A Brief Message from the Editor:
I have the distinct pleasure of introducing Threshold’s first review. The publishing of this review is the culmination of many months of work by the Threshold Administration, reviewers and writers, and friends. Not only is this a massive leap forward for us as a platform, but the publishing of this review represents an even more important step forward for the X-Plane community. We have worked tirelessly to develop a brand-new way to score aircraft and scenery: standardized score-sheets. You can see the aircraft sheet right here, and the scenery sheet will be made available with the first scenery review, which is coming very soon! These will introduce a new level of objectivity, consistency, and transparency in our reviews that has not been seen before in the X-Plane platform. As we continue on our journey, as always, we encourage you to walk alongside us, and provide compliments and criticisms alike when you think they are warranted. This review is for a very special plane, written by a shining star of our community, Garrett Yalch. Come hear what he has to say about Aerobask’s rendition of the Diamond DA62.
Scott Havener – Chief Editor, Threshold.
The Diamond DA62, a twin engine low-wing monoplane, is made by Diamond Aircraft Industries. The project was first announced in March of 2012 and the prototype, the DA52, took to the skies a month after this announcement. This relatively new aircraft is known for its great fuel efficiency, as well as its spacious and comfortable cabin. Aerobask, a well known X-Plane aircraft development group, took the initiative to bring this fabulous, innovative, and interesting aircraft into the X-Plane world.
Visualization: 3D Modelling & Texture Work
From the luxurious leather seats to the sleek metallic fuselage, Aerobask has nailed the visuals of the DA62, inside and out. Beginning with the 3D modelling and texture work of the aircraft, I observed that the interior has been modeled to the highest expectable standard, thus, scoring five out of five possible points. The texture work and level of detail is, all-around, superb. Highlights include:
- Very natural and aesthetically pleasing default G1000 integration
- PBR to enhance the look of switches and other reflective materials
- Leather seats that look very realistic due to Aerobask’s leather texture and use of normal maps, making the leather look shiny and smooth
- Beautiful night lighting
- Interior modelled to the correct dimensions
- Ambient Occlusion baked in to interior textures to simulate the shadowing of ambient light
Overall, Aerobask has done great job with the interior of this aircraft. This is some of the best work that I have seen on a light, general aviation aircraft. When speaking of the modeling of this aircraft, Aerobask has modeled every single minutia and detail, doing a great job of it. If one were to compare real images of the aircraft to the model in the sim, they are very, very close. Aerobask’s careful modelling, beautiful high-resolution textures, and implementation of physically based rendering creates a stunning output, making the interior of the DA62 one of the best in the game.
Now onto the exterior. The exterior is modeled to the same level of detail as the interior, scoring five out of five possible points. Some features to note:
- Beautiful chromatic matte finish implemented into the fuselage
- Extremely detailed landing gear
- Exterior modelled to the correct dimensions
- Visual icing effects
- Ambient Occlusion baked in to exterior textures to simulate the shadowing of ambient light
Aerobask has used a mix of perfect pbr implementation, excellent normal maps, faultless modelling, and high quality image textures to make the exterior give off the distinct sleek, fast look that the actual airplane does. Frankly, it is unequal to to anything I have seen before in the X-Plane world.
So far, Aerobask has done superb work on their DA62. When looking at the physical characteristics of this plane, I really believe that their hard work has paid off because, to me, this is unprecedented visual detail. Aerobask’s 3D modeling scores 15 out of 15 possible points. Their texture work, also, scores 10 out of 10 possible points.
Aerobask has gone above and beyond my expectations (again) when it comes to the animations on this aircraft. When I think of how it feels to be inside an aircraft, looking at the flaps move, I recognize the same feeling when flying this plane. They have gone out of their way to make the animations accurate, but nice to look at. Out of the 10 available points, this aircraft scores 10. Highlights include:
- All control surface, flap, and landing gear animations are very smooth and accurate
- Extremely smooth switch and button animations (one of my favorite features)
- Smooth control stick animation
Aerobask has included 10 liveries with the DA62. All of these liveries are beautiful and fit the aircraft’s shape very nicely. Unfortunately, because this plane does not include a paint kit, it loses 3 of the 5 possible points for liveries. This makes painting much more complicated for painters because, instead of having a blank slate, or a paint kit, developers have to clear a livery that is already made or paint over it. In the end, the DA62 scores 2 out of 5 possible points for liveries.
The sounds of an aircraft addon have the potential to make it or break it. If the airplane has great visuals but poor sounds then it feels like something huge is missing: balance is key. Aerobask has mastered this balance in the DA62. They have complimented the beautiful visuals of this aircraft by taking full advantage of X-Plane’s new sound infrastructure, FMOD. The detail in the overall sound system is stunning. When you flip a switch, any switch, there is some audible change, unlike anything I have ever seen in GA addons for X-Plane. As far as the actual quality of the sounds, they are superb. Equalizer values are consistent, and there aren’t any unnecessary or unrealistic background noises when you flip a switch or press a button. This includes the engine sounds! I compared real sounds of the DA62 to the aircraft in the sim via a video, and they sounded very similar. The only difference was the pitch of the engines at full throttle. In the video, the pitch of the engines during takeoff was a bit higher than the pitch in the sim. But, other than this the sounds were close to flawless. In the end, the sounds of the DA62 score 10 out of 10 possible points. Rather than taking a point away from the engine sounds, I ultimately decided they were of high enough quality to earn both points from that subsection, and it is also worth considering that the microphone in the video may have distorted the sound at high volumes.
Flight Model & Ground Behavior
The flight model, another incredibly important feature of an addon, has been outsourced to X-Aerodynamics for the DA62. X-Aerodynamics creates flight models for aircraft, payware or freeware, in X-Plane. They claim that their flight models are 97% accurate and, based on my observations, this seems to be a fair claim. I compared multiple videos of controlled stalls, simulated single engine failures, and landings to the aircraft in the sim. All of these tests looked and performed the same in the sim. For example, I found that when I took the power to idle and imputed full back pressure, in the stall I would get a wing drop to the right in the sim. This turned out to be the same in the video. This is due to the lack of counter rotating props. In the DA62 both of the props spin clockwise so when the airplane is in the stall the clockwise centripetal force is enough to cause a wing drop to the right. Every other test that I conducted turned out to be the same. Overall, the DA62’s flight model scores 9 out of 10 possible points. It lost one point due to the use of the kinky default taxi behavior.
The systems depth in the DA62 go to a place that I haven’t seen before in the GA sector of the X-Plane world. Highlights include:
- Fully Integrated Laminar Garmin G1000 with custom accurate EIS and annunciations
- Customized FADEC/ECU with test procedures
- allows engines and propellers to deliver their documented performance with unprecedented accuracy, including fuel usage
- Auto-feathering is also accurately managed, for total immersion
- Simulated oxygen system with custom sounds
- Simulated ice protection system that accurately affects engines performance
- MD302: custom coded Standby Attitude Module
- Fully functional breakers (configurable reliability)
To start off, Aerobask has integrated the custom engine instruments that are in the real G1000 into the native X-Plane G1000. These are some of the first modifications of this kind since the default G1000 is brand new, but they have done a great job with these changes. Moving to the serious meat and potatoes, the ECU, or engine control unit, in the DA62 is one of the core features of the real airplane. This computer manages every aspect of the engines including power, prop, mixture, etc. There are actually two of them, ECU A and ECU B. I've included a photo of the voter panel below for reference.
The voter panel is where the pilot can manage what ECU controlling what engine. In normal operations this is done automatically but in the case of a bad situation the pilot can switch ECUs using the two switches on the outside part of the panel. The two buttons on the inside labeled ‘ECU test’ are used during the runup. These buttons will disconnect the engine from both of the ECUs. When this button is pushed you want to ensure that the the respective engine doesn’t die. in the case of a dual ECU failure (this could be caused by electrical issues, computational glitches, engine oddities, etc. so they aren’t as rare as they may seem) then you would still want running engines. As you can tell, the level of detail that Aerobask has put in to the systems in this aircraft is outstanding. This still isn’t an exhaustive list! There are other systems like the anti-ice system and the MD302 that are modeled to the same level of detail as described in the systems above. Overall, Aerobask scores an absolutely astounding 15 out of 15 possible points on systems.
Extra Features & Documentation
The DA62 lacks some ‘extra’ features that other GA aircraft in X-Plane have that we consider to be necessary for a ‘perfect’ aircraft, including a walk-around feature, checklist feature, failures feature, etc. Because of this, the DA62 scores 5 out of 10 possible points in this category. It earned points for VR compatibility and its handy load management feature. The DA62 also ships with documentation including checklists (normal and emergency), a flight manual, performance tables, and a systems overview. Overall, the documentation is solid and scores 4 out of 5 possible points. The only thing that the documentation lacked was a tutorial.
In conclusion, Aerobask has done a superb job with this addon and has scored 94 out of 100 possible points, an excellent score. I granted Aerobask four extra points (which are already included in the total) for exceptional work in the ultra smooth switch animations and the extreme detail of the sounds. Overall, I think that this aircraft is worth every penny of it’s 34.95 dollar price (earning all ten out of ten points available for value). The addon maintains balance among features and excels in all of them. Also, I believe that this aircraft fills the high quality twin gap in the X-Plane market (again, fulfilling part of the value requirement). Yes, you could perhaps argue that the default baron + REP does the same, but the visuals are a bit lacking in my opinion for this aircraft. Like I have previously mentioned, balance is key. In conclusion, I think that this aircraft has set a new standard for the GA sector of the X-Plane market. It is certainly worth the money, as well as the time investment to learn the systems. Altogether, I believe that this is, arguably of course, the best GA aircraft currently on the X-Plane market. You can view the completed spreadsheet at this link.