At the intersection of value and quality, the Mario Noriega Designs Caproni-Vizzola C-22J Ventura for Microsoft Flight Simulator is a must have for your virtual hangar…
The C-22J is a light trainer jet developed in Italy in the late 70s in a bid to fulfill the USAF’s low-cost jet training requirements. Some of the C-22J’s DNA traces back to A-21 series of gliders that the company built during the previous decade. You don’t have to squint very hard to see the sailplane heritage in the C-22J. First flight of the Carlo Ferrarin designed aircraft was in July, 1980 but over the next decade the company would be acquired by Agusta and the C-22J would be cancelled in favor of the SIAI-Marchetti (Aermacchi) S.211. The design at the project termination in 1982 featured a side-by-side cockpit, long high-mounted wings with tip fuel tanks, a high T-tail, with power provided by two Microturbo TRS 18 turbojet engines.
Bringing the aircraft into MSFS is developer Mario Noriega Designs, who built on their C-22J for FSX. A visit to their site also shows they have a long history developing other freeware aircraft for both FSX and FS9.
The C-22J is available from both SimMarket and the MSFS in-game store – generally for around $10, which is a great value for such a well fleshed out aircraft. The real C-22J isn’t the most complicated aircraft with regards to systems and the add-on reflects that with a refreshingly straightforward flight experience. With that said though, it is clear the developer worked hard to develop a realistic flight model and systems modeling even at the budget level pricing. The download includes the C-22J with five different paint schemes, an 18-page Quick Start Guide, and an excellent 77-page Aircraft Flight Manual that has been professionally reformatted, but also includes legacy charts and diagrams to give a sense of the era. There is also a really nice editable Excel spreadsheet that provides a weight and balance calculation and a graphical depiction of the CG.
When you first spot the aircraft in the menu screen or the hangar loading screen, a sequence of thoughts immediately flashes through your mind. It looks like a tadpole. It looks like a glider. It looks like a T-37. It looks futuristic. It looks cute. It looks sexy. Yes – all of those things. The long, Hershey Bar shaped wings would otherwise look somewhat angular if they weren’t capped by the graceful integrated wingtip fuel pods. The fuselage accommodates two pilots side-by-side and has a beautiful shape tapering to a thin aft section leading to the high T-tail. The twin Microturbo engines are near centerline mounted with the NACA intakes faired into the fuselage behind the cockpit. The aircraft has a very retro chic appearance that draws the eye.
I will admit to tilting immediately to the favorable side of falling in love with this aircraft when I first got in the cockpit. It felt like I was putting on an old, familiar sweater. The Collins radio stack was immediately familiar to me, having flown many aircraft over the previous decades with that exact configuration. The six-pack of traditional instrumentation felt comfortable. The right side of the cockpit is dominated by the Integrated Multi Display Panel (IMDP) that shows engine operating parameters, electrical status, and fuel pressure and quantities. The IMDP very closely resembles the engine tape gauges that Cessna uses in their Citation aircraft – again, very familiar feeling to me.
The C-22J is a pleasure to operate, owing to the simplicity of the systems, and the ease of operations. Push buttons operate many of the aircraft systems and starting the engine as as simple as pushing the respective L/R engine master switch and startup is accomplished automatically. Engine spool up time and sounds feel authentic and it is obvious that a ton of research was done into the normal characteristics of this aircraft. Engine idle speeds, maximum takeoff thrust percentages, and other parameters all match the expected book values.
In a nod to the history of the aircraft – I did some of my initial testing at the JetStream Designs/ORBX Milan Linate International Airport (LIML) – the original home of Caproni aircraft.
Even with only a single engine running, the aircraft exhibits barely any differential thrust. Nose wheel steering is mechanical via the rudder pedals and a caution in the manual indicates that differential braking is prohibited and can damage the wheel steering mechanism. The low-slung fuselage makes it feel like you are scraping along the ground during ground operations – it is hard to believe there is a plane out there where you actually look UP to Citation pilots as you taxi past.
The full span trailing edge wing flaps are used for takeoffs and landings, but don’t provide enough drag for the highly efficient (10.2 aspect ratio) wing, so the outer third serve as flaperons, while the inboard 2/3s or so function as both flaps and variable airbrakes by hinging upward on the leading edge of the flap, disrupting airflow, while the trailing edge dips down into the airflow on the bottom of the wing creating drag. Without airbrake use, the C-22J struggles to come down the typical a 3° glidepath even with engines at idle power. Using the airbrake allows for better speed control, and allows for the engines to be run at a higher power setting to provide for instant power response upon further application of power and/or retraction of the speedbrakes. It is best to map the speedbrake to a control axis to best provide variable use in the simulator.
The twin Microturbo TRS 18 engines can output about 657 pounds of thrust at the takeoff rating of 104%. During normal operations thrust is about 528 pounds at 100%. The developer nailed the 104% maximum at the maximum throw of the throttle. Full fuel is 430 liters (113.6 US gal.) leaving room for two 185 pound pilots. Maximum takeoff weight is 2,767 lbs. – at that weight I found takeoff ground roll to be about 507 meters (1,663′) using the recommended takeoff procedure in the manual.
Coming back around for a landing at maximum gross weight, using flaps, speedbrakes and maximum braking upon landing, I was able to bring the C-22J to a stop in about 390 meters (1,280′) – so short fields are no problem for this aircraft.
The C-22J is fully aerobatic – with most maneuvers being performed in the 180-220 knot range. Rated for +7G to -3.5G, the aircraft was no slouch. Inverted flight is limited to 30 seconds, at which point the collector tank runs dry and the engines will quit – the developer did model this. With barely any wing sweep, the C-22J is, of course, no speed demon, maxing out at Vmo/Mmo of 260 knots / M.48 – but you will not be in a big hurry to get anywhere with such expansive views out of the cockpit. Roll rate in the sim is about 100 degrees per second..which can be increased to about 130 degrees per second feeding in a little rudder. Two engine Vy (best rate of climb speed) is 157 knots giving a climb rate of about 2,000fpm. At a more modest mid-weight (50% fuel) Vy ends up netting you about 2,700fpm. On one engine, Vyse ranges between 114-124 knots and at maximum gross I was still eeking out 700fpm. Interestingly, probably due to the near centerline thrust, there is no published Vmc speed. There does not appear to be any structural damage model for over-G or other mishaps, but that stands to reason.
The aforementioned Collins radio stacks are perfect for low tech navigation – equipped with an HSI, dual NAV/COMs, ADF, DME, and a transponder. There is no GPS or autopilot but the aircraft trims out well and does not require an excessive amount of attention. It is a fantastic primary instrument trainer in the modeled configuration. It is a refreshing change from all of the button pushing and programming that many of our add-ons require.
Stalls are predictable with the stall warning tone starting at about 92 knots and a full stall break at 78 knots – as far as I can tell, the right wing drops every time. Spins are – well, MSFS spin modeling is terrible, so they feel more like spirals with excessive rates of descent regardless of what the airspeed is doing. The plane can get a bit draggy in the right configuration – throttle idle, gear down, flaps down, speedbrakes full will give you about a 15° of nosedown pitch at 120 knots and 3,000fpm of descent.
The C-22J shines when it comes to a flying a relatively quick aircraft that has exceptional out-of-the-cockpit visibility. Whether you are doing ground reference maneuvers, pattern work, or just out sight-seeing, the cockpit is perfect for taking in all the scenery.
With such exceptional visibility and straightforward systems and avionics, the C-22J is perfect for VR pilots. Be careful with aerobatics in VR of course..lest you regurgitate your Stella onto the cat.
What’s not to like? A ~$10 aircraft that is fully functional, works out of the box, has excellent graphics and systems modeling, along with some great manuals. It is really a no-brainer purchase and I hope enough people hop onboard to interest the developer in creating additional modules for MSFS.