Head-2-Head Feature VII: Aardvark Or Premier?
By Ron Blehm
Aardvark Or Premier?
For those that follow this series closely (those that need to get a life) you'll recall at the end of the last feature we posed the question, "Do winglets really matter?" Well, I flew a Project Open Sky 757 with winglets and a POSKY 757 without winglets on the same route and ... they arrived at the gates within 30 seconds and had burned fuel to within about 300 pounds of each other. Pretty much an even draw. A good report for POSKY but boring to read. So, this time our Head-2-Head challenge pits two different designs of the Embraer EMB-190 on a commercial flight from Denver to San Diego.
Details. The difference in these two aircraft are the details. Well, that should be obvious; one was made for more distant viewing as a non-flyable AI aircraft and the other was made to be flown, up close and personal. The AI Aardvark version is a very basic model. So basic in fact that when the spoilers deploy so do the reversers and it doesn't have a steerable nose wheel. The Premier Aircraft Design obviously has all of that, the little guides for the flap gears, the hinges on the doors, the nuts and bolts on the wheels and little tubes and wires up in the gear bays. Now for me, I've had a weak machine for long enough that I really don't need all these little "eye-candy details" to have a good flying experience even on an FSX-worthy machine, but I know that many of you will fly with nothing less. If you are one of those, get the more detailed model!
First I downloaded both versions and installed the same panel and sound set for them. Next I dove into the CFG file to learn that the design teams had set the empty and max weights for numbers that were notably different from the real aircraft. (Many of you have recommended that I "go by the book.") So I tweaked both sets to at least be closer to reality. Thirdly I noted that the Premier Design model allowed for some varying load and fuel settings but the AIA version did not (why would you need that for AI aircraft anyway?). So I added those lines of text from the PAD aircraft to the CFG of the AIA aircraft. Next, as many of you suggested I do, I took a little test run to "roughly" determine that the fuel burn on the Premier Design was pretty close to the book but the AIA version had a range near 3500 miles. Again, good for AI but I changed that fuel burn setting as well in the CFG. Now I was ready for another Head-2-Head flight!
I loaded 80 passenger-bag combinations and topped off the fuel tanks before laying in a route from Denver to San Diego. Cruise was set for 29,000 feet, IAS for 290 knots and we departed Denver at 12:43 PM local time.
In Photos 1 we see that the Premier Aircraft Design version (left photos) is a bit heavier and slower to get airborne. More realistic that way? I don't know, it took forever to get my speed up so that I could finish pulling up the flaps.
In Photos 2 we are turning west toward the great Rocky Mountains and climbing on up to our final cruise altitude.
In Photos 3 we are cruising at 29,000 feet heading southwest across the Nevada desert.
In Photos 4 we are turning onto final for runway 27 in San Diego.
In Photos 5 we are dropping over the bluff into KSAN, one of the steepest Commercial Airline approaches in the US!
In Photos 6 we see a smooth landing.
Again, the Premier Aircraft Design version was a bit heavier and took longer to slow down but both aircraft had exited the runway within 30 seconds of each other: PAD at 13:51:47 and AIA at 13:52:08.
If the time factor was a draw (as it should be with the same airframe) we'll have to look to the fuel burn for the difference. The PAD version had burned 1/3 of its fuel, around 9,000 pounds which seemed pretty accurate. The AIA version (which I had tweaked you'll recall) had burned 12,500 pounds, about 40%. It seems like I need to slightly adjust the fuel burn on the AIA version and I will have two very comparable aircraft here.
Over several more flights with the AI Aardvark version I further tweaked the fuel burn, the power of the reverse, the induced drag and a couple other numbers. As you will read in a follow-up article, I am now very happy with flying the AI version of this aircraft!
For those with weaker systems, this is comforting because while both aircraft perform very evenly, one takes about half as many bytes of space as the other and if you are willing to give up some of the finer details (as I am) you may have just found an EMB-190 that is simple and still works well enough.