For the last 30 years or so, the piston trainer market has been dominated by two aircraft families, the Cessna 172 and the Piper PA-28 Cherokee\Warrior line.
The PA-28 Cherokee was introduced in 1961 as a modern, all metal, low wing replacement for the Tri-Pacer and Colt, which were fabric covered, high wing designs that were beginning to show their ages. The prototype aircraft was fitted with a 160hp engine, with production models having either a 150 or 160hp powerplant.
Over the next decade or so, the Cherokee line expanded to add a 180hp model, as well as a couple of two seat versions and a retractable gear variant, with the names of the models changing every few years as well.
In 1974, the 150hp Cherokee was fitted with a new semi-tapered wing, being renamed the Cherokee Warrior in the process, with the aircraft becoming the Warrior II in 1978 when a 160hp engine was fitted it is the same basic powerplant that is used on the modern Warrior III.
The Warrior continued to be popular until Piper declared bankruptcy in 1991, but the Warrior reappeared (with a new, updated interior) when The New Piper Aircraft (renamed Piper Aircraft in 2006) introduced the Warrior III, which is still in production today.
Compared to the older Warrior II, the Warrior III has essentially the same airframe and control system, but the cockpit has been substantially redesigned to give a more modern look. The Warrior III is also available with an Avidyne glass cockpit system, which gives the humble Warrior navigation capabilities exceeding those of some older airliners, as well as a $250,000 price tag.
Installation and Documentation
The Aussim Warrior is available as a $27.99 download (or a free upgrade to existing FS9 Warrior customers), which includes both the FSX and FS9 versions of the package. The FSX package is a 48.9MB file, while the FS9 version is only 35.2MB.
Once downloaded, the Warrior is installed through a simple auto installer, which lacks the often-irritating “phone home” routines found in some other payware products and can be run without internet access.
After the installer runs, the Warrior package is activated through the included Aircraft Control Panel program by simply entering the name and serial number E-mailed after purchasing the product.
Once the Warrior is installed and activated, it is well worth taking a look at the included manuals.
The manuals consist of three PDF's that cover the use of the Aircraft Control Panel, an operating handbook (covering the use of the features in the aircraft as well as performance charts), as well as a flying guide, which is essentially a “how-to” manual for flying the two included tutorial flights. All of the manuals are very simple to understand, with lots of pictures and charts, and they provide enough information to use the Warriors without going into excessive details that don't matter for MSFS.
One of the more interesting features of the package is the Aircraft Control Panel. The control panel allows the user to select the preferences for options on the visual model like the wheel pants or whether or not the pilot wears a hat. Other options in the control panel include the ability to change the payload (which can also be altered in the weight and balance menu in Flight Simulator) as well as a handy utility that allows repaints to be installed without having to manually edit the aircraft.cfg to do so.
Both the Warrior II and III include unique 2D panels which look very good, even in an era when 3D panels aren't even included in some aircraft.
On both Warriors, the background bitmaps are of a very high quality, with the Warrior II showing an excellent texturing effect that makes the ridges and bumps on the panel look almost 3D, while the III model has a much flatter, more modern looking panel. The Warrior II also shows some excellent weathering and wear effects on the 2D panel and pop-ups, making the panel look very much like it has seen the wear and tear of years of use.
Each panel has a separate set of gauges, which are appropriate to aircraft of their respective vintages. The Warrior II features older instruments, with a basic heading indicator and analog navigation and communication radios, whereas the Warrior III sports newer gauges with an HSI, as well as a GPS and digital radio stack and transponder.
All of the gauges work as expected, including the somewhat odd DME indicator on the Warrior II and the equally unconventional EGT gauge fitted to the III model.
In addition to the normal 2D panels, the Warrior II has a “VFR panel” which shows only the upper portion two rows of instruments for a better outside view, while the Warrior III has six different panels available, consisting of pilot and copilot VFR and IFR panels, as well as views for the lower portion of the Warrior panel housing the switches and throttle quadrant.
On top of the numerous panel views available, both Warriors also have several pop-up windows available, giving access to everything from the light switches (both panel mounted and overhead dome lights), to radios, fuel selectors, and circuit breakers. All of the pop-up panels work as they should, and since the Warrior is a fairly simple aircraft with most of the critical controls on the main 2D panel, the extra panels need only be accessed on occasion, removing the need to constantly switch between panels during flight.
The virtual cockpit has now become an integral part of any FSX add-on aircraft, and the Aussim Warrior holds up pretty well when compared to newer FSX aircraft with far more complex VC's.
Both the Warrior II and III have their own VC's, which are pretty much identical to the 2D panels in terms of layout and instruments.
Although the gauges aren't all modeled in 3D, they all look convincing and move smoothly with several gauges even having convincing-looking reflections on the glass faces. As in the 2D panels, all of the gauges operate correctly and look very sharp with no blurred textures or impossible to read text present.
Even though the Warrior is a simple aircraft, the Aussim team has added an impressive number of features into the virtual cockpit. Almost every single switch, knob and lever in the VC is clickable, as well as smaller touches like the dome lights and sun visors being usable from the VC. One nice touch is the ability to remove the yokes from the VC by simply clicking on the appropriate area.
The textures in the VC can best be described as a mixed bag. The textures in the Warrior II look quite realistic, but there are some areas in both aircraft where the textures are somewhat blurry and indistinct (overall, the quality of the textures is quite high), and the yoke in the Warrior III winds up looking somewhat odd in an attempt to capture the bumpy, molded rubber of the yoke fitted to the actual Warrior.
One feature I have to comment on is the lighting in the VC's, which is among the best I've seen on an aircraft for Flight Simulator. Both the Warrior II and III have normal panel lighting, with very nice post light effects, but what impressed me was the overhead lighting.
Thanks to the way FSX and FS9 handle shadows in virtual cockpits, VC gauges can often become nigh-impossible to read if the aircraft doesn't have the sun in exactly the right place. Aussim has come up with a very nice solution for this problem by simply using the overhead lights found in the actual Warrior to light the panel in almost any lighting condition.
If the overhead white dome light is used, it provides a bright light, which makes it possible to read the VC gauges during daylight conditions, without the red tint of night-lighting getting in the way. Once it gets dark, the dome light can be turned off and and the red overhead light can be turned on. The red light provides a lower level of illumination than the white light, which makes possible to see outside the aircraft while still being able to read the gauges.
Although this two-light solution to the FS shadowing issue has shown up on some other payware aircraft, the Aussim Warrior has the closest thing to a perfect solution for the issue that I've ever seen in an FS add-on.
Because the VC's of both Warriors are fairly simple and are without a huge number of complex gauges, frame rates were excellent during my testing. With frame rates almost identical to those seen in the default “steam gauge” Cessna 172, and considerably better than the performance delivered by the FSX G1000.
External Model & Textures
Although the Aussim Warrior package lacks some of the “bells and whistles” present in purpose-built FSX models, the aircraft still look extremely good.
The 3D models themselves are of a high quality with all of the expected control animations included, and most of the small details (like the fuel caps and boarding step) being modeled as opposed to textured. Both Warriors also include a detailed pilot, complete with optional hat, and additional details like a rain cover and tie down ropes that appear when the aircraft is shut down. In addition to the usual animations, the aircraft door, baggage door, and engine cowling can all be opened to reveal a detailed interior and engine.
One of the more interesting things about the Warrior package is that it is possible to select whether or not the wheel covers appear on a given model in flight (as well as if they appear on the main wheels, nose wheel or all three wheels), which makes it possible to configure the aircraft to match a given real-world paint scheme without having to have multiple models installed.
Although the models are of generally high quality, I was struck by the fact that the air intakes on the cowling are simply black holes instead of having a texture representing the engine visible through the intakes, which is strange given that there is a fairly detailed engine modeled underneath the cowling, and the real-world Warrior has a fairly noticeable amount of engine hardware visible through the intakes.
Even though the Aussim Warriors don't use the latest FSX texturing methods (like self-shadowing and bump-mapping), the textures still look very good, with details like rivet lines, cowling latches and panel joints all being represented by textures which look quite convincing under all but the closest inspection where the illusion of depth loses some effectiveness.
Each version of the Warrior comes with three textures from various countries, and there are also a good number of repaints for the first release of the Warrior which seem to work just fine with the newer version. The textures are slightly reflective, and seem to represent newer aircraft as opposed to the more weathered look favored by some developers.
Since the textures and model aren't intended to be insanely detailed, they deliver excellent performance and I saw higher frame rates when using the Aussim Warriors than I did when using the default aircraft.
Since I have quite a bit of time flying real-world Warriors, I was interested to see how well the Aussim Warrior compares to the real thing in the flight dynamics department, and it compares very well indeed.
Since both the Warrior II and III share essentially the same airframe and powerplant (and therefore fly very similarly), both aircraft share the same flight model within FSX. Although this may sound like just a case of “lazy developer syndrome”, the shared flight model makes sense because the actual performance numbers for the Warrior II and III are very similar in most respects.
Takeoff in the actual Warrior is a very straightforward affair, but the FS version seems to complicate things quite a bit. Whereas the actual Warrior requires a reasonably firm pull on the yoke to rotate, the FSX version needs almost full up-elevator to get the nose to rotate properly if the trim is set to the takeoff position. Even if the elevator trim is set excessively, nose up and the center of gravity is shifted as far aft as possible (two people in the back seats and a fully loaded baggage compartment), and the nose-heaviness on takeoff remains.
Although the takeoff behavior is somewhat strange, once the Warrior accelerates to climb speed, the flight dynamics improve considerably in how similar the FS versions fly compared to the real thing.
Since the Warrior family has never been known for an excess amount of power, climb rates are pretty sedate, being between 1000 and 500fpm in most conditions with climb performance falling off as the aircraft climbs. Looking in my Operating Handbook for the Warrior III, the FS versions seem to climb within about 5% of the published figures for a variety of temperatures and altitudes, which is quite impressive.
Once cruise altitude is reached and the power set, the Warriors aren't exactly speed demons, with cruise speeds in the 100-120kt range depending on altitude and power settings. Compared to the performance charts I use when flying actual Warriors, the Aussim models perform very closely to their real world counterparts in terms of power settings, fuel flows, and cruise speeds.
Although both the Warrior II and III have autopilots, they are rarely needed since the Aussim Warrior displays the same degree of stability as the actual aircraft, making hand-flying a real pleasure and allowing almost “hands off” cruise flight once the aircraft is trimmed out properly.
Because many Warriors are used for basic flight training, I put the Aussim Warriors through a set of private pilot maneuvers (including stalls, slow flight, steep turns, and turns around a point) and the FSX Warriors compared very favorably to the real thing during this testing.
During maneuvers like steep turns, the Aussim Warrior flies almost exactly like the real aircraft even down to the amount of power needed to maintain 100KTS in the turn and the fact that if the center of the cowling is kept on the horizon during the turn, the Warrior will pretty much stay at the altitude from which the turn was begun.
Stalls and slow flight are two areas that Flight Simulator typically has trouble with, but the Aussim Warrior also performs quite well in those situations.
Stalls in the FS version of the Warrior are very similar to those in the real aircraft, with the stall speeds for both flaps up and down configurations being within a couple of knots of the actual stall speeds.
During slow flight, the controls in the Aussim Warrior get progressively “mushier” as the aircraft slows down, but the FS aircraft does suffer from the fact that the MSFS engine does a poor job of simulating propeller slipstream over the wings and tail causing the FS Warrior to be a bit harder to control near the stall speed.
Aside from being a joy to fly in both cruise and maneuvering flight, the Aussim Warrior is also very pleasant to fly in the traffic pattern.
Because the Warrior doesn't go terribly fast or fly very high, descents don't require a huge amount of planning ahead and getting down to pattern altitude is a simple matter of pulling the power back a bit and letting the descent rate stabilize.
In the pattern, the flaps come down quite quickly, reflecting the fact that on the actual Warrior the manually operated flaps can be fully extended or retracted very quickly if need be.
Once ready to land, 70kts on final with full flaps means that once over the runway, bringing the power back to idle and flaring gently is all that is needed to make smooth landings almost every time, just like in the actual aircraft.
When landing, the Aussim Warrior requires a bit more nose-up trim than the actual aircraft does but the behavior seems less pronounced than it does on takeoff.
Because the Warrior is so stable and predictable, it is also a pleasure to hand fly on instrument approaches in all but the roughest weather and makes a great aircraft for learning how to fly demanding with procedures such as VOR and ILS approaches, as well as holding patterns and procedure turns.
The Aussim Warrior does come with its own sound set, which is quite convincing. The external sounds are very accurate and the interior sounds are very similar to what the inside of a Warrior sounds like without a headset, although the wind noise in the FS version is quieter than in the real aircraft. In addition to the engine sounds, there are also generic switch clicks, as well as ground rumble sounds.
All of the sounds are of a very high quality, with no looping, clicking or popping and the balance of the volumes are also well done with no overpowering sounds or inappropriately quiet ones.
Having spent quite a bit of time in real world Warriors, and also having seen how poorly some FSX aircraft compare to their real world counterparts, I initially expected the Aussim Warrior to be a pretty mediocre addition to FSX, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself really enjoying the product.
Even though it lacks the fancy eye candy of some other aircraft, the combination of excellent flight dynamics, a good VC and 2D panel, and excellent frame rates makes the Aussim Warriors fun to fly without having to spend hours trying to get acceptable frame rates and without needing to pour over manuals and charts just to get off the ground.
Perhaps the best aspect of the Warrior package is the fact that the product includes both the FSX and FS9 versions of the aircraft in the same purchase (and it's free for owners of the first version of the product), without needing to pay an “upgrade fee” if you happen to own both simulators.
To address the inevitable question of whether the Aussim Warrior is worth the money, I would say that it is a great product for those who just want a simple, fun aircraft for FS9 or FSX. But people who want a super-detailed, highly complex aircraft with all of the latest “eye candy” features may not enjoy the Aussim Warrior as much as I did.
What I Like About The Aussie Warrior
What I Don't Like About The Aussie Warrior
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