JustFlight’s PA-28R Arrow III review

A full review of one of the best GA ever built for X-Plane, to know the “Arrow” thourughly with the contribute of our pilot Francesco Biondi.

Premise: this review comes from the cooperation of Tommaso Felici (IFR systems, textures, 3D model, documentation, sound) and Francesco Biondi (Licensed Private Pilot) who spent a lot of time in similar aircrafts and in testing the PA-28 in X-Plane 11

 

Slideshow

The PA-28R Arrow III is a single pilot low wing light aircraft, with retractable gear and a variable pitch three blade propeller, powered by a Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 200HP engine.

The JustFlight model is capable of night IFR in non-icing conditions as it’s equipped to stratify all the night IFR requirements, while doesn’t have the anti-ice system.

Indeed the aircraft is equipped with the following systems:

  • KMA20 – Audio Control System
  • GNS530 – GPS with COM1/NAV1 Management
  • KX175B – COM2/NAV2 Radio (no standby frequency)
  • KT76A – Mode A+C Transponder
  • KN62A – DME Module
  • KR85 – ADF Module
  • Piper Autocontrol III B – Single Axis Autopilot (Roll Only)

(The last point, in particular for IFR pilots, means that you’ll have to control the pitch of the aircraft manually during the whole flight. That’s why it’s recommended to plan all the performance, routes and operations before flight, instead of taking risks during critical phases.)

This analog equipment, as said, make the aircraft suitable for IFR flying as per current regulations.

An important note if you want to perform IFR with this aircraft is that it’s not equipped with an RMI (Radio Magnetic Indicator) or an HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), that makes thing a little bit trickier, but it’s very good for training.

Since this is not a high performance aircraft, it’s recommendable to fly it for VFR and VFR/Night flying and short/medium IFR flying and for training on VFR/IFR and retractable gear with variable pitch propeller.

Flight model (fully examined by Francesco Biondi)

Since I’ve started my real flight training I’m a little bit demanding when testing out GA planes in X-Plane and, unfortunately, most of them have serious problems with the flight model that makes them fun to fly but that makes impossible performing in the simulator some of the maneuvers that are performed in the real world, in addition in most cases engine performance and responses to commands are way different in the sim than in the real world.

So, one of the first thing I do when I try out a new plane is to attempt to perform such maneuvers in the sim and see how the aircraft behaves. Before we go deeper in the JustFight PA-28 review I have to say that all the maneuvers were successfully reproduced in the sim with this plane, and it’s the first time for me.

When JustFlight delivered this plane to us at Tom’s Cockpit I took it for a 4 hours flight where I both tried VFR and IFR flying and performed all the maneuver I’m now going to list

I’ve tried a lot of maneuvers, here’s the list:

  • IFR navigation with VOR and NDB
  • DME Arch
  • ILS approach
  • 1G Stall and Recovering
  • Side-Slip (Fast Descent)
  • Turns with 45 and 60 degrees of bank
  • Parameters maintenance during slow flying and flap excursion
  • Engine Failure Gliding

I Will start talking from the last one, which is the one who gave me most excitement and surprise.

I’ve intentionally switched off the engine to simulate an engine failure and to better simulate the related glide. The engine has to be switched off with an angle of attack very close to stall to make sure the propeller actually stops.
And… it happened the same way it did in the real world. And there it’s the surprise for me. Just one world sound.

When the engine is off in a aircraft it becomes a glider and the only sound you hear very loudly is the air/relative wind sliding on the surfaces, it’s a very particular sound that I only heard once during my training and that I will never forget and it was an incredible surprise for me to find this sound in the simulator thanks to JustFlight’s PA28. It was just amazing. Anyway, the gliding performances were absolutely realistic even if different from the aircraft I actual fly on (significant weight difference in real world). Test Passed!

Then I performed an emergency fast decent called Side-Slip.

This maneuver consists of giving the aircraft a full left/right pedal and at the same time giving rolling in the other direction. This makes the aircraft decent at crazy descent rates WITHOUT increasing your speed. It’s very useful, but unfortunately, not each aircraft in x-plane is capable of reproducing this correctly.

The PA28 surprisingly was and immediately returned me the same feeling (attitude and behavior, of course not physical feedback) of the real aircraft I fly. That was unexpected and insane.

Another training maneuver performed were 1G stalls.
Stalls are not rare to be seen working on x-plane models, so nothing extraordinary here, they were performed correctly, and the aircraft recover was within limits for powered/non-powered recover. Something I noticed is that buffeting feeling is not noticeable: you will hear only the stall warning and then the stall itself. It’s not a big deal as even in real world it’s not easy to be noticed and it’s a lot based on physical feelings that can’t be reproduced on x-plane.

One of the maneuvers I love doing in real life is accentuated/steep turn (45/60 degrees).
They work on all x-plane products, but not everyone responds fully realistically. This did, the maneuver gave me the same attitude feeling of the real one.

Parameter maintenance at low speed during flap excursion is a great training exercise that is not possible every time in x-plane due to some aircrafts have too accentuated reaction during flap excursion as result of not tuned flight model. Of course, the PA-28 had no problem.

I can understand those maneuvers description can be boring but are a great way of checking how accurate and aircraft is (of course paying attention to real aircraft differences that makes aircrafts naturally behave a little bit differently).

Flight model mark: 10/10

Design (fully examined by Tommaso Felici)

I flew on a couple of real PA-28, and the thing I like most into the cockpit is the leatherette coverage.
It’s just a great feeling touching it while setting up instruments. It lets you feel welcome in the aircraft as it’s not cold as plastic used in liners or in many other airplanes out there.

That’s the reason why, the very first thing I run the Piper on X-Plane to take a quick look at it I was wondered. Just look at the way the cockpit and the leatherette reflects the sun light coming into the aircraft through the windshields…

The level of detail is outstanding also in the rest of the cockpit, even in places where you don’t usually look to.

The internal 3D model is well done, you don’t feel the cockpit too large or small such in other planes, and the idea is always that you’re flying a light plane. And the pilot view is perfect to try every real situation.

The external 3D model is perfect as well.
The textures are both well done and easy to edit for who fancy having his own livery.

Instead of many other planes the textures are done in Portable Network Graphic format (.png) that it’s less compressed than the .dds.
You can think that this could lead to a loss of performance, but as the FPS are really high on this model, it’s right to choose a bit more of detail.

The reflection effect is not too strong, meaning that you still see the pleasant effect of the shiny metal, without the annoying mirror effect.
And since the PA-28 is not so recent, it’s a realistic portrait of how the fuselage looks in real life.

Although the design is almost perfect, I still have some difficulties in reading all the writings in the cockpit (especially warning lights), even at high rendering settings.
But that’s not a big deal at all.

Design mark: 9.5/10

Systems (examined by Tommaso Felici and Francesco Biondi)

The aircraft is very stable and is very enjoyable to be flown manually as its trim system is easy to use and stable as well.  The only difficulty you will face is to maintain the aircraft in coordinated flight (black ball centered) if you don’t have hardware rudder pedals, but once the flight is stable and the cruise speed is reached it will align its self as an effect of fixed trim bar, just like real aircrafts without electrical rudder trim. Nothing more to add, just try yourself.

Systems are very accurate, some of them are installed also on the aircraft I fly, like the transponder, and the behavior is just perfect as well as the other instruments.

One thing I love on this aircraft is the fully functional circuit breaker panel, so that you can simulate, for training, the failure of some equipment.

Also the IFR equipment is really useful for training purpose, as this plane doesn’t fly like liners or bigger regional props, it’s perfect for beginners to train with basic IFR navigation.

The autopilot works really smoothly in every mode of navigation (NAV, OMNI, HDG, LOC NORM, LOC REV) and the absence of vertical control make it just more challenging to fly for who is used to jets, but once you get into it it will be fun to fly, especially during the approach phase as you have the indicator showing where the glide path is, but you have to follow it on you own.

And with this plane you are feeling every variation of the wind, so be quick reacting on the yoke/pedals to land it safely.

The radio systems are fully available and really well designed.
Just one advice, remember that the course must be set on the VOR/ILS indicator, not on the DIRECTION INDICATOR as in a lot of X-Plane aircrafts.

It’s compatible with GTN-750 that will really ehnance the experience on board.

System mark: 10/10

Sound (examined by Tommaso Felici)

Sounds are just like what you would expect from the other part of the review.

Into the cockpit the sounds are really realistic, even the fuel pump effect while changing tank on the fuel selector is fully simulated.

Of course the aircraft is equipped with 3D sounds, and it’s good to move around the cockpit to change view and listen to how the sound change.

Again, the experience is almost perfect, even though I felt too much difference between external and internal sounds in terms of volume.

Sound mark: 9/10

Documentation (examined by Tommaso Felici)

The aircraft comes with two main .pdf manuals, a paintkit, the changelog and an archive dedicated to the custom GPS. All inside the “DOCUMENTATION” folder.
You really can’t forget to open and read.

The main manual is not from the original aircraft (I personally love the original manuals), but it’s full of references (even pictures) that are critically useful to identify and find the right instruments and dials and to learn their name.

After reading the main manual you won’t get any doubt in terms of what the aircraft is actually capable to do, because everything is well understandable.

It features the extended list of normal and emergency procedures, so I recommend to learn the normal while taking a look at the possible simulated emergencies.

The second manual is derived from the original performance tables to calculate the optimal set-up for every phase of your flight.
You may spend some minutes understanding how to check the tables.

It’s not really usual to find such documentation to calculate the critical speeds and take off/landing run for GA aircrafts in X-Plane, so, once again, hats off to JustFlight.

Documentation mark: 10/10

Conclusions

To conclude I have to admit that I had undervalued the potential of the JustFlight model of this aircraft till now, otherwise I would have bought it ages ago! Everything is just as it should without too much graphical only and not useful features, it goes directly to the true core of the plane.
What else should I add? Would I recommend it? Yes, of course. Will I use it? It will became for sure my number one GA aircraft for X-Plane for its category right now. Now it’s up to you, if you think you like it just grab it here!

Special thanks to JustFlight and its press team for providing us this review copy, they were so nice and friendly with us. Thank you a lot guys, you’re awesome!As a side note I would like to ensure that even if we’re thankful to JustFlight for providing the copy, this review it’s not influenced by this, it’s the aircraft that is truly valuable, try yourself!

TOTAL MARK: 9.6/10

Specifications: the plane has been flown by the following machines: Francesco’s one (Intel i5 3.2 GHz, GTX750ti 2GB) and Tommaso’s one (Intel i5 3.2 GHz, GTX1050Ti 4GB). Both featuring X-Plane 11 and X-Vision. Plane version: 1.5.1 (last available)

 

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