors to be opened and these add to the experience of an external check of the aircraft. Using the checklists provided in the model documentation an outside inspection of the aircraft can be completed. The walk around path of the preflight inspection guide starts at the front left of the nose and moves in a clockwise direction.

The inspection of the top surface of the left wing would be completed by standing on the entry door step whereas in X-Plane we can move the view. Checking the wing surface showed detailed modelling of panels and rivets with filler caps in place and all displaying appropriate amounts of weathering. The leading edge is modelled to stand out in contrast to the wing and light and shadow works well across the surface.

The entry door can be opened and closed with the on screen menu and once opened the entry step is also extended. The left pitot head has its own remove before flight label when the static elements are in place. The glass of the windscreen is clearly modelled and can be set with or without reflections by the on screen menu. The wipers are visible and modelled in detail. The nose gear and door are detailed and the metal textures of the nose gear strut, tyres and inner surface of the nose gear door are very realistic.

The radome and nose of the aircraft also show light, reflection and panel detail to a high standard. The windscreen maintains its realism as the user moves around the front of the aircraft and the right pitot head also has its own remove before flight label.

Following the exterior check list the right engine is next. With static elements in place the engine has dust covers and these can be added and removed with the on screen menu. Some items on the checklist cannot be physically checked but covers and caps are visible. The propellor and spinner are presented in detail with makers labels, weathering and correct reflections all visible.

The engine cowling again shows fixings and weathering to a high level and the landing gear light is clear and shows the correct reflections. The leading edge is clearly modelled and the slightly raised wing tip is presented very well. The underside of the wing again shows detailed panelling and reflects light and scenery very effectively.

Control surfaces at the rear of the wing respond to control inputs and light, shade and reflections change accordingly. The engine tail pipe is modelled in a gloss finish and the interior components of the wheel well can be viewed and checked with a great level of detail provided.

Moving to the rear of the aircraft the free camera view facilitates checks of the elevators and tabs, rudder and tab and the tail cone. All respond to the relative control inputs and again show a great amount of panel detail and appropriate and realistic light, shadow and reflections. Antennae and aerials are also modelled accurately. At the rear left of the aircraft some of the checklist cannot be physically completed but the modelling is accurate.

The baggage door can be opened with the on screen menu with the internal lining and fittings presented inside. The in board flap and hinge fairing on the left wing can be inspected at the same time. Checks of the left engine are similar to those of the right one, already completed. Again the detail of the tail pipe, engine, wheel well and struts are all impressive. Viewing the aircraft from the side again illustrates the clarity of the livery and the highly detailed and realistic reflections and shadow.

When viewed from the front the left engine dust covers can be removed by using the on screen menu to remove the static elements. This also removes the chocks and creates two well modelled pilot figures which add to the realism and move independently. The propellors, cowling and intakes are well presented and the propellor and spinner show the correct reflections and effects of light.

At night the aircraft still maintains detail and the lighting is crisp and clear. All lights make the appropriate effect on the darkness. A very realistic model with numerous items of interest on the exterior of the aircraft all created with a high attention to detail.

In flight the model remains realistic and effective. Control surfaces and undercarriage can be seen to move smoothly and appropriately. The aircraft works well within X-Plane scenery and markings and detail remain visible and clear. Light and shadow effects appear as expected and add to the quality of the presentation of the aircraft.

Interior Modelling

The inside of the aircraft continues with a high level of detail. Initial views of the cockpit show an instrument panel and overhead panel full of equipment. Colours and textures are very realistic and varied including wood, leather metal and fabric, and there is an appropriate amount of wear and tear throughout the whole cabin area. The dials, switches and signage are accurately produced and all remain clear and legible whatever level of zoom.

There is little further labelling of the controls other than that on the instrument panel itself although hovering the mouse over a switch or knob creates an indication of whether or not it is operable and which way that control moves. The autopilot can be popped out using the A part of the on screen menu. Lights have their own individual controls and the stow away tables in the rear cabin can be opened out and stowed away again and pilots and co-pilots armrests can be moved.

The cabin entry door can be opened and closed by use of the internal handle as well as the on screen menu. The camera option on the on screen menu allows the user to change views quickly to Pilot View, Throttle, Left and right rear passenger windows, left and right windows and the overhead panel. Not only does this help the user to experience these various views when in the aircraft but also enables quick reference to some parts of the interior when in flight.

The yokes can be toggled between visible and hidden by clicking on the stem. The options menu allows the user to switch window and instrument reflections on and off. Views out of the aircraft are clear and detailed.

At night, once I had found the pilot and co-pilot instrument light dimmer switches next to the trim wheels in the overhead panel, the illuminated cockpit looked very impressive with excellent lighting and reflection effects. The inside of the cabin remained realistic in the low light of the cabin and instrument lights. Looking out from the aircraft the scenery lighting in X-Plane can be appreciated working along with that of the model.

The interior is very well modelled with detail to match the exterior of the aircraft. The environment created is very immersive and the additional working elements add to the effect.

Sound

The sound package with this model compliments the detail of the visual side of the model. I found that not all switches made a sound but this may well be in line with the real aircraft of which I have no experience. Those switches that do have an attached sound are very realistic. Engine noise is very convincing, changing in tone and pitch with throttle and propellor adjustments and altering volume and perceived direction when doors are opened or heard from inside or outside the aircraft.

Undercarriage and flaps make appropriate noises as do the doors when opened and closed. Warning sounds are strident and certainly not easy to miss.

In flight engine noise gives a good indication as to the state of the aircraft and whether the throttle may need to be altered in its setting. Flaps and undercarriage make appropriate and reassuring sounds and ground noise certainly indicates to the user whether a landing has been sympathetically achieved, or not! Switches and warnings maintain their sounds and tones. The sound of reverse thrust at landing is very convincing. The developers have added to the immersive visual experience with an equally realistic sound package.

Systems

The Systems Reference Guide mentioned in the documentation section gives helpful guidance about the key systems on the model. The screen shots provided help a less experienced user find the controls being described.

The first section explains the controls for the engines and how the engine speed lever and power levers work. The levers can be controlled through the cockpit itself or alternatively the X-Plane control settings can be set up to control the engine speed lever through the X-Plane propellor controls and the power lever is controlled through the throttle.

The guide then explains the electrical system with a screen shot of the electrical system controls and a useful circuit diagram so that the user can understand what happens in the aircraft when switches are used and goes on to explain the avionics switches also. The next screen shot is of the ice protection system on the aircraft and again this contains a really useful explanation of what protection can be put in place.

The guide describes the fuel system and how it works. it is very easy to understand but at the same time gives an understanding of fuel management in the model. Moving on the next system covered is the starter system and again whilst technical jargon is kept to a minimum a user has the option of understanding how the starter system is used and what takes place when starting the engines. Once the engines are working the model has a HP limiting system to protect them and this is covered in the guide.

The autopilot is made up of a mode selector panel, an altitude selector and a pitch wheel. It is straight forward to understand and gives the pilot many options in the model. In addition the model is equipped with an X-Plane GNS530 GPS system which can be popped out by clicking the screen, Bendix King communication controls, distance measuring equipment and ADF, a Garmin Transponder and an Avidyne multi-function display which can be popped out by clicking on the screen in the cockpit for easier viewing.

These systems all operate within the model and allow the user to use the aircraft to a progressively more advanced stage. This creates interest and challenge for users of varying degrees of experience.

Basic Flight Experience

This model can be loaded at the end of the run way and flown with no correct pre-flight preparation and checks and with only minimal changes to flight control settings. The flight is smooth and very responsive and I had to temper my inputs due to the aircrafts ability to climb. I also had to be aware of the amount of ground I was covering as the aircraft flies quickly and is very agile for an aircraft of its size.

There are good views from the cockpit for those who simply want to fly and enjoy the scenery, using landmarks and visual references for navigation and the controls and instruments stay clear and visible in good detail. Landing needed practice, again as allowed too much ground speed and therefore had reduced orientation and too fast an approach. No criticism of the model, more my capabilities, but something a less experienced user needs to bear in mind.

Practice using the 3NM runway approach certainly improved my performance quickly and I found it useful to ensure there was a joystick button programmed to toggle reverse thrust, another helpful system on the model. This aircraft is fun to fly as a basic model, used to fly and enjoy what X-Plane has to offer, and its various systems and aids also allow for this experience to be progressed into more realistic flight.

Following my initial few fun flights I progressed on to following the normal procedures checklist supplied in the documentation to carry out a more accurate flight between two regional airports. I loaded my route in to the GNS 530, using Goodway which works well with the model, and carried out the same exterior check of the aircraft as I had for the exterior modelling section of this review and also done the initial interior check of the aircraft I commenced the checks for before engine start.

I opened and closed the cabin door using the sounds and visual representation of the model to ensure it was closed. I ensured there were no internal or flight control locks in place and then checked the environmental controls situated in the lower left of the panel in front of the pilot setting switches as required and advised by the checklist. This was straight forward and the switches and knobs moved as expected and could be set accordingly.

I ensured the undercarriage was down and locked and the horse power indicators, at the top of the panel in front of the pilot, were at 700HP. I checked the engine controls were both at off and the overhead panel switches were set as indicated by the guidelines. Outside air temperature showed 22c so I set the ground start setting to parallel.

Using a battery start I switched the battery on in the overhead panel and then checked the annunciator panel in the middle of the top of the instrument panel to ensure no Battery Hot warning light was visible. In line with the checklist I switched the generators off and confirmed that the control bus tie was open and the distribution and control bus switches were on. I used the test button on the annunciator panel to ensure the warning lights were working and all responded correctly.

I checked the hydraulic pressure indicated as expected and the fuel counter was set appropriately. The parking brake was on and the prop sync switch, on the throttle cluster, was set to off so I made no adjustments, and I moved the flaps to the up position. I checked the circuit breaker panel and oxygen system were set as required though no adjustments can be made to this. At this stage the check list moved on to engine start.

I ensured the external power and battery were switched on appropriately and the anti collision light was on. The checklist then referred to Inter Turbine Temperatures and I could not find the gauge but research showed that on some models this was covered by the EGT gauge which I could refer to between the GPS and Multifunction Displays. I set the condition levers to Lo RPM and the power levers to flight idle.

I set the Fuel and Hydraulic switches, one for each engine on the overhead panel, to Norm along with the ignition override switch alongside it and the HP limit switch, in the engine switches, to off. I switched the fuel pumps on and checked for 15 psi. I switched the left engine to start and checked all was in order in relation to oil, hydraulic and fuel pressure. The gauges responded correctly. I repeated the process for the right engine. I ensured the avionics switches were on and checked all instruments indicated correctly, in accordance with the checklist.

With the generators on and the external power disconnected I was ready to taxi. This had been an interesting and informative process and going through the checklist helped me to learn the aircraft. The whole start up of the aircraft would have been easier with a cockpit and instrument diagram.

The check list listed the checks to carry out for taxiing. The first of these was setting overhead switches to the correct position and switching on the Nav/Com equipment with the correct settings. I ensured the planned route was in the GPS and that ADF frequencies were tuned for a back up navigation process. All flight and engine instruments were working as expected and the cabin environment set correctly.

I carried out an NTS (Negative Torque Sensing) test as guided by the check list and established all was in order. I used the skybrary.aero website to research that Negative Torque Sensing (NTS) Systems are found on turboprop engines that are equipped with a shaft-driven constant speed propeller as well as in some free turbine constant speed propeller installations. If the engine power levers are reduced to flight idle on a shaft driven installation, the blade pitch of a constant speed propeller will reduce towards its minimum or “finest” blade angle in an effort to maintain propeller RPM.

If the airspeed is high, the minimum blade angle may not be fine enough to maintain the governed propeller RPM and the air load will begin to drive the propeller causing activation of the NTS system. As negative torque causes significant drag and could result in a mechanical “decoupling” of the engine and propeller, the NTS signal will momentarily activate the propeller feathering system to drive the propeller blades towards their “coarsest” or full feather position in an attempt to reduce the air load on the propeller and to reduce the associated drag.

The NTS system will only activate the feathering system long enough to negate the negative torque signal and, without either pilot intervention to increase engine power or a reduction in airspeed, the NTS system will cycle. In the event of an engine failure in a free turbine system, the torque produced by the engine drops off dramatically. The NTS system responds to this loss of torque by causing the feathering system to drive the blade angle towards the minimum drag or full feather position.

I followed the checklist and used the systems guide to assist in removing the propellor start locks. These are described in the systems guide as follows: “The Turbo Commander 690B’s TPE-331 fixed-shaft turboprop engines are equipped with a start lock system which mechanically maintains the propellers in a flat pitch (minimum drag) position while the engines are off. This allows for easier engine starting, since the starter motor must turn the entire engine assembly and propeller.”

I checked the annunciator panel and all was in order and set the ice protection as necessary. I removed the parking brake and taxied to the end of the runway. The next section of the check list covered checks before take off. I checked all flight control movements and adjusted the trim tabs until the annunciator light went out. I set flaps according to the check list and switched off the prop sync switch.

I rechecked navigation, communication and avionics equipment and re-tested the horse power limiting system before ensuring it was set to on. I lined up on the run way set the power levers to ground idle, the condition levers to Hi-RPM and ensured ignition override was set to on I increased power to maximum and ensured the beta lights went out on the annunciator panel. All engine instruments indicated as expected. I increased power and travelled down the run way.

The ground noise and change of engine sound was very realistic as was the undercarriage moving up when I retracted it. I set power and climb to maintain an indicated air speed of 135 knots. The aircraft climbed smoothly and I found all in order and that the aircraft was light and responsive. The gauges and instruments moved as expected and found I was fully immersed in the flight.

After take off and climb I set the auto pilot and then followed the check list for cruise which required little adjustment. I did find the autopilot a bit challenging. There is a lot of useful information in the systems guide but I found that I could not always set the modes as I would like to and pressing one mode button seemed to automatically illuminate others with it, not always as I would want to.

I had to experiment a little with different modes until the aircraft responded as I wanted but after some practice the flight continued as expected. I don’t know if these mode combinations represent those of the real aircraft or whether they are an aspect of the model itself. The aircraft responded well to autopilot inputs and followed the desired course at the set altitude. The view from the cockpit of the aircraft is very good and using the autopilot gives the user chance to take in more of the instruments and become accustomed to the layout.

I carried out the descent checklist including testing the annunciator panel lights and ensuring power was set as required. The before landing checks included checking cabin pressure and ensuring the Ground Cool/Max Flow switch was set to normal. I set the condition levers at Hi RPM and ensured the prop sync switch was off. I lowered the undercarriage, set the flaps, checked hydraulic pressure was within the desired parameters, switched on ignition override and checked ice protection, thus completing the check list.

After my practices at landing previously I lined up with the runway and disengaged autopilot. The landing was smooth and certainly assisted by the reverse thrust available on the model. I set the power levers to enable taxiing, moved the condition levers to Lo RPM, switched off ignition override and raised the flaps. I checked hydraulic pressure and switched off ice protection. I then taxied to the stand. Ground handling was smooth and steering via the joystick went well.

I referred back to the check list to shut down the engines. I ensured the parking brake was on, set the environmental switches to off, set the condition levers to LO RPM and the throttle to ground idle. I switched off the generator for the left hand engine and moved the engine control switch to off. The sound of the engine powering down was convincing and helped to establish I had done what was required for engine shut down.

I followed the checklist instructions and before the engine RPM dropped below 50% I put the engine in full reverse to set the propellor blade start lock. I then repeated the process for the right hand engine, set the overhead switches as required and turned the battery off. I ensured the parking brake was released and used the menu to put the static elements in place.

There was a great sense of satisfaction to have completed the flight. This was by no means a tutorial flight and I am sure I could improve on my processes and techniques but it does show the amount of systems and realism the developers have created.

Summary

This is a very detailed model and is extremely realistic when viewed externally and internally. The detail is complimented by a very convincing, varied and appropriate sound package. I do think that given all the systems made available and all of the working switches and instruments a cockpit diagram would be useful for a less experienced user but the check lists and systems guide provided in the documentation are very useful.

The model is great to simply fly and enjoy X-Plane but can be used in great detail by those who wish to carry out more detailed procedures. I did find the auto pilot more challenging than most I have used given the tendency for the selection of one mode initiating combinations of other modes I did not expect but, once I had practiced, it controlled the model as a stable platform allowing the user to learn more about the aircraft and enjoy the views.

It is well worth taking advantage of the facility in X-Plane to set bespoke keys and buttons on flight controllers and keyboards to carry out specific actions and tests given the fact the model has separate condition levers and also reverse thrust.

A very enjoyable model in which the user can become totally immersed whether on a straight forward flight or using all the available systems provided to produce more accurate and realistic procedures.

More product information can be found at the Carenado website (http://www.carenado.com/CarSite/Portal/index.php) and at the dedicated X-Plane.Org page (http://store.x-plane.org/690B-Turbo-Commander_p_839.html).

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,
Andy Clarke

 

 

Add-on: Payware Carenado 690B Turbo Commander
Publisher | Developer: X-Plane.Org | Carenado
Description: Accurate reproduction of 690B Turbo Commander
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 542MB (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Andy Clarke
Published: July 23rd 2018
Hardware specifications: - iMac Intel i5 27"
- 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5
- AMD Radeon R9 M290X 2048 MB
- 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
- Logitech Force 3D Pro
Software specifications: - macOS High Sierra 10.13.4
- X-Plane 11.11 (64 Bit) Private Use
- A variety of freeware and payware airports

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