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Aerosoft Beaver X
Wednesday, 01 August 2007

The last time I reviewed a GA Aircraft from Aerosoft (Super Piper Cub), I was amazed at it’s quality and it quickly became my favourite GA Aircraft to fly on FS2004, and indeed my favourite aircraft to fly on FS2004. Even with all the new bells and whistles which FSX has brought us, I still frequently revisit the Piper Cub for some sightseeing flights around Alaska. So it was with great anticipation that I installed one of Aerosoft’s latest offerings for FSX to see how far things have progressed as the first anniversary of FSX approaches.

Aerosoft's DH2-Beaver package for FS2004, not surprisingly, was their best selling aircraft. The Beaver can take you anywhere, and can land on just about any runway and any surface. In 1955 a new DH-2 Beaver would have set you back around $30,000, over 50 years later a well maintained Beaver is selling at around 10 times that amount. Aircraft and built with a certain lifespan in mind before something new and better takes it’s place 10 or 15 years down the line. But the Beaver hasn’t been replaced and hasn’t aged. It still does the job it set out to do; to haul half a ton anytime, anywhere. Most pilots fly the Beaver because it is the best plane for the job and that they aren’t bothered how old it is, as long as it gets them home! The only role that this aircraft has not taken part in is air-to-air combat, and is probably the only aircraft to have landed at both poles.

The DH2-Beaver was designed after extensive consultation with bust pilots. It was designed for operations in rugged and remote areas of the world. It’s STOL capability made it ideal to access areas that were normally accessible only by canoe or on foot. The first flight took place on 16th August 1947 in Downsview, Ontario and the first production aircraft was delivered in April 1948. Production only lasted until 1967, but there are hundreds of them still flying today, such is their popularity. Film star Harrison Ford claims that his DH2-Beaver is his favourite amongst his fleet of aircraft

This version from Aerosoft comes with five models (Ski/Wheel, floats, amphibian, wheels and tundra wheels), seven different pilots and 6 different interiors, a special FSX Mission (Needle in a Haystack), specific FSX effects for snow, crop dusting and fire fighting, 45 different textures plus a paint kit, San Francisco area sea plane base and a 34 manual, reduced polygon count for better frame rates and additional VC Views. This is just for starters, there are many other great things included in the package. As always from Aerosoft, the price you pay is far less than you would expect for something with all this and more in the package. The current price for the download version (which I’m reviewing) is €19.95 with the boxed version being €25.99. Owners of the DH2 Beaver for FS2004 can use the Aerosoft update service to get the FSX version for €8.95, you just need to have your original serial code when ordering. The download is quite large at 250mb, but not as large as some. The option of a boxed version of the product makes it accessible to everyone, so I can’t fault Aerosoft for that. Installation is very easy. All you need to do is put your serial code in the box when prompted and the installation process is fully automated.

After installation with most add-ons, it’s advisable to read the manual before jumping into the hot seat. With this add-on I just jumped straight in and went for a sightseeing trip around the Alaskan mountains. The aircraft is very easy to fly and requires hardly any trimming when you want to level off. The whole flight can more or less be managed on the settings of the throttle and propeller pitch without touching the trim wheel. After this flight I sat down and read the manual, which made for an interesting read and gave some good tips on how to fly the aircraft and the best power/prop pitch settings for each phase of flight, and when I tried these out in FSX the aircraft flew by the numbers and did what you expected it to do. No wonder the bush pilots love flying her so much! The manual is very nicely illustrated which makes following it a lot easier because you have something visual to refer to whilst reading the manual.

Flying in FSX has become more geared towards flying from the virtual cockpit. The VC’s in the default models are a huge improvement on the ones in FS9 (in my opinion anyway!) and it seems that this is the way forward for the add-on market. That said, all these aircraft still come with the option of flying from the 2D panel if you so wish. So it struck me as a little odd that Aerosoft had not included a 2D panel with the BeaverX. Sometimes it is easier to operate the aircraft from the 2D panel when changing things like the radios etc… But after countless hours flying the BeaverX from the VC it’s safe to say that even if there was a 2D cockpit, you wouldn’t want to fly from it. I found it best to zoom back to 0.40 zoom which gave me the best view of where I was going and the instruments. At times it was a bit difficult the read some of the instruments when zoomed this far back, but all the major instruments like airspeed, altitude, manifold pressure and prop rpm were still very easy to read. The GPS was a little harder to make out, but zooming forward momentarily solved this problem. For an aircraft that is to be flown only from the VC, it’s important that the refresh rates of the gauges are good, and they are. The needles move round smoothly and continuously so that you can be sure that the information you are getting from them is accurate at that moment in time.

I found that taxing the BeaverX, apart from the problems normally associated with a tail dragger, was quite difficult. It seems that the power comes on either to little for what you need, or too much so that you are overshooting the taxiways and going onto the grass verges. No doubt this is something that you will get better at with practice, but to be honest, you’ll just want to be in the skies.
When you apply take-off power the Beaver is airborne very quickly and can climb quite quickly to your cruise level. Most of the time I found myself flying about 2000ft above the ground exploring the scenery of Alaska and almost running out of fuel a couple of times. The Beaver is a very stable aircraft to fly and takes hardly any time to get used to. I would say that even if I hadn’t read the manual for the correct settings for the various stages of flight, I would’ve still been able to fly easily enough. It really is a very easy aircraft to fly, which is good because when you’re coming into land trying not to it that tree at the end of the runway, you don’t want to be checking that a particular system is functioning properly. You can just point the aircraft where you want to go, set her up for cruise and she’ll take you there. There is an auto-pilot included with the package, but I never used it I was having that much fun flying by hand. And if you want to fly into and out of remote areas in the wilderness and amongst the mountains, then you won’t need the use of the autopilot.
Descending can be done by simply reducing the power and prop settings to those described in the manual and the aircraft performs by the numbers and begins the descent without the need to use much trim. Just remember to increase the power when you need to level off! On approach the Beaver can be slowed down very quickly to the landing speed thanks to the large flaps, so there is no need to set the flaps when you are a long way out from the airfield as with the heavy jets. Quite often I was able to fly over the airstrip I was landing at at cruise speed and then get set up for a 2 mile final approach and land without any trouble at all. Something that was a little tricky for me at first was the roll-out after landing. The first few times I dug the propeller into the runway because I was pushing forward on the stick, as you would when landing a normal aircraft, rather than pulling back on the stick to make the tail stick to the ground. In time though this becomes 2nd nature, but also makes you aware of what can happen if you are not totally tuned into your aircraft.

The external model for the Beaver is the best I have seen for a GA aircraft in FSX so far. I have quite a few GA add-ons installed for FSX, and this is by far the best to look at. When I was cruising I found myself taking lots of shots of the exterior of the aircraft, and the huge amount of liveries makes each flight different and presents lots of screenshot opportunities for the various forums around the web, especially for the float version coupled with the stunning FSX water effects.
When you have parked up in the Beaver and have applied the parking break tie down ropes will appear on the wings, and chocks under the wheels. Because this aircraft can operate at such a low airspeed, if the winds get up on the ground she could quite easily become airborne without wanting to. By applying keyboard commands defined in the manual, several other exits form the aircraft will open up, as well as the engine cover.

To sum up this aircraft if superb. If you are a serious bush flyer on FS you must have this aircraft in your hangar. I know that there is a default one included in FSX, but it isn’t a patch on this one. The price is good and the quality extra-ordinary. If you are not a serious bush flyer but are interested in the flying into the remote airstrips in the wilderness, try flying in the default Beaver and if you enjoy that then your experience will increase massively after buying this package from Aerosoft. Whilst flying my frame rates remained the same as when flying with the default Beaver, and quite often (due to the low polygon model) were higher than the default aircraft. The noise coming from the engine makes you feel as though you are flying a hard-working tough plane, far better than the default sound set. As with most Aerosoft products, the price you pay for this is an absolute bargain. After the reviewing the Piper Super Cub previously for FS2004, I was hoping that this package could raise the bar yet further, and yet again Aerosoft have done just that, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next to wow us. The price is only €19.95 and will give you hundreds of hours of fun. Going for a meal to a posh restaurant will probably cost 3 times that, and will only last a couple of hours. Seems like a simple choice to me what you spend that spare money on!

Go forth and explore!