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Aircraft Review : Cessna A-37 Dragonfly/Super Tweet by JAS/X-Aerodynamics

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Aircraft Review : Cessna A-37 Dragonfly/Super Tweet by JAS/X-Aerodynamics

 

If your first thought of the Dragonfly as some sort of militarised Cessna 172SP and loaded to gulls with deadly armaments then you are wrong, as the A-37 was actually a Twin-Engined Jet Trianer / light attack aircraft and a very good one at that. Actually the A-37 did have a history linage back to Cessna's main General Aviation forte in the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog that was a very light but effective observation aircraft. But In the spring of 1952, the USAF issued a request for proposals for a "Trainer Experimental (TX)" program, specifying a lightweight, two-seat basic trainer for introducing USAF cadets to jet aircraft.

 

Out of program came the Cessna T-37 Tweet (designated Model 318 by Cessna) which is a small, economical twin-engined jet trainer and attack aircraft type which flew for decades as a primary trainer for the United States Air Force (USAF) and in the air forces of several other nations.

 

As the Vietnam War intensified this then led to a strong interest in counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft. In late 1962, the U.S. Air Force's Special Air Warfare Center at Eglin Air Force Base's Hurlburt Field in Florida then evaluated two T-37Cs for the role. The Air Force found the T-37 promising, but wanted a more improved version of the aircraft that could carry a much larger payload, and had much greater endurance and better short-field performance. This meant a heavier aircraft with more powerful engines. In 1963, the Air Force awarded a contract to Cessna for two prototype YAT-37D aircraft: T-37s with modifications that included: Stronger wings, Three stores pylons on each wing, Larger wingtip fuel tanks of 360 litre (95 US gallons) capacity, A General Electric GAU-2B/A 7.62 mm "Minigun" Gatling-style machine gun, with a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds/minute and 1,500 rounds of ammunition and the weapon was to be fitted in the right side of the aircraft's nose behind a large, convenient access panel. A gunsight and gun camera were also fitted, as was tougher landing gear for rough-field operation and better avionics for battlefield communications, navigation, and targeting. The OA-37B Dragonfly was an armed observation aircraft of the type.

 

This design then created the A-37 Dragonfly or the "Super Tweet" after the design of the original T-37 Tweet. 577 "Super Tweets" were actually built and the aircraft's service was exemplary and the aircraft was extremely effective in its roles with over 160,000 combat sorties with only 22 USAF losses.

 

There are numerous A-37's still around, but mostly in active flying museums, but also they are still in military active service in a few South American countries and Turkey.

 

Cessna A-37 Dragonfly by JAS/X-Aerodynamics

 

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The A-37 aircraft comes in two versions: The "Standard" armed and the "Slick" or trainer aircraft.

 

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Exterior

First impressions are that the aircraft has an older X-Plane feel than current releases and that is because it is. This is mostly externally because of the low-res liveries even with my settings already been adjusted higher in the "Texture Quality" to Max (from High) as the textures are only 2K (2048x2048), but in areas the text and design is slightly blurry. X-Plane11's PBR features do certainly help in bringing the aircraft to life in good lighting conditions. The modeling is not too bad and well done, but the more modern and detailed textures would have brought out more realism.

 

Canopy glass is well done and the cockpit looks excellent from the external view, but there are a few areas that have not had textures applied like with the extruding muzzle of the 7.62 mm "Minigun" cannon.

 

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Note the mesh screens below the engine air-intakes...    Changing the liveries doesn't change the textures of the end of wingtip tanks or the armaments and their supports, so they can look odd on certain liveries like this very nice "Blanc Bleu".

 

The mesh screens flip up to cover the air-intakes when the gear is lowered to prevent foreign object damage to the General Electric J85-GE-17A turbojet, 2,850 lbf (12.7 kN) as the A-37 is unusually a very low aircraft to avoid the need for access ladders and service stands in remote airstrips. The aircraft was designed to be simple to maintain, with more than 100 access panels and doors. An experienced ground crew could also change an engine in about half an hour.

 

Undercarriage detail is very good and well modeled, with nice detail inside the gear wells. The A-37 also has an extremely wide track of 14 ft (4.3 m) for stability, but you have to watch that low tail on takeoff or not to pitch too high in the flare on landing.

 

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The three antennas with one behind the cockpit and two (or four) on each of the leading edge of the rear tailplane, are excellent with great movement (curve) in the air, but upright when the aircraft is still. All the moving aircraft flight control surfaces are again excellent as the A-37 was a great aircraft in manoeuvrability and the A-37 excelled at close air support when Its straight wings allowed it to engage targets at 100 miles per hour slower than swept-wing fighters. The slower speed also improved bombing accuracy, enabling pilots to achieve an average accuracy of 45 feet (13.7 m)

 

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Does the canopy open? I don't know as I couldn't find any handles or active areas, a shame as it would have looked sensational.

 

Cockpit

In the pilot's seat and the complex instrument panel is confronting...

 

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Overall the iconic panel has been well reproduced, but you do notice a lot of native (Planemaker) items in the instruments and seemingly earlier X-Plane planemaker as well. That is to get the more aged feel in the instruments, but most of the instruments and text are also very low-res and blurry close up as again if you don't have your resolution settings set very high. Your immediate feel is X-Plane five years ago.

 

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Native GNS340 and GNS 530 are virtually unreadable and blurry, and pop-outs for use is required and most knobs don't actually turn so you don't know where the adjust position is, thankfully most of the switchgear is actually switches and not knobs.

 

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There are duel sets of throttles for both pilots and oxygen and chaff/Flare buttons...

 

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...    the seats are built for ejection and for protection on station the aircraft has enough armour plating to build a Tiger Tank, and here the seats are very well modeled with a great safe feeling with all the metal plating around you.

 

At this point there is a note to make. There is a manual (seven pages) but it includes just an install guide, aircraft history, the features of the aircraft, tips and acknowledgements and bugger all else? 


There is no instrument layout guide, active areas (if there is any?) or even how to operate the aircraft...  This creates an area of confusion? as I couldn't even switch off the engines? (starting was easy with two push buttons) but even with all the fuel pumps off and the power cold the A-37 would still thrust happily away? Do the guns work, rockets? chaff? flares? no idea? and like I said can you actually open the canopy? I worked through the autopilot (but it took awhile as it has a few foibles) Oxygen System (I think no again) and also working through the instruments and is there a course knob (I don't think so either) do you change the drop tanks or armaments on the aircraft (no you don't you load the "Slick" version) and so on.

 

Flying the Dragonfly! 

The developers recommend you takeoff with full flap or 100% down as shown on the flap gauge left top. You may say "Full barn door flap for takeoff?" but this jet has a plenty of grunt to overcome the drag of the full down flap.

 

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The amount of fuel load and loaded armaments do make the aircraft quite heavy and more sensitive. 140knts and you can rotate...  Flaps are three stage 40%, 80% and 100%, so you click once on the flaps, then the gear up and then back to the flaps for two more clicks once you are in the climbout.

 

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The rate of climb is phenomenal, officially it is 6,990 ft/min (35.5 m/s) to 41,765 ft (12,730 m), 3000ft - 4000ft per min keeps you accelerating upwards...

 

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....  the Super Tweet is no F-15 Eagle, but its not bad either. One note though is that the A-37 is quite a fuel gulper and loitering over station they would shutdown one engine to conserve the fuel! But you watch that fuel gauge and plan enough to return and conserve as much as you can in transit.

 

The developers don't note if is this is an "A" or "B" version, as the B has a longer range, but I think it is the A as the instrument panel was reconfigured more for two pilots than the sort of wrap around panel you have here focused on the left seat.

 

The view directly ahead is restricted in a military fashion, but the feel of speed and all that jet power is conveyed via the the excellent glassy canopy.

 

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If you like to throw your aircraft around then you will revel in this aircraft, hands on it rolls, climbs, dips to your great delight, the A-37 pilots must have had a ball with this aircraft...  it is sensational in the air. The aircraft has been translated to the X-Plane11 performance in dynamics and engines, so it does certainly reflect that in the handling of the machine.

 

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Sounds are not FMOD, but they are however very good in conveying the original "Super Tweet" J85 engine sounds and are highly realistic on startup, on taxi and overwhelmingly with the power up and climbing hard up into the sky, it feels and sounds like a really great serious military light jet aircraft, and you can't ask anymore more than that.

 

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Instrument Panel

The instrument panel as noted is like on many aircraft overwhelming at first, but once broken down into it's sum of areas you can work over it better.

 

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Main Standard Six (SS) flying instruments is central, but the arrangement is Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon, Attitude Indicator and the Turn Coordinator on the top row. Fixed Heading dial, main Heading Dial, Vertical Speed Indicator and OBS VOR indicator (VOR1) are set out directly below.

 

Some of the main SS dials are quite blurry with the Artificial Horizon the worst of the bunch, but they are readable. Radio sets COM1/2 - NAV 1/2 and lower transponder are situated left and old school native X-Plane.

 

Centre panel are the twin engine dials for:  N1, N2,  Fuel Flow lbs/hr, ITT (*Cx100) - (Interstage Turbine Temperature) and the dials are thankfully sharp and clear but there is no Oil or Fuel temps dials. Above the SS are a few dials that cover (LtoR) VAC (Vacuum), Thrust, G Meter (Units) and Radar Altitude.

 

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Fuel Quantity is not split into different tanks but just one large dial. Electrical is covered by Gen 1&2 and a Volt (Voltage) meter. Far right for the secondary pilot are just four flying instruments that covers Airspeed Indicator, Attitude Indicator, Fixed Heading and the Turn Coordinator.

 

Right Panel is a standard native X-Plane MAP display and a GNS 430 top and GNS530 lower but hidden behind the older X-Plane FMS faceplate. Both the GNS 430 & 530 displays have been sort of squeezed in to fit, but somehow the doctoring hasn't worked well as they are both very blurry, so you need the pop-ups to use them. A secondary Autopilot panel (very blurry) is set below.

 

The Fixed Heading Dial is an interesting instrument and is mostly on military aircraft. It looks initially like a ADF/DME pointer but it is not. The Fixed heading is always on North (0) and when you changing your heading it sets the degree heading, then when the aircraft turns to the heading and then they match up.

 

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Autopilot

The Autopilot is quite basic and you need to think ahead of it to get it to work correctly. HDG (Heading, HOLD (Altitude), V/S (Vertical Speed) and A-THR (Auto Thrust) covers the four buttons. You turn the adjoining above knobs to do the adjustments. HDG is straightforward to change your heading. HOLD is to set the altitude and use the V/S to change the altitude (100ft increments) and when you reach the altitude it will "Hold" it, but turn the HOLD off to adjust the V/S. The A-THR will hold the selected knot (knts) speed.

 

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Overall the AP works really well, but there is slight issue? Set your aircraft on the right heading and altitude and turn on the AP to hold both. But when you turn on both the A-THR and the HDG the aircraft creates a bank to the left?

 

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I noticed under the A-THR the engine output is not balanced? (arrowed) and the HDG compensates? Turn off the HDG and the aircraft will correct the bank. You can compensate for this by adjusting the thrust manually, then reselecting the HDG, but leave the A-THR off. I also noticed that the power imbalance will sometimes correct itself if I move the throttles levers (X-52 Rhino) and it sorts of clicks back in correctly. If the thrust is balanced the AP will work correctly. And it does all this sometimes and not in others? very odd. This does also note that under manual throttle control the engine thrust output has to be adjusted to balance or it affects the aircraft considerably in the way it flies, so if you do, do that one engine off and save the fuel trick then be aware of that heavy thrust imbalance.

 

HUD

There is a nice HUD (Head Up Display) right in your eyesight. There is a switch to turn it off, but it doesn't work and neither does the HUD BRT (brightness) knob, so you are stuck with the HUD in every flying condition which can make your vision hard on some landings. There are two other built in sights that work when you select the ROC ARM (Rockets) and GUN ARM (Cannon).

 

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Terrain Following

A great feature is the TERRAIN FOLLOWING (TERR) that is positioned on the panel by the GNS 430. But press it with caution! Flying level at 5000ft I decided to "Give it a go"...

 

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...   in a moment the aircraft pitched violently down and I headed directly earthwards. About the moment I was expecting to meet my maker....

 

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....    The aircraft leveled off at 250ft and then followed the terrain. It is very good, but get a slightly sharp hill and you go quickly up and then down again as you keep that 250ft gap clean. It is very effective if a daunting ride over slightly hilly ground, but far better than a fairground ride but I don't know if you can actually adjust the terrain height?  So a quick tip is to set your altitude almost ready to follow the terrain and then activate it, but most won't and want to and instead enjoy the thrill of the ride.

 

Lighting

Lighting is a slightly odd business. There is instrument brightness and avionic brightness, but the instrument dial back light is nearly non-existent. The main instrument lighting is supposed to be red, or a red cockpit glow, but it is still very low red even at full brightness.

 

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There are two sets of lights for both the pilot and co-pilot and these are more effective. If you have the co-pilots light up it at least helps in seeing the instruments so this is the best solution.

 

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External is pretty basic with three non flashing red beacons and a single tail strobe. There is one nose landing light that only works when the gear is down.

 

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Return to Base

Time to head home and we understand this aircraft was built to fly out from remote and basic airstrips.

 

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You work your speed down to around 120knts at full 100% flap on approach and this is a very compliant and steady aircraft at that set configuration.

 

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Gear down and the underside shows off the nice gear detailing, that track is very wide. And watch the inlet mesh screens flip up with gear going down.

 

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You aim and balance is to hit the 100knts as you cross over the threshold, but be aware of the nasty 85knt stall, and as your slowing and flare window is quite small, but to then get the right thrust balance and the A-37 will easily settle well.

 

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There is a shovel-style airbrake situated behind the front gear on the real aircraft, but it is sadly not modeled here, so you need a fair bit of runway to rub off the landing speed...  time to rearm and get back into the fight.

 

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Liveries

There are five liveries, with Blanc White as the default. The rest are Blanc, Blanc Bleu, Khaki and Khaki 96. Liveries are the same for both versions.

 

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Shame both areas don't match up as the Blanc Bleu would look great with the correct wingtip tanks in the same colours as the same for the all white Blanc livery.

 

Summary

First of all this is obviously an older X-Plane version aircraft converted to X-Plane11. So a lot of the original items and modeling have been transferred to this version. This shows in the 2K textures (you need your graphic settings skyhigh to bring them to life), X-Plane native instruments and a lot of non-working features like the canopy is sealed. Knobs don't rotate and levers don't work and so on, as there is no manual except for what is really an information and tip pdf, then you don't know what does actually work or what doesn't anyway and I never did or was able to shut the engines down.

 

The aircraft has armaments, but do they actually work? I don't think so and that is a shame with the current X-Plane11 weapon features that would bring this area of the aircraft bursting into life. and the odd thing of some areas like the wing-tanks not matching the rest of the livery design, but done in other liveries? And some areas are not textured at all. Panel lighting is not fully adjusted and one knob doesn't work at all.

 

A lot of the modeling is good, the look and feel of the aircraft and the expansive Instrument panel is very, well overwhelming till you work it all out, and the inner cockpit design is really well done and authentic, and I love the bendy aerials, and inlet mesh covers and the undercarriage is well designed and modeled.

 

So there are a few foibles in this aircraft, but don't let that put you off in savouring this "Super Tweet" in both the Standard fully armed version and a Slick Trainer clean version. In X-Plane11 it is an excellent light jet to fly, sounds really great, and is simply a lot of fun that makes you really, really envious of the real pilots that flew these amazing and versatile aircraft. They loved them and you can see and feel of why they did. So the X-Plane11 dynamics and lighting does a lot of the major lifting in creating or recreating the power and the feel and the manoeuvrability of this Killer Cessna, who would of thought that a General Aviation pioneer company could create an aircraft like this and they did and matched the Jet Provost and BAC Strikemaster...  This is certainly one Cessna to really boast about!

 

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The Cessna A-37 Dragonfly/Super Tweet by JAS/X-Aerodynamics is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Cessna A-37 Dragonfly V2 XP11

 

and is priced at only US$19.95 

 

Features:

A-37 Dragonfly features:
  • Detailed 3D model
  • Detailed virtual cockpit
  • Custom jet engine sounds
  • Multiple paint schemes, including T-37 trainer schemes (on the A-37 airframe)
  • New, realistic flight model developed by X-Aerodynamics specifically for X-plane 11
  • Fly with external fuel tanks and rockets, or in a ‘clean’ configuration with gun only

 

Requirements

X-Plane 11.10+

Windows, Mac or Linux
2GB VRAM Minimum
This aircraft is very, very light on your framerate.
 

Installation : Download is 111.79mb that is unzipped to 148.00mb to your X-Plane - "Military" Folder. (I created a "Military" folder).

 

Documents:

manual (seven pages) it includes an install guide, aircraft history, the features of the aircraft, tips and acknowledgements

 

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Review by Stephen Dutton
21st February 2018
Copyright©2018: 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 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.11

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

- KLAL -  Lakeland Linder Regional Airport 1.0 by Nicolas (But created by NAPS) (X-Plane.Org) - Free

 

 

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Yes i have been in touch with the developer, but note the video as this aircraft can't be adjusted to open the canopy, so it looks like you are looking at a different aircraft? SD

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