• Beechcraft King Air 350 Panel By Friendly Panels

    Review: Beechcraft King Air 350 Panel By Friendly Panels

    By Bill Stack (8 August 2010)


    Screen shots by Area 51



    A venerable aircraft, the King Air 350 is one of several twin-turboprop aircraft manufactured by Hawker Beechcraft, a U.S. corporation. Developed in the early 1970s by Beech Aircraft Corporation, the King Air family has been in production longer than any other civilian twin turboprop aircraft of its type. Model 350, which was introduced in the early 1990s, is a stretched version of the 300 model.

    These specifications are taken from Airliners.Net:

    • Crew: One pilot or two pilots on flight deck
    • Passengers: Standard six, up to 15
    • Useful load: 5,510 LBS (2,499 KG)
    • Cruise speed: 315 KTS (583 KPM)
    • Range: 1960 NM (3,630 KM)
    • Service ceiling: not shown

    Rockwell Collins is a large United States manufacturer of electronics for aviation and other uses. In addition to electronic flight instruments, the company also manufactures in-flight entertainment systems for commercial airliners. Its FPI and PL21 series of flat-panel displays are often added to existing aircraft that use electromechanical flight instruments, such as the King Air 350.

    Friendly Panels is a software developer that makes add-on instrument panels for flight-simulation aircraft. Its products include panels for Boeing airliners, Learjets, Cessna 172/182s, and Canadair Regional Jets. They specialize in instruments that are not available in default home flight simulators, such as flight-management computers and common instruments made by manufactures not represented in default home flight simulators.

    Friendly Panels lists these among features of its King Air 350 Collins Panels:

    • Collins Pro Line 21 style equipment
    • Four paint schemes
    • 2D panel and 3D cockpit
    • Full moving parts





    FOUR LIVERIES

    Paint 1 Paint 2 Paint 3 Paint 4
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    PURCHASE FEATURES

    Instant download from the Pilot Shop

    YES

    Installation program

    YES

    License key required

    YES

    Copyright acknowledgment required

    YES

    Manual included

    TWO

    Checklists & reference included

    YES

    Uninstall program included

    NO




    Visual Features

    The clarity struck me right away as soon as Friendly Panels' Collins panels appeared. Both panels are clearly much sharper than the FSX default King Air panels. Even Friendly Panels' small instruments, switches, buttons, and other items are very clear and easy to use.

    They appear realistic compared with the real-world cockpit and panel photos I found on the Internet. One photo I found resembles the FPI panel, but it didn't say what it was. I also found panel photos that didn't look like either of Friendly Panels' cockpits, but that's no reason to doubt their realism and accuracy.

    The four paint schemes are more dazzling than the dull FSX default exteriors.


    KING AIR 350 2D PANELS

    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX Default
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    KING AIR 350 3D PANELS

    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX Default
    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX Default
    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX Default
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Technical Features

    The instant download from the Flight Sim Pilot Shop is very quick. Downloading was complete in less than one minute.

    Installation is also quick. The installation creates folders in the FSX system and puts all files in the correct folders.

    • Panel folders and files are deposited here: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Airplanes\Beech_King_Air_350_fpc.
    • The two manuals are deposited here: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\FriendlyPanels

    Users are not required to do anything else to activate the panels. Simply select the respective aircraft and panel from the simulator's Aircraft selection menu, and the aircraft and respective panel appear.

    Sounds are picked up from the FSX default King Air sound files.

    Frame rates are decent. They were in the teens while on the ground, and they climbed into the 20s aloft. There was no stuttering or jerking at all.


    KING AIR 350 3D RADIOS & GPS
    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Using the Panels

    Because this product lists the two instrument panels first and four aircraft second, I focused my flight tests on the cockpit and instrument panels rather than the aircraft.

    All instruments are very crisp and easy to read and use, even small ones. This might differ on other systems. I'm using an LCD flat-screen with FSX set to 1280 x 1024 x 32.

    The primary flight display is laid out differently from those we find in default FSX aircraft, but it's not hard to figure out. For simmers who are unaccustomed to this instrument, the manual is very clear on its uses.

    The flight management computer FMC uses flight plans created with FSX or any add-on that can export flight plans in the FS format. It seems to function much like the flight management feature of the multi-function display in the Garmin glass cockpits. "We have eliminated the complex way in what you have to plan your flight in current commercial FMCs implemented in some of the commercial airliners existing for Microsoft Flight Simulator but keeping the feeling of a real FMC-CDU," the manual says.

    All four models fly like the FSX default King Air 350 because the flight modeling is the same, even though the developer used different modeling files.


    KING AIR 350 OVERHEAD PANELS
    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    KING AIR 350 3D PANELS AT NIGHT

    Collins FPI Collins PL21 FSX Default
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Operational Information

    Two manuals are included: The 21-page 350 manual explains the FPI and PL21 cockpits overall. The 17-page FMC manual explains the flight-management computer. Both explain the uses of these cockpits and instruments in detail using text and annotated screen shots. A thorough read of these manuals reveals how many features are included and how many flight-management and navigation functions can be accomplished. For example, the panel manual explains how to use all the major instruments and radios in the panel.

    Checklists and reference sheets for flying the aircraft are included. They are identical to those for the default FSX King Air.


    THE MANUALS
    FPL & PL21 Cover FPL & PL21 Page 9 FPL & PL21 Page 18
    FMC Manual Cover FMC Manual Page 7 FMC Manual Page 11
    Screen shot by Bill Stack



    More Information

    Information about the real Beechcraft King Air 350 can be found at these websites, among others:

    Beechcraft

    Airliners.Net

    Wikipedia

    Rockwell Collins


    Summary

    These panels add much to the Beechcraft King Air 350's simulation experience for several reasons: First, they are much easier to read and use than the default FSX panel for this aircraft. Second, they provide data and options the default panel doesn't provide. Third, the flight management computer is not a standard feature of any MSFS default aircraft except those with the Garmin 1000 glass cockpit, and this FMC is excellent. Frame rates are good despite all the features. Both manuals are very well done. The two panels, four aircraft, two manuals, checklists, and reference data present a bundle of excellent products at a very good price.


    Bill Stack



    Learn More About Friendly Panels' King Air 350 Instrument Panel


    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