When the last X-Plane.org Store sale came up I couldn’t help myself and I ended up buying the Aerobask DA42. Did I need to buy this airplane? No, not really. I already have two of their excellent simulations of the DA50 RG and DA62 but there was something drawing me in to flying the DA42 anyways. In this review I look at Aerobask’s latest GA entry, a simulation of the Diamond DA42, I talk a bit about how it fits in with the rest of what Aerobask has been doing, and I hope to answer the questions for you: Should you buy this airplane? Let’s fly!
The real history and the virtual history of the DA42
One of the things that drew me to the Aerobask DA42 is its history as an aircraft for X-Plane. Ten years ago the developers that would become Aerobask released their first airplane for X-Plane 10 and it was this very airplane. Aerobask kept the aircraft up for a while but its age was clearly showing. This old review by X-Plane reviews gives you an early look at what it was like, the limited nature of the Garmin G1000 that it had at the time, and of course the simpler graphics and modeling. We’ve come a ways with X-Plane and that DA42 was firmly in the past. This one seems poised for the future and a great way to jump into the next 10-years.
I should make it clear before we move on from this point that this new DA42 is not a refurbishment of the old but rather a completely redone, from the ground up, airplane deigned to take full advantage of the features of X-Plane 12.
Visuals and sounds
One thing I’ve learned to count on with Aerobask is their 3D modeling. It’s usually very good to excellent and that’s very much the case here. The DA42 is a complex airplane in terms of shape and like many of the other Diamond airplanes they’ve tackled, the flowing lines and various complex shapes of the DA42 appear to be well covered here.
There’s plenty of little details modeled both inside and out. Access panels, doors, hinges, buttons, switches, cockpit controls, the seats, and so forth. Everything is nicely done.
The usual array of co-pilot and passengers are modeled here too. Their detailing are good but not great. The passengers only appear from the exterior view. On the interior view you can see the co-pilot but not the back seaters.
There’s also a half dozen liveries including a special 10-year anniversary one that’s kind of fun to have.
Visually, my only complaint with Aerobask products remain that they are often a little too clean looking. These have the appearance of factory fresh all the time and I’d love to see just a tiny bit more of the ‘roughmet’ making the aircraft have a gently worn appearance. Or even the option of it. Most of the time its fine as is but sometimes it takes on a bit of an unreal appearance. Perhaps X-Plane 12’s still being tweaked lighting engine bears some responsibility too.
Sounds are superbly done and are the handiwork of Daniela Carreri Rodrigues – one of the best audio engineers around for X-Plane!
There’s a suitable roar for the DA42s engines both inside and out, cockpit sounds of the air flowing past attenuate and pitch in appropriate and authentic sounding ways, buttons and switches make differing noises.
On the exterior the sounds change depending on which direction you’re looking at the airplane from and wind noises are especially pronounced as turbulent air coming from the twin props when viewed from the rear. It’s not new (other Aerobask products have done it too) but I love it every time I hear it!
Flying the DA42
Part of the reason why I couldn’t resist the DA42? I love flying these Diamond aircraft in any sim that they show up in. The DA62 was among my first X-Plane 11 aircraft purchases and remains one of my most flown types in that sim. It’s my default, my go to, and I just love the ease of cruising around in it.
The DA42 feels very similar to the DA62 in most ways. They do fly differently and the DA42 has slightly sportier handling particularly at speed. The larger size, lengtheir wingspan and weight of the DA62 cause it to feel a bit heavier and less responsive relative to the DA42. That makes the DA42 just a bit zippier and a bit more fun to fly with a faster roll rate.
Takeoff is easily managed with a bit of counter rudder to control the torque of the engines but its not excessive.
Single engine handling is easy with rudder trim and very little asymmetric yaw. It can also easily fly on a single engine so if you decide to go all out with failures enabled (and you can) you can be assured that you can land this plane on one engine just fine. Speaking of failures, like the DA62 before it, run the DA42 at full throttle for too long and one of the engines will eventually quit – usually with an engine fire.
Diamond has designed a lot of safety features into their airplanes. Those safety features include an airframe that has been designed from the outset to not stall. Sure enough, take the DA42 into a stall situation, hold the stick back, pull the power, and watch as the airplane shudders lightly and stays more or less in complete control while slowly losing altitude. The buzzer will go but little else will be of concern. Let the nose drop a bit and get the power back on and you’re golden with little issue. Is this realistic? Well I watched a few videos with some demonstrations of stalls of the DA42 and it sure seems like it.
Landing is also really easy with this airplane as a result with controls that are fully capable throughout the speed range.
If you want a badly behaved airplane, the DA42 is not it, but if you want one that can easily cruise with two engines, then this can be a really fun X-Plane experience.
Systems and features
Aerobask packed the DA42 with the usual array of systems and features into the DA42.
High quality modeling, 4K PBR textures, a flight model by X-Aerodynamics, a custom EFIS, X-Plane Laminar X1000 panels simulating a Garmin 1000 system, custom deicing and oxygen simulation, simulated electrical system with breaker panel, as well as some analogue instruments representing the cockpit configuration of your average DA42 NG. AviTab, like all modern Aerobask products, is baked in as well with a 3D representation of a tablet that you can interact with inside the cockpit as well as popped out if you want. The G1000, EFIS, and even a keyboard interface can be popped out into their own windows – so much better than having to use the wheel controls on the G1000.
As with most aircraft in the series and Aerobask add their own customizations for twin engine displays, custom warnings, and mouse controls for altitude, speed, and map zoom. In fact many of these features are so ingrained in me now that I kind of expect them everywhere I go and that’s not always the case. Taking for granted some of the excellent work that Aerobask do to make their aircraft not only accurate but also livable in the sim environment. I always appreciate that.
Aerobask have a nice little family of Diamond aircraft products and are now offering three of five of the types that the company has on offer. And that brings me to an interesting point.
The biggest “problem” with the DA42 is that it’s very familiar. Many of us who enjoy general aviation on X-Plane might already have one of the other aircraft. So how do you distinguish between these three and how do you make a choice if you want to add just one to your hangar? Alternatively, is there value in owning all three?
If you fly aircraft in one of the various economy/mission solutions that are out there, number of seats and range might be the key points of comparison. The DA42 seats 4, the DA50 RG seats 5 and the DA62 seats 7.
According to Diamond’s information sheets, the DA42 has a range of 1,225 nm burning 10.4 gal/h while the DA50 RG can do 754 nm burning 8.0 gal/h, and then the DA62 can do 1,288 nm at 11.8 gal/h.
For speed, the technical information says the DA42 has a top speed of 197 kts TAS and 190 kts TAS cruise speed. The DA62 cruises slightly slower at 180 kts TAS with a maximum of 192 kts TAS. Then there’s the DA50 RG with its slower 181 kts TAS top speed and 172 kts TAS cruise. My experience with the aircraft in X-Plane is that these numbers come pretty close to matching… although I haven’t run extensive testing I can say that the DA42 will cruise relatively easily at 150 knots IAS.
I’ll be more subjective when it comes to evaluating handling. Of the three, the DA42 feels the most sporty to me with the snappiest roll rate, the shortest ground roll, and fastest top speed. Both DA50 and DA62 are a bit more sluggish in all respects. All three cruise beautifully, however, and so once you’ve got things plugged in you’re pretty much good to go. For landings, the DA42 and DA62 feel similar with the DA50 and DA62 needing a bit more careful flaring or you’ll end up with a heavy landing. DA42 feels a bit lighter on its feet.
It’s no small wonder to me that Diamond is marketing the real world version as a twin-engine trainer based on all of these different comparison points. The DA50 and DA62 are more oriented at private pilots or flying clubs as it may be. For some X-Plane pilots looking to make the transition from virtual to real world flying or for someone looking to get into sim flying and want to have their first twin engine experience in something forgiving. The DA42 really is excellent in that role although the DA62 is not too far off either.
Strong visuals, great sounds, superb modeling, reasonably deep systems modeling, and a great flight model add up to yet another winner from the Aerobask team. Absent any other considerations, this is a strong entry into a crowded field of really good GA airplanes. But its not the only option and Aerobask’s DA42 faces its stiffest competition from other types that Aerobask has simulated over the years.
I did have to ask myself why Aerobask did this airplane and the answers are probably rooted in both the pragmatic as well as the nostalgic. Relaunching the DA42 for X-Plane 12 on their 10th anniversary makes a ton of sense to me especially when you have a team that can crank out something like this reasonably quickly and with a ton of polish to boot.
This is probably also a pragmatic choice for the developer. I’ve heard anecdotally that the DA62 is one of Aerobask’s best selling aircraft and I’m guessing the numbers on the DA50 RG made doing a DA42 easy to do as well. In the background, this is a team that is also very busy bringing their Falcon 8X project to life – one that has taken years to put together. Having some short term cash flow with what is probably a slam dunk also makes sense.
If you want just one of these airplanes from Aerobask the choice is complicated because all of them are quite good while being quite similar. The DA42 and DA62 are fantastic twin engine experiences while the DA50 RG fills a similar experience in on a single engine. I’ve found myself enjoying each one and that has made purchasing each relatively easy to do. At the same time there isn’t a fundamentally different experience between all three as all are similar.
At the end of the day this is just more of the same excellence. That’s not always a bad thing and the DA42 from Aerobask is a great X-Plane 12 experience!
If you want to buy the DA42, its available for purchase from the X-Plane.org Store for $39.95 USD.
4 Comments Add yours
It’s striking how they all look like something out of science fiction. Definitely memorable, unique planes, everything that Aerobask does.
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I love the Diamond aircraft aesthetic. It’s definitely modern with a touch of sci fi for sure!
Aerobask do have a reputation for doing these types of airplanes too. Someday I’m sure they will redo their old Pipistrel.
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Great review, thank-you.
Just a little correction: The flight model was done by X-Aerodynamics (me!); there is no association with X-Aviation in any way.
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Hi Cameron. That’s an oopsie on my part. I knew that but apparently my fingers thought otherwise. I will correct that right away.
Superb work on the flight model. It feels great!