• WSSimulation Diamond Eclipse

    WSSimulation Diamond Eclipse

    By Rohan Nair (8 February 2010)

    Foreword

    Recently, there was a poll on the forums about your preferred aircraft type in flight simulator. Of course, many people had opted for jets. But it seems that the general aviation (GA) category had a lead by a small margin. This set me thinking as I had never flown any GA aircraft to have fun in flight simulator. Not even any add-on. My last recollection of having flown a GA aircraft in flight simulator was when I toured the Hawaiian Islands with the default Cessna 172. After searching through various products, I landed on WSSimulation's Diamond Eclipse. The reason why I reviewed this aircraft is because it's so unique, artistic and simplistic.

           

    Introduction

    WSSimulation developed this aircraft for FSX only. The product comes as a 12.9 Mb download from the Pilot Shop. The package includes the Diamond DA-20 C1 Eclipse only. The model is made in Gmax and the exterior boasts some high definition textures and normal mapping. Five liveries come with the product including a US Air Force Academy livery too. All usual animations are present along with some special pilot animations. The product has both, a 2D panel and 3D virtual cockpit.

    History

    Diamond is an Austrian manufacturer of light weight training aircraft. The first DA20 was the Rotax 912 powered A1 Katana produced in Canada in 1994. Production of the C1 Eclipse model began in 1998 and it was powered by Continental IO-240-B3B engines. Some key notes of Diamond aircraft are the presence of control columns instead of yokes, an aft mounted t-tail, a canopy, low wings, a single fuel tank and a large glide ratio compared to most other general aviation airplanes. A few Diamonds also have glass cockpits now. Some DA20s were also used as a part of the Academy Flight Screening program of the US Air Force. It was discontinued since 2007.

    Installation

    Installing the product is easy and straightforward. Simply run the installer, enter your name, serial key, hit next and follow the instructions on screen. The minimum requirements as stated by WSSimulations are as follows: Intel Pentium III or equivalent processor, Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4, 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended), a 64 MB video card (256 MB recommended), 50 MB of hard disk space and Microsoft Flight Simulator X. I did the review using a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 GB of RAM and a 384 MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD2300 Hyper Memory. The operating system used was Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and simulator was FSX Acceleration/SP2.

           

    First Impressions

    After installation, you will find a folder in the start menu that contains the un-install program only. A manual can be found in the following directory assuming you installed FSX in the default location: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Airplanes\WSSimulation-Diamond DA20 Eclipse" The manual contains system requirements, background information, specifications, history, recommended and maximum V-speeds, normal flight checklists, emergency procedures, and cockpit overview. It's a very good manual for such a simple airplane. When I booted up FSX, I did not have to approve any gauges. FSUIPC is not required to run this product.

           

    Interior

    The interior is of average quality. The virtual cockpit does not have any high resolution textures. Some of the gauges such as the attitude indicator and VSI seem to be borrowed from the default airplanes. The gauges are not so clear and reading them right might be difficult if your eyes are impaired. The heading indicator does not have any additional hash marks other than the main 30 degree marks around it. But there are some very faint hash marks around the left half circumference of the heading indicator. So, making precision turns in the VC might be hard and may need a little guesswork. The switches have been designed nicely and their labels can be read clearly also. The default GPS, a single set radio stack and engine gauges have been built into the center and right side of the panel. There is an autopilot but the controls are not present in the virtual cockpit. The controls can be used by bringing up the 2D radio stack by pressing Shift+2. This is simply the default Cessna 172 radio stack. It seems though that only one set of communication and navigation radios have been placed in the virtual cockpit like the real world. The 2D radio stack has two sets. The wings are clearly visible from the virtual cockpit and the lights on them too. The virtual cockpit has nice dim night lighting. Engine control levers are also presented but are not of high quality either. The cabin heat lever does not function. Other than that, all switches are functional in the virtual cockpit. I don't know why it's so hard to see over the nose while climbing despite reducing your pitch reasonably. When you compare this to a real Diamond Eclipse cockpit, you will feel as though it's a bit different. But maybe that's just a matter of taste. From its design, this aircraft is meant to be flown from the virtual cockpit. The default eye-point is fine. Just adjust the view downwards to see the instruments.

    The 2D cockpit is good. Thankfully, the gauges can be clearly read. The heading indicator has hash marks all around it. It seems to be like triangular or dot like projections though. However, when compared to real world photos, you will find that the real one has proper line hash marks around it. Everything from primer switch to GPS and top console to lighting panel is present. The only things left out are the engine controls and engine gauges. Some icons are available to bring up these as separate panels along with a few other ones too. They are located at the lower left side of the screen. The GPS is small because it is squeezed into the right side. However, a larger popup GPS can be brought up by clicking one of the icons on the lower right side of the panel. Again, here the radio stack contains only one set of radios. But he 2D radio stack still contradicts this. Night lighting in the 2D panel is realistic. It's dim on the panel and the instruments are lit up brighter. A key flaw here is the eye-point. By default, you will be looking skywards. It's impossible to see the ground like that. To lower the eye-point, press Ctrl+Q.

           

    Exterior

    The most well designed part of this airplane is the exterior model. The Gmax model has some high definition textures and some nice shadowing is made into the textures already. However, the liveries are not of a very high quality. Zooming out reduces quality and zooming in increases quality. The pilot animations are a nice touch. He moves his head even when the column is deflected left or right. A very big flaw here is that the tail-plane or vertical stabilizer moves in the opposite direction when the yoke is pushed forward or pulled back. When the column is pulled back, it should deflect upward but instead, it moves downward. Reverse the logic for pushing the column forward. Oddly, all airplanes have the same registration. But of course, this can be changed via the aircraft menu or selection screen. Compared to real world photos, the external model should be a bit lower and the canopy and tail must be sleeker. Nevertheless, it's still a good compromise. External lighting is great. The red and green strobes and landing light beam have been realistically modeled. Night lighting of the cockpit is also visible from the exterior at night.

       

    Flight Dynamics

    Flight dynamics are above average in my view. The plane handles and feels like a real Diamond. It feels very light yet easy and responsive. It's very easy to fly this plane even without any trim. For some reason, I feel that the model is overpowered. In the real world, Diamonds are famous for having such a great field of view over the nose. So much so that some pilots say that it feels as though it's descending while in cruise. But with this aircraft, it's actually quite difficult to get a good view over the nose during a climb. Raising the seat, reducing the pitch and power, making weaving turns are some solutions to this. But they are not efficient at all times. Another problem is the difficulty in stalling this aircraft. Laughing, eh? But it's true. Even with zero power and full aft stick at the critical angle of attack, the airplane will momentarily descend with a slight pitch reduction, gain speed and start the cycle again and continue unless some other action is done. To get a proper stall, I had to some extreme maneuvers and actions. I am unsure about this in the real world. Also, the manual describes the rotation speed of this airplane as 44 knots. In my view and the real world too, this should me more like 55 to 60 knots since that's when the efficient low drag wing is at its best. Apart from these pitfalls, the airplane is still a joy to fly and good to start out a student pilot. I did several flights with this airplane and found the overall performance good.

    Sounds

    The engine sounds of this aircraft are very well designed. It sounds just like the ones from the real world. There's not much really to say about this as it's designed well. Flap extension and retraction sounds have been modeled. External sounds are also amazing. I don't think so but it feels as though the engine sounds have been recorded from the real world.

    Frame Rates

    Now, the topic you've been itching for. In this aircraft, frame rates hardly suffer at all. I get fluid motion with the auto-generated scenery cranked up. As always it is said, this is what I experienced. What you experience may be different. To keep it simple, if you get good frame rates in the default Cessna 172, you'll get more or less the same results with this airplane.

    Verdict

    If you ask me, I think this product is a decent package for its price. There are a few fallbacks, but they do not affect the operations of this airplane seriously. This is a fairly good package for a newbie or Diamond fan. Many users have been having some problem or the other with this airplane. If you do, please feel free to contact me.

    Rohan Nair
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here

    Other WSSimulations Products:

    Piper Seminole

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