AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review

PA-28-181 Archer II

Product Information

Publishers:  Carenado

Description: GA aircraft add-on.

Download Size:
60 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Peter Clemenko III AVSIM Staff Reviewer - July 13, 2010

Introduction

The Piper PA-28-181 Archer II is a easily distinguishable GA aircraft which has become one of the more recognizable GA aircraft in the world. As a direct competitor to the Cessna 172, the PA-28-181 Archer II is a single engine, GA aircraft, with the standard design of the fuselage over the wings. What makes it unique is just the fact that this particular line of aircraft has been so used in popular culture that it has become a highly recognizable aircraft in its own right. Does this Archer hit its target, or does it miss, let’s find out!

Test System

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.4ghz per core (4 64bit cores)
Video Card: BFG Tech Nvidia Geforce GTX 280 OCX 1 Gig VRAM
Motherboard: XFX nForce 680i lt SLI
Sound: Onboard Realtek integrated sound card
RAM: 8 gigs 800mhz OCZ SLI ram on (4) 2 gig sticks.
Primary OS: Windows 7 Professional 64bit
Secondary OS: Kubuntu 9.10 – 10.04 Linux x86-64 (not used)
Old Joystick (used in review): Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro
New Joystick (used in review): Saitek X52 Pro
Head Tracking: TrackIR 4 Pro

Flying Time:
28.5 hours

Installation and Documentation

Installation was flawless, no issues at all after getting the activation key. The aircraft installed pretty well, however I did find one thing I did not like about the documentation. Normally I’m used to at least a little history on the aircraft in the manual; here it was only a checklist. The checklist is what’s needed, however as a bit of a history buff, I prefer a little history of the aircraft just to know a bit about it. Furthermore, there was no dedicated flight manual, which may not seem like much, but when you are just getting used to the aircraft, it’s critical to have.

First Impressions

First thing I did was to start the bird up and take it off. I noticed instantly how well it handled. It felt like it had mass and inertia, something which is overall a very good experience. I also was not able to do crazy things with it that normally would get you killed in an aircraft like this, which was a good thing. The 3D model was just beautiful. There were a ton of things that I noticed were clickable in the cockpit, which is always a good sign. The sounds are recreated pretty good as well, which was a nice thing to hear.

The Flight Model, because you came to fly, not teleport

Really, I didn’t know Piper changed its name to Carenado.

Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to fly one of these in real life so let’s go over how it handles in simulated flight. The agility is pretty good, it is agile, but at the same time you won’t be pulling 9 G(s) in flight. It feels like it has mass and inertia, which is not something to take lightly. As for my flying however, I decided to test some key things. One major thing I tested was stall handling.

When I went in to a stall, I eventually yawed to one side, and nosed down, and wound up usually crashing. This is excellent behavior in my opinion. After a ton of testing, I also noticed the controls seemed solid, yet a bit sensitive. The flight controls seemed to be fairly stable, and not overly twitchy. After a few flights, I wound up determining that the flight model is relatively perfect based on published specifications. Furthermore it will lower (but apparently not cut) the engine in negative g-force dives which I tested frequently (I have a tendency to dedicate a few hours of each review just pushing the limits of the aircraft hoping for an overstress).

On the note of the engine, I also found that if you kill the fuel mixture too long in flight, you lose engine power, and have to glide in or restart your engine in flight (I’m sure a bunch of residents in a valley in Hawaii near PHNL are happy with me for that landing I made). Overall, I feel the flight model was a very good representation compared to published specifications.

During my flights, I did notice a few small details I found in flights that were pretty good in the modeling. For example, when you drop the flaps, you will pitch down a bit. Furthermore, I noticed the tendency for the aircraft to slide a bit and roll in the direction you are applying rudder while kicking the rudder to one side. Please note however that doing so will not cause you to go in to a massive slide, it is just a normal rudder action you would expect on an aircraft. I did notice that I would try to put the aircraft in a flat spin, and it wouldn’t let me and would just eventually leave me nose down almost vertical, however I don’t think that it’s possible to put the blame on Carenado due to the fact that FSX does not properly model spins.

The cockpit is my home, and it should be yours too!

This is my cockpit, there are many like it, but this one is mine. Without me, my cockpit is useless, without my cockpit I am useless… OK enough of that reference, now let’s talk of how the cockpit looks and feels. I immediately decided to fly the Piper in 3D panel, as I pretty much hate 2D panels period, and I found something that made me happy immediately.

There are tons of cool things to click and play with that aren’t flight related. I started toying around with the seats and the visors in flight just because I could, and because it is fun to do, and I had a lot of fun moving the seat back and forth, among other things. I also noticed a bunch of clickable stuff such as the air vents that I had fun fooling with too.

As for the cockpit, it easily get’s a pass in the 3D department, as it seems as though everything is 3D modeled in the cockpit, which is something that I expect in an aircraft that is payware (I can see 2D things in the VC in freeware, however if you’re going to pay for it, you better get a full 3D VC). Furthermore, the gauges all seem to be custom, with the exception of the GPS, which appears as if it’s default FSX. I don’t mind a default GPS that much in a GA aircraft, unless it’s an aircraft with a G1000 style glass cockpit, and in this reviewer’s opinion, it isn’t that big of a deal to get a negative bullet point.

Furthermore, when you click on an instrument, a 2D overlay pops up on the screen showing an expanded version of that instrument, very useful for when you’re flying with a TrackIR or for those of us who have bad eyes. It should be noted that the circuit breaker part of the panel is non-functional. This isn’t a critical part of the panel for simulation flying, but it’s worth mentioning.

Just a little bit of sightseeing in Japan. 2D Cockpit
More 2D Cockpit  
Yes you can move the seat back and forth. The visor can be flipped for those times where the sun is trying to kill you. Compass and OAT
The panel This is a useful feature for those of us who ether use TrackIR or those of us who have really crappy eyes.

Sounds, a blessing, and a curse

Let’s get on with the sounds, as this is something worth mentioning. The sounds all appear to be custom, and that is something worth noting as it’s important to have a full immersion experience, including audio. What did I notice with this? Well the audio is actually very good. The engine doesn’t sound like a lawn mower, which is what you normally hear when someone does half a job at sound design. The engine actually sounds throaty, and correct.

The engine sound varies based on the mixture and the throttle settings, which is a good touch of realism. The only sound design flaw I noticed was that the switches and buttons have no sound assigned to them. For the most part, the sound design puts me in my happy place. In a way the sounds seem mostly done, however I can’t help but feel they are incomplete. The reason being that there are no switch sounds on the switches when clicking them.

The 3D model is amazing, one thing I found was that the cargo compartment doors open up, which is a very good thing. There are three versions of the model, one with fairings, one with no front fairing, and one without fairings. I personally have preference toward the fairings strictly because I prefer the better aerodynamics of a fairing over a landing gear compared to no fairings, although in this case there is only one air file, so I guess in this case it’s just a personal stigma.

Overall, the various parts of the 3D model are superbly detailed. As for textures, the majority of the parts of the textures are brilliant; however I did find one flaw in the textures. There was an error with the bump maps and it caused some strange graphics glitches. Overall, it’s not a major issue, but it’s still an issue. Also, I did notice a small issue where the tail light illuminated the elevators and the area below it about one second after the light went out. This looked un-natural at best. It’s not a major issue, but it is annoying.

Furthermore, I noticed that when you change the tail number, it will not change on the model, which is a limitation of the way the FSX engine is because the way the FSX engine will render it looks like crap compared to the way they are painted on the skins. Finally, I did notice a few glitches in DX9 mode that were not there in DX10 mode as far as lights goes.

 A small graphics glitch in DX9 mode (contrast changed to improve clarity of the glitch).
The glitch does not appear in DX10 mode.    
     Something in this picture isn’t right, please note while I am in a stall, it was primarily because I was distracted by the glitch.
 Parked and ready to taxi. Sometimes you just want to see how far the limits are.   I don’t think that engine is where the engine fire is.

Summary / Closing Remarks

Overall, I believe that this aircraft is a very well done aircraft. This aircraft is easily something I will be flying whenever I feel like flying GA for a longer flight. Carenado delivers big time on this aircraft, and I applaud them for their work on this. The only real issues I have are a lack of detailed documentation and a few kinks in the sound design.

For the documentation, this is the one real gripe I have that would really kill the bookworm side of me; where key things are missing, including history of the aircraft and a Pilot Operations Handbook, however the aircraft itself is pretty much flawless except for the lack of sounds for the switches and a few graphics glitches.

 

What I Like About The Archer

  • Handling is near perfection
  • Beautiful 3d models and VC
  • Sweet sounds for the most part
  • Nice variety of paint jobs
  • Lots of clickable stuff in the VC

 

What I Don't Like About The Archer

  • No history of the aircraft in the documentation, to most this won’t matter, but I’m a bit of a history buff
  • No flight manual included, only checklists, which will kill someone who never flew one of these in real life
  • One air file for all model variants
  • A minor issue with the placement of the engine fire
  • A minor issue with textures and bump maps
  • A minor issue in DX9 mode with some lights, not present in DX10 mode
  • No sound for switches

 

Printing

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PA-28-181 Archer II

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the product producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment as experienced by the reviewer. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any presumed connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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