PMDG have a long history of creating award winning high quality add-on aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Similarly, Aerosoft have a history of publishing only the finest add-ons available for FS. Surely this combination is a match made in heaven.
The J41 is a regional turboprop airliner and is a major development of the J31/32. It entered service in 1992 with the goal of competing directly with other 30 seat aircraft like the Embraer Brasilia, Dornier 328 and Saab 340. The J41’s fuselage is 8 feet longer than the J31/32 and was a completely new design that didn’t use any parts of the old fuselage.
The aircraft was fitted with Garett TPE331-14 engines which eventually delivered 1,650 SHP. These engines have been accurately reproduced by PMDG in this simulation. The flight deck is equipped with a modern EFIS setup that has been recreated in exacting detail by PMDG. There are over 90 J41’s in operation today with airlines such as Eastern Airways, South African Airlink and Brindabella Airlines.
Until now a complex simulation of this aircraft has been missing from the FS world, PMDG have decided to right that wrong in emphatic fashion. What started out as a ‘lite’ product (similar to the B1900D and B1900C) quickly turned into a fully fledged complex simulation. During its 9 months of development no stone was left unturned in the quest for absolute realism. The head of PMDG actually used to be a captain on the J41, so I would expect nothing less that perfection!
Installation & Setup
The installation was a little different to the norm for products from Aerosoft. You are able to download the 220mb file (250mb installed) and install it without the need for a registration key. However, you will be prompted to enter the reg-key when you first select the aircraft in FSX and you will need an active internet connection to activate the add-on. I would suspect that the boxed version wouldn’t require this step.
After installation is complete a new folder will be created on your start menu which includes a configuration manager (more on that later), the aircraft operating manual – 543 pages , tutorial – 98 pages, checklists and an introduction/overview document – 93 pages. As I’m sure you will agree PMDG cannot be accused of providing lack of information. In all honesty, you will be more than able to fly this aircraft by reading the tutorial only. But if you are unsure of something, the main AOM is there for reference. The overview manual is just that; an over-view of the aircraft. I would recommend reading this through so that you are aware of what to expect when you jump into the cockpit. There are some new features included which take a little time getting used to; left clicking to decrease values and right clicking to increase values is one that I took a while to become used to.
The configuration manager is a very useful tool, although different from normal configuration tools for FS aircraft. Rather than setting the load-outs for panel states, it is used to help tune the add-on to suit your system. This is a complex aircraft and will cause FS to take a hit on frame rates, this tool helps to reduce that effect by allowing you to alter several variables: EFIS/EADI refresh rates, panel resolution, engine operations, external model (icing/passengers) and the virtual cockpit model. I tried running everything at max level, but coming into major airports the frame rates took a huge nose dive. With some tweaking I’ve managed to achieve respectable frame rates of around 15-20fps
I strongly advise anybody who buys this add-on to read the tutorial flight before attempting to fly this aircraft; Ctrl+E just won’t cut it (or work!). Unless you follow the start-up procedures to the letter you will end up with a destroyed engine and a fire on the ramp, not to mention all that planning time wasted. If you put the time and effort in to learn this aircraft then you will be richly rewarded. I have found that the easiest way to load the aircraft in the correct state is:
· Load up the default Cessna at an airport and ensure it is in a cold & dark state
· Then load up the PMDG J41 tutorial flight
· Reposition to your departure airport – you will need to set the time & date
It does take a little longer to do it this way, but it’s the best way that I’ve found to avoid any issues when starting up. Patience pays off with this add-on.
What do you get?
Apart from the excellent aircraft and comprehensive manuals, not a lot. I was very disappointed that there was only 1 livery included; PMDG’s own. However, there are lots available to download for free from the PMDG site which are all easy to install. I can see this from both sides of the coin; you only install the liveries you want, which helps save precious hard drive space, but it would have been nice to have at least a few extra liveries included. This aside, you can expect to find the usually vast array of animations, excellent modelling and superb flight handling that PMDG are well known for.
Also included is an interactive load sheet. This allows you to change the payload of the aircraft in real time; if you add passengers this will be reflected in the weight of the aircraft and the passengers that you can see. Similarly, you are able to alter the amount of baggage on the flight which will affect the handling characteristics. This is a fantastic addition and is a far better way to load the aircraft than the default payload editor. You will, however, need to load the fuel by the payload editor as there isn’t a fuel planner included. Not that you need one as fuel calculations are easy; 1,000lbs fuel burn per hour plus reserves. Easy! The speed cards are also accessible from the cockpit, which eliminates the need for you to be switching between the AOM pdf file to acquire the relevant speeds.
Unfortunately the J41 only has a virtual cockpit, which may put off users who prefer the option of a 2D panel. The cockpit is stunning and possibly the best I’ve seen to date. Although I feel that to enjoy the full experience Track IR is needed due to you needing to switch between a few panels in quick succession during the start up phase. The speed cards would be very difficult to read if I wasn’t able to move my head closer to the cards. I know it is possible to zoom in using the keyboard, but I think that takes away some of the realism.
At first finding
your way around the cockpit may be a little daunting, but
perseverance and some time with the manuals will pay off in the
It is a fantastic place to be though; each and every button, knob and switch is modelled in fantastic 3D accuracy. The clicks and clanks when moving switches all sound realistic and help you feel part of the aircraft. Everything is logically laid out, meaning that after a few flights you will feel right at home in this excellent 3D cockpit.
There are several camera angles in the cockpit which help make different areas of the panel become clearer/closer to you, these are also all modelled in 3D and are pin sharp even close up. In a recent flight I noticed that even the areas underneath the panel have been given some attention. It would have been easy to leave these bits out as I doubt that many people will want to look underneath the panel!
There is also an FMC included which is very easy to use after you have programmed a few flights. It is nowhere near as complex to operate as the aircraft such as the 737 or 747, but you will still need to read the manual to gain a full understanding of how to operate it.
Once again PMDG are raising the bar with another jaw dropping model. It seems that with each new release the bar is raised.
The external model has been accurately modelled including the smallest details and has been painted using high resolution photo-real textures. It’s amazing that such detail can be included without the PC grinding to a halt. You can expect to find all the usual animations and some more.
How does she fly?
After the long process of learning how to start the engines, which need to be constantly monitored, and finally getting to the hold short point you are ready to go. Remember to remove the start-locks: these hold the propellers at fine pitch during the start-up sequence to reduce the drag induced by airflow as the propeller is rotated in the start-up sequence. In order to get enough power to take-off you will need to remove these, which is accomplished by applying the reversers until you hear ‘start locks removed’ called out. Then press F1 to return the throttles to idle. DO NOT use your flight yoke throttle to do this; more often than not I found that this destroyed the engines. Next you will need to move the propellers to take-off RPM as they will still be in taxi-mode. Move them forward to 100% and you will hear ‘condition levers flight’ called out. The props only have 3 settings you need to know about: 100% for take-off, 96% for the rest of the flight,72% for taxi. It’s easy to tell when you are moving into flight condition as the noise increases substantially.
You need to be gentle with applying the power so that you can make sure you don’t move the engines outside of their operational limits. Blast down the runway and the J41 will lift away and climb out according to the published numbers in the AOM. The handling is just sublime; almost as if you are flying a small GA aircraft. It’s very easy to fly departures and approaches by hand, and also a lot of fun. Once you have been cleared to your cruise altitude turn on the auto-pilot, sit back and keep an eye on the engines. The auto-pilot is very easy to use and won’t require too much studying to become proficient at using it.
One thing to bear in mind with this aircraft is ‘slow down and go down’. It is very difficult to slow this aircraft during a descent; she just loves to go fast. Careful planning and fore-thought are needed to prevent you from shooting past the runway. Fortunately the manual has a section devoted to preventing you over shooting the runway.
As I have mentioned previously, the cockpit sounds are fantastic. The different clicks for the switches and knobs, although subtle, all add to make this add-on fantastic. The pièce de résistance of the sound set are the engines. They are loud! I had to turn the engine sound down in the FSX settings just so that I was able to hear ATC. The sounds round of the add-on superbly and give it that polished feel of a fantastic add-on. There has been no effort spared in creating any part of this add-on.
This add-on is
fantastic, and since downloading it several months ago I’ve used
it extensively. It might not be the best add-on for a casual
simmer, but if you like spending time getting to know an
aircraft and learning how to operate it correctly then it will
be perfect for you.
If you don’t have the time to read the manuals to learn how to start her up, there are lots of videos on YouTube showing you how. I mentioned at the beginning of the review that it was surely a match made in heaven with PMDG and Aerosoft teaming up, and indeed it is.
It will require some tweaking to get your system set-up to run it as you like; lower end systems will struggle with all the eye candy and extras activated, but it is well worth it. It’s not an aircraft you can just jump into and go; it will take at least 15 minutes to get to the stage where you can taxi if you are programming the FMC with your route.
long and hard about what score to award the J41, everything
points towards a full 10/10, but I feel that the lack of extra
liveries included in the download lowers to score.
So I will have to award 9/10, however, this will easily become a 10/10 if more liveries were included!