Just Flight DHC-3 Otter Review

Introduction

When you start talking about chipmunks, beavers, otters, caribou, and buffalo in the same context you can only be talking about one thing, de Havilland Canada. Originally created in 1928 by British de Havilland to build aircraft for the training of Canadian airman, de Havilland Canada went on to establish their reputation in the design and production of some of the most rugged and capable STOL utility and transport aircraft ever produced. With designs which were uniquely suited to the harsh Canadian environment, they were quick to be adopted for use in other remote and rugged areas of the world. The DHC-3 Otter was one such design, a veritable 'one ton truck' of the air, which soon found a significant niche as a bush aircraft and it continues to be highly sort after over 60 years after it was first produced.

The DHC-3 Otter is an aircraft which has not attracted much attention as a commercial payware add-on for the flight sim community. A number of freeware versions have been developed over the years but some of these date as far back as pre FS9 days. Just Flight have refocused part of their efforts in the production of light general aviation and utility aircraft, and in conjunction with Aeroplane Heaven, have brought this extraordinary aircraft into the realm of the current generation of fight simulators. The DHC-3 Otter is an aircraft which will appeal to general aviation fans looking for that rugged utility aircraft for bush flying into remote areas.

History

The de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter is a high wing, single engine, monoplane, with a fixed, tailwheel landing gear. Powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-1340 Wasp, nine cylinder, air cooled, 600 hp (448 kW), radial engine, it has seating for up to 11 passengers in the main cabin. Wanting to extend the company's line of rugged STOL utility transports that had begun with the DHC-2 Beaver, de Havilland Canada conceived the DHC-3 Otter to perform the same roles as the smaller and highly successful Beaver.

Design work began in January 1951 and using the same overall configuration as the DHC2 Beaver, the new design incorporated a longer fuselage, greater wing span, a cruciform tail, and was much heavier. The DHC-3 Otter received Canadian certification in November 1952 and entered production shortly thereafter. It quickly found ready acceptance in bush airlines but also attracted the attention of the military, with the aircraft being used by the USA (the single largest operator), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and India, to name a few. The aircraft could be configured with floats and skis and later modifications included the fitting of turboprop engines or a STOL kit for increased performance. In a production run which finally ceased in 1967, a total of 466 DHC-3 Otters were manufactured.

Availability and Installation

The Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is currently available direct from Just Flight and Just Flight resellers as a download only product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is normally priced at £24.99, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 1.01GB and it requires 2GB of HDD/SSD space for installation. You are required to log in to your Just Flight account during installation to verify your purchase and the installation process which is intuitive and seamless.

Model Features

The major model features of the DHC-3 Otter include:

accurately modelled using official real world aircraft plans;
four variants included, wheel, amphibian, float, and ski;
detailed engine with start stutter effects and volumetric prop;
choice of a classic or modern cockpit;
fully modelled passenger cabin area with a variety of deployable cargo, including a ski-doo and motocross bikes;
highly detailed cockpit with uniquely rendered metal effects, realistic wear and tear, and dynamic specular effects on surfaces;
realistic systems functionality, including engine start and fuel tank selection;
functional electrical or standby hand crank engine start systems;
authentic R-1340 radial sound set; and
realistic and accurate flight dynamics.

Visual Appearance

General Overview. The DHC-3 Otter's pedigree is clearly evident in the aircraft's modelling. A larger version of the DHC-2 Beaver, the design and lines of its older stablemate are clearly evident in the large radial engine, high mounted wing, cockpit area, and enlarged cabin. The DHC-3 Otter was designed for rugged country bush flying and taking one look at the model you can see the ruggedness in its design. It is a large imposing aircraft which leaves no doubt why it has been called a veritable 'one ton truck' of the air. The modelling is excellent and fully captures the design and purpose of the aircraft.

Exterior. The large round cowling which conceals the DHC-3 Otter's big R-1340 Wasp radial engine grabs your attention before quickly giving way to the large high mounted wing. If the engine is imposing, then the size of the wing is even more so. The size of these two give the cockpit area a rather cramped and squashed perspective which is emphasised even more by the increased size of the rear cabin area. The solid landing gear struts leave no question about the ruggedness of this aircraft and its intended purpose. The rear fuselage is large and distinctively box shaped, underpinning the 'one ton truck' of the air label, and whilst the empennage is similar in shape to that of the DHC-2 Beaver, it differs by having a cruciform tail configuration. The DHC-3 Otter has a unique appearance, with the Antonov An-2 being the only other aircraft which bears any form of resemblance. The external model is of a high quality, displaying magnificent detail and features of the the aircraft.

Interior. The exterior of the DHC-3 Otter can nearly be described as 'industrial' and the interior is no different. The interior is modelled on the standard cargo configuration, with the main entry to the cabin being via the double door on the rear left side of the cabin. Additional separate door access is provided for the pilot and front passenger, respectively. The cabin area is typically spacious, with fold up seating portrayed in the stowed condition. Depending on the selected livery, various types of adventure vehicles are portrayed as cargo in the cabin area. The quality of the cabin texturing and rendering is average, lacking the quality of the exterior. The texturing lacks the level of detail which has become the expected standard with current add-on aircraft.

Flight Instruments, Avionics, and Aircraft Systems. The cockpit of the DHC-3 Otter is characteristic of the aircraft and the production era. A traditional and modern instrument fitout is provided depending on the selected livery. In both cases, the primary flight instruments are all analogue with the modern fitout being presented with more modern versions of these instruments, the addition of a Garmin GNS 430 GPS unit, a Bendix KR 87 ADF, and an autopilot. The cockpit panel displays evidence of wear marks, but again, the quality of the textures and rendering for the cockpit and instruments similarly lacks high quality and falls short of expectations again. Two marvellous features of the aircraft's systems are the manually operated hydraulic system for the flaps, amphibian landing gear, and skis. These systems replicate the real world aircraft in that the pressure must be manually pumped into the reservoir tank for operation. Alternatively, the default keyboard commands for flaps and landing key can be used. Another excellent feature is the manual starting of the engine, which also nicely replicates the process of the real world aircraft. There are two methods, an inertial starter, or a manual crank handle and both methods are covered in the manual.

Lighting, Animations, and Sounds. The night lighting effect in the cockpit provides a fair representation of the night lighting in the real world aircraft. The DHC-3 Otter includes the typical range of animations and static elements you would expect for such an aircraft. Additionally, for those aircraft with cargo, the cargo can also be deployed using switches in the cockpit. The engine sounds are a reasonable representation of the DHC-3 Otter's radial engine, producing a lovely deep burbling sound at idle, which increases to a deep roar as the throttles are advanced. The engine sounds provide very good stereo separation in both the internal and external views.

Models and Liveries. The DHC-3 Otter is provided in four models, wheel, amphibian, float, and ski, with 11 individual liveries (a selection showing below) provided across the model range. There is also a PSD paint kit provided for aircraft painting enthusiasts. Displaying high quality, the surface textures, reflections, and shadings, give each aircraft a very good appearance. Whilst fuselage weathering and wear and tear marks were evident, the aircraft lack any kind of dirt, exhaust, oil, or grease stains.

Summary, Issues, and Variations. The exterior rendition of the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is highly detailed and accurate, and the visual and texture quality is excellent, providing a faithful representation of the real world aircraft. Whilst the representation of the interior is reflective of the real world aircraft, unfortunately the quality of the interior textures and rendering are disappointing by comparison. Whilst most major elements of the instrumentation are clear and easy to read, they lack any type of reflections on the instrument glass and have a very amateurish or cartoonish look about them. The same also applies to the quality of the textures and rendering in the rear cabin. There were additional external visual issues noted with the aircraft containing cargo, i.e. the dirt bike, jetski, and ski-doo. In one instance, the dirt bike cargo was missing in the external view. Furthermore, in all instances of the jet ski and ski-doo cargo, the represented dimensions of the cargo make it impossible for them to be unloaded through the main cabin access door, so how they were loaded is totally beyond me. Some might consider this to be trivial, however, when presented with a visual model, which is supposedly representative of a real world aircraft, and includes these additional listed features as a selling point, it is this lack of attention to detail and poor presentation which results in a product being anything else but average. Another issue is to do with the Garmin GNS 430 GPS unit. A 2D pop-up is available for the GPS, however, it uses the default Garmin GNS 500 GPS unit, a unit which lacks some of the functionality of the GNS 430 GPS unit. Whilst the engine sounds are a reasonable representation of the real world aircraft, I felt that at full throttle the sounds did not quite capture the deep resonance of the R-1340 Wasp radial engine. After much research and listening to various videos of real world aircraft, I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt here on the basis of the quality of sound in the videos. Any other noted visual 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. Any noted issues and variations with cockpit functions and operation were considered minor and / or in the interests of simplifying the function for practical flight simulator use.

General Characteristics and Performance Specifications

The general characteristics and performance specifications for the DHC-3 Otter are provided in the table. This is based on data from the official DHC-3 Otter Pilot Operating Handbook, data provided by Just Flight, 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 Just Flight.

General Characteristics

Crew One
Passenger Capacity Up to 12
Length 41 ft 10 in (12.8 m)
Wingspan 58 ft 0 in (17.69 m)
Height 12 ft 7 in (8.83 m)
Empty Weight 4,431 lb (2,010 kg)
Fuel Capacity 216 US gal (817 l)
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 8,000 lb (3,629 kg)
Power Plant Pratt and Whitney R-1340-S1H-G Wasp, nine cylinder, air cooled, radial engine, 600 hp (448 kW)

Performance Specifications

Maximum Speed 139 kts (160 mph, 257 km/h)
Cruise Speed 105 kts (121 mph, 195 km/h)
Stall Speed 50 kts (58 mph, 93 km/h) full flaps, engine at idle
Range 822 nm (945 mi, 1,522 km)
Service Ceiling 18,800 ft (5,730 m)
Rate of Climb 850 ft/min (259 m/min)

Flight Performance

A specific Test Flight was conducted to test the flight performance of the DHC-3 Otter. 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 5,000 ft was adopted and the route distance was particularly chosen to provide a basis upon which to test the range characteristics of the aircraft.

The aircraft was very easy to taxi. With flaps and trim set to the take-off position, aircraft rotation occurred at approximately 60 KIAS. The R-1340 Wasp engine provides the DHC-3 Otter with powerful grunt, and whilst the take-off and climb out is gentle and sedate, the big radial engine pulls the aircraft into the air with consummate ease, maintaining a steady rate of climb of 800 ft/min at 75 KIAS.

During cruise, a cruise power setting was established with a manifold pressure setting of 30.0 inHg and an RPM setting of 2000 RPM. With this cruise setting, the aircraft trims out and produces a ground speed of approximately 110 kts. These figures are reasonably consistent with the performance characteristics of the aircraft. The Test Flight confirms the modelling of the aircraft for speed performance to be what would reasonably be expected of this aircraft.

Configured for landing, with full flaps, and trimmed for a descent rate of approximately 500 ft/min, the aircraft's approach speed was approximately 60 KIAS and it touched down at approximately 55 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 the DHC-3 Otter met the expectations for this aircraft. The aircraft could be described as a lumbering behemoth, however, its general handling characteristics are gentle and excellent. Overall, the aircraft model displays an excellent rendition of the flight characteristics and performance against the aircraft performance data.

Documentation

A comprehensive manual in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf) consisting of 39 pages is provided for the DHC-3 Otter and it covers all necessary aspects for the operation of the aircraft including:

panel guide,
manual engine start procedures,
flying the aircraft, and
checklists.

Value for Money

At £24.99, the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is considered marginally overpriced. Whilst the external modelling and textures are excellent, more is expected of the interior for this price, not to mention the identified issues. Consequently, the Value for Money for the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is only considered fair.

Simulator Performance

The aircraft model performed excellently within the existing settings I have in P3D. 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 Just Flight DHC-3 Otter and P3D continued to perform smoothly.

Technical Requirements

This version of the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is for FSX/FSX SE/P3D only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:

Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP;
FSX with SP2 installed (or Acceleration Pack), FSX Steam Edition, or Prepar3D (v1/v2/v3/v4); and
Pentium V, 2GHz CPU or similar, 2GB RAM, 1GB graphics card, and 2GB available HDD space.

Review Computer Specifications

The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:

Intel i7 990X Extreme 3.46GHz;
NVidia GTX980 G1 Gaming, 4GB, 1228/1329MHz;
12GB, Kingston DDR3, 2000MHz, XMP T1 CL9 HyperX;
Windows 7, (64bit); and
Lockheed Martin P3D Version 4.

Additional Major Add-ons. Active Sky for P3Dv4, Active Sky Cloud Art, SPAD.neXt, FS Global Ultimate region series, Orbx FTX Global BASE, Orbx FTX Global VECTOR, Orbx FTX Global openLC series, Orbx FTX region series, Orbx FTX airport series, and Orbx FTX Trees HD.

Conclusion

There is so much to admire and enjoy about the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter and I have thoroughly enjoyed flying it and will continue to do so. Likewise, there is a lot to respect about Aeroplane Heaven's overall modelling of the aircraft as they have done a fine job of capturing the visual essence of this aircraft and its phenomenal flying characteristics. However, were their competitors have forged ahead, constantly raising the standards bar on the internal modelling, Aeroplane Heaven continue to lag behind, yet the price remains relative to superior quality products. This is even more disappointing when it is the singular biggest disappointment in what otherwise could be an excellent aircraft add-on. Nonetheless, the flight performance is everything you would expect of an aircraft with a de Havilland Canada pedigree. Displaying great handling and marvellous short field performance, it is a great aircraft to fly and it will certainly appeal to bush flying devotees looking for a STOL aircraft with the extra payload capacity. If you can overlook shortcomings in the internal modelling and the price, the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is certainly worth consideration.


Verdict and Scores

Verdict

A marvellous aircraft with great flight characteristics and handling, the Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is let down by the quality of the internal model.

Scores

For
Against
Category
Score/10
Excellent external model. Disappointing quality of the internal modelling. External Model 9.5
Realistic flight characteristics and handling. Value for Money is marginal. Internal Model 6.0
Excellent hydraulic systems functionality. Sounds 9.0
Comprehensive range of aircraft models. Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers) 9.0
Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like) 10
    Documentation 9.0
    Value for Money 7.0

Overall Score

The Just Flight DHC-3 Otter is awarded an overall Mutley's Hangar score of 8.5/10,
with a "Highly Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Silver Award.