I have found I have a thing for twins. No, not in an ‘Austin Powers’, Japanese twin kind of way, I mean GA twins. Across different flight simulator platforms, I can count the Beechcraft B55 'Baron', Beechcraft B60 'Duke', Cessna 310, and even the Cessna 337 'Skymaster' amongst my collection of aircraft. Stretching the size a little more, you can add the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 'Twin Otter' and Britten-Norman BN-2 'Islander' to the list. I am not sure when it happened, but it has, and I am just going to have to live with it. So, when I had an opportunity to look at Carenado’s Cessna 340 II HD Series for X-Plane, I jumped at the chance. It is an aircraft I have little experience with, but figuring it would be similar to the Cessna 310, I looked forward to getting inside this nice tourer.
Work on the Cessna 340 began in 1969, building on the Cessna 310 to stretch the cabin to accommodate six people in comfort. Taking the tail and the landing gear from it’s sibling, it used the wings of the Cessna 414. It was one of the first pressurised light twins and was marketed as a business aircraft. With a maximum range of just over 1,400 nm’s and the ability to cruise at near 200 kts, the Cessna 340 proved a success. After a production run of over 1,200 aircraft, the last 340 rolled of the production line in 1984. Today they still offer comfortable transport.
Twice the Fun
Carenado have been slowly porting over their excellent range of aircraft from FSX to X-Plane for a while now, and the Cessna 340 is the second of their aircraft I now have for the X-Plane platform. The Cessna 340 is one of the models in the Carenado HD series and I was very keen to see the results. Before that though, the installation. Installing aircraft in X-Plane is quite simple. Just extract the zipped folder into your aircraft directory and your done. That’s it. No product keys, no copy protection. Simple.
The folder contains the odd, unexpected file though. The main aircraft file comes in two flavours, there is the standard file and one especially for X-Plane X. I had previously noticed this with the Cessna 337 a while back. Carenado were trialing the idea of version 10 specific files and it looks like the experiment was a success. So, if you are flying in X-Plane 9, use the ordinary file, otherwise, use the version 10 file. Whichever file you use, you get the usual five liveries, four different coloured ones and the blank white one for repainting. It is a nice choice of liveries but I do wish Carenado included just one or two more. With a livery picked, lets head into the sim.
Static elements add a little bit of realism on the ground
Once I was in the cockpit, my initial reaction was 'Wow!'. Compared to the default aircraft, Carenado's Cessna 340 looks beautiful and it is not surprising. The aircraft boasts 2048 textures both inside and out. Taking a little trip around the inside, Cessna’s plans for a business twin are obvious here. From the cushy leather seats to the walnut fold down table, the interior screams money, and Carenado have really captured the feel nicely. In the cockpit the attention to detail continues. The first thing I am drawn to is the stormscope over on the copilot’s side. Unlike it's FSX counterpart, this weather radar works, displaying the rain in front of the aircraft very nicely. It is a fantastic feature I did not expect, but one I plan on putting to use.
The main panel is beautifully rendered
Interior detail is fantastic, right down to the coffee cup stain
The rest of the cockpit is as expected. The 'standard six' instrument layout is a welcomed sight (I don’t really care for aircraft with a 'glass cockpit'), if a little augmented with various controls and gauges. The Cessna 340 is a serious aircraft. Nowhere is this more evident than with the GPS. Dual Garmin GNS 430 units adorn the panel. Sadly, thanks to an X-Plane limitation, these units are next to useless, only offering the ability to enter a single waypoint rather than a full flight plan. Compared to the same units found in FSX, these are nothing more than crude moving maps. It is an annoyance that needs to be fixed, but it is not Carenado’s fault though.
Pluses and Minuses here. The stormoscope works brilliantly whist the GPS is very poor
Even here the HD panels look great
To the left of the pilot, you will find the lighting panel, along with deicing controls. There is also the internal lights to deal with. These are all on sliders, so you can control the level of light in the cockpit - it is pretty nice in there at night.
The main engine start controls are below the yoke, a quick click moves the yoke out of the way and you are free to reach these with ease. It is a shame though as the yoke is quite nice looking.
Flying with Style
So, the inside looks nice for both passenger and pilots alike, but what is it like to fly? Following the supplied checklists, I get the 'old girl' started to a cacophony of noise. The aircraft sounds have been mastered for stereo and despite X-Plane’s poor sound engine, they sound pretty good. The engines settle into a gentle purr and I get ready to taxi. Even at idle, once the brake comes off, the Cessna 340 wants to roll. Even feathering the props does not spoil its appetite to get going. You really have to keep on the brakes to keep her from running off. At the runway, I line up and prepare for takeoff. The manual suggests it is normal to takeoff with flaps up, so I follow suit and 'open the taps'. The noise really picks up as the purr becomes a growl. The Cessna 340 is not a slouch and I am approaching 80 kts in no time. Gently, I pull back on the yoke and she lifts of the runway. Immediately, the left wing begins to drop. My first thought was the old X-Plane torque bug had surfaced. In fact, I was wrong, for as the airspeed increases, the wings level, and I am not adjusting the aileron trim as much as I thought and I am actually having to return it to the centre. Checking around with a few videos, it seems the Cessna 340 has a propensity to drop her left wing. It is not conclusive, but I am happy enough to consider it normal behaviour. With the gear up, I start throwing her around and I find the Cessna 340 to be a very nice flyer. There are not any surprises, and she will quite happily cruise all day.
Time to check out the rest of the plane. The autopilot is not exactly advanced. Whilst the Cessna 337 boasts a fairly modern autopilot, the Cessna 340 is more of a ‘it’ll hold the wings level and hold altitude’ kind of thing. It is more akin to the old Boeing 727 style autopilot. It does what it says on the tin and I cannot say fairer than that.
I have saved the outside for special comment. Firstly, the model just looks stunning. The 2048 HD textures add both a sharpness and a smoothness to the airframe. The various paints look great, but the show is kind of stolen by a few small objects. Looking just under the wing and you will see the engine exhausts shaking as the engine runs. The radio aerials get affected by the airflow as well. They are small things, but they make a big difference and add just a little bit of magic to the model and flight.
The view from outside can be easily found
The built in camera switcher is much easier than ezdok, and only available on XP Carenado aircraft
It is not just little things vibrating with the air though. It is the things you would not ever see that can impress as well. Drop the flaps and see the beauty of the textured surfaces, or take a look at the underside of the elevators. Detail is everywhere. On the ground you can even explore the hidden depths of the baggage hold.
Many of the exterior views can be changed to your liking
Availability and Price
Carenado's Cessna 340 II HD Series for X-Plane is available as a 'download only' product from Carenado at carenado.com for US$29.95 and also from Carenado resellers.
It is difficult not to love the Cessna 340. Arguably, it is better looking than its FSX counterpart, a fact I found with the Cessna 337 (the FSX version was nowhere near as sharp as the X-Plane version), but there are a few things that let the side down. The GPS needs a drastic overhaul. Admittedly though, it appears to be a Laminar Research problem not a Carenado problem. The fact remains, however, that for FSX, Carenado produce a much nicer custom GPS. The X-Plane versions, based on the simple Garmin GNS 430, and even then, not fully functional, render a big part of this aircraft's panel useless for all but map following. The sounds, whist very good, can sound a little ‘off’ occasionally. The engine start noise, for example, is not great, whist the engine running sounds are brilliant. The other annoying thing with this aircraft is the trim. Load the aircraft into any situation and you will find the trim set to point the nose as high as possible. A little more of a neutral setting would have been nice.
Even outside, the lighting is gorgeous
However, whilst there are niggles, overall, Carenado's Cessna 340 for X-Plane is a beautiful aircraft. In flight she feels responsive without being on edge, plus, thanks to X-Plane X's failure model, parts do fail occasionally. I recently suffered from a blocked fuel vent on one tank that almost ruined a four hour flight. From the HD textures to the reworked flight model for X-Plane X, Carenado's Cessna 340 would do well to grace any X-Plane pilot's hangar. It is a great tourer and a lot of fun.
The Carenado Cessna 340 II HD Series for X-Plane is for X-Plane only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:
* Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 (32 or 64 bit), MAC OS 10.6 (or higher), or Linux;
* X-Plane 9.7 or X-Plane 10.21 (or higher); and
* 2.5 GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 1GB VRAM, and 294MB available HDD space.
A great X-Plane aircraft, it is a top notch tourer that looks as good as she flies. It is only let down by the GPS and hindered by small bugs.
|• External Model:||9.5/10|
|• Internal Model:||9.0/10|
|• Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers):||9.5/10|
|• Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like):||9.0/10|
|• Value for money:||9.0/10|
|Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.1/10, with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.|