• Review: Evektor SportStar By FSD International

    Review: Evektor SportStar By FSD International

    By Bill Stack
    March 6, 2012

    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

    Screen shots by FSD International




    The SportStar Max is a two-seat, light-sport aircraft (LSA) manufactured by Evektor-Aerotechnik of the Czech Republic. The manufacturer advertises it as "offering comfort for business travel and handling ease of a great trainer." It touts handling qualities, stability, low operational costs, supreme cockpit comfort, excellent flight characteristics, and elegant and sporty styling.

    Powered by a 100-horsepower Rotax 912ULS engine with a three-bladed fixed-pitch propeller, the SportStar was designed for towing sailplanes up to 1,544 pounds (700 kilograms) gross weight and banners up to 1,479 square feet (140 square meters). Evektor says the pop-riveted and bonded all-metal frame and its anodized aluminum skin minimize inflight noises, extend service life by minimizing fatigue, and enable better crashworthiness by the eliminating rivet zippering and "oil canning" in a crash.




    PHYSICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    Length 19 FT 7 IN
    6 M
    Wingspan 28 FT 4 IN
    9 M
    Height 8 FT 2 IN
    2 M
    Fuel Capacity 15.85 USG
    60 L
    Source: FSD International
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

    FSD International's SportStar Max

    Several features are touted by FSD International:

    • Cutting-edge 3D model with advanced animation and precise detail
    • Accurate virtual cockpit with smooth, clean modeling and precise attention to realism and detail
    • Accurate flight model
    • Three-dimensional cockpit instrumentation
    • Garmin GNS 480 GPS
    • Ten color schemes
    • Eighty-page documentation
    SAMPLING OF MODELS
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    SportStar Max's Visual Features

    FSD International's SportStar Max appears true in size, dimensions, and shapes. Its liveries are difficult to verify because there are so many real-world liveries of this aircraft. I found some that resembled those offered by FSD. The interior of FSD's SportStar Max seems consistent with the few real-world photos I found on the Internet. I found nothing to question visually about any of the ten models.

    SPORTSTAR MAX INTERIORS
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    SportStar Max Instruments

    This instrument panel looks like traditional mechanical panels at first glance, but closer examination reveals significant differences.

    • The large empty spaces in front of the left seat reveal the lack of mechanical navigation instruments. There is no omni-bearing indicator, no automatic direction finder, and no glide-slope indicator. These instruments are "simulated" in the Garmin 480 GPS/WAAS device.
    • The attitude indicator contains a turn/slip coordinator and a digital heading indicator.
    • A balance indicator shows whether the aircraft is balanced or imbalanced forward/aft. If imbalanced, the indicator shows whether the aircraft is heavy in front or rear.
    • The GPS is a Garmin 480 GPS/WAAS, which is an advanced version of the default Garmin GPS used in some FSX aircraft. WAAS is an acronym for "Wide Area Augmentation System." Pilots rely on it for all flight phases, including precision approaches to any airport in the device's coverage area.
    • The Garmin GPS and the KA155 radio must be turned on separately. They don't come on automatically when the master avionics switch is turned on.

    The only popup window displays the Garmin GPS. Clarity of the instruments is good. It's better with zoom in, of course, but instruments are still easily readable from a normal distance. There is no 2D panel. Some flight simmers like 2D panels, and others don't use them.



    SPORTSTAR MAX INSTRUMENTS
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    SportStar Max Performance Specifications

    Performance specifications are provided in the manuals, the checklists, the reference sheets, and the details section of the aircraft-selection menu.

    PERFORMANCE CHARACTERISTICS
    Occupants 1 Pilot
    1 Passenger
    Power 100 HP
    Normal Operating Speeds 38 - 115 KIAS
    Max Speed 146 KIAS
    Stall Speed
    (max weight, flaps in landing position)
    37 KIAS
    Range 638 NM
    1,181 KM
    Ceiling 13,000 FT
    Max Weight 1,320 LBS
    599 KG
    Empty Weight 665 LBS
    1,002 KG
    Useful Load 655 LBS
    297 KG
    Source: FSD International

    There's a lot of variation in performance specifications among the documents, however. As examples: The manual says maximum weight is 1,320 pounds while the aircraft-selection menu file says it's 2,550 pounds. The manual says ceiling is 13,000 feet, and the aircraft-selection menu says it's 14,000 feet. The manual says maximum speed is 146 knots, while the aircraft-selection menu says it's 126 knots. It looks as though a configuration file for a different aircraft was used as a template for this aircraft and that not all data were changed accordingly. In response to my question, the developer said: "Actual MTOW is 1,320 lbs. The correct maximum speed is 146 kts, and 13,000 ft. is the correct service ceiling."

    The Documents

    FSD International provides more than adequate written instruction on flying this aircraft.

    • Manuals: Three manuals in portable document format (PDF) are included. An 83-page Pilot Operating Handbook provides detailed information about the aircraft's physical and performance characteristics and flight procedures, replete with technical drawings and many data tables. A 75-page manual provides detailed instruction on using the Garmin 480 GPS device. A six-page manual provides instruction on using the KA155 Nav/Com radio receiver.

    • Checklists: Comprehensive checklists available in the pilot kneeboard provide step-by-step instruction on all flight phases from engine start to engine shutdown. These instructions include power levels, airspeeds, flap positions, and more.

    • Reference Sheet: The reference sheet, also available in the pilot kneeboard, provides detailed data in tabular format on V speeds, flaps settings, take-off and landing distances, and more.



    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** SportStar Pilot Handbook ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** Garmin GNS 480 Manual ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** KA155 Nav/Com Manual
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    SportStar Max Performance

    For my flight tests, I used Kunovice Airport (LKKU) in the Czech Republic. This is listed as Evector's home airport on its official website. Its runway 3C/21C is 6,555 feet (1,999 meters) of concrete. Its other two runways are grass. Elevation is 581 feet (177 meters). I used standard atmosphere (29.92 inches and 59 degrees Fahrenheit). And I used FSD's default weight of 1,289 pounds (585 kilograms), which is 31 pounds (14 kg) lighter than maximum gross take-off weight.

    One striking distinction of the Rotax 912 engine in this aircraft is its high speed. It produces 100 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs, while the Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A engine in the FSX Cessna 172 produces 180 HP at 2,700 RPMs.

    Starting: Following the startup sequence in the checklist is ordinary &#8212 fuel selector, throttle, choke, and so forth. The checklist says to turn on the beacon "if installed." I couldn't find a beacon switch on the instrument panel, so apparently this aircraft has no rotating beacon. Starting the engine is more easily done with the CTRL/E keyboard command, which is a marvelous luxury of home flight simulation. The engine idles at about 900 RPMs.

    Taxiing: With the checklist saying nothing about taxi power, I pushed advanced the throttle gradually until movement began, which happened at 3,500 RPMs. At this power level, taxi speed steadily increases to faster than 40 KTS. This acceleration requires the pilot to reduce power after initial movement to control taxi speed. It requires wide arcs for turning, even at normal taxi speeds, so I had to reduce speed dramatically to keep the aircraft on the taxiways while turning. I don't have this much trouble controlling other light aircraft on the ground.

    Taking Off: The checklist calls for flaps in 15-degree position, but the lever doesn't indicate degrees of deflection, and there's no instrument on the panel that indicates flaps position. The flaps lever simply shows "take off," and "landing." The position that shows nothing must be "full up." In response to my question, the developer said: "This is how the cockpit we photographed actually appears. This is also how the actual aircraft checklist is printed."

    The checklist calls for maximum power, but maximum throttle raises the tachometer past its red line at 6,000 RPMs. I adjusted the throttle just to keep the tachometer under its red line. The aircraft gained airspeed quickly and lifted off around 57 KIAS, which is the specified take-off speed. It seemed to use about one-third of the runway, which at this airport would be about 2,000 feet (610 meters). The checklist calls for flaps up at 150 feet, presumably above the runway. This happens soon after liftoff. The recommendation for flaps on take-off seems unnecessary, as the aircraft lifted off just fine without them in my trials. Remember that I used the nearly full default weight for my trials.

    Climbing: The checklist and manual call for airspeeds between 56 KIAS for best angle of climb and 65 KIAS for best rate of climb. The best I was able to attain was 400 feet per minute at 60 KIAS, even with power at the tachometer's red line. Lowering the nose to gain airspeed reduced the vertical speed to about 50 FPM. Pitching up increased vertical speed but decreased airspeed to below 50 KIAS. The propeller and gear are fixed, the flaps were full up, and the carburetor heat was off, so those weren't the causes. At this low vertical speed, the SportStar Max would take about 45 minutes to reach cruising altitude. It reached 8,500 feet after about 20 minutes. I tested again with half the fuel and passengers, and results were the same. In response to my questions, Tim Dickens of FSD said: "We are having no problem at all getting 800 to 1,000 fpm rate of climb, which are the known best climb rates of this aircraft," and "this is not a problem we are hearing from the people who have purchased this title from us."

    Cruising: Unwilling to wait 45 minutes to reach cruise altitude, I tested cruising at lower altitudes. I was able to get the SportStar to 88 KIAS at 4,000 feet.

    Turning: The aircraft turns very easily when aloft, which is what I expected of this light, aerodynamic aircraft. It doesn't hold a bank, however. It will return to level flight if the yoke is let go.

    Descending: The checklist merely says "as necessary" regarding throttle, airspeed, and trim for descending. I reduced throttle to zero and glided for a while at 80 KIAS. With throttle at zero (pulled all the way out), RPMs were 4,500, presumably because of wind against the propeller. But when I pitched up to reduce vertical speed, the aircraft lost airspeed quickly. Before I knew it, the SportStar had decelerated to approach airspeed of 60 KIAS as specified in the "Before Landing" checklist.

    Approaching: Maintaining a glide toward the runway is a tricky maneuver in this aircraft, which is the opposite of what I expected. It respond slowly to throttle adjustments compared with other small aircraft such as a Piper Cub or a Cessna 172, presumably because of the wide range of RPMs necessary to fly it. Deflection of flaps even one notch causes an immediate and substantial loss of airspeed, which induces a downward pitch and loss of altitude. Power must be increased to compensate.

    Landing: After several trials, I was able to approach final at 50 KIAS with a desirable glide slope. When I came over the threshold, I cut power to zero and pulled the nose up slightly. The aircraft settled on the runway at 45 KIAS. Then it stopped by itself, without wheel brakes, about one-third the runway distance. At this airport, that would be about 2,000 feet. Specified stopping distance without brakes is specified at 1,320 feet (403 meters). Since I touched down faster than specified, my stopping distance seems about right.

    The full-flaps recommendation for landing doesn't seem necessary. Deflecting flaps even one position (from none to "Take-off" for example) causes the aircraft to immediately lose considerable airspeed and to pitch downward. With full flaps as recommended for landing, more power is needed to overcome the dramatic loss of airspeed and lift from added drag. I don't see the sense to that since the aircraft glides nicely without flaps and under less power. It landed just fine in my trials with partial flaps, i.e. in the take-off position, and even with no flaps.

    Overall: I found this aircraft more challenging to fly than I expected. It responds slowly to throttle changes compared with other aircraft its size. It climbed slowly in all my tests under various conditions. It turns easily airborne, but not on the ground. After the developer insisted that they had not experienced the problems I was experiencing, I uninstalled and reinstalled the aircraft, but the performance results were the same. I am operating FSX in Windows 7 64 bit. The developer gave me no suggestions about correcting these performance problems.

    Having never flown any real-world SportStar, I cannot personally attest to how closely FSD International's modeling resembles the real-world aircraft's performance. Neither can I say how it compares to other LSAs that might be available for home flight simulation.

    SPORTSTAR MAX IN FLIGHT
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    Animations

    The product description promises "advanced animations." I found that the canopy opens, as do two small windows at the left and right of the canopy, and the pilot's visor moves forward and backward. The pilot's visor is a unique animation. It's a curtain that's folded behind and above the pilot and that unfurls across the canopy above the pilot. Simmers can move it with their mouse into any position between extended and retracted. I had not seen an animation that can be made to move to any position within a range at the will of the user. All others I have seen move from one position to another and back again, such as open to close, but that's all. I didn't find anything in the manuals about these animations, however. I found them by searching for the sorts of things that are often animated in add-on aircraft.

    SPORTSTAR MAX ANIMATIONS
    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** Visor Extended ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** Canopy Open
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    Technical Matters

    This product is for FSX with SP2. Complete system requirements are listed in the manufacturer's product description.

    The installation program produced error messages saying it could not access my computer registry, which is necessary for installing the aircraft software, and warning that instruments might not work properly. An installation log file in ordinary text format documented these messages. As examples: "Windows failed to retrieve the path to your critical Flight Simulator configuration files directory," and "Windows will not allow the installer access to your system registry." Before seeking assistance from the developer, however, I launched FSX and checked out the SportStar installation. All ten models appeared in the Aircraft Selection menu, and they loaded without a hitch and flew normally. And the instruments worked properly. About these error messages, the developer said the following:

    These are diagnostics we perform so that if in-use problems arise later, they may offer important information. They mean that you are running the installer from a location that does not have full Windows permissions levels, or that you have a security program running that really should be shut off when running installers. These usually have to do with how your security profiles are set up in Windows, which in Windows Vista or Windows 7 can be very complex. They are not critical errors.

    All 10 versions of this aircraft are shown in the Aircraft Selection menu under Evektor (the manufacturer) and KC Pilot Shop (the developer).

    Frame rates are good. I found nothing about this aircraft to diminish frame rates.

    The Sounds folder contains 45 distinct sound files that seem realistic for this type of aircraft. Some of them include "Mooney" in their file names, such as "Mooney_Shutdown.wav" and Mooney_Prop2A.wav." The developer said: "Most of them are from default Flight Simulator aircraft, and a few of the mechanical sounds were recorded from an actual SportStar."

    Technical support is through an email form on the FSD website. Response to my questions was within a reasonable period. The developer answered some of my questions right away and answered others within a few days after researching them.

    Readers with technical questions not answered in this review should ask the developer, who is in the best position to answer such questions. Using the links below, go to the Pilot Shop page where the product is listed and described, then click on "Manufacturer Tech Support" in the right column.




    TECHNICAL & PURCHASE FEATURES

    MSFS Version

    FSX

    Instant download from the Pilot Shop

    Yes

    Installation program

    Yes

    License key required

    Yes

    Copyright acknowledgment required

    Yes

    Manual included

    Yes

    Uninstall program included

    No

    Frame Rates

    Good

    Price

    $19.95 US

    More Information

    More information about the real-world SportStar Max aircraft by Evektor Aerotechnik is available from:




    REAL-WORLD IMAGES

    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE ** ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **
    Source: Wikipedia

    The Developer

    FSD International makes aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and 2009 (a.k.a. FS9 and FSX). Other products include the Beechcraft 35B Bonanza, and the Turban Toucan. I reviewed their Bonanza 35B in August 2011.




    ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

    Bill Stack
    [email protected]


    Learn more about the Evektor SportStar Max for FSX by FSD International.


    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