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    REVIEW A2A Piper Cherokee PA-28-180


    Chase

    A2A Piper Cherokee PA-28-180

    A review by Marlon Carter

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    Introduction

    When the A2A Cessna 172 was released last year, it seemed like the flight simulation community was finally given the opportunity renew their love for general aviation aircraft. Over the years we have had the release of many complex airliners featuring a number of in-depth systems and as a result of this, the focus of many developers and simmers has been on larger commercial aircraft. With the Accu-Sim touch however, the C172 created a level playing field that introduced an entirely new level of simulated reality.

     

    With the popularity of the A2A C172 gaining significant momentum over the past year, the momentum keeps on going with the addition of the Piper Cherokee 180! This low wing wonder has had a significant impact in the field of general aviation for decades and its history goes back as far as the 1950s. With the C150/172 gaining popularity at that time, William T Piper created the P180 as an attractive alternative to the popular high wing aircraft of that time. Throughout the years, it became quite obvious that the P180 had many advantages over the C172 but in the end, it all boils down to personal preference.

    With the release of the A2A Piper Cherokee, general aviation enthusiast now have the privilege of choice as to whether they choose to fly a high wing or a low wing aircraft. Does it really matter which aircraft you fly? Well it does and I am sure that you will be amazed at the significant differences between these two wing designs.

     

    To get a bit more background on the development of the Piper Cherokee, let’s have a brief chat with Scott Gentile from A2A.

     

    1. Can you tell us what prompted A2A to develop the Piper Cherokee?
    The Piper Cherokee and the Cessna 172 offer two aircraft that many see as similar, that actually are quite a contrast when you fly and study the inherent characteristics. They have very different stall characteristics, maneuverability, visibility, pitch stability, and sound. Both aircraft are forgiving in nature which allows an unskilled pilot to operate them, including landing. However, if your interest it to land them “well” then you will use a different approach and flare technique. The Cessna 172’s long forgiving wing allows you to come in and take your time with the flare. Whereas the Cherokee’s smaller laminar flow wing, “gives it up” quicker in the stall, meaning you will want to make a quicker flare. If you continue to float in an older “Hershey bar” Cherokee, you will run out of elevator and it will drop you on the runway pretty fast. Fortunately, the Cherokee is a tough little bird and can handle a hard landing.

    2. Were there any challenges during your development of this new product?
    Yes. It took close to twenty flight tests in the prior Cessna 172 to complete our Accu-Sim flight test procedure. We hoped we could then capture the Cherokee in one or two flights, using the newer techniques, but we continued to learn more and therefore test more to get answers. The v.2.0 test flight procedure we now use is the result of about thirty test flights. Most of the procedures we developed in house and go well beyond even the actual aircraft and propeller manufacturer’s certification flight tests. There are no books out there to make an Accu-Sim airplane. We are writing it as we develop.

    3. Can we expect to see any further updates to the Piper Cherokee, or is the development of this product closed?
    We are still updating our prior Accu-Sim aircraft, the later the release, the more updates.

    4. Accu-Sim has truly revolutionized the flight sim experience. Can you tell us a little about the evolution of Accu-Sim over the years and how A2A will continue to improve on this technology?
    We spent the entire 1990’s as unsatisfied customers of other products. After about ten+ years we pretty much accepted what we wanted was simply not going to get done, which is why we went into flight simulation. We are driven by our own love and adoration of all things that fly, and therefore a desire to create the most believable flight experience possible. So until a flight simulation is akin to the Star Trek Holodeck (a simulation where you cannot distinguish between simulation and reality), we will be busy.

    5. Do you think that the Piper Cherokee can be useful to pilots and aspiring pilots?
    Absolutely, as we’ve seen both Redbird Simulations in the U.S and TRC Simulations in Europe use our C172 Trainer for their commercial cockpit trainers. You can also see on our forums conversations taking place for the first time ever in flight simulation. This thread here: viewtopic.php?f=115&t=41116 is a discussion about the preferred RPM people use at cruise.

    6. For someone who is skeptical about buying a GA aircraft or may already have the C172 Trainer, why should they consider purchasing the P180?
    Because even though the numbers look the same, the airplanes are very different in practice. And it’s enlightening to actually experience these differences.

    7. Now that A2A has produced the C172 and the P180, can we expect to see a twin engine trainer in the future?

    Clearly our eyes are always on the future, but in this rapidly changing world, nothing should be expected that isn’t sitting on your computer today.

     

    A special thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer some of these questions. Now that we know more about the development of this product, let’s go deeper into the features.

     

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    Features

    Here are a few features of the new A2A Piper Cherokee 180.

    • A true propeller simulation
    • Interactive pre-flight inspection system
    • Gorgeously constructed aircraft, inside and out, down to the last rivet
    • Physics-driven sound environment
    • Complete maintenance hangar internal systems and detailed engine tests including compression checks
    • Visual Real-Time Load Manager
    • Piston combustion engine modeling. Air comes in, it mixes with fuel and ignites, parts move, heat up, and all work in harmony to produce the wonderful sound of a Lycoming 360 engine. Now the gauges look beneath the skin of your aircraft and show you what Accu-Sim is all about
    • Bendix King Avionics stack with authentic period LED’s. Three in-sim avionics configurations including no GPS, GPS 295, or the GNS 400. Built-in, automatic support for 3rd party GNS 430 and 530
    • STEC-30 Autopilot built by the book
    • Electric starter with accurate cranking power
    • Dynamic ground physics including both hard pavement and soft grass modeling
    • Primer-only starts
    • Persistent airplane even when the computer is off
    • Four naturally animated passengers that can sit in any seat
    • 3D Lights 'M' (built directly into the model)
    • Pure3D Instrumentation
    • In cockpit pilot's map
    • Authentic fuel delivery includes priming and proper mixture behavior. Mixture can be tuned by the book using the EGT or by ear. It’s your choice.
    • A2A specialized materials with authentic metals, plastics, and rubber
    • Oil pressure system is affected by oil viscosity (oil thickness). Oil viscosity is affected by oil temperature. Now when you start the engine, you need to be careful to give the engine time to warm
    • Eight commercial aviation sponsors have supported the project including Phillips 66 Aviation, Champion Aerospace, and Knots2u speed modifications.
    • And much more ...

     

    For a sneak peak of these features in action, have a look at the preview video below.

     

     

    As you can see, the list of features included in this aircraft is quite extensive. At the end of the extensive listing, I am sure you noticed that it said “And much more.” While this may seem like a generalized statement, I cannot emphasis how accurate these words really are. The Cherokee has features that are simply mind boggling to say the least and it seems that each day of use yields new “hidden” features and new experiences. One of the features I will be making use of is the integration of 3rd party GPS units. The Piper Cherokee was designed to be used along with the RealityXP Garmin 430/530, but it can also be used with the new Mindstar Garmin 430/530. In this review, I will be using the Mindstar GPS units to see how much of a significant impact these units can have on your overall experience.

     

    First Impression

    Manuals

    Without looking at the actual aircraft in FSX/P3D, I was able to have a favorable first impression simply by reviewing the Training Manual for this aircraft. This document is very well written and it covers the history of the aircraft, specifics of each feature, performance charts, normal and emergency checklists, maintenance and much more! In addition to the wealth of written information, there are also many well illustrated photos that make this manual a pleasure to read.

     

    Unlike other complex add-ons, the manual for the A2A Piper Cherokee are only 104 pages long. To some of you who may prefer being consumed by 500 pages of technical writing, don’t be too quick to dismiss the complex nature of this product! Contained within this training manual are links to other official sources for additional information on the Bendix Avionics Suite, DVOR, Astrotech Clock and the unique Stech-30 Autopilot system. One has to admit that it is very impressive that the official manufacturer’s manual can be used as a reference for each system. It is very rare that add-on aircrafts include this type of detail and perhaps this is one advantage of GA aircraft vs airliners.

     

    Exterior

    As we move away from the training manual, it’s time to have closer look at the exterior model of the aircraft. At first glance there is no doubt that A2A had nailed the look and presence of the P180 in every fathomable way. The P180 has a very unique design and it was evident that the modeler(s) at A2A must have spent countless hours recreating every square inch of this aircraft. What was very impressive about the model is the fact that you can actually see each panel, rivet, bolt and other components that make up the P180 in stunning detail. Added to this detail is the dynamic shine of the aircraft which compliments the high quality textures of the aircraft. With regard to the textures, the P180 comes with numerous liveries that bring both a modern and a classic look to the aircraft. If the number of liveries that come with the P180 doesn’t satisfy you, feel free to download the numerous other liveries that have been released by other painters.

     

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    Interior

    My first glance at the interior of the P180 left me with a smile from ear to ear. The entire cockpit looked remarkably realistic, from the flight instruments to the fabric of the floor and seats; the interior of this aircraft is definitely a shining point. As we look a little closer, many other fine details can be spotted such as the reflective gauges, fully modeled circuit breakers, owner’s manual, charts, headset jacks, adjustable air ventilation and custom sound files for each switch in the cockpit just to name a few.

     

    As far as cockpit equipment is concerned, the P180 comes with a fully simulated Bendix King Avionics suite that can be altered to include a GPS of your choice. The display on the Bendix radios is by far the best I have ever seen. Other interesting additions to the cockpit are the Digital VOR and the Astrotech clock which are fully functional. Perhaps the newest item to most of us is the Stech-30 autopilot. Many of us have grown use to the Bendix autopilot in the C172 but I can assure you that the Stech-30 is very different. During the Flight report we will go much deeper into the operation of these units but I have to say that thus far this is a top notch interior that may honestly confuse you with the real thing!

     

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    Other Features

    When the A2A C172 Trainer was released, many were beside themselves with excitement over the external walk around feature. With the P180, A2A took this feature one step further by adding additional features such as the ability to look inside the fuel take for a visual inspection of the fuel quantity. Also added to this feature is the pitot cover which will affect your flying more than you can imagine if you forget to take them off!

     

    Given the fact that the C172 and the P180 are very different, the walk around procedure is slightly different and in some cases a bit more involving. What I appreciate about this feature the most is that it cannot be taken for granted. One wrong move from a previous flight may actually damage linkages and other exterior components that may only be seen during the walk around. Also, most simmers won’t ever have to worry about water contaminating your fuel, unless of course you’re an A2A Cherokee pilot. Fuel contamination is a very real occurrence that if left unchecked and uncorrected can have dire consequences. If you’ve failed to check your fuel or your oil quantity for a lengthy period of time, you are likely to end up visiting the Maintenance hangar.

     

    The Maintenance hangar is a very special feature of this product that takes it 10 steps ahead of the most advanced airliner add-ons. While some add-ons may have a failure system, this is often as a result of deliberately tampering with various systems or setting them on a timer. With the Piper Cherokee failure depend on how you fly the aircraft and repairs to various components can be done via the maintenance hangar. In addition to this you can also install upgrades such as fairings to increase the efficiency of your aircraft. Thanks to a few real world sponsors, you can also install a variety of batteries, tires and spark plugs depending on your needs and preferences.

     

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    FLIGHT REPORT

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    Flight Planning

     

    Flight planning is a step that is often taken for granted in flight simulation. Most seem to think that it isn’t important since this isn’t real life, while others are simply not very knowledgeable on this topic. If you are interested in learning how to properly plan a flight when using a GA aircraft, I would highly recommend you have a look at Angle of Attacks’ AviatorPro Training videos that takes you from A-Z as far as becoming a proficient simulator pilot.

     

    For my test flight with the Piper Cherokee, I decided to keep it short and simple. By using services such as Skyvector.com and programs such as Active Sky Next, I was able to plan a short series of flights between the North Perry Airport and the Kendall Tamiami Executive airport. During these flights we will be putting the P180 through its paces as we test out the autopilot functionality, hand flying, stalls, navigation and more!

     

    One of the best features of using the P180 with Accu-Sim technology is that you can fly the aircraft by the book. This isn’t just a generic statement but an actual fact that you can fly this aircraft by the numbers with an almost insignificant margin for error due to FSX limitations. This is perhaps the reason why A2A’s C172 has be integrated into the FAA certified Redbird Simulator!

     

    By using the P190 manuals, you can easily complete your performance calculations to ensure that you can safely conduct this flight while taking into consideration your load factor (passengers and fuel) and current weather conditions. After completing this task, it’s now time to commence the external walkaround of the aircraft. In the past, it was only wishful thinking to have the option for an external walkaround. With programs such as EZCA, some may have tried to simulate this by moving their camera view around an aircraft. The only problem with this however, is that you cannot complete a thorough inspection which involves checking your fuel for water and other contaminants, checking your hinges, oil, flaps and more. With the A2A P180, in a similar manner to the C172, you can also complete a full exterior walkaround of the aircraft.

     

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    After completing the walkaround, it’s now time complete cockpit preparations and to start up the engine. While the cockpit preparations are similar to the C172, I was quite pleased to see that fully functioning circuit breakers have been included in the Cherokee. This adds so much realism to this product and it makes it necessary for you as the pilot to really know how your aircraft works.

     

    After completing the cockpit preparations, we now have to figure out how to start the engine. With other add-ons, all that would be required is to simply turn the key or even (dare I say) press Ctrl+E and the engine would flawlessly turn over. This isn’t the case with the P180 just as you would expect in real life. In the real world there are many factors that influence the engine start sequence. For example, is it the first flight of the day? Has the aircraft been sitting for a very long time? What is the weather like? All of these factors have a bearing on how your engine starts up. In our case, this is the first flight of the day and the engine may require priming. Without doing this the engine would have a very hard time turning over and it requires us having to pump the primer at least 2-3 times during the start sequence. What was quite fascinating about the start sequence is that the finer nuances of this procedure have been effectively modelling in the P180. For example, tweaking the mixture and throttle settings during the start-up has a significant impact on the smooth startup and running of the engine.

     

    Something else you may notice is that when the engine is starting/started, the aircraft shakes and vibrates just as you would see and experience in real life. Even while the engine is running you can see slight shimmers on the cockpit panel that clearly indicates the engine is on. To sit here and explain this to you without an actual demonstration doesn’t serve justice to the hard work put into the programming of this aircraft. Therefore, I strongly encourage that you have a look at the promotional videos for this aircraft.

     

    Once the engine is started, we now have to set up the rest of the cockpit by turning on the radios. Setting up the radios is a very simple process; setting up the GPS on the other hand may be a bit more involving if you are using the RealityXP integration or the Mindstar Aviation G430/530. For this review I will be using the Mindstar Aviation Garmin 430/530 since I do not own the RealityXP units.

     

    MindStar G430/530

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    At this point we will deviate just a bit to focus on the Mindstar Units.  Setting up the Mindstar Garmin units isn’t difficult, but it requires the ability to edit your panel configuration file. If you are interesting in doing this, there is a great topic on this over at the support forums at A2A.  I would like to emphasis that the P180 was not specifically designed to work with the Mindstar units, but they work well nonetheless. To have a bit more background information on these units, Mindstar was kind enough to answer a few questions some of you may have.

     

    What are some of the most outstanding features of the Mindstar G430/530? 

    The updatable NavData using RealNav is the first thing I would mention. The second is the minimal impact on frame rates. Finally, it works in Prepar3D.

     

    In comparison to what RealityXP has offered, what makes the Mindstar GPS units unique?

    The first most obvious difference is that our software is completely built from scratch, instead of riding on the Garmin trainer software.  This means we have complete control to enhance the software, instead of being limited to what Garmin releases in their trainer.    The second is that our units work together so you can have 2 GPS units working in the same product, without having to purchase anything extra.   Finally, crossfill works automatically in our product.  You don’t need to purchase anything extra for crossfill to work.

     

    What future improvements can we expect to see added to this product? 

    Our next biggest upcoming feature will be the addition of WAAS to the GPS units.   Additional features may be added too, but we don’t know yet what that might be.

     

    Hopefully these responses will satisfy your curiosity about this product as a great option to consider.   

     

    Moving back to our flight, after you would have successfully setup these units to work with the aircraft, you will quickly find that it functions just the same as the real world units with the exception of a few features. I will admit that at present, the RealityXP units offer more features and functions despite having an out of date databases. While this is the case, the Mindstar units offer you the basic functions of the real units with a current database that can be periodically updated. Features such as WAAS and LPV capabilities are not currently modeled but are on the way in a future updates that will add more features and enhancements.

     

    As far as programming the G430/530 is concerned, it is quite simple to load departure procedures, flight plans and arrival procedures manually. The moving map does not show terrain data, but all things considered, the Mindstar units are definitely a good option if you are not confident about buying the RealityXP units. Once the flight plan is loaded, it’s now time to contact ATC and get the aircraft into the air where it belongs.

     

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    Takeoff/Maneuvers

    During the time it takes to setup your radios, program your GPS and obtain clearance from ATC, your aircraft should be sufficiently warmed up to commence your taxi. Prior to starting the taxi to the active runway, I noticed something that honestly left me stunned and I had to pause for a while to admire a subtle but VERY realistic feature of this aircraft. If you have ever flown in a light aircraft, you may be familiar with the fact that starting the engines results in a significant rush of air moving rearward. If your door happens to be open at that time, the door immediately would slam shut or shimmer under the fluctuating wind. With the A2A P180, I was amazed that this subtle detail was also included. Apparently I had forgotten to close my door and I looked across to find that it was shaking under the power of the wind generated by the propellers. I am sure that you will also be amazing to see this in action.

     

    As we prepare for our departure, it is always recommended that you do an engine run up to ensure that your engine is running correctly. When advancing the throttle to 2000rpm, you will want to ensure that the magnetos are not fouled and that applying the carb heat has the desired drop in rpm. To make this process as easy as possible I was able to make use of the configuration tool that came with the P180 that allowed me to assign a controller axis to the carb heat controls. What do you do if your magnetos are fouled? Well just as in the real world, if your magnetos are fouled you will have to clear them by applying full throttle momentarily and then test the magnetos once more. A common cause of fouled magnetos is having too rich a mixture setting and it would be wise to correctly manage your mixture setting while on the ground.

     

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    Before we get airborne and after completing all final checks, we advance the throttles forward to embark and what would be one of the best simulation experiences I have had to date. From the moment the aircraft lifted off the ground I was left with a smile from ear to ear due to the realistic manner in which the aircraft lifted off the ground. The only other time I’ve “felt” this sensation was in the real world while flying a C172. While the two aircraft are slightly different, the sensation of leaving the ground is very similar and it was quite a thrill hand flying this aircraft.

     

    During the climb, it is important to remember that you control your speed by altering your pitch and this means that you have to constantly monitor your ASI in order to maintain your best angle or best rate of climb. For this flight we will be doing most of our tests and maneuvers at 2000 – 3000ft over the Miami coastline. Before starting our maneuvers we want to ensure that the aircraft is operating at its best performance. This means ensuring that we have the best mixture setting as we cruise down to the Kendall airport.

     

    There are many suggestions as to how the mixture should be leaned and there are many interesting discussions on this on the A2A forum. This tells you that this aircraft is very dynamic and it can be flown in a variety of ways with varying results for everyone.

     

    Halfway during the cruise, I decided to test the stall characteristics of the aircraft. In the real world I have mostly done this with the C172 and since the A2A C172 Trainer had realistic stall characteristics, I was eager to see how the P180 would differ. In keeping with real world procedures, I slowed the aircraft by gradually bringing back the throttle and while pitching the aircraft for the desired stall speed. While in the C172 you will experience a nose down attitude upon getting into a full stall, the P180 is very different. The P180 would stall, shake and continue flying forward with a rapid descent. This type of stall characteristic is native to the P180’s design and it is one that you will have to get use to if you are transitioning from the C172. Other maneuvers such as steep turns and simulated engine failures worked like a charm and the aircraft exhibited flight characteristics that go hand in hand with the real world manuals. 

     

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    As we make our way back to our cruise altitude and route of flight, I realized that I had now entered a bit of turbulent air. The feel of the aircraft in turbulent air was remarkably realistic and this is no doubt a testimony to the hard work put into the Air Vortex Physics programming that has gone into this aircraft. One of the interesting things about flying in turbulent air is that there is a rapid increase in the wind noise as the aircraft rises and falls from the unstable air movement. I was amazed at how immersive an experience flying this aircraft has turned out to be. The hand flying aspect of this aircraft is phenomenal and I guarantee that you won’t be too eager to fly on Autopilot.

     

    Autopilot

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    Although hand flying was quite a joy, I am sure there are many of you who would rather have the AP do most of the work on long cross country flights. This being the case, I thought it would also be the ideal time to briefly test the autopilot, GPS and DVOR. The autopilot that comes with the P180 is quite different to anything you may have ever used before.

     

    The Stech-30 autopilot has a very basic functionality and it operates on a number of control theories. The following is a breakdown of these theories.

     

    The System Twenty / Thirty / Thirty ALT is a rate based autopilot. When in control of the roll axis, the autopilot senses turn rate, along with the non-rate quantities of heading error and course deviation indication. When in control of the pitch axis, the autopilot senses acceleration, along with the non-rate quantity of altitude. These sensed data provide feedback to the autopilot, which processes them in order to control the aircraft through the use of mechanisms coupled to the control system. The roll servo is typically coupled to the ailerons, and the pitch servo is coupled to the elevator. The System Twenty controls only the roll axis. The System Thirty controls both the roll axis and pitch axis. Activation of roll axis control must always precede activation of pitch axis control. The System Thirty ALT controls only the pitch axis.

     

    In the Roll Axis Control, each time you press and release the Mode Sel or Push Mode switch, it engages the Stabilizer Mode (ST), Heading Mode (HD), Low Track (LO TRK) Mode and High Track (HI TRK) Mode. The ST Mode is used to hold wings level during flight while the HD Mode is used to turn onto a selected heading and hold it. The LO TRK mode is used for tracking a VOR course while the HI Mode is used to track a localizer course. One you can understand these basic functions; the AP becomes much easier to operate.

     

    In the case of Pitch Axis Control, each time you press the ALT ENG switch it engages and disengages the pitch mode used to hold an altitude. When using the Pitch mode, it is very important that the aircraft is properly trimmed. If not, the AP will alert you to the fact that it cannot maintain an altitude unless you trim up or down. These modes can be tested on the ground and there is a great segment in the real world manual that discusses how the Autopilot can be tested on the ground. 

     

    As far as navigation is concerned, in order to capture a required track, the LO mode is used to track a VOR. I found that the LO mode was very stable and despite strong winds at times, it held my track to the VKZ VOR will full authority. If you are flying with the GPS as your main means of navigating, the HI mode is used to follow your programmed GPS course.

     

    As mentioned before, the GPS offering of the P180 covers the default Garmin 400, Garmin 295 and integration with the RealityXP Garmin 430/530 add-on. For the purpose of this review I was unable to secure a copy of the RealityXP product, so as a substitute, I was able to make use of the newly released Mindstar Aviation G430/530. This product works nicely with the P180 since it was designed to work along with almost any add-on that has an accurately modeled 3D GPS unit. Although operating the 3rd party GPS can be a bit tricky, with the proper setup one can easily get use to the inconveniences. The AP HI mode functionality worked quite smoothly with the Mindstar units and it made navigating around Miami very easy. Tuning frequencies and altering flight plans are both simple and seamless, which allows you to focus on your surroundings and maintain visual awareness. In general, the AP is pretty stable but be very cautious while flying with the AP in turbulent air as it has the tendency to “bob” around.

     

    DVOR

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    If you are more of an old school flying who relies on VOR navigation, the DVOR may turn out to be one of your best friends. So what exactly does the Davtron DVOR do? Well here is an overview from the real world manual. “This computer based instrument is a compact and effective component, enhancing the navigation system. The DVOR reads digitally the aircraft's radial position from the VOR station. The instantaneous To/From switching capability makes the 903 the easiest and fastest method of obtaining VOR cross checks. The Localizer mode displays course deviation numerically with the equivalent resolution of a 1/2 dot of a CDI. The 903ID takes the Morse Code identifier signal of the VOR station and displays sequentially the station letters on the single alpha-numeric display. The letters are displayed at a clear and readable rate. The 903 indicators can easily be switched to select NAV1 or NAV2 for use. The second toggle switch on the front panel selects either a To or From bearing. The small push button switch is used for calibration during installation. The 903 becomes a signal level meter when the switch is pressed.”

     

    The operation of the DVOR was simple and very effective. While the VOR indicator is a reliable reference, the DVOR adds much more situational awareness to your flying. With the flip of a switch you can easily see your radial TO and FROM any VOR for effective navigation. Out of all the features of the P180, this was by far one of my favorites and it goes nicely with the navigational map feature of this aircraft.

     

    Astrotech Clock

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    Since KTMB has an ILS approach, I wanted to make good use of the Astrotech clock which is a valuable tool for your approaches and holds. While on approach to runway 9R, there were many opportunities to use the clock such as in timing the approach FAF to MAP or timing legs during the missed approach holding procedure. In this case I choose to try the missed approach which instructed us to fly the 130 radial from the DHP VOR to a DME of 14.1 (LUVLY) at LUVLY, we use a tear drop entry to join the right hand holding pattern until further instructions are received from ATC. I wish I had a video recording of the entire procedure to show how useful this is, but in situations such as these, having an accurate timer is invaluable.

     

    Landing

    Now that the “fun” was over, I decided to take a scenic flight back to KHWO. As we approached the airport and initiate our descent, it became much more noticeable (as was the case in the first decent to KTMB) that having good hand flying skills is essential to managing your descent. With the C172, the autopilot allowed you to control your rate of descent and capture any preselected altitude. With the P180 things go back to the old school method of having a steady hand both on the throttle and on the flight controls while have the ability to trim your aircraft accurately.

     

    Configuring the aircraft for landing was also a new experience due to the higher approach speeds and the faster deployment of flaps. In addition to these differences, the P180 is much more prone to ground effect due to the low wing design and this means that having a steady hand, the right power settings is essential to landing smoothly. If you cut the power too soon, the aircraft will drop like a rock, if you are too fast, you will find yourself floating down the runway.

     

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    After parking the aircraft and running through the shutdown checklist, you will be thrilled to know that you can also properly secure your aircraft. This means that you can apply the control locks (using the seatbelt), add pitot covers, chocks and tie downs. As an example of how realistic this aircraft can be, just prior to closing down my FSX, I decided to check the maintenance center to make sure that all was well with my aircraft after flying it for 17 hours prior to this review test flight. To my surprise I noticed that I had a “check engine” indication which showed that I had to replace my oil filter. Had I not done so, my next flight may have ended quite differently and this is what I love the most about this aircraft and A2A products.

     

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    Given all of these features, it is hard to put into words how fascinating this product truly is. The A2A Piper Cherokee offers you an authentic experience that surpasses any other. Sure, flying airlines may be fun, but there is no comparison when flying an Accu-Sim aircraft. It is the most realistic simulation of an aircraft to date and this technology should honestly be the norm rather than the option.

     

    No comments on the sound?

    One aspect of this aircraft that I deliberately didn’t focus on is the sound. The sounds that are present in the P180 are by no means generic GA aircraft sounds. Nearly each switch, knob, level or just about anything that can move that has an audible sound has be recreated with authentic sounds. The most outstand aspect of the sound is the engine sound that actually communicates to you what the engine is doing at all times. If your engine is running rough, magnetos are fouled or you’re trying to lean the mixture inflight, you will be absolutely amazed that you can sense all of these things by the sound of your engine. Even the sound of the wind can be a signal as to whether your aircraft is climbing or rapidly descending. I can go on and on about this aspect of the P180, but I think it’s best you experience this yourself.

     

    I can assure you that there is a lot more to this aircraft than I have already mentioned. It’s up to you now to find out what this product is all about and why it has taken so well to the FS community.

     

    Other Screenshots showing custom liveries and night time environment

     

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    Conclusion

    When it comes to having an authentic FS experience, A2A has definitely delivered. The ability to fly an aircraft the way it was meant to flown has always been the downside of many products despite having in-depth systems simulation. With Accu-Sim, we now have the ability to fly an aircraft by the book with the looming possibility of component or structural failure should we fail to do so. For individuals who are fanatic about this hobby, the Piper Cherokee provides the most immersive experience one can have. Flying large airliners that feature in-depth systems has its place, but flying an aircraft that talks back to you, telling you that you need to lean the mixture or that it needs a new starter or spark plug is an experience that surpasses being able to load up an FMS and have the autopilot do all of the work.

    With the Piper Cherokee, flying goes back to the basics and you as the pilot is fully responsible for the operation of the aircraft each step of the way. This time around, a steady hand and a keen ear are all that’s necessary to having the best FS experience one can imagine. I have always maintained that the default GA aircraft in FSX has poorly misrepresented the joys and thrills of flying a trainer aircraft. Most commercial pilots who fly 777s or 747s will tell you that some of their fondest memories of flying go back to the days where they would hop into a C172 of a Piper Cherokee and fly to wherever their hearts desired. Often times it was during this period that they experienced many of their scariest or most exciting flying adventures. The default aircraft in FSX simply does not convey the true essence of flying smaller aircraft. Thanks to A2A however, general aviation now has a new reputation with endless prospects for the future of GA flight simulation.

     

    The benefit of using this product spans a wide range of possibilities. For example, if you are a real world pilot or considering whether you should become one, the A2A Piper Cherokee can be your greatest advantage. As mentioned by Scott Gentile, A2A products are used in commercial simulators. This means that when it comes to real world training, the P180 has already shown itself to be a reliable simulation. For real world pilots, using the P180 as a means of practicing for your recurrent training or simply for practicing various procedures and maneuvers can be a tremendous advantage. A few months ago I put this theory to the test with the C172 and I have to say that it helped me in getting familiar with certain procedures after a lengthy time of not flying. As a result of this, I am confident that the P180 will serve you well in all respects provided that you have a full setup inclusive of yoke, throttle and rudder pedals.

     

    If you are not a pilot but thinking about getting your Private or Commercial license, the P180 or even the C172 can also be a tremendous aid in helping you to understand the basics of flying and proper engine management. With additional features such as Reality XP Garmin 430/530 integration or the ability to use the Mindstar G430/530, the benefits of using this product can go far beyond what you may imagine. The ability to practice complex approach procedures and to navigate using a full blown GPS unit adds tremendous value to this product and purchasing one of these units should also be considered when buying the P180.

     

    The price of the P180 varies depending on which platform you are using. If you are using FSX or P3D academic you can expect to pay $49.99US. P3D Commercial or Professional license users can expect to pay as much as 199.99 or as little as 79.99 respectively. While these price points may sound excessive, I urge you to familiarize yourself with the various licenses and EULAs for the reason behind these varying prices. All things considered, most of you will be spending $49.99 or $79.99 for the P180. For this price you may be expecting a fully simulated 777, but quite honestly I think that the P180 gives you so much more.

     

    For a better understand of why this small aircraft is creating such a stir in the FS community, have a look at the A2A forums. On these forums you will see the buzz and exciting for the P180 in full force with many individuals treating their aircraft just as they would a real one. Some have kept logs about their maintenance and best practices for flying the aircraft. Some individuals are real world pilots who have flown the Cherokee and they are willing to share their flying tips which translate perfectly in to FSX/P3D. The P180 has shown that flying can be exciting, adventurous and educational at the same time. Taking into consideration the stunning quality of this aircraft, the Accu-Sim engine that brings this product to life and the endless benefits, I think it is fair to say that this product deserves an AVSIM GOLD STAR AWARD.

     

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    Whether you’re a fan of large airliners or a GA fanatic, this is one aircraft that has earned its place in the virtual hangars of all serious FS users.

     

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    Acknowledgments

    Thanks to Scott and Lewis from A2A for all of their assistance with this review. Quite honestly they seem to be some of the friendliest developers around and they are always willing to assist you personally.

     

    I would also like to thank Johnny Johnson from Mindstar Aviation for patiently answering numerous questions about the new Mindstar G430/530 units. These units are truly area set in the right direction and they were designed in a way that allows for the addition of numerous features unlike the RXP units. Let’s just hope that the development continues to match/surpass what RXP has offered.

     

    Scenery and other Add-ons

    • The Miami scenery shown in the screenshots is the Miami City 2012 X by Drezwiecki Design which can be purchased through Aerosoft.
    • Ground textures and terrain used are Flight1’s GEX and UTX. Definitely great products even today.


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