It’s been a long time since I did a longer flight and so after a little bit of planning and some interest in doing the flight I decided to embark on a new adventure. With the recently updated to X-Plane 12 standard Aerobask Phenom 300, I decided to put this favourite of mine to the test. Along the way I get a good look at the latest in how X-Plane 12 is performing and I put this sim to the test on a 3 hour+ flight.
It’s been several months since I last flew the Aerobask Phenom 300. It’s a great jet but I’ve been busy and occupied with other things so this adventure was long overdue. Aerobask has only just recently updated the aircraft for X-Plane 12 and as one of their more recent releases it feels like an aircraft that really belongs in the new sim.
The way the aircraft looks is clearly improved by the new lighting system in X-Plane 12 and it flies even better than it used to when hand flying it. I’ve done a few test flights but now it was time to put it to the test.
Starting up at the Signature ramp at the Miami International Airport (KMIA), I surprised myself by remembering the admittedly short start-up sequence to this jet almost entirely by memory. The Phenom 300 has a nice left to right flow across the cockpit as you get the jet ready to go. The T/O Config button provides a nice added check to make sure the jet is configured for takeoff. So too does the updated Aerobask menu that computes V-speeds and then automatically enters them on the jet.
Then it was a taxi through some significant puddles thanks to local rainstorms. These are among the more visually impressive features of X-Plane 12 and they do not disappoint here!
Finally, I positioned at the end of the runway and powered up for a takeoff on runway 8L. Speed builds quickly in the Phenom 300 and I recall reading about its almost fighter jet like departure performance. A 20 degree climb out is not unheard of and an aggressive climb out is necessary to protect the flaps and gear from airspeed damage.
The airport and Florida almost entirely disappeared behind me in the the heavy haze and cloud.
And then just like that I was up and away into the sky with the heavy clouds behind me breaking quickly and giving way to sunlight on the top.
The long cruise and some observations
Cruise altitude was set in my flight plan as 41,000 feet so I worked my way up to cruise altitude and settled in for the long flight.
My route took me over the northern side of the largest island in The Bahamas and then along the many smaller islands that make up the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. On my map I could spot places such as Georgetown, Clarence Town, Colonel Hill, and Crooked Island, before making my way past the Bahamas and over the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Along the way I’ve been able to make some observations about X-Plane 12 in its current state. A release trailer has recently been released, however, we’re still firmly in beta territory at the moment. I do anticipate a full release to materialize soon although I expect work on the product will continue post release. In the meantime there are still issues that I expect we’ll be dealing with on this sim as it moves towards release.
Cloud visuals are still leaving me with a lot to be desired. With Microsoft Flight Simulator and DCS World sitting at the top of the heap, X-Plane 12’s implementation feels somewhat behind the curve with some issues rendering clouds in different situations. Sometimes they look good and other times they suffer from a lot of pixelated visuals and some unusual shapes.
The folks at Asobo took quite a while to get the look of their clouds just right and so I’m willing to give Laminar the benefit of the doubt as they are able to make improvements here.
There’s also some very severe flickering of the clouds and landscape once getting above a specific altitude and then only in some situations. This has been well reported by the community and my hope is that they will have this sorted out soon too. It was so bad at one point that I did nearly abort my flight but thankfully the flickering stopped.
The sun, at high altitude, also lacks any kind of flaring and so appears as just a mostly white dot in the sky.
There’s some really good points here too. The live weather system is a enormous improvement over what we saw in the past. The weather is picking up on reported local conditions with good accuracy and giving plenty of variation over the course of the flight. Heavy clouds and rain in the Miami area gave way to pop-corn style clouds as I ventured out over The Bahamas. Just as is being currently reported on satellite and via METAR. I haven’t seen any hard switches between weather state as we saw with X-Plane 11 either… this is very much at the level of MSFS in this area and it’s great to see.
The other thing? Performance! Although I do now have a very beefy new sim rig, performance on X-Plane 11 was still nearly always constrained to 30-40fps no matter what I was doing or looking at. Here? I’m getting 50-70fps on a regular basis. More importantly, it feels smooth without significant frame drops. Nice!
Approach and landing
After a couple of hours of cruising at Mach 0.75 at 41,000 feet, it was time to start descending into my destination.
I made a couple of mistakes on the approach here. First, I miscalculated my descent rate so I ended up higher than I should have been necessitating performing a holding circle until I was down a bit lower. Eventually I was able to get rid of 30,000 feet and then descend at a more leisurely pace.
Second, I didn’t properly activate the approach waypoint so it turned me off in the wrong direction off to the north and east when I wanted it to send me south and then onto the ILS for runway 09.
Eventually I circled around sufficiently to get back to the correct course and reengage the NAV system to take me right in. Altitude now 4,000 feet and maintaining 160 knots.
Closer in and my speed is now 140 knots, gear and flaps are coming down and the coast of Barbados is now off to my left as I bore in on the ILS signal for runway 09. The runway itself was obscured by some thicker clouds which I eventually broke through for a nice clear run in to the airport. Plenty of turbulence and winds shifting around slightly to keep things a little bit interesting. But the Phenom 300 felt great and capable of handling it all the way down and X-Plane 12’s flight model feels more natural than 11’s so this was overall a fun experience.
Then, it was down, on the ground and finding a nice parking place.
A pretty fun flight with no crashes or signs that the sim was running out of memory. Always a good sign over a prolonged flight. Nice to be back in the air with the Phenom 300 again. Aerobask has kept this aircraft in great shape in the transition over to the new sim.