A2A’s AccuSim GA aircraft – Piper Comanche, Cessna 172 and Cessna 182. What sets them apart from the rest of FSX/P3D planes? Part #1.
A2A’s general aviation aircraft
A2A Simulations created four general aviation aircraft with built-in AccuSim module:
- Cessna 172
- Piper Cherokee
- Cessna 182
- Piper Comanche
This review will describe three of them, the Cherokee will be left out, but if you are interested in this plane – you should still read this review as it will give you some understanding of what to expect of the smaller Piper.
What these aircraft have in common?
You may ask why did I put all these aircraft in one review. Well – they share numerous feature, making this choice obvious. This way I will be able to skip repetitions and focus my attention on their qualities. Why only these aircraft? (instead of all the latest A2A planes?) General aviation aircraft have several common features:
- advanced flight model and systems
- maintenance hangar (simulated wear, repairs, and modifications)
- pre-flight inspections
The last sets them apart. A2A previously included wear and maintenance. They did this in their P-47, J3 and Stratocruiser (in a basic form). Then they expanded the hangar in their AccuSim warbirds – the P-51, Spitfire, P-40 and recently in T-6 Texan. Pre-flight inspection is unique to the general aviation planes. The user checks the airframe, looks inside the mechanisms moving flaps and control surfaces, removes blockage from air inlets, static ports, and pitot tube. Basically – with this feature we can do a walk-around – just like the real pilot does before a flight (I already made a video showing full pre-flight – expect to see it in the next part of this review – today or tomorrow).
Well… yes, and no. Three parts of this review will cover each of these planes, so do not worry – I will describe them all in detail. However, I do not want to copy and paste large parts of the description so whenever it is possible and favorable, I will look at systems and features of all these planes instead of writing about a single representation in one of them.
Formalities – purchase, installation, updates
You can purchase A2A planes in all major stores selling FS add-ons and in A2A’s Store.
For each plane there is a choice of license options – choose the one that fits your simulator:
- FSX + P3D Academic
- FSX + P3D Professional
- P3D Academic
- P3D Professional
Additionally, there is a P3D Commercial license available for Cessna 172 and 182.
Automated installer adds the plane to your FSX or P3D.
I do not know whether stores provide the latest version, so to be safe update it after installation.
A little piece of software provided by A2A on their forum checks all installed A2A planes for updates and modifies them if necessary.
This solution is my favorite across various methods used by FS add-on developers. Instead of laborious version checking and patch installation, I just needed to download a single file to update several products. I do not even bother with checking my version – the software does it for me and decides whether you need an update or not.
Pilot Handbooks for these planes are 102 to 104 pages long and follow the standard layout:
- introduction – aircraft description and its history
- designer’s notes
- quick start guide (includes FSX configuration instructions)
- accu-sim and the combustion engine
- normal procedures (checklists)
- emergency procedures (checklists)
- procedures explained
- airplane + systems description
A2A handbooks are shorter than the real world pilot handbooks for these planes. For example – the shortest handbook for Cessna 172 that I have is 200 pages long. The longest is almost 500 pages long and includes descriptions of autopilot, radio and navigation equipment. A2A skipped these parts. Instead, they provide (on their forums) links to real world manuals of avionics.
I have no problem with using real world documents – especially if they are easily obtainable. With the level of A2A system programming, I can use all the functions described in the real world manuals so sim-related adjustments are not necessary. But still – I feel that all the manuals required for operations should be included with the add-on. One should not expect customers to search for handbooks on developers forum or anywhere else.
On the other hand – A2A aircraft are best fitted for advanced users who usually look for additional materials by themselves and they will pay more attention to the fact that systems work as described in real manuals than to the fact that some manuals were missing from the product package.
102 pages – what is included, what is not and what additional information is provided?
It is impossible to squeeze contents of 200 pages on one hundred and two, but there are some parts that can be skipped – such as details of aircraft construction that we can never access in FSX. My manual of Cessna 172 also includes a paragraph on windshield cleaning. I can use the A2A’s Cessna without such information.
What was included? Apart from all the information you need to operate the plane (plane itself – not the autopilot or radios), there is additional information on how the engine works and how it breaks. It will be useful for all those who operate A2A planes for the first time, but in the long run – this is more of an inspiration than manual. A2A does not explain how some things happen. Manual just explains some processes and laws of physics. It is up to the user to learn ins and outs of engine operation and to use it properly. In these respect, it is similar to the real world manuals that also assume that the pilot will have some basic knowledge. When in doubt – you can ask on the forum. You can also look for information on discussion boards where real world pilots discuss their issues.
Correct (required) FSX (P3D) settings are described in the manual. Follow them (e.g. set auto mixture to off).
All A2A planes are flown from Virtual Cockpit, but they use 2d panels for additional functions. As always you can enable them using keyboard shift + number shortcuts.
- Shift + 2 – Pilot’s Notes
- Shift + 3 – Controls
- Shift + 4 – Payload and Fuel Manager
- Shift + 5 – Map
- Shift + 6 – Quick Radios
- Shift + 7 – Hangar
- Shift + 8 – Pre-Flight Inspection
- Shift + 9 – Away From Keyboard
Pilot’s Notes (shift + 2)
Basic environmental information (outside temperature, cabin temp) and flight information (ground speed, endurance, range, fuel economy).
The second card provides power settings for take-off, climb and cruise.
Notes on the bottom show selected limitations and procedures.
Controls (shift + 3)
Controls panel gives you a comfortable access to several devices that you can also turn on/off in the cockpit (like the battery, lights, door, etc.). In this respect, it is reminiscent of the FS9 add-ons where you needed a 2d panel to operate devices that were not included in the virtual cockpit. In A2A planes, virtual cockpit is fully functional and this is only a redundant option that I never use.
There are also some actions that you perform in this panel that would be (almost) impossible without it – for example, manual tasks like removing pitot tube cover or wheel chocks.
Configuration options occupy the lower part of this panel. In all these planes you can select a GPS (one of two devices) or choose to fly without the GPS. In the Cessna 182 there is a choice between a heading indicator or a HSI (I opted for KI-525A device – HSI).
“Damage on” is self-explanatory. Click on it to disable failures. If you wish to fly an old plane and check the wear and damaged – click on “used” tab. Your will get an aging plane. Reset button brings back a shiny new aircraft.
Auto-start is also self-explanatory. Cold & dark is the opposite – everything is turned off. Auto C&D option will set C&D every time you load the plane. If disabled – the plane will remember the last state. I do not use auto C&D for I prefer to do a manual shutdown and to leave some devices on (beacon light for example).
The red T icon in the bottom right corner is a tow bar. Click it to move your plane with a joystick in the way you would tow it on the apron. Only latest planes (in Cessna 182 and Piper Comanche) have this option.
Payload and Fuel Manager (shift + 4)
Load passengers, baggage, and fuel. Add oil if necessary. When placing passengers – you can choose from 4 models that will be visible in the outside view.
Map (shift + 5)
An interactive map based on the default FSX map.
Radio (shift + 6)
Radio panel. If for some reason, you find A2A radios cumbersome, there is a radio panel where you can set all your radios (comm and nav) and transponder.
I use it in one situation only. An old American ADF uses full KHz scale. In Europe, we have NDBs working on half kilohertz frequencies (for example 308.5). Fortunately, this panel includes an option allowing for such setting.
Hangar (shift + 7)
The hangar is where you can configure your plane, repair it and perform engine checks. Today I will skip the lengthy description of this feature. The hangar will be the subject of yet another part of this review.
Pre-Flight Inspection (shift + 8)
The name is self-explanatory. If you wonder how you can do the pre-flight in FSX – wait for the second part of this review. I have finished the video and the text requires only a few corrections. It will be online today or tomorrow.
That is an interesting feature for those who need to go away from their PC for a moment but are afraid that, for some reason, their plane will fall down. It would be sad to lose your plane due to carburetor icing which occurred when you went to take something to drink. For such situation, there is AFK panel, which will pause the sim when a condition is met. You can choose following conditions:
- altitude (climb to altitude or descent to altitude)
How do I use it? In cruise when I am away from the keyboard I usually set Altitude pause 1000ft below my cruise altitude. If an emergency happens, or when I run to trouble for some other reason (like carb icing) the plane will lose power, then speed and start a descent. After descending 1000ft, the sim will pause and wait for my return.
I also set time or distance to make sure I will not miss my destination (or a turn). I do that usually when talking on the phone or when I walk my dog.
Input configurator is a separate software that gives additional configuration options. In some cases, it is the only way to bind A2A functions to keyboard or joystick. You can find it in the Menu start -> Applications -> A2A.
To be continued… what is next?
As I have already promised – the pre-flight inspection comes next. Expect it today or tomorrow.
I have some idea about the next few parts:
- hangar – plane configuration explained
- magnetos – why do we test them and why it makes sense to check them in A2A planes
- flight test – does it fly by the numbers?
This is an open review. It means that it will not be finished – I plan to add new texts whenever I notice something interesting enough to share with you. Your questions regarding planes are also a great inspiration.