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Aircraft Review - Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche by vFlyteAir

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Aircraft Review - Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche by vFlyteAir

 

There is no better satisfaction in reviewing in than seeing developers transform into the time of greatness. They start mostly like the rest and with usually a few average aircraft or sceneries, but then progress, learn and refine. There is of course along the journey a few low points that would usually make you want to give it all away, but the secret to success is to learn and overcome the challenges and then you finally do see some rewards for all the toil, pain and hardship. Developing is not easy.

What I usually review and you fly is the result of a lot of time and effort. And it is heartbreaking when you see someone's work and you know deep down it isn't up to the quality and refinement that X-Plane demands now, the cost of delivery is also high, extremely high as what was then good to even excellent and released as close as only a few years ago would sometimes not even cut the grade now.

 

Harder is finding your own niche in the market. It is crowded, certainly not yet to the market standards of Flight Simulator, but X-Plane is now churning out a lot of aircraft and sceneries these days and it is going to get even more competitive as X-Plane11 grows to even more success and widens out its growing user base.

 

vFlyteAir Simulations started developing aircraft about the same time I started reviewing. Their first aircraft were good, but not exceptional...  they "just passed the grade" so to speak. But the talent and dedication was there like with their Piper Arrow III and they steadily improved. I actually liked vFlyteAir's interesting Ryan Navion B aircraft a lot, but a lot of users didn't take to it, but the breakthrough was the lovely Cirrus SR20-G1000 which was a huge jump in quality and with some great features for the developer. 

 

The next aircraft from vFlyteAir was their Piper Cherokee 140 and this machine was a very personal project as well as an aircraft developed for X-Plane. The Cherokee 140 was a replica of a real aircraft N3466K that was flown regularly by the developers. My first impressions were it was a little average, even boring. But by the time I finished the review I found myself having to reappraise my whole view of not only the excellent aircraft but vFlyteAir as well. It was (and still is) an outstanding design. It is not what you see, but you feel that vFlyteAir brings this aircraft to life like none other, it is a perfect recreation of a classic General Aviation aircraft.  

 

So here is the follow up to their classic Cherokee 140 in the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, so what to expect this time, more of the same? or another classic aircraft for X-Plane...  it is an interesting aircraft and first a few details.

 

The PA-30 was a twin-engined development of the PA-24 Comanche single-engined aircraft. A variant with counter-rotating propellers was later designated the Piper PA-39 Twin Comanche C/R. But our version here is the standard rotating propeller version. It is a complex light twin, with retractable landing gear, seating 4 (in original models) to 6 (in later models), and has cruising speeds ranging from 160-210 mph from two 4-cylinder 160 hp (120 kW) Lycoming IO-320-B1A fuel injected engines, but 200 hp (150 kW) engines were available as a modification by Miller Aviation.

 

Twin Comanche is a low-wing cantilever monoplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear. It comes with tip tanks which allows the aircraft to hold 120 gallons (454 l) of fuel. Fuel burn at typical cruise settings is approximately 16 gph (58.7 lph) with a cruise speed of 165 kts. It easily climbs to 18,000 feet (5,500 m) when desired (24,000 feet (7,300 m) and if turbocharged). When compared with the Seminole, the Twin Comanche goes faster, carries more, burns less fuel, climbs more rapidly and ultimately higher, is quieter. With the tip tanks attached it has a range of Range of 1200 miles (1931 km).

 

The Twin Comanche was produced from 1963 in the same Lock Haven, Pennsylvania production line as its single-engined cousin; production ceased when the factory was flooded in 1972. Piper chose at that time to focus on its equally popular Cherokee 140/180/235/Arrow line instead that was manufactured in Florida.

 

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Like their Cherokee 140 your first impressions are again deceiving of the Twin Comanche. Nothing wrong with the actual quality or build of the aircraft as that is not the area I am noting about in reference, as the aircraft is of the highest quality you can get lately in its X-Plane11 form.

 

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Detailing work is exceptional from vFlyteAir. Every panel, every rivet is noted and even the style and type of rivet as well. Modelling is nearly flawless, you would be hard really pressed to find any poor areas. All the smaller items in brackets, tiedowns, aerials and lighting is really well done, but not just in the actual design, but in the aging as well with the wornout rusty feel on used items.

 

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Note the open engine vents, which are animated can and be closed from the cockpit, but watch your engine temperatures as if you do close the vents then so as to not overheat the engines.

 

To highlight the sheer detail we have on this Comanche then we will look at the undercarriage.

 

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All the gear is perfectly recreated, hard worked tyres, brake assemblies, hydraulic piping and fittings, and all worn and greased up so much you can easily smell it. Flap assemblies (constant movement) are perfect as well and right down to the manufacturers plate on the inside of the assembly. But still really look at the detail? and Internally inside the wheel housing is still more totally recreated fittings, cables, braces and main structure of the airframe...  it is even for the most fussy expert really as good as you will get in design.

 

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Internally and Mr Fussy won't be disappointed in here either. The instrument panel is close to perfection, the detailing is overwhelming.

 

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Rearwards in the cabin and you get the full treatment of a well loved and slightly worn (if also slightly smelly) old aircraft, lovely detail is simply everywhere, pinches in the seats, cloth trim, worn roof lining, slightly rusted fuel tank switches between the seats, and the more you look the more you are astounded in the realism of it all.

 

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Even the areas you would never look at like under the seats or under the instrument panel and again the detail is totally complete, without doubt like with their Cherokee 140 then vFlyteAir has certainly spent a lot of time with tape measures and cameras looking under seats and poking in every area and every aspect in the aircraft to bring you a perfect reproduction of the Comanche or in this case their donor aircraft which is a 1964 Piper PA-30, serial number 30-459, tail number N92NE.

 

You do get the total feeling though that this Comanche is an old aircraft (1964) and is one of the early production types. It feels old and looks old, but that ageing is really highlighted by the lovely venting on top of the metal instrument panel. It wouldn't be so noticeable but by the fact of how real and realistic the actual panel has been reproduced...  it is so beautifully crafted.

 

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Instrument Panel

 

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You have no idea on how hard it is to recreate an instrument panel like the one in the Comanche. This all could have been easily a flat bland metal facia that looks X-Plane9 in design, but it isn't. The detailing is simply extravagant, but perfection is the only word on the tip of my tongue. The trick is the same as vFlyteAir did in the Cherokee 140 with the minute detail of all the required wording and warnings, I really don't think you would ever be bored in this aircraft as there is always something somewhere to read...   and most of it telling you what not to do.

 

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The selection of instruments and switch gear is also very period original and authentic. Everything is replicated as per the original item, of course you do expect this sort of intimate design, but when you do actually get it, it is also very confronting as you feel that you have been missing out on something else before. Not that you are a stranger to great design if you fly Carenado aircraft or other highly quality aircraft, but it just lift's the full experience just that one notch higher again.

 

Flying instruments are only on the pilot's side of the panel. Standard Six instruments that are off set of the flying pilot with the Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon and the Attitude Indicator on the top row and the Turn Coordinator, Heading Dial and Vertical Speed Indicators set out directly below. Left of the six pack is a clock and air temp and on the right is a BendixKing OBS VOR indicator and Radar altitude (x100) meter.

 

ADF

In the period I did start the review vFlyteAir has put out an update (patch v1.1) This patch added in to the left lower panel a Bendix/King ADF unit and pointer. This is an original unit and is very authentic in its fitout in the aircraft, a very nice addition.

 

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Below the main instruments is a AutoFlite III autopilot. The system is very basic in hold ROLL, HDG (Heading), ALT (Atitude) and PITCH (with adjustment wheel). With the age of the system there is a gyro pressure gauge set below with a hidden amperage gauge to the right. Note center left panel are the Nav1 and Nav2 selection switches. Lower panel is the Instrument lighting knobs and external lighting switches.

 

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The equipment stack is great mixture. Radio is a PS Engineering PMA8000Ti, then the standard Garmin GNS530. Then a Bendix/King KX 155 COMM2/NAV2 radio (COMM1/NAV1 is part of the GNS530). The Avidyne AXP340 transponder is a nice bit of kit, it covers the transponder, with Pressure Alt, Flight Time, Stop Watch and Flight ID as part of the system. A very nice looking Voltmeter and fuses panel is below the transponder.

 

Right panel are the engine gauges (both engines are in the same dials) for RPM and right is the CHT/EGT Gauge which has a rotary knob on the CHT/EGT gauge were you can select individual cylinders for display. selections 1 through to 4 are left engine cylinders, and 5 through to 8 are right engine cylinders...  

 

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...   Manifold Pressure (both engines) and a very authentic fuel flow meter with "Time Remain" is below. Down the right side is a set of eight gauges that covers L&R Fuel quantities, L&R Oil Pressures, L&R Oil Temp, L&R Cylinder Head Temps.

 

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Lower right panel has the engine cowl flap knobs and a very nice Flap switch and indicator. Dobbs meter and heater switches. Far right are four sliders for Air Temp, Air Flow, OFR and Air Vents that do work. An empty (opening) glove box is above.

 

The Reality XP GNS530 (sold separately by Reality- XP.com) can also be used with a provided “RealityXP.GNS.ini” file that makes the Twin Comanche ready for the RealityXP gns 530W plugin.

 

A few Instruments do popup or out...  but you can't move them around or resize them so they are in reality limited use.

 

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The central mini-pedestal is perfectly recreated, tired, worn but beautiful beyond words. Twin Levers cover Throttle, Propeller RPM and Mixture.

 

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Left side pilot's side is an electrical switch panel that covers left to right L-Fuel Pump, L-Magneto, L-Magneto, Engine start L/R, L-Magneto, R-Magneto, R-Magneto, L-Magneto,  L-Fuel Pump.

 

In between the front seats are two panels. The top one is a fuse box, the lower panel can removed to access the emergency gear mechanism...

 

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...   the idea is to disconnect the gear motor to allow you to manually lower the gear, once lowered you can't reset it until you are back on the ground. This is great to simulate emergency landing procedures.

 

Menus

For the eagled eyed of you all, did you actually notice the empty aircraft at the start of this review?  And as I did my usual practise of jumping straight into the pilot's seat and wanting to do a few circuits of the airport to get a feel of the machine...  a totally wrong idea was that one.

 

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Take a long look of my tailplane? That is not right now is it?  I know it is a bit of dumb and dumber, but it does emphasise that you do need to set this aircraft up correctly before you do fly anywhere, it is a sensitive soul of a machine.

 

The menu tabs are on the lower bottom left of your screen...

 

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...   this will bring up your menu selections of: Pre-Flight, Weight & Balance, Check Lists and Power Table.

 

Pre-Flight

The Pre-Flight menu covers all aspects of your options for the aircraft. These include On Screen Notifications, Hide/Show Glass Objects, Nose Gear Steers (for rudder pedals), Custom Engine Start which is that the engines will use X-Plane's default logic instead of the more realistic engine-temperature-based custom code start ( a cold engine takes longer to start).

 

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Final options include Checklist reset and the Co-Pilot can be also visible from the interior viewpoint. On the main diagram you can switch on and off options and ground elements that include: Co-Pilot's door, Baggage (cargo) door, wheel chocks and intake covers. A final selection is for the optional "Tip Tanks" for extra range.

 

Weight&Balance

The second menu option is the "Weight&Balance" panel. This is an import panel with this aircraft. You have to be very aware of the way you set the aircraft up as the aircraft is sensitive to the changes done here.

You can set all the different amounts in all of the fuel tanks including the optional Tip Tanks and there is six in all. The fuel tankerage is also shown on the Pre-Flight panel as two fuel gauges on each side of the aircraft.

 

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Besides the fuel weights, you can also set the weights of each of the pilots and passengers on the aircraft, moving the sliders will set the weight and also make the people appear in the aircraft, this is great as you can have as few or as many passengers in the aircraft as you require.

 

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Highly realistic and fully animated (below) if not a little too realistic as the guy in the back feels like the ultimate backseat pilot! (sorry Walker, he just looks annoying in constantly telling you how to fly!)

 

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Last item you can adjust on the Weight&Balance panel is any baggage or cargo you are carrying in the back of the rear seat area. Note that put too much weight in cargo or baggage can easily push your aircraft balance way over the limits. Thankfully there is a very good adjusting CoG chart to get all the settings right and find the correct balance of the aircraft, as I noted the Comanche is very sensitive to the changes on this panel and the full gross weight of the aircraft is also noted in lbs and kgs.

 

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As I noted earlier to incorrectly set the aircraft up can cause you a bit of strife as in my case the aircraft was far too weighted too the rear. A final adjustment is via the beautifully crafted rotating trim handle on the roof with a trim indicator, there is another trim indicator on the instrument panel next to the left of the pilots yoke.

 

Checklists and Power Setting Table

There are two other menu panels that covers the aircraft's checklists in: Pre-Flight, Starting, Taxi and Ramp, Takeoff, Climb and Cruise and Descent and Landing. You tick off the boxes as you go through the lists and can then reset them on the options panel.

 

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vFlyteAir are very specific when flying their aircraft to fly them to exact power parameters and in this case the power out of the reference of the EGT gauge which is located on the co-pilot side instrument panel which is used for adjusting the mixture settings. So they provide a very comprehensive power setting chart between altitude, air temp and engine power for the correct settings for a certain situation.

 

Flying the Twin Comanche

After doing a comprehensive resetting of the aircraft via the Weight&Balance's panel it was time to see the difference between the first flight and the current changes. It was only a short hop between KAPF Naples and KRSW (Florida SouthWest) just to the north.

 

You do have two options for taxiing with the standard X-Plane front wheel direction (with the rudder) or a separate front wheel action with rudder pedals or yaw joystick. I personally kept the action on the standard setting because I am used to that, but a rudder pedal control does make it more authentic.

 

The Comanche is nice to taxi, speed is easily controlled. It is important to set the flaps correctly for takeoff. They are a variable type and not stepped in operation. The indicator is not in the best place to see from the pilot's position on the very right lower panel, but halfway is the correct setting, but you have to very quickly raise them once you are airborne if not you get a flaps warning.

 

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I am quite heavy at 1490lbs, so I need to be adjust to the weight...

 

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...  if you have a twin throttle system like I have with a Saitek x56 then you can get a lot more control over the takeoff by keeping the engines in powering the right side slightly faster than the left to counter balance the same propeller rotation direction. It is a huge help in keeping you straight as you power up the runway. Note here the hand of Walker doing a great job in controlling both throttle levers.

 

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Rotation is around 110knts, and climb out around a 1000ft per minute, the climb rate is noted as 1480fpm, but around 1200fpm gives you the best result from speed and a good climb rate.

 

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There is a real lovely and realistic feel to the aircraft, but I am as noted heavy so I can't throw the aircraft around as much as I would like to.

 

As I climb out I acknowledge the huge difference between the not set up out of balance aircraft and the correctly set up Comanche, it is a far more stable and flyable machine.

 

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The AutoFlite III autopilot is an authentic bit of kit. All rocker button actions, and it is quite easy to use. I couldn't find an on/off switch, but a key autopilot disconnect will also work.

 

The selection switch gives you the Nav (GNS530 flightplan), OMNI, HDG, LOC normal (ILS) and LOC reverse are really all standard X-Plane settings.

 

If you select the heading (HDG) rocker switch the ROLL is activated the same time, if you want just the roll (turn) then turn off the HDG switch and the roll (turn) knob is quite hard to see but located below.

 

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The altitude switch works the same way. Select ALT to hold an altitude, but select PITCH to climb or descend via the scroll wheel, but you have to switch off the ALT switch BEFORE you can use adjust the PITCH control, if both ALT and PITCH switches are on it will just hold the altitude.

 

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Don't press the pitch scroll wheel too many times either as it jumps in 100ft increments, a few clicks to one click is all that is needed.

 

In cruise the Comanche is a very nice place to be, as noted it does feel like an old 1964 vintage aircraft, but that is part of the charm.

 

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The vflyteAir Comanche is one of the first aircraft (payware) to feature the new FMOD sounds system. It delivers spatial 3D sound location, Doppler effects, custom interior and exterior engine sounds and a variety of different button, knob and switch clicks. And very impressive it is, I will note through that the FMOD system is only as good as its source sounds and is only available in X-Plane11, but I was impressed.

 

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The aircraft is very good to sensitive throttle response, again a twin-throttle addon gives you great control and feel. Adjust either throttle to feel the intimate effects of the different power thrust from either engine and you can use that feel to help in crosswinds or just getting the approach path correct.

 

A few users noted the flaps tend to be a little too effective and create too much lift at the wrong low speed, personally it was not to bad for me, but then again I do keep the speed as low as possible before I dropped the flaps, they are as noted variable anyway and you can feed in as little or as much as you like, however vFlyteAir has done a few more adjustments anyway to give you more room on speeds to move them down.

 

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Approach is around 100knt-110knts to a flare around 90knts as the stall speed is a dirty (flaps down) 60knts...

 

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...   even at 80knts the aircraft tends to float, control is of course good, but twice in landing now I have gone further down the runway in what I would like to do, fine on a long runway like at KRSW, but on a small short strip it could get you into trouble.

 

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I found the Comanche very impressive, but setting it up correctly is crucial to the experience. A note is that if you want to use the Comanche in a saved replay, then you do have to set it up (fuel, passengers) and with the engines running to have them working or showing correctly in the replay, and the engines won't shutdown like they should do either in the replay.

 

Lighting

The lighting is excellent, almost perfect and you are perfectly set up for good night landings.

 

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Instrument panel is perfect...  all the instruments are clear (for their age) and there is really lovely lighting over the lower panel switchgear. There is full cockpit/cabin illumination provided by two overhead lights, one for the front and one for the rear.

 

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External lighting is adjusted for X-Plane11 and is really good with the usual, Nav, strobe, beacon and landing lights.

 

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Like with the ADF pointer, in the v1.1 patch vFlyteAir have added in the taxi light on the front landing gear strut, it was not on (or working) with the donor aircraft but have added it in to the package as some users requested.

 

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Liveries

There are thirteen excellent Hi-Res liveries from a lot of different regions and a paint kit is available for download, but no donor N92NE livery which is surprising? If you change the livery then the rego number is changed on the top of the instrument panel which is a nice touch...

 

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Summary

I started this review in the mind of what is required to create a very high end in quality and performance aircraft. To what end is a developer a master of their craft and that when they do a release of a new aircraft then it is a must buy.

It is a long and hard climb to that lofty position, but vFlyteAir are certainly one of the great's now with this their latest aircraft. Their Cherokee 140 was outstanding, but the Twin Comanche proves that the aircraft was not a fluke or simply a one off.

 

Their trick if there is one is that they recreate aircraft they personally have access to, and that access is felt right through both of these aircraft in an intimate detailing in both design, detail and performance.  vFlyteAir have real world yardstick to compare to and it shows and makes their aircraft even more fully deeper and a totally more complete experience. But even the availability a real machine is no good unless you have the skills to transfer that aircraft to the X-Plane simulator, but vFlyteAir have not only just done that but done it in a masterful way.

 

Negatives, nothing really, and even nothing doesn't have to be a complete zero as anything can be improved or adjusted, but out of the package this is a very complete aircraft of quality and performance.

 

It does require a careful setup with the weights and balances and to fly the aircraft to the required performance specifics to truly get the complete immersion here, but the rewards are certainly worth the effort of getting it right.

 

There is an optional version coming soon as well for the Twin Comanche with an Aspen Avionics Evolution Flight Display system, it is noted as being released in a few months and that will be certainly an interesting variation of the aircraft to fly.

 

vFlyteAir's Cherokee 140 won my best GA category award for 2016, and there is now a good chance they will take the same award away again for 2017 with this Twin Comanche, and that is still with the competition of Aerobask's brilliant releases earlier this year. So the quality and all round top level aircraft just keep on coming for X-Plane, but one of the most notable things now is that vFlyteAir are now one of the very best in their class with general aviation aircraft, this PA-30 Twin Comanche absolutely proves that in every area and context.

 

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The Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche by vFlyteAir is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Piper Twin Commanche PA30

 

Priced at US$29.95

 

Features:

 

  • FMOD Sounds: We built the sound system using FMOD Studio and XPlane 11's new sound engine. Enjoy effects such as spatial 3D sound location, Doppler effects, custom interior and exterior engine sounds and a variety of different button, knob and switch clicks. 
  • Physical Based Rendering (PBR)  textures for exterior and interior objects, to provide appropriate surface reflections and specular high-lights. 
  • Interactive menu system with intelligent Check Lists, interactive Weight & Balance calculator, Pre- Flight Options menu and pop-up Power Settings table – our new graphical on-screen menu system features interactive user choices and selections in a graphical interface.
  • Dynamic pilot and passengers – go to the Weight & Balance menu to add passengers and cargo for your flight. Your passengers will appear in the cockpit of the airplane as you increase their weights on the menu. Extra luggage will appear as you increase the luggage weight. The Total Weight and Center of Gravity dynamically change as you add weight to the aircraft.
  • Accurate Avidyne AXP340 Transponder with power-on boot screen, Pressure Altimeter display, Flight ID display, Altitude Monitorfunction, simulated ADS-B OUT, Flight Timer, Stop Watch Timer, and power-off count-down timer. The AXP340 is the most realistic transponder simulation we've ever created.
  • Accurate Fuel System: Optional tip tanks are selectable from the Pre- Flight menu. With the optional tip tanks turned ON, the Twin Comanche has six (6) separate fuel tanks. X-Plane does not support separately selectable fuel tanks, so we wrote custom code that simulates running out of fuel on the selected tank. But don't worry! If you get close running out, we'll (optionally) flash a message on the screen to change tanks before you run out of fuel! 
  • On-Screen Warnings and Notifications: 13 different warnings and notification messages will appear on the screen, depending on conditions and triggers. You can turn off the warnings and notifications from the Pre-Flight menu Options section. 
  • “Pop-Out” Instruments and Gauges: several key gauges and instruments can be “popped out” of the panel for easier viewing – VR friendly! 
  • Compatible with the RealityXP GNS530 (sold separately by Reality- XP.com) - we included a “RealityXP.GNS.ini” file that makes the Twin Comanche ready for the RealityXP gns 530W plugin.
  • And: Custom HDR interior and exterior lights with custom strobe flash sequence; Custom 3-D Propeller Effects with Prop Feathering; 12 Extra Hi-Res Liveries Included – and a custom Paint Kit is available for dowload so you can create your own livery. Fuel truck locations are set for the Twin so that you can call for Ground Service in X-Plane 11.

 

Requirements:

X-Plane 11  (not compatible with X-Plane 10)

Windows  7+ or MAC OS 10.6(or higher) or Linux. 
2Gb VRAM Minimum. 4Gb+ VRAM Recommended

 

Installation and Documents:

Download for the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche is 719.80mb and the file is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at the same size of 719.80mb

 

Documents:

One manual: Piper Twin Comanche User Manual (26 pages)

 

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Review by Stephen Dutton
1st July 2017
Copyright©2017: X-PlaneReviews
 
(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.02

Addons: Saitek x56 Rhino Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : XPRealistic Pro v1.0.9  effects US$19.95

 

Scenery or Aircraft

- KAPF _ Naples Muni Scenery by Raligard (X-Plane Gateway) - Free

- KRSW - Southwest Florida International Airport by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$24.99

 

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