ADX FirstLook: PIPER PA-24 COMANCHE 250
[By E.K. Hoffen] Wow, where to even begin. I guess it would be best to start with the documentation. The manual for the A2A Comanche is many, many pages of reading. And in this large and verbose tome, I found my biggest complaint. Well, my only complaint really.
Besides the bloviation of the opening commentary, I have to take issue with the rather blatant bias of the authors of the Comanche over the Bonanza. I think the real Comanche 250 was/is a great airplane, but to bash the most popular complex general aviation aircraft ever produced is a bit over the top here. The first almost 30 pages of the manual for this plane feels like it is trying to explain why they think the Comanche is better in every way than its Beech competitor. In fact, the Comanche has some advantages over the smaller Bonanzas, but there is a reason after over 17,000 units later the Bonanza is still being produced.....granted, in a much advanced development as the G36. The flood of the Piper facility is given as the reason they stopped production of the Comanche, but the fact is the sales of the type was on the decline, so Piper elected to discontinue the model rather than repair the tooling. If it was still a money-maker, they would have kept building them.....like the other models.
The Bonanza didn't get to be the longest continuously produced airplane in history(since 1947!) by being inferior. The saying "it flies like a Piper" is not really a compliment.....but if one says "it flies like a Beechcraft" then it most definitely is.
I know the guys behind A2A own a Comanche, but come on man, dial back the gushing Comanche love-fest. The manual comes across as over-compensation or something.
Having said all that, I do think the real Comanche was arguably the best handling all-metal aircraft Piper ever produced. Just my opinion.....I'd love to own a Comanche 400 if I had a fat trust fund or some other source of unlimited funds. That beastie IO-720 requires much gas and attention. But, wow......400hp in a Comanche. Zoom, zoom. Maybe an expansion pack?
Okay, rant over......This is really about how A2A did reproducing the PA-24-250. Did I find something else to complain about? Not really. If I was trying to nitpick I could point out that the seats don't move back and forth or something like that....big deal. Hmmm.......maybe the textures aren't quite as good as Carenado? Oh, one thing that happened to me was the rotating beacon stayed on when the master was turned off. That's it. Everything else was as perfect as I could hope for. Even more than I hoped for. In fact, if you are reading this, stop now and go buy it. It can be downloading it while you finish this write-up. Really, get it.
I started out at South Lake Tahoe (Orbx's KTVL) on a clear, late afternoon. I loaded it up and started it up like I do with any add-on, intending to take off toward San Carlos, CA. I quickly found out one has to treat this plane as you would a real world aircraft. I didn't do a preflight or check my gauges after start....and I either had no oil or some other problem because after idling for a bit getting ready to go, the engine started to slow down and I noticed I had no oil pressure just as my engine seized. Huh. Lesson leart. If I have damage on and the realism turned up, I'd better be serious about it.
First, lets plan the trip. I like to use skyvector.com for most of my FSX flight planning. Free, easy to use flight planning, worldwide coverage for VFR/IFR enroute charts, and even approach charts and airport information for all US airports. Outstanding website. I can't recommend it enough. Here is my planned route:
Of course, in real life there is more to planning, including checking weather, NOTAMs, and TFRs....etc. But, I'm not going to worry about all that here.
After fixing my destroyed engine with a major overhaul, I got down to brass tacks and did it right. A full preflight, using the checklist, was in order.
Most preflight checklists start in the cockpit, but the real start of a good preflight starts as you approach the aircraft....look at the overall condition of the airplane including how it's sitting on the ramp. Does it lean to one side? Is it's nose sitting low? If it is doing any of these things, it could indicate a flat tire or even a flat strut. Are all the big pieces attached? Don't laugh, I've heard stories of "pilots" trying to start planes with no engine....and other strange things which could be rather embarrassing if overlooked....or deadly. It can be a life-saver to get the big picture. If everything looks normal, jump in and grab the checklist. Now it's just a matter of carefully running down the items on the list. You should make it a personal policy to never skip forward on a checklist, too easy to forget to go back and recheck.
Once the items inside are completed, we can move outside and make sure the little bits are attached to the big parts we already checked earlier.