Commercial FSX Aircraft Review
Aerosoft’s Katana X
|Publisher:||Aerosoft Katana 4X|
|Description:||Real presentation of the Da20-100 Katana aircraft|
|Reviewed by:||Tércio Sampaio|
Computer / Software Specifications
|Computer System:||- Intel i7 920 2.4GHz
- 6 GB RAM
- ATI/AMD Radeon HD6970 2GB
- TM Hotas Cougar + TM WCS + CH TQ + Track IR
|Software:||- Windows 7 Ultimate x64
- Flight Simulator X SP2
These past few days I’ve been kept busy with a new add-on, Aerosoft’s Katana 4X. This product is based on the Diamond DA20, and it’s kept me away from many other simulators and games that i have in my PC. The Diamond DA20 Katana has a small tricycle configuration, and is a composite aircraft produced in Canada. With 1 pilot and 1 passenger it’s slow, but very easy to fly.
The developers purpose was to make a trainer type aircraft, but today, the DA20′s are used as private aircraft worldwide. Personally, I very much like the visual look of this aircraft. It is beautiful, modern and looks like a baby aircraft. The first time you see it, you might think that it’s a baby motor glider, and you would not be entirely wrong, as the same company, Diamond Aircraft Industries, manufactures an aircraft very similar to a true motor glider, the Diamond HK36 Super Dimona.
The DA20 has two engine variants, a Continental IO-240 (C-1 family) and a Rotax 912 (A-1 family and the DA20-100 version). The combination of an awesome design and quality construction of this engine, the Rotax, has the best reliability record for that type of engine and gives you one of the 2 safest trainer/private aircrafts in the world. The other one is the Cessna C172.
The DA20 version of this FSX add-on is the DA20-100. It’s a factory refurbished DA20 for European customers. It has a Rotax 912S3 and a maximum speed of almost 300 km/h. This engine, the Rotax 912, is very well known in this type of aircraft. It powers more than 130 different types of aircraft and can not only burn AVGAS but is also certified to use automotive combustible (mogas), that in some remote areas is a nice feature where the AVGAS not always available. After I read the manual, I flew the Aerosoft’s DA20 to see and feel all the features that developers have established for it. I’m very happy to have it in my hangar, you will see why….
Installation and Manual
The installation was very easy, as usual with Aerosoft products. One only needs to click “next” many times, and in the middle of process insert the email and serial key for copy protection. The process also includes the installation of the Aerosoft Launcher, but no activation inside is required. You need to do this last part only if you have not installed the Aerosoft Launcher or if you had an older version installed.
Some words about the manual.
It’s composed of 8 PDF files that are well organized and are easy to read with much detailed information.
These PDF files cover these areas:
- Introduction with instructions how to install this add-on and use the menus that this aircraft has.
- It also includes a detailed explanation of ground operations of this aircraft such as walk around and maintenance.
- Information about limits that you need to know about in order to operate this aircraft.
- Emergency and Normal procedures.
- Performance tables with information on how to use them with some examples.
- Systems and Avionics explained.
- Paint kit manual that includes how to create and install new custom paints for your DA20.
All together there are 140 PDF pages and that is more than usual for this kind of aircraft. But after you read the following paragraphs, you’ll understand the need for such a big manual.
Cockpit and Systems
Here is where this add-on is well above the majority of all others add-on’s for FSX. It not only has an excellent and detailed cockpit with high resolution graphics, but it also includes, something that is almost unique in the world of FSX. Menus with functions that give you the possibility to do realistic and detailed maintenance on your aircraft and also preflight procedures. These menus includes 4 main areas: Preflight, Maintenance, Instructor and Settings.
In the settings menu you can adjust and configure the level of realism that you want as well as many other settings of controls and cosmetic features. Here, you can adjust the aircraft from “as real as it gets” (far beyond the limits of FSX) or to a more relaxed realism adjusted to more casual flights. If you decide to configure the aircraft for maximum realism, watch out and think twice. It could be that due to its high realism, the aircraft isn’t easy to fly and the chance exist that you will “virtually” damage the aircraft due to wrong use and degrade from using experience. The result is, virtually spoken, that you need to maintain and repair your aircraft before the next flight. The features and realism you find in this aircraft are much more than you usually find even on many of the best add-on’s on FSX.
For example, the canopy can be opened by airflow when not locked and break off damaging the elevator. Everything in this aircraft can be damaged and the consequences of that are modeled. You have the engine, propeller, oil, fuel, avionics, instruments, electric systems and airframe fully modeled and nothing here is cosmetic, as unfortunately is not the case with many other add-on’s. So, you need to choose the type of oil and fuel that affects the performance of the DA20. You need to deal with the effects of ice, dust and insects. Every button works just as the real ones do, including the circuit breakers, which is not usual in others add-on’s, even ones that are well known as best add-ons by the FSX community.
Its very nice to see that there exists an option to load the aircraft in a randomly damaged status. That means that you always need to make a full preflight inspection before takeoff. Its important to mention that if you have the Reality XP GNS530, the menu allows you to change from the default GNS to the Reality XP version, with only one click on a checkbox. Finally, in this menu, you can setup your preferences to control some of the items of the aircraft, such as using the FSUIPC to control the propeller, and also the realistic custom made lights and sound effects that are included.
On the Instruction panel you can see and change the internal variables of the aircraft, like the level of the oil and fuel, and also enable/disable or even create some damage in specific systems or parts of the aircraft. This feature is perfect training for emergency procedures that will increase your skills and knowledge as a pilot. This is another unique feature of this add-on that enables this aircraft to be not only an enjoyable aircraft but also as a platform for training and learning.
This panel is very exhaustive and you have detailed control of your aircraft.
The Maintenance and preflight panel includes many sub panels. Here you can repair each part of the aircraft that can impact your experience with the DA20. It even includes washing and vacuum cleaning the aircraft from the dust, insects and dirt. There are also panels to change the fuel and oil quantity and type. This has procedures that give you access to the various covers and doors. I like very much the way you need to check the oil level in the oil deposit.
It’s exactly the same way you need to check the oil in a car’s engine. I also like the manual procedure to check the fuel level in case the fuel quantity gauge is damaged or not working. Through the menus, you also have a way to drain the water from the fuel tank. The effect of the weight of baggage, pilot and passenger are similar to real life and as expected, effect the performance of the aircraft and the center of gravity. The walk around check panel is also well made and gives you dynamic checklists for each part that requires attention from you.
The developers included a modeled tow bar panel that is very useful in moving the aircraft on the ground or when in maintenance. You also have the opportunity to install or remove wheel fairings in each wheel. That will affect the drag of the aircraft.
All these panels, as you can see on the screen shots, are situated inside FSX and not through outside utilities. In my own opinion, this is an amazing feature because, unfortunately the add-on’s that have seperate utilities outside FSX, do sometimes change things like Fuel and Baggage/Load. Many times I do not use them because it’s a little annoying to go outside FSX to configure these kind of things, but that’s a personal issue. Anyway, this DA20 have one outside utility, but don’t worry about this because for only a few times or perhaps never, you’ll need it. The reason you hardly need this external utility is because it is an utility to reset all the aircrafts status and history.
See it like … an maintenance option that brings DA20 back to a 0 km setting and looks like it was at the beginning, new and shiny! With all of these elements, if you have the DA20 configured to maximum realism, you need to reset everything. For example, you can’t even turn on the avionics that could be damaged because you had the avionics switch turned on when the engine started. To help you in the start, each time you load the aircraft, it asks you what state you want to load. The options range from cold and dark to landing approaches.
The DA20-100 despite it’s small size, is a very well equipped aircraft. It includes a Bendix King KX125 COM/NAV that’s explained in great detail in the manual. There’s also a GPS as already mentioned.
One thing that I noticed, and its a very nice feature, is that the intensity of illumination of the panel can be gradually changed with a knob placed in the left side of the cockpit panel. It’s not just full on or full off. If you usually fly aircraft such as Pipers, Cessnas or Beechcrafts, you will feel at home with this aircraft.
The cockpit panel, as is becoming more common, is only available in 3D, but it’s very easy to use and for the complex gauges like the radios and the GPS, the manual also explain the clickable zones and how to use them. The Aerosoft Katana X is, in respect to programming and additional variables, an amazing aircraft. To lift the Katana X to a new standard, the developers had to pass the FSX programming limits. To achieve this, the developers added nearly 100 additional variables, which are FSUIPC controlled.. These variables are buttons, switches and levers of the DA20, and the manual explains how to configure the FSUIPC to map them to your hardware.
It’s an awesome feature for all cockpit builders.
Graphics, Animations, Performance and Sound
About graphics, the textures are high resolution, as you can see from the screen shots. They have used style that increases the realism and the feel of being in a real aircraft. This add-on comes with 20 paints that you can choose, including one that I think is very nice, from a pilots training company. It has, written with big letters behind the canopy, “We make airline pilots” and that shows the spirit of this aircraft. Small, but also a challenge. The objects like gauges, buttons and knobs, including the bolts in the body of the aircraft, are all in 3D and very detailed.
About the animations, everything that could move in the real aircraft, moves in this add-on, including the vibration of the aircraft and the movement, by hand, of the trim and the propeller when in the pre flight procedure. There exist so many details in the animations, that as an example, you can move a manual book from the top of the cockpit to a position right next next to the pilot’s seat. Or you can remove the keys from the ignition switch and put them in another place in the cockpit panel. The sounds are very well done, with around 120 custom sounds saved from the real aircraft.
You can even hear the ailerons moving. About the engine’s sound, its very realistic, as are the other sounds and it’s a pleasure to hear. On long flights, it’s not an annoying sound that unfortunately some aircraft have. The aircraft flies very realistically and all airframe limits are modelled giving you worries as a real pilot. But don’t worry, because, just like the real one, it’s a very easy aircraft to fly. With all of the above mentioned elements, the FSX performance was not affected. The aircraft runs very smoothly.
Another good thing about this aircraft is that you can use it in all airfields. It requires a very short runway and you have a great view to front when taxing because of the tricycle configuration.
I used this aircraft to test some failures and see how to recover from them. The instructor panel is very good feature that will help you in this task. You can create leaks that after a while will put you in trouble. So, it’s an amazing platform to gives you skills, but also pleasure if you like complex aircraft that gives you many tasks to worry about. I also want to remind you that you can also fly it in a more relaxing way. You can configure different levels of realism. Even with the most realistic configuration, you can fully fix and repair your aircraft with only 1 click.
So this aircraft is very easy and fun even for new pilots. Its also a must have add-on to pilots that like to fly low and not have time and/or patience for long flights such as transatlantic 8 hour flights. I made flights with no more than 400 km (249 miles) and I loved the trips, which were very calm, with a cruising speed around 130 knots ( +/- 240 km/h). I had enough time to watch with pleasure the landscape and also the gauges to check if everything was running as expected. Before takeoff and after landing I also noticed that the ground handling of this aircraft was very good.
It felt very realistic and it was also easy to turn it in the corners of the taxiways.
I have hundreds of aircraft in FSX, and yes, I have a very large Hangar. I would like to say that this DA20 from Aerosoft is one of the best add-on’s and for sure the best GA aircraft ever made. I’m very happy to have it and it’s turned my experience with FSX into a much more realistic event, as I had hoped.
It cost +/- 28 € (roughly $40.00 at current rates) and that, in my opinion, is very cheap compared to the pleasure that you will get using it. I’ve already flown some hours in this aircraft and want more and more.
So, I’ve already decided that it will be the number 1 small GA aircraft in my hangar. This add-on is very realistic and detailed. It has so much that gives you more “to-do” and realistic worries as a pilot than almost all add-on’s for FSX. Added to this are the great graphics, flight dymanics and sounds. This add-on is one of the best for FSX I’ve ever seen.
It gives you the feel that you really are the owner of a real “virtual” aircraft and this is almost unique in FSX and so, I truly recommend this add-on for all pilots that like General Aviation aircraft and think that flight simulation requires an add on to be as real as possible. For more information and to have access to the large list of features of this aircraft, I recommend you make a visit at Aerosoft’s Katana 4X eShop web page.
This review is written for Aerosoft News Service and published via the Aerosoft website.
While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.