A few days ago I picked up a new aircraft for X-Plane and the first exclusively developed for X-Plane 12. I’m talking about VSkyLabs Maule M-7-235B which has followed X-Plane 12 through the beta process. I took out the new aircraft into the skies of Alaska as it seemed like a great place to test out the aircraft and do a little flying with it. Here’s how it went and some very early impressions of the aircraft.
Flying the sunset skies
With the sun low on the horizon at this time of year, Alaska’s skies are seemingly almost always bathed in a mix of purple, pink, and orange. I set out from Seward, a place that is becoming a flight sim favourite of mine with its scenic bay, towering mountains, and rugged terrain.
The Maule has some interesting features packed into it. For one, clickable tires that lets you change from standard to tundra on a whim. I was flying in Alaska so tundra tires seemed like the appropriate fit.
Starting it up was a piece of cake requiring no more complex a start than your standard Cessna or Cub. Then it was a matter of taxiing out. Things were going well until I got to the end of the runway where I managed to get into a minor ground loop with a bit too much throttle.
Steadying the aircraft out for takeoff on runway 13 at Seward, I once again gave it a bit too much throttle and the aircraft attempted to roll around a couple of different axis before I corrected it and steadied the plane.
I forgot how spirited a bush plane with 235 horses can be!
The Maule climbed quickly and before the end of the runway I was already several hundred feet up and climbing steeply! What an airplane.
After doing a bit of a checkout to get a feel for the aircraft I decided to head north. My ultimately goal was to get to nearby Kenai although I ran out of time and ended up landing at a private airstrip that I later learned is used for helicopter flights – not fixed wing types. No problem for the Maule!
Along the way
Flying the standard 6-pack Maule, I had no autopilot available, so this was a hand flown adventure. Cutting through the valleys and between mountains. With so much power in such a lightweight airframe, I was easily able to outclimb any challenging spots and then dive down into the valleys without much trouble.
I was really having fun!
The Maule is relatively steady but it does get thrown around a bit in the wind and it was a windy day with 15 knot crosswinds and some turbulence affecting my aircraft at times. Not the worst but certainly enough to make flying interesting.
X-Plane 12’s weather engine certainly made for a more interesting and dynamic flight than I’m used to with X-Plane 11. That stood out as a great feature. So did the upgraded trees which looked spectacular. Less impressive is the lack of snow of which it seems like its hit and miss on if you’ll see snow on the ground in 12 while using dynamic weather. This was a place that recently saw accumulations according to the weather reports that I had read but there was none there.
My impression of the Maule so far is that it’s a good aircraft with a limited array of features that stays true to the VSkyLabs manifesto of making aircraft that are so in tune with standard X-Plane that they will stand the test of time and need minimal updating. Most other third party aircraft make use of external scripting languages of some kind to make extra things happen but VSkyLabs has their own way of doing things and I applaud it.
The 3D model of the aircraft is well done but the texture work is only very average and the materials probably need some work to get this up from good to excellent. On the other side of the coin, the way this thing flies feels so natural and fun that I have to credit its developers for that.
There’s a float-plane version and a G1000 equipped version that I have full intentions of checking out in time for the full review.
Check out VSkyLabs on their website here. If the Maule M-7-235B sounds like your thing, check it out over here on the X-Plane.org Store.
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