There are just 12 business jets in the X-Plane.org store. It’s one of the most under-serviced aspects of aviation in the X-Plane 11 sim and there are precious few options for those who want a sleek and stylish modern business jet. X-Plane developer Aerobask seems set to change that with the release of their second business jet to the store with a third one on the way. The Phenom 300 has just released and after a few weeks of flying it around I’m ready to write my full review on this latest aircraft. What’s it like to fly, how detailed is it, what can you do with it, and how does it stack up? Read on!
Aerobask have put a ton of features into the Phenom 300 and it starts with the 3D model and texture work. The aircraft comes with the usual 4K PBR textures (with an available 2K livery that reduces VRAM needs), a detailed cockpit, cabin and exterior, with three cabin styles and 9 liveries. It also has FMOD sounds which include samples recorded from a real aircraft.
There are also the systems to consider which start with a G1000 avionics system (using the Laminar X1000 as a base) with a bunch of features piled on top. Most notably, there is a synthetic vision system which can show you terrain details even when blind because of weather or time of day.
The aircraft also has a custom electrical, fuel, anti-ice and status display (called synoptics) which overlays seamlessly on the central screen.
Finally, this aircraft has systems modeling including a custom coded Integrated Electronic Standby Instrument (IESI), FADEC-driven engine thrust system, functional test switch, a working 3D refueling panel, oxygen systems, anti-ice systems, and an automatic pressurization system.
Flying the jet
One of the key highlights of the Phenom is its small jet performance. Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney PW535E engines with 3,360lbs of thrust, this aircraft can easily cruise at 35,000 feet with 280-300 knots indicated. The sporty handling and the ability of the jet to perform a bit like an airliner, cruising at high altitudes and at high speeds, without being as big or as complicated, really appeals to me as it lets you tour around an area quickly but you get flexibility in where you can land with a listed 2,212 feet required for landing and just over 3,000 feet needed for take off.
The initial release version had overly sensitive controls, however, following the first patch, Aerobask has really tightened up the elevator and overall controllability of the aircraft. The Phenom 300 feels great to hand fly and its pleasant enough that you could easily hand fly the jet the whole time if you wanted.
Takeoff happens quickly at full power with rotation happening at just 108kts followed by a 12-20 degree nose up attitude recommended to allow for enough time for the gear and flaps to come up before exceeding the maximum speed tolerances for both of those systems. That makes for a fun, fighter jet style takeoff!
Landing is perhaps the most challenging part of managing the aircraft as it just doesn’t want to slow down. Longer approaches and careful speed management using throttle, air brakes, and flaps are required to get down to a Vref of 104 kts. My first few landing attempts all resulted in go-arounds but more recently I’ve been getting better at setting up the approach and getting the speed down to the correct level. 5,000 foot runways and the stated 3,000 foot runway is probably doable too with practice and under the right circumstances. There are no thrust reversers so this type’s slow Vref speed is likely the reason for such good short field performance. Phenom pilots on YouTube have also recommend flying the aircraft straight in without a flare as the aircraft does tend to float when flared.
Systems modeling, more than skin deep
A key highlight is the use of the G1000 avionics on the aircraft. Years ago, Carenado released a Phenom 100 business jet. It looked good but it uses Carenado’s own G1000 system which lacks features like SIDS, STARS, departure and approach modes. Those are no issue with Aerobask’s Phenom 300 which makes full use of the X1000 system that X-Plane has built-in. Full IFR capabilities that you can find on other X-Plane X1000 equipped aircraft are all available here too. I admittedly am not as well versed in these features just yet but my limited work with creating a flight plan and doing approach waypoints all worked as expected.
Although newer Phenom 300E’s have the G3000 system, Aerobask elected to go with an earlier model with the G1000. Frankly that seems like a smart choice given how much is already done with the G1000 series in X-Plane. It also ensures that anyone who has G1000 simulator equipment should be able to make easy use of this aircraft.
As mentioned earlier in the feature overview but worth mentioning again, Aerobask has also gone the extra step of including OscarPilote’s synthetic vision system as well as several systems overlays including fuel, electrical and de-icing. The synthetic vision system works really well in my experience despite being labeled ‘experimental’ by OscarPilote and Aerobask.
The Phenom 300 also has AviTab integration with the aircraft which puts an iPad styled 3D tablet right in the cockpit (or popped out as a 2D window if preferred). The tablet has the usual AviTab capabilities as well as Aerobask features such as the ability to open and close the cargo doors and place or remove static elements (while on the ground). It’s also where you can turn on and off things like the synthetic vision and adjust the audio levels both inside and out. Aerobask has tried a few different ways to build this kind of interface over the years but this is by far my favourite.
The Phenom 300 doesn’t quite get into the detailed maintenance layers that something like the Hotstart TBM does but nearly ever other piece of systems depth is present from the FADEC controls, fuel and icing modeling, and custom programmed IESI, it’s hard not to acknowledge the relatively deep level of systems modeling the Aerobask has gone to with this aircraft.
Visual details inside and out
My love affair with this aircraft continues in the visual section. First, the 3D model work is good with all of the various antennas, panels and fine details modeled well inside and out. I have minor quibbles with the sparing use of polygons around the windows but that’s a minor issue. I was also very impressed to discover that this aircraft does have flexible wings which will bend and flex under load or in severe turbulence.
Both inside and out, you’ll find plenty of details and Aerobask has gone through the effort of fully modeling the interior cabin and that includes the beautiful detail work on the seating, folding tray tables (with beverages and newspapers). It even has a lavatory! If frame rates are an issue for you, the rear section can be hidden from view in the options menu but I’d recommend keeping it on if you can as it just looks so good.
Depending on the exterior scheme that you have selected, the interior will be one of three different options as well which taps into that customized business jet, lavish lifestyle, that the aircraft is simulating.
The lighting work is also really well done. Nav lights cast reflective glows on the ground, cockpit lights are controllable and dimmable, the lights in the passenger cabin area are also controllable. There are supposed to be lights on the passenger door which I’ve seen in promotional materials but was never able to figure out how to control myself. Nonetheless, I’m sure it’s there and I love that kind of attention to detail.
Texture work is also good all around and generally speaking the aircraft looks fantastic. I do, however, find Aerobask’s style leans toward the crisp and clean look which can sometimes look a little clinical. A couple of scratches, a little dirt and more attention to the PBR texturing style would elevate this to the next level. There are some circumstances, particularly on a cloudy day, where the textures have an oddly matte appearance. A few tweaks here would fully satisfy me!
The included liveries are also excellent and offer a variety of schemes. None of these are a copy and paste with a different colour kind of experience. Instead, each one seems to be based on a real aircraft and they are all unique from each other with some offering some striking colours.
Appreciating the sounds
Aerobask has done a great job with the sounds. Sound recordings were taken from a real Phenom 300 and that makes a huge difference as this jet doesn’t have a hollow sounding engine experience as some other jets do. The FMOD sound engine, typical on some X-Plane modules, helps take those sounds and make them work well within the sim environment.
There are plenty of aural queues in the aircraft such as the various buzzers for stalls and icing problems to the voice responses for things like the aircraft being out of trim, or when the T/O button is pressed and a voice reads back “Take off, OK” or an indication that takeoff is not ok and something needs to be done first. Excellent!
Every sound is satisfying and that includes the various knobs and switches to the start-up of the jet engines to the spooling and powerful thrust sounds of them when taking off to cruising along at altitude. Aerobask really did work hard to make sure that their aircraft sounded good!
The only sounds that I may say are a bit disappointing is on the exterior camera when doing a flypast. There it takes on a familiar synthetic sound during the height of the Doppler shift that so many sims struggle with. It’s hardly a big issue but if you were looking for some criticism… that’d be it. Everything else in this jet sounds superb!
A brief note about performance
Simulation performance can change dramatically from aircraft type to type in X-Plane. Keeping the comparisons in-house, I love the Aerobask DA62, but it’s frame rate hit is significant and that aircraft tends to give me about 30-35fps under X-Plane 11.52 with Vulkan API on (better than the 15-25fps I used to get previously). By contrast, the Phenom 300 despite its details and complexity, runs superbly well and my frame rates averaging in the 30-45 fps range. That’s all happening on my now aged Core i5 6600 with 16GB of RAM and a GTX 1070ti.
Aerobask mentioned that their efforts here optimizing the Phenom 300 are also helping them trim the high-performance overhead of their in development Falcon 8x project. However they managed that, I’d say that it paid off here and hopefully will also be the case for the Falcon when that releases.
Final thoughts and conclusions
When Aerobask announced the Phenom 300 just a couple of months ago, I wondered what the plan was with this aircraft as most of the development studio’s efforts seems to have been directed at the Falcon 8X project. With the Falcon’s entirely custom avionics system surely taking a considerable amount of time to model, I wondered if the Phenom was just a side project that they did to generate some extra funds while the Falcon came to fruition. If that was at all the intention and not something that I conjured up on my own, it doesn’t show in any way. This is a high quality effort!
The Phenom 300 by Aerobask has deep systems, detailed modeling both inside and out, excellent sounds and flight modeling, and a capable avionics system. The Phenom does not have the extra level of persistent maintenance management that you might get with something like the HotStart TBM but it also doesn’t command the same price premium and comes in $20 cheaper by comparison.
The Aerobask Phenom 300 isn’t entirely bug free and has had a few issues on launch including an overly sensitive elevator and the trim warning buzzer going off all the time. Those have already been fixed and Aerobask’s responsiveness to fixing any of the other small bugs that the aircraft might have suggests to me that any remaining will likely be solved in a short period of time.
While I don’t own any other business jets in X-Plane, I’ve read and watched enough reviews of other types to realize that many of them are dated (some back to X-Plane 10 with minor upgrades), lack key features or are just missing the kind of polish that Aerobask is known for. The Phenom 300 by contrast is highly detailed, has sophisticated and capable avionics, and has plenty of small details that shows that the development team went the extra mile on just about everything. I’ve seen more than one person proclaim that the Phenom 300 is now the best business jet in X-Plane 11 and I wholeheartedly agree.
This is a quality release that I have no problem recommending. It’s an excellent aircraft all around not just as a business jet but as an aircraft release for X-Plane period.