Most of our readers will have heard of the B60 Duke, the piston engined light business twin class aircraft, and most will also have heard of RealAir, one of the premier flight sim developers, renowned for realism and quality. Match these two and you have an aircraft that meets expectations and quite rightly wins awards.
So why make another version of the same aircraft? Can there be that much difference? Well yes! Just on performance alone, look at the table below; This extra power extends the practical use of the aircraft to visit airfields not accessible to its piston-engined brother.
The version modeled here features the P &WC PT6A-35 engines producing 550 shp each, up from 380 shp from the Lycoming engines.
|Turbine Duke||Standard Duke|
|Engine model||P&W PT6A-35||Lycoming TSIO-541|
|TBO (Time Between Overhauls)||3,600 hrs||1,400 hrs|
|Length||33' 10"||33' 10"|
|Height||12' 4"||12' 4"|
|Wingspan||39' 9"||39' 9"|
|Max Take-Off Weight||7,050 lbs||7,000 lbs|
|Standard Empty Weight||4,650 lbs||5,000 lbs|
|Max Useful Load||2,400 lbs||2,000 lbs|
|Max Useable Fuel||260 gal||232 gal|
|Payload @ Max Fuel||750 lbs||608 lbs|
|Take-Off Runway||1000 ft||2,660 ft|
|Landing Runway||900 ft||3,000 ft|
|Max Climb Rate||4,000 ft/min||1,550 ft/min|
|Time to Climb (25,000 ft)||9 min||25 min|
|High Speed Cruise (29,000 ft)||290+ kts||240 kts|
|Fuel Flow||66 gph||56 gph|
|Max VFR Range (no wind)||1,100 nm||1,100 nm|
Flying a turbine aircraft takes far more care and concentration, as
balance of temperatures, torque levels and turbine rotation
speeds is required to maintain a healthy engine, more later.
Beechcraft began design work on their new Model 60 in early 1965, with the first flight of the prototype occurring the following year. FAA certification was awarded on February 1 1968. Production ceased in 1982 mostly due to falling sales, complex engine management and high running costs.
The Duke sits between the Baron and Queen Air in size, performance and general capabilities, the Duke was a pioneer in the pressurised high performance light business twin class.
RealAir Turbine Duke
The model the guys at RealAir wanted to reproduce is the Royal Turbine Duke or "typical converted Duke" as they say, probably to licensing issues, this is a latter day conversion of the B60 goverened by a FAA Supplemental Type Certificate.
Over and above the development of the original Duke, RealAir have spent another year honing this model with the vision of making it the most highly detailed and accurate GA twin available for FSX. Every possible aspect of this turbine aircraft, FDE, sounds, visuals and animations have been give special attention within the confines of the FSX SDK.
- Well, obviously, the turbine engines, the supreme Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-35, PT6A's are the most successful family of turboprop engines ever developed.
- Updated and improved exterior and interior textures including new reflections on the VC gauges.
- Completely reworked flight dynamics.
- New sound suite to suit the new engines.
- Revised panel layout - As you would expect, there are new gauges to report those all important temperatures.
- Preventable and un-provoked random engine failures - A complex failure feature has been added to boost the immersion and to improve your pilot skills.
- New liveries - 6 all-new high definition liveries.
Installation and Manuals
At the time of writing, the Turbine Duke is only available by download, its predecessor, the Duke, was available in a boxed version as well so it is reasonable to expect the Turbine Duke will be made available this way.
Once downloaded, you run the setup file which will validate on entry of your keycode, it is fairly automated from there on with only confirmation of your FSX installation folder required. Once installed, a configuration panel will pop up and a shortcut is created on your desktop.
In your Windows "Start Menu", you will have a RealAir Simulations/ Turbine Duke folder created, containing the manuals and config panel shortcuts. The manuals supplied are:
- F.A.Q's - A list of some of the problems you may encounter if you jump in without reading the Flying Guide!
- Flying Guide - A superbly detailed 62 page document on all aspects of set up, use and maintenance of the product.
- Pilot Checklists - Normal and emergency procedure lists.
- KFC-225 Autopilot Operating Manual - A 20 point guide to using the autopilot.
On starting the Turbine Duke Config Panel, the first Information page offers you links to the manuals listed above and a short cut to the RealAir website. The Flying manual gives you a quick start summary for minimum requirements to get the Turbine Duke flying as intended.
It's all very well setting up the aircraft outside of FSX but you may have to tweak your FSX display and aircraft realism settings to allow the aircraft to look and perform as designed. Don't worry, that's page 9 in the manual.
If you don't have a high performance machine then you probably already have your graphics tweaked to suit but you will probably need to pay attention the the realism settings, other than the General Realism slider which should be full right and the gyro drift slider at 50%, the P-factor and torque should be set at about three-quarter.
With auto-rudder and crash detect switched off, I think we are ready to load her up!
Cold and Dark is my preferred start up option and that's just how it was! It looked eerily real, my first action was to click on the yoke, that makes it disappear, so you can study the instruments alongside the manual.
Panning around the VC, I notice that the reflections and dust makes it feel lived in rather than fresh out of the factory, eventhough both the Hobbs meters read zero, I like that. The gauges have real depth too, that's because they are true 3D objects and look good close-up. The default Garmin GPS 500 has been given the 3D treatment including a reflection clickable buttons and 3D rotary switches.
A look over my shoulder, into the cabin, confirms my hopes that the quality does not end in the cockpit, there are more high resolution textures and a folding table and arm rests. A press of the S key takes me outside. A close inspection uncovers good detailing of sensors and aerials etc. The surfaces feature bump-mapping and reflections, they look very good, maybe a bit too clean but the nose has some good dirt!
Like previous models, RealAir do not include 2D panels, the quality of their virtual cockpit and the gauges is such that you will have no problem reading them, probably because they are made as 3D objects with animated parts so they have both depth and realism, you can't have that in 2D.
Other than the basic 6 instruments, you also get a RMI (Radio Magnetic Indicator), a CDI (Course Deviation Indicator) and a radar altitude indicator. These instruments are very closely bordered by 12 (3 x 2 x 2) gauges relating to the engines, the most important 3 are at the top, they are: TRQ (Torque, measure of propeller/shaft loading), ITT (Inter-stage Turbine Temperature) and NG% (Turbine rotation speed as a percentage of max), you will be watching these like a hawk on your first flight!
To the left of the cockpit you have the panel for controlling the ignition and electrical systems, to the right the circuit breakers, again very high quality but not operational.
Pressurisation controls are not that familiar to me, I normally don't fly high enough to need it, but the Turbine Duke can maintain quite a high differential to the outside pressure of up to 4.7psi which means that she can maintain a cabin altitude of zero when flying at 10,000 ft or cruise at 30,000ft with a cabin altitude of around 13,000ft, that brings a whole new dimension to my GA flying.
Clicking around the VC I found that every dial and switch appeared to be animated. The needles and the gauges reacted to my scroll wheel input unbelievably smoothly.
As you saw earlier, the avionics are up to date, obviously GPS wasn't available when this was a humble B60 was first designed but with modernisation comes the latest navigational equipment and that is true of the Royal Turbine Duke. The autopilot included is the Bendix / King KFC-225. This is not a complex unit by any means but it does have it's own manual to help you get the best from it, I particularly like the ARM feature so you can preset your required settings before take off so not having to fuss around when your attention needs to be elsewhere.
As we saw earlier, there is an option for the Reality XP GNS530 and/or the GND430 GPS, looking at the manual these are given the 3D treatment too and although I don't have them installed, if they are built to the quality of the GPS500 you will have no issues there.
At night there are 2 levels of lighting, gauges / panel and both. The nice thing is, with both sets of lights on the panel is almost as clear to view as it is in the day, see below:
The 3D panel has hidden click-spots which take you to a focused view of main, copilot, radios, GPS etc, my favourite is a click on the ignition panel where a left-click fires up the kneeboard, great when wanting the checklist up in a hurry. If you need to get back to main view quickly, a single right-click or F9 will take you there.
There are a few custom animations, sun visors, which flip up and down with a mouse click, a folding table and folding armrests for the front four seats. From the outside, the pilots head is animated too in a very believable way.
Also inherited from the B60 is the cabin door that will close if left open prior to takeoff, I illustrated that in action in my B60 review, it's really neat.
As you would expect, fully animated gear and prop rotation, the starting sequence animation of the "spin up" is very well done.
The most important aspect of the turbine engine is the temperature (ITT), you will find that in hotter/higher regions the temperature of the turbine will affect and limit your performance. RealAir have modeled the operational limits as ITT: 750-800° NG:101.5% and TRQ: 1250 ft-lbs. So long as you adhere to this you will do fine.
Burnt-out port engine
Speeding through the skies!
After startup you can easily taxi and turn using the differential braking if you have a twist-grip or even better, rudder pedals. I found she wanted to creep so when ever I stopped the parking brake was applied, also using the condition levers can help to reduce speed as she too easily wants to sprint away from the blocks.
The take-off run is amazingly short, you can let the autopilot manage the climb, especially on your initial flights so you can pay more attention to monitoring the engines. The climb phase under manual control would be the most likely time that the engines could exceed limits. Once you are more experienced, then you can start thinking about fuel efficiency and engine wear by not using so much prop speed. You have to be aware though that changing one element of TPM will affect another!
Once in the cruise and you have got her trimmed nice and engines running at a constant pace. RealAir quote an economy cruise as TAS 270-275kts. TRQ typically 950-1050ft-lbs.
So we're cruising nicely, what to do? Hmm, engine failure! She will fly on one engine much better than the B60 because there is not so much of the p-factor so not so hard on the opposite rudder. I tried this and it is very much like slide-slipping using the ailerons and rudder to correct your track.
In order to invoke an engine failure you can either start flying outside the engine limits, that's quite easy, just get the needles above the red line and wait. You can of course manually shut down the engine, by leaning the fuel. Either way, an interesting experience. More about engine failures later.
In general flying you can tryout the pre-stall buffeting, again illustrated in my review of the B60, the buffeting is accompanied by a suitably annoying warning tone.
The descent and landing phase is a breeze, gear is available at 174 kts or lower, full flap at 140 or less. The Turbine Duke is fully IFR and ILS equipped for landing in bad weather, you may already be familiar with using these systems. She should touch down at around 80-90kts depending on conditions. For short runways reverse-thrust was is available by using F2 (I couldn't get it to work with my throttle quadrant). With the foot brakes she slows down real fast!
Taxiing back to the stand will find you will be back on the condition levers again to control speed. Once parked with brakes on, shutting down is very straight forward and no different to most prop aircraft. Starve the fuel and wait for the props to stop turning and turn the power off, simple!
The whole experience is exhilarating for an old prop-head like me!
|Okay, earlier on I mentioned preventable engine failure
caused by the pilot. The config panel allows you to
set up random failures caused by the software, these are
driven by probability. There are ranges of probability from
very high (1 in 10 chance of failure) to very low (1 in 500
chance of failure) and never.
You may be lucky flying at the very high probability not to have a failure for hours. Conversely, you could have a setting of 1 in 500 and fail on your very first flight. That's life, truly random!
The take off phase is loaded to be 10 times more likely to fail than in other stages. Another pre-set variable allows that below 250 AGL and at/or near full power the failure program runs once every 6 seconds rather than once a minute in other situations. RealAir advise this could result in a probable engine failure every six seconds!
RealAir have programmed the random failure to only happen on one engine so if one engine fails randomly then the other one wont so you can safely fly on one engine and land, supposing you don't cause the (preventable) failure on the good engine!
Another limitation of FSX stops all the switches from having a clicking sound except the battery and fuel pump switches. These can clearly be heard in the start up procedure. When operating the flaps and gear you get a great resonance sound when they are moving.
Outside, you get like a zooming sound in spot view as you rotate around the aircraft almost like 3D sound. Overall the sound balance was very good and typical of a custom high quality sound-set.
This aircraft will not give you FPS problems, you can step back the gauge quality and use mip-maps if you like, to reduce the resolution at distances if you are experiencing frame rate problems, but I think it very unlikely the Turbine Duke cause you any issues on it's own, It's more likely to be your super-dooper high density scenery that will be affecting your performance. This can be controlled by stepping back scenery density. As always, it is a balance of quality over performance.
RealAir explain what sort of fine tuning you can do in their manual. They also have a section for known problems, mostly the landing lights and not wishing to be repetitive ... it's a limitation of the host sim (FSX).
This product is at the very top of the FSX evolutionary scale. So much effort has been put in to make this aircraft perform to its real-word specification and to overcome the limitations FSX have put on the flight dynamics of the turbo-prop, and it shows in the finished product.
The manuals are written and produced to a very high standard making them easy to follow, no hunting around on the web for snippets of information, it's all ready included.
A visually stunning VC with crystal clear smooth running gauges, the exterior textures are to a similar high quality and to top it off, a super wide-stereo sound set.
Is this turbo-prop nirvana? See below...
My score for this aircraft has to be the perfect 10 and the Mutley's Hangar Award for Excellence! Well done to Sean, Rob and all the team at RealAir for an excellent performing and well presented product.
Review machine Spec: Core i7 Extreme 965 @ 3.6 Ghz | 12Gb Corsair DDR3 Ram |GTX580 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit