Though initially released three years ago, the Sukhoi SSJ-100 SuperJet by Ramzzess has continued to be updated as X-Plane 10 has evolved. While firmly in the “bargain bin” realm of pricing when it comes to aircraft available for X-Plane, the SSJ is chock full of features and fun for X-Plane enthusiasts.
The Sukhoi SSJ is a modern twin-engine regional jet that features a fly-by-wire design philosophy similar to that of Airbus. The package is available at the X-Plane.org store for a regular price of $24.95, but is often on sale for $14.95 – the later price point representing a fantastic value. The aircraft is both 32 and 64-bit compatible and is available for X-Plane 10.20 or higher. The download includes a few nice liveries, but there are dozens of gorgeous paint schemes available at the X-Plane.org site. A 39-page manual outlines the features of the X-Plane model and sim-specific settings and procedures. Though the manual is acceptable with regards to graphics, format, and content, the spelling errors take a bit of the polish off. Given that user manuals are usually the first point of contact a customer has with a vendor, I feel that extra attention should be taken with regards to documentation to inspire immediate confidence in the product.
The 3D modeling of the cockpit is very well done, even given that we are several years down the line from the initial offering. The clean look of the SSJ is courtesy of the five large format multi-function displays that are flanked on the left and right by the excellent additional pilot “computers” that the developer has included for sim-specific settings we will cover later. Once initialized, the MFDs provide an overwhelming amount of flight and aircraft status information via multiple pages. Everything from pressurization, environmental, electrical, fuel, engines, flight controls, and aircraft configuration are provided.
The aforementioned pilot “computers” that bookend the main displays include a fantastic implementation of sim-specific items such as door controls (passenger and cargo), chocks, ground-power unit, engine covers, and other features. The package includes some really nice components such as a GPU cart, air-stairs, and a custom pushback vehicle. Using the pilot computer display, you can enter a pushback distance and direction and the pushback vehicle will come forward, hook up to your nosewheel, and move your aircraft off the gate or parking stand. As well, there is an excellent trip calculator that allows for fuel planning, fuel loading, passenger loading, and cargo loading. In a nice attention to detail, you cannot load passengers unless you have the cabin entry door open.
The overhead panel is nicely detailed and bringing the SSJ to life requires a bit of study of the manual. Ground power, an APU, and all of the associated systems related to flying an airliner are modeled to a depth that is sufficient to give you a feel for the complexity of the task.
The instrument displays are very crisp and sharp at all zoom levels, and feature a nice looking anti-glare type sheen to them. Unfortunately, the dual FMC is merely the default X-Plane model, but for this price level that is not unexpected. I’ve found the default FMC to be adequate for most flights I do in X-Plane as long as you aren’t into the ultra realism of things such as managed descents and full route use with RNAV SIDs and STARs.
Night lighting, including flood lights, rheostats, instrument backlighting, and MFD levels, is exceptional.
Taxiing the SSJ is pleasant owing to the nice X-Plane physics. Brake temperatures need to be monitored subsequent to events such as rejected takeoffs or maximum effort braking and brake coolant is modeled if you approach the danger zone. Another nice feature is the raindrops on the windscreen that are wiped clear with the wipers leaving a bit of a smear behind. Upon acceleration for takeoff the raindrops eventually disappear as speed builds.
With regards to flight dynamics, the SSJ is 90% brilliant / 10% frustrating. The fly-by-wire (FBW) implementation is actually done quite well. In a manner similar to the Airbus, the SSJ features pitch and roll maintaining modes that make flying the aircraft a point and go endeavor. Pitch up 5° , and roll into a 15° bank and the airplane pretty much holds that attitude, but not indefinitely – it will gradually roll out over the course of a few minutes. Pitch and roll protections are included. Roll into a 60° bank and the airplane will hit a hard stop. Likewise, pitch is limited to 25°. When pitch angle gets excessive, and speed bleeds off, auto-flap deployment occurs in stages ranging from 200 – 165 knots (this can take some getting used to). I’m somewhat surprised, given the other FBW protections, that an alpha-floor type mode does not engage maximum engine thrust upon wandering into the stall regime. It is also curious that flap over-speed protection is not included in the FBW logic. It is possible to push past the FBW protections if you happen to find the right combination of high pitch and ridiculous rudder input that will snap you through the protections, but it is awfully hard to do and you have to really be trying to accomplish it. When you do, you are rewarded with an out of control airplane, and when you attempt to regain control you’ll see the very cool depiction of your wings bending under heavy G and possibly damaging the aircraft such that it cannot be recovered.
Overall, the FBW modeling is very good, fun to explore, and really does make this aircraft a nice airplane to fly precisely. There are some caveats though that bear mentioning. During my review process I’ve been trying to chase down the reason why my aircraft suffers from a very gradual constant right roll tendency which increases to a few degrees of bank at higher airspeeds (320 knots). At first I thought it might be a bit of slop in my controller, but when I deselected my controllers within X-Plane and only flew the aircraft with the autopilot, the roll characteristic remained. The FCTL ECAM is showing a -2 and +2 split on the ailerons in flight, which is indicative of a problem somewhere in the control scheme or flight model. I’m waiting to hear if the developer responds to my query. With X-Plane constantly going through revisions and upgrades, it may be that a new feature or tweak has introduced some small change that the developer needs to address.
There are also some curious design choices for a few things that strike me as odd – such as having the altitude preselect readout above the airspeed tape on the left side instead of having it above the altitude tape on the right side (same for the airspeed bug). The typos also managed to find their way into the cockpit with words such as “Archade”, Life “West”, and my personal favorite, the fire bottle activation labeled SQUID instead of SQUIB. Holy Calamari..an engine fire!
The autopilot modes work quite well. Every once in awhile you’ll get into a situation where the pitch or autothrottle might hunt a bit, but it isn’t something that happens too frequently. With smooth inputs and managing the autopilot correctly, you can avoid pushing beyond the limits of the autoflight system. Coupled approaches worked fine and there is a nice feature where you can toggle the decision height (DH) button in to preset the autopilot to fly a missed approach if it is still engaged upon arrival at the set DH. The aircraft enters a TO/GA mode where the throttles go to the max. The feature is nice, but it would be even better if the aircraft defaulted to ROLL mode or just pitched straight ahead. Instead, it stays coupled to the LOC and upon station passage things can get a bit weird as it chases the needle. A few flights and you quickly recognize the required flow though: auto TO/GA mode, positive rate – gear up, HDG mode, then flaps and vertical speed mode if you need it. The autothrottles work well and I use them most of the time. Though there are CL and MCT/FLX markers on the throttle pedestal, I could find no way to have them click into place for any kind of managed engine profile setting for climb or cruise, so I just default to setting a Mach number or speed and let the autothrottles maintain the set speed.
Autobraking, reversers, and spoilers work well in concert to bring the SSJ to a rapid halt. Be careful if you reposition the airplane in flight (for instance placing yourself on a 3 mile final) because it can occasionally load with the parking brake set – so whenever you put the gear down, check the FCTL page and make sure the orange Xs aren’t indicating that your parking brake lever is engaged.
The sound effects for the package are top notch. The Hoover-like whine of the high bypass engines, the rattle of the cabinetry as you accelerate down the runway, the whir of fans in the cockpit, and the clapping (or exclamations) of the passengers are very good. There are a multitude of flight attendant PA announcements that are also very well done. The Russian accented cockpit callouts for things such as the radar altimeter callouts and sink rate add a nice touch of atmosphere.
Overall the SSJ represents a really intriguing aircraft for your X-Plane hangar. At the price point of $25, it is a good bargain with some hope that some of the remaining minor issues get fixed. At the $15 sale price point – I think the plane is a steal as-is.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
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