Reality Expansion Pack

For Carenado’s Beech F33A Bonanza

A whole new level of simulation!

As you will see from my review of Carenado’s F33A Bonanza, starting on page 16, Carenado has produced a fine representation of the Beechcraft Bonanza. It comes with all the features most sim flyers would ask for in terms of realism and performance. However, there are a growing number of pilots who want an even more in-depth experience than this and it’s for these folk that SimCoders created an expansion pack for the Carenado F33A Bonanza. It was designed by real pilots to provide the most realistic GA simulation of the Bonanza yet produced, in this case for X-Plane pilots.

In basic terms, the developers at SimCoders have improved the flight dynamics and sounds. They have also provided a more comprehensive simulation of the on-board systems, adding on-screen menus that allow you to easily access these extra features. It’s a sort of Accu-sim for X-Plane, very similar to the study simulations offered by other companies, such as the Twin Otter Extended from Aerosoft or the Majestic Dash-8 Q400.

Installation

X-Plane users have something of an advantage when it comes to installing products like this as it’s generally simply a question of drag and dropping all the files into the appropriate directory. And this is the case with this Reality Expansion Pack (REP). Admittedly, you have to delve a little bit deeper into the file system, but essentially you drop the complete folder into the ‘plug-ins’ folder, found inside the Beechcraft Bonanza folder.

Once you launch X-Plane (with the Bonanza selected), the program will ask you to enter the serial number you were given when you purchased the product. Reload the aircraft and you’re done!

Preferences and Setup

After installation you’ll notice there’s a new pop-out menu set along the left side of the screen, which is the interface for REP and where you can set up the system.

Like most products that have a degree of complexity, you have the facility to decide how in-depth you want your experience to be. For example, you might not want the engine wear to be monitored or you might prefer that the aircraft status is not carried over between sessions. In fact, you could start with the engine running but in some ways this would negate the point of purchasing the product in the first place. After all, you’re looking for a realistic flight experience… right?

Beginning with a ‘cold and dark’ aircraft and the walk around checklist.
Your walk around begins by checking the luggage compartment and static pressure port.
Once prepared, you can tow out your aircraft using your normal joystick functions.
Checking the loadout and CoG against the Mass and Balance envelope schematic.

PC System used for review

Intel i7 4790K 4.20GHz Processor

16GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM

EVGA GTX 960, 2GB GDDR5 Video card 2 x 240GB Kingston SSD 2 x 1.5 TB Samsung hard drives.

It’s worth mentioning here that the REP simulation includes some options that are not normally available in X-Plane (or at least not presented in such an easily accessible manner). One of these is the Mass and Balance menu, or weight and balance as we usually refer to it. It’s where you can check the Take-off Weight (TOW) of your aircraft to make sure it’s below the Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) and that the centre of gravity (CoG) is within its limits. There’s also a walk around option, which simulates the full series of external checks a pilot would normally make before each flight. Here you need to remove all the tie-downs and chocks, while checking the fuel quality and operation of all the flight controls, just as you would on a real aircraft. To make things quicker, your joystick can be used in the walk around mode as you need to physically attend to each of the relevant locations around the aircraft.

The next stage is to open the kneeboard and run through the start-up script to start the engine and you need to get this right or you’re not going anywhere. In fact, if you get it completely out of shape, the engine will not start even using the engine auto-start option. In that scenario you’ll have to open the maintenance report, check the status of the various components and fix any issues it identifies.

Assuming you got the engine started, you can’t just slam the throttle to the stop either or it’s likely to shut down again. As with all these operations, you need to follow the correct procedures to keep the aircraft and its systems in good order.

It’s interesting to note that the battery is monitored between flights, even when your computer is switched off so the authors recommend that you disconnect the battery if you’re not going to fly the plane for a couple of months or it could be permanently damaged. You wanted realism, so welcome to the world of real aviation - there are no jump in and fly options in the real world. You have to maintain your aircraft and keep its systems in good order as your life really does depend on it.

In operation

The overall benefit of using REP is the extra level of realism it introduces to the Bonanza. Don’t get me wrong, Carenado did a fine job, as you’ll see from my review. However, there’s always another level to aim for and I think this is what the SimCoders team has managed to achieve. Ultimately, this extra realism encourages you to operate the aircraft properly, which is what many people are looking for.

For example, the Bonanza is fitted with a constant speed McCauley propeller, with variable pitch blades. This allows the pilot to adjust the blade angle to suit the current stage of flight. In this way the prop and engine can be set for maximum efficiency. It also has a dual manifold air pressure and fuel flow indicator, another useful gauge to help the pilot monitor these measurements to maintain the documented performance figures.

You have to click on the screen to remove the chocks, tie-downs and covers.

Similarly, the fuel mixture and distribution are equally important considerations for real pilots. One can provide better economy and protect the engine from unnecessary wear, the other helps to make sure the aircraft remains in trim. All this can seem something of a black art at first, particularly as these settings are different for each aircraft. However, the SimCoders documentation, combined with video clips and more concise data on the website, is an excellent source of reference.

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of new simmers take to the air with settings that would quickly disable an engine and in some cases perform manoeuvres that would destroy the airframe as well.

However, these comments are not intended as criticisms as most of us are unaware of the consequences of these actions to start with. More importantly we still enjoy the challenge of flying while trying to master the next stage in becoming a better pilot. It all depends on the settings made within X-Plane and of course what your personal goals are.

In addition to adopting a more authentic approach to managing the aircraft itself, SimCoders improved the flight dynamics. While Carenado made a decent job with the Bonanza, once REP is installed the aircraft handles quite differently, and feels more like a real aircraft would. This is particularly noticeable on approach, where, as you descend to the touchdown area, if you’re properly trimmed, the ground effect starts to influence the lift and the aircraft will happily float along the runway. There’s nothing like as much prop wash effect either, so you don’t have to constantly adjust the pedals to keep the aircraft straight on the landing or take-off run.

They also seem to have cured that annoying screech from the tyres as you taxi. This is partly due to the fact that the ground handling with REP is, in my opinion, much more realistic. You’ll also notice some subtle changes to the soundset, which I understand were all recorded on real aircraft.

Extra Facilities

SimCoders has developed a f reeware product called Headshake, which simulates the movement efects a real pilot gets while lying. If you install HeadShake v1.5 or higher on your system, it will communicate with REP to extend the realism by simulating the vibrations of the real IO-520-BB engine. You will then be able to run the engine at the most comfortable RPMs because if not you’ll ind the vibration efect to be a most unpleasant experience. In addition, the stall bufeting efect is much more realistic by the integration of REP and HeadShake.

Documentation

This is quite a comprehensive addition to the Bonanza and thankfully it includes an equally comprehensive manual, which is essential to get the best from the product. It also explains the operating procedures needed to keep the aircraft in good health, covering each element in much greater depth than the original manual; in fact better than any add-on manual I’ve seen to date.

There’s also a 31-page document containing all the checklists, reference speeds and recommended power settings in different meteorological conditions and cruise altitudes.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a bit more than the standard features that the out-ofthe- box Carenado Bonanza provides, this new product from SimCoders is the perfect choice. It elevates the aircraft to a new level of realism that for most pilots makes the simulation much more interactive and ultimately more enjoyable. Highly recommended!

System requirements

Windows XP or Windows Vista or Windows 7 or MAC OS 10.6 (or higher) or Linux.

X-Plane 11 or higher.

Dual Core, 2.5GHz or faster.

2GB of RAM.

A video card with at least 500MB of VRAM.

290MB available hard disk space.

PC Pilot Verdict

At a glance: An upgrade for the Carenado Bonanza that elevates the product to an altogether diferent level.

Distributor:X-Plane.org

Developer: http://www.simcoders.com

Price: $19.99 (£15 approx) by direct download

Website:www.simcoders.com

3D Modelling: N/A

Graphics: N/A

Documentation: Excellent

Performance: No impact on frame rates

PC Pilot Score:

Landing at Welshpool in Mid Wales.