Piper’s PA-28 Arrow III is part of the the iconic Cherokee family, battling the GA sky’s against its rival Cessnas 172. When I heard the team at Just Flight were working on the Ferrari of Cherokee’s, with it’s 200 hp fuel injected Lycoming engine humming at a maximum cruise speed 146 ktas over a range of 697 nm up to 15,000 feet, I couldn’t wait to trade up to something a little more sporty. I still held my reservations though, was this just another GA aircraft that will hold my attention for one or two flights? Or have the team at Just Flight done enough to make a permanent spot in my virtual hangar?
With the added excitement of a new aircraft, I always hope for a smooth installation so I can jump into the cockpit as soon as possible. This Installation was a breeze. No extracting files necessary, just download the 797 MB installer and you are good to go.
The installation manager is straightforward, you just need an internet connection and your Just Flight serial number and email used for purchase. That’s all there was for that, before you take to the skies.
Just Fight have also included a very indepth 83 page manual, including, aircraft statistics, system and panel guide, procedures & menu bar option. They have also included pictures for every clickable that you will find in the cockpit. Which I highly recommend the read, as this is a highly detailed aircraft, and will help bring you up to speed. Last but not least, a step by step first flight guide. This is a great introduction to your new Arrow.
Just Flight have really gone all out on the Arrow as the modelling is second to none. Especially compared to some of that I have seen in any GA aircraft of recently. The team have used real-world plans accurately designed from the PA-28, complemented with 4096 X 4096 textures, bump and specular mapping throughout the aircraft. This produces a highly accurate 3D model and included are over 11 liveries. All the dirt, grime and paint chips are modeled where they should be for an older aircraft of this time period. The undercarriage of the Arrow really displays its age with over 30 years build up of grime. This really gives the Arrow and authentic look. Animations that have been included are oil cover, sun visors, passenger door, baggage door and cockpit window. In addition to ground equipment chocks and tie-downs, that disappear when you switch the battery on. Which you only see on high end add ons in recent times.
The Arrow’s night light is on point. The beacon light reflection on the Arrow’s tail are modeled, and landing & nav lights are well lit and are in correct portions. In the cockpit, instruments are well lit and you can see everything, even on the darkest of nights. I found the overhead red light a little overwhelming at first, as it blends into the Arrow’s red interior. It took a little while to get used to.
The Fly dynamics seem to be realistic and accurate. Just Flight mentions that the flight dynamics are based on real world performance and handling data with input from Arrow pilots. I found the Arrow performed solidly with no surprises in all aspects of the flights.
The detail continues to the Arrow’s cockpit. Again, everything is modelled in 3D to the highest of quality, from the instruments to the seat belts and screw heads. All the circuit breakers have even been modelled and the left and right altimeter will operate independently from each other. Just Flight have gone for the wear and tear look, based on reference photos taken in the real aircraft. Which I am glad they did. Little things, such as the black paint from the pilot’s side yoke worn off over time to the pieces of grass and dirt stuck in the red carpet all provide feeling of being in the real thing.
The Arrow, comes with a swag of old school electrics, and has fully IFR capable avionics suite. Including GPS 100, KMA 20 Audio selector unit, KX 170B COM1 / NAV1 radio. These are considered basic by nowadays standards, but work nevertheless and part of the fun of navigating in the Arrow. If that’s too much for you- It is Flight1 GTN and GNS compatible.
All the cockpit, engine and aircraft sounds have been recorded by Turbine Studios, so you know it’s going to sound good. Every clickable switch and button has it’s own unique sound, from the whinging of the battery & the gyro’s. These can be switched off if you so chose to Even the clicks of the magnetos sound authentic and suck you into the immersion – again, all have been recorded from the real aircraft. The Engine noise from the cockpit helps all bring this to life, and you can notice the difference in sound when you have the Arrow dialed in or running rough. All of these features helped me feel totally immersed in the Arrow’s cockpit and made me feel like I’m part of the experience.
Each time I jump back into the Arrow, it feels alive. The panel state system will automatically save the whenever a flight is saved, and this feels like you never left the next time you reload the flight. In future, it would be great to see this happen even if you don’t save the flight. If you want to just start fresh, Just Flight have included a aircraft configuration system. Which you can chose between ‘cold & dark’ or ‘ready for take off’ from the the top menu.
If you are a pilot that likes details, the Arrow has you covered. Every stage of the flight has an interactive checklist and a logbook. They have even included a flight computer panel with useful flight information such as fuel burn, speed and wind direction. All the important things for the low and slow cross country flight. With all these great features I was a little confused at the start. Some can be accessed from the top bar menu and some from the inbuilt UI menu. I found this a little clunky to start with, but overcame it with time.
After all that, if you still not feeling immersed? Make sure your pilot skills are up to scratch, as you may flatten the battery or foul the spark plugs. Upon landing, the landing gear can be deployed with an emergency release. Yes these aircraft systems are modeled and more. With all these characteristics I’m sure the Arrow will keep me (and you) coming back for yet another Arrow adventure.
Just Flight have done a great job optimizing a highly detailed aircraft such as the Arrow. VAS usage is very low and very smooth frame rate. I haven’t really noticed any difference in performance comparing different sceneries and other popular GA aircraft.
At first glance I thought the Arrow appeared a little on the pricey side for GA aircraft. I can honestly say it’s money well spent. With the all the attention to detail through the texturing, sound and all the aircraft systems, it highlights the efforts Just Flight and the team have put into the product. The Arrow won’t be one of those aircraft that I fly once or twice as it has found a permanent spot in my virtual hangar and we have many flying hours ahead of us.