Carenado 390 Premier IA Review
Carenado has been steady in their release of aircraft for both P3D & X-Plane 11 over the last few months and at last, the ADX review of the 390 PREMIER IA is finally here! Yet again, Carenado has produced another corporate aviation jet only two and a half months after it’s predecessor, the 525A Citation CJ2 HD series. It has been three months since the release of this aircraft and I finally talked myself into acquiring this little bird. Do not be fooled, this CATIII jet engine aircraft is unique for various reasons. It serves a purpose, a purpose that many do not understand or will never take the time to appreciate. The Premier jet was made to accommodate the general aviation consumer that prefers a hassle free and expeditious flight to the airport of his or her choice no matter how long or short the runway may be. With a two pilot crew and cabin that can accommodate up to six passengers, it’s astounding that even at max gross takeoff weight, this jet at minimum only requires 3,000 feet of runway for departure. At a cruise speed of over 400kts, it’s safe to say that with a 1500nm range, your destination is never far out of reach when time is of the essence.
Prior to hopping in the airplane, I gave myself a pep talk. “Derek, it’s new, it’s unique, you may completely botch the startup procedure but as long as you have as many landings as you do takeoffs, it’s always a good day”.
So let’s jump in!
What better place than to give this aircraft it’s first “unboxing” at Innsbruck, one of the most scenic areas known to man. So let me tell ya, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this aircraft because I knew from the start, it would challenge me throughout the various phases of flight. As a typical user I ask the most prominent question “How do I start this thing?”. Well, because it took me a second to get the documentation together I decided to size up this sleek jet. As I loaded up on runway 26, I could not help but immediately roam around the cockpit while getting a feel for the instrument panels and location of switches.
A glance here, and a glance there, it was evident that the quality of textures stood out as a huge first impression. While sitting in both the left and right seat, the text associated with the flight guidance panel, primary displays, overhead and pedestal panels provided sufficient clarity making it easy to locate and read for a first time user. Although viewing the annunciator panel from the virtual cockpit perspective may be slightly tough, users can easily adapt to this by creating a new “view” or utilize the “zoom in” feature.
At this point I am about five minutes into this aircraft and I started to “veer off course”..it hit me again, “How do I start this thing?” There’s only one way to find out, Carenado’s documentation. Carenado provided users with complete documentation but there appears to be a lackadaisical side in reference to their ‘Recommended Settings’ PDF which only covers FSX . P3D has been on the market for quite some time, and to be specific, v4 since May 30, 2017. Having no reference for users of this new platform seems quite odd to say the least. To be blunt, it looks like a solid copy and paste job. While reading several manuals such as the Flight Guidance System and Proline 21, I noted the cleanliness and explanation of all instruments and displays. For explanation of the MFD, CDU, and glareshield panel, that information is also covered under the Carenado Proline 21 manual. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxRbkwLqLjB6GMegZdplh1RYl4VMn-xf5.
If you’re the simmer who is always in a rush to get things moving, the Premier jet is perfect for just that! Even in a cold and dark aircraft state, a flick of the battery, avionics, and boost pumps, will allow you to get the aircraft started in under three minutes. The start procedure is simple and easy to follow along, even if you have limited jet/turbine time. When it did come time to turn on the avionics, the CDU AIRAC database date stuck out like a sore thumb. The navigation database is associated with an outdated cycle from 2013 requiring users to immediately buy the latest Navigraph cycle. Not only is it sad, I believe it’s a slap in the face to the users who are purchasing an aircraft in the year 2017 and are being provided with a four year old cycle. If you’re a charts or airspace procedures guru, you’d know that the national airspace system is expanding and modernization is occurring faster than we realize. Optimized RNAV profile departure/arrival procedures, high and low altitude airway changes and instrument approaches are just a few of the many advances within today’s system. If Carenado want’s to cater to both current and new users, it surely is not a good way to sell their brand under this current mindset.
Additionally, I found that while inputting essential flight plan route information, how misleading the CDU can be for a user that does not have experience with a flight management system. After selecting the departure procedure I checked the legs page and became confused on where to enter my next fix/waypoint. After the second try, I figured out that by typing in the new waypoint and selecting the destination, it would insert the fix above the CDUs last waypoint. After doing so, I checked the FPLN page, and it was completely blank. So I experimented with the FPLN page and inserted a few waypoints. After doing so, I noticed that it enters them after the departure procedure’s last fix which is on a completely separate page. Essentially the FPLN page is the RTE (route) page, and you must pay close attention for duplicate entries and discontinuities. Just a few minutes later and you’re done right? Not quite; I was thrown a curveball when I read in the Proline 21 manual that each waypoint within the legs page may not have altitude information available, meaning YOU, the pilot in command needs to review each leg of the route and input a reasonable altitude. The pros to this, you can be creative and create your own VNAV profile...The cons, the new user may not understand what altitudes are reasonable per leg if you do not understand the aircraft’s climb and descent performance. Although we have yet to cover aircraft characteristics, if you own this bird, you’ll find out that, this aircraft becomes very unrealistic when it climbs at 8500 FPM because the PIC demands the aircraft climb to a specific altitude from one fix to the next. For example, if you are crossing fix ABCD at 10,000 and there are 6 miles between this fix and EFGH, and your altitude input for this upcoming leg is 17,000 via CDU, while in VNAV, the aircraft will climb dramatically and usually bust through the requested altitude. Note, if you do not provide any altitude information for the CDU, the default entry for most legs is FL280.
The flight plan is loaded, and I commence the engine start sequence. Within a matter of seconds the N2 is alive, and engine 2 is started. I’ve received my clearance and we’re off to the races. With an easy checklist to follow, I ensure my flaps are set as well as the glareshield heading bug and altitude. No matter how many times you take the runway, and look down field, there’s a euphoric feeling that comes over your body knowing that you’re getting ready to take flight. I hear the lovely words “cleared for takeoff” and thrust is set! At this point, I can’t stress how important it is to have acclimated yourself with displays and controls as best as possible, but never forget that the art of hand flying still exists. Remember, fly the airplane and fly it to the best of your ability.
My perspective on aircraft production from start to finish, while taking the consumer into consideration goes a little something like this; There’s a difference in knowing how an aircraft is supposed to perform (dynamics, systems, etc) and how the aircraft currently performs. I’ll explain..As a beginner/intermediate flight sim user, when you purchase this aircraft and it has these many bugs, you’re probably going to do one of two things, keep it or get rid of it. This aircraft may question the user's ability on whether or not they know how to actually fly. Why? How? Imagine telling a 15/16 year old who has never been in the driver’s seat, to drive a beater car with a steering wheel that is turned 45 degrees to the left as it’s “default” position and then asking them how they think they did. They would tell themselves, “Maybe I am just that bad of a driver, or the car is supposed to perform this way”. It leads to me the point of, with how buggy the aircraft is, how does one know how the airplane should actually perform? Or in the end do we just question our flying abilities and say, “Maybe I need to read up more on the flight guidance system”. For someone like myself, having a general idea of how most FMCs work, I can test out a few avenues and mitigate the performance if I stick to the basics of flying; e.g. Utilization of vertical speed during a critical phase of flight and altitude reference of the CDU by calculating my rate of descent when a hard altitude needs to be met per a STAR.
As I reached my cruise altitude, it was only appropriate that I continue to play with the FLC and VNAV modes. Based on the manual, the aircraft is said to do one of several things when VNAV is selected which in multiple scenarios the aircraft had trouble achieving. These VNAV modes included VALT, VALTV and VALT. As I vacated FL300 for FL330, in VNAV, the NAV mode disengaged itself and the FMS indication on the PFD disappeared. During the descent, I managed the throttle and decreased the power to 86.9 N1. I set 17,000 in the CDU and engaged VNAV -- VALTV did appear on the PFD and we started a descent for 1300 FPM. Overall, the instability of the VNAV speaks for itself.
We’re always told never judge a book by it’s cover, and prior to jumping in the cockpit, I told myself I wouldn’t. At this point in the flight, I decided it was time to have a little fun. I stress tested the aircraft and stalled it at 17,000 around 101 kts; The stall warning and stick shaker work very well. During the descent, 628 feet was set as the target altitude in the CDU (the inner marker for the ILS- 17 miles away). Where other aircraft may indicate the descent path is unachievable, the Premier put itself in a 8,000 FPM descent and did everything it could to reach the specific altitude. I think I can speak for most by saying I think that may be a tad bit unrealistic, as well as being able to drop the gear at 280 kts. Furthermore, the lift dump systems to be a common gripe among many users, in which the default “/” does not activate the spoilers..Manual activation by flipping the switch on the center pedestal will activate the spoilers. Note, there are no thrust reversers on this aircraft.
Although the descent into the airport was quite interesting, I couldn’t help but take in the pleasant cockpit lighting as we reached dusk. After what I would call a decent landing at our destination, I loaded up at Philadelphia Intl for a quick practice ILS and GPS/RNAV approach. On the first ILS 27R approach, APP mode was selected but the Glideslope (GS) never captured. I broke off the approach and turned southbound toward the Delaware River. In vectoring myself again for the ILS, the localizer captured, VREF speeds set, and the GS captured. Since there is no auto throttle in this aircraft, as long as speed is managed, the aircraft flies a nice comfortable and stable approach along the final approach course.
Overall, I was mentally exhausted to say the least. I asked myself the same few questions that come up after an in depth review; What is the entertainment value score, as well as realism, and value of product? Most would look at the aircraft and try to put a stamp on this bird by categorizing it as just “another Carenado airplane”. I took a step back and realized that with the exception of the Carenado Citation 525A CJ2 and EMB 505 Phenom 300 this jet is unique to itself. This aircraft can cruise in the flight levels with various high performance jets, land at airports with minimal runway length and maneuver very well for it’s size. With no word on whether or not Carenado intends to update this product, it leaves users such as myself in limbo, which over time may stray me away from flying this aircraft. The realism up to some extent does exist but when flaps are able to be extended at over 250 kts and gear dropped at 280 kts, the user loses a part of what the aircraft should and should not do. In taking a look at price, $39.95 is overpriced. I have to take a second and wonder, as I look at the latest Carenado aircraft for P3D, the average cost is $34-40 dollars. Is the cost the same across the board because that’s what the developer believes all of their time put in the products is worth? Or is it just “let me charge every buyer $40 and they won’t care, what kind of quality we produce because our name is Carenado?
As always, you can’t knock it til’ you try.
Entertainment Value: 6
Value of Product: 5
ADX Score: 5.3/10
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the developing company, and/or its affliates, in any way.