Orbx and Asobo Studio have come together to offer us a new local legend: the DHC-4 Caribou. I was really excited to try out this aircraft, I couldn’t resist its Canadian roots after all, but unfortunately it didn’t quite meet my expectations in some ways. Let’s get into it!
A bit of history
Following the Beaver and the Otter, de Havilland Canada’s reputation as a maker for STOL or short take-off and landing aircraft was cemented by the third and much larger DHC-4 Caribou. The type impressed and found use with a variety of military and civilian operators. Among its attributes were its 1,200 foot runway operations, the ability to load up to 8,000 lbs of cargo via the rear loading door, and its rugged construction.
It was operated by the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as Spain, Liberia, Kuwait, Kenya, Iran, India, Cameroon, and the United Arab Emirates just to name some of the military operators. Civilian operators included the infamous Air America, a CIA front running clandestine operations in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Many of the 307 that were built are retired now although a few are still reportedly flying with civil operators.
Orbx are known for curating a strong collection of visually impressive scenery packages in their online store both by their own team and by third parties. Their prior aircraft releases have also been visually good and even impressive and for the most part the DHC-4 lives up to that reputation albeit with a few misses.
First, the cockpit itself is overall quite impressive. The panel looks great and the wear and tear looks appropriate and accurate for an aircraft that has seen a lot of service. A lot of the fine details are great too which good detailing in most places. The biggest miss are the seats which should be a fuzzy material but end up with a flat texture approximating a fuzzy material. It … doesn’t look great. A miss in an otherwise strong cockpit visually.
On the exterior, the overall attention to detail is great and again with just a few misses here and there. The wheel wells are only partly detailed and the bump mapping all over, particularly with rivets, are sometimes a little lower on the details than I’d expect. Good from a distance but not holding up as well as they could up close. The nose section seems to have the odd shading issue or perhaps some 3D model quirks going on there. The rear cargo door also appears to show light coming through when its dark – on that it looks like a model issue but I’m prepared to accept that the aircraft door may not have fully sealed in real life too. Something to look into some more perhaps.
On the good side, the overall visuals are great and the detailing around the engines, exhausts, flaps,, ailerons, and animations are all good to great. It’s not a bad looking airplane but there are some blemishes that stand out.
The sound work on the DHC-4 is really good. Start-up sequence sounds are satisfying and well blended together. The starter noise is slightly different from each of the engines too which is kind of a nice feature.
Individual controls including the throttle, propeller, mixture, and yoke which all make noises in motion. It’s especially noticeable with the engines off but you can still hear it with the engines on. Engines themselves have a suitable hum and roar at times and there’s good relation between engine power settings and the audio samples.
The last thing I want to mention is the excellent sound on the rear cargo door opening and closing. The sound for that is great!
The DHC-4 is surprisingly fun to fly. It feels like a DC-3 type airplane with just a little more spunk. Ailerons are heavy and require some planning and even a little rudder to kick the airplane into a faster roll at times when needed. But get it down into the weeds or into a narrow canyon and it handles it well with speed, power and agility in about equal amounts.
That STOL reputation that the DHC-4 has? It can definitely match it. Takeoff comes rapidly despite the size of the aircraft and landings can be achieved in a short amount of space too. The biggest challenge is fitting the type’s 95 foot wingspan into some of these smaller airfields. Provided that there’s ample room, the DHC-4 can land on a dime. In other words, it won’t get into DHC-2 Beaver bush strips but anything bigger can be achieved.
The DHC-4 does have a limited navigational capability with DME and VOR navigation as well as a small onboard GNS430 GPS unit. The downside? No autopilot which means hand flying the DHC-4 at all times. It shows the age of the airplane although part of me wishes for an optional modification with autopilot – I’m not sure if any flew like this or not but I’d love it on some of those longer cross country flights.
Instead, the DHC-4 seems best suited to carving canyons and river valleys and doing shorter hops between small airstrips and it can be quite fun at doing that!
A few other misses
There are some quirks with several systems on the aircraft. That includes the clickable electrical fuse panel which is nice that it can be clicked but disappointing that it doesn’t appear to do anything. For example, turning off the lights via the panel don’t do anything. There are also quirks with the battery, oil, and fuel gauges showing readings that probably shouldn’t be happening on a healthy airplane.
I can forgive nearly all of that for a relatively cheap add-on. The next one, however, is much more problematic for me.
My very first flight with the DHC-4 took me from snowy Toronto to Cleveland in below freezing temperatures and light snow in places. The aircraft quickly developed icing and while the deicing system on the airplane works just fine there is a big miss – the control to heat the windscreen is not available. You can’t click it or interact with it in any way.
So, while the windshield doesn’t appear to completely freeze over in icing conditions, you do loose quite a bit of visibility and you have no recourse to deal with it in those conditions. This despite the aircraft having a system to manage it. That hurts the DHC-4’s ability to operate in some of those rough and tumble, back country, operations that its supposed to be able to operate in. Tropical climes will be required.
For the price of $14.99 USD, the overall impression of the DHC-4 is good but not great. A couple of key misses really tarnish the overall experience for me. Icing over the pilots view in winter conditions in an aircraft that is more than capable of dealing with those conditions in the real world is disappointing.
A few sloppy elements on the visual side too are nitpicky but still there. I point to other partnerships such as with the Carenado Bonanza v-tail which came out beautifully and with far fewer issues for the same price and while they are not strictly the same airplane it does hurt the DHC-4 quite a bit. It also hurts Orbx’s aircraft making reputation a bit too. DHC-2 Beaver, by Blackbird Simulations, was released for free with far more depth and capability and it caused me to pay much closer attention to their Cessna 310R product.
I still hope to have some fun with the DHC-4 but I do hope too that Orbx’s team provide some future fixes to enhance the aircraft. It has strong potential but it needs to do a bit more to earn my full praise. I hope that it happens!
8 Comments Add yours
I think the problem with the famous flyers and local legends aircraft is that they have a predetermined release date and that might cause them to be released in an unpolished state, hopefully updates will fix broken or missing elements.
Thanks for the review
I appreciate your candor and accuracy in reviews, as always. However, I think you’re being too nit-picky in this case.
The overall tone of the review is Negative, and will probably lead some folks to a Won’t Buy decision who otherwise would have a good time with the addon.
Considering the uncommon (unique?) abilities of this aircraft in MSFS, it is undoubtedly a good experience that provides distinct & interesting challenges vs other addons.
AFAIK, the closest competitor (in terms of IRL aircraft) we have in the sim is probably the Twin Otter (Aerosoft). That is an addon that is at least 2x the cost and launched with quite a few genuine problems (some of which remain to this day).
Here we have an historic aircraft that can land just about anywhere, while still being a large-ish, heavy, multi-engine that isn’t as “handy” as other STOL aircraft – a good experience for anyone looking for a change of pace from “GA” aircraft.
And for $15, the only real problems you point out as put-offs are the non-fuzzy seat and partial icing of the wind screen? I would think it more germane to focus on whatever the engine instrumentation problems might be…
Anyhow, I wish this addon had been the Canada local legend – it would’ve been more fitting IMHO (and I suspect it had been intended as such).
I can say that even as picky as I am, this addon is definitely on my Will Buy list simply because it gives an uncommon experience that provides (very) good value for money.
Agree with your comments but the icing windscreen is in my mind a major miss. Would make the plane hard to fly in exactly the conditions it should be fun to fly in. Probably will not buy it untill that particular issue is fixed.
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It seems like a small thing but for me it was kind of a big one. It’s just a bit sloppy. If they fix it that’d change my feeling about the aircraft a fair bit.
At the end of the day, I do my best to just write ‘me’ and kind of go from there. For better or worse!
IMHO, the non functional windscreen heating which seems like a small issue is kind of a big issue for me flying in the northern climes. Its mildly infuriating that the control is right there. There’s a few things here that just feel a bit sloppy and so that has crept into my tone about it.
I also don’t fault it for not having an autopilot option but man I wish there was one in a plane like this.
Recognizing the price point and the probable deadline requirements, I can understand, but not entirely forgive some of the issues. I’ve told a few picky simmers not to buy this one as I don’t think they’d be satisfied.
It IS a fun airplane to fly but it has some misses. If it gets corrected I’ll happily come back and say more (positive) things about it.
I personally enjoyed the plane on first flight, the lack of autopilot not withstanding. I and a friend have flown a few “Air America” routes through Southeast Asia, and had a good time. The biggest issue I had was the generator switches not being covered in the checklists. 3 different flights I forgot to turn them on and lost instrument and radio power 40-50 minutes into the flight. Admittedly, I hadn’t flown it in icing conditions, though I did note the lack of windshield de-ice. I suspect eventually those issues will be addressed, and I’ve learned my lesson on the generators. I’d tend to fly this plane in conditions more like southeast Asia or Australia, and therefore, the lack of windshield de-ice as a feature is to me, less impactful.
The other comment I’d make is the suggestions about MS/Asobo “forcing” release on a timetable I think are off the mark. It’s pretty apparent this plane was likely delayed as is. We’ll probably never really know, but in general, Asobo hasn’t been publicizing release timetables for these planes until 6-8 weeks out, and has delayed a few that we know of in the past. I don’t really have a problem with Asobo attempting to hold a schedule. These are after all, products. They can’t wait 3 years to release a plane that’s going to cost $15 to consumers, it will never pay back the investment.
The gap in my view, is far less on MS/Asobo than on Orbx. Developers are different, and some have been much better “on timetable at quality” than others. The An225 from iniBuilds is a far more complete product, and a far more complex one, at a very more than fair $20 USD price point. The point I’m making here should be apparent, but if not, Orbx is probably not the best choice of devs for an aircraft release, just given their history. I’ve never heard of any of their planes being lauded. The X-750 recently released by them as a paid aircraft has been their best reviewed, but compares unfavorably in reviews to modules like the SWS Kodiak (X-750 garners a 3.9/5 in simstore), and that would have been released on their timetable – not Asobo’s. As was the Optika (2.9/5 in simstore), which compared unfavorably in most reviews to the GotFriends version of the same aircraft. Their other release in the past as a Local Legend, the Fokker FVII, is not well reviewed either (3.6/5 rating in simstore). That FVII has the distinction of being the lowest rated of the Local Legends and Famous Flyer series of aircraft in the in-sim marketplace. And recall, those aircraft are only available in the in-sim marketplace. This isn’t Asobo rushing, it’s Orbx not having as much talent to deliver product, whether they end up sold/partnered with Asobo, or developed for their own revenue. I’ll grant you, ratings in the marketplace are not everything or fully conclusive, but they are directional.
Autopilot for the caribou:
This seems to work. Set up a key mapping as shown in the image. Set another just to turn AP off.
Then, set your heading bug where you want it. Then establish level flight, any heading ( not into a mountainside) with as little vertical speed as possible. Engage with your key. It will turn to where the heading bug is located and maintain “close” to the current altitude. There is some “hunting” once it get close to where your heading bug is set but then settles down. You can tweak the heading bug and the Caribou will then turn to that heading. You could also establish a desired climb or descent rate before engaging.
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Seems like a good workaround! Thanks for pointing that out.