The act of flying has different meanings to different people – it all depends on who you ask. While most of the people reading this will be those who are quite happy to jump into a tubeliner and have their cravings satisfied, there are others who have a want to get into the air and live on the edge of impossible. Without dancing around the obvious here; I’m talking about aerobatics.
I’m sure I’m not the only one whom, as a kid, went to air shows and saw these daredevil pilots moving quickly through the sky, often inverted or vertical, and thought that was really cool. I would guess that witnessing this is something that sparked an interest in aviation for most people. While it certainly isn’t my primary area of interest now that I’m in my late 20s, I still watch in awe of those pilots with the guts and skill to be able to do this sort of thing. Just 18 months ago I bought a house only 1 kilometre from my local airport, and an added bonus of this location was being able to see and hear the local daredevil taking his aerobatic plane up on the odd occasion. I’m still yet to find out who he is or what he’s flying, but it’s a source of great entertainment.
In recent times, the Red Bull Air Race has bought aerobatics into the mainstream. Now in its 13th year (in 2018), the travelling event draws enormous crowds wherever it goes, happening in scenic and often iconic locations such as Abu Dhabi and Budapest.
But I digress. I’m not here to tell you about what got me into aviation – this piece is to take a look at something that probably isn’t on most people’s shopping list (yet) – the Mudry CAP 10C by Avia71.
The CAP 10C is a later model of the CAP 10 twin-seat aerobatic training aircraft by Avions Mudry & Cie (later Apex Aircraft). With the CAP 10 being the original production model, the CAP 10B later replaced this, adding upgraded control surfaces before being replaced again by the CAP 10C which improved on the airframe structure by introducing carbon-fibre components. In the real world, a number of national militaries use the CAP 10 models for flight training and assessment, including France, Mexico and Australia.
If you’re familiar with Avia71’s previous works (the Fournier RF6B 100 and RF-5B), you’re aware that the developer takes great pride in developing products with high visual quality, and the CAP 10C is no exception.
On the exterior, the model is designed down to the smallest of details. On the wings, the valleys of the wing can be seen in the right lighting – I’m no engineer, but it appears that these low spots in the wing are designed for air to be channelled over it in sections. Still on the outside, the main fuselage is modelled with the manufacturing joins visible about halfway up the sides. The entire aircraft body shines in the light, utilising X-Plane’s physical based rendering, also allowing reflections of the ground. Coupled with 4K textures in and out, the plane paints a stunning image on any backdrop.
Inside, the cockpit is textured in order to give the impression of a well-used training aircraft. The footwell plates are noticeably scuffed, with the left seat showing more use than the right, as you’d expect. The bucket seats also show severe signs of wear, with the plastic (or possibly metal) showing signs of discolouration and removed paint. Unfortunately, though, both of these seats appear to share the same texture file and as such, the wear is identical and not contrasted with the footwell wear. I feel that this is something that could have been done better. Behind the seats is a small cavity in the shell where the canopy meets the fuselage, and inside an overnight bag has been modelled behind these seats. A small, yellow rubber duck also sits in this cavity, hidden away at the rear – a cute touch, though a curious one. The thing that puzzles me about this bag though, is that it’s apparently not secured in any way, and in an aerobatic plane this could be an issue. It really is a minor detail, but it’s certainly puzzling given the purpose of the aircraft.
The panel is meticulously modelled, right down to the screws and nuts holding things in place – they’re not just flat textures, they are actually modelled to be above the panel itself, as are the rings around the instruments. This level of details really is excellent, and something that some much larger teams of developers don’t even go to such lengths to do.
Avia71 has included a fantastic control panel to manage this aircraft. The “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT” tag seen on the left of these screenshots is the trigger for the pop-in menu. From here you’re able to access settings, checklists, weights and balance, failures and tips & tricks menus.
The settings menu allows pilots to customise just what kind of plane they’re intending to fly. While this plane was originally designed as an aerobatic training aircraft, users also have the option of setting it up as a utility aircraft with navigational instruments and the default X-Plane GNS430 GPS navigation system (coupled to an autopilot system) – this is all achieved without the need to reload the aircraft. There’s also the option of having the aircraft load in a cold & dark state, or ready to start – the latter meaning pilots will simply need to turn the key to get going.
The checklists menu gives a full range of comprehensive checklists, ranging from pre-flight, right through to engine shutdown. The items in this checklist are interactive, so users are able to mark them off as they go. For those unfamiliar with the aircraft, there’s also a small eye-looking icon next to some items which will set the camera to a preset view on the items that require attention for these checklist items.
The weights & balances menu gives users the opportunity to set up the aircraft for their intended use, adding fuel, luggage and a passenger to the load sheet. Frank and Billy are the two occupants you can choose from, and both can be set as either pilot or passenger. Fuel is able to be set in both tanks individually, creating a shift in balance for the aircraft. The method of doing this is rather inaccurate though, so users are left guessing just how much fuel they might have, with no clear idea what sort of range the amount added may give them. You’re then left to rely on the information in X-Plane’s weight & balance control panel to get some sort of idea of whether you’ll be able to make it to your destination. This certainly seems like something that could have been done better. Once all of your weights are set, the control panel gives you an idea on where your balance sits, and how that relates to the setup of the aircraft that you’re using (aerobatic or utility). This is done by highlighting a section of the balance graph in brown for “Cat. A” (aerobatic) and blue for “Cat. U” (utility).
Failures are set up through the failures control panel. By selecting the number of failures desired (up to 4), as well as the duration of the failure(s), users can test their piloting skills by leaving the type of failures in the hands of the aviation gods. When a failure does occur, pilots can be notified with a displayed message, or choose not to be notified at all. If you select for failures to occur before realising that you’re in way over your head, a “repair all” function is available to save you from certain virtual death.
Finally, the tips & tricks menu serves as a quick walkthrough on how to use the aircraft. It offers handy guides on functions that aren’t obvious at first glance, as well as the basics of manipulating switches and knobs, tuning radios and so on.
Serious aerobatic simmers can also load your own aerobatics diagrams to be displayed atop the instrument panel. This is done by loading a PNG image into the appropriate directory under the aircraft folder (with more detailed instruction available in the documentation).
Additionally, the sounds internally and externally are delivered through the FMOD sound engine and are representative of what you would expect to hear as a passenger and spectator to this plane doing what it does best. The developer says that sounds were recorded directly from their real-world study aircraft.
When it comes down to it, the CAP 10C is a very simple aircraft, and as such there are no complex systems doing their thing behind the scenes to weigh down your system. As a result, the Avia71 CAP 10C performs extremely well in just about any world setting. During my testing, I took the aircraft up in a regional, low-autogen area, along with a high-autogen city setting. In both instances, there was next to no frame-rate drop that you would attribute to the aircraft itself.
Mechanically, Avia71 have modelled this plane based on the real-world aircraft carrying the reg F-HEBV, a 180hp model owner by the Bernay Aero Club.
The flight dynamics of the aircraft are exactly what you’d expect from such a light, agile airframe. With sudden stick inputs applied, the control surfaces turn the aircraft into a very twitchy, nimble plane, but with gentle inputs, this aircraft can be flown like any other single prop for a cross-country flight. The only issue I found was that the aircraft felt rather difficult to control at slow speeds on the ground, with steering inputs making little difference. This may be how the real aircraft would behave though, and I have no real world experience to say otherwise.
The stall and spin behaviour are characteristic of an aerobatic aircraft, capable of short vertical climbs before stalling and spinning in a majestic fashion, with recovery being possible with increased throttle and speed.
Avia71 have a history of pricing their products very reasonably, with this plane being no exception. The CAP 10C is priced at just $24.95 on the X-Plane.org store, which represents great value for an aircraft that is designed to be capable of being a run-of-the-mill GA 2-seater, as well as something capable of pushing the limits of what is aerodynamically possible in the air.
As I said at the start of this review; this isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Without an interest in low-production GA aircraft, this plane probably won’t interest you. But if you’re currently in that camp and looking to expand your horizons in the sim, this plane is something that will bring a huge amount of joy and smiles to your sim time.
Without a doubt, Avia71 has spent an immense amount of time perfecting this aircraft – going so far as to enlist help from actual CAP 10C pilots, including an aerobatics champion, and even taking the aircraft up themselves for research purposes.
For those wanting to research the aircraft (and aerobatics) for themselves, Avia71 has also included a detailed amount of documentation with the plane in both English and French, going into the basics of aerobatics, as well as the history of the CAP 10C, and of course, an aircraft manual. Painters will also be pleased that the developers have included a basic paint kit for bringing the aircraft to life beyond the included liveries.
Avia71’s CAP 10C is available now from the X-Plane.org store for $24.95.