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I am writing this review for several reasons

a. I absolutely love this aircraft

b. I found too many inaccurate assumptions regarding performance/systems

c. I found several negative reviews regarding this product which I don't believe are accurate

d. ***within the limits of FSX I find this aircraft to be modeled extremely well***

 

My background

I am in no way affiliated with carenado or any fsx developer

I have over 500 hours as captain in the pa31 Navajo and chieftain combined operated single pilot mostly night IMC

This is my first ever review so bare with me if its not in the traditional format (constructive criticism is appreciated)

 

 

 

Lets start with sounds, that's easy enough. Exterior sounds as compared to the real aircraft are very very well re-created. A lot of people are complaining about the 3D sound cone that carenado produced having very minimal differences on this aircraft. You must keep in mind this is a PISTON engine, the variance of tones from standing in front, on the side, and to the rear of the aircraft are extremely minimal especially when compared to a turbine engine(which we all love those sounds.) After several years of watching these aircraft start up and taxi right beside me on the ramps the only difference I can take away is when the aircraft turns from head on to a rear view is the smell of avgas, and the feeling of being pelted by very little bits of rock and dirt from the ramp, the actual tone varies ever so slightly.

 

Interior, I do find these sounds to be a little on the quiet side below 25" MP and or when starting/taxiing. This may have to do with the fact that my aircraft door was a "cut-out" of the left side window right over the wing, and when starting or taxiing I usually left this door open.  However the engine rapid light off and increase in RPM is very accurate. Often starting this aircraft was a delicate balance of timing the mixture increase and throttle decrease simultaneously. Within the confines of FSX the start up sequence is excellently modeled, however I do wish the volume was a bit louder and maybe the old screeching of the starter engaging the fly-wheel would be a nice addition in the future.  

 

 

 

My reaction to systems-

Well its a twin piston aircraft, how many systems can we talk about that can be modeled in FSX? the extremely over-engineered landing gear and hydraulic system? not really relevant for fsx (however I have yet to attempted to try an alternate gear extension so I can not speak to if it works or not, would be great if it did) In the chieftain there was a 3 position gear selector, up, neutral, and down. You could perform a hydraulic gear test with this system by turning on the battery switch and placing the gear handle to the down position, it should pop back to neutral within 7-10 seconds. Could be a fun addition if they ever do model a Chieftain or wish to update this Navajo.

 

Lights- why is everyone complaining about these? They are modeled like someone put brand new bulbs in and their range is extremely accurate. In the real aircraft, if anything they are far more dim, making it challenging to land on a dark runway at night. In my opinion these do not need to be changed. However a beacon rocker switch would be nice, or at least a 3 position rocker switch for anti-collision (ie beacon-off-beacon&strobe) Most of the aircraft either had both beacons and strobes or some just had strobes, which this overhead panel seems to model however the beacon light is activated when the anti-collision light is turned on...maybe some faulty wiring on carenados part, but still an extremely small detail I can live with for now.

Panel lighting, this is limited to their famous 1 switch for all lights deal but with that said it does not bother me one bit, here's why. Most of my aircraft either had several deferred instrument lights, or the backlighting was deferred totally, or the overhead flood was deferred (for those who don't know what deferred means, all it means is does not work. usually to save money on maintenance most companies, especially where I flew these aircraft will skip the small stuff until it was mandatory for it to be replaced) that's why having a flashlight was a mandatory item for the pilot. The simple dim lighting works for me and brings me back to those dark cold nights flying high over snow capped mountain tops. Also, the light pegs for each instrument are shaped like an upside down L, this shape creates its own shadow and is typical to black out an area of the gauge where the light peg is placed, most often its in the most important spot of the instrument IE MP or RPM! This is modeled by carenado, and why some may find it frustrating it is 100% realistic, and I think a great attention to detail by the developer.

 

Pitot heats, heater, de-ice boots, vent blower,  etc etc all the switches work, but don't expect more than the typical depth of systems carenado is known to produce. I will not elaborate on this section just to the fact that I think we all know what to expect from them as systems go. But I will be happy to answer any specific questions regarding them. I still have yet to fully test everything out, only have about 20 hours sim time with the aircraft as of this writing.

 

Autopilot- this is one thing I see several topics on the forums people are complaining about. Lets put them to rest. I have flown almost every style of autopilot installed in a Navajo chieftain from S-tec systems 30 (integreated in turn coordinator), S-Tec systems 50 (mounted on lower right captains panel) KFC 200 FD/AP, Piper Altimatic V/FD (FCS810), Piper Altimatic IIIC, Piper Altimatic X and several others, those were most common however, but most where always deferred anyway! Now for the sake of me I cannot remember the name of this particular one installed but I do know this, we had 3 or 4 aircraft in the fleet with this exact model and it was my favorite. If your unfamiliar with the APs listed above, they were mostly controlled via turn coordinator integration, or a separate panel with confusing rotary knobs and buttons. The autopilot installed in this aircraft is done extremely well. The proper procedure to acquire an accurate level off, one must ease the FD pitch below 800FPM prior to 500' from level off, then engage the ALT button 50' from desired altitude. Most every real world aircraft was different, some would level off too abruptly, some not abrupt enough and others would just ignore your command and just blow through your desired altitude :o The most common practice was to hand fly the aircraft to cruise then engage the autopilot when it was properly manually trimmed.  Coupled autopilot approaches were prohibited due to the erratic nature of the autopilot. So I wont even attempt them in FSX, this is not a Boeing, don't expect it to fly like one. Hand fly! Also when tracking a radial with the autopilot, if NAV was selected, most every aircraft I flew would oscillate about the course, our fix was to just fly in heading mode making small changes along the way. Carenado seems to have modeled the NAV function quite well and I have had no problems with that.

On a separate note I will add after 3 flights I did notice a precession in my HSI even though it was slaved. This was also common in the aircraft but to a degree far less than what happened to me in FSX so I'm thinking this is a glitch that should be addressed. Even when placed in "free" mode the rotation switch will not re align your gyro to the mag compass :blush:  not cool. Carenado does need to fix this. 

 

Ground handling-

Very well done again, the pa31 nose wheel steering allows for up to 20 degrees on each side of center for steering. However the linkage can disengage and allow "free castoring" for an additional 20 degrees on each side of center allowing up to 80 degrees of movement. This can whip your aircraft violently and is modeled perfectly.

 

The use of differential or asymmetrical thrust is extremely apparent in the real world aircraft and is as well in FSX. another very well modeled feature of the PA31

 

 

Moving on to the last section of my review, and the MOST important (to me) FLIGHT DYNAMICS

 

Simply put, the performance, the aircraft handling, the excessive yaw rate in turbulence, are modeled so well I honestly can tell you I feel like I am flying the actual aircraft. Carenado absolutely positively blew this out of the park. I saw threads about people complaining they weren't getting max performance at max weight....hello! this aircraft is one hellacious machine you load it up to MTOW and expect to get 1500FPM in the climb you are going to be a smoking hole in the side of a mountain. Using my real world checklists and references for power settings I got almost exactly what I got in the real aircraft. I've tried it over and over with several weights and field elevations, Carenado you did a fantastic job. ----However fuel flow is off a bit, but who cares that much, your not paying for gas anyway, plus I actually got less GPH in the sim compared to the real world counterpart so maybe they modeled a brand new engine that's super efficient B) If it bothers you that much, run several tests making a chart of your fuel flows at different altitudes and power settings to use for planning purposes. But lets face it, the pa31 is not a long haul aircraft anyway, if you plan adequately fuel wont be a problem.

The dynamics are modeled so well in this aircraft, that the (very few) glitches I've found are completely thrown to the side just based on the pure joy of the aircrafts handling and performance.

 

Miscellaneous

 

Those who were talking about the MP being off and your supposed to get 46 or something are incorrect. The density controller on the J2 Turbocharger will prevent you from over-boosting above 40MP. Unless you blew a valve your MP should remain below red line at all times.

The TIO-540 (chieftain engine) is slightly larger and you will have slightly different pressures, you may be confusing internet web searches with this, but as far as the Navajo goes, it is modeled correctly.

Some people complained that an "aircraft with a GTN 750 should have a much better working autopilot" -first thing, why are you putting a 750 in a pa31, that's disgraceful. I actually wish they had an all steam gauge version with no gps. Secondly the type of GPS installed has no effect on autopilot performance.

 

So all said and done, I highly recommend this aircraft if you are looking for a little more rustic version of the duke b60 or maybe your first GA twin for your hangar. Not super fast but not slow either, this pa31 add-on is great for low level short-medium haul flights. Good luck! And I hope I have helped those of you in question or on the fence about this aircraft.

 

P.S.

Don't forget to stage cool on descent! 2" MP every 2 minutes until 18"mp, or below 300CHT or below 120 kts! stay safe and keep the silver side up! Happy flying :BigGrin:

 

 

 

 

  • Upvote 3

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Nice review and thank you for posting!  As I have said in the past, I put a lot of stock in what real pilots with experience in the type have to say about a flight sim aircraft.

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On the basis of this balanced review, I will buy this aircraft.  Great review.  Thanks

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Great review.  Some posted that there was little sound change at the high end of MP.  Is that what it's like in the RW aircraft?  Is it possible for you to write a 'flying guide'...or perhaps a training video?  Any chance you could upload your real world checklist?

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Excellent and very well written.

 

And, thank you for clearing up these issues and for the great review.

 

I personally believe the Navajo is one of Carenado's all time best.

 

Jesse

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Hmmm, think I'll soon get this one ;-) 

 

Thx for the review!

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Thank you for the kind words, to answer your first question yes. This is modeled correctly as well, there is an ever so slight, to no change in sound when adjusting MP at the high end of the spectrum. I will add however this seems to be true with the RPM gauge in this model, and I do recall there being a slightly more definitive tone when pulling back the prop rpm from full forward to 2400RPM (normal climb setting) which is not really apparent. When you go props full forward in a PA31 you know it, and so does everyone on the ground. That's why despite popular belief our procedure was to actually land with props at 2300RPM, unless you where in IMC, when anticipating a missed approach props would be set to 2400 at FAF and then once wheels touched down, props would come full forward.  However the shaky and unstable notion of adjusting prop position is once again correctly modeled--Except shut down is a bit excessive. I do like the idea of a flying guide and uploading my material. I will definitely see to it, however as an active airline pilot I am beginning a trip today and have some other things to take care of but I will try to get those out on the forums as soon as I can for everyone to enjoy.

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Very well review believe me one of the best Done by a pilot active of the mighty Navajo. Simple and at the same time precise in the most important areas the flight dynamics!! One question @acdelta57 this Navajo it's a C model?

Regards from Spain!

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Great review - really nice to hear from a pilot in type!

 

Love the comments about the autopilot  :rolleyes:

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Thank you so very much for your very well written review on this aircraft. I found it quite informative and appreciate you keeping it positive and honest. As an inactive real world pilot myself, I always enjoy reading the comments of other real life and active pilots as well as their experience in the aircraft such as you have shared with us. In light of your busy schedule any further information you may share will be very helpful and greatly appreciated. After reading your review, I too may purchase the Navajo for my own virtual hangar.

 

Raymie

Spokane Valley, WA

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Very nice review, thanks for taking the effort to post this. I Love the Pipers from A2A and I would love to have a twin engine Piper as well. I still have a couple of aircraft I want to master first, but I was thinking about getting the PA31 and was following the posts about it. Your review was very welcome and you convinced me to surely get this one. :)

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Good, thorough review.   I agree with everything you said.  I've been flying this model now for a couple of weeks and is now the favorite in my hangar!

 

JOHN

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I'd like to know if a real world pilot of the Navajo would ever run the engines lean of peak to squeak out a little more economy? I'm actually not fond of the LOP idea because I've seen holes in pistons from running too lean but I know a lot of real world operators are doing it nowdays and apparently the engines are not suffering any significant damage. I've been playing with a ferry attempt between Half Moon Bay and Honolulu, I haven't actually flown it yet but I've departed and climbed to altitude with ASN doing the weather a couple times, then aborted when I realized I wasn't going to make it. According to the GTN's fuel planning page I could make it if 1) I choose the right day where I have a stiff tailwind, and 2) if I lean to 25° LOP which gives me something like 22 GPH total at 24,000'. Otherwise I'll be needing a ferry tank it would appear :smile:

 

I'll also add a vote for the Navajo. I'm afraid the Skymaster has been bumped as my favorite Carenado aircraft and the Navajo has taken it's place. It's funny because I didn't particularly care for either aircraft in the real world, lol.

 

BTW. for the slaved HSI just drag the aircraft.cfg into Notepad and find the following:

 

[direction_indicators]
direction_indicator.0=1,0

 

Change the last zero to "3"

 

Change the 1 to a 3

 

before:

[direction_indicators]
direction_indicator.0=1,0

 

after:

[direction_indicators]
direction_indicator.0=3,0

 

EDIT: I fixed it again, sorry for the confusion :blush:

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