• Precision Aerobus Jetstream 41

    Precision Aerobus Jetstream 41 for FS2004 and FSX

    By Andrew Herd (2 September 2007)

    The Jetstream is one of a select group of airplanes that have the distinction of managing to destroy the company that created them. In the Jetstream's case, the company was one of the greats - Handley Page - a firm whose bombers had not only helped to win the first and second World Wars, but which had built the first plane to fly the Atlantic. The Jetstream must have seemed such a good idea at the time; a turboprop twin that would neatly fill the gap between the smaller bizjets and the twenty plus seat class of feeder liners that was emerging at the time. The first flight was in August 1967 and the attractive design found favor immediately, thanks to its common-sense layout and a wise choice of powerplant in the form of a pair of Turbomeca Astazou XIV.c constant speed turboprops developing 850 shaft horsepower a side. The trouble was that it looked good, but the Jetstream was overweight and a huge amount of effort had to be put into getting the airframe into workable shape, with the result that by 1969, Handley Page had to call in the receiver. The company stumbled along for a while, secure in the knowledge that it had a product second to none, but the delays made the customers increasingly nervous and when an order for Garrett TPE331 powered Jetstreams was cancelled by the USAF, the company went to the wall, with only 40 finished and 33 incomplete hulls on the books.

    The next stage in the Jetstream saga was the sale of the inventory in 1970 to Terravia Trading Services, who formed a company called Jetstream Ltd with the aim of finishing off all the incomplete hulls and building a completely new model. Unfortunately, Terravia didn't prove any more successful at solving the complex problems posed by Jetstream production than Handley Page had and so that venture foundered in its turn. At that stage, you might imagine that there would have been a shortage of volunteers prepared to take on this apparently doomed aeroplane, but Jetstream Ltd had managed to attract a contract from the RAF for 26 hulls and in early 1972, the type certificate was transferred to Scottish Aviation.

    Scottish Aviation had been around since the thirties and they were the first people to make a go of the Jetstream, fulfilling the RAF order and going on to develop the Jetstream 31, which had 940 shp Garrett TPE331s and a new wing. This type first flew in 1982 and proved a great success, with many being sold in the US to third-level commuter airlines, the last hull coming off the line in 1994, production overlapping with the somewhat more powerful Super 31, built by British Aerospace. The final development was the Jetstream 41, which has a pair of 1500 shp TPE331s and first flew in 1991, with production ending in 1997 after approximately a hundred had been built.

    Precision Aerobus (PAOB) are new to me, but have been around since 2005, coinciding with the time development of their Jetstream package commenced - my interest in the project was aroused because it has all the hallmarks of great flightsim addons in the tradition of Espen Oijordsbakken's Fokker F50 panel which those of you with long memories may remember enjoying back in the FS2000 days. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the Jetstream started off as a freeware panel project and subsequently evolved into a full-blown payware package, which is a 50 Mb download from the Pilot Shop. Given how much I enjoy using Flight Simulator addons in this class, because they don't force you to make long flights in order to take advantage of all the plane's features, the Jetstream had to be worth a go.

    Download and installation wasn't a problem - the version 2.1 zip contains versions for both FS2004 and FSX. I did the review using FSX SP1 on a 2.66 Ghz Core2Duo with 4 Gb of RAM, a 768 Mb GeForce 8800 GTX and Windows Vista (if anyone reading this is considering specifying a new system for running FSX, this one does make running the sim a real pleasure). Once installation was finished, I check the Start menu and found a new PAOB program group, which contained a link to an uninstall program for the Jetstream, but no documentation. A check of the PAOB website told me that some features of the FS2004 version are lacking in the FSX version, including an air-droppable life-raft effect, animated windshield wipers, engine fire effects, and co-pilot v-speed call-outs, but I can do without most of those... What was somewhat tougher was doing without any documentation, but given that the Jetstream panel isn't that much more complicated than the default King Air, I decided to throw caution to the winds and give it a go.

    Starting FSX showed five Jetstream 41 liveries installed, including the British Aerospace prototype; a Hong Kong government Flying Service plane; two Eastern Airways UK liveries; and a South African Airlink paint. The omission of any US liveries is interesting, given that so many Jetstreams are operated in North America, but perhaps some will appear in a future enhancement.

    The visual model is at least as good as the default planes with very crisp textures and a moderate level of detailing that resulted in frame rates similar to the default Lear on my system. In external view, the cockpit and cabin are empty; in practice it would be hard to see the panel of a Jetstream from FSX external view, but with the doors open the lack of seats in the interior is fairly obvious. The reason for the relatively good frame rates is immediately apparent if you take a look at areas like the gear and bays, because these are fairly simple compared to the more advanced addons I've seen; whether or not this is an issue depends on your point of view and I have to say that fluidity of the sim is more important to me than external aircraft model detailing, particularly when the detail is in areas that I will only ever look at once.

    The package comes with a 2D panel and a virtual cockpit (VC), the latter coming with a virtual interior, although this is very basic and nowhere near the level of say the Eaglesoft Cessna bizjets... but again, it all saves on frames. In 2D panel mode (see the pic above left), my frame rates shot up to the maximum, so if you have a marginal system for FSX, this package is worth considering, because it won't reduce FSX to its knees the way more complex addons will. The textures on the 2D panel could be better and some of the legends become quite tricky to read at 1600 x 1200, which older simmers whose arms are getting too short may find something of a problem. Even with perfect vision, the lack of zoomable gauges in the 2D panel means that some of the gauges are difficult to use and I found it particularly hard to read the altitude readout in the EADI, which meant that half the time I was guessing what the numbers I was looking at were telling me. Pop-ups include the overhead, pedestal, caution annunciator (semi-obscured by the menu bar in FSX), and the default GPS - these lack hotspots for fast closure. Avionics include an EADI, EHSI, RMI, panel mounted GPS that echoes the default GPS data and all the usual supporting instruments you would expect in a plane of this class. Many of the switches are inactive in the current version, for instance, LNAV, although the Jetstream will fly FSX flight plans without any problems. In practice, what is there, works, so as long as you are happy flying the way Microsoft intended it, or are into radio navaids, you will be fine - but complex glass avionics jocks need not apply. However, I sense that the Jetstream is one man's passion and very much a work in progress, so I imagine that more features will be added as time goes by and it could be fun seeing the addon develop.

    The VC (second row, right hand shot) is much the same as the 2D panel in quality terms, an issue here being that it is only partially functional, with the majority of the pedestal gauges (which aren't visible in the 2D panel) shown as non-functional graphics, including most of the switches and levers down there, which are animated, but can't be controlled using the mouse. Given that there are few of the controls on the pedestal which can't be assigned to a joystick axis, this isn't too much of a problem, but it will disappoint readers used to more sophisticated addons. However, PAOB offer a solution to this problem in the form of popup windows stolen from the 2D panel, which are highly necessary, given that the autopilot engage switch is on the pedestal, for example. Pressing the A key cycles you through all the various VC views as usual, some of which are a bit random, taking me to the overhead, which is another non-functional graphic. Clearly, although the sim can be flown using the VC, the 2D panel is the preferred mode of operation if you want access to all the features in a seamless fashion, although the VC functionality isn't too bad, it just seems a little clunky having to access 2D style popups all the time. One thing worth bearing in mind about the autopilot is that it dates from the era when pilots were expected to keep an eye on the airspeed and it is all too easy to select a rate of climb that the plane will fail to achieve at higher altitudes. The lack of documentation may prove something of a problem if you aren't used to using this type of panel, but once you have got the hang of how everything works, the Jetstream isn't that much more complicated than the Lear.

    The sound set includes all the noise you could wish for, including realistic start up and shut down sounds, which certainly add to the experience of flying the addon. Talking of the flight model, it has always interested me why there aren't more third-tier type feeder aircraft packages available for Flight Simulator, because as I mentioned above, they are ideal for making the sort of short flights that are all many simmers have time for and they aren't so complex that they take several weeks to learn. In common with the similar Beech 1900D, the lower limit for practical operations is a 2000 yard runway, but once that criterion is satisfied, you have a plane that is rewarding to fly by hand and doesn't condemn you to doing every approach on autopilot. The flight model is definitely in the ball park for this type of aircraft and I couldn't find any serious faults with it.

    Verdict? Okay, the package could be improved, but it is the best Jetstream product out there. There isn't, as it happens, any clear class leader in the 20 seat feeder liner sector and I will be interested to see how the Jetstream develops, because it certainly has potential.

    Andrew Herd
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here


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