The Piper Cheyenne is one of those workhorses that has garnered
a reputation through many decades as a reliable, economical, twin
engine turboprop. The model was
derived from the successful Navajo series of piston twins which
share the PA-31
The first Navajo flew in 1964 and development of the
Deliveries finally started in 1974 and the aircraft was instantly
recognized as a bit of a hot-rod. 1978
saw the release of a lower (500 shp) powered, less expensive variant, the
Digital Aviation has brought us some memorable packages for FS2002 and FS2004. Their Eurowings Professional consisted of five aircraft and airport scenery which were well received by the simming community. They followed up with the Diamond Katana which included the 80 and 100 hp variants of that single engine two seat trainer/sport aircraft. Their reputation for excellent visual models, instrument panel accuracy and ultra realistic flight modeling have placed them at the top of their game.
I grew up flying in and around this class of aircraft so I have a very keen interest in this particular airframe and have followed the development of just about every sim version that has been released, be it freeware or payware. The development time for this particular release was very long because the Digital Aviation team are such perfectionists. That’s not to say that the initial release was bug free either, there have been two service packs since the original release and there are still a couple of items being worked on as well as an updated FSX version yet to be released. I was blown away by the initial release and only when really getting into it, found some of the bugs, which for the most part, have all been remedied. When you are pushing the envelope of what is possible, these things happen. I have noted on their support forum that they are very interactive with their customers, fast to respond to a problem and good at reporting what’s an acknowledged problem and if it is being worked on.
Installation and Documentation
Installation is via a downloadable executable file that validates you as the buyer, there’s no sharing this file with your friends. Aerosoft actually made a lot of friends in the simming community when it relaxed some of its anti-piracy procedures and validation process earlier this year and all you need to do now is enter the verification code sent to you after purchase on a computer with an internet connection. The installer finds your FS2004 installation and asks you to verify it, after that the rest of the process is all automatic. You do have the ability to choose to install the custom “halo” bitmap for landing (as well as other) lights which I did and found that I liked it so I kept it.
The included manual is a PDF document that you can bring up from your “Start” menu under the “aeroSOFT” listing in the “Piper Cheyenne” folder. This is a 180 page document that is very comprehensive and easy to follow and includes basically every aspect of operating this aircraft that you can do in the simulator. There are large screenshots of the various panels that are numbered for identification of specific gauges, a glossary of terms, checklists for each phase of operation and finally performance charts for each of the specific models. This closely matches the POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook) that an owner of the real aircraft would have so all your questions are pretty much answered for you if you read the manual.
A “Flight Tutorial” is also included as a PDF document that will walk you right through a flight in any of the included models, given you have the checklists also printed out so you can go through them when instructed to do so. Personally, I give an A+ for the included documentation. I thought it was right on the money for what I needed.
Ready to get blown away? This thing is drop dead gorgeous… and you don’t just get one model, you get four variations of the aircraft. Each have their own subtle differences with the XL easily giving it away with its stretched fuselage and extra side window. You can look at these from outside for hours and you won’t find a flaw.
I give very high marks to the design team for bringing to life this little turboprop hot rod in FS. Were I to give any criticism, it is in the work that goes into painting one… this is not an easy sim aircraft to do a repaint as evidenced on some of their forum threads. Fortunately, there are plenty of different paint jobs for each version and in various country schemes to boot.
This is one of those aircraft that has been modeled to such precision and detail that you can actually perform a walk around with Active Camera. The rivet lines, the edges of control surfaces, trim tabs, lightning wicks, gear doors, landing gear linkage, even the edges of the entry and baggage doors look like you are looking at the real deal. I just am in awe when I see this kind of attention to detail, all those months of waiting for the release were certainly worth it.
And the night lighting is also something to behold.
Here again Digital Aviation has upped the ante on all other aftermarket aircraft add-on manufacturers. You like 2D panels? You’re just gonna love the fact that you have so many possibilities for viewing the panel from the pilot’s or copilot’s seat. The subpanels, center and overhead console are all reproduced with the kind of realism you usually don’t find in sim aircraft. And everything, save for the circuit breakers, is functional. That means if you can see a switch it works, if you see a knob it turns and actually does something. Want to follow a checklist item for item? This is the place to do it.
One feature that I really was surprised by is the ground clearance switch. Most developers don’t model this and many smaller aircraft don’t have one. But larger aircraft with higher operating costs will, because with it you can just power up the com1/nav1 radio for your initial clearances. I found this to work very well with VoxATC and was able to request my IFR clearance, then startup clearance before firing up the engines, nice touch.
Move into the VC and you are going to wonder if you are still in the 2D panel view till you hit the hat switch to move around. This panel is reproduced in all its 3 dimensional glory for VC lovers and let me tell you, even if you don’t like VC’s, you are going to have to pay respect to this one. There are a handful, and I’m talking counting on my fingers here, of aircraft that have had their Virtual Cockpits modeled to this level of detail and accuracy.
What’s even more impressive is how well this one performs. The clickspots work and aren’t too small for convenient operation, the gauge movement is extremely smooth and believable, you can fly a hands-on ILS using the Flight Director, and the night lighting is spectacular and once again… believable. Even the windshield wipers move smoothly and leave a water streak behind at their edges. If you are using a TrackIR, like I am, you aren’t going to want to leave… this is just too much darned fun. You can even read the warnings and checklists included on the pilot’s window sill.
One of the decisions that Digital Aviation
made in modeling the VC panel for the
The configuration manager allows the user to select between an original Vertical Speed Indicator or a replacement digital unit with TCAS display and also to remove the knobs from the non-functioning radar and the mechanical HSI to allow for replacing these units with such units as RealityXP’s WX500 weather radar and their JL2 or Sandel EHSI with moving maps if you are comfortable with modifying the panel configuration files. I tried a few variations and ended up preferring the panel just as it was originally designed and with the mechanical VSI. This is how I remember flying around in these aircraft, your personal preference may be different and thankfully the designers made it possible to make a few changes.
If I really felt nitpicky, I would tell you that the remaining “bug” IS the heading bug! When using the autopilot in GPS mode, the heading bug on the HSI will follow the instructions sent to the autopilot and as a result always display like you are using the heading bug. While this might just look like an automatic function of the autopilot and HSI interaction, the real gauge has a completely manual adjustment for this heading bug so it doesn’t move on its own. The only time this might even become an issue is if you were on a GPS tracking in the autopilot and were issued a turn to a specific heading and wanted to preset the heading bug before switching to heading mode on the autopilot. You just have to remember to switch to heading mode first, which until patched, will result in your aircraft continuing straight ahead, then turn the heading bug to your new heading.
The custom programming of the Trimble GPS
has had its moments of frustration too. They’ve
got it pretty good now but there are still a few items that pilots
familiar with the real world unit have been consulting Digital Aviation
about. One thing you do want
to remember is to move the aircraft to the location you want to depart
from before selecting the Cheyenne in the aircraft selection menu,
this is just a simple matter of selecting the airport or loading
the saved flight plan before switching to the Cheyenne while still
in the create flight menu. If you attempt to load the
I’ve been there enough to tell you the sound recordings are genuine. All the beeps from powering up the panel, the gyros coming to life, the autopilot disconnect, radar altimeter and TCAS are there. The turboprop sounds bring a smile to my face as they take me back to flying around in the real deal. You have two choices in the configuration manager, you can enable the “active noise reduction’ sound set or disable it. I recommend making your first flight without the noise reduction, you will just love the prop sounds. Then try the noise reduction set once, then switch it back to the sweet sounding one.
There a handful (yes there’s that counting on my fingers phrase again) of software magicians that can capture the flight dynamics envelope of an aircraft and break it down into numbers that actually convey the sense of what a real aircraft “feels” like when flying in the sim. You can fiddle with numbers and get an aircraft to perform like the owners manual says it will, but it is a true art when the way an aircraft responds to input at each of the ends of its operating envelope that makes true masters stand out from the crowd. Whenever see one of these five names in the list of credits for an aircraft, I already know that I will probably like it based on prior experience. Alexander Metzger is one of those names, the rewards he has won in this business are well earned. This is a passion and love of his and having been involved with him in the development of other products, I know first hand just how hard he works at it.
It would be very difficult to find a real
pilot that didn’t like the handling qualities of the Navajo or
I kept airspeed at 110 for best single engine
climb but man did I have my hands full with terrain avoidance
as we wound our way between the hills staying above the freeway. You’ll note from the shots that I was facing
climbing terrain and doing everything I could to keep in the
air and in control. At
300’ AGL, I had another set of hills to contend with and made
another shallow turn to the right to sneak between them. At
about three minutes into the climb, I finally had 1,000’ between
me and the valley floor and could start thinking about my options.
Should I continue the shallow climb to 4,000’ and try to make
the VOR or GPS approach back in to
That’s the kind of tough decision a real pilot would have to face if they found themselves in the same situation and I think I would make the latter, were I to lose the second engine in the clouds and over the mountainous terrain around Roseburg. Trying to shoot the non-precision approach probably wouldn’t be the kind of thing you could walk away from.
You may have the impression from this review that I liked the Aerosoft/Digital Aviation Cheyenne. If so, you read correctly.
In my opinion this is one of those releases that raises the bar for all aspects of aircraft simulation, exceptional visual model, exceptional panel and systems simulation, exceptional sound set, easy to use configuration manager, exceptional flight dynamics and despite all its complexity, I found it to not be a big hit on frame rates.
In the forums the question is frequently asked “what if you could only have one add-on?” I have traditionally avoided these questions because I so much like the combination of add-ons I have used to create the simulation environment I like to fly in. This is the one add-on to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator that I have to say would be my hands down pick if I could only have one.
Congratulations Hans Hartmann, Tobias Ahlbrecht, Dr. Achim Bürger, Martin Georg, Alex Metzger, Christoph Winkler and the excellent beta team, a few of which I have had the pleasure of working with in other projects. At the risk of ticking off another fine development team, which I also respect, I would love to encourage Digital Aviation to consider releasing a Piper Navajo package. I know I’d be first in line.
|What I Like About the Aerosoft Cheyenne|
|What I Don't Like About the Aerosoft Cheyenne|
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