A2A Accu-Sim Piper PA-24 Comanche 250.
[P3Dv2.5] Do you know what you are doing? Because you either get this right and follow correct procedures or go fly something else because if not, you and your aircraft will fail. Alternatively, you don't know what you are doing? Wonderful. This is a perfect tool to learn with. As sit in my seat looking out the window watching as the lights of Manhattan start to fade off in the distance, I contemplate these thoughts that cross my mind. Lucky for us, we got a 767-300 for the flight back to LA and it was hauling ass. Well, it was hauling hundreds of asses to be more accurate including my own. I quickly tend get bored with those IFE's. The content usually sucks with the exception of the in-flight map leaving me to just turn it off and let my own thoughts bore me as I quietly hope we encounter thermals to rock me to sleep.
Let me quickly set the tone of this review...
Do you know what you are doing? Because you either get this right and follow correct procedures or go fly something else because if not, you and your aircraft will fail. I was thinking about A2A's legendary Accu-Sim line of products and typically, this has been my experience with them. But then a couple years ago (had it really been that long?) A2A had released their version of the C172, the worlds most massed produced aircraft and it completely changed the way I felt about Accu-sim: You don't know what you are doing? Wonderful. This is a perfect tool to learn with. I mean let's face it, the chances of me ever helming a Mustang or Stratocruser in real life is nearly impossible. Screw it, it is impossible. But the C172? Hell, the majority of all pilots around the world have at some point or other had a run in with a C172. Makes sense. But when it comes to the A2A military metal, when you set out to purchase these aircraft, you really need to know what you are doing long before you attempt an engine start. I will admit, this concept has been a bit intimidating to me in the past.
But after A2A delivered the C172, I saw the light. You see, A2A and RealAir had both announced the development of the C172 at about the same time leaving me with the thought of why do we really need more boring C172's? Sure I had a few C172 addon aircraft already. But it was not till I fully understood what Accu-sim and Accu-feel would really do to enhance my virtual experience of this legendary aircraft did I fully realize... well as I said, I saw the light. Finally, a component of the Accu-sim line of products that could actually be used to teach people how to fly and what to expect from an aircraft they will more than likely experience in real life unlike the Mustang or B-17. Accu-Sim did deliver the Piper Cub some time ago, but it just failed to attract my interest (I am sure a few readers will beat me up about that). After my first experience with the Accu-Sim C172, I was hooked. And here I thought Carenado and Alabeo had delivered the very best in digital pistons. And nothing against those developers, I love them both. I just wish almost all aircraft could be "Accu-sim'd" regardless of who developed it. In short, Accu-sim, has helped me to become a better virtual pilot. It has taught me how to and how not to do things with the aircraft in an experience that I just don't get with any other addon. Many of us are self taught armchair pilots and having an addon that can essentially stand in to fill the void of attending flight school is truly something significant indeed.
It's like owning one of those lousy floppy panel gearboxes or tiptronic shifting technology we see in these new cars. I am a man of the stick shift. My car is a fully manual 6-speed Passat Turbo. I love the feeling of being in control. And on those rare occasions where I screw up, the car will immediately react accordingly from stalls to grinding gears. This is the way cars were meant to be driven. It keeps you in check and the best drivers on the road are those who drive sticks. But with the tiptronic or paddle sifters, if you are manually selecting gears and screw up, no worries! The vehicle's on-board computer system will usually correct the mistake and put you back into the correct gear. This in layman's terms is basically the difference between A2A Accu-Sim technology and everything else. When you make errors, skip on maintenance, or simply fail to do a walk-around before each flight, these human, and pilot errors will cost you. In essence, it's the perfect product line to adequately prepare you for your first experience in real world operations or assist with keeping up with proper procedures when on the ground. And if nothing else, you learn all the inner workings of what it takes to properly fly and maintain these aircraft even if you never own or operate one in real life. And that kind of home experience be it for training or entertainment is worth a lot.
Now the A2A J-3, C172, C182, and P180 Cherokee are perhaps the very best aircraft the world has to offer in terms of training devices and I am so glad A2A chose these aircraft first to develop in this new non military line of civilian products. But let's fact it, after a while, these wings can get a bit boring. I found myself desiring something faster and perhaps more agile and sporty from A2A's GA line. Several aircraft came to mind as to what I would like to see A2A develop in the future. But the PA-24 Comanche was definitely not one of them. In fact, the Comanche is an aircraft that barely registers in my brain. Perhaps in my mind, it sits in the Piper Arrow's shadow. And I have logged several hours on the Piper Arrow 2 in real life. It was my first and a hell of a girl to be anyone's first cherry popper. Now, as for the Comanche variant that I do love, when Scott told me the day before FlightSimCon 2015 opened that A2A would be unveiling the "Comanche", it was the PA-30 Twin Comanche that came to mind. I owned the Eaglesoft variant for many ears now and whereas it's still a decent addon, it has truly shown it's age in the world of addon aircraft. But this is not the Comanche Scott was referring to. So when he stated it was the PA-24, my first thought was "huh" and Scott was not too surprised by my response. He admitted, he was not too sure how well this addon would gain popularity. After all, the PA-31 Comanche is not really all that popular of an aircraft when you compare it to the likes of the Arrow and Bonanza. But I already knew I would want it even before he showed it to me. And I knew almost every other fan of Accu-sim would buy it as well even if they were not a fan of the type. Once Scott put it up on the big screen in his booth, I was instantly in love. Damn was she a beauty! I just had to have one.
So here I am, the lights of NY now far behind and 5 hours of flying to go. I eagerly waited this flight to end to I could start the next in the Comanche. My newly founded love.
The thermals had arrived, and I slept.
A Modern Classic
FlightSimCon 2015 was an extension of my summer vacation. But if a vacation is supposed to be relaxing on a beach somewhere sipping beer and foofoo drinks, then this was anything but. Covering the Con was a quite a bit of work and my first thought after the 12:30am arrival into LAX was to hit the sim and fire up the A2A PA-24. I was really tired but nonetheless, excited. Lucky for me, I still had enough brain power to realize you can't just go firing up an Accu-Sim airplane and expect it to fly on first load. A number of my friends already figured this out the hard way only to find once they were 10 miles away from the airfield the aircraft had lost oil pressure. I think A2A did this on purpose as a reminder for those who thought they could get a way with a quickie, this is not your typical FS toy. Knowing I would have to put in some work to get her up in the air without issue, which meant reading that big ass manual, I decided to get some sleep. This thing is just like the real thing and as such, a well rested and prepared pilot is required. Now as I mentioned earlier, the PA-24 was not an aircraft that really registered on my radar among the Piper family and I am super grateful to A2A for giving us just what we all were missing. But in reference to the actual aircraft, I really did not know all that much about it. Where exactly does the Comanche fit in to the entire line of Piper aircraft and most importantly, why was it discontinued?
Now as we all know, all good things at some point come to an end. But what was the case with the line of single engine Comanche pistons? As it turns out, Piper was never quite the same after the Susquehanna River burst its banks and flooded their Lock Haven factory back in June of 1972. It wasn't the first time either, but the 1972 floods caused huge damage and it was the last straw for Piper. The flood destroyed 100 new aeroplanes and irreparably damaged many of the company's manufacturing jigs including those used to make the nearly 8000 Comanches. Some argue that the 1972 flood came at a fortuitous moment as it pushed Piper into replacing the Comanche with the Arrow which cost a lot less to produce. Indeed, when the Comanche prototype first flew in 1956, the company was going through a minor engineering revolution (at least for Piper). They were beginning to edge out tube and fabric construction for monocoque. The twin engine Apache of 1954 was the first effort at getting away from fabric fuselages though the aircraft retained its tubular steel airframe.
It took over eleven years for Piper to catch up with Beech who'd launched their V-tail Bonanza in 1947. By the time the first 180hp and 250hp Comanche's came off the line in 1958, the Bonanza was already the clear market leader and had a decade's worth of monocoque manufacturing experience tucked under its belt. Cessna was not far behind and they had test flown their first retractable 182 in 1957 later to become the 210. Additionally, the Comanche was an expensive aircraft to produce. A 250hp version cost US$24,500 in 1958 - US$2,000 more than a 1960 Cessna 210 and US$300 more than a J-35 Bonanza. Nevertheless, Piper made five variations of the Comanche line from the 135 knot 180hp model to the awesome 1964 400hp. In between, the company installed the 250hp engine and a normally aspirated and turbocharged 260.
Comanche's were liked by their owners for their respectable cruise speeds, big cabins, useful range, kind handling, and trouble-free Lycoming engines. The 260 model was introduced in 1965. The '65 model was identical to the 250 except in engine power and some Piper buffs consider it the best of the line. The 260 was the only four-seat carburetor Comanche and thus had an astonishing climb rate of 1600 feet per minute from sea level. In 1966 Piper stretched the fuselage slightly and added two more seats. In practice, the extra accommodation was nothing more than a couple of padded cushions placed in the back with legroom that allowed for nothing more than small children. The seats were placed in the luggage area, so if all six places were filled, no room remained for baggage. Piper also added an extra window on each side. The '66 'B' model had its payload increased by 200lbs to give a max weight of 3,100lbs. The speed advantage over the w250 model was negligible and at the same weight the 260 model could manage an extra four knots.
In 1969 Piper launched the 'C' model - instantly recognized by its shark nose. The company had to extend the propeller forward to counter an aft center of gravity problem after raising the useful load to a handy 1,427lbs. The last of the line was the turbocharged 260C which was considered the best of the lot - better even than the 400hp hotted-up Comanche that wowed Piper fans in 1964. The 260C turbo was often referred to as being 'turbo-normalized', a cute description which tried to explain the unusual installation of dual Rayjay turbochargers which came on line with the application of a separate 'throttle' mounted on the power quadrant. To operate the turbos pilots would have the extra throttle closed on takeoff and only opening it during the climb to maintain manifold pressure. The lever controlled the wastegates, closing them and at the same time directing more exhaust flow into the turbocharger. It wasn't an altogether happy arrangement as the process led to some power loss due to the inefficient induction system when not using the turbos. The turbochargers made a significant difference when flying over 12,000 feet and had the added benefit of quietening the cabin although Lycoming had to beef up the engine to withstand the higher operating temperatures.
Comanches have always been good looking aeroplanes. One of the reasons production costs were so high is because of the pretty, tapered semi-laminar flow wing. Achieving a super-smooth surface in the fifties with traditional riveting methods was not easy and had to be carried out with supreme care. Comanche's thus rewarded their owners with pleasant stalling manners. The aircraft sits low on its undercarriage which is a configuration that's led to much heated debate over its landing qualities. The Comanche has acquired a reputation for being difficult to pull of greasers. Indeed, those unfamiliar with the type will be frustrated by its tendency to float and then suddenly plop onto the runway with a bone-jarring thump. Every Comanche owner will have explored the landing qualities and come up with his or her own favorite method. A universally accepted way of improving the landing (and takeoff) behavior is to pump up the main gear oleos and even bleed off the nose wheel strut slightly. This further reduces the Comanche's tendency to wheelbarrow during takeoff by placing the aircraft in more of a flying attitude during the ground run. As for how our digital counterpart behaves, I have never flown a Comanche in real life thus I am highly reliant on and at the mercy of A2A and their accuracy levels combined with the flight dynamics limitations of Prepar3D v2.5. That said, this product was developed by owners of the the actual aircraft and lovers of flight simulation. I have no doubt they nailed it in the most realistic way possible and based on my experience thus far, it's unlike anything I have ever owned in my collection. But how does it look? And if you have ever read any of my previous reviews, you know I am very big on visuals.
Okay enough about this history stuff. If you want a really detailed history on the Comanche and Piper in general, read the manual. It's one of the very best aircraft included manuals I have ever read which is more of a magazine read than anything else. I have included it below for your convenience and keep a copy on my iPhone for reference. I suggest you do the same. If you are one of those folks that never reads manuals, in the case of the Comanche here, do it. Or you will regret it.
[Note: For format purposes, many images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
Product Manual - READ IT!
Interior / Exterrior Representation
I asked Luis at A2A several times to get me direct access to Scott's Comanche and after several no's, I did what any sensible person like me would do. I climbed the fence at the local FBO where Scott keeps his plane and stole it. I took off on fumes made my way to an old overgrown WW2 abandoned airfield where I could get my own quality time with it. I taxied over to a small clearing, powered down, and proceeded to take my own pictures of his baby.
Now if it's one thing sister companies Alabeo & Carenado get the most respect within the flight simulation community, it's their visual eye candy representations. Those guys are just so damn good when it comes to eye candy. But A2A really holds their own and on a visual scale, they are a seriously tough contender. Sure, the Comanche here lacks some of those fancy volumetric side view prop shine effects and sun glare window scratches, but it more than makes up for that in being a true aviators simulated aircraft. Now that said, this doesn't mean this baby doesn't come with some serious eye candy of it's own. The aircraft is beautifully represented and comes with a number of enhancements that transforms this baby to anyone's custom liking. External features include a tie-down mode complete with pitot flags and wheel chokes. But if you choose to take things a step further, you can launch the maintenance hangar where pilots are greeted with a vast collection of enhancements. I'll get more into that in the Aircraft Maintenance & Service section below.
I have spent quite a bit of time in the Accu-Sim PA-24 and I can tell you without doubt among all the virtual aircraft I own, (and I own them all) i'd have to say the Comanche is probably the most unique. Aside from this, it's also one of the most attractive. No matter from what angle I view her from, she is very appealing to my eyes and the more I look the more I regret how it's even possible she flew under my radar for so many years. Nevertheless, it's split milk under the bridge. She is here now and I am so glad no other developer got to her first. On an aircraft dealership showroom floor, she sells herself extremely well. A2A made damn sure all her glory was represented perfectly in the digital environment.
Details, details, details. No matter where I look, I am impressed with what I see and I have a tendency to look hard. Indeed, being one of the flight simulation community's leading aircraft developers and owning the aircraft you are developing does have it's benefits. Include this with the fact that the owner has many hours experience with this aircraft and it's no wonder why it's so damn good in virtual form.
Let's take a look at the inside.
Now like most aircraft in this class, the Comanche is entered and exited through a single door on the right hand side of the fuselage which curves some way into the roof area to make getting in and out fairly easy. I am prone to bumping my head. This design makes my life and my head much easier. I am immediately greeted with the massive panel and it's strikingly unusual gauge layout. The panel is classic sixties but it doesn't look or feel that way at all regardless the panel texture you use. The paintkit is obviously user friendly as a over a dozen user contributed repaints surfaced in just the first week after release alone. The forward cabin roomy and wide. The primary flight instruments are placed in the center of the panel with the radio/GPS avionics to the left of the captains yoke. Again, unusual. Main switches are placed along the base of the panel and all fuses directly beneath all of which are operative and legibly labeled. The throttle quadrant is where it should be - panel mounted in the middle and the yokes have a completely different look and feel to any other yoke I have ever experienced. That solid metal looks hard and cold.
Looking into the back seat, second row passengers will enjoy the wide comfy bench with good legroom. The luggage compartment area has a weight limit of 250 lbs (from what I have researched this can vary) with it's own baggage door on the right hand side of the cabin behind the right wing trailing edge. This convenience means items can be stowed from the outside. The downside here? The door is not animated and compartment not visible leaving me to wonder why. This is typically a feature that comes with most aircraft in FS these days and forces me to throw a strike against the development here. I was disappointed. I would have also loved an option to actually "pop the hood" and see the engine. But the disappointment ended there. I was very pleased to see that each and every component from within the cabin was operative all the way down to the vents. No dummy switches here or static parts either. Now, no, the fire extinguisher does not work and nor can you animate the seat positions, but you can access the map, pilot's handbook, and controls lock (a bungee cord) all from within the side pouches.
Being able to grab that pilot's handbook which includes everything from entering the airplane to shut down from directly within the cabin is a super A++! It also includes other useful information you would usually have to calculate on your own based on your set up and the kind of flying you are intending to conduct such as hot & high. It's very difficult to return to some of my other all-time favorite airplanes after even a short 20 min hop in the Comanche. These guys have thought of everything. And damn it's beautiful.
Another plus is the fact that different liveries come with separate internal interiors. Something I wish all developers would to. I hate picking different liveries only to find the interrior is always the same. Another feature you will need to familiarize yourself with is the Mini Controls panel with it's numerous options to customize the aircraft and it's passengers to your liking. In the shot on he left, you can easily see all the provided internal and external options. Below I elected simply to show the GPS options available. If you own Flight1's GTN series, then that option comes available to you as well.
After an hour of screwing around with Scott's plane, I decided to make haste and get it back to his hangar before someone like Jake notices it's gone. It's practically on empty and the last thing I need is for him to show up for his nightly plane cleaning chores with a bucket of soap water and sponge to an empty hangar and smoke in the distance. Up and away!
Night Lighting & Effects
Now for flying in night conditions, the Comanche is well stocked complete with volumetric landing and taxi lights, strobes, and beacon. The interior has both white and red dome lighting and be sure to know which switch is which. The only downside here, is the external lights do not appear to actually light up the ground surfaces which is a trait I love about other aircraft. Thus whether from the interior or exterior, the external lights don't really seem to help much.
Compared with Alabeo's C207 below, you can clearly see how the taxi and landing lights illuminate the ground surface. This can also be seen from within the VC giving the pilot a much better range of view at night. You can also note the quick flashing strobe reflection on the ground as well. Some other addons go even further and have beacon and nav lights reflected on the ground surfaces as well. I would like to see these effects in future A2A releases.
Aircraft Maintenance & Service
Okay all joking aside, this section is where the Accu-Sim Comanche shows it's true worth and sets itself apart from every other comparable aircraft in the world of flight simulation. I would say it's worth it's weight in gold but let's face it, it's software. It weighs nothing. And yet, weight is one of the biggest management aspects of this addon. In the shots below, you can see Scott's actual real world counterpart that our lovely Accu-Sim variant was modeled after. As we all know, all aircraft require considerable care and properly performed scheduled maintenance and checkups. In this aspect, the Accu-Sim Comanche is no different from the real thing and staying on top of it will ensure it keeps flying in top shape for years to come. But if you fail to keep your aircraft in good condition, she will fail on you. I myself along with a few others I know personally have experienced this already. Let's dive into what it takes to keep your Comanche running in tiptop shape.
A2A founder Scott Gentile's with a young Jake above. To the right, the Comanche undergoing a fairly rigorous Maintenance overhaul. This was 1 of the 2 real ships used to create the simulated variant. The livery below was used as well. Below I have provided an overview of all the additional components options. Click each image to see the parts appear/disappear.
A peak into the maintenance hangar & underneath the virtual hood:
This is where all ground work begins. The maintenance hangar is where you can review the current state of your aircraft and its major systems. It is one of the core elements to visualizing Accu-Sim at work. With the invaluable assistance of your local aircraft maintenance engineer/technician, a.k.a “grease monkey”, you will be able to see a full and in-depth report stating the following:
- A summary of your airframe, engine and propeller installed.
- Total airframe hours, and engine hours since the last major overhaul.
- General condition of the engine.
- Important notes provided by the ground crew.
From the maintenance hangar, you can also carry out a complete overhaul, by clicking the COMPLETE OVERHAUL button in the bottom right corner. This will overhaul the engine and replace any parts that are showing signs of wear or damage, with new or reconditioned parts. In order to fix any issues the mechanic has flagged up, we need to inspect the engine in greater detail. By left clicking the “CHECK ENGINE” text on the engine cover, it will open the above window. COLOUR CODES: GREEN: OK, YELLOW: WATCH, RED: MUST FIX OR REPLACE.
With/Without tiptanks including options between the standard McCauley B3D32C412C and composite MTV-9-B/118-50 constant speed propellers:
Aside from allowing you to carry more fuel, adding weight to the wing tipe helps spread the weight along the wing aking it stronger in flight. Tip tanks also aerodymacilly clean the wing up by reducing vortexes from the wing tip itself. And lastly, with this increased efficiency your gross weight is increased by 100 lbs on the Commanche.
In the props section, you can go with the standard McCauley B3D32C412-C constant speed or the new MT 3-blade composite prop. According to A2A, they have thoroughly tested this propeller and have found it to produce the smoothest performance of any prop they have ever flown. It's lightweight which reduces wear&tear on the engine barrings. It's scimitar blade design also reduces drag at high RPM's for an increased climb over competing props.
With/Without KNOTS 2U gap seal kit:
The KNOTS 2U gap seal kit used in the A2A Comanche is the most complete and effective on the market. They are made of 2024T-3 Alclad aluminum, and install to look like they were meant to be there from the factory........not an afterthought! Their kit is the most complete covering the flaps, ailerons and Flap / Fuselage gaps. Owners report cruise speed increases in the 4-5 mph range with added benefits in lower stall speed (other designs can actually increase stall speeds) better aileron authority, improved climb, quicker roll rate, and improved low speed handling.
The kit comes complete with all hardware, step-by-step instructions, and is fully STCd. The purpose of a Gap Seal is to create a pressure barrier between the high pressure air on the bottom of the wing and the low pressure air on the top of the wing. Without the seals, air moves upward through the gaps, thus causing significant drag and reduced control authority. Another benefit to a Knots 2U Gap Seal is that it smoothes the air traveling along the bottom of the wing, thus further improving airflow. The effects of a good Gap Seal kit will be:
- Increased cruse speed
- Improved rate of climb
- Crisper aileron authority
- Reduced stall speeds
- Improved handling characteristics
With/Without Wing Root Fairings & Slipper:
Originally conceived by Piper for the sleek Comanche 400. It will add 2 mph in cruise speed as well as 50 ft/min in climb. Low speed handling is also noticeably improved.
The fairings are made of hand laid fiberglass with a beautiful gel-coat finish and install simply using rivnuts and screws so the attachment is all from the outside. The kit comes complete with everything necessary for installation including all hardware, step-by-step instructions and STC.
A Slipper mod is also available. The mod is a fairing that mounts just aft of the nose wheel well and helps the exiting cooling air turn parallel to the belly of the airplane in a smooth and efficient manner and yields 3 MPH.
- 3 MPH Speed Increase
- STC Included
- High Quality Laminate
- Primer Finish
- Approximately 1-2 Hours to Install
With/Without Gear Lobe Fairing:
Gear Lobe Fairings have been a very successful modification for the the Piper Comanche. Extensive tuft testing showed that without the lobes some of the tufts behind the tire were actually pointing straight down!
The Gear Lobes will add 3-4 mph in cruise speed to your aircraft. Our design is the cleanest available leaving no exposed hardware and a beautiful fit! They are made of a fiberglass shell filled with a closed cell urethane foam for rigidity and to keep moisture out. Installation is simple with the parts already pre-drilled and counter-sunk.
With/Without Stabilator Tips:
These relatively inexpensive components are typically easy to install and add weight for better balance and dampening allowing the maximum speed (VNE) to be increased. They look really good too.
- Main Fuel Capacity (U.S. gal.) 60
- Usable Fuel 56
- Tip Tank Capacity (U.S. gal.) 30
- Usable Fuel 30
- Usable Fuel Total 86
- Fuel Grade, Aviation
- Minimum Octane 91/96
- Specified Octane 100LL
- Oil Capacity (U.S. Quarts) 12
- Oil Specification 15W-50 OR 20W-50
- Oil Viscosity per Average Ambient Temp. for Starting
- Maximum Takeoff Weight (lbs) (with tip tanks) 3000
- Maximum Weights in Baggage Compartment 200
STANDARD AIRPLANE WEIGHTS
- Standard Empty Weight (lbs): 1690
- Weight of a standard airplane including unusable fuel, full operating fluids d full oil
- Maximum Useful Load (lbs): 1310
- The difference between the Maximum Takeoff Weight and the Standard Empty Weight
- Number of Propellers 1
- Propeller Manufacturer McCauley
- Model B3D32C412-C
- Number of Blades 3
- Propeller Diameter (inches) 77
- Propeller Type Constant speed
- Number of Propellers 1
- Propeller Manufacturer MT Propeller
- Model MTV-9-B/188-50
- Number of Blades 3
- Propeller Diameter (inches) 74
- Propeller Type Constant speed
- Number of Engines 1
- Engine Manufacturer Lycoming
- Engine Model Number O-540-A
- Rated Horsepower 250
- Rated Speed (rpm) 2575
- Bore (inches) 5.125
- Stroke (inches) 4.375
- Displacement (cubic inches) 541.5
- Compression Ratio 8.5:1
- Engine Type 6 Cylinder, Horizontally Opposed, Direct Drive, Air Cooled
- Wing Loading (lbs per sq ft) 15.7
- Power Loading (lbs per hp) 1
Asside from these obvious visual and performance addon components, there are also a few additional non visual components you can add in order to enhance your Comanche including soundproofing materials which actually affect the sound from within the VC, choice of Concorde RG-35A/RG-AXC batteries, Air Hawk/Air Trac tires depending on the surfaces you typically land on and depart from, and an engine heater kit. I highly suggest playing around with all the options and feel just how differently the aircraft will perform under different conditions. That's the power of Accu-Sim. In fact, the only addon I wish was equippable are the Rayjays for some turbo power. I can only assume the turbo equipped Lycoming was not added due to the owners not having experience with it. It's just a guess but I wish it had been an added option.
Now after all that. Here is an opinion that is completely contradictory from everything required to keep this aircraft running optimally and that's not keeping good care of it. The best thing about the Accu-Sim is what it does for you when you don't play by the rules. And there lies both the fun and greatest level of accuracy with this addon. Skip on your oil changes, don't replace those worn spark plugs, by all means dog it hard kick it to the dust and go fly it again and again and just let the failures roll in. What Accu-Sim will teach you is not only how to care for your toy, but how to handle situations when you don't and that's where all the fun comes in.
Now with ship N7791P, I have completed a full overhaul for it's owner and she will fly like a dream as a result of proper care. We have rolled her out of the hangar and now she wait's for her return home. Now let's go get mine and get airborne.
Most peoples reviews are long done by now and here we are just getting started. I have spoken so much about many of the features this aircraft has but I still have yet to get to the actual flying part. Just like the real aircraft, we can not simply hop in and fly. This aircraft requires full preflight checks and walk-around. Yes, I said walk-around. So far, I have not discovered any issues myself yet but my firends have reported seeing things from junk stuck in the prop to broken lights.
You will never know what you might find and complacency will screw you over hard in this area. Never miss one single walk around with this aircraft. I don't care if you are just doing a quick stop over from Diamond Point to Orcas Island to pick up your girlfriend for a weekend at Lake Tahoe. If you shut down that engine for any reason, get your ass back out and check the whole thing over. Trust me on this. Let's start now. Well... Come look at my airplane first!
Now I really like Scott Gentile's Comanche. But then again, I like all Comanche's. It's a sexy aircraft. Hard not to. But Scott's interior/exterior appearance color wise is just a wee bit bland for my taste. Thankfully, the A2A team is really good in the paint kit department and A2A aircraft are really popular among re-paint artists. It didn't take me long at all to fined something suitable to feed my more rich color pallet. Therefore I took not one but two paint textures from two separate artists. The exterior paint is from artist Tim Scharnhop while the very lovely interior sort of cherry oak panel texture comes from Marius Kramer. Very well done there Marius. I am such a sucker for finished wood and having it inside my Comanche makes me feel right at home.
I have just one issue with the paint kit. Looking at the panel from the exterior does not display the same custom textures from the interior. Not sure if this is a painter issue, something I did wrong, or a kit issue. But I would like to see that corrected whomever's responsibility that is.
Now the configuration comes with all the best bells & whistles included. The only component she doesn't have is the wing tip tanks. I don't know. I guess I just feel that those huge boobs distract from the rest of her sexy sleek slender frame. D Cups have a tendency to do that... So I left them out. And if you were paying close enough attention, you also noticed I forgot to add them to Scott's bird above in my mock thievery scenario. Having all these customization options is what makes this product so attractive. The only other component I don't have but will add in the very near future is Flight1's GTN series avionics. Besides that, it's fully loaded.
Okay back to work. The pre-flight inspection. Do you know what you are doing? Because you either get this right and follow correct procedures or go fly something else because if not, you and your aircraft will fail. Alternatively, you don't know what you are doing? Wonderful. This is a perfect tool to learn with. And this is a huge learning area. The way A2A set this up incredibly impresses me to an extremely significant extent. And this is where officially, every other similar sized aircraft in FS is purely a toy. Why? Because those aircraft are not teaching me anything new. Whenever I head out to fly a real world aircraft, there are a lot of things already done by the owners or instructors before I get there so I can jump right in and get going just like the simulator.
But with the Accu-Sim enhancement, I get to do all the things I normally wouldn't bother doing especially in the simulator. The Aerosoft Twin Otter is an aircraft I love deeply. But aside from dogging the shit out of the engines and burning them out in-flight, I am always in the green. But with the Comanche here, I get nervous every time I load it up from the aircraft selection menu. This is because this aircraft remembers me and how I treated her last time I used her. And if I happened to have treated her like shit, the is going to come back to me like shit. This type of simulation forces me to abandon my more nonchalant methods of how I typically fly. This aircraft is meant to be taken seriously and if you make the mistake of calling it's bluff, well, best of luck to you. So, whenever I decide to abandon my typical laziness and take things seriously, with this aircraft, it's all or nothing.
Let's start from the beginning of every flight with the pre-flight check. And if you have never done this before, don't worry, A2A wants to help you learn to do things right. This is why they explain every step in the correct order. So rather than explain it myself, come and do the checks with me. Click the right arrow to progress through the stages.
One of the aspects of conducting the pre-flight inspection is not only does it tell you what to look for, but it is also fully interactive complete with animations. For example, when checking the ailerons and elevator for proper movement and security, in real life, you would just reach out with your hand and move the surfaces checking for proper tension and movement to ensure no obstructions, FOD, etc. During your inspection, you can do exactly this and watch the surfaces animate. If they don't, you have a problem. The inspection takes you full circle starting from the baggage door and returning you to the main panel for the next step in the process.
Startup, Runup, and Takeoff
Now from what I seem to understand, the Comanche has been known for idiosyncratic ground handling and it's Lycoming engines have frustrated pilots with their rather fiddly start performance. I'm not sure if this is the case here but like all Accu-Sim aircraft, if you don't go almost exactly by the book, you will never get it started. I open the throttle to 1/4 of an inch and set the mixture to the idle cut off position. Sitting here at my desk I shout "prop area clear!!" (I don't know why I did that) and set the master switch to on. With the boost pump showing positive pressure via the flowmeter with the throttle opened a quarter of an inch and the mixture at full rich, I fully retard the mixture and push it back in again as the engine fires. Once started, the engine idles as I begin power checks. There is also a very nice animated rumbling animation when she fires up as well. The Comanche has a short wheelbase which can be felt with a hard 'pitchy' ride when taxiing. That is if you are in touch enough with your simulator to actually feel anything. And mind you, you need to apply the toe differentials and not and rudder for steering. I have few aircraft in my collection that handles like this and I always feel as if I need to return to ground school whenever I select one of them.
At the holding point the engine is run up to 1500 rpm and the propeller cycled before increasing to 2000 rpm for the magneto, temps, and pressure checks. With the fuel pump flicked to the on position and lined up on the runway, the view over the nose is slightly restricted by the Manche's tail-low attitude and lengthy cowl.
Now aligned on the active, I set the manifold pressure at 28.8 inches. I apply a light back pressure on the control column at the midway point down the runway at 65 knots and she lifts like a bird. A little up trim and she is doing all the work for me. For the flight test I went up with about a quarter in both tanks and at this weight, she is a rocket. I maintain my rate of climb at 97 knots. At 7500 feet I set her up for cruise recording 140 knots at a 65% power setting, 23 inches of manifold pressure and 2300 rpm burning 12 gallons of fuel per hour. At this height, admittedly lower than many owners of turbocharged variants might opt for, I set manifold pressure to 27 inches, 2400 rpm brought the speed up to 161 knots for 15 gallons per hour. More than enough for the short leg to Shoreham. Those appreciating a fine handling GA aircraft won't be disappointed with the Comanche. I played a bit with the autopilot system which works just as it should. That said, for some reason, I kept getting a down trim alarm which kept going off every few seconds annoying the hell out of me. I switched it off and decided to detour a bit and try out some tail stalls.
At the stall the Comanche behaves impeccably. I notice the visual warning system which alerted my impending stall by an orange flashing light mounted directly in the center of the panel. The stall break comes at 65 knots clean with the orange light beginning to wink at 73 knots. With flap and gear down, the break was at 58 knots. Considerable airframe buffet and vibrations of the aircraft goes some way to make up for the lack of an aural stall warning system. I recover almost effortlessly. But the second time, things were very different. The aircraft dipped nose and began rolling to the left into a spin. This time it took considerable time to recover. This was very interesting. Noting the sportiness of the aircraft, I decide to see if she can handle as good as she looks and gave those flight dynamics a beatdown. I was very impressed with her responsiveness. So much so, I completely lost track of time and did not take notice that my fuel gauges had made their way to empty. Realizing this far too late along with a string of errors, I found my ass in the grass. And embarrassed. The uptick? I got to finally see some of those optional damage effects in action.
"It's Lewis. Leave a message." Voicemail. Dammit. Hey Lewis D'Andre from AirDailyX here. Hey the Comanche is one heck of a bird. I'm having a great time. If you could call me back as soon as possible, that would be great." I hung up. It was 5:30 in the afternoon. The airport crews had moved my wreckage into a nearby hangar and after some paperwork, an interview with the CAA along with some fines, I waited in the FBO at Damyns Hall for Lewis to call me back. I needed another plane. I grabbed some lunch and before the last bite of my fried cod, the phone rang. "Hey D'Andre, it's Lewis with A2A. Hows it going?"
"Hey Lewis! Things are great! Just great! Having a wonderful time with my Comanche. Uh- listen. As you know, I am in the middle of this review over in the UK here. Is there a way you could lone me another plane. I ran into some trouble and I am in a bit of a hurry."
"What sort of trouble D'Andre?"
"Um well something with the engine I think. I-"
"Did you run the maintenance hangar utility? Any issues should be solved there-"
"Yeah I did but... I don't know. I'll figure it out later. Now about that loaner-"
"You crashed it didn't you?"
"Well... I guess it all depends on what your definition of crash is."
"Right. Uh-uh. Um-hmm. Yep, yep, yep. Okay where are you?"
"Damyns Hall Aerodrome just south of London."
"Alright, sit tight, we will have one brought over shortly. And don't worry, you are not the first, we have been getting reports from all over the globe with people fumbling the ball with this plane."
There was some sort of a snicker before the line clicked and went dead. The hell did he mean by fumble the ball? Looks like it's been amateur hour among the virtual Comanche community. I wont lie, I have heard some of these stories myself. Several pilots had stupidly decided to get in a quickie flight the moment after installation only to run out of oil the moment they got off the ground. Some failed to walk around and encountered inoperative flaps in flight, others were not used to the 3 point landing gear switch and switched it to the off position instead of the down position. This is exactly what happened to me. Running out off fuel was not exactly a big deal. Once the fuel was gone, I feathered the prop and immediately remembered the fundamentals my instructor Ed Valdez had taught me: Altitude + Power = Performance. I was only about 3.5 miles from Damyns Hall and had selected that as my emergency diversion point as part of my flight plan. I declared an emergency and listened as the controller opened the world up to me. I glided over to Damyns and spiraled all the way down to the airfield. But it wasn't till the belly hit the dirt snapping the propeller did I realize my mistake. In my haste I totally forgot the damn 3 point landing gear switch. My failure here is I did not listen to my airplane. And A2A has designed the Comanche to be heard. You are supposed to listen to your airplane so that when something doesn't sound right, you can troubleshoot the problem. Another really impressive feature about this product. But dumbass me only put about 5 hours on the airplane and had not really taken the time to fully get to know her on that intimate level. Without the engine, the gear hydraulics should have been quite audible. But I let myself become too distracted with the tasks aimed at not killing myself. Even though my life was not at risk in the first place which is the real embarrassment sitting at my desk in my underwear.
Shit. Lewis is going to tell everyone about this. Being the Editor of AirDailyX, I had a reputation to uphold and it sucked as it was. News about this little screw up would not help. I found a little nearby B&B and got some rest. I awoke at 5am to see my loaner had arrived. Lovely. Lovely indeed. Good fast customer service is something A2A is well known for. Even in stupid situations like this.
Why This Is A True Aviators Airplane
I have touch on these areas a bit but it should be very clear about exactly why this is a "true" aviators aircraft and if there is anything you do or don't take from the manual, it's the all important features below. I felt the need to highlight these features as these aspects are exactly what will rule your experience with the Comanche and why that Accu-Sim title sets this aside from anything else in your collection. This also furthers my point about how you can truly "learn" from this addon.
Persistent Aircraft Every time you load up your Accu-Sim Comanche 250, you will be flying the continuation of the last aircraft which includes fuel, oil along with all of your system conditions. So be aware, no longer will your aircraft load with full fuel every time, it will load with the same amount of fuel you left off when you quit your last flight. You will learn the easy or the hard way to make, at the very least, some basic checks on your systems before jumping in and taking off, just like a real aircraft owner. Additionally, in each flight things will sometimes be different. The gauges and systems will never be exactly the same. There are just too many moving parts, variables, changes, etc., that continuously alter the condition of the airplane, its engine and its systems. NOTE: Signs of a damaged engine may be lower RPM (due to increase friction), or possibly hotter engine temperatures.
Sounds Generated by Physics Microsoft's FSX and Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, like any piece of software, has its limitations. Accu-Sim breaks this open by augmenting the sound system with our own, adding sounds to provide the most believable and immersive flying experience possible. The sound system is massive in this Accu-Sim Comanche 250 and includes engine sputter / spits, bumps and jolts, body creaks, engine detonation, runway thumps, and flaps, dynamic touchdowns, authentic simulation of air including buffeting, shaking, broken flaps, primer, and almost every single switch or lever in the cockpit is modeled. Most of these sounds were recorded from the actual aircraft and this sound environment just breaks open an entirely new world. However, as you can see, this is not just for entertainment purposes; proper sound is critical to creating an authentic and believable flying experience. Know that when you hear something, it is being driven by actual system physics and not being triggered when a certain condition is met. There is a big difference, and to the simulation pilot, you can just feel it.
Gauge Physics Each gauge has mechanics that allow it to work. Some gauges run off of engine suction, gyros, air pressure, or mechanical means. The RPM gauge may wander because of the slack in the mechanics, or the gyro gauge may fluctuate when starting the motor, or the gauge needles may vibrate with the motor or jolt on a hard landing or turbulent buffet. The gauges are the windows into your aircraft’s systems and therefore Accu-Sim requires these to behave authentically.
Landings Bumps, squeaks, rattles, and stress all happens in an aircraft, just when it is taxiing around the ground. Now take that huge piece of lightweight metal and slam it on the pavement. It’s a lot to ask of your landing gear. Aircraft engineer’s don’t design the landing gear any more rugged than they have too. So treat it with kid gloves on your final approach. Kiss the pavement. Anything more is just asking too much from your aircraft. Accu-Sim watches your landings, and the moment your wheels hit the pavement, you will hear the appropriate sounds (thanks to the new sound engine capabilities). Slam it on the ground and you may hear metal crunching, or just kiss the pavement perfectly and hear just a nice chirp or scrub of the wheels. This landing system part of Accu-Sim makes every landing challenging and fun.
Your Aircraft Talks A2A has gone to great lengths to bring the internal physics of the airframe, engine, and systems to life. Now, when the engine coughs, you can hear it and see a puff of smoke. If you push the engine too hard, you can also hear signs that this is happening. Just like an actual pilot, you will get to know the sounds of your aircraft, from the tires scrubbing on landing to the stresses of the airframe to the window that is cracked opened. The key to successfully operating almost any aircraft is to stay ahead of the curve and on top of things. Aircraft are not like automobiles, in the sense that weight plays a key role in the creation of every component. So, almost every system on your aircraft is created to be just strong enough to give you, the pilot, enough margin of error to operate safely, but these margins are smaller than those you find in an automobile. So, piloting an aircraft requires both precision and respect of the machine you are managing. It is important that you always keep an eye on your oil pressure and engine temperature gauges. On cold engine starts, the oil is thick and until it reaches a proper operating temperature, this thick oil results in much higher than normal oil pressure. In extreme cold, once the engine is started, watch that oil pressure gauge and idle the engine as low as possible, keeping the oil pressure under 100psi.
I quickly go through the motions of inspecting the aircraft including the maintenance hangar. Just because A2A delivered it doesn't mean they delivered it in tip top shape. Any pilot with half a brain should know not to trust A2A in this aspect. Perform due diligence with Accu-Sim products every time no matter what. 20 minutes I had my clearance and was airborne. And yeah, it needed oil and plug replacements.
This time we go up to 5,000 feet, level off, set the power at 23 inches and 2500 rpm, and trim for level flight. She quickly accelerates to 162 knots. The control forces are light and responsive and the airplane feels solid. I look around the cockpit and get the feeling of roominess and comfort that tells me taking trips in this airplane in real life would be a pleasure. The flight is very short with both tanks at half capacity. Far more than I need for this trip so I do a little air-work, slow flight, some more stalls, and find no surprises. I then proceed to Shorham for a couple touch & go's remaining in the pattern. Okay, they weren't all as bad as yesterday's but not great either. At least this time I remembered to move the gear lever to the down position. I dropped it in a couple of times with a little thump, but the gear is forgiving and no damage was done. I think the trick would be in flying this airplane a lot, something that you wouldn't have to twist my arm to do. A2A nailed this thing and in my personal book, it's the very best addon they have ever conceived. I know many would argue with me especially among the Mustang and Stratocruser fans but to each his own I guess. On the last go I rocket back up to 3,000 and shot back out over the Channel.
Returning to the field, the Comanche needs to be slowed to 130 knots before plopping the gear and 110 knots for flaps. The Comanche pitches nose down as the gear is lowered - easily countered by a small turn of the trim handle. Furthermore, there's a noticeable braking effect. Flap extension provokes even less trim change. Approach speed at gross weight and no flap is 92 knots, 85 with 15 degrees of flap and just under 80 with full flap. 85 knots and full flap is perhaps a happy combination and with a gentle flare the aircraft sits down nicely with little tendency to float. I taxi up to the main building where the art deco makes the Comanche feel right at home.
Do you know what you are doing? Because you either get this right and follow correct procedures or go fly something else because if not, you and your aircraft will fail. Alternatively, you don't know what you are doing? Wonderful. This is a perfect tool to learn with.
In the end, it all comes together. If you have ever wondered what it's truly like to own an aircraft of your own, A2A's Accu-Sim product line is as close anyone will get to the real thing with today's in-home technology. The downside to the Comanche is it's not as fun to fly as I thought it would be. Her sleek lines and sportscar-esque appearance really screams "fly me! I'm fun!" But in reality, it actually turned my simulator into a sort of a mini sweatbox. And for those of you who don't know what sweatboxes are, ask any commercial pilot to explain it to you. I have logged some hours in the G450 sweatbox and I can tell you, it's all fun and games till something goes wrong and if you are not on your game with the A2A Comanche... well like I said. A sweatbox. But this is not a bad thing. What I have realized is, this is not going to be my go-to addon to screw around and have fun with and it most certainly will not be used for many group flights. That's what my Carenado, Alabeo, and RealAir toys are for. This addon is about making me a better pilot and pissing off the complacency that tends to rule my experiences in the sim at home.
This addon is not for those who just want to screw around. But if you are truly willing to learn, this product will teach you. And if you are already a seasoned pilot holding your PPL, this aircraft is the perfect stand in on those closed airfield days. After taking up A2A's C172 and Cherokee respectively, I know what it's like to really handle those dog's. But the Comanche is in a class of her own. I am saddened Piper shut the line down after the flood. I can only imagine what this lovely girl could have evolved into. But no matter, she holds her own even in the year 2015 and remains a force to be reckoned with. There are so many more features this addon is equipped with that I really wanted to go into. But this review I think is quite long enough and besides, these are things you are best discovering all on your own and believe me, there is much more to discover. You are going to have a great time discovering this airplane.
The miscellaneous addons included in this review are as follows:
- A2A PA-24 Comanche
- REX 4 Texture Direct
- LHSimulations Győr-Pér Airport
- White Digital Simulations MBS Airport
- 29Palms Twentynine Palms Airport
- Alabeo C207
- Orbx Elstree Airport
- Orbx Damyns Hall Aerodrome
- Orbx Shoreham Airport
- Orbx FTX England
- Orbx FTX Global & Vector
- The airport featured in the comic is Orbx Orcas Island Airport
- The airport featured in the title image is Orbx Sedona Airport
- Historical data provided by our friends at planecheck.com all content used with permission.
Are you ready to take on an adventure of your own? Visit your local Air2Air dealership today and prepare yourself for an experience like nothing before. I'm 3 green, and i'm out!