A comprehensive review of the new Just Flight Duchess 76 will be published in a week or so at Avsim.com. Meanwhile, those that are interested can get a glimpse of what is to come by reading these excerpts of the draft. This is unedited and unchecked and is text only - the published review will contain lots of photos, charts, and graphics.
Somewhere in the mid 1970s, The growing Beech Aero Centers, the flight training division of Beech, put enough pressure on the home office to consider building their own light twin trainer. Their interest was simply build us a step up twin trainer so these guys can get more ratings, fly more hours and maybe buy a Baron. Then a Duke then a Beechjet, if we ever build or buy one. Then upgrade to the ultimate – the Beech Starship. I guess the logic was if it works for Cessna, it just might work here at Beech.
Beech seems to have broken with tradition, and made every attempt to design and build their light twin trainer on the cheap. Using existing parts bins and taking the entire cabin – doors, windows, seats, panel – basically everything, from the Musketeer. Then adding some extra width and depth to beef up the wings to hold a small engine on each wing and a wheel well to store the landing gear plus a borrowed T-tail design from the King Air family. I seem to remember that most of the nose gear came from an Bonanza.
When you sit in a high end Musketeer, say a Sundowner or Sierra, you will instantly recognize the same seats, windows, yokes,rudder pedals, rocker switches and several of the gauges. They aren’t similar, that are exactly the same. That is what happens when you use the existing parts bin for your basic design. Not that this is all bad by any means, it is just so different from how they built the Bonanzas and King Airs – these continue to have that Beech quality of old.
So after the typical give and take between the design department, the Beech Aero Centers, the Home Office and the beancounters theBeech Duchess 76 was FAA-certified in January 1978. It came with doors on both sides of the cabin, and avionics similar to those found in the Beechcraft Sierra. The Model 76 makes use of honeycomb-bonded wings for a smoother airfoil design with less drag and a lower manufacturing cost.
A new design characteristic of the new Duchess was the T-tail, which places the horizontal surfaces above the propeller slipstream for better stability and handling, and opposite-rotating propellers to eliminate the ‘critical engine” aspect of wing-mounted multi-engine flying. This was influenced by the same designers that built the early King Airs. Suggested price in 1978 was $81,950. The first 200 off the production line went to the Beech Aero Clubs.
Beech's new Duchess was temporarily grounded because the rudder trim-tab push-rod became disconnected during a flight. Sixty- three of the light twins were affected. Beech designed new, stronger push-rods for both rudder and elevator trim tabs. In 1980, a 28- volt electrical system was added to provide increased cranking power in cold weather, more power for avionics and better parts commonality with other Beech products.
The Duchess is a cantilever low-wing monoplane with an all-metal structure, four seats, retractabjle tricycle undercarriage and a T-tail. It is powered by one 180 hp (134 kW) Lycoming O-360-A1G6D on the left wing and one LO- 360-A1G6D on the right wing, which drive counter-rotating, constant-speed two-bladed propellers.
The engine of choice was the 180-hp Lycoming spinning a 2-bladed, constant speed, full-feathering 76 inch Hartzell propeller. Cruise Speed at 75% power at 8,000 ft is 164 kts. Dropping down to 65% power at 8,000 ft we still get a respectable 156 kts cruise while burning only 112 pph of fuel. Endurance is 5.1 hours at 65% power and 8,000 feet. These are all very respectable specs for a light twin. Best climb rate at sea level is an impressive 1,248 fpm @ 97 kts. This is a climb gradient of 772 ft/nm.
The single engines specs are a whole different story. Single-engine climb at sea level drops to 235 feet per minute @ 85 kts with a climb gradient of only 162 ft/nm. Not impressive at all. This performance continues to decrease with altitude to where it reaches near zero at the single-engine service ceiling of 6,170 feet.
They even had a Beech employee contest to name this new trainer. 25 Beech employees submitted Duchess as their name of choice. All twenty-five received a Saving Bond for the winning name. Thus, within a few years, the Duchess 76 was a mainstay at every Beech training center. The flight centers loved it. They could keep their pilots in training longer and keep them at home.
A steady supply of trainers continued for about 4 years but came to a trickle as the 1981 economic depression gained momentum.
The aircraft industry was hit especially hard, and caused many airplane manufactures to shut down almost all production lines and many went out of business or merged or were gobbled up by one of the big companies.
There were multiple reasons for the economic recession, but the prime reason was the oversupply of young lawyers that were not able to find meaningful employment so they chose to sue anybody and everybody for any crazy reason. The deep pockets of airplane manufactures became prime targets for mostly frivolous lawsuits, but a few sympathetic judges awarded multi-million dollar awards for deaths resulting from airplane crashes.
It didn’t seem to matter the pilot was drunk, stole the airplane, did not have a valid license to fly that particular airplane and crashed on takeoff with the control lock still in place. The surviving spouse and two small kids deserved a 100 million dollars or so for their grief. It didn’t take but a few of these outlandish awards to halt production due to the outrageously high liability insurance requirements to protect the manufacturers.
The Beech Duchess 76 continued to be well received by the training centers and the advanced students loved it. They felt at home since the look and feel was exactly the same as their primary trainer, the Musketeer, but the Duchess had two engines with more gauges, an autopilot and retractable landing gear. It was a perfect fit for those wanting to fly an advanced airplane.
It was much harder for the marketing department to compete with the new Piper Seminole and Grumman American Cougar. But, it didn’t stop them from running double page ads in Flying Magazine every month touting their trainer was really a business airplane, just underpowered with 2 less seats than the competition.
A total of 437 Duchess twin trainers were delivered between 1978 and 1982. A few of those are still flying today and are providing multi-engine training equipment at many of the national training centers. The Duchess has enjoyed a better than average safety record over the years. This is probably attributed to the fact that it has been primarily used as a multi-engine trainer and not as a business plane flying over mountains at night and in bad weather like other small twins.
Interestingly, practically every Duchess 76 advertised for sale looks almost exactly like it did when delivered back in the early 1980s. Not many will be found with a Garmin GTN750 or a high end autopilot. This also can be attributed to probably being used as a trainer and thereby not needing, nor justifying the more expensive avionics upgrades.
The two neighborhood Duchess’ that Just Flight used to define their design are evidently both better equipped than the average present day Duchess. Most of the ones that I see online have an earlier model autopilot and practically none of them have the full complement of avionics that includes a GPS/nav1, a modern digital nav2 receiver, an ADF receiver, and transponder. Many have some of these items, but, none seem to have them all.
Due to the limited production run and the generally low end specifications with small engines the Duchess never received any speed or SRC mods for added features or enhancements. Seldom do you see 3-bladed modern props or a speed fairing kit on a Duchess to squeeze another few knots of cruise speed or an extra 50 miles of range.
This is not necessarily a limitation of the Duchess, it is simply that most modern single engine planes have 6 full seats compared to the Duchess’ 4 seats and most of these singles will have better performance without the extra weight and expense of a second engine.
Continued in part 2 😳
continued from part 1
If you Google Duchess 76 you will have an overwhelming response for Just Flight’s Duchess 76 rather than the Beechcraft Duchess. This is easily understood since Just Flight has made a Duchess 76 model for just about every flight simulator and in some cases more than one model and the number of real world Beech models still flying is decreasing every year.
The early Just Flight models were for Microsoft FS2004 and was a prominent member of the original Flying Club software for FSX. Very recently more refined models are being offered for X-Plane 11 and P3D v4. There was even a stripped down model for Aerofly FS1 somewhere along the way.
The Duchess in these recent releases for XP and P3D is a much more capable aircraft than the early days of FSX or FS1. This is mainly due to the optional state of the art avionics and the additional features both inside and outside the aircraft. Major items inside like the Flight1 GTN series, flight computer, panel popups, etc, and outside like rain effects, chocks and tie downs.
I would not be surprised if Just Flight’s Duchess 76 enjoys a better reputation in the long run than the original Beech model. This might be the flight simulation equivalent of the Beech Bonanza. The good news for us is that Just Flight has enjoyed being able to refine, port, and upgrade the Duchess for all these different flight sim platforms as more and better 3rd party add ons become available.
No doubt several of us have been flying a Just Flight Duchess for many years now. My first experience was when I received a Christmas present of the Flying Club CD/DVD 7 or 8 years ago. It was one of my favorites for quite some time. You could even edit the passenger’s faces to look like your kids or friends.
We jump to present day. It was a beautiful day, about a month ago, when someone broke the news that Just Flight was bringing theirDuchess 76 to Aerofly FS2. I know I was excited as were several others that made immediate posts that they were ready to buy sight unseen. This gives Just Flight the distinction of being the first mainline developer to provide a payware aircraft for Aerofly FS2.
This may be considered a port over from another flight sim, but, due to the fact that Aerofly FS2 does not share a single piece of code with any of the other flight sims, I think it is more accurate to consider the Just Flight Duchess 76 as an original design for Aerofly FS2. It just happens to be a model they are thoroughly familiar with and have a rich history of marketing and supporting.
I’m sure many of the Aerofly FS2 users have some high expectations for the first payware aircraft and may be expecting more than can be delivered. I received notification of an available download on Friday afternoon and was flying the Duchess out of my favorite airport in South Florida in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, I have experience flying both real world twins and several years of flying many flight simulator twins. Good thing, the manuals were not included in the download – they are probably still being finalized.
The Just Flight Duchess 76 for AFS2 is a very forgiving airplane provided to keep the airspeed sufficiently high enough to avoid a stall or spin. Any Duchess, whether built by Beech or Just Flight, is not going to be found on a list of high performance aircraft. Two small conventional engines with two-bladed props will normally not get you into trouble as long as you respect the capabilities and limitations. Beech considered adding a turbocharged version but, it just didn’t make sense to add a turbo to a trainer so it never happened.
Most of your flights in the Duchess will be at altitudes where you can fly without supplemental oxygen. For most folks, 12,000 feet will be the top end and most cross country flights will be between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. There are not many reasons to keep climbing past 8,000 feet. Weather might be the only valid reason and that would be to stay on top of a cloud buildup.
So how is our AFS2 Duchess equipped? Quite well, actually, but could be improved with a functional GPS. Today, you can fly day and night, VFR and IFR, make various approaches, including an ILS, localizer, and ADF as well as a visual approach. You have a DME readout, a transponder, 2 Nav/Comms and an ADF receiver.
Before we get into specifics, I would like to call your attention to the basic panel layout of the Duchess. If you like round gauges, like me, you will absolutely love the Duchess panel. All the flight instruments and engine instruments are right in your face. This means you don’t have to spend time with your head down around your knees looking for the tach setting like in many Pipers.
The avionics stack, double stack counting the Century IV autopilot is easy enough to use even though it might require a shift in your selected view or backing up your eyepoint to take in the full panel. The 3 airfoil trim adjustments are all together between the two front seats, flat on the floor. In the real world each of these can be adjusted or tweaked without ever looking down at all. In the sim, it is not that easy, but still a very nice design and a good layout.
But, there always seems to be a but, the one thing that drives me crazy is how it happens that the 3 green lights to confirm the landing gear is down and locked is totally hidden by the pilot’s yoke. Your view of the 3 greens is not partially obstructed, all three are totally hidden. In the real world just briefly lowering either wing will move the yoke enough to reveal whether the gear lights are green or not. In the flight sim you can check the hidden gear lights with the smallest movement of the yoke.
The question most asked in the forums is what are we going to get with this Just Flight Duchess? The guesses range from “nothing more than we find in the similar default aircraft” (otherwise IPACS would have already upgraded our existing airplanes) to “it should be just like the latest models being built for the competitors” The answer is somewhere in the middle of the two guesses, which is also a guess in the forums.
You need to read the entire review if you are looking for nitty gritty details or have something very specific in mind, but generally, we are getting a heck of a lot more than most of the default planes have to offer. But, we are also not getting some of the really nifty stuff that is in the XP and P3D models. I think we should keep an open mind for future updates and upgrades as things develop and new discoveries are made. I will not keep you in suspense as you read some of the background and historical stuff.
The Just Flight Duchess 76 for Aerofly FS2 comes very highly recommended and is an absolute pleasure to fly in the AFS2 scenery environment. You might say that Just Flight has kicked open the doors that have been guarding the cookie jar and has moved up the timetable for fully capable IFR flight in AFS2.
No, we won’t have a Checklist Panel, Panel Configuration Selectors, Flight Computer, Rain effects, chocks, and a few of these type features, but we will have Cold and Dark or Ready to Fly, engine management with full feathering props, fuel transfers, and engines that stop running when the gas runs out. Not failures, but close. Deeper, more complex systems that we currently have, functional electrical distribution systems that quit running when a breaker pops, emergency hydraulics for gear failures and enough cockpit management to keep things interesting.
So how much animation comes with the Just Flight Duchess 76?
There was a time when talking about animation, we simply said all standard animations are included with the addition or exception of anything special that was added or unexpected or was missing and we thought it should be included. Well, with AFS2 airplanes having quite limited animations, other than the special work for the Cessna 172 Mod, we can’t use that approach. Let’s start with what I think most every user would expect. This would be the
Please read the full review next week. 🤨