Iris Simulations Grob G115E/Tutor T.1
[Reviewed in FSX by Kenneth J. Kerr] My first girlfriend (at age 14 – a LONG time ago!) was called Iris, and I was mad, daft in love with her. Over the years I’ve been getting more and more attracted to another Iris, but my wife need not get concerned, for this one is Iris Simulations, and with the release today (June 8, 2015) of their all-new Grob 115E/Tutor T.1 for FSX/P3D, the attraction has become love!
I distinctly get the feeling that the owner of Iris Simulations is a former British Air Cadet, despite his Australian location these days. First, he launched the “Venture MG.1” which is a fictional name for the real Grob 109B, or Vigilant T.1 motorglider, and that kept a LOT of former and current ATC (Air Training Corps) members pretty happy, and then he announced (a while ago) that development had begun on the Grob 115E or Tutor T.1. For cadets all over, it was worse than waiting for Christmas, a bittersweet longing that got stronger as the months went on! But now, the wait is over.
I picked up the Tutor (I’m just gonna’ use the RAF name from now on) about an hour and a half ago, installed it into FSX, and took it for a spin around the RAF Halton area in ORBX England scenery. And holy cow Batman, I think I’ve found a new favorite for Cross Country flying. So, settle down chaps, and lads and lassies of the ATC world, for we’re going to give an in-depth review of this beauty… eventually!
Wait a minute, eventually? Yes! By in-depth I do mean that I’ll give you some history of the aircraft, and I also mean that I’ll list the liveries, discuss the installation, manual, etc. BUT… the moment I laid eyes on the Tutor, it looked so good that I said “To heck with all of that!” because I just wanted to fly it! And so, breaking with any “tradition”, let’s give first impressions the pride of place here as we get right into enjoying the first flight in the Tutor.
PART ONE – FIRST FLIGHT, FIRST IMPRESSIONS
1.1 Exterior view
Now, this may sound stupid, but when I loaded up Tutor G-BYVB in FSX, I had my eyes closed! You see, my situations always begin in the VC, and I did not want to see the Tutor’s VC right off the bat. So with eyes closed (almost, I had to look at the keyboard!), I hit the S key to get into an outside view, and then looked up at the 36″ TV I use as a monitor. And my first impression came out as a word, a simple “WOW!”
The Tutor is a beautiful aircraft, and Iris has certainly done it justice. Above, you are looking at my first view of the product, and I think it looks stunning. From this view I started panning around the aircraft, looking at it from every angle, and was so excited that I almost forgot to hit the V key to take screen captures. That’s why I only caught the port side initially!
With my curiosity more than satisfied as to the outside, I finally cycled through to the VC, and once more I was captivated. We’ve all flown FS aircraft where the VC looked like a cartoon haven’t we? Well this one is no cartoon, this one feels like the real thing.
1.2 The Virtual Cockpit
First thing you notice is that you’re sitting in the right seat, no, it’s not a mistake, it’s the way it is supposed to be. Okay, Air Cadets on Air Experience Flights might sit on the left, but serious pilot trainees sit on the right. Why? It puts the throttle in their left hand, and the RAF’s rationale is that this will allow for a sense of familiarity for those who might be streamed into fast-jet training later.
So, here we are in the right seat, and it’s time to simply gaze!
I hit the A key and also noticed the Air Cadet’s position (left seat, below), and a view over the left shoulder of the pilot, and even a snazzy Baggage/Go-Pro view. (Both further down this page).
Then, knowing I could not wait any longer, I pulled up the fuel/payload menu option and got rid of the guy in the left seat. I wanted this one all to myself!
1.3 Let’s go flying
So, with my first Tutor flight about to begin, I got back into the VC, and began flipping switches. On with generator and battery switches, prop full fine, mixture rich, and mags on both. I tried to turn the key further, but nothing happened. That’s when I noticed the separate start button, suitably painted in red! Pushing it brought the engine to life with a sound that’s all it’s own.
Now, since I’d asked the situation to put me on the “active runway” at RAF Halton, I didn’t even bother to check weather, let alone tune the radio to talk to the tower. That’s the beauty of simulation isn’t it? You can make it as legalistic or as flexible as you want. And all I wanted at this stage was to get in the air without delay!
So, power up, brakes off, maintain runway direction with rudder, and with one notch of flaps I was becoming airborne with little effort at just around 65 knots, I hit the pause button long enough to grab a couple of screenshots from different views, capturing the moment for posterity.
Moments later, I was climbing at approximately 70 knots, with flaps up, and both rpm and manifold pressure eased back a touch. I trimmed for a nice climb, and looked over to the left, enjoying the sight of an RAF roundel proudly displayed on the upper surface of the port wing.
Passing 1,000 ft, I started to play with the ailerons, getting a feel for the roll rate of the Tutor. Maybe it’s because I’d just fine-tuned the controls the night before, but the resulting movements were silky smooth, it actually did feel as if I was getting to grips with a real aircraft. I continued to climb to 3,000 ft, and then began a series of steep turns, first to the left and then to the right. Power was added along with back pressure to maintain altitude, but that’s what you’d expect isn’t it? At this point I was also very impressed with the visibility out of the cockpit.
1.4 Stalls and spins
With steep turns out of the way, I wanted to test the aircraft for both stalls and spins. I’d hardly lost more than a hundred feet in my steep turns, so getting back to 3,000 ft took a second or two. Then, checking the area for other traffic, I put the prop back to full fine, mixture full rich, and pulled back on the throttle.
As I watched the airspeed drop, I increased the back pressure on the stick to maintain altitude. The end of the green line was getting closer on the airspeed, but would it stall at the predicted indication? Suddenly there was a shudder (yes, I do have A2A Accu-sim installed), and then a moment later the stall warning went off. I hit the pause button, and as you can see, the airspeed is where you would expect it to be, right on the indicators for a stall.
Recovery was simplicity itself. Nose down, power up, and we were safely climbing again without any drama. Now it was time for the spin.
I am very grateful for the spin training I did in real life here in Canada. I know some countries frown on it too early, but I think it is invaluable. So, setting up for the stall again, this time I knew I’d be pushing it a little further, with the intention of a spin to the left. Airspeed down, slight back pressure, buffeting, stall, and full left rudder and… Hmm, a mere spiral dive. Let’s try that again! Second time was much better, and the only difference was that I held the stick ALL the way back, holding the stall longer until I kicked in left rudder. In an instant she was inverted and spinning! YES, I love it when an FS aircraft gets closer to reality than FSX typically does.
I repeated the spin, this time to the right. Same level of fun and fidelity, with recovery as it should be.. Opposite rudder, ailerons totally neutral, and only enough forward stick to get speed up a bit, and then pulling out safely with power being added as airspeed settles to normal levels again.
1.5 But where is Halton?
In short, it was a blast! So, I decided to get back to Halton, land, and write up this section of the report immediately. And that’s where I hit a slight snag… Where the heck was Halton? Isn’t it great when flight simulation mimics reality! How many student pilots have lost their geographical bearings when undertaking advanced maneuvers? I have in the past, and damn if I hadn’t done it in FSX now!
Thankfully, there’s a little added bonus in the scenery. Not sure if it is ORBX, or in the UK2000 airports, but just away from the field there’s an airship. Looking round, even though the airfield was hidden from view by a hill, the airship stood out like a beacon, and I headed for it! You can see it in the image below!
Coming over the hill, Halton airfield was at last visible. This exact situation is what I used to face with the Niagara Escarpment when it hid Burlington Airpark from view in Ontario, Canada! It was uncannily familiar, albeit an ocean apart! I turned onto a mid left downwind for runway 03, nipping outside for an external view in the process. Boy does the Tutor look good!
At this point I was aware of not only the need to slow the aircraft down, but also the fact that I had no idea what the speeds were for flap deployment, approach and landing. Needless to say, there’s no way I would do this in real life, but on this simulated occasion I decided just to play it by ear!
I powered back and gently held the nose up until it was obvious some flap would be needed to keep good forward visibility. One notch of flaps and the nose dropped significantly. I turned onto the base leg, keeping my vision in a scan between the runway threshold and the airspeed. Turning onto final, I dropped the flaps another notch, the airspeed dropped further, and with some fine tuning of power, pitch and trim, I held the airspeed at around 65 knots.
A road flashed by quickly, then the fence, and a quick flare heralded the landing without any cause for alarm. Toe brakes were pressed, and the Tutor slowed to a crawl, and then a halt. I turned off the grass runway and taxied over to the ramp in front of one of the hangers. My first flight in the Tutor was over, and I had both a big grin and six handwritten pages of notes to show for it!
At this point, I started to look at the outside of the aircraft again, and then a thought hit me. I opened one of my favorite FSX addons, a program called “Air TrafficFX”, and I added the Iris Grob Vigilant motorglider into the scenery as a static element. This literally takes about as much time as it took me to type the description! Then I added another Tutor, and one more Vigilant T1. Now the aircraft I’d just flown looked at home! Check it out in these next few shots, and all aircraft by Iris! And remember, the motorglider is a separate product!
1.7 First impressions then?
So.. What are my first impressions after this first, somewhat basic flight? In a word, brilliant! Iris has produced an absolutely beautiful-looking and beautifully-flying model with this Tutor. It looks great from the outside, it looks great from the inside, and the flying characteristics are silky-smooth to the point where you can fly as if you are flying a real aircraft, and not even remember you are piloting a product on a home computer.
On the impressions of this first flight, I give this product 10 out of 10, and that’s no word of a lie. I will fly it over and over and over again! And remember this too, I am flying on a five year old computer that is really showing its age, and on FSX. Providing I keep the clouds at a sensible level, there’s not a stutter, not a hesitation, and reasonable frame rates too. I can hardly imagine what this would be like on a state of the art system with the latest version of P3D. Well done Iris!
I have no hesitation on recommending it. If you are into General Aviation, this is a beauty, and if you are an Air Cadet or former cadet, it is an essential! Buy it, fly it, and I doubt you will ever regret it.
That’s my first impression! – And now onto more detail!
PART TWO – THE PRODUCT DETAILS
The Iris Grob 115E/Tutor T1 comes as either a product for FSX, or a product for P3D V2, or in a download that allows installation on both formats. The single-format products cost $34.99 with the multiple installer package coming in at $49.99. In my case I had the more expensive product, and that is where I did get a wee surprise.
You see, the installation options were for
P3D V2.0 to V2.4
While I normally use FSX, I also happen to own P3D V1, but there appears to be no installation option for V1. So, if you have erased FSX and still don’t use V2 of P3d, it would seem your are out of luck!
Now, that said, I of course installed it into FSX, and found it to be a breeze. In fact in two or three minutes from beginning the installation, I was launching FSX to check the Tutor out.
2.2 Colour schemes
The product comes with eight colour schemes. Here they are:-
- Grob 115D Heron – G-BVHE of Tayside Aviation. (Real livery)
- Grob 115E – N4157D of Pegasus Display Team. (Fictional livery)
- Grob 115E – G-DRGN. (Fictional livery)
- Grob 115E – VH-GRB. (Fictional livery)
- Grob Tutor T1 – G-BYVB. Oxford University Air Squadron, RAF Benson (Real livery)
- Grob Tutor T1 – G-BYXN. RAF Tutor Display 2012 (Real livery)
- Grob Tutor T1 – G-BYXZ. RAF Tutor Display 2015 (Real livery)
- Grob Tutor T1 – G-BYVF. 727 NAS, Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm (Real livery)
These choices represent a nice balance of real and fictional colour schemes, and with the provision of a paint kit, I have no doubt that more real-life examples will appear quickly on the popular flight simulation websites. I know I am curious to try a re-paint myself, as I wonder what the Tutor would look like in “retro” RAF grey, red and white colours!
In all of the above liveries, the interiors remain constant. Although the instrument panel is different in the real-life 115D Heron, the Iris model (Tayside Aviation) only provides a change of exterior paint. Personally, that’s not a big deal to me as I’ll probably only fly RAF examples anyway, and it was nice for Iris to add the Tayside livery as it is.
The product comes with a series of documents. To find them you have to open up windows file explorer and navigate into your main FSX folder, where you’ll find a new entry entitled IRIS. Within that folder is a sub-folder called “Pro Training Series.” In that folder is yet another one, “Grob G115E.” Opening that folder reveals two more, “Manuals and References” and “Paintkit.” In the manuals section there are five PDF documents.
“IAP 2015.002-ACL1” is your pilot’s check list.
“IAP 2015.002-PA” is a list of the people involved in the Iris project.
“IAP 2015.002-SUP” is a software support guide
“IAP 2015.002-SYS” is a series of notes regarding system set up
But the real gem is:-
“IAP 2015.002-AFM” – This is a 68-page flight manual that really goes into detail with “Description and Operation”, “Normal Procedures”, “Operating Limitations” and “Performance Data.”
This 68-page document is where you can really immerse yourself in the operation of the Tutor. Looking back to the first flight I reported on earlier, this is a great testament to the flexibility of the product. If you are an experienced simmer, you can just jump in and fly the thing by the seat of your pants as I did, or, (as I intend to do over the next few weeks) you can print out the manual, study it, and fly it by the book.
This “book” is really comprehensive. It provides facts and figures, descriptions, diagrams, and information on the main systems and equipment of the real aircraft. It also goes into detail on the simulated equipment, including communications and navigation avionics, and a nifty little Filser LX 500 GPS unit that sits on the cadet’s side of the panel. Indeed, the functions and operations of all of the instruments are described with illustrations and text.
At page 48 in this manual, the second section begins, and this is where procedures are described in detail. Everything from preparation for flight, to handling in flight is referenced. There are detailed instructions for spinning and even speed instructions for aerobatics, and information regarding simulated emergencies.
The third chapter begins at page 61, and this is where the new pilot will want to pay attention, it’s circuit and landing procedures. You’ll even learn about nose wheel shimmy in this section!
Finally, the manual closes off with operating limitations, those essential speed references, weight limitations, and engine references that can bring a simulation to life when followed. It’s all a nice touch, and Iris has created the basis of serious simulation for the Tutor with this reference source. BUT, it is only the beginning!
2.4 Taking it up a notch – What’s next for the product?
According to the Iris facebook page, a new expansion for their Tutor is now in the works. Here’s what they say about it.
“We’re very proud to be associated with Jane Whittaker in the development of the authorised expansion to the IRIS Pro Training Series – Grob G115E / Tutor T.1 product. Jane is producing ‘JRW Flying School’, a product in development focusing on Grob G 115E / Tutor T.1 training. Pilots will soon be able to work through a custom designed flight training syllabus, specifically tailored for the IRIS G115E / Tutor T.1!”
Further information appears on Jane Whittaker’s facebook, where she says this.
“We are delighted to announce our latest product coming soon for FSX and Prepar3D. In collaboration with IRIS Simulation Software, we are proud to unveil “JRW Flying School” Owners of the IRIS Grob Tutor T.1 aircraft will be able to complete a full PPL course in Flying School, complete with interactive instructor, checklists and flights directly from the pilot syllabus.
Learn to fly with all the resources at hand, interactive flights, complete with professional voiceovers and flight tuition, supported by a training manual, maps and everything you need to really learn how to fly like a pro! The whole course is packed with professional tuition from the cockpit of the stunning Grob Trainer (as used by the Royal Air Force College Cranwell!)”
At this time, no date for release, or price information is forthcoming, but clearly the new development will be most welcome by Tutor aficionados.
PART THREE – A WEE BIT OF HISTORY
3.1 Design and first flight
The Grob G115 is constructed of carbon composite materials with the main fuselage and each wing spar being a single piece. It has a low wing, fixed tricycle gear, and a 180 hp engine with 3-bladed variable pitch prop. The cockpit features side-by-side seating, and although the rudders can be adjusted, the seats are fixed, and pilots of different stature can add or remove seat cushions for comfort and operational access of controls. It first flew in late 1985, and the early models had a more upright fin than the ones modeled in the Iris product. The aircraft is stressed to +6G and -3G.
3.2 Military UK use
The first military operator in the UK was the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. There were five examples of the G115D used for a while, and these were christened the Heron. These went on to operate with Tayside Aviation, as seen in the Iris example G-BVHE.
The Royal Air Force became interested in the type as a replacement for the Scottish Aviation Bulldog T1. That aircraft had itself replaced the Chipmunk as the mainstay of both Air Training Corp and University Air Squadron flight operations, but by the late 90’s it was showing its age.
The Ministry of Defence selected the Grob 115 as the new trainer of choice, and it was given the name Tutor T1. However, in a major operational change, the decision was made to contract out the provision and maintenance of the aircraft to civil contractors. This means the Tutors are not under RAF ownership, and that’s why they carry civil registrations instead of military ones, although the RAF roundels are also featured on the aircraft. The fleet is owned and maintained by Babcock.
Today, the Tutors continue to serve as elementary trainers for the various Air Experience Flights across the UK, and numerous University Air Squadrons. They also operate with several RAF reserve squadrons, and one Royal Naval Air Squadron.
PART FOUR – FINAL THOUGHTS
At age 57, when I now look back at my years in the Air Training Corps, more than four decades in the past, I recall with great fondness my flights in the Chipmunk. Those of you who have read my AirDailyX report on Just Flight’s Chipmunk know how much that aircraft means to me.
In the exact same way, another generation of past and current cadets have a real connection with the Tutor. While there were a few freeware examples out there, it was long overdue that a high quality payware example of the type should come to the market. At last, Iris has rectified that situation, and I am personally delighted to see it.
That only leaves one serious gap… The Bulldog! Will Iris do it? The owner of the company tells me it is a favorite aircraft of his, and he would love to do it, but it’s not on the cards at this time. So who will it be? Are you listening Just Flight?
In the meantime, I can say without reservation that the Iris Tutor is a 100% keeper. Do not hesitate in buying it, you can even grab a demo off their website, although it will limit you to the Cranwell area. But, fly it and you’ll be hooked.
I congratulate Iris on a superb release, and recommend it to all of you!