One of the most high tech general aviation aircraft to be introduced to the market in recent years is approaching production. We take a look at this personal luxury rocket-ship in both X-Plane 10 and 11.
Epic Aircraft, based in Bend, Oregon, first broke onto the aviation scene in 2004 with their Epic LT. In a crowded market, the nearly $3-million Epic E1000 is working toward certification of what they claim will be the “fastest, highest performing, most affordable and comfortable, six-place single engine turboprop in the world.” While the reality of market forces in the real world make bringing any new aircraft to market a challenge, we are fortunate to get a sneak peek at what the E1000 might have to offer with the Aerobask Epic E1000 Skyview v2 add-on for X-Plane 10/11*. If you don’t happen to have a spare $3-million lying about, the $29.95 entry price for the Aerobask E1000 should be much more palatable. (* As of publication date, X-Plane 11 was still in beta. The E1000 was tested with XP11 beta and found to be working fine, although some navigation database problems have been reported.)
The Aerobask Epic E1000 is a beautiful rendition of the proposed aircraft. The six-seat, all composite aircraft climbs like a rocket and cruises at 325 knots. Sporting a PT6-67A turboprop engine that develops 1,200 SHP, the Epic is no weekend warrior, but rather a high performance aircraft that demands competency and training to operate safely. Aerobask developed an incredibly rich avionics suite based on the Dynon Skyview – which brings together a wealth of information on a 3-tube touchscreen EFIS system to make your job as a pilot easier.
The E1000 includes seven beautiful liveries, with more user created available on both the X-Plane.org and Aerobask sites. To come to grips with operating the E1000 (easy) and the Dynon Skyview avionics (more complicated), the package comes with excellent documentation. The 29-page Skyview Manual and 10-page Skyview addendum details how to use the avionics with excellent graphics and text descriptions. The 19-page E1000 manual details more general aircraft operating principles and the cockpit layout. Normal and emergency checklists are provided, as well as basic performance data. My one and only complaint with the documentation might be the lack of expanded performance data such as takeoff and landing distance charts and max economy/range charts. The manuals are well written, professionally formatted, and overall of very nice quality.
The Options menu allows you to select various settings that affect both graphics and simulation depth. Other menus allow loading of fuel, door operation, and passenger and luggage loading. It is very cool that you can select adult or child passengers and they will visibly occupy the correct seat in the cabin. Small touches are appreciated such as changing the amount of luggage results in the number of bags on the luggage dolly changing as well. Engine exhaust covers, chocks, pitot and prop covers give the “cold and dark” E1000 a nice look on the ramp. A nice ground power unit (GPU) is available as well.
The E1000 cockpit is a modern masterpiece with clean lines and a progressive approach to form and function. It almost looks like a modern sportscar, with simplified controls, uniform switches, and a curving, flowing cockpit design that mirrors the airplanes speedy performance. The Aerobask E1000 cockpit appears to closely resemble Epic’s own vision – you can take a look at the actual cockpit in this nice virtual demonstration. Push button controls are arranged in a unique row format which generally follow the order of activation according to phase of flight (PRE-START, PRE-TAXI, SYSTEMS) while other systems are logically grouped (LIGHTS, ANTI/DE-ICE). Initial application of power, either via the batteries or GPU will give you splash screens across the three EFIS displays as the system initializes.
The Aerobask Dynon Skyview presentation is simply fantastic. They purposely used the same resolution as the real instrument (1024 x 600 px) to allow for a faithful representation of the displays. They look fantastic in the virtual cockpit, but a super-nice feature is that they can also be popped up to 2D presentations – a welcome feature that has been increasingly disappearing from flight sim add-ons. In addition to the Skyview screens, the autopilot, transponder, clock/timer, the MVP-50 glass engine monitor, and COM radios can all be popped up into 2D presentations. The many screen configurations and data display options on the Skyview are impressive. I’d venture to say Aerobask could sell their Skyview avionics suite as a stand-alone product – it is that good.
The red Xs over the “NO ENGINE DATA” blocks on the top of the Skyview engine monitoring system display are authentic because Skyviews are not designed for displaying jet engine parameters. Instead, this information is displayed on the MVP-50 instrument located below the center panel screen.
The Skyview avionics are simply awesome. Data entry is done via scroll knobs and/or an alpha-numeric keypad that appears on the screen itself. Inputting a flight plan, modifying it, adding SIDs, STARs, and approaches is easy once you’ve had some practice with the data entry methods. The database has airfield information such as runway length, navaid frequencies, and type of runway, while the “nearest” function will give you a list of all nearby navaids, airports, and fixes. All of these items can be configured to display on a moving map which can also be decluttered by selecting different screen configurations. The wealth of information is impressive.
Integration of the Skyview system with the autopilot is flawless and makes flying instrument approaches an absolute dream. The only real quirk that takes a tiny bit of adjusting to is that the left and right scroll wheels on the Skyview display can be configured to control whatever function you like (HDG, ALT, VSI, BARO, etc.), so there is the occasional opportunity for mode confusion until you’ve practiced up on choosing the mode that suits your current mode of flight. For instance, when intercepting an ILS, you’d probably want HDG and ALT modes ready – if they are not, it can be a quick scramble to set the mode correctly. It is nice to have the pop-up autopilot 2D window available when setting different autopilot modes.
Epic isn’t bashful with regards to boasting over their E1000 performance. With an advertised climb rate of 3,000 feet per minute, a FL340 ceiling, and a range of 1,650 nm with full fuel and 1,120 lbs. of payload – there is a lot to be proud of. Aerobask captures the performance very well, with numbers that are very close to the advertised book numbers. In tests at KMUD, the fully loaded E1000 at maximum gross weight broke ground at 90 knots in just 900′ and landed at max gross weight in 1,100′ – bringing nearly every airport into the realm of possibility. At gross weight and maintaining 160 knots (recommended cruise climb speed) the VSI showed 3,200 feet per minute. Holding ITT just below the redline of 850C, VSI dropped to about 1,800 fpm through FL200. Continuing the climb through FL300 the VSI was down to 500 fpm, but just 16 minutes had elapsed from brake release. Torque drop seems consistent with a PT-6, with 100% available on takeoff and slowly dropping off as the climb progresses as temperature becomes the limiting factor. At FL300 torque was 51% with an ITT at 850C. Continuing the climb at near max gross from FL300 to the ceiling of FL340 is slow at the 160 knot speed, but I’d guess 140 knots might improve that last bit of climb. Level off at FL340 was accomplished 24 minutes after brake release. Maximum cruise power (limited by ITT), with 1600 prop RPM netted 48.2% torque, on a fuel burn of 50.8 gallons per hour (or 338 lbs./hr.) and a true airspeed of 300 knots on the nose giving a zero wind range of around 1,700 nm (no reserve) after the climb – impressive!
The Skyview system is so much fun to play with that it’s easy to fly the E1000 like you would an airliner..with knobs, buttons, and the autopilot panel – but it is an honest hand-flown aircraft as well. For all that speed in cruise, it slows to just 90 knots on approach and with the massive reverse thrust from the prop, it will stop on a dime.
The Aerobask E1000 Skyview v2.0 is a really nice product at a really nice price point. The depth of functionality in the Skyview avionics is fantastic, and the overall quality of the cockpit and external model is equally impressive. In short – there is a lot here to explore and enjoy. Rain drops on the windscreen, reflective instruments, and all of the nice touches that XP11 adds (reflective skin surfaces) make this package a very nice addition to your GA hangar. Aerobask is certainly making a name for themselves in the X-Plane add-on scene. We look forward to continued innovation from this company.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth