Threshold Review: Carenado 58 Baron for X-Plane 11

Copy Provided
By
Mike Cameron
September 15, 2019

Introduction

The information gathered for the introduction was from the AOPA, Global Air & Disciples of Flight websites and the Carenado documentation. The Beechcraft 58 Baron evolved from a long line of the aircraft that have been become pilot favorites over the decades. Beginning with the Beechcraft Bonanza introduced in 1947, a six-seat, low wing, single engine, retractable gear utility aircraft, which is still in production today (G36, its been in continuous production longer than any other airplane in history). Beechcraft soon realized a need for a twin to fill the gap between the gap between the Model 35 Bonanza and the Model 50 Bonanza. Thus, the Beechcraft Travel Air was born. The Travel Air was only in production for ten years but made the Beechcraft Baron possible.

The Baron was introduced in 1961 as the Beechcraft 55 Baron, which combined the fuselage of the Bonanza, the empennage of the Debonair, and the tail control surfaces of the T-34 Mentor. This first model was powered by two six-cylinder IO-470-L engines, with 260 HP each. The Baron added another 15 knots of speed onto the Travel Air at a penalty of about 5 gallons per hour. A pilot could count on 180 to 185 knots true airspeed on 24 gallons per hour at typical rich-of-peak power settings at 7,000 to 11,000 feet. The next variant of the Baron was the 56TC, introduced in 1967, it was fitted with two 380 HP Lycoming TIO-540-E1B4 turbocharged piston engines. It was the fastest Beechcraft aircraft in production at that time, it was created to give engineers at Beech practice working with the 380 HP Lycoming engines before the introduction of the Model 60 Duke, which would be introduced the following year.

Beechcraft still produce 58 Barons to this day, under the name G58.

Beechcraft’s basic-model 58 Baron is the last piston twin still built and one of only four piston models still made by Beechcraft. Introduced in 1969, the 58 Baron increased the B55’s cabin length by two feet, creating a six-seat “conference”- style cabin arrangement, and added 50 horsepower. The Baron also uses the Bonanza’s dual cargo/entry doors on the right side. The 58 Baron has greater carrying ability, speed, and gross weight, but the climb rate remained the same. Later versions of the 58 included more horsepower, turbocharging (Model 58TC), and pressurization (Model 58P).

Both the 58TC and 58P were introduced in 1976 and were produced until the mid-1980’s. In 1984, both the engine and instrument panel were changed; the new compact panel resembled a King Air panel, with twin vertical engine instruments. In 2005, the modern G58 was introduced that featured glass cockpit with Garmin 1000 NXi installed. The G58 is the only Baron still in production today. This top-of-the-line luxury light twin is quite expensive (new ones start at around $1.1 million) and besides the Garmin glass panels also is equipped with a flight computer. The review 58 Baron aircraft is equipped with analog gauges.

Carenado's rendition of the legendary 58 Baron.

Installation

I received the review copy of the 58 Baron directly from Carenado, so the install process may be slightly different if purchased from another store. After purchase, log in to your account and select “Downloads” first and download the aircraft to your hard drive. After this is done, select “Dashboard” which displays your Carenado owned aircraft and their serial keys. Installing is very easy, simply unpack the folder and place this aircraft’s folder into the XP11 Aircraft directory.

Start the simulator and load one of the Carenado Baron 58 aircraft, after the scenery loads, the activation window will open. Select “Paste” to paste the Serial Key and select “Activate”. If entered correctly, an activated message will display along with the message to “Reload the Current Aircraft” in order to use this aircraft. Personally, rather than staying in the simulator and performing this action, I exit completely and start XP11 and load the aircraft. I sometimes have issues reloading the current aircraft and it does not take that much longer to exit and open the simulator. That is all there is to it, very easy!

Carenado does not provide an extensive manual with their aircraft but several PDF documents which covers procedures, performance, autopilot guide, simulator settings and a few more that may or may not be of interest to you. I own other Carenado aircraft, so I expected this and do not have an issue with it on a piston, relatively non-complex aircraft. The checklists are very well written for both normal and emergency procedures, but I wish they would have included the suggested rotation speed as part of takeoff checklist or provide this on the Performance document along with the other airspeeds. I located a real world Baron 58 checklist and it did not have the rotation speed with the takeoff procedures, so this is not an issue with the Carenado provided one, but it did provide the rotation speed (Vr)  of 85 KIAS with its reference airspeeds, so I will note this on the takeoff procedure checklist. Even though this is an analog instrument panel and I know from experience what the instruments are, I wish Carenado would have included a document with the instrument panel layout and a brief description of the instruments as a reference.

Interior & Instrument Panel

Carenado has always produced aircraft with great looking textures and their Beechcraft 58 Baron does not disappoint. The first screenshot below is of the default view with window and instrument reflections enabled along with the default GPS radios. I own and prefer using the RealityXP GTN 750 so with the RealityXP plugin I replaced the default GNS 530 with the GTN 750 but decided to keep the GNS 430 as the secondary GPS for now. On the lower left corner of the screen are three icons that control the various aircraft options. The top “A” opens the autopilot window if you have issues with the instrument panel mounted one, “C” controls the camera views, and “O” is used to control the aircraft options. The camera window is nice for moving between interior and exterior views with very smooth transitions. This window also allows you to control the “Field of View” and sound level. Personally, I would rather use the simulators controls for these two options so that I can always keep the default views when selecting the different views. What I like to do with aircraft with view controls is select the view, adjust if needed then assign that view to a number on the numpad so that I can quickly change views without opening the window.

A texture issue that I hope is corrected in the futures is that all instruments with LCD screens have grey textures. This could be from sun reflection because on the larger GTN display this negative effect disappeared during flight. On the small screens, DME and ADF radio, the reflection did not go away, and this makes it very hard to read these displays. I am all for a realistic look, but I would gladly give up some realism for increased functionality, similar reason as to why I disable window and instrument reflections, I would rather see the outside and instruments more clearly.

Texture issue as described above.

Whenever I first load a new aircraft, I like to sit in the pilot seat and pan around to get a sense of the overall quality of the aircraft - first impressions are very important! Looking at the right seat, the details that Carenado has included both large and small are very impressive. First the seats are very realistic looking right down to the Beechcraft logo on the buckle of the seat belt. I am also pleased with the quality of the labeling, which is a small but necessary feature on quality premium simulated aircraft. The door can be opened from the “Options” window, but I prefer to just use the door handle which provides a nice animation and sound effect. I also like that I can simply click on the handle to close the door, maybe not as realistic as having to pull it close but easier for me.

The options menu of the Carenado 58 Baron.

Looking forward, I like that the sun visors are fully controllable rather than just down or up. I also do not mind having reflections on the visors. Other than the small LCD screens, all the rest of the instrument panel textures and labeling are very good and the instruments are clearly viewable from a distance. Most of the instrument panel switches and knobs are operable (whether they are simulated or not), with the mouse and have realistic animations and sound effects. I found out with experimentation that the knobs at the bottom of the panel are push/pull with the mouse. They are easy to control, and I like the added realism.

An oddity that I found is that I could not find the Alternate Static Air Source Selector, which the checklist says is on the left side panel, but only its label is placed here along with the Hobbs meters. The cabin is also very detailed with a nicely animated tray table. I like that Carenado has included some cargo in the small interior storage location, but it would have been nice if the cargo capacity signage in the rear would have been the same quality as the signage in the front of the aircraft. It is readable, just not as sharp as the other labeling. Lastly, interior and instrument panel lighting are very impressive but when I did a flight in the rain, I found out that Carenado has not included rain effects, instead, you are expected to have downloaded/installed the Librain plugin by Saso Kizelkov.

Exterior Features

Carenado includes four exterior paint jobs plus the default white for aircraft painters. With the parking brake enabled, the static elements are enabled via the “Options” window.

Static elements.

Just like the interior, the exterior textures and features are outstanding. I like that all exterior labeling is readable and that when the aircraft is parked in a cold and dark state, the pilots are not visible, which for me adds to the realism. When visible, the pilots head movement is slow which is nice and rather than scan in all directions, the head movement changes depending on the exterior viewpoint. This is the first time that I can remember seeing this on a premium aircraft, normally it is the same head movement when viewed from all directions.

Besides the static elements, you can change the liveries (a nice feature for reviewers!) and operate the doors. I appreciate that Carenado has included luggage in the nose storage, because for me adds to the overall experience. Exterior lighting is also very well done.

Flight Model

To review the flight model, I am going to perform a cross country flight that I often perform when I install a new aircraft into the simulator. I will depart from Boeing Field (KBFI) in Seattle, Washington to Felts Field (KSFF) located in Spokane, Washington. My route will be via the ELN, MWH and GEG VOR’s so that I can review the autopilot capabilities. The weather is beautiful today so that will not be an issue.

Carenado does not simulate the exterior preflight inspection so I am going to begin with the “Before Start” checklist. I have already mentioned the Emergency Static Selector and unless I am wrong, the oxygen system is not simulated. Also, for some reason the GTN 750 powers on with the battery and alternator instead of waiting for the avionics power switch to be turned on. Carenado does not simulate an external power cart so I can start either engine first, per the checklist, the right engine needs to be started first when using external power.

The engines started without issue but for some reason they start with the firewall air controls pulled instead of pushed in which would make more sense, which according to the labeling next to these controls, the pilot should pull these in case of engine fire, which is definitely not the case for engine start. For users that want to quickly get flying, this is probably not an issue, but I wish if this system is not going to be simulated, they would have allowed engine start from both positions, so that people, like me, can follow the proper procedures. The fuel boost pump and instrument are simulated properly which is nice. I also like that the load and volt meters are simulated.

The engine sounds are very impressive, from both the inside and outside. When inside, a noise cancelling headset would have been a nice feature to have.  The before takeoff checklist went pretty much as it should except the “Exercise” propellers check, on my system I had to move the propeller controls too far before I had an RPM drop. This was kind of hit or miss on my system, sometimes I would have a gradual RPM drop as it should, other times no drop until I almost to the feathering position. Maybe it is my hardware. The sound effects (interior/exterior) and prop animation from the exterior views is outstanding. I can see why, feathering is not recommended at a high-power setting, because the whole aircraft shakes when feathering this way. The sound effect and prop animation are still very impressive when performing the “Feathering” check with the proper power setting. There is not too much with the takeoff checklist, full throttles/mixtures, after establishing a positive rate of climb, retract gear and establish desired climb speed. The checklist and performance documents did not specify but with a real aircraft checklist that I found, rotate at 85 KIAS. I establish my climb and turn towards my first waypoint.

I entered my flight plan into the GTN 750 and dial in the navigation frequencies into both the GTN 750 and the default GNS 430 which serves as my secondary radios. The GTN 750 is the primary GPS and drives the I while the GNS 430 radio is sent to the VOR indicator. Normally, I state this at the start of the flight model section, but I want to say that I am not expert on flight dynamics and have not been a passenger in a real-world Baron 58, let alone piloted one. Personally, I am not one of those people that expect every system to be simulated accurately, that is why I tend to install small general aviation piston aircraft on my system. I do not have the time to spend hours learning systems and verifying everything is operating as realistic as possible. Granted, I still expect to be able to start realistically from a cold and dark aircraft, but I want to be able to be flying as soon as possible rather than spending extra minutes on the ground, performing extensive systems checks while on the ground. That is why I consider the Carenado piston powered aircraft to be perfect for new and experienced simulator users that want a fun aircraft to operate in the simulator. The Carenado Baron is a pretty easy aircraft to manually fly, easy to trim for all phases of flight, but it does have a left turning tendency. After getting to know this aircraft, I got pretty good at setting the right amount of rudder trim to reduce this issue.  I did not have any issues with the cruise climb and the cruise checklists.

This aircraft performs well. After leaving Seattle, I needed to climb above 12,000 feet to avoid mountain clouds and had to watch my airspeed but after crossing the mountains, I descended to my cruise altitude of 9500 feet and my airspeed increased to 145 KIAS with the Baron leaned for cruise. The 58 Baron is a wonderful aircraft for cross country flying. The autopilot works great either when I just want to hold the wings level or when following a GPS flight plan, tracking a VOR or in Heading hold. For me, the autopilot is especially useful when leaning using the Exhaust Gas Temperature Indicator (EGT), because I had a hard time flying the aircraft with one hand and leaning each of the mixtures with the other. The autopilot captures the selected altitude without issue. I am familiar with this type of autopilot but if you are unfamiliar with its operation, I recommended reading the included document.

I did not have any issues descending or setting up my approach into Felts Field, the airspeeds matched the recommended settings. I am not an expert with instrument approaches, so I will let others review those procedures. I will also let others review stalls and other procedures because I am primarily a single engine aircraft pilot and do not want to take the time now to try these but will practice them when I get to know this aircraft better. I will say that the stall horn is very impressive and will immediately alert you to watch what you are doing. This aircraft down easily enough and even though I used up more runway then I would have liked, I was able to smoothly land and come to a stop. I like that the checklist includes maximum speeds for gear and flap extension rather than just being a generic checklist. Other than the lack of a control lock, I did not have any issues with the shutdown and secure checklists.

Conclusion

I have always liked the general aviation piston Carenado aircraft. They produce wonderfully nice-looking aircraft with great sound effects and animations. A common complaint against Carenado aircraft is usually about systems modeling. This is not really an issue with their piston powered general aviation aircraft. Despite being a twin-engine aircraft, this really is not a complex aircraft to operate and all simulator pilots should not have an issue with its operation. On a personal note, like most experienced users, I like to have some ultra-realistic aircraft installed that I take the time to learn how to operate as realistically as possible. I also like to have some aircraft installed that I can get flying as soon as possible. Even with these non-complex aircraft, I can still follow the checklists and practice visual as well as radio navigation.

At $29.95, I think it is priced right to include the XP11 visual features and is a very fun aircraft to fly that I recommend if you want to add a twin-engine aircraft to your virtual hangar. If you are a casual simulator user, the aircraft itself will probably satisfy you. If you require more, than I recommend purchasing the optional SimCoders REP plugin for the XP11 Carenado Beechcraft 58 Baron for an increased realistic experience. I did have a few minor issues, first they have a nice instruction placard on using the Emergency Static Selector, which I could not locate. Also, I wish Carenado would include rain effects as part of their aircraft rather than saying to use an optional plugin that for a person new to the X-Plane simulator is confusing to understand. Another textural issue that I consider not so minor is that instruments with LCD screens have grey textures and the small instruments are very hard to read in flight.

If you would like to purchase the Carenado Beechcraft 58 Baron for XP11 for yourself visit the Carenado product page located here. The price is $29.95 USD.

I want to thank Carenado for providing the review copy of this aircraft.

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