Years ago when I found flying to be relatively affordable, the flying club I belonged to owned an Archer that I used a few times. I found it to be a much more stable aircraft than the Cessna 152 and it became my airplane of choice. Therefore, it was with a sense of nostalgia that I approached sampling the Dreamfleet Archer III offering.
Installation and Documentation
This airplane is obtained via download and the extensive package installs with ease. A pdf aircraft manual is included and this is a must read in order to fully understand and appreciate the aircraft. It includes a full set of performance charts taken right from the PA-28 flight manual. And these are not there merely for aesthetic value, the airplane has been modeled to closely respond as indicated by these book values.
Dreamfleet has a reputation for producing stellar aircraft simulations (witness their Boeing 727) and that history continues unabated with this airplane. In November, 2002 Avsim published a review of the Dreamfleet Piper Archer II. The reviewer found that aircraft to display many of the same features and qualities as this latest Archer III offering.
In fact, the only negative comment was that it shows up in the aircraft list under Dreamfleet instead of Piper. Anyone familiar with that earlier model will appreciate that this one is easily as good, and some new highlights have been added to make this an update worth having. The visual and sound set quality are second to none and the attention to detail is first rate.
The Archer name was first used by Piper in the 1970s and the aircraft was essentially a continuation of the Cherokee. In 1976, The Archer II introduced a new “semi-tapered” wing to replace the familiar ‘Hershey Bar’ wing of the earlier models. The New Piper Aircraft Company debuted the Archer III in 1995 with additional features. The most obvious was an improved and more streamlined cowling and new side window shape. Inside, an all-metal instrument panel and enhanced interior were featured. All of these characteristics are represented in this Dreamfleet offering.
Represented is an actual Archer III registration N9277Q owned by Chuck Roberts of New Hampshire. The cockpit is even set up to include instrumentation that Roberts added to his aircraft to suit his needs. And if for some reason a red and white airplane offends your sensibilities, there is an option to display it in a blue and white motif.
The flight model provides a variety of options to the operator for aircraft presentation. It can be loaded as ‘cold and dark’ with pilot out of the cockpit and wing tie downs in place. The pilot can then conduct a thorough preflight inspection; opening the engine oil panel, wing gas caps and baggage compartment.
Once the walk around is complete, the service panels can be latched and tie downs removed. These actions must be completed before the command is issued to have the pilot board the airplane. And once the pilot is back on board, the engine will not start unless the tie downs have been removed. It doesn't get much more realistic than that.
In terms of realism; despite the fact that this is a small Piper, it is not one that can be flown immediately after download. Well, I suppose one could get airborne, after all, this is a simple propeller airplane and it operates much the same as others of its genre. However, there is some studying that must be done in order to have any hope of utilizing the electronic assistants mounted to the instrument panel. And of those, this airplane is loaded.
In addition to the expected dual comm radios, dual nav radios and ADF there is an S-TEC 55X autopilot which operates from two separate controls and a choice of two GPS units; the FS standard GPS500 or the more comprehensive Reality XP GN430.
Operations of these avionics and everything else on the airplane are thoroughly explained in some of the most comprehensive manuals I have seen provided with a flight simulator aircraft. It will require a few trees to print them all (the Reality XP and S-TEC instructions are the actual manuals for these units and therefore explain some aspects that are not relevant to FS operations) but doing so is highly recommended as there are a lot of details to remember otherwise. This could make for a frustrated pilot who is eager to fly a newly acquired aircraft. But in order to gain the full enjoyment of this very detailed model, there is no substitute for studying the aircraft manuals before flying. You want realism? That is as ‘real as it gets’.
Another good reason (as if the ability to properly fly the airplane was not enough) to read the manuals is that this airplane is loaded with features that otherwise might go undetected. Every switch and dial has a function and there are quite a few click spots on the panel in order to access everything.
Considerable thought went into the panel design to allow everything to be displayed without too much clutter. The most innovative tool is the Reality XP DropStack gauge which permits 11 windows to be shown in a vertical stack; each one relating to a commonly used panel window:
Stack GNS430 GPS Fuel Selector
Clicking on any of these windows opens up the associated panel for use. Additional click spots allow for zooming to larger versions of almost all of the gauges and moving through the 12 interior/exterior view possibilities.
The Configuration Control panel (CC) operates in much the same fashion as the utility feature of many aircraft. One major difference, however, is that the CC operates within FS and allows changes to be made while the sim is running. These changes take immediate effect without having to re-load the aircraft model.
The CC gives the pilot choices on the aircraft’s appearance such as, whether it opens in a “cold and dark” state or whether it is equipped with fairings on the nose and main wheels (a decision not to be made lightly, as removal of these fairings results in an approximately 5 kt airspeed decrease (again…enough realism for you?).
There is even the option of whether the engine sounds are heard loud or as they would sound to a pilot wearing a high-end headset, as is more likely to be the case.
The virtual cockpit is another work of art. First of all, there is an option to disable it if necessary to improve frame rates. But trust me, you do not want to do that. Keeping it active provides access to many features that are subtle but demonstrate the exquisite attention to detail given to this product:
- Sun visors can be raised and lowered
In addition, the virtual cockpit eye point can be permanently changed without having to exit FS and then restart, which is a great time saver in order to gauge when the change is exactly right.
Okay, the cockpit looks great but how does this airplane fly? I am trying very hard to avoid saying “like a dream” but unfortunately that is an accurate analysis. It becomes fairly obvious quickly that the same attention to detail (remember...the dome light lenses turn blue when the lights are off) exhibited in the cockpit has been extended to the flight model as well.
The extensive documentation of the manuals includes 23 pages of performance charts which are derived from the actual aircraft operating manual. Dreamfleet does offer a caveat that while they have endeavored to replicate these performance figures, the physical limitations of flight simulator modeling makes this unachievable at times.
But what they have been able to model, certainly rings true. The Archer III is a small airplane but it definitely handles a bit more firmly than a smaller trainer or even the MSFS Cessna 172. I consider it to be a step up from these aircraft in terms of overall feel and in the instrumentation and avionics. A firm but forgiving platform.
I was impressed by the flight characteristics, and the airplane’s response to power or trim changes was predictable and accurate with few surprises as long as the pilot stays ahead of the airplane…which happens to be the golden rule of flying in any airplane.
The panel is outstanding. It can be displayed in a variety of configurations from full panel to landing view with just Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon and Altimeter visible and even a right seat perspective. Every instrument is crisp and most can even be clicked on and zoomed to get an even closer view.
The sound package is nothing short of amazing. The engine sound is right on target and there are small gems such as the door latch, switch clicks and the mechanical flap linkage that serve to truly immerse you in the cockpit.
The airplane flies true to its size and performance capabilities. The flight control and engine response is what you would expect for a small aircraft. Properly trimmed it can reasonably hold course and altitude and it is a pleasure to hand fly.
Summary / Closing Remarks
I can find no criticism of this model. In order to utilize all of its features, there is some studying of operating manuals required but that is to be expected in order to emulate realism.
What I Like About The Archer III
What I Don't Like About The Archer III
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