Accu-Sim 'Comanche' 250
For FSX / Prepar3D Published by A2A
Reviewed by Jessica Bannister-Pearce
The world of general
aviation aircraft is littered with different types of aircraft which do
more or less the same thing. The Cessna 172 is arguably pretty similar
to a Piper PA-28. Slow, steady companions which are there to help guide
you at a sedate pace, in relative comfort and safety. It is for this
reason that the vast majority of pilots have learnt to fly on these two
types alone. Safe doesn't always mean practical, or fun though. Anyone
planning a long tour in a Cessna 172 had better settle in for a long
So, there comes a point when you need a good, speedy, touring aircraft
but you do not need the extra expense of flying a twin. Enter the Piper
PA-24 'Comanche'. This singe engine stallion provides 250hp and a cruise
speed of 160kts plus. It can carry four people plus luggage with ease,
and with tip tanks, it can carry enough fuel to keep you going for
hours. It is also the latest offering from aircraft specialist A2A
simulations. Following on from the successors, the Cessna 172, Cessna
182, and the Piper PA-28, the 'Comanche' is their first foray into the
fast single general aviation market. So, is it any good?
The external model is a joy to
When the 'Comanche' was announced, the buzz about the aircraft was immense, partially because A2A had managed to keep quiet about it until it was almost released, but overwhelmingly due to the fantastic track record A2A have for 'getting it right'. I still fly the B377 'Stratocruiser' for a unique challenge and their civilian P-51 is simply astounding. So hopes were high that the 'Comanche' was just as good.
Availability and Installation
The A2A Accu-Sim
'Comanche' 250 is available from A2A and A2A resellers as a 'download
only' product for FSX, P3D v2 Academic, P3D v2 Professional, or in FSX
/ P3D bundles and the price ranges from US$49.99 to US$99.00. The
installation is quick and simple and the 'Comanche' comes with four
liveries. Though, even before the proverbial paint had dried on the
release, community driven repaints were starting to appear. By now,
there are more than a few to choose from, so the amount of liveries
supplied should not matter.
Before Start Checklist
Before we load up
the sim and get started, there are a few options to set externally.
Clicking on the A2A 'Comanche' configurator brings up a little window
with two options. First up is the GPS options. Here you have the
option to install one of three, third party GPS modules in place of
the default. For P3D pilots, the options are reduced by one as the
Reality XP GPS is not compatible, however the Mindstar and Flight 1
GPS systems are available.
Settings for the GPS and lights are set prior to starting the sim
Back at the main options page, our second option is to do with lights. You are given an option to choose between the default landing lights or some custom landing lights. There is another configurator available as well, but I will touch on that one later. For now it is time to get into the cockpit.
Welcome to the Real World
Making use of A2A's Shockwave landing lights
Loading up the aircraft, the 'Comanche' cuts a dashing figure at any
airport. The external model looks good, as does the interior. Right
now I am paying lip service to the aircraft, as I will shortly be
getting acquainted with the exterior of the 'Comanche' in intimate
detail. For now though, I am going to admire the looks. Even looking
at the aircraft superficially, you can really see that A2A have spent
time meticulously modelling and texturing to the best standards
available. The interior for example, is beautifully realised. The
cockpit is not the whole story though. The passenger seats are nicely
recreated, showing the detail of the fabric. In the rear of the cabin,
even the passenger vents work. It is high definition textures all
around and it is just the start of the Comanche experience.
The interior is a very
pleasant place to be
My first job was to investigate the various 2D panels which A2A have provided.
Shift + 2
- This brings up the 2D window you will probably use
the most. Called the 'Pilot's Notes', it tells you everything that is
going on with the aircraft before, during, and after flight. Split
into three sections, the top window tells you things like the cabin
temperature along with estimates of your ground speed, endurance
range, and fuel economy. Just that window alone is worth its weight in
gold. The second window gives you a few notes on power settings based
on fuel type, and the third window operates as a virtual checklist and
Shift + 3
Just some of the 2D panels included
This window deals with the aircraft settings itself. Think of it as a
de facto instructor station where you can choose what equipment is
fitted to the aircraft, what state the aircraft is in, adjusting the
start up state, as well as having the option to hide the yokes. You
can even toggle the different GPS positions for the aircraft here as
well. The most interesting option though, allows you to connect the
tow bar and use your joystick or yoke to tow the aircraft to new
position. Having done this with a few Pipers in real life, to see it
included in the sim is fantastic.
Shift + 4
Towing the aircraft to the right spot is easy
- Here you
will find the aircraft's load manager. Setting the fuel is as simple
as clicking the '+' and '-' icons over the various tanks, as is
setting the weight of the passengers and baggage. You can also top up
the oil. A nice touch is, as you add the fuel to a particular side,
the aircraft tilts towards that side as well, so the loading is all
live. Clicking on the passenger faces changes the passenger to one of
four models, two male, two female.
Shift + 5
Loading up the aircraft is easy
- The navigation window. This brings up the default map and
allows you to see everything from your flight plan to the VORs,
airports, and so on. It has been part of A2A aircraft for as long as I
can remember. The downside to this window is the drag it creates on
Shift + 6
The built in map is a great feature - if a little heavy on frame
- Here you
will find a quick access radio panel where you can quickly tune any
frequency, VOR, ADF, or even adjust the transponder settings quickly.
Shift + 7
panel is where the fun really begins. Welcome to the maintenance
hangar. Here you can get a report on the aircraft state, change parts,
and inspect the engine. It is brilliant, with options to change tyres
(two different makes offered), battery, fit soundproofing, fairings,
wing tip tanks and more. I will touch on this again later on.
Shift + 8
Adding tip tanks can extend range amongst other things
window opens up the preflight walk around options that I will touch on
Shift + 9
- The last
2D window allows you to set the system to 'pause' during a specific
event. Chose from emergency, altitude, time, and distance. The last
three can be adjusted to suit.
Like their previous products, the 'Comanche' features the preflight
walk around. By using the built in camera modes, A2A have produced
custom views for each preflight check. That is only half the fun
though. For certain items, like the flaps for example, they have
created custom click spots which simulate using your hand to check for
wear. You can also inspect the control linkages for damage, check for
fuel contamination, fuel levels in the tanks, and the propeller
condition. It is a cracking bit of software programming and a great
way to brush up on your checks if your flying the real 'Comanche'. For
the sim pilot, it is a great way to bring the real world to your
Preflight checks can show wear
Preparing for departure with to lovely ladies in control
With the preflight done, it is time to light the lights and get the
aircraft ready for departure. As you would expect with the 'Comanche',
you cannot just jump in and turn the key - you will need to prime the
engine first. With fuel in the carburettor, you can turn the key and
push the starter. All at once, the cockpit becomes less like an
aircraft and more like a paint tin full of nuts and bolts being
shaken. The dashboard rattles and instruments bounce and spit their
way into life. It is noisy, bouncy, and very realistic. Even with the
aircraft settling into a nice idle, various needles still bounce. The
engine itself is sensitive to the environment it is in. If it is cold,
pulling the throttle back to idle after start leaves the old girl
coughing and spluttering before it cuts out. It is also important not
to exceed 1500 rpm on the ground as the spark plugs tend to foul up
with soot. So gently, I taxi out to the runway. Again, the aircraft
comes alive with various squeaks and rattles as we move. Hitting the
brakes too hard produces a noticeable groan as the 'Comanche' stops.
Starting the engine is a turnkey and button affair
The cockpit itself looks stunning
The cockpit night lighting is also beautiful
It is important to do your run up checks too. On my last flight, I parked up for my run up checks only to discover that my left magneto was on its last legs. Rather than the expected 50rpm drop when switching to the left only, the engine rpm bounced around erratically until I selected the right magneto. I still flew the flight, but in reality, it would be back to the hangar for you.
With the checks complete, takeoff in the 'Comanche' is not always swift, but once you are up, the aircraft gets itself comfy and hand flying becomes a joy. Trimming the aircraft out is simple, though finding the trim handle on the ceiling is a bit unusual. Apparently, the Saitek Trim Wheel is perfectly set up to work for the 'Comanche', being almost one to one with the real thing.
Forgetting to close the air vent makes for a noisy taxi
With her gear up, the 'Comanche' looks stunning
The trim is in the most unlikely of places
Testing the limits of the airframe threw up no surprises. The aircraft stalls nicely with a gentle buffet around 58mph and a stall warning indicator lit up on the dash. Recovery is fairly straightforward, though in at least one test, I managed to get into a spin. For the record, the aircraft spins superbly and it is great to see such an accurate flight model depicted for FSX/P3D.
Going beyond the design limits is very dangerous in the 'Comanche' though. Dropping the flaps at too high a speed is almost certain death, as I discovered on one flight. Without realising it, I dropped the flaps with my airspeed somewhere around 160 mph resulting in the aircraft banking sharply to the right. I regained control and got the flaps back up, but any attempt to lower them resulted in a severe right turn. Back in the maintenance hangar, I discovered that the right flap linkage had broken. So, pushing too hard will kill you.
If you get tired of hand flying, A2A have thoughtfully modelled an autopilot which will help take the strain. It is rather basic and owners if the 'Cherokee' will find it familiar. The autopilot operates in just a few simple modes. As you switch it on, it takes a moment to get its bearings, indicated by all its lights flashing. Then, once it is ready and the lights have gone out, you can select the correct mode by pushing the 'mode' button. The autopilot operates with just a few modes. The first is 'ST' or stabiliser mode - this just holds the wings level. The second mode is 'HD' mode, a basic heading hold mode which can be slaved to the GPS. The last mode is split - 'LO TRK' is used to track a VOR, whilst 'HI TRK' is used to track a LOC course. That is about it. There is an altitude hold mode, but again, it is basic. However, the autopilot coupled with the navigation systems, are still very complex and A2A have modelled them to the nth degree. As such, the best source of information on these systems is from the actual manuals themselves. A2A provide links to downloadable copies within the manual.
The auto pilot is basic but can help ease the load on long
Keeping the wings level in ST mode
Landing the 'Comanche' is fairly simple, just keep your speed up around 80mph over the threshold and just let her settle on to the runway as you pull the power off. Remember though, you have to lower the gear first.
I have mentioned several times that maintenance is important to the 'Comanche', and not just after every flight. A2A have dug into every nook and cranny of the aircraft and even when she is sitting on the ground, things are ageing. Take the oil for example, say you do not fly the old girl for six months, even without loading up the aircraft, that oil is ageing. When you do go to fly again, do not be surprised if an oil change is needed, or that there is water in the fuel tanks. The 'Comanche' is a living breathing creature whether you are there to see it or not.
Signs of engine damage or just dirt
When you are there though, the hangar provides you so many options which make the 'Comanche' that bit special. Fitting fairings to the aircraft for example, means it is slightly more aerodynamic and in turn you can squeeze a little extra range out of her. For extra range of course, you can fit the tip tanks. Perhaps you are flying in the cold, cold north of Canada! Then the engine heater kit and stronger battery will benefit you. Then there is the engine itself. Engines wear all the time, and the parts in that engine wear at different rates. Good parts are highlighted in green, worn parts in amber, and broken parts in red. You can change what you like, or go with a complete overhaul and get the aircraft back to factory condition.
Looks like my engine has seen better days
The 'Comanche' makes a great flight sim aircraft, but if you want to take things one step further, beyond the VC, then A2A offer cockpit builders the chance to do just that. Running the A2A 'Comanche' input configurator brings up the option to bypass FSX/P3D's own joystick interface, allowing you to configure your choice of custom inputs and joysticks - you can set custom keys or joystick buttons to every function on the aircraft. Combine that with the in sim map display, the set up panels, and a few other things and you have the makings of a cracking home cockpit with instructor station. The possibilities are endless.
Cockpit builders can bind all kinds of hardware to the 'Comanche'
Included with the
aircraft is a PDF manual which you can find in the A2A folder in the
start menu. The manual is a thing of beauty all on its own.
Beautifully laid out, the first part of the manual details the history
of Piper and the 'Comanche', and it contains some fascinating
information. The period adverts are a real bonus. By itself, this
would make a fantastic printed book. After the history lesson, you get
the developer notes to give you a great understanding of how the
'Comanche' came together, before moving on to the sim aircraft itself.
To describe it as comprehensive would be a disservice. The manual is
one of the best I have ever seen with a flight sim product. Hell, it
would even make a great coffee table book in some places.
The PDF manual is a work of art all by itself
VAS usage on this aircraft is noticeably high. I did a few two hour plus flights and the VAS slowly decreased as the flight progressed. On one flight, I barely made it with just 300MB of virtual memory left. So, to fully enjoy this aircraft you will need to lower a few settings if you are going to enjoy that long touring flight you have always dreamt of.
Value for Money
On a value for money
assessment, the Accu-Sim 'Comanche' is considered excellent. There is
something for everyone here and priced at just US$49.99 the FSX or P3D
academic version and US$79.99 for P3D professional users, you would be
mad to pass up on what is the best general aviation aircraft available
for any sim.
To say the 'Comanche' is in a league of its own would be an
understatement. There are few, if any other general aviation aircraft
add-ons which can compete with what A2A have done here. The depth of
the aircraft simulations is astounding. The level of detail in the
model, the walk around, and even the maintenance hangar all go above
and beyond. It is not without a price though and VAS usage and its
impact on performance is noticeable - it is a reasonable price to pay
The features are almost inexhaustible, but one that really spiced
things up was the 'used' setting found in the Setup Panel (Shift+3).
Clicking this wipes out your aircraft's history and provides you with
a very used model of the 'Comanche'. It gave me a 5,000+ hour airframe
in need of some TLC. It certainly makes your flights more interesting
with such an old frame, I can tell you.
Old frames and tough flying take their toll
Forget the Cessna 172 or the PA-28, the 'Comanche' offers you life in the fast lane, and it is great.
With the throttle at idle the engine can get a bit smokey
A2A have done another
excellent job with the Accu-Sim 'Comanche'. It is another excellent
product which is arguably the best general aviation aircraft add-on
Very good value for money.
VAS usage and impact on performance.
● External Model:
Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers):
Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like):
Value for Money:
The A2A Accu-Sim 'Comanche' is awarded an overall Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.9/10,
with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.