Over the years I’ve become a big fan of general aviation type aircraft. While I understand the appeal and I have dipped my toes into the world of airliners, it’s the GA types that keep me coming back to sims like X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Just Flight and their Piper Arrow Series are considered, over a couple of different generations of sim, to be one of the greats and I want to know what the fuss is all about. They have released three iterations for Microsoft Flight Simulator: Piper Warrior II, Arrow III and Turbo Arrow III and IV. Of these three, I’ll be reviewing the Turbo Arrow III/IV package. So lets check the magnetos, monitor the manifold pressure, keep an eye on the fuel gauges and launch into another aircraft review.
A bit of history
The Piper Arrow III and IV hail from a long line of Piper single engine aircraft going back to the original PA-28 which first received a type certificate in 1960. Piper has sold the PA-28 under several different names including Archer, Warrior, Pilot and Arrow – each offering a range of features and performance. While some crank the power up to 300hp and incorporate turbochargers, other versions have fixed landing gear and just 150hp on tap.
The different variations have helped Piper tailor their line of aircraft to a wide variety of customers and ensured the PA-28’s place in history alongside the Cessna 172 series as one of the most built aircraft in history. To that end, Wikipedia lists 32,778+ produced since the production line first started in 1961.
The Arrow III was introduced in 1976 with both turbocharged and non-turbocharged options. By 1978, Piper had introduced a follow-up with their new T-tail version of the PA-28R and called that the Turbo Arrow IV.
Its undeniable that this is a great looking aircraft. From the landing gear legs and retractable gear system to the lighting and subtle scratches on the exterior of the aircraft, this is an aircraft that the Just Flight team put a lot of effort into making sure that it looks good. From top to bottom it impresses.
There are a few spots where, when you get really close, that you see the odd rough edge but that tends to be the exception rather than the rule. The tow bar for example could stand to have a few more polygons. These are nitpicks in an otherwise brilliantly detailed airplane.
In the cockpit the story is much the same. High resolution textures are visible throughout and Just Flight’s artists based a lot of the visual detail on the real-world example they were working with. The result is a realistic wear pattern on high use parts of the aircraft. This is most obvious on the yoke where the left side is more worn than the right. Just Flight have listed, as a feature, a note that the Turbo Arrow versions have less wear and tear and are a bit cleaner than the standard Arrow III that they also sell as these Turbo versions typically have individual owners while the standard model more typically belong to flight schools and flying clubs.
The thing that Just Flight trumpet as a real benefit to their team is having access to the real airplanes that they are modelling. That has enabled them to get the wear patterns, dirt, dust and other effects done just right and it all goes towards making the aircraft feel lived in.
Another strong suite of the Turbo Arrow III/IV is the audio quality. The team at Just Flight have benefited again from real world access and recorded the audio from real PA-28s. That effort and the quality that it gives this aircraft shows. Most buttons and switches have their own audio effects giving each turn of a knob, each throw of a switch, the hum of the aircraft’s engine, and the starter their own unique flavour. Audio levels change in volume and pitch as airspeed increases as well. I’m happy to see such effort put in.
There are some other added details here too. Position the drone camera in an appropriate position behind the aircraft and you’ll get added wind noise effects – not something I’ve heard on other MSFS GA aircraft. Nice touch!
I’ve never been in a Turbo Arrow personally but it gives me the impression of being there. The result? An authentic sounding experience.
Flying the airplane
The PA-28 was designed at the outset to be easy to fly with good handling attributes that could handle pilots who flew infrequently or were just coming from their basic trainer aircraft and getting into something slightly more complex. For the most part, the PA-28 is a conventional GA type that is relatively easy to manage. With 200 horsepower, a turbocharger, and retractable gears, it is a bit more peppy than the standard PA-28 and it also means that you need to pay a bit closer attention to the engine.
Just Flight have put authentic engine modeling into the sim. Oil can get old, spark plugs can foul, and the aircraft’s state can have persistence between flights. That makes a cross country tour more interesting because mishandling the aircraft can lead to issues later on. An simple EFB, similar to what you see on some airliners in X-Plane and MSFS, helps you manage and repair the aircraft when needed. It also means you can’t just ram the throttle forward and never think about it. There are consequences in the form of failures if you let the engine overboost for too long for example!
All of the doors and windows work, you can add tie downs and wheel chocks, and the EFB also lets you toggle between a couple of sets of avionics. Those include the KX 170B, KX 175B, GPS 100, GNS 430/GNS 530, and the GTN 750 which Just Flight says requires the freeware PMS-50 GTN 750).
These aircraft do have an autopilot system with the ability to follow a programmed course or heading bug. In the real world they do not have a level autopilot system, however, Just Flight have cleverly inserted a click target in on the autopilot controls where one can be engaged if you want it. A worthy concession to virtual pilots who may do a couple of hour flights and have to contend with domestic duties while keeping one eye on the plane.
The rest of the airplane is dead simple to work with. Having flown a variety of GA types across multiple sims, this one comes naturally with relatively straightforward controls and very few bad habits. It’s easy to takeoff, its easy to land, and you can fly it strictly by the numbers if you want or be a bit more cavalier about it and still manage to butter the landing. Engine torque does require ample counter rudder so be sure to keep an eye on that.
Just Flight have also made use of the MSFS built-in checklist feature. A very big plus in my book! It makes getting into this airplane easy and you don’t have to leave the sim to learn how to start it or shut it down.
It’s not an aerobatic airplane and the controls are relatively stiff. Roll hard to the left or right and the PA-28 only reluctantly does so. It does feel weightier than some other aircraft in the sim. I also think that the rudder feels a bit spongy. Although the nose does wobble back into line in a convincing way, it does feel just a bit off as you step into a turn. A common issue with a lot of MSFS aircraft.
At the moment it doesn’t yet support the new propeller and CFM modeling that Asobo have begun to integrate into the sim. I do hope that Just Flight will take another pass at the aircraft and add even more nuance to the flight model and potentially correct that odd feel on the rudder. As it is, it appears to be more than adequate and I’ve watched enough videos with real world PA-28 pilots claiming that the type more or less flies by the numbers to think that it does as well.
I also should add that the type does feel a bit heavier on the system requirements than others. Asobo aircraft consume very few frames while the PA-28 needs more juice and sucks down a few extra frames per second. I didn’t do an extensive test but I do notice it versus even other third parties like the Carenado M20R that I’ve been flying recently.
When compared to the default options in the sim, Just Flight’s PA-28 Turbo Arrow III and IV offers more. The aircraft has more character, more sounds, more depth to the simulation, persistence between flights, and a better overall feel. Run through the extensive checklist, get the airplane started, notice how it rocks back and forth on its suspension system, and just soak up every button push and knob turn.
Just Flight have created a very good airplane simulation here. It’s not without a few quirks but the overall experience is excellent.
There are some options when it comes to choosing this product. Just Flight offer the PA-28-161 Warrior II, the PA-28R Arrow III and the PA-28R Turbo Arrow III/IV. Though sold separately, they all essentially offer the same experience albeit with a few tweaks. I chose the Turbo Arrow as it’s the fastest and most complex of the bunch. The Warrior and Arrow III are a bit slower and less complex with the Warrior being the slowest (fixed landing gear and 160hp versus retractable and 200hp). You probably don’t need to own all of them but if you love Piper PA-28s then maybe you do.
Just Flight offer the PA-28 through their webstore and via the MSFS Marketplace. Each version is individually available for $44.99 USD. There are occasional sales and bundle prices from time to time.
Screenshots and tours
I flew the PA-28 a lot in doing this review undertaking several cross country and sightseeing trips both solo and with a friend to really get a feel for the airplane. Here are some of those experiences told visually.
Tour around Toronto
Toured around the Toronto area with my friend Jon who also has the Turbo Arrow. Good fun to fly in a well known airspace with friends!
Flying to Dundee
One of several short cross country flies that I did. I flew from EGPG Cumbernauld, located about halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow and flew north to EGPN Dundee. Fun aproach there in the light rain and low cloud.
From LOWK Klagenfurt to LSZA Lugano, this tour through the Alps was breathtaking from start to finish.
A quick flight in the Southwest from N15 Kingston Airport and a tour around the area. A mix of arid desert and snow covered mountains makes for an interesting flight.