It has been a while since an X-Plane aircraft release has captured my attention but when Aerobask announced that they were doing a new business jet and releasing it ahead of their highly anticipated Falcon 8X project, I immediately took note. Now that the Phenom 300 is out, what’s it like and what are my first impressions of this aircraft? Let’s take a look!
Understanding the Phenom 300 appeal
The Phenom 300 is a small light business jet by Embraer that is a follow on from their earlier success with the Phenom 100. Aircraft of this class I find to be very interesting as they are fast enough to cover large distances quickly just like an airliner but at much smaller sizes making them sportier to handle and able to land at smaller airports. Purely from a flight simulation perspective, this puts them in a unique spot where you can fly and explore in ways that an airliner wouldn’t or couldn’t.
Aerobask has modeled the original Phenom 300 which makes use of the now classic Garmin G1000 series avionics suite as opposed to the newer 300E with the fancier G3000. This works well for a number of reasons but the primary one is because X-Plane 11 features a relatively complete G1000 (they call it the X1000) simulation. SIDS, STARS, departures, approaches, and importing flight plans are all features that X-Plane’s X1000 already handles along with the more typical autopilot controls such as heading, navigation and vertical speed modes.
The use of the G1000 system here holds lots of appeal for me because I’ve become familiar with some parts of the G1000 system thanks to another Aerobask aircraft – the Robin DR401. So, if you’ve flown with a G1000 aircraft before, the Phenom’s cockpit will look immediately familiar and you’ll already know your way around some of the types operation.
Aerobask is a well known X-Plane developer and have really honed their aircraft making skills over the years. Their G1000 equipped cockpit comes with some added bonuses of custom electrical and performance graphics as well as an integrated synthetic vision system which is overlayed on top of the G1000’s basic operation. And it works great!
I loaded up the Phenom 300 for the first time on the same day of release and was very excited to check this aircraft out. The aircraft comes with AviTab integration which I note immediately because I put the AviTab 3D tablet into the cockpit and went through the PDF documentation right there in the cockpit. I still think MSFS’s guided start-up procedures system is better but this has its own charm as it feels very immersive and felt like I was sitting right there in the cockpit reading the procedures.
I’ll get more into this during the full review but I was pleased to see that Aerobask has fully modeled the rear cabin as well as the exterior door and the cargo compartments on both the nose and in the rear of the aircraft. They have also modeled the fuel pump system which I opened and then haven’t had a chance to check out since. By the way, that rear cabin features folding down information displays that show the stages of flight and the current time as well as folding trays and tables. Totally unnecessary but so cool to see.
Flying the aircraft around
Actually flying the aircraft will take a bit of getting used to. The Phenom is a hot performer with a suggested 12-20 degree nose up angle on takeoff so as to prevent overspeed while the gear and flaps come up. The control sensitivity is high and Aerobask have already commented on adjusting the elevator to be a bit less twitchy. There’s also a bug with the autopilot that I ran into where an audible warning came up over and over about the trim not being right. Eventually it settled down but this is also to be fixed in a patch.
I flew a couple of short flights between Seattle International (KSEA) and Skagit Regional Airport (KBVS) with my trip back to Seattle being conducted at sunset and offering some seriously impressive visuals.
I had to do go arounds for both of my landing as I was coming in too fast and not losing enough speed for a safe landing. Others have reported the same and I’m guessing that the jet’s slippery profile and small spoilers don’t offer quite enough speed loss for my more fighter pilot short final landings. I’ve got work to do here for sure!
I was initially uncertain if the skin quality was as high as it should be because it seems to lack a roughmet and appeared to have no gloss but in the setting sun the aircraft looked impressive and it’s likely either my settings or a choice by the developers to offer a slightly less glossy looking aircraft. Also, X-Plane does lack some of the graphical flourish of MSFS and other sims right now so that may also be me reacting to that.
For those asking, under X-Plane 11.52 running with the Vulkan API, I saw consistent frame rates of 40-45fps. This aircraft is frame rate friendly and efficient for the size and level of detail that it has. It does come with a 2K skin for those who want something that requires less VRAM but I saw no issues on my now slightly older 1070ti.
Minor issues and my unfamiliarity with the type aside, my first impressions are that this is an outstanding aircraft. With so few business jets available in X-Plane compared to other types, getting something unique like the Phenom 300 from a developer like Aerobask is a bit of a treat. The aircraft has a few bugs but I’m fully anticipating that those will be patched out via the Skunkworks patch system and the developers at Aerobask. Once those are in place and I’ve had more time with the aircraft I will be doing a full review and I’ll probably be flying this quite a bit.
For now, if the aircraft sounds like something you must have, check it out in the X-Plane.org Store for $44.95 USD.