Beechcraft first introduced an aircraft called the King Air in 1963 with the King Air 90 series of aircraft. The follow on to the original line of King Air aircraft came in 1969 with the Super King Air 100, followed shortly by the Super King Air 200 in 1974, both of which were distinguishable by the distinctive T-tail. By the mid 1980’s Beechcraft was looking to add another upgraded version to the King Air stable and introduced the Super King Air 300 in 1983 followed by the Super King Air 350 in 1988, which would later have its name shortened to the King Air 350 in 1996. Beechcraft would go on to upgrade all of their King Air 300/350 line to include Rockwell Collins Proline 21 avionics in 2003 and onward, however the aircraft Airfoillabs have chosen to simulate is a pre-2003 vintage King Air 350.
Download and Installation:
The installation process for the Airfoillabs was a little less than user-friendly in my experience. Initially, I needed to download the AFL Product Manager. I was only able to get the installer to run after placing it into Windows 8 compatibility mode, however, after installing the product manager you then must load up an X-Plane flight to open the aforementioned product manager. Once the product manager is open you can then select the appropriate product, enter your key, and the product manager then downloads and installs the add-on. Afterwards, you are prompted to close and reopen X-Plane in order to ensure proper function. I understand the use of the product manager in order to centralize updating and configuration options but the extra steps within X-Plane itself, as well as the issue with Windows 8 compatibility mode led me to an extended amount of time just spent installing the aircraft prior to being able to load it up.
The team at Airfoillabs have done a great job of putting out a beautifully rendered King Air 350. The exterior textures are crisp and high definition, and all parts of the aircraft are meticulously detailed and modeled. You can see some images below.
The interior of the AFL King Air is really what sets it apart. While some companies are moving to more and more glass cockpits with fancy bells and whistles AFL have gone to great lengths to recreate the transitional cockpit that adorned the King Air 350s in the 80’s and 90’s. Beyond the work in the cockpit the rest of the interior of the aircraft is recreated in detail, including the comfortable passengers seating, complete with optional passenger models for you to fly around. There are dozens of animations including a “jump to” function where clicking on various seats allows you to instantly jump to that seat.
The documentation for this aircraft is fantastic. Airfoillabs have taken all checklists both normal and emergency and created an interactive checklist, performance calculator, and manual which is accessible in simulator. All of the checklists are read aloud and move the camera to the location of the switch, gauge, or control which needs attention, as well as a descriptor text to help you understand each part in the check list. The interactive functions also include a camera manager which allow you to jump to any view which the interactive checklists use as well.
Furthermore the interactive manual doubles as your performance calculator, something which the FMS present in a King Air is lacking. Simply input your runway, weight, and wind data and the interactive manual will calculate your V-Speeds, and with the click of a button they are sent to your ASI.
The lighting in the Airfoillabs King Air is wonderful and realistic. Both exterior and interior lights are placed correctly and add wonderfully to the effect of flying this aircraft at night. See some screenshots below.
All systems present in the real life King Air are present in the AFL King Air. According to the page on airfoillabs.com the simulated systems are:
• Electrical System: Custom made system for simulating complex electrical DC and AC behavior in details with electrically operated relays, load distribution per component, inverters, sensors and more. The load of the system influences even how bright the annunciators lights are. Simulated buses: Battery Bus, Center Bus, Dual Fed Bus, Left Gen Bus, Right Gen Bus, Tripple Fed Bus, Left AC Bus, Right AC Bus, Avionics buses 1, 2 and 3.
• Lighting: All lights in Cockpit, Cabin and Exterior, described in the real aircraft manual are operational and connected to correct buses.
• Master Warning System And Annunciators Logic with dimming.
• Fuel System: Realistic layout of the fuel cells with boost pumps, transfer pumps, crossfeed system, firewall fuel valves, vents and drains for manual Fuel Check in exterior preflight.
• Auxiliary Power Unit simulation with engine start, realistic electrical behavior.
• Engine: Custom made simulation of Alpha, Beta(Ground Fine) and Reverse regimes. X-Plane Commands modified to match real behavior. Inertial separator simulation. Custom Feathering system. Custom Autofeather system and test logic based on real aircraft. Simulation of Primary Governor, Overspeed Governor, Fuel Topping Governor. Low Pitch Stop and Test simulation.
• Rudder Boost logic and Pitch Trim system logic based on Manual.
• Fire Protection: Engine Fire System detection replica with FW Valves logic and Fire Extinguisher.
• Pneumatics: Custom logic matching the real system dependencies to environmental controls, pressurization vacuum system, gyros suction.
• Ice and Rain Protection: Engine Inlet Lip Heat, Inertial Separators, auto-ignition system, windshield anti-ice, wipers, propeller deice system, pitot heat, surface deice boots simulation.
• Pressurization: Cabin Pressure Control systems with testing logic simulated.
• Hydraulic Power System.
• Avionics: all systems are modeled as close as possible to the real instruments. Radio instruments (COM 1, COM 2, NAV 1, NAV 2, ADF, Transponder) all modes available with memory function and simple testing sequence. Avionics power and gyro initial spin-up replica. All digital displays graphics and logic based on real aircraft data. EADI (Primary Pilots Display), EHSI (Pilots HSI/Map), MFD (Main Map Display), EHSI Copilot. Weather radar simulation. The provided FMS is X-Plane 11 FMS, therefore the aircraft uses standard navigation database integrated in X-Plane. Autopilot Modes Logic and interconnections are custom made to match the real one.
• Aircraft performance is tuned to match speeds in real performance tables.
Flight Dynamics and Test Flight:
To be fair I have never flown a King Air 350 but to stretch the legs of the AFL King Air I took a short flight from Dane County Regional-Truax Field (KMSN) to La Crosse Regional (KLSE), a total flight of just short of 100nm. The ground handling of the AFL King Air seems true to life. While it is a large aircraft it seemed nimble and able to turn relatively sharp corners. Care needs to be shown for airspeed as it can quickly speed up, especially at high idle. The aircraft is easy to keep straight down the runway and V-Speeds (if calculated) are accurate and the aircraft lifts off easily and climbs very well at take off power. Once at cruise this aircraft sheds its appearance of a utilitarian people carrier and takes on the speed of a much more powerful aircraft. With a redline airspeed of around 260knts cruise speeds at or above 300knts ground speed are easily attainable at higher altitudes. The only issue I found during cruise the autopilot having a struggle to maintain altitude and there was some slight porpoising. Descent was uneventful with the aircraft having enough drag to slow itself as it descended. I loaded an RNAV approach and the aircraft handled the transition with ease, although the FMS can be tricky to program if you are unfamiliar with it. Again I used the interactive performance section in the manual and my V-Speeds were spot on. and landing was smooth and the brakes did a great job of slowing the aircraft to taxi speed.
The team at Airfoil have done a great job recreating a very popular and iconic aircraft. There are some rough edges, mostly surrounding the autopilot and FMS in my experience, however in speaking with the guys at Airfoillabs they are aware there are still some bugs which exist in the product and are actively working to fix these issues and send out a patch in the near future. I have fairly high standards when it comes to system simulations and this aircraft was top notch, performance didn’t show any large variances from the norm for me and I really enjoyed the interactive manual. If you are into regional airlines or larger GA aircraft this would be a great choice for any X-plane user out there. You can find the Airfoillabs King Air 350 at the x-plane.org store for $49.95.