Released on Friday February 3, the most recent creation by Mick McKeenan, the BAe-146, fills a void that has long existed in SL Passenger Aviation: a well built, reliable and fun to fly short to mid range commuter aircraft. While there are two other planes of similar size and class (Husky/Laminar CRJ-700 and EG ATX-72), these two craft never really reached the potential they should have due to multiple issues.
I was fortunate enough to be online when the release was announced and immediately headed over to Mick McKeenan’s Hangar at Delchdork Airport to collect one. It was clear from the moment I arrived that there were more than a dozen anxious pilots picking up their Release Day copy. As I write this article just four days later, I’ve observed that the BAe-146 has almost dominated the SL skies, not to mention the Passengers of SL group, with flight announcements.
Whether you are just starting out in SL piloting, or a seasoned passenger pilot, this plane, with its adjustable levels of difficulty in flight, has something for you.
McKeenan Aviation has struck SL gold with this one.
What You Get
The delivery folder includes all the basics needed to get started:
- The airplane (of course)
- A choice between two huds
- Paint Script
- Very well done User Manual
- A welcome note from the creator
- Notecard with a link to download texture templates in PSD form
In the plane
- Rezzable pushback tug
- Stairs for the front and rear left doors
- 10 preset paint options
The plane has a very solid design and appearance. Owners of Mick’s first plane the 727, are aware that there were LOD issues with it. The BAe-146 does not have that issue. The doors degrade very slightly at the first LOD point, but it is barely noticeable and the shine actually masks it for the most part. The detail of the plane, both inside and out is excellent.
As with all planes that I review, the plane has a modifiable air frame.
All four doors on the plane open and close and stairs can be rezzed from the left side doors using a menu. Right side doors do not have rezzable stairs. In typical aircraft, right side doors are intended for service vehicles so this should not be a concern. Particularly since with most SL airplanes the right side doors don’t work.
The plane also features a rezzable pushback tug. This tug is not drive-able. It simply simulates push back when the plane is put into “reverse”.
Inside the plane, the seating is very high quality in both mesh design and texturing. The plane is filled with nicely detailed signage to add to the realistic appearance where it counts. Typically unused areas such as the galley have limited detail in clear deference to reduction of land impact.
One of the points where some people will criticize is on the flight deck console. This console was designed for usability rather than realism. There may be some disagreement on this, I will cover why I prefer the usability choice later in the article.
The plane was designed to allow for a co-pilot, however, this feature is currently broken. As Mick has a reputation for being very customer oriented, I am confident a fix will be forthcoming soon so this should not be a concern for long.
Once you have the plane rezzed, and have read the very thorough user manual, you will most certainly want to get this plane flying. The first order of business in doing this is of course to attach the hud.
There are a few functions that only work from the menu. While the plane is rezzed and not in use, the owner can access the menu by clicking on the nose of the plane. However, once seated you need the HUD to get to the menu. Shown to the right is the smaller version of the hud. The only difference between the huds is the larger one has an inset where the mini map can be displayed as an overlay to save screen space.
Note that the data displayed on the hud is based on the avatar orientation, not the airplane (as is the case with most airplane huds in SL unfortunately). The hud is designed to hide itself when the avatar enters mouselook mode. This can be disabled by hitting the “Set” button and selecting “Hide Off”. Although the hud is really not useful in mouselook mode, one might want to turn off hide because when exiting mouselook there is a noticeable delay before the hud becomes visible again.
Adjusting the Seat
Once you have the hud attached and are seated in the pilot seat, you may find you need to do some adjusting. This is particularly important if you have a tall avatar. Be very sure to check your ability to see out in mouselook mode. You may find yourself looking above the windshield. The pilot seat is adjustable from the menu.
However, I did discover that while the pilot does move with the seat while it is adjusting, the changed setting does not seem to stick after unseating. I’ve reported this issue as a bug. The fix, if you encounter this, is to adjust your hover height from the quick preferences menu.The co-pilot seat is independently adjustable by clicking on it.
This topic warrants special discussion. As indicated above, there are two things about this airplane that deviate from what some enthusiasts will refer to as realism, both related to flight instruments:
- The dials on the panel are very large
- They use SL measurements instead of a simulated “real flight” measure.
I put both of these items in the “positive” column. The enlarged instrument sizes make them very easy to read, which makes them actually functional. This is actually the first plane that I am 100% comfortable flying in mouselook mode because of the ease of reading the instruments. The below view illustrates what the captain will see while in mouselook mode. These are the most useful instruments of any plane I’ve seen in SL. In this case, functionality wins over realism and rightly so.
The use of actual SL measurements for speed and altitude also make it much easier to know where you are at and where you are going. While it might sound cool to say we’re flying at 115 knots, the fact is if you tried to fly at 115 scale SL knots you would not survive the first sim crossing. Typical airplanes in SL fly between 20 and 35 knots. Anything above 40 is sim crossing suicide. And when you are at 175 SL meters, thats what the instruments tell you.
The instruments may not be “realistic” but they are functional and useful because they give real information.
Flying the Plane
There are three different adjustments that can be made to the flight mode:
- Realistic/Enhanced flight
The plane also features auto-configuration settings for Landing, Takeoff and Landing. These configuration settings are optional as all can be done manually as well.These features will likely be abandoned quickly by experienced pilots, but are helpful for beginners.
Upon takeoff, gears and flaps automatically retract. Experienced pilots may not be fond of this. But for the most part, it happens late enough in the process that it can also be done manually.
A couple quick recommendations:
- Always disable auto-leveling before take-off (AL Off on the HUD or command “ao”). Otherwise you will be fighting the auto-leveling all the way to altitude. Once you get to your desired altitude, level the plane and set the plane to Low AL (command “al”) (or High AL [command “ah”] if you like it better).
- If you like flying in mouselook mode, you should take some time to adjust the HUD’s built in Octocam settings #1 and #6. These are the two most useful for most flight operations. #1 puts your non-mouselook view inside the cockpit and only one mouse-wheel move away from mouselook mode when you need to drop out to adjust something. #6 puts you in arcade mode with your camera behind the plane. Both modes, however, will need adjusting to fit your liking. The modes are saved and stick as long as you attach the same version of the hud from inventory.
- I strongly recommend using the Airport Waypoint – HSI HUD created by Yetius (a.k.a. Kaliska) with this plane, especially for beginners. This will make the most challenging part of flying any plane (landing the plane) much easier for new pilots).
In the real world, passenger planes are intended for as smooth a flight experience as can be achieved. This means limiting pitch and roll. Big jets have a wide turning radius and a smooth and usually fairly long descent rate. Mick has gone to great lengths to make this plane easy to fly smoothly for newer pilots, while allowing most of these flight controls to be turned off for pilots that are more experienced and want a challenge.
One very key difference in this plane vs others in SL is that beyond climb-out, vertical speed of the plane is designed to be controlled mostly with the throttle. Throttle down the plane, the speed slows and the plane begins to drop. Throttle down/slow down too much the plane will stall and eventually crash. Throttle up and the decent will slow to zero.
Extending flaps increases the lift and drag on the plane, allowing it to fly at slower speeds needed for landing. Contrary to the design of the most widely used passenger planes in SL, which begin to drop significantly when flaps are extended, this plane does what flaps are supposed to do, which is let it stay in the air at slower speeds to allow for a gradual descent and a safe stopping distance on the runway.
When landing this plane, if the automation features are in their default settings (enhanced steering, autolevel on), even a beginning pilot should have an easy time getting the plane safely on the ground. Get lined up with the runway, at about 80-100 meters above the runway from 2.5 to three sims out with gear and flaps extended, and you should be able to smoothly land the plane by controlling the throttle and watching the altitude with great ease. Using the Airport Waypoint – HSI HUD referred to above in combination with these guidelines, will make this plane a joy to fly and land.
Much of the automation can be disabled for more experienced pilots that crave the challenge. But be warned: If you land the plane at a bad angle, it will “crash” which is to say it will derez out from under you leaving you and your passengers standing on an empty runway. Not a “feature” I am fond of. I suspect airport managers would prefer that to a more realistic crash and burn scenario. Pilots and emergency services RPers would probably prefer the latter, but in SL that probably would not work out well.
- Pilot crash recovery. Plane detects a lack of input from the pilot for over 80 seconds and freezes, assuming the pilot crashes. It then sends a landmark to the pilot allowing them to return to the plane and regain control. Plane derezzes after 10 minutes if the pilot does not return.
- Dynamic flight choices. Many options for how the plane perform are controllable from the hud.
- Built in Octocam camera hud. The airplane HUD includes a mini version of the Octocam hud, allowing several adjustments to be made to the pilot view, giving a wide choice for different flight deck views.
- All cabin doors functional.
- Fully readable instrument panel.
- Use of Second Life speed and measurements, rather than attempted “realistic” scales.
- 10 liveries selectable from the menu. In addition, there are already four pages of third party liveries on the marketplace.
Features Some Might Not Like
Uses owner say instead of whisper to communicate with the pilot. While this reduces chatter, it means the copilot does not receive the feedback.Further testing demonstrated this to be incorrect.
- Auto retraction of gears and flaps cannot be disabled. You can usually get it done before the plane does it for you though.
- Take off mode probably should activate landing light.
- Doors and stairs cannot be controlled by chat command.
- Cabin lighting only works with advanced lighting and is not really adequate even then. Admittedly though most pilots I know never bother with the cabin lights.
- Camera view can’t be switched by command.
- Switching control to and from copilot cannot be switched by command. Though the copilot feature is pretty much non-working, once it is fixed it should be command switchable by the pilot.
- Plane is totally non-responsive to copilot unless control is switched. Lights and doors should be controllable by either crew member.
Most of the above items have been reported to Mick and as always he is extremely positive to feedback from his customers.
There are a few issues with the initial release. All have been reported and are in process of correction:
- Copiloting the plane is currently not working as it should. While control can be given to a co-pilot, there are issues with the menu communication as well as lack of a hud that can be transferred to the copilot. Note: the latter is likely due to the incorporation of the Octocam in the hud, which Mick also sells as a separate hud. Most likely a transferable copilot hud will come out that does not include the octocam.
- On occasion, a sound loop from either the door gong or the flap movement starts happening. Mick has indicated that this typically only happens in Firestorm. Others have reported this sporadically occurring in other planes as well when using Firestorm.
- Seat adjustments. Pilot and copilot seats feature adjustments for different avatar size. However the seating position of the pilot does not change. To work around this, you will need to set your hover height to a position that will compensate. For me, that position is -0.28. Expect this to be corrected.
This is an extremely well done aircraft with top notch textures, a design that succeeds in balancing detail with land impact and a flight engine that has something for both novice and experienced pilots. It handles sim crossings better than most planes in SL.
It has high visibility, proving that it has quickly become popular among independent pilots and airlines alike. It fills the void of a short to mid-range commuter class aircraft.
The creator has a solid reputation in SL and has demonstrated reliable customer care and responsiveness.
Getting the Plane
The plane is currently not available on the Marketplace. To get one, head over to Mick McKeenan’s Hangar at Delchdork Airport and get one from Mick’s vendors. You can also get a demo version here.