Piper Aircraft need no introduction in the general aviation category, placed alongside Cessna and Beechcraft as the "Big Three" manufacturers in this category. The Piper PA-28 model series is extensive in both its production run and variants, and it rivals the Cessna 172 Skyhawk and 182 Skylane model ranges in both popularity and production numbers. Primarily used for personal use, flight training, and air taxi services, the Piper PA-28 has been produced in staggering numbers and is one of the most, if not the most, successful Piper Aircraft offering in the general aviation category.
It has been well over 12 months since we saw Just Flight return to the "in house" development of aircraft add-ons. In an earlier review, some 12 months ago, I expressed the view that I thought this was a positive move for Just Flight, and the success of products produced since then certainly vindicate that decision. Just Flight have already released two other aircraft add-ons in the PA-28 model series, the PA-28R Arrow III and PA-28R Turbo Arrow III/IV. The PA-28-161 Warrior II compliments these aircraft nicely and even after a cursory glance, not only does it look to be another great Just Flight product, but it exhibits all the trademarks of strong improvements in model detail and quality since Just Flight took control of development again.
The Piper PA-28 model series is a single engine, low wing monoplane, in the general aviation aircraft category. The series shares a common basic fuselage design with the major differences being engine size, fixed or retractable tricycle landing gear, minor fuselage stretches, wing design and empennage design changes, and the more typical increases to gross weight. Powered by Lycoming and Continental series engines in various sizes, the PA-28 model series has seating positions for up to four.
Designed as a less expensive alternative to the larger and faster PA-24 Comanche series, the PA-28 Cherokee, as it was known in its initial variant, was also aimed at competing more directly with the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Its first flight was on 14 January 1960 with FAA certification occurring later that year. With production beginning in 1961, the PA-28 quickly became popular for personal use, flight training, and in the air taxi role. To say the PA-28 series has been a success story is nothing short of a gross understatement with the model being in continuous production since 1961. With nothing short of 25 model variants produced since introduction, production has exceeded over 32,000, with variants also being built under licence in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
The Just Flight PA-28-161 Warrior II is currently available direct from Just Flight and Just Flight resellers as a download only product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is normally priced at £27.99, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 750MB and it requires 2GB of HDD space for installation. The installation process requires you to log in to your Just Flight account to verify the product and the installation process is intuitive and seamless. Note. Whilst this is a P3D specific product, a separate product version is available for FSX.
A fully featured demo model of the PA-28-161 Warrior II is also available from the product page. This demo model is time limited to 10 mins of flying time and 1,500 ft AGL. Whilst not tested, the demo model affords prospective buyers with the chance to investigate the product prior to purchase. It is important to note that this demo model MUST BE UNINSTALLED prior to the installation of the full product.
Just Flight have put a great deal of effort into making their "in house" offerings rich in features and the PA-28-161 Warrior II is no exception. The level of additional detail in the aircraft systems is a stand out feature providing additional focus and attention for the general aviation flight simmer who is looking for more depth and immersion in their flying without over taxing the enjoyment. The aircraft has all the usual features expected of add-ons today and a full list of these is available on the Just Flight product page.
The major features listed include:high quality 3D model with 4096 x 4096 high definition textures;
General Overview. Like its contemporaries, the PA-28-161 Warrior II is unmistakable in design and its Piper lineage. With an aim of designing a less expensive aircraft than existing Piper offerings, the PA-28-161 Warrior II exudes simplicity in design with functional form and fit for its intended market. There is nothing outstanding in the PA-28's appearance, and it is this basic appearance which underscores its popularity as an aircraft for personal use and flight training – it is the epitome of the family sedan of light aircraft. The PA-28-161 Warrior II was produced from the late 1970s and visually differed from earlier models by a change to a tapered wing design. Just Flight have nicely captured the Piper's simple design philosophy in their modelling of the PA-28-161 Warrior II.
Exterior. The PA-28-161 Warrior II has somewhat of a box shape to the cabin area of the fuselage, with a very angled front windscreen and rounding across the roof area. The fuselage then tapers gradually back to the empennage, a feature which gives the aircraft the appearance of the rear cabin being cramped for space. The forward cabin windows are reasonably generous in size but, again, the rear windows taper in size commensurate with the tapering of the fuselage and appear overly small, affording a restrictive view. The wings have a distinct dihedral with a fixed landing gear and thick camber. This gives the wing a very solid appearance and depending on the view perspective, can sometimes make the wing look disproportionately large for the aircraft's fuselage length. If nothing else, this gives the impression that the aircraft is of solid construction and has good glide characteristics.
Interior. Modelled on the standard interior configuration for the PA-28-161 Warrior II, entry to the cabin is via the single cabin door on the front passenger side, with two single rear passenger seats and a luggage storage space behind these seats. The front cabin windows are large enough to afford good views, however, even though the rear windows are reasonably large, the tapering of the fuselage and seat position provide more restrictive views. The quality of the cabin texturing is excellent and evident in the seam stitching on the seating and seat belts, and with realistic looking seating, carpet, and side panels displaying natural wear and tear.
Flight Instruments and Avionics. The cockpit of the PA-28-161 Warrior II represents the typical layout for the PA-28 series and production era. It is simple and functional, with standard analogue flight instruments which are supplemented with the Garmin GNS 100 GPS unit. Just Flight's modelling of the cockpit is simply outstanding with the 3D modelling and texturing providing brilliant depth of field and perspective. This gives the cockpit a look and feel which is not just realistic but which adds to the immersive environment. The general wear marks displayed around the cockpit panel look natural for the age of the aircraft and add a further touch of realism to the look and feel of the cockpit.
Aircraft Systems. An extra level of realism is added to the flying experience with the excellent aircraft systems feature on the PA-28-161 Warrior II. The functioning carburettor and primer controls, electrical system with functional circuit breakers, and the various failures provides that added level of immersive flying and ensures you will be kept busy checking that the aircraft is fully maintained and functioning correctly. Failure to keep a watchful eye on the cockpit oil gauges could have some embarrassing consequences as will flying the aircraft outside the defined performance parameters for the engine. The flight computer is a very handy tool on those long cross country flights and interactive check-lists feature really enhances this add-on. Seriously consider reading the manual or you might find yourself missing the added benefit of these features or simply getting frustrated.
Models and Liveries. The PA-28-161 Warrior II is provided in a single model with seven individual liveries (a selectrion only shown below). Each aircraft has a unique aircraft registration number and there is an additional blank texture for aircraft painting enthusiasts. Displaying high quality, the surface textures, reflections, and shadings, along with additional scuff marks, scrape effects, dirt, oil, and grease stains, give each aircraft a realistic appearance.
Summary, Issues, and Variations. Just Flight's rendition of the PA-28-161 Warrior II is highly detailed and accurate, the visual quality is outstanding, and it provides a faithful representation of the real world aircraft. The modelling of the aircraft systems and additional features, such as the interactive check-lists, are excellent and provide an additional level of realism. Most elements of the cockpit in the Virtual Cockpit are clear and easy to read, with the typical range of various alternative cockpit camera views to provide more detailed clarity. This is particularly so of the Garmin GNS 100 GPS unit in the Virtual Cockpit view which loses clarity unless viewed at high zoom levels or via the alternate view. A range of 2D pop-ups are also available for some panel elements, and these include the default Garmin GNS 500 GPS unit which is not represented in the Virtual Cockpit view, however I found these to be inferior and, in most instances, only partial representations of the represented instrument. Nonetheless, they provide an additional source of views and the default GPS provides comfort for those not familiar with navigating with the aircraft's native instruments. One other issue with the cabin was the "ownership" plate on the cabin door. This plate proudly displays the aircraft registration, owner, and home airfield, only problem, it is the same regardless of the livery selected. A nice attempt at the finer detail, but also an oversight which detracts from the attention to detail in the model. Overall, with the texture resolution set at 2048 x 2048, the texture quality was excellent. Any noted visual variations were minor and are considered to be related to real world production variations or a degree of artistic licence on the part of the developer. Any noted issues and variations with cockpit functions and operation were considered minor and / or in the interests of simplifying the function for practical flight simulator use.
The animations of the primary and secondary control surfaces and other moving elements on the PA-28-161 Warrior II are all modelled faithfully and include:
primary control surfaces – ailerons, elevator, and rudder;
secondary control surfaces – flaps;
others – engine vibration, elevator trim tab, cabin door, baggage compartment door, cockpit window, and visors, and
various static elements.
A noted exception to the control surface animation was the operation of the rudder trim. Whilst setting the rudder trim to its maximum left and right settings produced the expected yaw result, including the secondary effect of aileron roll, there was no visible deflection from centre on the control surface. Having noted this, and after discussing this with a real world chief flight instructor familiar with the Piper PA-28, it is possible that the expected deflection on the rudder is not sufficiently noticeable within the resolution of model. For the time being, the benefit of the doubt on this is given to Just Flight.
The lighting and lighting effects on the PA-28-161 Warrior II are good and provide a reasonable representation of the real world aircraft's cockpit lighting. However, the light switch for the instrument lights and the overhead cabin lighting are unrealistic in that they are not on independent switches. The engine sounds are a very good representation with a deep throaty burbling from idle through the full throttle range. They displayed excellent stereo separation with view movement in the Virtual Cockpit view and external views.
The general characteristics and performance specifications for the PA-28-161 Warrior II are provided in the table. This is based on data from the official PA-28-161 Warrior II Pilot Operating Handbook, data provided by Just Flight, and general research sources. Some of this data varies between sources and also may be an approximation due to variances in data and the specific aircraft modelled by Just Flight.
A specific Test Flight was conducted to test the flight performance of Just Flight's PA-28-161 Warrior II. The flight was conducted in clear weather with a full fuel load and the aircraft at maximum take-off weight (MTOW). A cruise altitude of 5,000 ft was adopted and the route distance was particularly chosen to provide a basis upon which to test the range characteristics of the aircraft.
The aircraft was easy to taxi. With the flaps set at 0°, aircraft rotation occurred at approximately 60 KIAS and the aircraft effortlessly lifted off the runway, with a climb out reasonably consistent with the performance specifications for the aircraft. Even though the PA-28-161 Warrior II only has a 160 hp engine, it is still reasonably agile and certainly sensitive and responsive to control inputs.
During cruise, a typical cruise power setting was established for cruise with a manifold pressure setting of 2,400 rpm, as per the manual. This cruise setting produced an average speed, fuel flow rate and an endurance which was slightly conservative compared with the performance tables and the characteristics of the aircraft. The Test Flight confirms the modelling of the aircraft for speed and range performance, whilst displaying minor variances to the performance characteristics provided in the manual, to be reasonably accurate.
Configured for landing, with full flaps, and trimmed for a descent rate of approximately 500 ft/min, the aircraft approach speed was approximately 65 KIAS and it touched down at approximately 55 KIAS, with a landing roll out comparable with the specifications for the aircraft.
In testing the accuracy of the instruments, based on the measured Test Flight, the speed indications on the airspeed indicator, were consistent with the averages measured. Additionally, when establishing a set rate of climb on the vertical speed indicator, the respective gain in altitude on the altimeter was achieved within the measured minute, and a standard rate turn was achieved within the measured two minute period using the turn coordinator.
The performance of Just Flight's PA-28-161 Warrior II was excellent in flight, displaying the expected general flight characteristics of this aircraft. The handling characteristics are very good, being agile and responsive to control inputs, and it is very steady once trimmed for level flight, or established on approach. Overall, the aircraft model displays an accurate rendition of the flight characteristics and a reasonable representation of the performance characteristics expected of the PA-28-161 Warrior II.
Two comprehensive manuals in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf), 78 pages and 18 pages respectively, are provided for the PA-28-161 Warrior II and they cover all necessary aspects for the operation of the aircraft including:
a guide to all aircraft systems,
emergency procedures, and
performance and operating data.
Initially I had reservations about the price, but these reservations were soon dispelled. With the PA-28-161 Warrior II, Just Flight have extended the flying experience well beyond just jumping in and flying, they have packed this aircraft add-on with a range of additional features and they have certainly upped the ante on the finished quality, particularly in the cockpit. Consequently, the value for money for the Just Flight PA-28-161 Warrior II is considered excellent.
The aircraft model performed excellently within the existing settings I have in P3D. I have most of my settings set very high and there was no need to make any adjustments. There was no discernible frame rate impact directly attributable to the Just Flight PA-28-161 Warrior II and P3D continued to perform smoothly.
This version of the Just Flight PA-28-161 Warrior II is for P3D only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:
Windows 10 / 8 / 7 / Vista / XP (32 or 64bit);
Lockheed Martin Prepar3D Flight Simulator (v1 / v2 / v3 / v4); and
2GHz or any Dual Core, 2GB RAM, 1GB graphics card, and 2GB available HDD space.
The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
Intel i7 990X Extreme 3.46GHz;
NVidia GTX980 G1 Gaming, 4GB, 1228/1329MHz;
12GB, Kingston DDR3, 2000MHz, XMP T1 CL9 HyperX;
Windows 7, (64bit); and
Lockheed Martin P3D Version 4.
Additional Major Add-ons. Active Sky for P3Dv4, Active Sky Cloud Art, SPAD.neXt, FS Global Ultimate region series, Orbx FTX Global BASE, Orbx FTX Global VECTOR, Orbx FTX Global openLC Europe, Orbx FTX Global openLC North America, Orbx FTX Global openLC South America, Orbx FTX Global Trees HD, Orbx region series, and Orbx airport series.
The Just Flight PA-28-161 Warrior II is a perfect aircraft for the general aviation flight simmer. The quality and attention to detail is outstanding and Just Flight has done an excellent job with the accuracy of the model and the overall performance characteristics of the PA-28-161 Warrior II. On the cockpit detail particularly, Just flight have lifted the bar since the move back to "in house" development. Not just another simple general aviation aircraft add-on, the PA-28-161 Warrior II is replete with a range of additional aircraft system features and custom coding which extends the immersion factor and takes this aircraft add-on beyond something you just jump in and fly. Complementing the PA-28R Arrow III and PA-28R Turbo Arrow III/IV, the PA-28-161 Warrior II now adds to these offerings to make a beautiful trio of Piper aircraft from the iconic PA-28 model series.