DeHavilland DH104 Dove
By William Ortis (22 January 2006)
This evening, after work, I was doing my normal peruse through the various FS websites and 'remembered' the DeHavilland 104 that Paul had talked about the night before. I decided to look for it and found it immediately. I downloaded it and did the regular install into my FS2004. I do love studying new aircraft when such talented people come up with these new releases. I like to look for the new stars that will be coming out with later with new creations, looking over their work like one might over a new painting acquired at an auction.
My first 'view' into the folder of the 104 found that it had three different models. This spiked my curiosity as few designers ever put in three variants of the model alone, which means new texture maps, etc., as it is the actual 'structure' of the model that is changed!
If you don’t know what a DH 104 is, (I didn’t), it's like a very old British version of a Beechcraft King Air, but with regular aspirated piston engines and a slightly different sort of rounded cockpit greenhouse dome that protrudes out from the fuselage, and a rudder of that is reminiscent of that era of aircraft. I booted up my Flight Simulator to see my selection of the three liveries that came with this package. This was quite a 'different' form of bird then I have ever flown. It had the lines of a Viscount and a Convair all wrapped up into this fine little twin, but the scale was oddly undersized. When you view the silhouette of the 104, you think you are looking at a huge bird, but upon closer view, it is actually just slightly bigger then a Beech King Air. To prove this, park up beside a Cessna 182 and you will see what I mean.
I thought it only right to do a run in this fine bird in its home land of England. I selected London City and chose Bristol as my point of destination. I even went so far as to select 'Gray and Rainy' as my weather selection to top off the 'English' feel of the simulated flight I was about to embark on. I then selected 'Fly Now' and found myself in one of the best photoreal cockpits I have seen in a while. This aircraft features a set of 'photos' for the various cockpit views that were taken from a real DH-104. I was very surprised at the incredible quality and detail of the photos. I began toying about, running my cursor over various knobs to find the 'real' buttons that functioned from the various ones that didn’t and surprisingly found that most of them actually do function in this very well done panel.
The author of the panel made a very well done 'selection' placard which allows you to select various pop-up panels, which I found very helpful as well as the 'gauge' fitting into the era of looking itself like an old placard from such a panel. But, when I began bringing up the various 'panels', I found something quite amazing. The gauges had all seemed to be done from the originals and were photoreal as well! This level of quality is quite rare and I found this massively impressive. For instance, the autopilot system that DeHavilland used for this aircraft was known as 'Gyro Pilot'. It used a gyroscope fitted with sensors that when switched on would control the craft's altitude and heading per the reactions of the gyroscopes. Basically, to the new pilots of today, it means it was motion reaction controlled; not attached to orbital satellite GPS navigational systems, but to simple sensors.
The panel went on with various other well done instruments for the engines' performance, temperatures and pressures. The tachometers were quite wild as they do a 'lap' around their pivot when climbing through their rev read-outs. Another surprise was the NAV1 panel which is dead center of the panel. I thought it was just a photo and not a functioning system. Upon coming into Bristol airspace, I thought I would see if I could find a NAV1 window for selecting ILS into EGGD as my visibility at low altitude was at 10 miles. I found by pure accident that the cursor lighted up when hovering over the NAV1 panel. It actually functions! It looks like a 'real' photo, but it works! (Sorry, my enthusiasm gets overwhelmed when I find such craftsmanship). I was able to dial in the ILS frequency and set my heading and I had my runway lined up in no time.
At first, when I took off out of London City airport, I had a few problems understanding the 'new' or antiquated form of autopilot. However, as I was climbing out over London Towne, I became familiar with how the system worked and soon had my altitude set and my heading locked. Instead of cheating and doing a GPS route, I used my map and followed a basic westerly heading, using the 'turn' knob on the Gyro Pilot to adjust my heading with. It was quite a nice feature that I think was 'one' of the most impressive parts of the very well done panel. (Mind you, there are a moderate selection of various pop-up sub-panels, such as your primary switches panel, the lower instruments panel section, the DME window, etc.).
The feel of the plane I found to be quite well tuned. I love a plane that you don’t have to fight with and when I had her trimmed up, it was a beautiful and smooth flight, even with occasional gusts from my 'Gray and Rainy' English setting. When I had climbed to 5000 feet, I adjusted the throttles to roughly 70% and settled to 160 knots which is cruise on the ole One Zero Four. The ladies purred as the speed held cleanly.
I have found that a plane is best tested when on its approach, as the dissipation of speed will often cause oddities in the quality of flight a plane will have, necessitating quick action to trim, flaps, throttle, and so fourth. The DeHavilland 104 however made an impression and I found I had accidentally strayed down to 90 knots on my approach into Bristol and promptly pushed my throttles back in a bit to bring my speed back up. That is how gentle the girl was handling. Upon coming over the threshold at Bristol, I pulled my throttles back to zero and nosed up for a beautiful flare and a soft touchdown. This was a sweet flight and a very well behaved aircraft!