by Ray Marshall
Just like all the other recent A2A Simulation releases for FSX and P3D, the Comanche 250 was a surprise to almost everyone. Many folks were guessing this would be a twin-engine model, but, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed in A2A’s decision to simulate a model of their company owned 1959 Comanche.
This one is typical of the very early Piper Comanche line that was specifically designed to compete head-on with the V-tailed Beech Bonanza. I personally think Piper fell short of having a true competitor based on quality and performance, but they did manage to build a Comanche that was priced a little higher than the Mooney M20 and a litter lower than the Bonanza V33. The Piper’s cruise speed fell short but the enlarged cabin width and hauling capacity outdid both the early Mooney and the Bonanza.
As far as performance goes, a modern Comanche depends on how much one is willing to pay the speed merchants for their bolt-on, screw-on, full-replacement bits and pieces. The Piper Comanche line of aircraft must be the most modified and most improved of any of the standard general aviation models out there.
I would be willing to bet there are not more than a handful of unmodified Piper Comanches from the 1958 – 1964 era. Of course, you would be searching for an almost 60-year old airplane, hopefully in some sort of airworthy condition. I’m not sure anyone would actually want to own one to fly, maybe to donate to a museum or to trailer it to an airshow to win a trophy.
Surprisingly, the asking prices of the early Comanches remain quite low when compared to competitors but most require an equal sum or even more to bring them up to modern standards including the plethora of these bolt on smoothing devices, modernized replacement instrument panels, the latest avionics and updated interiors.
But, once the money is committed, the work completed and the new paint scheme is applied, you have a beautiful, high speed, complex flying machine with a rich history that commands attention wherever you may choose to fly.
Practically all Comanche’s have been highly modified or upgraded for reliability, comfort, speed increases, and compliance with the pages and pages of required ADs (Airworthiness Directives from the FAA).
The specific model that A2A has presented to the flight sim community falls somewhere near the middle of the pack as far as speed mods and upgrades. One place where it far exceeds the marketplace is with our choices of avionics, including the latest GTN650/750 and RXP GPS units.
What pulls the average down is the lack of a more modern, full-function autopilot, although the included ST-30 is capable of relieving the pilot workload on the longer, near straight legs and basic IFR approaches; and the absence of the more expensive speed mods, like the LoPresti cowl and the Knots2U Arapaho one-piece windshield upgrade. Not that these items are required or even needed for flight simulation flying.
The A2A Simulations Accu-Sim Piper Comanche 250
As we progress along with this review it may be unclear whether I am referring to the A2A FSX/P3D simulation or the real world Comanche that Scott and Captain Jake may be flying. They are pretty much one in the same except for the paint scheme or interior that you may have chosen to fly that day.
As far as I can tell, the simulated model should look, act, feel and perform just like the one in the hangar, on the ramp or in the air. One of the original simulation repaints, N6229P is a spittin’ image of the one owned and flown by Scott Gentile, owner of A2A.
A short video that introduced the release of the Comanche 250, narrated by Scott Gentile, will give you a good overview of how the real world model compares to the simulation. I have watched a ton of airplane videos but, this 15 min video is the best I have seen yet. Not only for what it covers, but the depth of understanding of what we are watching and the excellent video and audio quality.
“After three years of owning and operating a 1959 Piper Comanche 250, we finally managed to bring her to life with Accu-Sim. I hope everyone enjoys the video, but 15 minutes just barely scratches the surface to the depth of the simulation. I look forward to seeing many people experience the true joy and wonder, of this timeless beauty.”
Using several partners for choices of engine oil, batteries, propellers, spark plugs, and speed enhancement fairings, our simulated model is well equipped to compete with the standard competition.
One huge advantage we simulator pilots have over our real world brothers and sisters is that the maintenance and optional equipment and modifications are all billed in virtual dollars. Yep, you can ask for and receive everything from the mechanic’s quick check of a rough running engine to a full overhaul in a matter of minutes at no additional cost in real world money.
You can also elect to change out your standard propeller for an upgraded graphite 3-bladed MT prop with a matching spinner, add or remove original equipment tip tanks with 30 gallon fuel capacity, change out your battery, spark plugs, tires, or add some spats and fairing to smooth out some rough edges and cover up the gaps in the flaps.
I’m guessing many of these options are installed or available for N6229P and the simulated Comanche should exhibit the corresponding changes in speed, control, feel and such just like the one sitting on concrete.
You may not be familiar with the Comanche (but you soon will)
Almost all pilots, real or simulated, are somewhat familiar with Mooney, Beechcraft, Cessna, and Piper airplanes. Maybe some of the specific models are better known than others.
Let’s talk about the Cessna line first with the broad statement that the very successful Piper Tri-Pacer of the early 1950s was the impetus for Cessna to modify their tail-wheeled Cessna 170 by adding a nose wheel to compete for the anticipated up and coming boon in personal or general aviation. The Cessna 172 and 150 and all the follow on Cessna models deserve their own separate discussion and is not included here.
It was the fact that Cessna chose to go with an all metal design for their new line of general aviation planes, as opposed to the tube and fabric method historically used by Piper and others that threatened the very livelihood of the Piper Aircraft Company.
Just one look at the stubby, milk stool Piper Tri-Pacer alongside a Cessna 172 or V33 Bonanza makes it crystal clear that if Piper wishes to compete with these two aggressive airplane builders they had better come up with a radical new airplane design and very quickly.
Mr. Piper and son Pug may have misjudged the substantial impact that Cessna would have on the market with their affordable high wing, metal, tricycle gear airplanes for they initially set their sights on the Bonanza, possibly an even more formidable challenge.
Starting in the early 1950s, Piper chose to name their airplanes after American Indian tribes and later on chose some Indian weapons or general terms for some models. The Apache, the first twin engine piper, a partial metal design was very instrumental in the early development of the Comanche. The Apache’s basic design was found in a box of papers labeled “Twin Stinson” that came to Piper in 1950 by way of the Stinson Aircraft buyout from Consolidated Vultee.
The Apache was a milestone airplane for Piper. This was the airplane that allowed Piper to take the first steps from the tube and fabric puddle jumpers to the new world of metal business and complex touring airplanes.
Piper was interested in building a new twin with hopes of supplying both the Korean War efforts and the civilian population. Mr. Piper purchased the Baumann B-250 prototype and drawings from an old friend that he met when he took over the Taylor Aircraft Company long ago. Designed near the end of WWII, Jack Baumann’s Brigadier 250 was a pusher configuration with looks vaguely similar to the original Aero Commander 500.
This B-250 design, PA-21, was soon abandoned for the in-house and already owned Stinson design that later became the PA-23 Apache.
Bill Baumann, a first cousin of Jack, says he designed most of the structure and systems of the B-250 and helped build it. He says the Apache fuselage structure and many systems were based on the Brigadier.
The history book is not very clear on who actually designed the Piper Apache, but it is probably safe to assume the team was led by Walt Jamouneau, the designer of the J-2 Cub and most of the follow on designs for Mr. Piper. Mr. Jamouneau, a self-taught aircraft engineer, stayed with Piper his entire life, ending up on the board of directors.
I’m sure that Pug Piper, who held many titles at the family company, including those in charge of R&D, design, engineering and production, at various times during the lifetime of Piper had not yet learned enough from Walt Jamouneau to lead a design team, other than just the broad overview and general management direction.
Fred Weick, of Ercoupe fame, where he pioneered tricycle landing gear and metal-skinned light planes before WWII, joined Piper as Chief Engineer and Development Center director in 1957, so he did not arrive in time for the Apache but may have contributed to the Comanche design while working on contract to Mr. Piper. Fred designed some of the earliest Ag planes while working at Texas A&M University and was the co-designer of the Piper Cherokee line. John Thorpe and Karl Bergey may also have had a hand in shaping the Comanche but were mostly known for their Cherokee work.
Mr. Piper did not hesitate to call in various airplane designers from time to time and may have formed a general, or overall idea of the new Apache and Comanche concepts from listening to the many former airplane company owners that failed to make the transition from the wartime business to the lean and mean years immediately after the War.
Whoever was on the team was probably working under the direction of Mr. Piper by way of Pug on a daily basis. I don’t know the source of the Wiki data on the Comanche but someone awarded the design credit to Pug Piper and there is probably no one still alive to say otherwise.
The bottom line is the Apache has a place in the record books as the first Piper Indian, their first metal airplane and first twin. Other than that it is downhill from there. A review in Air Progress in April 1976 starts off with:
What is the Piper PA-23 Apache? It's the cheapest, the easiest, the most obtainable, the ugliest, the most docile and, according to some, possibly the least useful twin engine airplane. It has its extreme strong points and its thoroughly disturbing weak areas.
I am going to guess that most everyone has heard of the Beech Bonanza. The one also known as the Doctor Killer with the V-tail. My small home-town doctor in the backwoods of Mississippi owned one and several later-model Bonanzas. He died of old age, albeit with his pilot’s license suspended for violating the rules.
My first airplane ride, as a 3rd grader was in his E-33 Bonanza hard earned by washing the oily bottom of the fuselage many, many times with the promise of a ride someday. I was hooked from that first backseat ride with a special place in my heart for any Bonanza.
Next, maybe somewhat lesser known, is the short fuselage Mooney, that small looking plane with the funny shaped tail pointing in the wrong direction. This one is also important to the basic design of the Comanche and will be expounded on a little later.
One step at a time – Piper Aircraft and World War II
The Piper Aircraft Company was just one of many small airplane builders that sprouted up in the 1920s or 1930s, and then made enough profit from building war time models in World War II to stay in business and be ready to start over in the late 1940s.
Piper was in a unique position at the beginning of the war to build huge quantities of the very useful and low-cost J-3 Cub for the military. The L-4 designation was one of the most popular basic trainers, aerial spotters, glider trainers, VIP transport and air ambulances.
President Roosevelt initiated a college pilot training program that used Piper Cubs to turn out thousands of pilots in anticipation of our entry into the war. Just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one in three of all civilian airplanes in the U.S. was built by Piper.
More than 20,000 Cubs and L-4s were delivered for the war effort and the few years following. There were a few stretched or increased horsepower models built but the lowly J-3 Cub was the mainstay from Piper. ‘Grasshopper’ was the military nickname for all models of the Cub.
As wartime demands continued to increase the production rate increased to one Cub being built every 20 minutes. I have read other places that the peak rate had a new Cub coming out the door every 10 minutes.
Piper planes played a vital role in winning the war, having helped train four out of five American pilots, and revolutionizing almost every aspect of land warfare. Pilots added bazookas to their Grasshoppers to knock out tanks and entrenched artillery after directing naval artillery on the beaches of Normandy.
During the invasion of North Africa, 3 Grasshoppers took off from an aircraft carrier, of sorts, for reconnaissance flights and later directed naval fire on the beaches of Sicily and Italy. Generals Eisenhower, Clark, and Patton all usedGrasshoppers as personal transport and for inspecting raging battles.
In McArthur’s struggle in the Pacific, Grasshoppers went ashore to direct artillery against Japanese strongholds and provided vital support in campaigns from New Guinea to the Philippines.
The Early Years after the War
When peace came, prospects for light planes seemed bright, as Piper’s “family cruiser” was added to the pre-war “Cub” and “Cruiser”, followed by the “Super Cruiser”. Then, as the post war boom faded, the low-cost, stripped-down “Vagabond” was added to spur sales. Soon the Piper “Pacer” was introduced to the line, and the “Super Cub”, replaced the old faithful J-3 Cub.
Things were humming along at the war’s end and the future appeared very bright on the home front. That was to come to a screeching halt within a couple of years. It was so bad for the burgeoning general aviation manufacturers that only a few survived. Beechcraft being at the top of the heap and Piper near the bottom.
The antiquated and stubby, tube-and-fabric construction of the short-wing Piper line was soon eclipsed by the competing 2-seat Cessna 120/140 and 4-seat Cessna 170, whose long, sleek bodies were built with modern "stressed-skin" construction using streamlined, lightweight-but-strong aluminum skin for structural strength in place of the heavy steel-tube frame, and fabric skin, of the short-wing Pipers and other planes. The "tin-can" Cessnas long wings and tails gave them greater stability and gentility in the air, along with superior takeoff, climbing and gliding performance. And their shiny, rounded aluminum sides shone with modern elegance. Piper soon noticed Pacer customers moving away towards Cessna.
The Tricycle Wars
In an attempt to leapfrog ahead of Cessna, Piper began offering a version of the Pacer with "tricycle" landing gear: the PA-22 Tri-Pacer, in 1951. Replacing the dinky tailwheel with a big nose wheel gave the airplane positive steering control, eliminating most of the ground loop problems, and making the airplane generally easier to handle. It also raised the pilot higher above the nose of the airplane, greatly improving visibility (and hence safety) on the ground.
After the war hundreds of abandoned military bases and auxiliary fields became private and public airports. Local airports, with good, smooth runways, were becoming commonplace and by the 1950's, most planes were operating from them, rather than from grassy fields and open spaces. By 1951, smooth-runway operations were routine, and pilots were ready for the safe-and-easy steering of tricycle gear.
Whether because of clever calculation, or sheer luck, the Tri-Pacer's introduction was well-timed.
It was a quick success, immediately outselling not only the Pacer, but all other tail-dragger light planes, including Cessna's popular Model 170. The tricycle gear did the trick, and suddenly light plane buyers abandoned Cessna to return to Piper.
Piper managed to sell thousands of Tri-Pacers (over 7,600 before the end of production in 1959) before Cessna caught up. But five years later, Cessna finally released a tricycle-geared version of its Model 170, the 172/Skyhawk, followed in 1958 by the 2-seat Cessna 150, locking up the trainer market for Cessna. Both Cessnas would go on to become the all-time best-sellers in their respective classes (in fact, the 172 would become the biggest selling light plane of all time, even surpassing the mighty Cub).
To compete with the 2-seat, Cessna 150, which had seized the market for new trainer planes, Piper stepped back and developed a cheaper, low-powered, 2-seat version of the Tri-Pacer - the PA-22-108, named the Colt, and released it in 1960-61. But the crude, old-fashioned Colt was too little, too late. The modern, efficient Cessna 150 soon owned the trainer market, and Cessna began eagerly welcoming new buyers for its bigger planes from the ranks of the new pilots that had learned in the little Cessnas. From this point forward, Piper would never again outsell Cessna.
To get back to our story on the Comanche development, we can summarize as follows: In the early 1950s the newly-created “Tri-Pacer” became an instant success, selling more than 7,500 in ten years. In 1954, the twin engine “Apache” became the cornerstone of Piper’s postwar growth, meeting the needs for an above-the-weather airplane. Bill Piper at the age of 73 soloed in an Apache.
But the sleek, fast Beech Bonanza was taking all the headlines and was the one of choice for the fast, retractable, 4 place, complex airplane. The Piper boys now set their sights on their next success story - a “Bonanza Killer”.
Piper Aircraft Company as an innovator and design shop
Although some amazing airplanes have come out of the Piper shop, none of them were actually designed by anyone named Piper. This is neither good nor bad; it is just different than Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, Al Mooney, Eddie Stinson and Claude Ryan who were innovative airplane designers that produced airplanes associated with their names.
This may simply be because William T. Piper, Sr. was an Industrialist and Civil Engineer rather than an airplane designer. His start was in the family dairy business and later in the promising crude oil business in rural New York and the airplane business came along rather late in life.
Bill Piper’s entry into aviation was completely unplanned. It began after C. Gilbert Taylor, a self-taught airplane designer, built a small monoplane. Taylor convinced the Bradford, Pennsylvania community leaders to pledge $50,000 toward building a facility to produce it at the town’s airport. In 1929 Piper’s business partner, in his absence, pledged Piper to invest $400 in the new business and later told him: “Bill, you’re in the airplane business.” William Thomas Piper had very little knowledge about aviation when he invested $400 in this newly-created Taylor Brothers Aircraft Corporation, but was elected to its board and named treasurer. The Great Depression descended upon the nation and, when few Taylor biplanes were sold, the company went bankrupt.
In the ensuing public sale, Piper’s lone bid of $761 made him sole owner of the company. Though times were hard, his company designed several low cost planes. Among them was the “Cub”, a small monoplane that was destined for aviation history. It proved to be a dream to fly, and its price of $1,325 fit Piper’s philosophy of giving the most airplane for the dollar. Piper also surprised nearly everyone when he learned to fly a Cub at the age of 50.
By 1935, he had brought the company well into the black, as the Cub enabled thousands to experience the thrill of flying for the first time. A factory worker, Walter Jamouneau, is credited with modifying one of the earliest Cub models to become the J-2, then later the J-3. He was fired by Taylor, the factory manager, but was immediately rehired by Bill Piper who then bought out Taylor’s share of the company.
A few years later Piper’s three sons: Thomas, Howard and William Jr., help him convert an abandoned silk mill in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, into an airplane factory, and reorganize the company into the Piper Aircraft Corporation. Soon the dolled-up Jamouneau designed Piper “Cub Sport” was introduced. Piper soon introduced the handsome J-4 “Coupe” and the more powerful J-5 “Cruiser”.
The military variant of the Cub was designated as the O-59, L-4 and NE (Navy). The military version was mechanically identical to the J-3 civilian Cub but had a Plexiglas skylight and rear windows installed for improved visibility from the rear seat. “All we had to do was paint the Cub olive drab to produce a military plane” Bill Jr. is quoted as saying.
A little over a year ago, the J-3 Cub was designated the official aircraft of the state of Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Corbett signed into law the legislation, known as Act 73 on June 27, 2014. Connecticut chose the Corsair F4U for their state plane (the state produced about 12,500 during WWII).
Stinson joins Piper
In the late 1940's, about the same time as the zenith of the short-wing Pipers, Piper, still looking for a stouter 4-seat plane, which could hold four full-sized people and full fuel bought out the floundering Stinson Aircraft Co. by now a division of Consolidated Aircraft and finished selling off Stinson's stock of Model 108 / Voyager / Station Wagon planes, which were roughly similar to and competing with the Pacer.
The hardy Stinsons, though rather slow for their 150-190 hp engines, cruising about 110-120mph, could definitely haul four full sized adults, and baggage, along with full fuel tanks. But Piper would have to go much farther to find a way to carry a full load of people reliably and efficiently. And it would.
The first Piper Twin
At this time, also, following up on a design begun by its new Stinson Division, Piper began offering a low-wing, 4/5-seat twin-engine plane, called the PA-23 Apache. It was slow for a twin with typical cruise about 150 mph, but faster than most single-engine planes, and economical, functional and rugged. Though the Apache fuselage retained the steel-tube internal truss work of old-fashioned tube-and-rag airplanes, its skin was sleek, durable, modern aluminum. With the all-metal twin riding a clean "cantilever" wing (no external bracing), it was a big step towards modern design for Piper.
In the late 1950's, the Apache's 150/160-hp engines were replaced with 235-hp engines, resolving much of the Apache's weak performance. (In the 1960s and later, Seguin Aviation in Seguin, Texas became famous for its variety of speed, safety and performance modifications of the Apache, culminating in their "Geronimo" conversions with twin 180-hp Lycomings. Today a large percentage of Apaches have one or more of their modifications.) Seguin Aviation was to be known as the original Speed Merchant.
Built by the thousands, with rugged, durable construction, the older, smaller Apaches have lasted far longer, in greater numbers, than any other twin of their era. With the low performance of their smaller engines, they aren't exactly coveted as traveling machines, which lowers their price considerably. But the small Apache engines make the Apache cheap to operate, by the hour (if not by the mile) and consequently makes the plane ideal for use as a training plane -- especially given its low selling price. Consequently, for most of its lifetime, the Apache has been the pre-eminent plane for training multi-engine pilots -- a role it still holds today, over five decades after it was discontinued.
In the early 1960's, the Apache design was boosted to 250-hp and the frame was stretched, strengthened and streamlined to produce the stout, swift Aztec, which became very popular as a heavy-duty utility airplane, especially for hauling cargo in and out of remote areas. Many have been fitted with floats for use in areas where landing strips were few and far between.
Using a small chunk of my GI Bill, I received my multi-engine rating in two days, flying an Aztec at Daytona Beach Aviation. About the only thing I remember was the chain-smoking instructor kept telling me that the Aztec was the only twin that could climb with the gear down after losing an engine. I also remember having to look around for the trim tab. Coming from the Cessna camp, I would instinctively reach down where Cessna puts all their trim wheels to see a tobacco stained finger pointing up, all the way up to the Studebaker manual window crank on the cabin ceiling, or was that the Volkswagen one? My, what a big nose you have, Mr. Aztec.
The Comanche – Piper’s Original Speedy Single
It was now 1953 and after coming to the realization that Cessna and Beechcraft were leaving Piper in the dust with their thoroughly modern designs, a fundamental change was needed, and needed now. The fat bank accounts from the Tri-Pacer sales and the anticipated income from the new Apache twin would provide the funding needed for a new two-pronged attack.
A fast, exotic and expensive, retractable gear, 4 seat metal-skinned single to compete with the Bonanza, and a simple, low-cost, fixed gear basic airplane to compete with the Cessnas.
Knowing they would have to abandon the old heavy steel tube truss inner frame and fabric covered wings that was all that Piper knew at the time, it was time to buy a new design that was ready to go.
Doing what Mr. Piper knew would work, he went looking for a progressive design for the Bonanza-killer. Al Mooney, a good friend with innovative leading edge designs in his head would be Mr. Piper’s first choice. Knowing very little about the just completed Mooney M20 with its sleek ramp appeal and reported outlandish cruise speeds seemed a good place to start. Why not just buy the prototype and drawings and do a few in-house mods, give it a Piper Aircraft model number and start production?
Sounded like a plan. We can hire Fred Weick away from Texas A&M when he finishes the Pawnee work and put him in charge of the introductory low-end model. We’ll have to see how receptive John Thorpe is to coming to work at Piper with Fred.
Meanwhile, Al Mooney refuses to sell his MK-20 prototype and design but, offers to design an even more modern and better plane for Mr. Piper. Hmmm. I’ll have to think about this for a few days. Here is where the plot thickens and two prevailing stories diverge.
We know for a fact, that Al Mooney was on his way from Kerrville, Texas, to a business session in New England in his hot smoking new Mooney prototype MK-20. The weather went South on him and he landed at the Piper’s New Haven plant to see if Mr. Piper had made a decision on the new design offer.
The weather continued to deteriorate and Mooney was pressed to get to the meeting with a potential new buyer in New England. Mr. Piper offered to drive Al Mooney to the train station and agreed to get his ‘new baby’ out of the weather and to secure it in one of his hangars until Al got back from his business meeting.
All is well, but the recorded facts start to get a little murky. It is a known fact that Pug Piper and a few of his future “Piper Indian building engineers” spent the next few days going over the Mooney prototype with a “fine-toothed comb”. Some accounts say they even disassembled it to make sure they understood all the assembly details and had it reassembled, washed and waxed when Al returned a few days later. Being none the wiser and trusting that is old friend Mr. Piper had indeed done what he said and simply hangared his ‘baby’ for a few days, he returned to Kerrville without an order from Piper for a new design.
One account of what happened next comes from the Mooney folks. After making the trip East and talking with the Piper boys, who’s only comment was that the cabin appeared quite small and tight otherwise it appeared to be a nice design. The comment about the cabin worked on Al while flying back to Kerrville. He immediately went to work on the drawing board and widened the cabin, added a few more inches of additional leg room and a couple of inches of headroom for the tall guys and stated the Mark 20 was ready for production.
He tucked his new drawings away in his desk and somehow in the next few days he managed to break a leg. While recouping, production started in Kerrville on this newest Mooney. Only problem was that Al forgot to give his latest design changes with the enlarged cockpit to his brother Art and the production crew. Once he was back on his feet and out on the floor he discovered the small cabin version was being built. Deciding the cost to make the changes and the lost production time was not worth the change, we now have the small cabin MK-20 and MK-21 models.
Meanwhile, back in New Haven, all of a sudden, Pug and his team have a flash of insight, pure genius some say, for a speedy new Piper single. It just happens to look a lot like Al Mooney’s prototype, except for an enlarged cabin. Mr. Piper, really never did see the Mooney prototype up close but, son Pug seemed so sure that he could lead the in-house team with the new design that Bill Piper, Sr. probably went to his grave thinking the Comanche was based on Pug’s brilliant ideas.
One of the twists to the story is that Al Mooney may have come up with a new design and submitted it to Mr. Piper. The only change to his MK-20 was the use of a stabilator in place of an elevator and conventional vertical stablilizer. This was a totally new word and the first use of an all flying horizontal tail in a light general aviation airplane. I think I read someplace that the Bell X-1 used a similar arrangement. The only problem with this version is that Al Mooney, never ever mentioned it in any interview, casual comment or his autobiography. Surely Al Mooney would have recorded it and given it one of his sequential design numbers, don’t you think?
Somewhere in-between these lines lies the truth. Who designed the Comanche, one may ask? My best guess, with absolutely no first hand, or even second hand knowledge is that it was Walter Jamouneau, the in-house Piper self-taught aircraft designer, with the aid of some closely held detailed sketches, notes and calculations provided by Pug Piper and his “Future Indian building engineers” from one of those ‘team building sessions’ one rainy weekend in Lock Haven.
I base my guess on the simple fact that Mr. Piper was in dire need of a design for a new speedy single to compete with the Bonanza and who would he trust more than his son Pug and Walt Jamouneau, his favorite go-to engineer/designer that had provided all the successful Piper designs to date.
As for the stabilator design concept for the Comanche, I would lean toward giving John Thorpe at least some credit because he was in and out of the Piper design shop at about the right time to contribute his ‘all flying tail concept’ from his work at Lockheed some years earlier. Of course, I could be way off base and it may have just been another one of “Pug Piper’s brilliant flashes” while taking a shower.
The stabilator did show up in the Cessna Cardinal design as an improved version of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk several years later.
Really? Wow! Let’s compare the Comanche and the Mooney.
How do the original prototypes compare?
OK. No Matter who designed it, let’s discuss the Comanche.
Intended as direct competition from the Piper shop in Pennsylvania for the V-tailed Beech Bonanza, the Comanche would be the first all metal, retractable, high-speed touring single ever built at Piper and the second airplane with an American Indian tribe name.
The first prototype, N2024P, was designated PA-24 and made its maiden flight on May 24, 1956. The cabin was enlarged as compared to the MK-20 cabin but the old photographs have the Mooney designed trailing link landing gear. Oops. Somewhere between the early prototypes and the first production model, the trailing link gear was replaced with a cheaper and less complex straight tube oleo strut type. This move would have made the landing gear design less expensive but also hard as hell to make a good smooth landing. I would guess this decision was probably made late in the design phase to offset some cost overruns, and probably made by Mr. Piper.
The second prototype designated PA-24-180 first flew in 1957 with a Lycoming 180 hp engine. The first production model 180 was delivered in January, 1958, at a cost of $14,500. Meanwhile, the original prototype was updated with a 250 hp Lycoming and delivered as the first production model 250 in April, 1958. Later the same year, a Model 250 was approved with Edo floats sporting an 88 inch prop. As far as I know, this was the only one on floats.By 1964, the standard high end Comanche’s horsepower had crept up to 260 and was dubbed the PA-24-260. Piper records do not differentiate between specific models but someone at AOPA compiled this production chart.
Interestingly, the 250 hp model sold over twice as many as either the 180 or the 260 model. In fact, the PA-24-250 was, by far, the most popular model of the four choices during the 13 year production period.
The Last of the single Comanaches.
From reading the various reviews and forums, it seems the PA-24-260B or C is the current choice with a balance of speed, performance and cabin comfort. This one is powered by the IO-540 fuel injected Lycoming and has Fowler electric flaps, toe brakes, auxiliary fuel tanks, modern panel, quadrant power controls, additional seats and windows and the shapely extended cowling.
The 260B had an overall length six inches more than the previous models. This was due to a longer propeller spinner, not a longer fuselage. The 260B had a third side window and a provision for six seats. The fifth and sixth seats take up the entire baggage area and will seat two really small adults with almost no baggage and is placarded to a total weight of 250 pounds. Typical empty weight was 1728 pounds and gross weight was 3,100 pounds. Fuel burn was 11 to 14 U.S. gallons per hour and advertised speed was 140-160 knots.
The 260C introduced a new "Tiger Shark" cowling, max gross weight of 3,200 pounds, cowl flaps, and an aileron-rudder interconnect. Cruise speed was advertised as 150-161 knots with fuel flow of 12.5 to 14.1 US gallons per hour. To prevent possible aft center of gravity problems due to the increased gross weight and its fifth and sixth seats, the propeller shaft was extended. This moved the center of gravity slightly forward.
With a useful load of 1,427 pounds it has the largest payload of all of the Comanches except the 400. Often mistaken on the ramp for the 400 model, the slightly longer cowling includes a distinctively longer nose gear door, as compared to the B models and older versions.
The 400 model does not have three side windows as with the B and C models.
The remaining prototype was tested with a variety of engines, including a fuel injected 180 hp and a 265 hp Lycoming. Sometime later, Pug Piper walked into the office and stated – “I want you build me an airplane to fly non-stop from here (PA) to the Vero Beach plant - the faster, the better.” Not providing any more details, the team called in Ed Swearingen and asked for suggestions. At the end of the discussions and suggestions the 400 hp Comanche was presented as a response to Pug’s request. The price of fuel in the mid-60s was not even a consideration but the speed and distance was certainly satisfied.
It wasn’t just as simple as adding the larger engine to the stock 260 at the time. Pug had to convince Lycoming to build the IO-720-A1A 8 cylinder engine for his pet project and the production Comanche required some significant beefing up by adding the larger Aztec tail with the massive stabilator, thicker wing skin and room for an additional 30 gallons of fuel to make the trip non-stop to Florida. The added weight also required heavier duty landing gear and tires. So although the PA-24-400 looks like a slightly larger Comanche it is much more than that. Only 148 of these fire-breathing, go-fast machines were sold as “the fastest, single engine, normally aspirated production aircraft available”.
There is an undated, 4 page, typed letter from Walt Jamouneau available on the internet where he provides some fascinating insight into the numerous problems and delays at Lycoming and Piper when building and testing the engine for the 400. Search for “The 400 by Walter Jamouneau pdf”. According to this account, the impetus for the 400 may have originated when Pug and Dad saw a P-51 at an airshow in 1957 and discussed the future of building a fast, utility plane.
The A2A Simulations 1959 Comanche 250 – N6229P
This one was built along with all the other Comanches in the Piper Lock Haven, Pennsylvania plant as serial number 24-1332 and spent time in the California sun just prior to being relocated to the A2A offices in New England. The airworthiness certificate was signed on August 26, 1959 so we are indeed looking as a classic aircraft built in the second year of Comanche production as a PA-24-250 model.
There was a union walkout that shut down all production at Lock Haven for 3 weeks in mid-1959 so this one may have been held up for an extra month prior to completion.
That was a long time ago, in the U.S. the number one song was ‘Three Bells’ by The Browns, just ahead of Dream Lover and Lipstick on your collar, Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston was at the theaters in Technicolor, James Michener’s Hawaii was topping the best seller book list, Rocky Colavito was on the cover of Time magazine, James Arness and Amanda Blake were advertising L&M cigarettes, and Victor Borge was playing the piano and advertising ‘Come to Jamaica’.
Recent events were Alaska and Hawaii being admitted as the 49th and 50th states, Explorer 6 sending the first ever pictures of Earth from orbit, the first monorail in the Western Hemisphere opened at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA; NASA announced the names of original Mercury 7 astronauts, and a month or so later, Xerox announced the first plain paper copier, and Pantyhose start appearing in public. Wow, that seems a long time ago.
And for Lewis, the biggest event of all, British Motors launched Britain’s favorite car of all time, the now iconic Mini Cooper – The first Morris Mini-Minor cost £497 on that particular day in 1959.
In a press release announcing the purchase of N6229P, these comments were made - “After several weeks of pretty intense research, the Piper Comanche 250 was chosen for its high altitude, speed, long range, and load carrying capacity. It’s an honest aircraft with no vices. It’s also very nice to be back into aircraft ownership again,” said Scott Gentile of A2A Simulations Inc.
“There has been a growing wave of demand for Accu-Sim in the aviation industry. We think this is happening because Accu-Sim gives real aviators tools they simply have not previously had access too. Accu-Sim simulates well beyond how an aircraft flies, deep into the internal systems including how they interact with each other. This interaction is critical for proper procedures and safety in real-world operations. Accu-Sim offers a plethora of benefits to almost every aspect of operating and managing both modern and vintage aircraft today,” said Lewis Bloomfield of A2A Simulations Inc.”
The A2A Comanche 250 Performance Specs and description
In 1958 Piper introduced the 250-horsepower version using a six-cylinder, horizontally opposed, Lycoming O-540 engine, giving the PA-24-250 Comanche a top cruise speed of 160 knots (185 mph). The A2A model 250 has the carbureted Lycoming O-540-AIA5 engine with 3-position manually operated flaps and upgraded toe brakes. It carries 60 US gallons of fuel in two wing tanks and an additional 30 gallons in the two wing tip tanks. The aircraft's gross weight was 2,900 pounds with a useful load 1,270 pounds when it left the factory in Lock Haven, but due to ADs and upgrades the Max Gross Takeoff Weight is now 3,000 pounds with a useful load of 1,291 pounds, including 200 pounds of baggage. (Basic Empty Weight - 1,709 pounds).
When the new Comanches left Lock Haven in 1959 you had a choice of 4 versions: Standard, Custom, Super Custom and AutoFlite having progressively more sophisticated equipment, the last of them introducing a two-axis autopilot. I’m not sure you could pick your colors and interior back then or not. You may have just been stuck with the murky green, bright blue, deep red, or white or maybe gray panel colors.
The floating panel with the ‘shotgun layout’ was common in 1959, even on the high end Bonanza. The Beech layout probably greatly influenced the Piper placement of the radio and navigation equipment on the far left side of the panel and overflow or secondary boxes on the right side. I personally prefer having the GTN750 at the top of the stack on the left in the A2A FSX/P3D simulation.
An early Bonanza panel (left) with the flip-over control yoke and a dedicated radio/avionics box in the lower left, close to the pilot’s seat. The 1959 Comanche panel (right) had dual yokes, a few more gauges, and a dedicated radio/avionics box in the same location as the Bonanza.
By the time the 1960 models were ready, both Beech and Piper had gone to the “Center Stack” arrangement for the radios and avionics. The 6-pack or T arrangements for the primary instruments took a little longer to become more-or-less standard.
A Few Advantages of the A2A Accu-Sim Comanche 250 Simulation
The A2A Comanche 250 simulation design team benefits from having a real-world, company-owned, flying model for comparisons and testing. This is a huge advantage for us flight simmers because we don’t have to guess the year, the exact configuration or even which model is simulated as we usually have to do with most other developer’s models.
Another big plus for the simulated version is that it is up-to-date with bright, easy to read gauges and instruments. There is nothing that I dislike more than these ‘true to form, classic simulations” with reproductions of old scratched and yellowed antique instruments and windows and windshields that that you can barely see through due to 50 years of being outside and baked by the sunshine and the windows being cleaned once a year with ‘goat milk’.
I will take the newest 3D modeled instruments and gauges every time, like these provided by A2A. Where else will you find the easy config programs to add or delete your 3rd party avionics or pre-mapped config panels for your flight controllers or keyboard?
And yet, maybe one of the most popular advantages is that we have a host of experienced repainters working night and day to upload new repaints, some with matching interiors or alternate panel colors. It is not uncommon to see 3 or 4 totally new repaints, many based on suggestions from real world photos online, being uploaded for our use. This is all totally free, with no strings attached.
One more advantage is the well-maintained User Forum that is used for technical support and also for general postings. A2A Simulations is one of the few to provide an open forum that is available to members, even those that have not purchased any A2A products. Even the technical support forum is available to those that may only be ‘interested’ but are not yet customers.
Many of the A2A design team are experienced real world pilots and are willing to respond to questions about flying the A2A models. It is always refreshing to read responses to some of the queries/responses because they range from the newest noob seeking basic speeds or technique to pilots with thousands of logged hours asking something very specific that most flight simmers never even consider. A Flight Academy section is available at the A2A forum for the more serious flight simmers to gain additional knowledge and to use as a free resource for technique, methods, and such.
Not to forget, the many options available from the Maintenance Hangar for installing, removing or updating our specific flying model with the extensive choices of wing tip fuel tanks, 3-bladed propellers with matching spinners, tires, batteries, speed kits, etc.
An Overview of Flying the Comanche 250
The Comanche brought Piper into the modern era for the masses. Piper had built its reputation on slow-flying tube-and-fabric high wing airplanes using pre-World War II designs. The new all-metal Comanche, with laminar-flow wings, retractable landing gear, big engines with constant speed propellers, stabilators, and greater interior comfort than any previous Piper, made the aircraft a serious competitor. This was also the time when airplanes were moving from the big fat tires on grassy fields to honest to goodness concrete runways using flaps and higher approach speeds.
The Comanche 250 has nice handling characteristics and is easy to fly. Roll response is nimble and lively, and the airplane's all-flying stabilator keeps trim forces easy to manage - just remember to look up for the trim handle crank. A few hours in the cockpit and you're pretty much at home. It's important to remember that Comanches tend to be a little slippery and want to keep flying. If you're accustomed to high-wing Cessnas, you'll notice that speed reductions will take a little longer and will require some advance planning. This makes itself most noticeable in the approaches for landing. The POH recommends 82 mph as the over the fence speed, but if you've been doing 105 mph on base you'll be busy lowering flaps, slipping, S-turning, or backpedaling to slow down.
Most of the grumbling you hear about Comanches has to do with landings. Close to the runway, those laminar-flow wings ride deep in ground effect. If you're too fast, the airplane can float, seemingly forever, while the airspeed slowly bleeds off. Impatient pilots who try to force the airplane onto the runway at too high an airspeed can easily find themselves rewarded by pranging the nose wheel. This airplane has a large nosewheel (actually, it's the same size as the main gear but looks much larger) and, together with the main gears' stubby struts, the landing-gear geometry lends itself to nose wheel-first touchdowns, and premature liftoffs. The moral: Make sure you're at the proper airspeed and attitude the moment you touch down. Comanches are quick to punish the careless pilot.
Speaking of premature liftoffs, you will be well rewarded if you will spend time practicing a lot of takeoffs and landings in the Comanche. I recommend you find an out of the way, uncontrolled airport with several runways and practice with the wind not only on your nose but quartering from the left and from the right. You will learn more, and get a better feel of the Comanche if you make full stop landings, then taxi back for a full takeoff run, rather than flying a circuit with continuous touch and goes.
You will find the best rotation speed around 80 mph and if you will hold the liftoff attitude, resisting the temptation of increasing the angle of attack, a little longer than normal, the Comanche will fly off the runway much smoother and much safer. A common mistake for pilots transitioning to the Comanche is to get suckered into thinking it is ready to fly earlier than it really is ready to fly. This has to do with the combination or interaction of the laminar flow wing’s response to ground effect, the short stubby main landing gear and normal tail-low attitude seemingly caused by the large nose wheel. You may find that you are using a slight forward pressure on the yoke to retard the increase in AOA until you learn to set the trim properly for takeoff.
No one can predict a perfectly smooth landing in a Comanche with certainty, but you increase your chances if you make a point of not carrying excessive airspeed over the fence. All that landing practice will enable you to find the sweet spot to start your flare and the attitude to hold as your airspeed bleeds off and you settle onto the concrete.
The Comanche 250 as an IFR Platform.
Somewhere in practically every article or review that I read about the Comanche, someone refers to the capabilities for instrument flight and stable approaches. This is usually remarks about the solid feel and the predictable control responses. This always gets my attention as one of my favorite pastimes is flying approaches in the simulator. Although the ST-30 autopilot may not be at the top of my list of preferred instruments it is well equipped to support hands-on approaches and will usually maintain an approach profile to minimums. Having the AP controls on the yoke and optionally mapped to my Saitek X-52 Pro flight stick is a big plus.
Even though the A2A Comanche 250 panel does not have the true standard T configuration for the primary flight instruments, the chosen arrangement is so close to the expected layout that it does not seem to distract from flying in instrument conditions and flying instrument approaches. The basic 6 flight instruments are indeed clustered properly, it is just that they are shifted to the right, to accommodate the radio stack, and not directly in front of the pilot. This is a great improvement over the factory arrangement from 1959.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do you suppose a tailor-made flight video is worth?
Not just any old youTube video, but, a purpose built flight indoctrination and flight training video made by a real world instrument rated pilot using an actual A2A Accu-sim Comanche 250. It is actually even better than that – the training video is in HD, instantly available, and totally free.
But wait, it is not only one video, but a series of 4 full featured newly released training videos using upgraded FSX pay-ware scenery, an outstanding new aircraft livery, and filled with facts, factoids, and tidbits of information. The flight of under 200 nm is typical of many flight sim flights, but filled with also typical Alaskan IFR weather.
This series is framed as a flight from Dutch Harbor (PADU) to Cold Bay (PACD) Alaska, where you will be introduced to some basic navigation (no GPS option). Some of you have never flown using NDB/DME/VOR/ DME ARC ILS only.
Part 1 – 30:09 minutes - Flight planning, aircraft and cockpit familiarization, and startup.
Part 2 – 16:24 minutes – Taxi, run up, departure, climb to cruise altitude and course.
Part 3 – 15:55 minutes – Enroute (ADF/DME) and setup for approach and landing
Part 4 – 36:48 minutes – ATC, descent, flying a DME ARC, ILS approach to minimums. taxi, shutdown.
If you are unfamiliar with the Comanche 250, pay special attention to the illustrated radio procedures, autopilot operation and controls, speeds, and instrument locations and markings.
As a personal endorsement for this flight training video series, I have written Avsim reviews of high dollar flight training video systems that would come in second place to these totally free ones. Be sure to visit the FSMaNiA website or Facebook page and leave your comments for Tim, this is his only payment for making these videos. Enjoy.
The A2A Accu-sim Comanche 250 Pilots Manual.
This 100 page pdf file has something for everyone in addition to all the details needed to download, install, configure, start and fly the A2A Accu-sim Comanche 250 in FSX or P3D. Not only that, but the first 30 pages are dedicated to why the Comanche is better than the Bonanza with a little Piper history and some interesting old ads and pictures of other planes thrown in. You might notice that only the Comanche owners will side with the author, and all the Bonanza owners and lovers will totally disagree with most of the conclusions. Neither here, nor there, it is only background information, filler as some would say, and makes for some good reading.
The meat starts with the Developer’s Notes on Page 31. Be sure to read this page a couple of times. The Aircraft DNA technology is something new to the flight sim and it is important that you understand just how different this simulation is when compared to other developer’s offerings. Even though the manual does not state who is making the comments, it is none other than Scott Gentile, owner and operator, of A2A and N8229P, the DNA source.
You will find a full Features page and you may notice some adjectives and descriptors that are not normally associated with simulations:
Actual engine and airframe vibrations, true propeller simulation, interactive pre-flight, physics driven sound, real-time load manager, authentic avionics stack, built by the book, accurate cranking power, persistent airplane, naturally animated, pure 3D, authentic fuel delivery, to name a few.
This is followed by the Quick-Start Guide, but also has a page of Quick Flying Tips to get you up and on your way. You are really doing yourself a disservice to use this quick start, even though I fully understand you may think this is just another add on and you know your way around these things – after all you may have been flying flight sims since Bill Gates was a baby, or since Al Gore invented the internet, or whatever.
You may be allowed to skip the details on Accu-sim and how propellers work and such, provided you already own and fly some of the other A2A Accu-sim products because it is pretty much a copy of paste from previous manuals, but, I recommend you stop and read the details in the Normal Procedures section beginning on page 57. This chapter begins with “This section clearly describes the recommended procedures for the conduct of normal operation of the Comanche 250. Great, be sure to read this one twice.
It was with great pleasure that I found the final section of Normal Procedures to be Weight and Balance. A full section on W & B follows the Performance Section. This is new to Accu-sim manuals and I have harped on A2A in every Avsim review to date for not including this important topic. There are enough charts and graphs and explanations for the sim pilot to calculate the aircraft CG with changes in payload.
Even though you may read statements saying the Comanche 250 is better than the Bonanza or Mooney because, blah, blah, blah, one that is used most often is that you can fill all 4 seats, carry full fuel, full baggage and be within the allowable Center of Gravity and under the MTOW. But, like practically every other 4 seat general aviation touring plane – that is total BS, unless you use small light weight dummies for two of the passengers like one of the competitors was caught doing in their print ads. Yes, the Comanche 250 will indeed carry more fuel and passenger weight than the typical Bonanza or Mooney from 1959 – 1964, but not 4 full-size adults, 90 gallons of fuel, and 200 pounds of baggage all on the same day. Something has to give, and it is usually, less baggage and less fuel. It is more practical to stop for fuel along the way than to leave your passengers standing on the ramp.
Use the excellent interactive Payload and Fuel Manager (Shift +4) to get your weights then use the printed charts and graphs to see if you are within the allowable limits.
Other interesting chapters or sections are the Airplane & Systems and the Emergency Procedures. The systems modeling is first rate and the associated sounds (based on physics) are excellent. This section has some very comprehensive location charts for those of us not familiar with the Comanche 250 layout.
Checklists and Popups
There are several tailor made checklists suitable for printing throughout the manual. An alternate to the printed checklist is to use the popup feature (Shift +2 - +9). Checklists are always important when flying, but, especially important when flying a sophisticated, complex retractable gear airplane like the Comanche Accu-sim 250. The most basic of checklists have served me well in a lifetime of flying and I can honestly say I have never landed a retractable with the gear up. I did come close a time or two, once during a checkride in a retractable Cessna Cardinal. Now, that would have been most embarrassing, seeing as how you can glance out the window and see the gear missing as you come over the fence.
I use GUMP as a basic checklist and I use it often, not just when landing. It doesn’t have to be a retractable to need a checklist.
Gas – Desired tank selected and boost pump On
Undercarriage – Gear down and locked – 3 greens
Mixture – Full Rich (In)
Props – High (In) in case of a missed approach or go around.
The A2A Manual adds an S for Seatbelts and recommends GUMPS. Because I always have the seatbelt/shoulder belt on and properly adjusted and always require all passenger to wear their seatbelts and adjusted properly, I don’t see the need. However, there are times when I may have my seat back on the rails for some additional leg room on those long legs using the autopilot and the last item on many checklists is
Seat backs Up, Adjusted and Locked. So if you elect to use GUMPS, make sure your seatbelt is on and adjusted and well as your seat.
All this talk about Accu-sim, airplane DNA, realism, etc. starts to make more sense to the pilot when he has trouble starting the engine without using the proper procedure and ends up with a flooded engine. Maybe the engine is running a little rough on the takeoff roll due to fouled plugs or not waiting for the oil temperature needle to get to the green. You could even be experiencing a little carburetor icing or a poorly performing magneto. Did you check all the sumps for possible water in the gas?
This is no ordinary add on, even though you can use the auto-start feature, all that does is perform a proper startup for you. You still have to check for oil pressure, wait for the temperature rise, check carb heat and mags and warm up and idle at the proper RPM and manifold pressure. This one has a constant speed prop so make sure you know how to exercise it to get the warm oil is flowing through the system.
Three Reasons to Read the Manual before flying the Accu-sim Comanche 250.
So you will not be surprised when your Comanche tries to fly out of ground effect too early and,
To learn the necessary over the fence speed and landing configuration so you will not float, land long and overrun a short runway.
You will learn that all speeds are in mph. Most of us have learned to fly our planes using knots/hour so be careful with this change.
Speed Control in the Accu-Sim Comanche 250
Even though the A2A Flight Manual states that you can drop the landing gear at 150 mph (Page 61), I don’t think that is a good idea in normal practice. The published Vlo for the Comanche 250 is 125 mph, the same as the Vfe, and I would recommend you stick with these standard upper limits.
I think someone may have been looking at the Vle of 150 mph. To clarify this, you can fly with the gear locked down at speeds up to and including 150 mph, but you should be at Vlo of 125 mph or less when the operating the gear up or down. (All these speeds are IAS mph)
Flaps are manually operated with a big stick labelled ‘Landing Flaps’ which are also used for most takeoffs. There are 3 positions for deployed flaps, 9 degrees, 18 degrees (takeoff), and 27 degrees (full flaps).
Most normal takeoffs are performed with the flaps in the mid notch or 18 degrees and most landing are with full flaps. An advantage of having manually operated flaps is that you always know with a quick glance the amount of flaps deployed. Another is that when performing a maximum performance landing (short field technique) and needing more brake power, as soon as the main wheels are firmly on the surface, you can hold full back pressure on the yoke and dump the flaps, while applying full brake pressure. This forces the tail down and puts more load on the main wheels, resulting in better traction and therefore more effective braking.
Using the Charts and Graphs in the A2A Accu-sim Comanche 250 Manual
Remember that although the A2A Comanche flies more like a real world airplane than most others, it is still a simulation and therefore, the charts and graphs should not be taken as gospel. This means that you should pay attention to the conditions of these charts and graphs, such as the specified gross weight, density altitude, temperature, winds, wing configuration, etc.
For instance, if you are using the TAS and RPM vs Density Altitude chart on Page 66, it will only be correct and spot on at 2,800 pounds gross weight. If you elected to fly with tip tanks installed, full fuel, with 3 passengers and some baggage, you will most like be heavier than 2,800 pounds, at least in the first hour of flight.
I think it is a good idea to learn to use these charts when flying the Comanche in the sim because you can expect performance approximating these charts. This is not usually the case with most other developers’ models. Of course, most developers do not include detailed performance charts and graphs.
Using the Power Setting Table for best high cruise speeds
From the table it is apparent that the recommended 55% (economy cruise), 65% (normal cruise), and 75% (fast cruise) power level can be achieve with several combinations of manifold pressure, rpm, and pressure altitude.
Pay special attention to the recommended mixture leaning of 100°F Rich of Peak on the EGT (for the leanest cylinder) for high power/fast cruise and Peak EGT (for leanest cylinder) for best economy cruise. The Note concerning how to maintain constant power with temperature variations from standard might require the use of a calculator for interpolating the 0.17 IN HG/10°F change.
Most Comanche 250 pilots tend to fly in the 6,000 – 8,000 foot altitude levels, depending on wind speed and direction, clouds conditions, and direction of flight, and airspace restrictions.
Taking advantage of all our speed enhancement mods and keeping our engine tuned to perfection, you should be able to stay on the high side of 180 mph most of the time. According to the TAS chart on Page 66, the 7,000 foot level is the best density attitude for max speed – just make sure if you fly this altitude that you are on an IFR flight plan, for VFR it would be 6,500 feet or 7,500 feet.
Airplane Handling, Service and Maintenance (Maintenance Hangar)
This is just about as enjoyable as flying the Accu-sim airplanes. This is where to go to configure or reconfigure your Comanche, to check on that rough running engine, to change the oil, to check the compression of a cylinder or to get a full overhaul.
The end of the manual – the final 3 items may be the most important.
Pause Control is much more than a pause control. The Input Configurator may be the only way you can map some of these functions, and the Aircraft Configurator is where you add or change your 3rd party avionics and install the special Landing Lights.
Beech Bonanza grabs the headlines.
On March 7-8, 1949, William P. Odom set a light-plane, nonstop distance record flying from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Teterboro, New Jersey in the 4th Bonanza ever built. Beech chose the Continental E185, 185 hp engine for the early 184 mph all-metal Bonanzas. The only modifications made to the otherwise standard Model 35 were the fixtures and tubing required to install the extra fuel tanks, 126 gallons in the cabin and a 62-gallon streamlined tank on each wing tip.
In the log book of the Waikiki Beech, under the dates of March 6, 7, and 8, 1949, is the following entry: "X-country record-breaking flight: 36 hours 01 minutes, Honolulu to Teterboro, New Jersey. Signed Wm. P. Odom." This brief entry summed up the flight, which covered 4,957.24 officially accredited great circle miles (5,273 actual miles). Of this distance, 2,474 miles were over the waters of the Pacific Ocean and 2,799 were over the North American continent. The flight was completed at a total cost of less than $75 for fuel and oil. The average fuel consumption was 19.37 miles per gallon and average speed was 146.3 miles per hour.
A smooth takeoff from Hickam Field, Honolulu, began this record-making flight. It was uneventful, proceeding as planned except for two detours to avoid bad weather enroute. As he passed over Ohio, Odom changed his shirt and used his electric razor. When he stepped out of the Bonanza at Teterboro, he was clean-shaven and neatly dressed, as any young executive might be on arrival for a business conference. Following the Honolulu-to-Teterboro flight, Odom made a national tour with the Bonanza, after which it was turned over to the National Air Museum. Within a year, Odom would be killed while flying in the Air Races.
Time for some Big Time headlines for the Comanche
Max Conrad, one of the many Piper dealers, made a deal with Mr. Piper to fly one of his Pacers from New York to Europe if he could get a 30% discount on the purchase. Being a wise old gentleman, Mr. Piper jumped on it. A few years later, Beech was getting the headlines with a non-stop flight from Hawaii to New Jersey. Not to be outdone and to promote the new all-metal, touring retractable from Piper, Max Conrad flew a heavily modified Comanche non-stop from Casablanca to Los Angeles.
This is a great story and difficult to summarize in a few paragraphs. Max, everyone called him Max, not Mr. Conrad, took off in an early morning fog with 520 gallons of fuel, 5 times the normal capacity, on board and barely cleared the trees at the end of the runway. The record 7,653 mile trip across the Atlantic Ocean was the 57th solo trip across the Atlantic for Max and actually covered 8,300 miles due to some four hours of ‘stooging’ around the Gulf of Mexico area waiting for some violent thunderstorms in his path to dissipate. The first nine hours of the flight he was never more than 300 feet above the water. This was to avoid climbing higher which would have used considerable power and thus more fuel. At times the sea spray spattered the windshield.
At takeoff, the plane was 2,200 pounds over gross weight and used every bit of the 4,000 runway before breaking ground.
Some accounts state this was a standard Comanche with just a few items removed and additional fuel tanks added. This is far from the truth because according the Ed Swearingen, everything not essential to the one-way flight was taken out or off the Comanche, including the engine starter, oil radiator and all the pipes and plumbing, and the extra seats and floorboards. On the outside even the cowl latches and handles were removed to save a few ounces of weight. A special light-weight generator was installed for the flight.
The flight time for the trip was 58 hours and 38 minutes, averaging 131.1 mph for the 7,683 miles. Max used 485 gallons of fuel for an average of 8.02 GPH. Normal fuel burn is 14 gallons per hour at 75% power. At times the engine was developing less than 40% power with fuel consumption less than 7 gph. Much of the flight was at an indicated airspeed of 100 – 130 mph with the temperature gauge needle hovering at the edge of the red line. Now, here is someone with a strong heart that obviously understands how to lean a Lycoming.
Much of the overland flight from El Paso, Texas to Los Angles was at about 100 feet over the desert. After arriving at El Paso, his intended destination with more fuel than anticipated, Max decided to extend the flight to Los Angeles International.
In 1965, Swearingen made all the modifications to the Comanche in which Conrad flew non-stop between Capetown, South Africa and St. Petersburg, Florida – despite the fact that Conrad accidentally forgot his maps.
“I remember saying, ‘Max, what did you do?'” Swearingen remembered. “He said, ‘Well, I remembered my first heading; I flew that until I came to South America and then I turned right.’ Working with him was a great pleasure. He was a heck of a nice guy, smart, and just a fun fellow with which to spend your time.”
One more visit to the Maintenance hangar
The bolt on, screw on, click to add upgrades for the Comanche 250 are waiting in the Maintenance Hangar.
These are many, varied, some expensive, and most are true improvements to add another few knots or mph to your cruise speed or add additional lateral stability for climb-outs and approaches or maybe just to add another couple of hours of endurance.
That big chromed spinner out front of that big 3-bladed Propeller sure adds a lot of implied muscle. Just adding the functional wingtip fuel tanks increases the Max Gross Takeoff Weight another 100 pounds to an even 3,000 pounds in addition to adding another 30 gallons of useable fuel.
Some say these wingtips not only improve the stability of the Comanche, but adds increases in both rate of climb and speed, and a decrease in stalling speed. The weight of the fuel in the tip tanks is precisely on the center of gravity and therefore does not negatively affect performance by rearward loading.
The A2A Comanche 250 vs an Original (I am glad A2A didn’t buy the green interior one)
A2A Simulations has obviously figured out how to add the extra to the ordinary in building simulations. The Accu-Sim Comanche 250 for FSX and P3D is the latest proof.
When one looks at the full package: the airplane, the preflight walk-around, the sounds and animations, the popup checklists and selections, the included performance charts and pilots manual, the maintenance hangar, the bolt on add ons, the 3rd party avionics support, the Accu-sim, the synergy of pulling it all together, and then doing all this without a single leak to the public is truly amazing.
From the smallest stutter or vibration or needle shake to the rumble of the Lycoming developing full takeoff power, this one feels true and correct. Having a real world company owned Comanche to compare the latest coding with the head of the company also being the chief pilot and providing direction and feedback has to be a winning combination.
Using the basic building block concept of ever increasing speed and complexity the Comanche 250 now sits squarely at the top rung of the A2A General Aviation development ladder. From the humble beginning of the J-3 Cub then on to the basic C172 Trainer to the slightly faster fixed gear, Hershey bar winged Cherokee 180 to the more complex but still wanting Cessna 182T with the non-turbo, fixed gear we now have a true retractable, high horsepower, complex touring aircraft.
One capable of hauling four adults with baggage and fuel just about as far as the biological systems can travel at a respectable cruising speed of 3 miles a minute. We still can’t fly high over the weather, but we can fly fast and look good doing it.
Depending on the 3rd party avionics/GPS that one adds to the panel and the judicious use of mapping assignments to keyboards, flight sticks and throttle quadrants, the realism of flying a vintage touring airplane outfitted with the latest navigational equipment is easily obtained.
Config programs are provided for mapping autopilot controls and adding your GTN650/750 or other similar products. Ezdok can be used to add even more realism.
Is this the perfect flight simulator add on? It very well could be for many flight simmers that are looking for a fast single with great handling and super good looks. In addition to the realism derived from the Accu-sim, all the extras like the maintenance hangar, speed and functional add ons, the included mapping and config programs and one of my favorites – one click avionics change outs and upgrades – makes for one very complete package.
But, for those flight simmers that are always complaining about the price of recent add ons and tend to choose style over substance maybe not. If you only have a couple of hours a week to fly while the baby is asleep or the wife is shopping, this may not be the best choice. It is not a jump in, auto start and go fly airplane.
I usually have a list of shortcomings and a few items from my personal wish list to add to my reviews. The A2A Accu-sim Piper Comanche 250 has one lone, single item. Not even enough to start a list. For all the realism, all the extras and all the really outstanding features, the exterior sounds while flying are totally out of whack with every other add on in my hangar, and that is a very extensive list. That pulls the overall score down to 99.4%.
It would not surprise me if your copy has some newly tweaked exterior sounds because A2A Simulations are constantly improving there model, even the older ones.
As for the ongoing wish list. I am still confident that A2A Simulations will eventually solve the inconsistent speeds so the external cockpit lovers can use their Saitek Flight Instrument Panels with A2A Accu-sim products.
With everything that the A2A Accu-sim Comanche 250 has going for it, it makes for an easy recommendation for the Avsim Gold Star award. Congratulations Scott, Captain Jake, Lewis and the development team for this great addition to our flight sim fleet.
Screenshots link to A2A
Some large high resolutions screenshot of the A2A Accu-sim Comanche in P3D. This is about as good as it gets in desktop flight simulation in 2015. Special thanks to dgraham1284 for the screenshots.
Thanks to Lewis Bloomfield for providing the add ons and the constant web support.
Recommended books that I read for the review: Into the Wind: The Story of Max Conrad, by Sally Buegeleisen, and Mr. Piper and His Cubs, by Devon Francis. I think both may be out of print, but I found them on ebay for under $10.
Thanks to those folks that maintain the www.comanchepilot.com site with all the tech articles, background information, newsletters and links.
Thanks to all those hard working flight simmers that posted links to download their excellent repaints for the Comanche 250 at the http://a2asimulations.com/forum/.
Thanks to Tim Garris, Owner and Operator of FS MaNiA, for producing and allowing for the links to the excellent A2A Comanche 250 flight training video series. www.FSMaNiA.com
Credit for the high resolution screenshots goes to dgraham1284 for his Flickr Photo sharing images. More of his great shots can be viewed here https://www.flickr.com/photos/133899209@N07/albums
For a comprehensive review and tons of screenshots of the A2A Accu-Sim Comanche 250 go here. http://www.airdailyx.net/a2a-piper-comanche/ Thanks D'Andre Newman.
It may be a little late for thanks, but, Karl Hipp’s articles on the Comanche are outstanding. Karl died in a freak plane crash a few months ago.