Carenado Beechcraft 1900D
FSX/P3D. Carenado's 1900D is certainly a beautiful work of art, but does it measure up in functionality? Is it just another pretty face, but lacking in depth? Or has Carenado brought the beans to the BBQ this time with accurately-modeled systems? Well, read-on, as I take a look at their latest and greatest release, and my favorite real-world turboprop in this AirDailyX review.
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From a passenger prospective, the 19 passenger turboprop does not usually conjure feelings of fondness, rather the opposite in my experience. The "Screaming Terror Tube", "Twin-engine Coffin" and other less family and politically correct terms have been used in referring to the various Metros, Twotters and such up here in Alaska. Years back, the first question for the ticket agents in certain bush hubs is the always hopeful: "Are we on the Jet?" To be followed with disappointed grunts when informed that it's the Metro today.
In the hubs where it was a 1900C instead of a Metro, the reaction wasn't as bad....usually. The Beeches enjoyed a little better reception among the locals. I know my preference as a passenger was always the 1900.....sometimes even over the 737 for shorter trips. But it was still just a narrow tube, and with some trips being several hours, the 1900C was not much better than Metro.
When I first started flying the 1900D after flying the C model for years, the reaction from the passengers was very positive. At first look, "whale", "dolphin", and even "ugly" were common terms overheard, but once people climbed in and didn't have to bend over and do the "shuffle", well, the joy and happiness was evident. I sure enjoyed flying it, although I still found myself doing the bent-over "shuffle" out of habit. Change can be difficult and embarrassing for some of us.
I loved flying the 1900. It's a great airplane for Alaska. Gravel runways, serious icing conditions, and nasty wind were part of the daily battle and the big Beech always came through. I have been fortunate enough to fly this plane for many thousands of hours for three different Alaskan operators (not ERA), and my confidence in it has never wavered.
Beechcraft developed the 1900 from the King Air 200 to compete with the Metroliner and Jetstream on shorter regional routes and it has been very successful. Even with production ending in 2002, there are hundreds still in operation around the world.
Like all Beechcraft, the 1900 is very well engineered and it's flying qualities reflect it. It's very easy to fly and the systems are not too difficult to learn. Simply-put, it's a Beechcraft. Where the Metro was designed by morons to be flown by professionals, the 1900 was designed by professionals to be flown by morons. I've heard this more than a few times (mostly from Metro pilots) and I guess it's true.
So has Carenado done this great little airliner justice? It really depends on what you are looking for. It definitely looks the part. More systems have been integrated into the package as well as some type specific gauges and functionality. And a new FMS.....which I find somewhat odd. I know an FMS could be ordered as an option or installed later, but I have never seen one equipped in the wild. I'm sure they are out there, but I imagine it's a rare sight.
The exterior modeling and texturing is nearly perfect, the only fault I could find was the inboard flap segment's upper texture. It should be ribbed like the outboard section, above. Otherwise, it's beautifully rendered, as we have come to expect from Carenado.
The flight dynamics and handling are as close as I would expect, no real surprises here, it's very nice to hand fly and feels about right to me. A cool new effect is the "cowl shake" on takeoff. This adds a bit to the experience and is a nice touch.
Landings are Beechcraft-easy provided the speeds are close and you don't totally ham-fist it. And the 1900 has computed v-speeds......a set of speed cards would be nice. Or at least more complete documentation including takeoff and landing performance data, so we could make our own speed data cards.
It handles decent on the ground, at least with my old Saitek Combat Pedals. The required break-away power seems normal but you have to keep it spooled up to keep from stopping, but not really a big deal and I think it may be an FSX thing anyway.
The sound set is good if a bit quiet on the inside. It sounds a lot like the real thing, just muted......like you have a good set of Bose headsets on. The D models have a subtly different sound than the C models....not much, but I could tell the difference. This sounds like a D.
Since we're talking about sounds, lets talk about the Environmental Mode Control. It is nice that it makes a blower noise in auto or manual, but that thing is louder than I remember.....or it could be the engine noise is way too quiet. Either way something should be adjusted a bit to blend with the engines.
Another sound gripe is the autopilot disconnect warning. And this applies to the King Airs as well.......Carenado uses the altitude warning buzzer as an AP disconnect warning. Not good to have the same aural warning for different items or events. I don't know what the proper noise would be as I have never flown a 1900 with an autopilot, but the King Airs had a beep, beep type of thing.
And where is the overspeed warning? As I recall, the overspeed test was a great method of waking up sleepy copilots.
A really cool included sound effect is the doors. They nailed that hydraulic cylinder sound that the doors make when they open. Very realistic. But no tailstand is simulated. I wouldn't recommend loading much in the back without a tailstand. They look rather awkward sitting on the tail......not to mention it bends stuff.
Carenado has been producing some amazing-looking aircraft for many years now, and they step up their game with each new release. In the last few years they have ventured into bigger and faster machines, and now, with the 1900 - the biggest yet. When they started producing turbine-powered aircraft, sometimes the systems or performance were not up to par, and in fact could be flat messed up on release, with a quick service pack to fix some of the issues.
This customer beta-testing didn't bother me too much, I usually fixed most of the short comings myself with some aircraft.cfg tweaking. But after flying more high-quality stuff from Aerosoft and Flight1, I think I'm changing my tune a bit. At this price point and complexity I think it's time for Carenado to step up a bit and start producing a more complete and functional product. One that is more accurate with the systems and also functions as it should. To explain my concerns, please follow along on a trip I've done hundreds of times, FAI-ANC.......although back then I was wrapped in a different operators livery.....ERA colors will have to do for now.
Ah, Fairbanks in February. As the First Officer checks out the cold bits, I'll do the cockpit prep. Explaining each panel flow would take way too long and put most sane folks to sleep, so I will just highlight the important stuff. First off, I cannot legally accept this aircraft as it does not meet the requirements of its type certificate. No standby attitude indicator. It must have a functioning standby attitude indicator to be airworthy. The 1900D was certified with the dual EFIS system which requires the standby AI. Kinda weird they left all the references to the standby AI in the checklists.
Okay, moving on. Most everything else that should be here is, and most of it works close enough for me.....other than the missing overspeed and stall warning test. Even the fire warning and extinguishing system is represented, and test more or less as it should. A check of the voltmeter shows a 1 volt drop across the Triple Fed Bus....this is correct. The cockpit lights even work almost correctly. Almost. The master light switch works along with most of the overhead light switches, but the emergency lights come on with the instrument indirect light switch. Oops....so close.
But...and this is huge for me, we can now turn off the annoying blue emergency lights. YAY!! Just use the instrument indirect light switch, not the emergency light button. I hated flying the Carenado King Airs at night because of this.....until I found a fix. I think they made us do a takeoff or two at Flightsafety with them on, but no airline I've flown for made us use these despicable, hateful lights as they were intended. I used them for tidying up the flight deck after my shift or other such activities....never for flight. Of course I never had a dual generator failure at night either.
Boarding time. Love that door noise....makes me giggle it's so good.
Fire test. Ext A, B(squib), Loop, Amp, .....all good. At least close enough.
Here is another little problem. The cabin pressure controller. It is not labelled correctly (stolen from the King Air?)...and it doesn't function quite right. Normally, we set the altitude one thousand feet above the planned cruising altitude prior to takeoff. That doesn't work here. What happens if you do that is, because the controller is mislabeled, it selects a lower cabin altitude, which causes the cabin pressure differential to exceed the max of 4.8psi as you climb and makes the cabin altitude warning light illuminate. Also not correct.
First, if it was labelled correctly, everything would work fine. Second, the outflow valves would prevent the cabin from exceeding the max pressure differential, and the light should only go off when the cabin pressure exceeds 10,000 feet, not when it over-pressures. Whew. A work around is to wind the controller to 9,000 feet cabin altitude (which is like 30,000 ft aircraft) regardless of the flight level you plan, seems to work for me. If it was labeled correctly, the dial would show just under a 10,000 ft cabin at an aircraft altitude of 26,000 ft.
Flight plan loaded.....in the FMS. I used it this time for this review and I don't intend to use it again. If I have a fancy Garmin GNS 530 why would I bother with a clunky Universal FMS?
Start up. Pretty normal other than a few points. 1) Battery charge rate after a battery start is almost instantaneous........some times it was pretty quick, but not that quick. 2) It's time to fix the ignition bug. The auto-ignition switches shouldn't come on with the start switch(the ignition should come on, but not the auto-ignition switch). And if it is on(the auto-ignition) and the torque is below.....I forget the exact value, but if it's below around 250-500 ft-lbs the ignition should come on and you should hear it. The Carenado King Airs have the same issue.
Run-up time. Grab your checklist, it's going to be awhile.....well in real life it would, there is a lot of stuff to check. I'm not going to grip too much here as for the most part everything is within spitting distance of being correct. Skipping some stuff like the Bus Sense test and CVR, TCAS test, and a few other things....some stuff works, most stuff doesn't, but that is getting too deep for the price point in my opinion. What I am going to whine about is the omission of the correct autofeather lights. Why model the lights by the torque gauges but then put them in the lower annunciator panel like a C model? Not correct. But the test of the auto-feather system works, not perfectly, but it does work. And the prop governor test switch works too,.....but the low pitch test does not. Boogers. Again some stuff works, some stuff sorta works, and some stuff is just inop.
Line-up-and-wait. The external lighting is top shelf. really well done lighting again, Carenado.
Set takeoff power. More power. MORE POWER. Here I have the engine anti-ice on, which was an anti-FOD policy at all the places I flew the 1900s. But with the anti-ice on in the Carenado, I can only get about 3,300 ft-lbs of TQ. In real life I would abort, 'cause something ain't right. With a PT6 and especially the PT6-67D in the 1900D, you will almost always be torque-limited at sub-Himalayan takeoff elevations, certainly at Fairbanks in the winter time. Here we have low TQ and low ITT, so what is flat-rating the Carenado? In fact, I should be able to push the TQ up to 5,000 ft-lbs! (20 second transient limit) At least. Flat rating a PT6 is done with AFM limitations and gauge markings. The PT6-67D is thermodynamically capable of producing around 1600+hp, if you push hard enough on the power levers. They are flat-rated to 1280hp for longevity and durability. I want at least takoff power in my new 1900D. But I know why they do this. More on this later.
V1, rotate, positive-rate, gear-up, V2, 400 feet -bleeds on -flaps up, yaw damper on.
Above 2 thou. left turn, direct FAI on the Mick 9. Climb power, after takeoff checks.
Very nice. I'm digging the 3D gauge action in this bird.
That transponder needs to move to the center console so a standby atitude indicator can live in its spot. I'm very crabby about not having that little AI.
Now lets talk about the EHSI. Like a lot of things, close....but not quite right. First a minor quibble....the colors are wrong. In GPS mode (this should be LRN, but GPS is fine for me), the CDI is white, not green. Second, and this is a major ding.....the CDI should auto sequence to the correct course leg in GPS mode....you shouldn't have to turn it yourself.....in nav mode yes, but not in GPS mode. This needs to be fixed, here as well as in the King Airs. Please. And the real Collins EHSI offers lots of nifty functions that are not modeled here, but to me the auto sequencing is something that should work. With the correct colors too, please.
So that was the start of a typical for me way back when. This plane is dragging up lots of memories, mostly good, from my days of 1900 flying. I did like the D model a bit better than the C, but both were very good planes. And the Carenado is a very good plane, too, I just think there are some important details that need to be fixed. And it is stuff that other developers have been able to get right. So, for an add-on at this price point, no more customer beta-testing. Period. Get it right or at least closer to right the first time....clean up the honest bugs and suggestions with a later SP. And systems functionality, again, get it right. Get someone or a few someones(real pilots) who know the airplane to test it out and then listen to them. Don't miss required equipment like a standby attitude indicator. Please.
And get the turbines to work right. I started whining about the power earlier and to further expound on that I'm going to take you on a quick flight in the Aerosoft Twin Otter Extended. I never bothered too much about the silly Carenado turbine power settings in the past because I was always told that it was a FSX limitation and couldn't be helped. The power was set artificially low because the FSX engine wouldn't let the ITT rise as you climbed. Setting it low sort of mimicked the power loss from rising ITT at altitude. Fine. Then I flew the AS Twin Otter.....whoa! What's this? An accurately functioning PT6? Rising ITT as you climb? It is possible after all! Check it out:
So it can be done....the Razbam Metro is another example of proper turbine modeling, although it's a different type of turbine. Why not figure it out?
Now, at last, the final complaint. Propeller feathering. And this goes back to the King Airs, too....well all of the Carenado planes with a feathering prop. Why do I have to CTRL+F2 to feather my prop? I want to just pull back my CH Products propeller lever and feather my broken engine....please. Or at least use the mouse to reach over and pull it into the feather detent. Again, I have to compare it to the Twotter, no fuss there. It just works.
Please don't get me wrong, I still feel Carenado make some fantastic planes, and I have always been a big supporter of their work. I just feel that as they move into bigger and faster planes that the time has come to up their game to match the quality of the competition. The Carenado 1900D is another beautiful creation, one that I plan on reliving days past and even some new flights in new lands.
And as to being what may seem somewhat harsh, please realize I've spent thousands of hours in the left seat of 1900s flying people and freight here and there and so I have an interest in seeing this plane properly represented. And I think it is well represented for the most part, well enough that most will probably not worry too much about my gripes and just enjoy it the way it is. Me, well, I'll just have to fix what I can, and not worry about the rest. I just can't believe I spent more on the fs9 PMDG 1900D many moons ago. Cheers!