Reims Aviation Industries of France enjoyed a long association with Cessna during what could be considered the halcyon days of general aviation production from 1962 up until Reims' bankruptcy in 2013. This association produced eight different Cessna models under the Reims brand, and often as unique variants within a model range. The Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' was the last in this prestigious line and the model was still in production at the point of Reims' demise.
Flight simulation can sometimes become a little repetitive for available aircraft add-ons as developers vie for market sales with their products. This produces a tendency where we see the more familiar and popular aircraft developed over and over again - the Cessna 172 and Airbus A320 family are two which readily come to mind. Carenado positioned themselves early by focusing on producing a comprehensive range of Cessna general aviation aircraft for FSX / P3D. It is no surprise, and very refreshing to see Carenado add the venerable Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' to the ever growing and expanding Carenado repertoire and in doing so, giving the flight simulator community another 'rare' aircraft.
A twin engine turboprop, the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' is very versatile and is popular with both civilian and government / military operators. It has a good range and payload capacity, making it adaptable for use in a variety of roles.
The Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' is a twin engine turboprop, low wing monoplane of conventional aluminium and steel construction. Designed to comply with European regulations for commercial operations, it is powered by a pair of Pratt and Whitney PT6A-112 turboprop engines. The F406 'Caravan II' can have seating for up to 12 passengers and is used for passenger, utility, and cargo services, and civilian and military surveillance operations.
Similar in design to the pressurised Cessna 441, the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' first flew on 22 September 1983. Production of the F406 'Caravan II' ceased in 2013 with the demise of Reims Aviation.
The Carenado Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' is currently available direct from Carenado and Carenado resellers as a 'download only' product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is priced at US$37.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 401MB and it requires 805MB of HDD space for installation. An 'activation key' is issued on purchase and is used during installation and the installation process is intuitive and seamless.
General. The Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' was designed for passenger, utility, and cargo services, and civilian and military surveillance operations. Carenado have modelled a standard passenger variant of the F406 'Caravan II' and, consistent with Carenado's reputation, they have again produced an aircraft model which is excellent and highly detailed and a marvellous rendition of the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II'.
Exterior. For those familiar with the Cessna 441 'Conquest II' or even the piston engine Cessna 404 'Titan II', the resemblance of the F406 'Caravan II' will be more than obvious. The shape of the F406 'Caravan II' is imposing and shares the distinctive elongated nose of the former two aircraft with the main distinguishing feature being the cruciform style horizontal stabiliser. Carenado's 3D modelling of the aircraft is typical of their exacting high quality and detail with high definition textures. The finish on the various liveries display paint chips, scratches and scrape effects to portray very real, lifelike representations of this aircraft. A comparative review of photographs of real world aircraft to Carenado's rendition reveal the exterior shape and dimensions to be very accurate and a true representation of the real world aircraft. Any noted variations were minor and are considered to be related to real world production variations or a degree of artistic licence on the part of the developer.
Interior. Carenado have modelled the interior on a standard passenger configuration for the variant. Even though the F406 'Caravan II' can seat up to 12 passengers, Carenado have only modelled the passenger cabin with seating for eight with and a generous space for baggage / cargo. The quality of the textures of the seating, carpet, window curtains, and side and roof panelling display the Carenado trademark for quality and detail and include scratches and evidence of 'wear and tear' to give the interior a less than pristine appearance. A comparative review of photographs of real world aircraft to Carenado's rendition reveal the interior shape and dimensions to be very accurate and an excellent representation of the real world aircraft. Any noted variations were minor and are, again, considered to be related to real world production variations or a degree of artistic licence on the part of the developer.
Flight Instruments and Systems. The cockpit of the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' represents that of a typical of Cessna twin engine aircraft and is supplemented with the and Aspen Avionics EFD1000 Primary Flight Display unit, Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit, Bendix/King weather radar. The analogue flight instruments are typical of the model range and consistent with an aircraft of this category and age. All elements of the cockpit are highly accurate and very detailed, and are clear and easy to read, with various alternative cockpit camera views available to provide more detailed clarity. Taking into account the various avionics suite fit out options available for the F406 'Caravan II', a comparative review of photographs of real world aircraft reveal the panel layout to be a highly accurate rendition of similar real world panel layouts.
Models and Liveries. Carenado provide the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' in a single model with five individual liveries (a selection only shown below), each having a unique aircraft registration number, as well as a blank texture for aircraft painting enthusiasts. The liveries display the usual Carenado high quality. Surface textures, reflections, and shadings give the aircraft a crisp and realistic appearance, with additional characteristic scrape effects, dirt, oil, and grease stains providing a worn, used appearance.
The animations of the primary and secondary control surfaces and other moving elements on Carenado's Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' are all modelled faithfully and include:
primary control surfaces - ailerons, elevator, and rudder;
secondary control surfaces - flaps;
others - elevator trim tab, cockpit, cabin, and baggage doors open / close, cockpit windows open / close, cockpit window visors raise / lower, and pilot chair armrests raise / lower; and
various static elements.
There is also an option to add a cargo pod to the aircraft and this also affects the aircraft's flight dynamics.
The lighting and lighting effects on the F406 'Caravan II' are very good and are a realistic representation of the real world aircraft. In particular, the interior night light effects for the instrument panel and the cockpit replicates the night lighting seen in photographs of real world aircraft. It was noted that the lighting can be switched on whilst the master battery and alternator switch is turned off.
The custom 32 bit F406 'Caravan II' sounds are very good, if not a little soft. They provide good stereo separation with view movement in the Virtual Cockpit view and external views and are a reasonably good representative of the real world aircraft.
The general characteristics and performance specifications for the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' are provided in the table. This is based on data from the official Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' Pilot Operating Handbook, data provided by Carenado, and general research sources. Some of this data varies between sources and also may be an approximation due to variances in data and the specific aircraft modelled by Carenado.
A specific Test Flight was conducted to test the flight performance of Carenado's Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II'. The flight was conducted in clear weather with a full fuel load and the aircraft at maximum take-off weight (MTOW). A cruise altitude of 10,000 ft was adopted and the route distance was particularly chosen to provide a basis upon which to test the range characteristics of the F406 'Caravan II'. Like most aircraft of this type, adjustments must be made to fuel / pax loading to remain within the MTOW limitations.
The aircraft was easy to taxi and with flaps set to the take-off position, aircraft rotation occurred at approximately 100 KIAS and the climb out was consistent with the performance specifications for the aircraft. Even at MTOW, the first thing you will notice with the F406 'Caravan II' is how responsive the aircraft is to control inputs and it quickly establishes on the climb to cruise and climbs effortlessly.
During cruise, a power setting for maximum range cruise performance was established, with an rpm setting of 1900 rpm and a total fuel flow rate of approximately 432 lb/hr. This cruise setting produced an average speed of approximately 203 KTAS and an endurance reasonably consistent with the range characteristics of the aircraft. Whilst there were some noted variances in performance, they are considered minor and have negligible impact on the operation of the aircraft. The Test Flight confirms the modelling of the aircraft for speed and range performance to be reasonably accurate.
Configured for landing, with full flaps, and trimmed for a descent rate of approximately 500 ft/min, the aircraft's approach speed was approximately 100 KIAS and it touched down at approximately 85 KIAS, with a landing roll out comparable with the specifications for the aircraft.
In testing the accuracy of the instruments, based on the measured Test Flight, the speed indications on the airspeed indicator, were consistent with the averages measured. Additionally, when establishing a set rate of climb on the vertical speed indicator, the respective gain in altitude on the altimeter was achieved within the measured minute, and a standard rate turn was achieved within the measured two minute period using the turn coordinator.
The performance of Carenado's Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II's was very good in flight, displaying the expected general flight characteristics of this aircraft. For a reasonably large general aviation aircraft, the F406 'Caravan II' is responsive, handles beautifully, and is a delight to fly. Overall, the aircraft model displays a reasonably accurate rendition of the flight characteristics and performance expected of the real world aircraft.
There are eight manuals / documents provided in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf) for the Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II':
EFD1000 Manual - this three page document details the operating of the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 Primary Flight Display unit;
Weather Radar Manual - this three page document details the operating of the Bendix/King Weather Radar;
Normal Procedures - this 10 page manual details the procedures for the normal operation of the aircraft;
Emergency Procedures - this 13 page manual details the emergency procedures for the aircraft;
Performance Tables - this seven page document details the performance tables for the aircraft;
References - this two page document details the airspeed limitations for the aircraft; and
Recommended Settings - this two page document details recommended display and realism settings for the aircraft.
Additional documents provide information for P3D users and information on the integration of the Reality XP GNS 530 GPS unit.
On a value for money assessment, the Carenado Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' is considered excellent.
The aircraft model performed excellently within the existing settings I have in FSX. I have most of my settings set very high and there was no need to make any adjustments. There was no discernible frame rate impact directly attributable to the Carenado Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' and FSX continued to perform smoothly.
The Reims-Cessna F406 'Caravan II' displays the Carenado hallmark traits of detail, accuracy, and quality. The ease of handling and the overall performance characteristics of the F406 'Caravan II' make this a fantastic aircraft, and one which will provide hours of enjoyable flying.