Review: Cessna T-210M By Carenado
By Richard Kowalski
October 28, 2011
[First a note on this review's methodology: As a real world Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor in the United States, I use FSX in part to practice certain flight regimes, such as instrument procedures. For this, "eye candy" is a bit little less important than having the aircraft perform like the real thing, but combining the two is obviously the ultimate goal. When I was searching for my very first payware aircraft my selection was somewhat complicated by a lack of information about the actual flight characteristics of these virtual airplanes.
I decided what I needed was "flight testing" that could use to compare virtual aircraft to the actual aircraft. This can help the sim pilot determine if the aircraft is "as real as it gets" or not. This review is based on these flight tests. I don't claim to be an expert with this aircraft. I am merely basing my findings on aircraft performance and my own personal flying experience. I simply approach this as I would an actual airplane. Because of this perspective, this review may be a bit different then what the kind reader is used to. My intended audience are fellow real world pilots using FSX and virtual pilots who are interested in flying General Aviation aircraft as realistically as possible. I hope the more casual simmer finds it interesting and useful too.]
As a relatively new simmer myself, I've flown many of the included aircraft and some downloaded freeware. Some are cartoonish and others are amazing in their quality and detail. My own desire was for a fast, long distance General Aviation machine that would make a great instrument platform. A second requirement was that the panel was one I could be comfortable looking at for hours on end. The Carenado Cessna T-210M Turbo Centurion fit the bill.
Carenado includes eight different pdf documents with this airplane. Oneof these are a reference sheet and a second, performance sheets and multiple checklists. I compared these against the Cessna Information Manual for the Turbo 210N. The "N" model was essentially that same as the "M" model Carenado has produced, the main difference being the "N" model did not have main landing gear doors. This means the "N" was about 200 lbs lighter but is also a little more draggy.
Carenado chose to modify the checklists slightly, having some items listed in a different order than Cessna and other items not important or modeled in the sim eliminated entirely. Both are perfectly acceptable.
One thing I'm not sure about is under the normal landing speeds section. Carenado lists 80 to 90 kts IAS with the flaps up on approach while Cessna states 85 to 95 kts. All other speeds listed in both documents agree. Which is correct? I suspect Carenado's is a typo, but you won't come to ruin if you fly initial final at 80 kts instead of 85.
Overall the aircraft looks great! I am certainly impressed with the appearance of this aircraft, both inside and out. Anyone who has spent any time in a higher end Cessna cockpit will instantly feel comfortable here. "Wow" and "Nice" uttered from my lips often as I explored this aircraft from every angle. Unfortunately the closer I examined the aircraft the more I started turning up a number of small items that I'm not happy about. The biggest issue with the aircraft's appearance didn't become apparent to me until I started painting the aircraft in my own scheme. Carenado advertises that the aircraft has "5 HD paint schemes and the same schemes in Lite versions & 1 HD Blank texture". Well yes and no. They do include multiple textures. Unfortunately, these planes are filthy. It is neat to see the stains, scuffs, etc. but I really have to draw the line at the crappy paint job, especially the runs from the spray can job on the right engine cowl. I find it very hard to believe any owner would put a $200 paint job on their airplane right after installing over $20,000 worth of avionics. What I found even more annoying is the "blank" textures are anything but. They include the very same defects as their in house schemes making it impossible to have a recently refurbished, "like-new" aircraft with a brand new paint job. Having a plane fresh out of the paint shop with such a crappy paint job and filthy to boot is not what I was expecting. I hope Carenado considers releasing truly blank textures so we can have a freshly refurbished that the end user can weather as they see fit. Time to banish those ever rarer 70's cockpits and keep moving the GA fleet into the 21st Century.
I found one visible error in this base texture that was never corrected. It can be on the right engine cowl where two textures come together, but you can only see it if you look closely. It is invisible in some schemes, but I had to spend a few minutes cloning out the problem with Photoshop before I could continue. The color and way I applied my paint made the flaw plainly visible. A similar edge problem effects other places on the external textures but are not as apparent. I'd say 98% or more would never notice them.
The panel while amazingly realistic, is lousy with paint chips. Harder to ignore is the look of the panel. I'm pressed to remember a real panel on a higher end aircraft so abused. This one has apparently suffered poor treatment by a pilot who decided to throw a number of small pebbles at his panel. I'll probably be spending some more time with Photoshop to clone out all of these chips.
One last comment on the textures. The prop texture is wrong. If you look at any stopped prop from the front, McCauley is mirror imaged. I fixed this on my custom paint, but the problem is in the base texture (again) so it carries through on every paint scheme.
One word. Fantastic! Clearly the people at Carenado spent a lot of time working on the VC to achieve such a high level of detail. Most switches and knobs work and all of them look just like the real thing, even when you zoom in so only one or two gauges can be seen. There are plenty of views throughout the cabin, including one from each passenger seats. Several different views of the panel allow unrestricted views and access to the various instruments, gauges and switches. Clicking on the Garmin GNS530 allows it to pop up in its own resizeable window so you can make any adjustments without needing to zoom in. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the GNS430. You must zoom in on that one to see it clearly.
Two other interesting clickable items are both windows and both entry doors. Clicking on the window latches lets them pop open just as quickly as the real ones do. Cessna windows can be opened at any airspeed.
When stopped on the ground I click on either door handle they unlatch and fully open rapidly. But then within seconds slam shut and re-lock. Not sure why I can't keep them open without pausing the sim, or if this is even possible.
Just a few more nits mar an otherwise perfect VC.
First, I could not find a single breaker that was clickable. In an electrical emergency, pilots pull breakers to isolate the problem. There is no such opportunity for this on the panel. A minor item, and probably much more complicated to code than it is worth, but possibly a feature that can be added to future aircraft in the Carenado fleet.
Next, the Pressure Altitude Compensation Ring on the airspeed indicator is fixed. In an actual aircraft this little tool is probably underused in flight, but helpful none the less. It'd be nice if the pilot could adjust this ring allowing a more accurate airspeed reading during cruise. The thermometer, required to determine pressure altitude, is beautiful. Too bad the ASI's functionality doesn't fully match it. Since I mentioned the thermometer, I'll mention the wet compass mounted immediately below it on the windshield. Yet another thing of beauty, but I have to ask, why are there no corrections on the card? The numbers on the card are usually faded, but there isn't a hint of a number in any field. I guess Carenado missed this detail, but maybe they left it out intentionally. Please excuse my naivete, but has anyone ever calibrated their compass in FSX before? Is it even possible?
There are several other items that function and many that don't. I'll leave that up to the new owner to discover for themselves.
OK, so maybe this is a lot of complaining over very minor items; Things nearly all virtual pilots wouldn't notice or care about. So why do I bring them up? I feel these are the few minor items, however, a good pilot desires to know all they can about the aircraft they fly. Examining every nook and craney, every switch and control, until we know it inside and out. It's what we do.
These minor items combined with my issue about the plane being so filthy, and the fix I needed to do to the base texture, are what keeps this from being a near perfect visual model. Besides the aircraft really is so well done it's surprising these minor items slipped through the cracks.
I was pleased to see the Oxygen system overhead comes on with a lever throw, the pressure rising and the soft sound of the O2 flowing is a nice touch, as is the rear passenger overhead light that can be turned on and off. Though I haven't to tried to figure this out it yet, I wouldn't be surprised if the seats are fully adjustable.
Now we get to the real bones of the aircraft. How well it performs and how closely it approximates the real thing. Carenado provides basic V speeds and checklists in the included Normal and Emergency Operations PDF, but for more detailed information about the aircraft's performance and systems, nothing beats a copy of the (Pilot) Information Manual. These manuals are published by Cessna and other aircraft manufacturers as a handy pilot reference. There aren't many "M" model manuals available, the ones I found were nearly $300 but the "N" model is exactly the same airplane (without the rear landing gear doors) so I found a well used one on eBay for $18 including shipping. Without these doors, the "N" model probably climbs and cruises just a little slower than the "M" but otherwise be identical. The performance section of the manual is what we'll concern ourselves with. The specifications in this section were derived in actual aircraft flown by the manufacturer's own test pilots under specific conditions. We can replicate these conditions in FSX and then fly the virtual aircraft to compare the results.
Of interest to every pilot are:
Short Field Take Off and Landing Distance - The absolute minimum runway you need to get in and out of an airstrip.
Best Climb Rate (Vy) - The airspeed to climb at for best climb and the associated climb in feet per minute from Sea Level to the aircraft's Service Ceiling.
Normal and Maximum Cruise Speeds
Stall Speeds - Defines the slow end of the flight envelope and is the target speed for touchdown.
As one would expect, actual aircraft are complicated machines. The more complex the aircraft, the greater its capabilities and more involved the understanding and proper operation of the various systems. Instead of testing each and every combination of settings and conditions, an abbreviated set conditions were chosen to compare the Carenado Turbo 210M with Cessna's real world version. All tests were performed at Maximum Take Off Weight, which for this airplane is 3,800 lbs.
Short field takeoffs, landings and all stalls were performed at Mean Sea Level. All other testing was done at the altitude specified by Cessna.
Overall the aircraft has the typical feel and handling.you've come to expect.from a Cessna.
Short Field Take Offs were performed on dry pavement with zero wind. Cessna's pilots needed 1140 feet to become airborne at 0C degrees and 72kts IAS. Proper short field technique had the 210 airborne consistently right around the 1000 foot mark, so its performance is a in good agreement with the real, slightly heavier aircraft.
Short Field Landing Distance at Maximum Landing weight, 3,800 lbs, is listed as a nice short 725 feet! The approach at 85 kts and slowing to 74 over the fence and standing on the brakes as soon as the mains touched, left me fully stopped just under about 800 feet from my touchdown point. I came in a few knots too fast, so I can probably shave a bit off that as well. Again, the real and the virtual are in good agreement.
If there are no obstructions off the departure end of the runway and your short field skills are sharp, you can easily operate this 210 in and out of any 1500 foot runway that a real Turbo 210 can.
Climb & Cruise
That Continental TSIO-520R engine out front, with its 520 cubic inch turbocharged displacement produces 310 brake horse power for take off (5 minute limit) and has a continuous maximum power rating of 285 horses. Even at just under 2 tons the real plane should climb away from the ocean at 1035 feet per minute at 100 kts indicated. Hold this speed all the way up to 16,000 feet and you should still be climbing at 740 feet per minute.
Unfortunately, the climb rate in the Carenado is way too strong the entire way up. When trimmed to the maximum climb rate speed of 100 kts indicated, the Carenado 210's VSI indicates 1,300 feet per minute with a slight drop off at 10,000 feet where it is still 1,200 fpm. The climb rate continues to decline slowly until it reaches 800 fpm at 24,000 feet (where Cessna charts end). Cessna states the climb rate at this altitude should be closer to 135 fpm.
Using enroute climb settings (30" & 2500 rpm) and 113 kts IAS (105 - 120 kts recommended) the numbers were closer to those listed by Cessna in their Maximum Climb Rate table, but still too high for both max and enroute climb rates. The "M" is a 200 lbs heavier aircraft and has less drag than the "N" model, but still, the Carenado 210 is an over performer in climb compared to the real aircraft.
The Service Ceiling on the Turbo 210 is 27,000 feet, but during my research on this airplane I found out that the altitude record for an unmodified Turbo 210 is 43,699 feet! I've had the Carenado T210 up to 38,000 feet. Anyone care to try for higher?
For the cruise speed testing I chose three representative altitudes, 8,000, 16,000 and 24,000 feet. I also tested the Carenado at the altitude Cessna shows the greatest True Air Speed, 22,000 feet.
Carenado includes most of the checklists and all of the Cruise Performance tables that Cessna does. I expected the "N" model to be a little slower in cruise than the "M" model this plane is based on. The tables agree with this assumption, showing the "N" to be between 5 and 12 knots true airspeed slower than the "M" model. In flight the results were much closer.
Cessna T-210N Cruise
8,000 -1C 2500 rpm 30" 172 TAS
16,000 -17C 2500 rpm 30" 185 TAS
22,000 -29C 2500 rpm 30" 193 TAS
24,000 -33C 2500 rpm 28" 191 TAS
At all altitudes tested the Carenado T210 M flew about 5 or 6 knots true faster than the reference Cessna T210 N. Exactly as one would expect. A relief after discovering the exaggerated climb rates.
I performed power off stalls with flaps 0 and flaps 30 both at no bank angle and at 30 and 60 degrees bank. Straight and level power off stalls came at the correct airspeed, both with no flaps and 30 flaps. Unfortunately there was no stall warning horn until the actual stall,. The warning should sound 5 to 10 knots above. The nose drop seems excessive but just relieving the back pressure allowed the plane to fly out of the stall. Recovery matched the 300 feet or less of altitude loss listed by Cessna. Accelerated Stalls, those that occur at more than 1G also occur at higher airspeeds. No flap, power off stalls at 30 and 60 degrees bank came at airspeeds so far below what they should have been that I didn't even try 30 flaps power off stalls at these bank angles.
It is my understanding that FSX doesn't handle this sort of thing very well so I can't blame this bad behavior on Carenado just yet.
Incorrect climb rates
Funky accelerated stalls
Stall horn sounds at incorrect airspeeds
Uncorrected texture errors
"Blank" textures aren't
Everything else! It's a beautiful, realistically flying airplane!
The Cessna Turbo 210 is a serious cross country machine. It has a reputation for being a highly capable and solid instrument platform. It isn't designed for the weekend warrior out for a $100 hamburger, but is instead for the serious business pilot who has to put thousands of miles under his or her wings each month. The Carenado version is nearly spot on in modeling this long distance traveling machine. The fit and finish of the aircraft is realistic and anyone who has spent any time behind the controls of a Cessna will feel right at home here.
Fly this plane by the recommended settings and for the most part you'll get the performance you expect. The over enthusiastic climb is problematic so it might take a little work to find the settings that work best for your flights. With the rest of the flight performance so close to reality, I hope Carenado revisits this and release an updated aircraft.cfg that provides for a more realistic climb profile.
I spent considerable time choosing my first payware aircraft. Carenado has such a good reputation building General Aviation aircraft, that I was immediately drawn to their products. I've got to say that they have certainly earned that reputation. This T210 has convinced me of that reputation too.
I've only got about 6 hours on the Hobbs meter so far but I'm looking forward to many more hours of shooting approaches to minimums after long distance legs in this serious cross-country machine. Exactly what I want in my personal hangar.