ADD-ON FOR X-PLANE 11
Just Flight’s Archer hits its target
For me, flying any of the Piper PA-28s is like slipping on a wellworn pair of shoes. They are all based on similar airframes, which regardless of the engine or instrumentation setup behave very predictably. That for any pilot is a joy immediately cutting down the workload and instilling a trust that is borne from many hours of stress-free flying. Sadly, I’ve not had the pleasure of flying the Archer model in the real world but I have flown the Cherokee and Warrior variants. Both have the same basic structure and internal layouts.
The Piper PA28-181 Archer III
Piper began development of the Archer in 1970, basing the design on the popular PA-28- 140 Piper Cherokee Cruiser, which by this time was nine years old. Yet the Archer III didn’t make an appearance until 1994, 33 years after the first Cherokee took to the air. Over that period Piper also introduced the Warrior I, II and III, also upgrading the Cherokee to the 180 with the addition of a 180-horsepower Lycoming O-360 engine. With the Archer III, Piper added a few other enhancements, including a stylish new cowling with redesigned air intakes, together with a single exhaust pipe pointing aft. The landing and taxi lights were also moved to the wing tips, apparently to avoid vibrations that the inboard lights suffered from. There were even more enhancements made inside the cockpit, with a new overhead panel for the primary switches, complemented by a completely redesigned main instrument panel based on the design used in the company’s high-end aircraft.
Just Flight’s Archer
The Archer depicted here is the work of Just Flight’s in-house team, in partnership with Thranda Design. It follows the fabulous Vulcan, which I reviewed in the previous issue (number 120), although it’s difficult to draw any comparisons as they’re obviously worlds apart. Yet from first impressions, it appears that the team has not rested on its laurels; the Archer looks to have the same attention to detail we’ve come to expect from JF.
Let’s have a wander around for our preflight checks, where the first thing you’ll notice is that the fuselage doesn’t have that (unrealistic) showroom finish you see on some simulated aircraft. The paintwork has just the right amount of dirt and oil stains that are true-tolife but are almost imperceptible until you get up close and personal. From that perspective you’ll also see a faint hint of grime that tends to accumulate (and outline) the borders of each panel and the edges of the doors. When the sun hits it, the underlying gloss and reflection of the paintwork still shines through and the rendering of the logos, signs and registration lettering is crisp and sharp from any angle. To give prospective pilots some customisation, the developers have included 10 alternative liveries, which come with a range of registrations that reflect the different countries they represent.
3D modelling is an exacting skill, yet the JF team is more than equal to the challenge, creating a carbon copy of this aircraft without overlooking even the smallest detail. Things like vents, rivet lines, flap hinges, double skinned doors and windows, aerials, tie-down rings and spats are all perfectly modelled from the original aircraft. It’s generally the background of a screenshot that gives away its simulator origins, not the aircraft itself.
X-Plane 11. CPU: Intel Core i5 6600K at 3.5GHz or faster. 8GB RAM or more. DirectX 12-capable graphics card from NVIDIA, AMD or Intel with at least 4GB VRAM (GeForce GTX 1070 or better or similar from AMD) Windows 10/7/Vista/XP, MAC OS 10.10 (or higher) or Linux. 2GB hard drive space.
PC System used for review
Intel i7 4790K 4.20GHz processor. 16GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM. EVGA GTX 1070, 8GB GDDR5 video card. 2 x 240GB Kingston SSD. 2 x 1.5TB Samsung hard drives.
The team has done a fine job inside the cockpit as well, even in places where you rarely look such as the rear cabin with its comfy leather seats or the superb modelling of hand grips on the inside faces of the yokes. Incidentally, these can be made to disappear with a single click, allowing better access to the underlying controls. Also the internal mouldings and fairings around the glareshield and window linings have real depth and accurate form. Without access to the original drawings, this level of detail can only be achieved by meticulous measuring combined with hundreds of photographs taken from a real aircraft.
The main panel is definitely better equipped than any of the other PA-28s I’ve flown. It has an S-TEC 55 autopilot, the standard GNS 530 GPS receiver, a GNC Nav2/Com2 radio, a Stormscope and a Traffic Watch monitor that detects AI traffic in the vicinity of the aircraft (up to nine nautical miles away). These are in addition to the familiar ADF, DME and the usual analogue instruments fitted to most GA aircraft. Also the highresolution rendering of the gauge faceplates makes them easier to read, even at night when the adjustable backlighting and post lights are switched on. Virtually every button and lever within the cockpit is operational and in the main operated conventionally with the mouse buttons and wheel.
A setup like this is a GA pilot’s dream, not only because of the safety aspect, it also greatly reduces the pilot’s workload. If you’ve ever flown in bad weather, you’ll know that the challenge of staying on course while still keeping a good watch outside the cockpit can be quite arduous.
To assist pilots with the various systems and options on board the Archer, the developers have supplied a pop-up window containing 18 icons. These allow you to toggle the ground handling, window and gauge reflections, checklists, logbook, flight computer, tiedowns and launch other menus to control the start-up options. You can even change the current livery and much more besides.
Above: Brilliant paintwork with just the right amount of grime. Left: An overview of the main instrument panel. Top Right: Close-ups show the high quality of the instrumentation.
When it comes to the flight experience, the Archer holds no surprises at all, it behaves exactly as I would expect. The take-off is almost automatic. You just set the trim a little aft and advance the throttle slowly, then at around 60-65 knots the aircraft will lift off on its own. Unless you’re on a short runway or fully loaded you don’t need to use flaps either.
Once trimmed (as long as you don’t have a high crosswind component), it will hold a course and altitude with very little input from the pilot. Naturally, with the instrumentation on board, the S-TEC 55 would take over that role anyway; I always believe in making things as easy as possible.
In general terms, all of the PA-28s are fairly forgiving and easy to fly; in fact you have to work quite hard to stall them. Holding the nose high with power off doesn’t cause much more than a little nod at around 55 knots, then with the stall warning screaming, the aircraft starts a flat descent. To return to a normal attitude you simply need to apply power and not overcorrect with too much forward pressure on the yoke.
On landing, the Archer is quite docile, yet like all the aircraft in this series it will happily float down the runway with the power at idle. In fact, on a breezy day it can be difficult to keep it on the ground and is even more difficult if you’re flying solo. Those large wings were designed to provide lift and that they certainly do, so landings with a high crosswind can be ‘interesting’. There are two methods of dealing with a crosswind landing. The one I was taught was to slew the aircraft into wind, in a sort of crabbing attitude. Then push the rudder to align the aircraft with the runway moments before touchdown. The other method is to approach with a wing down into wind, then lift it back to a normal attitude just before touchdown. I won’t go into any more details here; there are arguments for and against both methods.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that Just Flight produces better documentation than practically any other developer. Unsurprisingly, this applies to the Archer too, where you get two manuals. One is an Operating Data Manual containing performance charts for every phase of flight and the other is a full Pilot’s Operations Manual, which is somewhat similar to the owner’s manual that would have been provided with the aircraft. At 75 pages it is very comprehensive, covering the Archer’s specifications, installation, system and panel guides, also documenting failures and procedures, both in normal and emergency situations.
The manual also includes a comprehensive tutorial flight to introduce you to the Archer, from cold and dark, through every procedure a real pilot would perform during the flight, to the shutdown and securing the aircraft at your destination.
This is another superb aircraft from the Just Flight team that I have (and will) enjoy flying in the future. With each new project the developers increase the realism and overall flight experience to provide X-Plane pilots with aircraft that look and behave exactly like their real-world counterparts. If you prefer GA aircraft in this weight category, then look no further. By Joe Lavery
PC Pilot Verdict
At a glance: The Archer is another superb aircraft from the Just Flight team that I’m sure will appeal to all GA pilots.
Publisher & Distributor: Just Flight
Developer: Just Flight in partnership with Thranda Design
Price: £27.99 by direct download
Flight Model: Excellent
Systems: Very good PC Pilot Score:
Top: One of the liveries supplied with the Archer. Below: The entry and baggage compartment doors