• Review: Mountain Lion Studios Sonex-B For X-Plane

    Sonex-B / WAIEX-B Bundle

    Publisher: Mountain Lion Studios

    Review Author:
    Stuart McGregor

    Suggested Price:

    Buy Here

    Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane     Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane

    The Aircraft

    Mountain Lion Studios have created a package of both the Sonex-B and WAIEX-B light aircraft, and I have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to take them both for a spin in X-Plane 11.

    If you are not familiar with either of these aircraft, they are part of the Sonex Aircraft family of kit aircraft retailing around the $42,000 mark if you would like to buy the real thing. Being designed for the sport and recreational markets, they are of metal construction, have a low wing and two seats. They are known for being light, fast, very efficient and incredibly fun to fly. And here is the hook, in real life you can build one yourself! In this package you get two versions, the Sonex-B with the standard tail design, and WAIEX-B with its very distinctive Y-tail design.

    Within the package you also are provided with metallic and non-metallic surface options, as well as standard tail dragger and tricycle landing gear, so six models and multiple paint configurations to choose from.

    Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane     Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane

    In real life the Sonex-B and WAIEX-B have similar performance specs with a max cruise speed of 170 mph (270 km/hr) and a range of 687 miles. If you go to the Sonex web site, you can see all the various customisation options to choose from if you wish to build your own. Amazing to think you can build your own aircraft for the same price as a family car.

    One thing I really did like is the fact that 100% of profits from the sale of the X-Plane version go to support giving at-risk youth opportunities in aviation. That is a nice touch, and if you would like to do some good with your dollars, well worth considering.

    Initial Thoughts

    I obtained my copy at the FlightSim.Com Store, and it is priced at $24.95 which is pretty decent in my opinion as you are getting multiple models for that price.

    After purchase, installation is extremely simple, just a case of drag and drop the version you prefer into your Aircraft folder. There are three options, Metal, Taildragger and Tricycle Gear. The Metal option includes the WAIEX variant as well. There is no documentation provided as far as I could tell, however unless you have never flown any type of aircraft before, it won't take you long to work out what is what, as it is a very simple aircraft to understand. You can always activate the click spots and instrument instructions from the main X-Plane menu if you would like a tour of all the features.

    Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane     Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane

    On The Ground

    When I first fired up one of the variants, my initial reaction was that it didn't quite look real, a bit too shiny, however when I searched for a few pictures of the real thing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a decent reflection of the real aircraft. Remember this is a kit aircraft that you could build in your garage if you had a big enough one, so don't expect all the relative refinement of a Cessna or Piper. The external textures are quite basic, however there are some nice touches like the dozens of rivets, and although it is perhaps not the most detailed exterior I have come across, nevertheless it is reasonably well done. I did enjoy the metal effects, as you really do get a feel for the shine on the skin surface.

    When you move inside after opening the panoramic canopy, the internal textures are quite simple, although effective (the texture on top of the glareshield is nice) and again what you would expect from a kit aircraft. There is a rudimentary EFIS with artificial horizon and Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI), speed and altitude indicators, as well as temperature readouts for the engine and exhaust temperatures, the engine rpm, barometer, ground speed and wind information. On the right side of the panel there are several steam gauges also indicating everything from altitude to direction, airspeed, to engine rpm, oil temperature, fuel pressure and engine and exhaust temperatures, and all of these are active. On the left side of the panel, you will find the usual set of switches including the starter, avionics, battery master, fuel pump as well as landing light and nav lights. Here you will also find the pitch trim wheel, you can't really miss that due to its size and color, and next to it the flaps up and down switch. A throttle handle is provided on each side of the 2-man cockpit, a single control stick in the center as well as a single mixture control lever on the pilot side. One final thing to be aware of is that if you plan to use any of these aircraft for aerobatics, a G Units gauge is provided, just to you can avoid blacking out or ripping the wings off.

    Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane     Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane

    One of the main things that did stand out is just how unobstructed a view you get from the pilot's seat. Other than the narrow window frame, it is pretty much a clear view all round and perfect for head trackers and even VR. No word if the aircraft was designed for use in VR, however I did try it at one point, and you get an impressive all-round view with so much glass.

    When you fire up the engine, it does have a very nice grumble to it, and I believe the sounds have been taken from the real aircraft, with input from real Sonex pilots.

    On engine start I was able to use my Saitek panels with no fuss, everything worked with no need for any extra scripts, and although for the life of me I couldn't find it, by assigning a park brake button on my yoke I was able to release the park brake and head to the runway. Taxiing was pretty easy, even in the taildragger variant with smooth turns, and I had no issues keeping my ground speed under check and in control. I should have mentioned that there is also a Ground Speed indicator on the EFIS.

    I enjoyed the engine acceleration as I sped off down the runway, although I did need to work on my rudder control to keep the Sonex straight and true, however quickly I was up and away. As far as I know there is no autopilot with these aircraft, however I found that via my Saitek panels the default autopilot system was available and I could use that very easily, in fact it worked well at holding direction and altitude, as I took a more detailed tour of the inside and exterior of the aircraft.

    Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane     Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B for X-Plane

    In The Air

    Once airborne, I must admit I did cheat for a little while and use the fictional autopilot just to get my bearings, and I did enjoy the constant toing and froing of the pitch trim wheel. Well, you can't really miss the big reg knob staring you in the face. Once I was off autopilot, both the WAIEX and Sonex variants where a real joy to fly, and again the panoramic view was really excellent. I really had a sense of being up in the clouds. Once stable, I was able to lean the mixture and watch the EGT rise as I did a bit of housekeeping, and then even tried a few manoeuvres, but less said about those the better... let's just say the Sonex and WAIEX are more than up to it, perhaps it is just the pilot that needs a bit more practice...

    As I mentioned, the all-round view on the sunny day I ran my tests was really quite breath-taking, and I really did enjoy what the Sonex family had to offer, even to the point I can say I was pleasantly surprised. I think I kind of went into this experience with low expectations, but I quickly realised that the old adage, "never judge a book by its cover" really was the case here.

    Approach and landing were fun, and pretty effortless, and again the only bit I found a little tricky was to keep a straight line during my initial roll out, however once I had slowed to taxi pace, again no issues taxiing to the ramp area.

    Mountain Lion Studios - WAIEX-B for X-Plane     Mountain Lion Studios - WAIEX-B for X-Plane

    Final Thoughts

    If I am honest with myself, the Sonex family of aircraft being offered here by the Mountain Lion Studios team was a lot more fun than perhaps I was initially expecting, and I am really glad I had the opportunity to take them out and give them a spin. At first glance, indeed the aircraft are perhaps not that much to look at, however if you would like to take your first steps into the kit aircraft world, well at least virtually, the Sonex-B and WAIEX-B would be a good place to start in my view. I believe that in some cases the saying "less is more" is very true, and I believe this is one such case where something so simple can be lots and lots of fun. So if you are just wanting to strap in for a fun unobstructed ride, and not have to think too much for a couple of hours with all that goes with more complex aircraft, then the Sonex-B or WAIEX-B might just be for you. They also have the added incentive that all profits from their sale are reported as going towards good causes, and that I particularly liked.

    Purchase Sonex-B for X-Plane

    Stuart McGregor

    Purchase the Mountain Lion Studios - Sonex-B / WAIEX-B Bundle

    1 Comment
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      I'd definitely buy for MSFS
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