• Eaglesoft Cessna Citation II

    Eaglesoft Cessna Citation II/SP 2 for FS2002 and FS2004

    By Andrew Herd (2 December 2004)

    Back in October '68, Cessna announced that it was going to build an eight place business jet that would be capable of operating from the same type of field as existing medium and light twins. There was nothing radical about this, unless you consider the fact that neither Piper or Beech had anything to match it and when the type was certified in 1971, it single-handedly created the light business jet market - whichever way you look at it, the Citation was a real ground-breaker.

    When production finished in 1985, nearly 700 Citations of all variants had been built, but enough demand existed for a stretched version existed for Cessna to go back to the drawing board and sketch out the Citation II. With a bit of juggling around, the original Citation could pack 7 passengers, and this became the standard configuration for the longer Citation II, which had the advantage of being able to seat up to 10. The engines of the new plane were uprated to add another 50 knots to the cruising speed, range was increased by a third, and so was the rate of climb. FAA certification was granted in '78 and the SP variant was later approved for single pilot operation.733 were built before production ceased in late '94, following which a revised design known as the Citation Bravo replaced it - this has sold something like another 150 units.

    The Citation II is a seriously potent package, given the combination of a 400 knot cruise with a 2000 nm range (depending on payload). The figures I have for the Bravo show that it can take off at max all up weight in 1200 yards, climb to FL250 within 10 minutes and then continue direct to FL410. Max operating altitude is FL450, though best cruise is achieved at FL330 at gross - and if you burn off 1300 pounds of fuel, you can land it again in not much more than a thousand yards. The old Citation II doesn't quite achieve the same performance, but it isn't far out, so you can understand why it is so popular with commercial operators. Single pilot certfication combined with short strip capability makes for a seriously flexible plane - odds are, if your passengers can make their way to a paved runway, you can land a Citation on it.

    Eaglesoft have carved out a niche for themselves producing addon business jets for Flight Simulator 2002 and 2004, so developing a Citation II simulation was a natural step for them to take. We have already reviewed several of their other packages, including a Raytheon BeechJet 400A, Cessna Citation X and a Raytheon Hawker XP (the Citation product line has the most confusing set of designations outside anything Aeronca thought of, and despite sharing the name, the Citation X and the Citation II have very little in common). By and large, the Eaglesoft products we have matched up well against Microsoft's default planes, and they have been getting better all the time, so I was extremely interested when the review of the Citation II came up.

    The package is a 38 Mb download for $19.95 and installs using the tried and tested Flight1 key for copy protection. This system is highly popular and I am pleased to be able to report that I haven't had it go wrong on me yet. After installation, a new program group appears under the start menu, containing a single link to an unistall icon - the documentation is available as a 27 page pdf via this page. Having the docs separate from the main download makes it possible to read the POH and get a better idea of what it is like before you buy, but it would have been nice to see it included in the main download and linked through the start menu. But you get a very good tutorial flight in there, so I maybe shouldn't be complaining.

    Checking out the FS aircraft menu found two different versions of the plane - standard and lite - in a couple of liveries, filed under Cessna. The difference between standard and lite is that the latter lacks a VC, which definitely improves frame rates on slower systems, but that being said, the full version achieved 35 fps sat on the runway at the default EGNV, which is comparable to the Lear.

    As you can see from the screenshots, the visual model is nicely detailed and it includes all the usual animations plus safety cones, a carpet and pitot static covers, which appear when the left engine is shut down and the parking brake applied. Engine covers and ribbons appear when the respective engines are shut down and disappear again when they start up. There are also animated thrust reversers and last, but not least, the pilot dons sunglasses after a daylight engine start. Despite this being the SP, Eaglesoft give you a co-pilot as part of the deal, who mostly restricts himself to the usual advice about V-speeds, but makes the odd wry comment if you try something really foolish - selecting gear up on the pan prompted him to say, 'I think the FAA are gonna want to have a word with you...'

    A paint template is available on the Eaglesoft website and has already been put to use, with over a dozen extra liveries available on FlightSim.Com, covering everything from a Tyrol air ambulance to a Swoosh corporate scheme. The only hazard with the liveries is that they have to be added manually, but a new section for the aircraft.cfg file is provided in most of the zips, so it should be relatively simple for most simmers to add them.

    The flight model seems to be about right for the class of plane - I don't expect I will ever get to sit in one of these, but the performance appears to be in the correct ballpark. Not having a set of performance tables to hand, it was kind of hard to check out the finer detail, but it certainly behaved much the way one would expect an unswept jet to fly. I get all kinds of feedback from simmers about minor differences in performance of FS addons from their real life counterparts, but there is only so far you can go with a twenty buck sim and I don't spot any long queues of users volunteering to pay more.

    Eaglesoft's 2D panels have had their share of criticism from me in the past, mostly on account of unreadable legends. The Citation II panel graphic is sized at 1024 x 768, but displays reasonably well up to 1600 x 1200 - although most users will find it necessary to make use of the pop-up panels until they know their way around. The legends are clear, but the extent of the main panel graphic means that some are quite small.

    Iif you ever have a spare moment, it is quite instructive eyeballing the size of main panel bitmaps for various addons - a definite trend is apparent, the sharpest ones usually also being the biggest, and some developers are using graphics up to 2048 x 1536 without any apparent speed penalty. One of the disadvantages of using smaller graphics is that they don't display well at 'odd' resolutions like 1280 x 1024; must be something to do with the stretch. It also seems to me that many developers would do their users a favor by ploughing some of the profits back into a copy of Adobe PhotoShop, because far too many use 'amateur' paint apps and the results show it.

    Anyway, as you can see, the Citation has mixed instrumentation, thanks to the design dating from that awkward period when analog had been found to be wanting and glass hadn't quite got established. The result is quite a treat, with tapes for engine parameters and fuel flow, a conventional artificial horizon, altimeter and VSI, but a hint of things to come in the form of the Sandel EHSI. If you click on the X just under the glareshield, a group of simicons appears and can be used to control all the pop-ups, which include an enlarged switch set and bigger versions of the AI and HSI. Since the EHSI is the primary navigation instrument in the plane, other than the GPS500, it gets used a lot, so the popup is much appreciated.

    The Sandel will display either VOR CDI, an ADF needle, or GPS routing. A couple of hotspots on the lower bezel let you snap either the CDI or the heading bug to the current heading, while others at left and right allow you to toggle between arc and rose mode, switch between Nav1 radio and the GPS as primary navigation source and to declutter the display. The EHSI hotspot system may be unconventional, but I liked it and the unit worked pretty well.

    On the right you can see the radios, which are limited to doing no more than select a single frequency. I can't establish what the typical fit in a Citation II of this period should actually be, but many planes of this class had Collins radios which were quite sophisticated for their day and certainly did a lot more than this set - however, at the price, one can hardly complain. What nearly did drive me crazy was the way the hot spots worked and I nearly gave up on the ADF, but maybe my tolerance is lower than other people's (-:

    The other piece of avionics of note is the autopilot, which is of the old style 'lets see how far apart we can get all the switches' type. All the active modes are preselectable, but the unit won't actually take control until you switch it on, which means popping up the quadrant and lifting the flipper. A minor bit of sophistication here adds capture and hold modes to IAS and the Alt functions, the former being controlled via the airspeed indicator bug. A couple of things worth watching about this piece of code are that it isn't shy about letting the engines exceed their N1 limits; and also that the aircraft is inclined to overspeed at the default rate of descent. Apart than that, there is little to say about the unit, other than it performs much as one would expect the default autopilot to do, including the traditional snaking on anything more than the gentlest localiser intercepts. While this isn't that untypical of older autopilots, it seems to be particularly well developed in this sim and it can make tracking VOR radials something of a trial.

    The virtual cockpit (VC) is well up to Eaglesoft's usual standard, in as much as it is reasonably sharp and more or less everything I tried worked. FS VCs are getting better all the time and the Citation II could certainly be flown almost entirely using this particular view, especially if you use ActiveCamera to set up some hotkey viewpoint switches. If you turn around (boy do I love the way you can do a 360 with your head in FS, just wish I could do the same in real life) there is a virtual cabin too, which is mercifully free of frame-eating virtual passengers.

    The sound set is great, although admittedly one corporate jet does sound very much like another. The only negative point is that the switches are unnaturally loud, but this seems to be accepted practice in FS addons - though I doubt that many companies spending the amount a Citation costs would appreciate switches that drown out the conversation.

    I must say that I did enjoy reviewing this sim. One of the problems developers of corporate jets face is that Microsoft did a pretty good job with the FS2004 Lear and it sets a reasonably hard target for anyone else trying to make market share in this sector. Another huge drawback of taking on a package like this one is that business jets are hardly ten a penny and finding an owner who is prepared to talk, allow photographs to be taken, and generally advise on development is by no means easy - which explains why Eaglesoft are pretty much out there on their own when it comes to this class of jet. With the release of this package they have definitely established themselves as a force to reckon with and I will be very interested to see their Citation CJ1, because while the plane is externally fairly similar to the Citation II, the CJ1 is fitted with the Collins Pro Line 21 EFIS avionics suite - which will be a crucial test of Eaglesoft's increasing expertise in gauge and panel graphics design.

    The Citation II is Eaglesoft's best yet and it compares well to the default planes. If you are a fan of the Lear, this Cessna makes an interesting comparison, chiefly because of the straight wing - although I am not certain that the difference is as great in FS as it should be in real life, the Citation is definitely the easier plane of the two to land, thanks to better low speed handling characteristics, despite having a much simpler flap system. Not only is the 2D panel a big improvement over anything Eaglesoft have done before, but the VC is good enough to fly the plane without dropping frame rates into single figures. I found the package very stable, although there was an interesting bug in the altimeter readout which meant that the figures didn't always turn over smoothly if the sim was levelled out after a descent to 10,000 feet and I don't think I will ever get used to the way the radio hotspots work, but as a sim, it has definite style and I am sure it will please a whole bunch of people.

    Andrew Herd
    andy@flightsim.com

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