One of the main reasons I have recently added X-Plane to my computer is for the availability of some planes that aren’t available for Prepar3D. One of the main aircraft types that piqued my interest was the Embraer family of airplanes. Predominantly used for shorter regional flights, the planes fit my primary flying style: flights that last 1 to 2 hours from major hubs to smaller airports and mostly based in North America.
Widely used by major airlines to shuttle passengers based on the ‘Hub and Spoke’ model, the planes often take passengers to their final destinations as a connection. Check departures and arrivals on Flightradar24 and you will see airplane identifier codes in the 130’s, 140’s, 170’s and 190’s. Those numbers represent the family of airplanes made by Embraer.
With their headquarters located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Embraer produces commercial, military, executive and agricultural aircraft. Most aviation geeks are familiar with their ERJ aircraft, comprised of the smaller 135, 140, and 145 series. There is also the slightly larger E-Jet family, which includes the 170, 175, 190 and 195. The E-Jets offer airlines an alternative to Boeing’s 737 series of airplanes. An interesting side note is that, pending a bunch of red tape, Boeing plans to purchase an 80 percent stake in Embraer’s E-Jet business by the end of 2019, adding the small jets to its commercial line.
X-Plane pilots have been able to purchase E-Jets for quite some time, with their choice of the 170 and 190 series from either SSG or X-Crafts. While the debate continues over a variety of features that potentially make one developer’s brand better than the other, the focus of this review is on the more recently released ERJ family by X-Crafts. Not to be confused with the E-Jets (which they are not), the ERJ family is a smaller, sleeker plane that can hold a maximum of 50 passengers (in the 145 variant).
The plane is sold on the Org store website, and comes either in a family package (which includes the E135, E140, E145, E145XR and the Legacy 650) or individually as the 145 and 145XR, the E140, or the E135. While the price seems a bit high ($89.95 USD for the family package or $49.95 USD for an individual plane), the planes are arguably the only ERJs currently available for X-Plane, and they do open up a large amount of routes for regional pilots. X-Crafts also provides a discount code for pilots who have purchased individual planes and now wish to purchase others in the series.
Installation was a standard X-Plane affair and within minutes, the plane was ready to fly. The included documentation is quite thorough and includes a demonstration flight for pilots who want to learn the basics of the plane. It’s worth noting that the X-Crafts forum includes a large amount of additional liveries – both current and retro. X-Crafts has also made it so that updates are available via the SkunkCrafts updater (downloaded separately). The X-Crafts forum keeps users posted on the latest updates, and the updater can automatically keep the aircraft on the latest version with little fuss. Be aware that the plane will need to be updated as soon as you install it, as the file available from the store upon initial download is the original release version. I started using the plane before I was aware there was an update (or how to update it) – so be sure to carefully read all the included documentation.
Inside the plane, the textures are not exactly overwhelming. Designed to simulate a little ‘wear and tear’, I felt the overall textures could have been a little sharper. The pixelated ‘dirt’ textures on the display screens was distracting and I found myself tweaking my lighting settings so I wasn’t distracted by it. This was especially so in the bright daylight and before the avionics were turned on. These reflections can be turned off by using a click spot in the lower portion of the windshield, but it would be nice to have a 4K cockpit option, especially considering so many more pilots are flying in 2K and 4K resolutions (I fly using 2K resolution). Oddly enough, the text on the buttons and display screens was crisp and readable.
Night lighting is fantastic in this airplane. Panel lighting and lettering is pleasing and easily controlled (and dimmed) via the panel switches. The cabin lighting can be controlled via a separate panel near the main door in the well-modelled cabin, and it adds to the immersion for those pilots who want to do early morning and late night takeoffs by the book.
External textures are beautiful and shiny. The planes look crisp and all of the pieces are in the right places. The paint shines in the light, small details like labels and hydraulic lines are present, and everything is what you would expect for an X-Plane external model.
The plane also includes several easter eggs and tongue-in-cheek gags. The references to some classic movies and other pop culture references were great and show the amount of care and passion the development team has put into these planes. I would have preferred an option to turn these little jokes off, as weirdly enough, they just ruin the immersion (on some levels). I won’t ruin them for you, as half the fun is in finding them, but fans of the classic movie Airplane! will find them pretty quick.
Button clicks sound firm and satisfying, and warning bells and chimes come through clearly with large buttons sharing the same sounds, and smaller buttons all making use of a light click sound. Starting the APU interrupts the bleed air (as expected) and APU spool-up sounds muted towards the rear of the plane, as it should. Engine start is equally as satisfying, with engine spool up sounding robust and satisfying both inside and out. As the packs come on, the sounds fill the cockpit with a familiar (if not comforting) hum. Parking brake release and gears sounds are pneumatic sounding and help to add a level of immersion.
Programming a flight can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. X-Crafts has included their version of the Tekton FMS – which (if I am being honest) is confusing at first. The FMS is a homegrown version and it doesn’t always work like the FMSs that we are used to. So much so that X-Crafts has thoughtfully (and thankfully) provided the default X-Plane FMS in the cockpit right next to the Tekton. Don’t take this the wrong way; you can program an entire flight using just the Tekton FMS. In fact, my first flight was performed using the Tekton.
Using the Tekton means that you must add the SID and the STAR first, and then fill the legs and airways in the middle of the flight. There is information on the forums on how to do this and Steve Wilson, the X-Crafts Tekton FMS programmer is extremely friendly and responsive. I definitely recommend reading the manual, as I struggled even to figure out the DIR TO function (hint: it’s the arrow on the top row of the FMC). On the plus side, the Tekton allows for direct keyboard input simply by activating the (only) option in the plane’s configuration menu.
Tekton Does Redeem Itself
Where the Tekton does shine is the PERF pages in the MCDU menu. You can program the number of passengers, payload weight, and fuel directly in the PERF menu. If you work in metric (the default is imperial), be sure to go to PERF 3 and change that option before you start adding weights and fuel. It would be nice to see the plane save this preference, as I needed to change it every time I flew.
I found that based on the weight and amount of fuel I put in, the CG% did not change, and neither did the required trim value. It would be nice to have the plane figure this out automatically based on loading numbers instead of changing it myself. I know that these options can be changed in the default X-Plane weight and balance menu as well, but it gets confusing when I am trying to manage weight and balance in the MCDU and in the X-Plane menu. The manual says these values are fixed values based on real-world research and so far every flight I have done has given me a trim value of 5 and a MAC % of 30.60.
The PERF page also automatically figures out your V-speeds, which is a nice touch.
Based on this information, your virtual first officer calls out V1, rotate, and V2. Also, using the Tekton FMS for flights means that the map is unable to display the TOD point. Pilots must use the PROGRESS page on the FMS to monitor their descent point. If you opt to program the flight in the default FMC, the TOD point will be displayed on the map. The developer said this is due to internal X-Plane data that is not available to them for programming.
Using the default FMC was familiar and easy, and the plane responded without any issue. I still used the MCDU PERF pages on the Tekton FMS for weight, fuel, and V-speeds, but everything else was entered in the default FMS. Both management systems read information from the same source, but you can only program a route into one or the other.
I want to be clear that the Tekton FMS will perform the same functions as the default FMC in the sense that you will be able to take off, follow a SID, fly to programmed waypoints, follow a STAR and land. However, it is not an exact replication of an Embraer FMS and using one or the other really comes down to user comfort and familiarity.
Author note: Since this review was originally written in June 2019, the ERJ Family has received a major update (version 1.2.0) and there have been significant changes and improvements made to the airplane and the Tekton FMS system. As well, Steve Wilson and the team at X-Crafts continue to provide amazing support over on the x-plane.org forums.
Systems and Functionality
The plane models most systems well. The bleed air system is modelled, and proper configurations of the bleed air and packs are required for the plane to start. Hydraulics and fuel systems are modelled and behave as they should. The cockpit in an Embraer operates on a dark and quiet principle. This means that when button lights are off, the system is actually on. This takes some getting used to, and there are notable exceptions – mainly the GPU button and APU Bleed button which are actually lit when these systems are on (because they would not normally be used during flight).
Connecting the GPU is achieved through a handy slide-out menu. This is accessed by moving your mouse to the left side of the screen. This menu controls GPU connections, wheel chocks and pylons, along with engine and pitot covers. This menu also includes a very in-depth checklist (that looks like the actual book an ERJ pilot would have) along with a handy FAQ section that contains basic information to help you get off the ground.
The plane also includes a terrain radar system displayed on the MFD (you will need to install additional plugins which are noted in the user manual) and it depicts weather systems as well. On the topic of weather, it is a shame that rain effects are not modeled, but based on the level of involvement the developers have with the online community, I am sure this will be an added feature.
The plane feels light and responsive – as it should. Long and sleek, with the capacity for (at most) 50 passengers, in the ERJ-145, it takes off with minimal force on the yoke. A light touch is needed with this plane. It handles like a sports car, taking turns with banks that give you the impression it is going to flip right over. Not to worry; it handles itself with poise and behaves quite well when you turn over control to the computer. The smaller 135 feels lighter (as it should) and can get a little loose in higher winds during final approach. The slightly larger 145, which is more popular with most airlines due to the larger passenger capacity, feels a little heavier, and I found that I had to remind myself it wasn’t the lighter 135, lest I slam it into the ground.
Even when flying on autopilot, like a needy child, the plane demands attention. There are no auto throttles on this plane (but it does include a FADEC and thrust rating control). Leave the throttles wide open as you climb and you will soon hear the ‘over speed’ warning. Once reaching cruise, the plane requires occasional slight adjustments to keep it at the required speeds, and definitely responds according to wind and weight factors. X-Crafts understands that not all pilots fly this way, and in a smart move, they have provided a ‘secret’ auto throttle via a click spot on the panel. Don’t forget that you have this activated, because physically moving the throttle will not disengage them. Since most flights in this plane are under two hours, I found myself opting for the hands-on approach and adjusting the throttles myself.
No auto throttles most certainly means no VNAV. This plane requires some pilot math to figure out your proper descent speed and a little luck to get your descent profile on point. The MFD does not provide the ‘banana’ that everyone is used to. However, there is an option for a vertical descent profile to be displayed on the MFD. Your mileage may vary as to how this works for you, but I found I could usually hit my desired altitudes within a few hundred feet. Using either the Tekton FMC or the default FMC will provide you with your top of descent. The indication on the magenta line is very small and easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The plane will not warn you when you are at TOD.
Approaches and landings are a study in airplane management. Managing the throttles and descent rate will keep a pilot busy. The speed drops off quickly and the plane likes to keep a real nose-up attitude, so things can get disastrous very quickly if you aren’t on top of your speed, trim, and throttles. Very little flare is needed, and because the controls are so responsive, the plane touches down with very little fanfare.
Flying this plane on a regional route makes for a fun and enjoyable few hours. For me, this plane typically sees service on a weeknight. After work, dinner, and other household and family obligations, time is at a minimum. From cold and dark to in the air requires little time and preparation (but enough to satisfy the realism of operating an airplane), and routes for the smaller 135 are usually only 60 to 90 minutes. There are enough airlines using this plane that routes throughout North America and Europe are fairly easy to find.
- The included default FMS is a life saver.
- The sounds and handling characteristics are well done.
- Hidden auto throttle is a great addition.
- Documentation, available checklists and FAQ is well done.
- Cockpit textures could be sharper. Perhaps a 4K option.
- The Tekton FMS has a high learning curve and sometimes has a mind of its own.
- The cost for the Family package is a little high.
Where are scores?
After listening to your feedback, we have decided that from February 5th 2020, we will no longer implement review scores. We will continue to provide high-quality reviews via our written, video and imagery to help you make an informed decision about a product. You can read more about it on our Review Guidelines Page.