• PAOB Fokker 50

    PAOB's Fokker 50 Aircraft For FS2004

    By Bill Stack (19 August 2009)


    Screen shots by PAOB



    The Fokker 50 is a short-range turboprop commuter airliner developed in the 1980s by the now defunct Fokker Aircraft Company. It was an advanced version of Fokker's very successful F27 by attaching more powerful engines and modern avionics to the F27 airframe. Standard capacity is 50 passengers and two pilots. Its range is about 1,000 nautical miles (approximately 1,850 KM) depending on the model. Fokker built 205 before the company collapsed in the mid 1990s. More than 30 airlines around the world fly this aircraft routinely. Complete specifications are available from PAOB and several internet sources.

    Precision Aerobus (PAOB) made this aircraft "to create an aircraft that it will make your sim flight experience even more challenging and realistic," according to its product description.


    KLM Maswings Sonair VLM VLMEU

    Fokker 50 Liveries

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Major Features

    PAOB touts the following among many features:

    • Highly detailed external model
    • Detailed 3D virtual cockpit and cabin
    • Five airline liveries
    • Animated moving parts
    • Transparent and reflective glass
    • Authentic sounds

    This aircraft package can be easily downloaded in a few minutes from the FlightSim Pilot Shop. An end user license agreement must be accepted to complete the installation. The installation program extracts all needed files into the correct FS2004 folders within one minute. As a result, the aircraft and its five liveries appear in the aircraft-selection menu without any further work by users.


    Right Wing and Engine

    Left Wing and Engine

    Underside


    Fokker 50 Exterior Views

    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Visual Features

    This aircraft in its five liveries is visually impressive.

    • All major features such as ailerons, flaps, nascelles, and gear doors are accurately and reasonably detailed. I found no extraneous details that diminish frame rates while being visible from only close up.

    • All five liveries are remarkably realistic compared to photos of real-world Fokker 50s I found on the Internet.

    • The two-dimensional panel and the virtual three-dimensional cockpit are appropriately detailed. Both represent the instruments, the panel, and the cockpit accurately compared to real-world photos.




    Fokker 50 Instrument Panels

    Screen shots by an Anonymous User



    Technical Features

    The numerous basic and advanced technical features of this product set it apart from other home-simulation aircraft. There are plenty of switches on the electrical panel for working various aspects of a Fokker 50 such as seat-belt signs, air conditioning, and engine-fire supressants.

    The instrument panel and the three-dimensional virtual cockpit are remarkably realistic compared to real photographs I found on the Internet, within the confines of a home flight simulator, or course. Some of the instruments on the main panel must be displayed in a popup window, for example, and their representations are realistic as well.

    Performance data in the aircraft-selection menu and in the accompanying manual are consistent with performance data I found on the Internet.

    Fuel and passenger capacity are accurate compared to aircraft data I found on the Internet.


    From Left Seat From Cockpit Door Looking Toward Cabin

    Fokker 50 Virtual Cockpit and Cabin

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Flight Modeling

    Because I have never flown a real Fokker 50, I can't attest to its flight modeling. During my flight tests, I found that it performs and handles very much as expected from an aircraft of this size and type. I did go-arounds, which of course entail take-offs, climbout outs, turns, level flight, descents, and landings. I climbed to altitude, and cruised for a few minutes, and descended to typical approach altitude.

    Weights for fuel, cargo, and passengers appear realistic compared to aircraft specifications provided by PAOB and found on the Internet. For example, all passenger weights add to 8,500 pounds, which divided by 50 passengers equals 170 pounds per passenger, which is a realistic average.



    KLM Model

    Cockpit

    Two-Dimensional Panel

    Fokker 50 Night Views


    Screen shots by Bill Stack


    Nice Features

    An 80-page manual and its 28-page appendix that are available from PAOB's website explain this aircraft's operations in considerable detail, replete with diagrams and procedural checklists. The manual contains the following information about the cockpit and panels:

    • Flight instruments
    • Navigation instruments
    • Autopilot
    • Communications
    • Engine gauges
    • Ground proximity warning system
    • Electronic flight information system
    • Overhead electrical panel

    The 28-page appendix to the manual contains flight-operations data such:

    • V Speeds, flaps settings, and checklists
    • Load-factor tables
    • Flight-planning forms

    Sounds include vocalizations such as "Gear down and locked."

    The V-speed reference window within the fuel indicator gauge is a handy tool for knowing the correct V speeds for the aircraft's current weight.



    Manual Page

    Manual Page

    Checklist Popup Window

    Examples of Technical Data

    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Issues

    Although this aircraft and its five liveries are very impressive, I do have several issues with the product.

    The product description doesn't say whether it's the 100 series or 300 series. Both are described in the aircraft data shown in the aircraft-selection menu. The difference is important because the 100 series has a higher cruising speed and longer range than the 300 according to Airliners.Net.

    Performance data displayed in the aircraft-selection menu for the 100 series shows lower maximum airspeed, lower economical cruising airspeed, and shorter range than I found at Airliners.Net.

    The 108-page manual and its 28-page appendix are required for knowing how to use this aircraft in contradiction to the following statement in PAOB's product description: "you do not need to spend a month on reading huge manuals." Maybe we don't need to spend a month, but we definitely need to read the manuals. Unfortunately for users, those manuals are not included with the basic package, and there are no references to them in the basic package. As a result, I was frustrated by the aircraft's multi-step startup procedure and lack of ready guidance, as explained below.

    With the aircraft appearing in your simulator without either of its engines running, a startup procedure is requisite for flying this aircraft. But I couldn't start the engines with CTRL/E as advised by FS2004, or by mouse clicking the L/R start switch regardless of whether the battery switch was on or off. Without checklists or any other instructions being included with the package, I was stymied about starting this aircraft's engines for my flight tests. When I emailed PAOB about this problem, they replied with a seven-step startup sequence and attached a 28-page appendix to their manual. So I looked all over the package available for sale to consumers, and I found no manual, or appendix, or any other operating instructions. I did find an invitation to visit their website in a read-me text file but no mention of a manual or other instructions. When I asked PAOB where buyers of their product would get their manual, they referred me to a page on their website where I downloaded an 80-page manual. Buyers are apparently expected to know about the seven-step startup procedure and that an 80-page manual and a 28-page appendix are available. I don't relish criticizing good products, but I can just imagine frustrated customers cursing this product for this reason.

    Despite the requisite startup procedure described above, there is no startup procedure in the popup checklist. There's a "Prestart" checklist and an "After Start" checklist with two checklists between them that say nothing about the seven-step startup procedure. Remember that this aircraft begins with the engines not running. (The seven-step startup procedure can be bypassed by creating a flight after the engines are running. Then the engines will be running whenever you open that flight.)

    The popup checklists contain no take-off checklist.

    In lieu of startup and take-off checklists, users must print the 108-page manual and appendices or view them in Adobe Acrobat while their simulator is operating. Using other programs simultaneously with MSFS increases demands on the computer and slows the simulator.

    Flaps are mentioned in the "After Start" checklist as "SET & CHKD," and in the "After Landing" checklist as "UP." Specific flaps settings are shown in the last two pages of the appendix to the manual.

    The GPS window is distorted vertically, as shown in my screen shot. This distortion can be fixed easily, and I hope PAOB does so.

    There is no knob on the autopilot panel for setting the vertical speed, even though there's one for setting altitude, heading, and course. Vertical speed is set by clicking the mouse on the vertical-speed readout on the primary flight display. This is not realistic because real-world use knobs to change these readings, not mouse clicks on PFD screens.

    The passenger cabin shows only three rows of four across, which is far less than the 50 seats this aircraft should have, unless we're seeing only the first-class cabin.

    Users would probably enjoy their Fokker 50s by having basic background information about the five airlines represented. As examples, Maswings is a small regional airlines operating in remote areas, and Sonair is an obscure airline operating almost entirely within Angola.

    These issues regard nonconformance with MSFS conventions:

    • This aircraft would be easier to find in the selection list if the manufacturer was correctly listed as Fokker instead of PAOB. Every other aircraft is listed under its real-world maker, not its simulation maker.

    • Although comprehensive, the checklists are not in the kneeboard where they are typically placed for easy use by simulation pilots. They are instead in a window that's usually used for instrument subpanels.

    • Even though reference data in the manual are comprehensive, there is no reference sheet in the kneeboard where they are typically placed.

    • The only data provided in the kneeboard are keyboard commands from the standard FS2004 list.

    • The GPS window opens with the SHIFT/4 keyboard command instead of with the MSFS standard SHIFT/3 command.

    • There are no cockpit tool tips when the mouse cursor is placed over an instrument or control knob or switch. Tool tips are very helpful when learning a new aircraft and/or instrument panel.

    Although these criticisms might seem minor to the developers and some flight simmers, having to acclimate to different conditions for every add-on aircraft is inconvenient and frustrating for those of us simmers who are accustomed to looking in the kneeboard for information and using standard keyboard commands. Checklists and reference sheets are not difficult to make &#8212 you simply modify any default MSFS checklist and reference sheet for the given aircaft and rename the file accordingly. I've done it, and it really doesn't require much time or effort. Using standard MSFS keyboard commands for popup windows isn't difficult either.

    PAOB's technical support answered one of my nine questions about this product right away, but I did not receive answers to the other eight questions as promised. I waited more than a week before submitting the review without their answers.


    Empty Checklists

    Empty Reference Sheet

    Distorted GPS Window


    Examples of Issues
    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Screen Shots

    My screen shots were made with FS2004 display settings on "default" because that's what I presume most flight simmers would be using and because the package recommends no special settings.

    Screen shots by "Anonymous User" were submitted to the Flight Sim Pilot Shop by a user and posted without source identification.


    Summary

    PAOB's Fokker 50 is much more realistic visually and technically than many other home-simulation aircraft I have reviewed. It looks great inside and out, and it contains many features that exist in real aircraft but are too often omitted in home-simulation aircraft. It also performs as expected.

    The manual and its appendix are a well-organized and neatly presented wealth of information about how to fly this aircraft and use its instruments and gauges. I've been very critical of developers who concentrate on visuals and overlook performance, and PAOB certainly has focused on both with its Fokker 50.

    As a result of this product's technical accuracy, the wealth of information provided, and certain nuances of this aircraft, users will enjoy these aircraft at a much higher level than any default MSFS aircraft or most add-on aircraft. For the same reason, they must study the aircraft and its manuals thoroughly before attempting to fly the aircraft. As one example: The desired altitude is set by clicking the "ASEL" (altitude select) button instead of the more common "ALT" (altitude) button.

    The unusual placement of checklists, the lack of handy reference data, and the manual's absence from the basic product are significant weaknesses. Users shouldn't have to guess about capabilities, limits, and procedures. They shouldn't be frustrated about usage because they weren't given necessary information. They shouldn't be expected to guess correctly that manuals are available. And they shouldn't have to ask for them.

    Notwithstanding my criticisms, this product is high quality and will provide hours of enjoyment for its users once they fully grasp its technical needs. Although it costs more than most add-on aircraft, it is well worth the price when all its features and accuracy are considered. It would be worth its price if its manuals were included in the basic package. A version for FSX would be marvelous.


    Bill Stack



    Learn More About PAOB's Fokker 50 for FS2004



    Bill Stack is author of several books about flight simulation, a regular author in flight-sim magazines, and a contributor to Flight Sim Com. His website is www.topskills.com