FSX/P3D.  Flying has always been my passion and Flight Simulator is one big part of that passion. In fact, flight simulation is one of the primary reasons I consider responsible for my decision to take on real world flight training. It's a love that manifested and has existed since 1995 when I received three 1.5 inch floppy disks containing the so perfect "as real as it can get" FS5.0. What was that!? Perfection! I was amazed with all the technology back then and started using FS heavily to assist me with IFR training and parallel to my interest in real world aviation, I was always keeping myself up to date in the world of simulated aviation. I even did some basic sceneries and airplanes for FS98 and later versions and loved to see how things were improving on that segment by following newsletters, forums, etc. We had come to a point where, in my opinion, addons were not able to develop any further. FSX is the latest engine, and it's an old software platform already with quite a few limitations. No further development has taken place with FSX with the exception of P3D, which I’m really hoping to see a 64-bit version, which could truly become the Holy Grail to save us all. Time will tell. 

Being away from FSX for a while though, a couple of years ago I decided to try the famous 737NGX from PMDG which happens to be the aircraft I operated in the real world, and my gosh... that was a completely new world inside an old platform. Breaking the barrier between real and sim, it really got my attention in the same way Level-D and some other special addons did earlier. 

[Note: For format purposes, many images are cropped.  Click each image for full size resolution preview.]

However ... as a bush-flying and general aviation lover, I felt like FS was always lacking some REAL GOOD small airplanes. A "PMDG’s” or ”LEVEL-D’s" state of the art for general aviation. Something we could fly in those wonderful ORBX sceneries and forget about the so common ”it's a FSX limitation", or "there's nothing we can do about it, it's Microsoft's fault" kind of argument.
Something I had given up hoping would ever be truly represented, were three basic things flightsim never managed to have correctly represented when compared to real world flying:

  • Rudder physics
  • Propeller physics
  • Mixture operation on piston engines

If you ever managed to pilot a real aircraft after a  long time flightsimming, you know what I'm talking about. Rudder use and engine physics would have to be learned (re-learned) from scratch. These three elements are fundamental to a correct flight simulation experience and always a complete mess since the beginning of FS. I have never seen anyone come out and say anything different from the usual "that's an FS limitation, blame it on Microsoft". Well, somehow, A2A guys nailed it. I have no idea how. What they did internally or externally, but I can assure you that finally we can spread the word: THIS IS HOW A REAL AIRCRAFT should react. And I will try to explain why in this review. 

My name is Rafael Henrique Carelli a real world 737NG type rated airline captain and today, we are taking the A2A Accu-Sim Cessna 182 beauty for a spin (literally) between Joinville (SBJV) and Sao Paulo (SBSP), in my home country: Brazil. Seat belts please. 


Initial Thoughts and Engine Start

Starting cold and dark here, I will briefly talk about the menu and A2A's options. The options we have INSIDE the sim are just wonderful! You can change several things on the fly including the presence of the pilot and passenger (with instant visual changes), baggage and fuel load, and instrument panel options. In the 182, we can choose between the basic Cessna standard Directional Gyro and the slaved HSI KI525A from Bendix King (a very good and reliable piece of avionics equipment). We can then, choose between several GPS options, with additional add-ons like the wonderful RXP's Garmin's GNS 530/430 (FSX only), Mindstar's GNS and Flight1's GTN series avionics units. (the last two also works in P3D). Of course, you can also choose between the FS default GNS400, a portable 295, and a non-GPS equipped panel. I will use the GNS530 from RealityXP for today's flight.

On the first window, you will see the Pilot’s Note section. Here you can access  information like actual estimations and power settings (the type of note we would leave on a plane’s sun visor for quick reference for example). You can also check cabin temperature and how it reacts directly to environmental factors such as weather (or outside temperature) as well as how you operate the ventilation controls. There is also some limitations notes and normal checklists.

Let’s take a look at the Controls window. Here, we can basically control all aircraft features such as external controls, doors, all electric and ventilation controls, internal / external lightning,  HSI and GPS options, cold & dark, auto-start, volume, yoke visualization, cowl flaps controls, and a nice tow feature that allows you to “manually” tow the C182 with your joystick.

Following this, there is the Payload and Fuel Manager, a feature that I LOVE in A2A’s planes. It's simple to use and it changes all settings in real time.  For this flight, we will have two people on board, 200 liters of fuel, and 27Kgs of baggage. Total of 193 Kgs of payload with 61% of fuel tanks filled.

Above you will see the MAP window where you can access a better than the default FSX Map feature in case you still get lost with all those avionics.

The Quick Radios window. The name speaks for itself.


The Maintenance Hangar

Ohh now this is just a sweet feature of A2A and it’s wonderful how you can control everything concerning your aircraft with this option. Opening this window on ground (although you can bypass and open it during flight) you can change battery and tire types, use an engine heater, choose between using wheel fairings, flaps seals, and there is also a two propeller option, which I personally find “not beautiful”. Inside the “engine options”, you can choose between three types of oil and additives, different spark plugs, and fix any broken item including the ability to perform a compressor test. Cool! These options truly bring “life” to a FS airplane, letting you literally manage and operate it accordingly to the means you would if you owned the actual aircraft.

Now to the Preflight Inspection Window. Another neat feature of A2A. Here you can “walkaround” all aircraft items while really checking them. It’s a blast! I could not believe it when I realized I was able to pull the engine oil dipstick and check actual level AND COLOR depending on oil validity and engine use. How nice is that!?

Finally, the Away From Keyboard window, where you can pause the sim based on four options. This is really helpful on those long cross country missions enabling you to step away or enjoy a lunch while the engine roars on within the sim! Considering exterior inspection done, we jump in and fire it up! Bear in mind real engine operation. Starting accordingly and even doing everything OK, it may surprises you, especially in extreme conditions! Starting Lycomings, especially when hot, may be a pain sometimes! I've flown Piper Navajos a lot and those hot Lycomings would make you mad until you get the feeling of it. Cowl Flaps opened, master and beacon on, fuel pump on and mixture rich counting till 5, mixture cutoff, and engaging start, advancing mixture as we have engine start and throttle to 1000RPM, checking all other engine instruments. Leaning on ground to avoid fouling plugs, I then turn the NAV lights and avionics on. Now it’s time to check my GPS route and initial flight setup, including autopilot.

Runway in use for departure is 15, and we will perform the PNG1B departure, and after PNG NDB, airway W26 to NEGUS, then perform the ISISI 1B Arrival, to ILS 17R, sidestep to 17L. Flight will be done on FL090, so I set the AP to 9000, initial HDG bug to 148º which is the runway heading, and first radial to be intercepted on HSI (047º from JNV 115.10 VOR) and VOR2. This is how it should look when ready to taxi:


Taxiing

Taxi clearance is received and we slowly taxi to runway 15, while feeling the taxi characteristics of this plane. Perfect. You have to use a lot of differential brakes on tight turns, just like the real Cessna. You can also hear all taxi noises like pedal braking, throttle lever movements, taxiway bumps and even “feel” the plane vibrating.

On holding short, we’ll perform the BEFORE TAKEOFF CHECKLIST with engine checks. Please turn your volume up here! It’s when the accusim characteristics takes life! When reaching the 1800RPM mark, you do the mags check, if sparks plugs are fouled, it WILL drop and make a rough engine operation. You can clear it with higher power settings and proper leaning, or you may even need to change those plugs. Still with 1800RPM, we do the governor check and this is where accusim “raised the hair on my arms”. It’s a perfect propeller simulation! It drops perfectly and the sound is just GREAT, you don’t hear a “engine power drop” like other FS planes, instead, you can actually hear the air “uahing” (new verb here) while the blades are increasing and decreasing in pitch.

Out of the engine check scoop here, try to add full power and bring power back rapidly and back forth. You will hear all the “air sound” like if it was involving your cockpit and the propellers blades struggling to maintain a determined RPM you set while changing power rapidly. This is specially heard when flying and doing that rapid power changes, you will hear a “propeller overspeed” just like the real plane. It will pass shortly the maximum RPM and then come rapidly back to your propeller setting, because the oil takes some time to change the blade’s pitch. (This can damage propellers and engine components though). All this propeller variation and power changes are very well represented and the sounds of it are just amazing.

Lined up and ready on 15, while waiting for takeoff clearance, I do the final panel lightning adjustments. The lightning on this aircraft is a masterpiece. All Skylane’s individual controls are perfectly working, and lights up magnificently including gauges and the cabin. After takeoff, we will turn right to overhead the JNV VOR and fly outbound on radial 047. That’s when, established on that radial, I will set the HSI CDI to GPS and engage the autopilot on NAV mode.


Take Off

Clearance given, clocks go, adding full power gently and rotating at 60 kts (almost just releasing the stick), with 0 flaps, this plane really wants to fly! And it gives us a nice initial climb rate! Again, sounds here are incredible, you can notice all sounds working as they should, even the “ground reverb” is noticed vanishing when airborne. I WON’T get tired complimenting the sound work they did on this plane! A few notes on rudder here: USE IT. This is the first feature I stated earlier that I miss most in FS. It’s perfect in A2A’s Cessna 182. You will really need to work those feet, just like the real one! Single engine, with high performance engines and you’ll be kicking like hell! Rotating the plane and leaving the rudder “unattended” like you could do in other FS aircraft will make an awful rotation with nose drifting and wings rocking. Not good. Use the runway end as a visual cue when rotating, and keep the nose “that way”, maintaining wings level and after that, compensate for wind! Establishing initial climb at 80kts, I set the power now to 23 inches on MP (top of green mark) and RPM to 2400, and start turning right to overhead JNV VOR as high as possible, due to mountainous terrain northeast of the airport.

Climbing now at 90 Kts and around 800ft/m, always adding power as we climb (as this is not a turbo engine), I was able to easily clear the surrounding terrain and make my way to FL090. 

But … let’s stop our climb at 6000’ to get that blonde girl screaming! It’s time for some …


Maneuvers

First, go ahead and try out full rudder while holding wings level, bringing the plane to a sideslip. You will hear the wind rushing on the side fuselage, and this sound is directly related to airspeed.  

Now, a normal stall.

Autopilot off and keeping the plane level, while heading PNG, I brought the power back to idle and maintained 6000 until approaching the stall condition. Nose up until the horn sounds and the airplane started to swing and stalled. Nose down! Power up to recover and again, feet with it! Careful now when adding power and rudder inputs, not to get yourself in an ugly spin… which is what we’re performing later. You can feel the ailerons becoming almost unresponsive on such low airspeeds and care should be taken with large inputs on that condition as you can almost FEEL the airplane wanting to drop a wing here and there, almost begging for a spin! 

Special care should also be taken with abrupt power changes in low airspeed conditions, such as on final approach to a short field landing and adding power quickly. You MUST anticipate your actions, especially regarding rudder inputs. The torque here is flowing on the A2A’s 182 veins.  Now, let’s spin! (Which MUST be avoided at any cost, it’s not an approved maneuver, but it’s essential to know how to recover if you enter into one inadvertently one day). Nose up, power back  and when entering stall, full elevator up and full rudder right to enter a full stall condition. The plane rapidly enters a right spin with ground approaching quickly. Time to recover and stop that woman yelling. Full left rudder, neutral to nose down elevator and full power as we gently recover a nose up attitude, avoiding an over-g while pitching up.

Motion sick bags thrown to the back seats for any weezy passengers, panel cleaned, let’s proceed back in route and back in our climb to FL090.


Cruise

For results optimization, and review purposes, I cleared all weather to an ISA condition so I can state numbers clearly here. All of this must and will vary according to various weather conditions. This is where my third and so requested FS fix will take place: Engine Mixture and operation! Most FS aircraft (if not all) I’ve seen so far, had a kind of Fuel Flow acting like an EGT, sometimes increasing when you were decreasing mixture and worse, decreasing power after enriching above EGT peak. Horrible! Started by bringing props to a comfortable 2200 RPM, while full throttle is giving me something around 21” of Manifold Pressure. Cowl flaps retracted, trims set and let’s start mixture leaning.

Finding the peak and using the EGT reference marker is sometimes a pain, even in a real aircraft. Usually, you find the right numbers and after some time flying the same airplane, you will know its gallons numbers, and will set by that. Assuming I do not know (and I really don’t) the numbers on this 182, I found the peak and advanced to 125º rich of peak. This, according to the manual will give me the best power. Under these circumstances, the Skylane showed:

  • 128 Kts of IAS
  • 146 Kts of TAS (0 wind, so it’s the same as Ground Speed)
  • 13 GPH or 50 Lts/h

Pretty much what the real plane will do.  With ½ tank, it will give me more than 3 hours of endurance, no reserve. It is a nice cross-country plane indeed.
If you wish, now it’s a good opportunity to “play with the numbers”, try different power settings, dual propellers option, removing or adding fairings, and see what the plane will bring in terms of performance so you can find a way you like it better. Numbers here are pretty much what the manual states (and my memory recalls).  Try also closing and opening the cowl flaps and see how the CHT changes. It is beautiful! I’ve assigned some joystick buttons to control it easier and I suggest you to do so as well.


Descent and Approach

All set and checked in my FPL in GNS, I intend to fly on autopilot until intercepting the ILS. Therefore, I have to manually calculate the descent steps for the arrival’s altitude restrictions, and using the V/S it’s easy to comply with that. Our goal here is to stablish a comfortable 500ft/m descent while enriching and avoiding exceeding MP and airspeed limits, as the air gets “thicker”. The fix ISISI is a good point to start our descent, and we will go on cruise settings until there. This will also help avoid “jamming” the already crowded Sao Paulo terminal area.

Overhead IS (OM) and already flying manually on ILS, I started my reduction to final approach speed and under VMC, a left small sidestep to intercept a visual final to RWY17L. Adding flaps required some “pre-reaction” on pitch to counteract it’s lift increase. Feels perfect here also! I just hated when FS add-ons would just reduce airspeed and even instantly increase the rate of descent while applying flaps.


Flaring, and Floating and Landing

I felt in love in so many aspects with this addon but this one is special! Flaring and landing fells so perfect it reminded me my early days on little airplanes! It fells just right! No more, no less. I still remember when flying small Cessnas how fine and subtle the transition to a pitch attitude would be required during the flare, so you can touchdown main wheels first. It is very easy to touchdown “three-point” or even nosewheel first (and this is not a good idea). Come a little “hot” and you can float forever. The Skylane is overall a very easy plane to handle and a true short field landing performer. However, you can easily overrun a 6000ft long runway if coming fast and leaving some power during the flare. Believe me, you will get the hand and felling of its flare and ideal attitude on landings by just … practicing! 

I’m landing with flaps at 20 degrees , and aiming for a THR crossing at 65 to 60 kts. The plane flies nicely and touches down with a reaaaally slow airspeed, allowing me to vacate on taxiway C with no braking at all. I can hear all it’s squeaks and rattles as it taxied down the runway, and even opening the cowl flaps has its sounds. Marvelous stuff!


After Landing, Final Thoughts & Night Shots

Following down the after landing procedures, raising the flaps, and shutting everything down, I was surprised by another marvelous sound feature: I could hear the engine hot metal contracting as it was cooling! Turn the volume up and you should hear those “clack” sounds. I could not believe my ears! A2A guys recreated this perfectly! This is an insane level of reality! Another highlight of this product: System Performance. It’s just normal. Almost no fps hits on my system (specified below) when compared to default aircraft. Maybe if they create (and I wish they do) some glass cockpit avionics like G1000 on future aircraft, we could then see performance hit, but the Skylane is a no frames eater.

Manuals and documentations are incredibly informative and easy to read. The avionics are so perfect that you refer to the actual factory manual to see how they work. Regarding the Pilot’s Manual, they use a nice approach and straightforward language, with a special touch of informal comments, operations clues and even historical data. It’s a pleasure to read! Another thing regarding the professionalism of the A2A team is that you can clearly see that their add-ons were create following real world tests and with flight annotations. There are plenty videos on the web showing how they did it, and with all their passion involved, the outcome couldn't be any different than this: Perfection.

Any cons?

No. NONE. 

I had (and lots of others users too) a little struggle after installation on making the elevator trim operation faster. It was excessively slow with my Saitek joystick. However, after some kind assistance on their support forums and even watching a video from Froogle on YouTube, I’ve got this issue solved. Well, maybe a request for a future update: I wish they could add a DME on that single GNS530 option, or the possibility of a rather common Dual GNS / GTN configuration, so we can have even more information and crossfill those units.

The A2A Accu-Sim C182 Skylane is a MUST HAVE addon for sure. If you don’t have it yet, believe me, it’s worth every penny. This is BY FAR, the most perfect addon ever created for FSX in my opinion. It has heart and physics. Maybe that’s because the creators put theirs into it!

Purchase your experience direct from A2A and start an adventure of your own today: https://www.a2asimulations.com/store/


Scenery used in review: 

SBJV – Joinville and SBSP – Congonhas from Paulo Ricardo and Rgons.
http://secure.simmarket.com/paulo-ricardo-fsx-mega-sao-paulo-fsx.phtml / http://www.terra-brasilis.org/brasil-sceneries/fsx/sul/588-fsx-aeroporto-de-joinvile-sbjv-by-rgons hotmaster@ig.com.br

29Palms Twentynine Palms: http://29palms-store.de/home/18-ktnp-twentynine-palms.html

System used in review:

Alienware M17x  i7-3940XM @ 4.2 Ghz / 2GB GDDR5 NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 680M / Corsair Vengeance 16GB Dual Channel DDR3 at 1866MHz (2DIMMS) / 2 x OCZ Vertex 4 SATA3 6Gb/s 512GB SSD / Windows 8 Pro, 64bit

The primary repaint used:

PR-BBO by Antonio Huergo: http://library.avsim.net/download.php?DLID=187603

About me:

Rafael Henrique Carelli (zazaboeing)
Brazilian, from Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Sao Paulo. Currently 737NG type rated airline captain. Real world aircraft I have piloted thus far: AB115, J3, Cessna 172, 182, 210, 310 RII, 525 Citation Jet, Piper PA31-310 and -350 Navajo, PA34 Seneca II, III and V, Beechcraft BE58 Baron, Boeing 737 and 767. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this aircraft as much as I have.

-Rafael