• Rutan 61 Long E-Z By Virtavia

    Review: Rutan 61 Long E-Z By Virtavia

    By Bill Stack (6 November 2010


    Screen shots by Virtavia



    Rutan's 61 Long E-Z is a canard-wing home-built aircraft designed by Rutan Aircraft. Designed for fuel-efficient long-range flight, it can fly up to 1,600 miles (2,500 kilometers) and more than 10 hours on 52 gallons (200 liters) of fuel. Pilots sit in slightly reclined seats and use a stick controller to the right side of the pilot seat. It does not stall the same way more common aircraft stall because the canard wing stalls first and lowers the nose to gain airspeed, which prevents the main wings from stalling. This model followed the similar Rutan VariEze, which had a smaller cabin, less fuel and baggage capacity, and a less powerful engine.

    These specifications are taken from Wikipedia

    • Empty weight: 760 lb (345 kg).
    • Cruise speed: 160 kt (184 mph, 291 km/h)
    • Max. Speed (level flight): 185 kt (210 mph, 340 km/h).
    • Range (at cruise speed): 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km; 1,400 mi)
    • Fuel capacity: 50 U.S. gal (200 L)

    Virtavia's specifications listed in the product manual are comparable.

    A bit of trivia about this aircraft: Popular American singer John Denver lost his life while flying a Long E-Z on October 12, 1997. The National Transportation Safety Board blamed a combination of design flaws and pilot error.

    The Rutan 61 Long E-Z was originally sold by Alphasim, which has ceased trading according to www.alphasim.co.uk. The majority of products previously sold on its website under the AlphaSim brand are available under the 'Virtavia' brand at all leading flightsim addon sites, according to that site. Virtavia also sells a Sea King helicopter, a B1-B bomber, a B2 Islander and quite a few others.

    "The Virtavia model is the same as the AlphaSim one in every respect," explained Phil of Virtavia. "When AlphaSim closed down, Virtavia took over the marketing of the products previously marketed by AlphaSim."

    These are among many features of the Long E-Z listed by Virtavia:

    • Six model variations with 10 detailed texture sets
    • Highly authentic virtual cockpit with animations and mousable controls
    • Extremely authentic flight dynamics, fully tested and approved by real E-Z pilots
    • Very high quality sounds
    • Detailed, illustrated 60-page PDF manual


    PAINT SCHEMES

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    PURCHASE FEATURES

    Instant download from the Pilot Shop

    YES

    Installation program

    YES

    License key required

    NO

    Copyright acknowledgment required

    NO

    Manual included

    YES

    Checklists & reference included

    YES

    Uninstall program included

    NO




    Visual Features

    Virtavia's Long E-Z is very accurate compared with real-world photos I found on the Internet.

    The exterior is true to form in all dimensions, and it includes all major working parts such as ailerons, rudder, and canard elevators. The front landing gear retracts while the main gear remain fixed, as is true with the real-world models.

    The 3D virtual panel is excellent. It's very clear and crisp &#8212 better than many I've seen. But the airspeed indicator is difficult to read without zooming in on it because it's smaller than other major instruments. This panel is unlike any of the numerous versions I found on the Internet, and it wasn't developed by Virtavia, so I cannot verify its accuracy. Given that the plane is home built it's likely that each one has a different panel.

    Animations include a ventral spoiler, nose gear retraction, nose gear kneeling, and other items. The two rudders swing outward in opposite directions from each other to serve as speed brakes upon landing. The GPS device mounted on the right side of the cockpit swivels out for visibility and back against the virtual cockpit's inside wall to be out of the way. The canopy opens and closes with a click of the canopy handle on the left side of the virtual cockpit.

    The 2D main instrument panel is not useful, and Virtavia says it's not needed. Only the top of the instrument panel is visible, which the developer calls "minimal bitmap." Many simmers don't care about 2D panels, anyway, but some do like them. Its popup panels for GPS and radios are useful by themselves, but I don't see why they would be used on a 2D panel when nobody can use the 2D main panel in the first place and the popups are also available through the 3D cockpit.


    LONG E-Z IN FLIGHT

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Technical Features

    The archive file contains installation program for FS2004 and FSX, and it is small enough to download quickly.

    I reviewed the FSX version. Having briefly looked over the FS2004 version, I found it basically the same as the FSX version.

    The installation program installs all needed files into the correct folders for FS2004 or FSX. Simply select the simulator version (FS2004 or FSX), and the installation program does the rest.

    No license key or legal agreement are required.

    The product description says: "Six model variations with 10 detailed texture sets." The major differences among them are small versus large rudders, straight versus tapered canards, with or without baggage pods, and two engine types.

    The product description says: "All gauges are fully mousable with switch parts all working correctly." This is true, but some of the switches are so small that finding the right spot for activation requires close attention.

    Sounds are unique to this aircraft, having been "expertly crafted by Turbine Sound Studios" according to the Virtavia manual, and they seem realistic for such an aircraft.

    Checklists and reference sheets are excellent. They're comprehensive, telling almost all that's needed for flying this aircraft properly. They display nicely in the kneeboard, and they are included in the Adobe manual.

    The GPS device is turned off by default. Users must click on the antenna to turn it on.

    Five of the 10 models in the package I downloaded from the Pilot Shop were black inside, including their pilots, from all viewpoints &#8212 inside, outside, and in the aircraft-selection menu. Virtavia's tech support said there were errors in the texture.cfg files for each of these aircraft. They explained how to fix them and promised an update as of 22 September 2010. Any buyer who finds this problem should contact Virtavia's tech support for a fix or update.


    COCKPIT AND PANELS
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Flight Modeling

    For realistic test flights, I went to Minute Man Airport (6B6), a small general-aviation airport west of Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. With its 2,700 foot asphalt runway, its 268 foot MSL elevation, and its sociable aviation community, it is ideal for flying this "experimental" home-built aircraft.

    Having never flown a real Long E-Z, I don't know how it should fly. The product description says: "extremely authentic flight dynamics, fully tested and approved by real E-Z pilots." Its flight characteristics seem mostly consistent with specifications I found on the Internet.

    To take off, the checklist says to lift the nose at 50 KTS. I was unable to do so, however. The nose didn't lift off until closer to 90 KTS, even though the aircraft's gross weight is within the maximum gross take-off weight and the airport is only a few hundred feet above sea level.

    It climbs quickly even with the canards even with the horizon. The checklist says: "NEVER RAISE CANARD ABOVE THE LEVEL OF THE HORIZON." It held 90 KTS while climbing at 1,000 FPM. As expected, it lost airspeed when climbing more steeply and gained airspeed when climbing less steeply.

    Straight and level flight is easy to maintain once you get accustomed to this aircraft's unique characteristics. It's slower to respond to controls than other light aircraft, both in starting and stopping a bank or change in pitch, and over correction is a hazard.

    Because this aircraft is said not to stall as other light aircraft stall, I forced a stall to see what would happen. To do so, I simply cut power and raised the nose while around 4,000 feet. It would not stall! As expected, the canard stalls, the nose falls, then the aircraft gains airspeed, and no aircraft stall occurs. It continued bobbing up and down until I powered up again and regained control.

    Aerobatics are not allowed in this aircraft except chandelles, lazy eights, and steep turns according to the reference sheet and manual. I don't think of a lazy eight or a steep turn being aerobatic, but that's what it says. With a chandelle being an abrupt climbing turn almost to the point of stalling, I don't understand why the checklist says "NEVER RAISE CANARD ABOVE THE LEVEL OF THE HORIZON" because a chandelle by definition would require raising the canard above the horizon. I did some barrel rolls and overhead loops with ease, even though they are not allowed.

    Landing requires strict attention to all flight aspects. The checklist calls for approaching at 90 KTS, flying "over the fence" at 80 KTS, and landing at 70 KTS. But this aircraft doesn't glide well because it gains airspeed even in shallow glides, and there are no flaps to slow it down. The speed brake is handy, but activating it requires diverting attention from flying to changing views of the virtual cockpit to find and use the switch. No keyboard commands are identified in the manual. As a result, I required many attempts before landing anywhere near 70 KTS.

    Taxiing is as easy as other aircraft its size.

    The product description says "separate flight dynamics for both engine types (Avco Lycoming O-235 and O-320)." Any differences must be subtle, because I found no obvious differences after taking off, flying about, and landing in both models.


    NIGHT EFFECTS
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Checklists and Reference Data

    The checklist and reference files are excellent. They provide comprehensive data for flying this aircraft realistically, and they appear in the kneeboards and in the Adobe manual.


    CHECKLISTS AND REFERENCE DATA

    Checklist

    Reference Sheet

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Extra Features

    Clickable digital readouts are available for all major gauges. Clicking in areas shown in the manual reveals digital readouts for airspeed, altitude, heading, and other instruments.

    Three videos are included. One demonstrates the startup procedure. Another demonstrates a landing from the cockpit point of view. Another shows a landing from the tower point of view. I found the first two videos beneficial for their instructive benefits.

    A paint kit is included for those buyers who would like to customize the appearances of their Long E-Zs.


    EXTRA FEATURES
    Canopy Open
    Ventral Spoiler Deflected
    Kneeling Stance
    Clickable Digital Readouts

    Screen shot by Bill Stack



    The Manual

    The 60-page manual in Adobe Acrobat format (PDF) is outstanding. It tells all about how to use and fly this aircraft in plain English supported by clear images, many of which are annotated. Examples from the table of contents include: "Paint and model variants," "Aircraft general arrangement," "Cockpit general arrangement," and "Individual gauge diagrams." Anybody who needs answers about using this product will more than likely find them by searching this excellent manual.


    MANUAL PAGES

    Cover

    Page 20

    Page 40

    Screen shot by Bill Stack



    More Information

    Information about the real Rutan 61 Long E-Z can be found at these websites, among others:

    Summary

    While looking over the various models of Virtavia's Rutan 61 Long E-Z and the accompanying checklists, reference sheets, and operators' manual, I repeatedly found more features, functions, and nuances. There are 10 paint schemes, six models and two engine types, with variations ranging from subtle such as canard shapes to obvious such as wing pods. The 3D cockpit is comprehensive and detailed yet easy to read. Clickable digital readouts on major instruments are handy. It's is a charming little two-seater that's visually accurate and fun to fly. Its unique attributes make it worth the $25 US price.


    Bill Stack
    [email protected]

    Learn More About Virtavia's Rutan 61 Long E-Z.


    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


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