Alabeo Cessna Corvalis C400TT
Reviewed By: Mike Cameron
- http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2010/June/1/Cessna-Corvalis-TT ,
as well as the product documentation and the Alabeo product page. Cessna single engine general aviation aircraft are not known to be sleek looking or fast. According to the AOPA article, some of the negative comments about all Cessna aircraft included “Slowtation”, “Nearjet”, “Gutless” and more. Cessna decided to prove the world wrong by introducing the Citation X, the fastest civilian aircraft in the world. But this was a jet and the piston models were left in the slow lane until Columbia Aircraft a small company based in Bend, Oregon entered bankruptcy, Cessna purchased this company and the product line that would become the Corvalis TT. At the time that this article was written, Cessna now had the fastest certified fixed-gear, single-engine airplane in the world. After purchasing Columbia Aircraft, Cessna now owned one of only three contenders in the ultra-fast, high end single-engine category, and in doing so not only gained the respect from the name callers but also some superb engineering and manufacturing knowledge for this type of aircraft.
The Corvalis TT story started before the Columbia Aircraft design. Kit-builder and Lancair founder Lance Neibauer, coming off great success from his two-seat models, decided to expand and create a four-seat model, the Lancair IV. Soon after, Lancair began working on a simpler fixed-gear model called the ES. With the Lancair ES model, the company created the certified arm of Lancair called Columbia. In 1998, the ES was certified as the Columbia 300 but the model that the Corvalis TT is truly based on is the Columbia 400, introduced in the year 2000. Unfortunately, an inefficient production process, fierce competition and one random act of nature (a hail storm on the factory ramp) forced Columbia into Bankruptcy in 2007 and less than a year later, Cessna had acquired the company. Besides now having an almost-made composite aircraft production facility located in Bend, Oregon, Cessna also had a piece of airplane art with the Columbia 400 now called the Corvalis TT. It’s a fast, comfortable and a strikingly beautiful aircraft. Some homebuilt aircraft have the reputation of being fast, efficient and relatively inexpensive aircraft but the idea of building an aircraft in the garage simply does not appeal to many aircraft buyers. Cessna and to a certain extent Columbia before it, was able to offer an incredible looking and performing aircraft with all of the homebuilt benefits, but with the added bonus of being built to a reliable, quality standard, factory support and the peace of mind of certification.
The Corvalis TT is a turbocharged, (the Cessna 350 Corvalis is not turbocharged), four-seat, carbon fiber airplane with just about everything installed that you would expect from a luxury single engine aircraft. Standard equipment includes the Garmin G1000 cockpit with all of the nice features that pilots have come to expect from that system including synthetic vision, keypad, traffic, terrain and engine monitoring. Also included are a sophisticated climate control system, the very capable Garmin GFC Autoflight system, built in oxygen, Cessna’s Evade Electro-expulsive deicing system and premium interior features. The Corvalis TT is powered by a Continental 310 horsepower TSIO-550 engine. In 2011 when the Flying magazine article was written, the closest competitor to the Corvalis TT was the Cirrus SR22T. Similarly equipped to the Corvalis but there are some noteworthy differences between these two aircraft. The G1000 displays in the Corvalis are 10.4 inches diagonally, which are a couple of inches smaller than the Perspective displays in the SR22T. The Corvalis is available with two forms of ice protection, the Evade electro-expulsive or the TKS wet wing and neither system is approved for flight in known icing conditions.
The Corvalis also does not include a parachute. The SR22T has more options for each of the above features but the Corvalis is a faster airplane at most altitudes, though not by a lot. The interior of both aircraft are very roomy and very comfortable to fly on long trips. Both have optional XM Weather & entertainment, built in oxygen and Rosen sun visors. Lastly, the side controllers are quite different. The Corvalis has a true side stick, which moves just as you would expect a joystick to move while the Cirrus has a side yoke which moves like a small yoke control. The Corvalis also has speed brakes, a slightly higher first-notch flap speed and ten gallons more fuel capacity for better range than the SR22T by about 100NM or more. The original Model 350 & 400 were light on payload and Cessna addressed this in 2009 by replacing the wing-mounted, metal container oxygen system with a composite, single-bottle oxygen system that is mounted in the tail, which recovered a 25 pound payload increase. Pilots also now have the option of removing the formally standard air-conditioning system for another improvement of useful load of about 75 pounds which allows for a total payload increase of 100 pounds from the old models.
Performance & Specifications
Height: 9 Feet
Length: 28 Feet, 4 Inches
Wingspan: 35 Feet, 10 Inches
Height: 49 Inches
Width: 49 Inches
Length: 28 Feet, 4 Inches
Seating Capacity: 4
Baggage Capacity: 25 Cubic Feet
Engine: Single Continental TSIO-550, 310 Horsepower
Single Pilot Certified: Yes
Maximum Cruise Speed: 235 KIAS
Certified Ceiling: 25,000 Feet
Take-off Distance: 1900 Feet
Landing Distance: 2600 Feet
Rate of Climb at Sea Level: 1400 FPM
Range: 1250 NM
Ramp Weight: 3600 Pounds
Take-off Weight: 3600 Pounds
Zero Fuel Weight: 3300 Pounds
Usable Fuel Capacity: 612 Pounds
Typically Equipped Empty Weight: 2550 Pounds
Useful Load: 1050 Pounds
Maximum Payload: 750 Pounds
Full-Fuel Payload: 138 Pounds
Various V speeds taken from Alabeo Document:
Maximum Operating Maneuvering Speed: (Vo):
2600 Pounds Gross Weight: 135 KIAS
3600 Pounds Gross Weight: 158 KIAS
Maximum Flap Extended Speed (Vfe): 117 KIAS
Maximum Structural Cruising Speed: (Vno): 181 KIAS
Never Exceed Speed (Vne): 230 KIAS
Take-off Speeds at Sea Level, Dry Runway, ISA, Zero Wind, KIAS
Take-off Weight Rotate (Vr) At 50 Feet
3600 Pounds 65 82
3400 Pounds 63 80
3200 Pounds 61 78
3000 Pounds 59 76
Stall Speeds, 3600 Pounds, KCAS
Bank Angle Cruise 12 Degrees Take-off 40 Degrees Landing
0 73 66 60
30 78 71 65
45 87 79 72
60 103 94 85
Pricing and Cost in 2010 for a 2009 and 2010 Corvalis TT
Cost Per Mile: $.96
Cost Per Hour: $190.00
Alabeo Features & System Requirements:
Superb Material Shines and Reflections
Volumetric Side View Prop Effect
Knob Click Sounds
Windows Scratches and Propeller Blades Shines
High Quality 3D Model and Textures
Windows Vista/7/8 (32 or 64 bit), I will be using Windows 10
Microsoft Flight Simulator X with SP1 & SP2 or Acceleration Pack, FSX: Steam Edition or Lockheed Martin Prepar3D Flight Simulator
Pentium V with 2 GHz or greater
512MB Graphics Card
790MB of Available Disk Space
Installation of Alabeo products is very easy but does require an active internet connection for activation. After purchase you will receive an email with a download link, your purchase email and a long Serial Number. I recommend copying the serial number and pasting it for the activation process. Unpack and run the setup file, read the License Agreement and enter the email and Serial Number. After activation, the simulator selection screen will open and Alabeo provides a triple installer for FSX or FSX: SE, P3Dv1 and P3dv2 without having to purchase an additional license if you own more than one simulator, which is great. The setup program should automatically find your simulator location but if it does not, click “Browse” to locate and “Install” to install the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT on to your hard drive. Simply click “Finish” to complete the install process and should take less than a minute to complete. If you own other Alabeo aircraft you already know that they do not provide a comprehensive manual but several smaller PDF documents. I do not have an issue with this because usually Alabeo aircraft are relatively easy to operate. These documents include, Alabeo G1000, Autopilot & GCU 476, the C400 Corvalis TT Emergency, Normal Procedures & Limitations, Performance Tables and Recommended Settings. These all basically overview documents and do not provide detailed operational instructions but that is why we have the internet. I should point out that there is an in simulator 2D window that provides quick instructions for operating the knobs in the aircraft. The first time that you load one of the aircraft in FSX, you will be asked to “Run” or Don’t Run” by the Microsoft Security Alert System, select “Run” to install the gauges and “Yes” on the next window. Repeat this procedure as needed.
I have always been impressed with the interior textures & features of Alabeo aircraft and the Corvalis TT continues that positive trend. Sitting in the pilot seat looking at the right side of the cockpit, I get the first look at these quality features. The leather seats look just as you think they should look like in a luxury general aviation aircraft. I like that Alabeo did not include stains and other signs of wear on the seats because the Corvalis is a newer aircraft and I also believe that owners of this aircraft would like to keep it looking like new. I do like that there are some stains on the floor mats because there probably would be some on the real world aircraft and most pilots probably do not wear covers over their footwear to protect the floor mats. All interior items both large and small are three dimensional and are very realistic looking. I love that clicking on either door handle opens each one of these doors with a very nice animation. I hate having to use keyboard commands to open and close doors. Unfortunately, I could not find the handle or click spot to close the doors from the raised position from either the interior or exterior views. That is wear the Toggle_Control 2D window is used. It is hard to see from my screen grab but the box in front of Passenger 2 door is highlighted green which means that this door is open, clicking on this option will close this door and the box will now be clear. The Passenger or pilot door and baggage door operates the same way with this in-simulator control panel. The other interior option is for VC Windows which are activated by default. Turn them off and you now have clear windows. I am glad that this is available as an option for when I am in the mood for clear windows but most of the time I keep the VC windows enabled. Interior labeling and documentation is also very clear and easy to read. It is nice when I zoom in very close to the Airworthiness Certificate, I can see some detail instead of a blurry mess. The same can be said about cockpit placards and the compass card which is wonderful! The sunscreens have only two positions by clicking on either one of them but it would have been nice if they would have had a middle position to make them more useful. This is another one of those things that I have become use to because it is the same on all Alabeo aircraft that have sun screens. Sitting in the right seat looking at the left side of the cockpit, is just as impressive. Some developers do not include this small feature but I like that Alabeo includes a three dimensional seatbelt and shoulder harness for the empty pilot seat. Just as with the right side all labeling, even the labels above the circuit breakers are readable. I love the amount of detail that has been modeled with this aircraft. The interior lighting controls are located overhead between the seats near the electrical controls. The instrument panel lighting controls are also located here. The rear passenger area is equally impressive looking with the same quality features as the cockpit. Looking at the rear storage area it looks that the Cessna C400 Corvalis TT has plenty of room for your things.
The exterior textures and features are just as impressive as the interior. Alabeo has provided six exterior paints plus an all-white model for painting. The exterior paint jobs of the C400 Corvalis TT are definitely not the exterior paint schemes that you would think of with your father or grandfather’s Cessna aircraft. One of the aircraft with registration C-FCEP is about as far from the conservative Cessna paint schemes as you can get. With the screen grab of registration number N3962C, I captured a side view with the impressive volumetric side view prop effect. I always expect some form of ground static objects for when aircraft are parked on the ground with the engine off and parking brake on. These are enabled with the Toggle_Control window. I think that Alabeo borrowed this feature from another aircraft because it says “Chocks” but instead an external hand towing device is attached to the nose wheel and some caution cones are included. I already mentioned the other exterior feature that can be controlled with this options window, the doors, but I did not say that the associated sound effect and animations of this operation is very nice. The feature that I would like to see added to all Alabeo aircraft would be the option to remove the pilot and front seat passenger from view when the aircraft is on the ground in a cold and dark state. They do have very realistic textures though.
There are ten alternate exterior angle views for close ups of the various areas of the Corvalis exterior. These views could also be used to simulate the external preflight inspection. I wish Alabeo would have views that correlated to the checklist view to eliminate having to cycle through the views to match the checklist or the other way around and finding that spot in the checklist. An example of this is that on the checklist the first area to inspect is the “Left wing, Flap, Trailing edge and Wing tip” but the first Alabeo angle view is actually closer to area 6 on the checklist which is “Right wing tip, Trailing edge, Wing flap and Right Fuselage area”. Also, you may need to adjust your zoom level in order to see everything on the preflight inspection. Owners of the Track IR device or other software camera utilities may be able to create their own realistic preflight inspection but do not own either so I will rely on adjusting the zoom and the FSX mouse look or view function in order to get a better view. I have this shortcut mapped to a spare joystick switch to quickly use. The exterior textures and features are just as impressive as the interior’s. Everything is three dimensional and exterior labeling is pretty good but personally I do not think the textures are as nice as the interior labeling. The exterior lighting effects of the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT is also very nice.
Instrument Panel and Systems
The Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT is equipped with the Garmin G1000 cockpit. This is my first new FSX aircraft with a G1000 cockpit since I have upgraded my computer system. I have owned other G1000 premium aircraft and FSX includes a couple of these aircraft but I always end up putting them to the side because the glass panels had an adverse performance impact. They sometimes were also hard to view in flight without constantly adjusting my eye point or zoom level. I am happy to report that this G1000 equipped aircraft did not have a performance issue on my system and it looks beautiful. The displays look much clearer to me than the ones on my previous aircraft or maybe it just my new video card. The first screen grab is from the default VC view with both displays turned on and as you can see most all of the button and softkey labels are readable from this position. If needed you can always adjust your eye point, open the 2D PFD or MFD window or use the G1000 alternate panel view for a better look. I am not going to explain in detail all of the features or how to use the G1000 cockpit in this review other than to say the left screen is the Primary Flight Display (PFD) and the right screen is the Multi-function Display or MFD. Between the displays is the Audio Panel with the Garmin GCU 476 autopilot controls. As you can see from the 2D window of the MFD, the opening Information page states that the Navigation database for this system expires 30-Mar-2016. This is purely for informational purposes because when I look at one of MFD system information pages, it indicates that this G1000 is using the old FSX navigation database. Hopefully Alabeo will release a Navigraph expansion pack for the Corvalis so pilots can use a newer navigation database. Simply press the “Enter” softkey on the MFD to exit this page. The first thing that I like to when loading one of the Corvalis aircraft is open the control panel and turn off Instrument Reflections because the screens are brighter with this feature disabled. The screen grab of the G1000 alternate view is with this feature disabled. The Alabeo G1000 manual does a pretty good job explaining the layout of each of these displays but does not provide any detail on how to operate the various functions of both of these displays. If this is your first simulated G1000 cockpit aircraft, I recommend doing some internet research and there are probably plenty of You Tube videos about this subject. Personally I am going to watch a DVD that I received a few years ago and is titled, “The Columbia 400 and Garmin G1000” from Flight Video Productions. I think it is still available from simulator retailers. This DVD was made before Cessna acquired Columbia Aircraft but the Columbia 400 is virtually identical to the Corvalis TT. It is also a comprehensive video with a couple of cross country flights that I will watch and fly during the next section of the review.
To the left of the PFD are the backup instruments and the Door Seals, Pitot Heat and Prop Heat switches. Each of the switches have an audible click sound and indicate that they are turned on but I do not know if they are simulated. At the bottom of the instrument panel behind the control stick are the parking brake, Magneto switch and the primer button. If you do not have hardware controls you will need to move the stick out of the way to operate the Magneto switch. The electrical switches are located overhead between the front seats. Labeling is very clear and easy to read. Below the displays is a control panel with your flaps, fuel pump, pressurization control, go around & rudder hold switches, throttle, speed brake, propeller & mixture controls and below these are the climate controls. The climate controls do function but have no effect in the simulator. You can display the outside air temperature, I will probably use this feature the most, the unit also has an automatic temperature control but you can also adjust the cabin temperature manually and it also has a defroster control. My only complaint about this unit is when you are using the cabin climate controls, the fan is extremely loud and Alabeo did not include the feature for controlling the fan speed. Unless this is feature is added I probably will not use the climate controls because they have no effect in the simulator. The Center Pedestal contains the Garmin GCU 476 Ready Pad or the radios, PFD & MFD Control Unit, exterior lighting and the fuel controls. Above the GCU 476 are the instrument panel dimmer controls that you control with the mouse wheel. Alabeo provides several alternate views and 2D windows if would like to use them to control the various instrument panel features.
I now want to capture and comment about some of the Garmin G1000 features that are included with this aircraft. First at the bottom of the center panel between the displays is the red “Display Backup” button. Pressing this will display the system information on the PFD as well as on the MFD. I like this because I can see all of the critical engine information right in front of me and only look at the MFD for the large moving map, the expanded system page and for editing the flight plan or loading an approach. While I am here I can see that Alabeo has used a generic G1000 manual because the manual lists the left most softkey on the MFD as “Engine” but on the Alabeo Corvalis this key is labeled “System”. Probably not a big deal but it would be nice to have the properly worded documentation. I also want to say that I like the size of all of the critical information on the PFD display which I can easily see from the default VC view. The information on the MFD moving map is another matter entirely. I had a very hard time seeing the waypoints on the map from the default VC view. You do have some options here; there are alternate views as well as the 2D MFD window. What worked best for me was to zoom in close on the MFD from the Right Seat view which is the first alternate view after the default view so I could quickly switch to this view and back in flight. I highly recommend assigning some joystick buttons for switching views. I would sometimes have the “Nearest” page open so that I would know what airport I was flying over. I found an annoying bug with the release version of this aircraft, the FMS knobs on the MFD sometimes do not work. They will highlight and make click sounds but the pages will not display. When this happens I would have to use the 2D window or the FMS on the GCU 476. I also want to say that response times when using the various functions on both displays is instantaneous. The exception is the Range function of the MFD map, there is a noticeable lag before the map is updated. This is not a new issue with this aircraft; I have had this lag with other G1000 equipped aircraft. I am not going to comment too much more about these displays other than to show two other features on the MFD that are very nice to have. These are the Checklist and the Weather pages. The checklists are not automatic; you simply perform the task and use the FMS knobs and the “ENT” key to mark that task complete. I love that there is a basic working weather display, not as fully functional as a dedicated unit but allows me to quickly see the weather ahead of me in flight. I will comment more about the G1000 functionality in the next section. Lastly, the instrument panel lighting is excellent.
Flight Model & Systems
I am going to watch the DVD to help review the flight model because there are a couple of cross country flights with the preflight inspection, startup procedures, G1000 and autopilot operation and more. This will provide a very useful tool to test the accuracy of the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT flight model and systems. The first comment that I want make is similar to all preflight procedures you are supposed to lower the flaps and the sound effect associated with this operation is very nice. There is also lighted indicator on the cockpit flap control during flap operation. The flaps on the Corvalis are electric so I temporarily turn on both battery switches until the flaps are lowered as well as turning on all of the exterior lights. While the batteries are on, the G1000 displays also power on and this is when you check the fuel load on the MFD. After verifying that the lights are operating correctly, I turn the batteries off. So far these early procedures are identical to the real world procedures. Aircraft damage, operational wear and maintenance are not simulated so I just watch the video to see what I would look for during the exterior inspection. I did use the simulator’s mouse look function to try my best to follow along and this also gave me another opportunity to look at incredible amount of detail that Alabeo has included with their aircraft. The video also provided some performance information for the Columbia 400 that I thought I would pass along and the Cessna Corvalis may vary a bit. It says that the Columbia 400 has a maximum endurance of 6.4 hours with IFR reserve fuel and a maximum range of 1071 NM with IFR reserve at 65% power, flight level 18000 feet and 200 KTAS.
The first cross country flight on the video is from Bend Municipal (S07, FSX identifier, the current airport code is KBDN) to Portland International (KPDX). This will be the flight that I will use for the review comparison. The return flight is from KPDX to Sun River (S21) where they will fly a complete approach before returning to Bend. I am going to fly the return trip in the simulator and if I notice anything interesting I will add it to the end of this section. The engine start procedures are very easy and accurate. I was able to memorize them after my first couple of flights. Mixture and propeller controls pushed in; throttle cracked, batteries on, rotating beacon on, 5 seconds of primer (five pushes in the simulator) and magnetos to start. The engine starts without issue and has a wonderful sound effect. That is all there is too it. At this point you turn on the alternator and avionics switches. The video says to increase power to about 1000 RPM to extinguish the Low Oil Pressure message but with the Alabeo Corvalis I needed about 1300 RPM for this warning message to go out. Part of the after start checklist is to verify the systems with the engine monitoring page on the MFD. This is where I found some more differences between the simulated aircraft and the real world aircraft. The simulated aircraft has digital displays of all the critical information and just after starting the engine only the Cylinder Head Temperature digital graph is simulated. The EGT and TIT graphs would not start to display information until after the engine was warm. I do not know if this is a bug or just how Alabeo simulates these. At this point in the video the pilot tunes the ATIS, airport and ATC frequencies. Tuning the Alabeo G1000 radios is very easy. The top right frequencies are your communication radios with the top being Com1 and the bottom, Com2. The right side is the standby frequencies and the left side is the active. I did find a bug with the NAV1 radios on VC & 2D PFD though; I could not transfer the standby frequency to active using the PFD transfer button. I could swap the NAV2 frequency from standby to active. Both radios are simulated which is great because I like to have ATIS tuned on COM2 and ATC tuned on COM1. The top left on the PFD and MFD are the NAV1 & NAV2 Radios and standby/active frequency is just the opposite, the standby frequencies are on the left and the active frequency is on the right. Alabeo makes it easy to tune the radios with both the inner and outer knobs being highlighted and they are controlled with the mouse wheel. I prefer this way but because it is the easiest for me to use but there are also “+” and “-“click spots if you prefer that method. I also did not experience any lag times when tuning the radios which is great. The flight in the video is with an IFR flight plan and obviously communicating with ATC but I am not going to do that because I want to concentrate on reviewing the flight model and systems.
Now is the time to program our light plan into the MFD. I personally use the G1000 alternate view and the 2D keypad for this purpose because it is easier for me to see the information but you can use the virtual cockpit or any combination of the 2D windows if you prefer. Also, if you just want to use the MFD FMS knobs to program the flight plan that works too because the procedure is the same other then you are using the knobs for data entry instead of the keypad. If you would like the ultra-easy way of entering a flight plan, create one in the simulator or other means and load that into your aircraft. It is nice to have options but I usually manually enter fight plans unless I find one from the internet. Using the keypad, select the “MFD” button and then press the “FPL” button. The Flight Plan entry window will now be displayed on the MFD. Use the inner FMS knob on the keypad or the MFD to display the waypoint entry page and use the inner knob to enter the first character and the outer knob to move to the next spot and repeat until you have entered the complete waypoint code. This is where the keypad is especially useful because when you are in entry mode you can use the keypad to enter the characters which was much easier for me. Verify that the waypoint is correct and press the “ENT” key to accept this waypoint into the flight plan. Another realistic G1000 feature that is missing from the Alabeo G1000 system is that it does not know where you are parked when creating a flight plan so you have to start by entering Bend Municipal into the system first. At least manually creating flight plans is simulated which is nice. We are flying direct to KPDX so after S07 is entered move to the next line and repeat this process for KPDX. Because we had to enter Bend first the active leg marker is displayed next to Bend and to make the KPDX leg active I simply highlight the KPDX identifier and press the “ENT” key on the MFD or keypad and again to accept. Our cruise altitude for this trip is 12000 feet and to set this you use the “ALT” knob on the PFD. This is where I encountered a bug, not on this flight but on an earlier one. The VC altitude select knobs will only let you dial the thousands of feet either with the outer or inner knob. I had to open the 2D PFD to use the inner knob to dial the hundreds. Oddly, when I returned to the VC view both the inner and outer knob worked correctly. One of the before taxi procedures is to verify the Cross Tie operation which if I understand it correctly is used in the event of one of the alternators failing but this is not simulated but these switches are animated and there is an annunciator message when the alternators are off. The speed brake operational test works but the autopilot tests are not simulated. It is now time to contact Bend Traffic to announce our taxi intentions.
Taxiing the simulated Corvallis may take some time to get use too. This aircraft requires rudder pedals and toe brakes for ground taxi. If you do not own rudder pedals make sure that you have a twist type of joystick for the rudder axis and a button assigned for brakes. I also want to say that I am not an expert at flight dynamics and have never piloted a Corvalis TT so I approach my aircraft reviews from an experienced flight simulator pilot point of view. I am not going to compare performance charts to the simulated flight model but I will comment about how easy or not it is to operate and if the average virtual pilot will have any issues after purchasing this aircraft. The pre-takeoff checklist is similar to other general aviation aircraft and I did encounter some minor issues during the engine run-up checks. When checking the magnetos, there is only supposed to be about a 25RPM drop for each one but on my system it was about 40RPM. This seems to be an inconsistent issue because on other flights the magneto check worked as it should but the propeller check was always an issue. Probably not a huge issue with an Alabeo aircraft but the propeller check resulted in a much greater drop, it is only supposed to be 300 to 500 RPM but on my system it was more like 900RPM. This may be a bug but at least the sound effects associated with the propeller check is very good. Also, this may be an issue with my hardware but I experienced some lag with the throttle control. Another couple of procedures before takeoff is to turn on the backup fuel pump (has audible sound effect) and to activate the door seals (animated switch but not simulated and no sound effect). It is now time to setup the autopilot. First turn on the Flight Director (FD) switch. The flight on the video is following an IFR flight plan so we want to adjust the heading bug for the departure runway of 160 degrees and select “HDG” mode on the autopilot. The cruise altitude of 12000 feet has already been entered. The autopilot mode for the initial climb to the selected altitude is Vertical Speed mode or the ”VS” button and you press the “Nose Up” and “Nose Down” buttons to select the desired rate of climb and for this flight is 1200FPM. This rate of climb will be displayed at the top of the PFD. I taxi on to the active runway and verify the heading bug is set to the runway heading, lower the flaps to the Take Off position, turn on the landing & strobe lights and verify that the beacon is on. IFR pilots would have entered the assigned transponder code but I am flying VFR so I verify that it is set to 1200 and place it in “ALT” mode. Rotation speed for the Corvalis is 70KIAS and just past this I rotate and at about 74-75KIAS the Corvalis lifts off smoothly. The Corvalis has very good climb performance, my initial climb rate is 1650FPM but I will soon be turning on the autopilot and hopefully it will capture my 1200FPM setting. My trim controls are sensitive but overall I was able to trim for all phases of flight without issue. After reaching 400 feet above ground level, I raise the flaps and turn off the landing light. At this point in the video the pilot activates the autopilot and I will see how it performs in the simulator. As I was hand flying I want to say that this aircraft is a wonderful aircraft to hand fly because it responds very nicely to your control movements. I am slightly off of the runway heading but after I turn on the autopilot, the aircraft smoothly returns to the assigned heading. The Vertical Speed mode is not quite as accurate as Heading mode, it drops to 1300FPM before settling at 1250FPM, faster than I assigned but probably not an issue unless you expect extreme realism. I am still using the autopilot Heading mode but select GPS mode with the CDI soft key on the PFD so that I can turn to intercept my flight plan course. The autopilot is now smoothly flying the aircraft so I monitor the systems and enjoy the beautiful scenery that I am flying over. The video explains about an alternate means for the autopilot to capture the desired altitude and that is Flight Level Change (FLC) mode. The real world mode allows you to adjust and hold airspeed by using the Nose Up and Nose Down buttons and for this flight we want the cruise climb airspeed for this aircraft or 130KIAS. The Alabeo “FLC” mode only partially works, on this flight I was already climbing at 130 KIAS so this mode maintained this airspeed but on another flight I tried activating this mode at about 110 KIAS for a target airspeed of 130 KIAS and it increased the airspeed but stopped at 125 KIAS and not 130. According to the Alabeo manual “FLC” mode will also automatically climb to the selected altitude. The good news is that the autopilot does capture and hold the selected altitude without issue which is wonderful. Personally, I just used the “VS” mode because it the rate of climb can be controlled by the up and down buttons. I mentioned this earlier but the climb performance with the Corvalis is outstanding, even at 130 knots I was will climbing at 1250 to 1300FPM all the way to 12000 feet. I did not have any issues with the autopilot cruise modes; it would follow my selected heading or the flight plan in “NAV” mode. The video does not specify the recommended climb power settings and the Alabeo checklist simply says “Adjust as Necessary” so I just reduced manifold pressure to just below the redline and reduced the propeller the same amount or about 2480 RPM.
On the video air traffic control tells us to climb to 13000 feet and to continue to KPDX via the MAVER Intersection and the BTG VOR. I am farther north than the aircraft on the video but am still going to try to follow the ATC instructions an edit the G1000 flight plan with these additional waypoints. Adding waypoints to the flight plan is easy and is a similar process as manually creating the flight plan. In this case highlight the KPDX waypoint using either the MFD FMS knob or the keypad, enter waypoint entry mode, enter the MAVER waypoint, press “ENT” and follow the prompts to make this the active waypoint. The map and flight plan has now changed to reflect this new route and repeat this process to add the Battleground (BTG) VOR between MAVER and KPDX waypoints in the flight plan. It is nice that even though the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT uses the outdated FSX navigation database I can still manually create and edit a G1000 flight plan. The video does explain about leaning for cruise and explains how to lean based on engine TIT temperature but I am going to concentrate on leaning for a desired fuel flow of about 17 gallons per hour. Also if you would like the ultimate realistic experience, you can switch the fuel tanks between left or right fuel tank. This realistic feature is not simulated because when either tank is selected and you mouse over it the simulator says that you are on the non-existent “Both “ position and the fuel display also displays that the fuel is draining evenly between both tanks.
I am now at my cruising altitude and there is not much to do other than monitor the systems and enjoy the outside scenery. With the second flight on the video from KPDX to Sun River S21 the video explains the recommended cruise power settings, which could vary depending on altitude and other factors. For today’s flight, 31.5 inches of manifold pressure and 2450 RPM is a good power setting. I will comment more about other features explained in that flight at the end of this section. At this point on the video the pilot explains how you can use the G1000 to look up the destination airport information and frequencies in preparation for descent and landing. The real world G1000 allows you to highlight a waypoint, in this case KPDX, and load a page with all of this information. This very nice feature is not simulated with this aircraft. The Alabeo G1000 has a Waypoint page but it will only display information about the current active waypoint which is still the MAVER intersection. Also, I could not figure out how to manually enter another code on the Waypoint page so for now I just used the FSX map and wrote down the frequencies then entered them into the standby slots on the communications radios. Another feature that is lacking with the avionics package on the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT is the ability to enter frequencies on the numeric keypad; you can only use the FMS knob on the keypad to enter a frequency so you might as well just use the radio tuning knobs on the G1000 displays. The original flight plan approach into KPDX is the ILS on Runway 28R via the BTG VOR. This process is very easy and as you will see for the most part is simulated realistically. Press the “PROC” or procedure button, KPDX is already entered for the airport; use the outer FMS knob to scroll down to the “Approach” field. Use the inner knob to the select the approach and the outer and inner knobs to select “BTG” as the transition and the outer knob to highlight “Load” to load the approach on to the flight plan. At this point I discover another realistic feature that is missing from the Alabeo G1000 system, the ability to delete duplicate waypoints with an approach loaded. The Battleground VOR and KPDX are also part of the approach so we do not need these waypoints on the original flight plan. On the real world G1000 and other more realistic simulated GPS units available, you simply highlight these waypoints and press the “CLR” button to delete these waypoints. This process works the same with the Alabeo G1000 but when you delete a waypoint you also delete the approach, which is not good. The good news is that the approach information is still loaded on the approach selection page so I simply scroll down to the “Load” display to reload the approach. The only way to skip the KPDX waypoint is to activate the approach after crossing the MAVER intersection so that the first leg of the approach BTG is now the active leg. It is now time to start the descent and here is another missing realistic feature or at least I could not find it, Vertical Navigation mode. You will just have to descend on your own and the only autopilot mode for descents is Vertical Speed mode which is just like the real world procedure on the Columbia 400 and the Cessna C400 Corvalis TT.
Another useful tip for simulator users, do not bother loading an approach until you have contacted the destination tower or you will quickly become frustrated. The Portland International airport cleared us for another runway and the process to change the approach is the same as before but the new approach did not include the BTG transition and we still want this as part of are flight plan. Similar to waypoint deletion, adding a waypoint after loading an approach results in the same issue, it deletes the approach, which is very tedious. I am sorry if this is turning into a very long section but these things are very important if you plan on operating the Corvalis other than simply manually flying from point A to point B. After I reach MAVER, I continue to follow my simulated flight plan because ATC is vectoring the aircraft on the video and I am at a different location and am not using ATC. As soon as I reach BTG, I activate the approach on the flight plan. It has been some time since I have simulated an ILS approach and will first start with the autopilot in control and will take over when on final. I soon find out that I am better off manually flying the approach because unless I am doing something wrong, the Alabeo autopilot seems to have a mind of its own. It just wanted to perform circles in the sky for some reason. The good news is that the Alabeo Corvalis is an outstanding aircraft to manually fly with very responsive controls. The speed brake works very well and the aircraft descends and slows down nicely. I do not know if I did something wrong but the glide slope indicators did not display on the PFD only the Localizer is displayed. Not a big deal on this flight because I am flying in VFR conditions and I followed the VASI. I tested this approach again with the default C172 and had a glide slope indicator so I had the aircraft setup correctly. After landing and locating my parking spot, I did not have any issues with the shutdown procedures.
The return flight is from KPDX direct to Sun River (S21), where we will fly another approach before continuing on to Bend Municipal. A G1000 feature that was not explained on the previous flight that we will use on this flight is the Barometric Minimum Altitude for the RNAV approach for Runway 18 at Sun River which is 4760 feet. This procedure is simulated but oddly you cannot use the keypad for data entry. Press the “TMR/REF” softkey to open the References inset window on the PFD and use the FMS knobs to scroll to the bottom and highlight the left Minimums field, change this setting to “Baro” and the right side field to “4760” Feet. The only way to enter the altitude is to use your mouse wheel and the inner FMS knob, it works but being able to use the keypad would be easier. The “BARO Min” altitude is now displayed on the PFD but would occasionally disappear on my system only to reappear later in the flight. After climbing to the cruise altitude of 13000 feet it is now time to setup our RNAV Runway 18 approach with the initial approach fix at the Deschutes (DST) VOR and we need to be at 7000 feet at DST. I enter the approach into the G1000 and because I am using a direct flight plan I decide to activate the approach. I enter the 7000 foot altitude but will wait to descend until I get closer to the DST. After starting the approach, I notice that the pilot did not use the autopilot “APR” mode at any time but continued to use the “NAV” mode until on final where she hand flew the aircraft the rest of the way. The real world aircraft can also use “FLC” mode for descents but with this aircraft this autopilot mode does not work correctly. After DST the next required altitude is 6000 feet which I entered but when pressing the “FLC” button, the aircraft wanted to climb and not descend. Only use “VS” mode to descend when using the autopilot. When I reach the final approach, I shutdown the autopilot and land without issue. The final leg back to Bend is a very short 15NM flight that I hand fly and continue to enjoy the flight handling characteristics of the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT.
I want to quickly summarize my flight model and system findings before writing the formal conclusion. First, if you primarily manually fly your simulated aircraft, the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT is an extremely fun aircraft to fly. It is very fast and responsive to my control movements. I did have some sensitivity issues but this was probably my controls and not the aircraft. You need some form of rudder controls and brakes in order to taxi so be warned. For most simulator pilots the G1000 and autopilot systems are acceptable but it does lack some realistic features. It does follow your flight plan in “NAV” mode and your heading in “HDG” mode without issue. Vertical Speed modes works best for having the autopilot climb or descend to your assigned altitude but “FLC” also partially works for maintaining the current airspeed or to climb to a higher altitude. Less acceptable to me are knobs that do not work unless you start with an alternate view and the loud fan on the climate control that cannot be adjusted. Also when activating Approach mode on the autopilot, unless I did something incorrectly the Corvalis wanted to do circles in the sky and I could not see a Glide Slope Indicator on the PFD. Hopefully some or all of these things can be fixed with a patch.
I am going to keep the conclusion very short and to the point. If you own other Alabeo aircraft you already know what to expect and you will not be disappointed with Alabeo’s latest aircraft. It features the usual Alabeo interior and exterior texture quality, wonderful sound effects and animations. The flight model is wonderful especially when hand flying and overall the aircraft systems are simulated pretty well. If you expect ultimate realism from your G1000 and autopilot then you may want to read this and other reviews before deciding because not everything is simulated and there are a few issues that hopefully will be addressed. For most virtual pilots the positive features will outweigh the negatives at least they did for me. The one feature that I would like to see added is a Navigraph expansion pack so that pilots can manually enter flight plans with more up to date navigation data, this aircraft currently uses the old FSX database. At $34.95 I still consider the Alabeo Corvalis a fair value because this is a more complex aircraft then some of their earlier aircraft but I might have trouble recommending if it was at a higher price point. For details about the Alabeo C400 Corvalis TT, visit the product page located here: http://www.alabeo.com/index.php .
Intel Desktop Computer
Intel i5 4670K 3.4Ghz Non OC Processor
8GB DDR3 1833 Memory
2TB SATA HD (7200 RPM)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX970 Video Card with 4GB GDDR5 Memory
Saitek Cessna Pro Flight Yoke, Rudder Pedals and Trim Wheel
FSX-Steam Edition, Windows 7 – 64 Bit
REX 4 Texture Direct with Soft Clouds
Orbx HD Trees, Global, Vector and Multiple Regions
DX10 Scenery Fixer
FSX Fair Weather Theme
Flight Test Time: