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X-Crafts E-Jets

For those looking for a nice regional jet size aircraft for X-Plane, X-Crafts has you covered with their Embraer E175 and E195 narrow body, medium range aircraft. With a stunning 3D model and a reasonable replication of E-Jet systems, the X-Crafts E-Jets will satisfy a range of users from advanced to beginner.

E175 and E195

The X-Crafts Embraers have been in a near continuous state of evolution over the past few years. As a frequent lurker in their forums, I’ve watched how responsive the team has been to issues and there are few developers out there who offer as much communication and insight into the development of their products as X-Crafts has. Currently, both the E175 and E195 products are at Version 2. Both work in XP10, and both will work in XP11, although the E-195 is a bit further along the road to full XP11 functionality. This is understandable since many developers were hesitant to update their XP10 aircraft to XP11 while XP11 was in the beta phase. Now that XP11 has entered the release phase, I’d expect many developers to start finishing up their XP11 integration.

Both the E-Jets are stunningly represented – based on official Embraer documentation and drawings. The E195 is a stretched version (by about 23′) of the E175 with a larger wing, larger horizontal stabilizer, and a upgraded engines. The E175 typically seats 78-88 passengers depending on configuration, while the E195 seats 106-122 passengers. The E175 weighs in at a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 82,700 lbs. while the E195 MTOW is 107,560 lbs. The Mach .82 capable aircraft have ranges of 1,750nm (E175) and 1,600nm (E195) and a service ceiling of FL410.

The E195 comes with about a dozen high quality liveries for operators around the globe. Embraer airliners have increased their market share around the world and are regularly seen mixing in with Boeing and Airbus competitors. Indeed, regional jets have come so far in development and technology that the distinction between mainline jets and regionals has become very blurred, and I would argue that there should be no distinction between the two with regards to qualifications, experience, and compensation to fly them. In addition to the provided livery set, there are many more being released regularly by an enthusiastic user base.

Documentation

X-Crafts has provided a wealth of information on their E-Jets that you’ll be encouraged to read – particularly when dealing with the unique Flight Management System (FMS) that they have created for their Embraers. The E195 Flight Manual runs 46 pages, and contains excellent graphics and instructions on all of the modeled systems. While most of the buttons and switches in the cockpit are functional, not every single system is modeled to 100% realism, thus I would refer to these aircraft as providing an authentic Embraer “experience” rather than an add-on that is so intricately modeled down to the tiniest detail. An example of that would be a pneumatic system (pressurization) that is functional, but not intricately modeled. (Turning the flow packs off at altitude will result in a slow blackout though, so be sure to use the provided checklists!). Though some systems are slightly simplified, there are still extensive checklists required and you’ll be plenty busy enough working around the cockpit to get a cold & dark aircraft up and ready for flight. The checklist actually details about seventeen items to bring the aircraft out of a cold & dark state, but that does not include the extensive programming required of the FMS if you are going to use that.

The documentation includes sim-specific tips and instructions for the proprietary features that X-Crafts has included. The aforementioned custom FMS is very cool and is completely different than the types I’m more used to (Universal, Boeing, and Airbus) so a study of the 59-page FMS manual is a good idea. The FMS (coded by Steve Wilson) uses the Tekton FMS that provides some fairly in-depth flight planning and flight management functions that bridge the gap between the simple X-Plane FMS and more advanced functioning, airline style FMCs. A very nice collection of FMS Tutorial Videos are available on the X-Crafts YouTube page which serve to supplement the manual, and provide potential customers a glimpse into the functionality of the FMS.

The Flight Deck

Stepping into the Embraer cockpit, you can quickly appreciate the care and attention that went into modeling these two jets. The geometry seems very good, and the texturing, particularly on the overhead panel with scuffs, chipped paint, and the subtle use of dirty textures on the knobs and switches, is outstanding. Those familiar with the Embraer regional jet cockpit layout will instantly recognize the modern five-tube layout with pilot and co-pilot Primary Flight Displays (PFDs), Multi-Function Displays (MFDs), and a central Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS) display. The eyebrow panel contains all of the flight director and autopilot controls while the center pedestal houses the throttles, engine starters, flap lever, speedbrakes, and a few other components. The layout is extremely user friendly and lends itself to easy comprehension of what is going on when you are using automation in the cockpit. The E175 and E195 share similar cockpit layouts, so moving between the two is seamless.

An extremely useful feature of the X-Crafts E-Jets is that the PFDs, MFDs, EICAS, and FMS can all be popped up to larger 2D images to allow for closer examination and manipulation. This can be very nice when performing IFR procedures or when you just want to have a closer look at something. The pop-up FMS is useful when you are trying to split your attention between programming the FMS and flying visually since you don’t have the benefit of a First Officer to help you do one or the other. An additional feature that is really cool is the HUD view, although that view is only available in the fixed forward cockpit view – if you move from that view to the free-roaming virtual cockpit, the HUD does disappear.

X-Crafts has included a handy pop-up checklist that stays on the screen while you work your way around the virtual cockpit.

 

The pilot and copilot MFDs are touchscreens that can display a wide array of systems data. The different display modes include map, pneumatic, fuel, electrical, environmental, anti-ice, hydraulic, flight control, and status/summary pages.

As usual for most X-Plane add-ons, owing to the phenomenal lighting capabilities of X-Plane, the cockpit lighting options are highly variable and combine instrument backlighting, display brightness, flood-lighting, and indirect lighting controls. The E-Jets have a starship-like quality to them which makes them seem very futuristic.

X-Crafts is always finding unique ways to add to the experience, including a very cool menu driven plug-in that can be used to call for a pushback vehicle and set a distance and direction of turn for the pushback procedure. This is a great and immersive way to get off the gate and onto the ramp while performing the cold start checklist. The same menu system also provides for control over the opening and closing of the various doors (passenger and cargo) as well as hooking up a ground power unit and placing static objects like cones and chocks around the aircraft. The associated sounds with all aspects of E-Jet operation are well represented and only add to the immersion.

Ground handling is with typical exceptional X-Plane dynamic feel. Acceleration on takeoff is perhaps a bit more swift than book values, something the X-Plane 11 beta engine modeling might be exacerbating. Rough published values for max gross takeoff runway length are around 5,715′ and 5,289′ for the E195 and E175 respectively. My tests showed the X-Crafts E195 lifting off in around 4,200′ (at MTOW) in XP11 and around 4,400′ in XP10, perhaps a bit under what might one expect, so the engines might be a touch overpowered.

Testing takeoff distance numbers at KMUD.

Acceleration and climb are swift and a good working familiarity with the multiple autopilot and flight director modes is recommended. The E-Jets lend themselves to being flown via the autoflight system, but they respond honestly to manual inputs as well. The autothrottle will hold whatever speed you desire, although there can be a little bit of “hunting” by the engines as they try to pin down a speed, resulting in a bit of back and forth wandering. I preferred to manage the throttles in cruise by manually setting them, which results in no hunting, but the autothrottles are great for climbs, descents, and approaches. Taking the E195 up to FL410 we were indicating Mach .79 burning 1,865 lbs. of fuel per side. With an Mmo of .82, these seemed like reasonable numbers (Mmo would typically not be attainable at maximum certified altitude..but rather at the mid 30s). The aircraft responded well on the autopilot/flight director when executing precision and non-precision approaches.

The FMS is quite complex given that it is an X-Crafts custom instrument that interacts with the default X-Plane GNS430 database. There is a lot of functionality provided by the FMS, with performance pages giving fuel calculations, weights, V-speeds, and other data. Flight plans can be loaded, saved, and modified, including airways, SIDs, STARs, and approaches. The formatting is a bit different than what I was used to, but with a bit of practice it all comes together. Indeed, flying an entire flight including a departure, airways, arrival, and an approach gives a great impression of the workload a real E-Jet pilot must go through.

The MFD map display is a bit basic in presentation, borrowing heavily from X-Plane default symbology. A recent update added waypoint names to the FMS plotted points on the map, so that was a welcomed improvement, but it would be nice to see some additional advanced functions and more accurate symbology on the map page.

Approach and landings are fun – and the modeling of the landing gear extension/retraction mechanics is pretty darn impressive to watch. The entire 3D model is really stunning, and I appreciate that X-Crafts decided to include pilots in the cockpit instead of having us fly phantom aircraft around the skies (a personal peeve of mine). Touchdown will deploy spoilers and selecting reverse thrust and using autobrakes (if desired) will bring the E-Jets to a stop in a few thousand feet with the most aggressive settings.

Conclusion

Overall, the X-Crafts E-Jets represent a nice mixture of realism and value. Available individually for $39.95 or a package deal of both the E175 and E195 for $59.95, you are getting a good value for the money. It is also nice to see the developer work so hard communicating with their customers, and striving to add functionality with each release.

Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth