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Aircraft Review : PA-31 Navajo XP11 HD Series by Carenado

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Aircraft Review : PA-31 Navajo XP11 HD Series by Carenado

 

When the PA-31 Navajo from Carenado came out two years ago for X-Plane 10 it was an instant love affair. Love or feel at first sight, but we stargazed at each other with mutual admiration. I loved this medium-twin and the aircraft gave me all the love back by letting me fly it as it should be flown, with feel and embrace. That love has never faded, even with all the excellent releases since that first mutual moment in time. So anytime if I needed a fast medium-twin for a range of 1,011nmi (1,875 km) and a ceiling of 26,300 ft (8,015 m). Then also available is the Navajo's top speed of 227 knts (420 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m) and the Cruise speed is also around 207 knts (383 km/h) with an econ cruise that is best at 20,000 ft (6,100 m) then this was always the aircraft I used or flew, and numbers aside it was an excellent distance crusher.

 

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So here is the new upgraded X-Plane11 version of the same aircraft. The PA-31 Navajo did have a quick update to fly the aircraft in X-Plane11, but here we get the full XP11 conversion and treatment. As this is an upgrade and not an update, and so then this version is now also the full new purchase price aircraft, and then with that you also get the free updates throughout the X-Plane11 run.

 

At first sight the PA-31 does not look that much different, and that is until you go back to the earlier version...  then you realise it is very different from the almost bland, flat aircraft you flew before. X-Plane11 comes in with the Full PBR or Physically Based Rendering for the superb material shines and reflections, although the detailing is the same, the PBR now brings out that extraordinary detail and realism.

 

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You see things you never saw before... yes they were there before, but the minor detail is certainly far more highly visible and even touchable to the point if you had Virtual Reality "feelarama" in X-Plane then you could run your fingers over the aircraft and feel every join, panel and rivet. The glass was and always good, but the reflections are even again better and now comes with more reflection in realism. Still love the single wiper.

 

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The Piper Navajo has two 310 hp (231 kW) Lycoming TIO-540-A turbocharged engines in the so-called "tiger shark" cowlings each turning three metal bladed, fully feathering, Hartzell propellers, and you certainly feel the power, the pull, as you cruise along. Note the great cooling vent detail and wing light.

 

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This Navajo here is the basic variant and is officially called the PA-31-310, and the later PA-31P was the pressurized Navajo, going up to the PA-31-350 which was the stretched version of the Navajo with the more powerful 350-hp (261-kW) counter-rotating engines and that version was called the Chieftain.

 

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Undercarriage detailing is also first-rate, yes it is the same as the earlier gear assemblies, but you feel the grease, wear and tear now far more. All wheel animations have been redone for more authentic movement and reactions... perfection. The aircraft has only two forward lights on the nose strut, in a landing left and taxi right, and they are both in the newer style lighting. Obviously they can only be used when the gear is down.

 

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Menus

Carenado provides you with their usual three tabbed menus on the left lower screen. A ) is for the pop-up Autopilot panel. This is a 2 Axis Autopilot panel which can be scaled for size. C ) Is the standard Carenado ten preselected Views, Field of View and Volume panel. And O ) is the Options panel.

 

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Options include Window and Instrument reflections. The Static elements provided here are still quite basic with only two cones, wheel chocks and front flag pitot covers and the twin highly realistic (and new) pilots disappear when you activate the static elements. Doors opening include rear passenger door and separate Baggage door left rear which I really like in this arrangement and a front nose locker baggage door, and there is also the choice of changing the liveries without going to the main X-Plane menu.

 

Internal Cabin

Cabin style is early to mid 80's in a four seat club arrangement, very luxurious and a two-tone light brown/tan and cream colour scheme with wood highlights.

 

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This is the exactly same cabin, but it does feel different and it is. X-Plane11's dynamics create a different feel and lighting in the aircraft and it is enhanced by all the textures or materials that have all been redone to create that maximum lighting and reflection effects. Jump back into the X-Plane10 version and it all looks...  well a bit bland and flat.

 

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Pilot's and Co-Pilot (passenger) seats have animated armrests, and the fuel tank switches are on the floor and are upside down? It is hard to see, but easy to use with only two knobs to worry about for switching each tank.

 

Instrument Panel

Cockpit is home from home for me, very familiar to me now, but still really well done in design and layout.

 

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The roof rocker switchgear is great. Upper panel has, ground fan, seatbelt and no smoking switches. left panel has lighting switches and right panel has pitot/windshield heating and anti-icing equipment switchgear is also provided, including working boots with the large main Amp gauge central.

 

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Lower left are four magneto switches and engine left/right starter switch. Lower right are two left/right fuel pump switches and the Hobbs meter.

 

Center lower are the two fuel tank gauges and four rotary knobs for the panel and overhead lighting. A note is that at night the switch gear is mostly not illuminated and can be hard to use, so the in built X-Plane torch feature is the only way to use them...

 

Main power switches though are not up here...  they are on the fuse panel lower left of the pilot (arrowed).

 

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Both Yokes disappear, but have operational electric trim switches and Autopilot (A/P) disconnect.

 

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The instrument layout on the Navajo is a little haphazard and can be confusing if you swap over piloting positions. Yes both stations have the standard six layout instruments. but even these are not set out in the same order in both flying areas.

 

Airspeed Indicator and the Attitude Indicator are both in the same position top left and right with the Turn Coordinator and Vertical Speed Indicators set directly below. But the Artificial Horizon and Heading Dials are different instruments with the pilot's set centre of the panel and the co-pilot's set more correctly in the standard six layout. The co-pilots Artificial Horizon is adjustable but the pilot's is not. The pilot's Heading Dial has a built in Course Deviation Bar (CDI) and can be set to the course angle and heading change knob. but the co-pilot's only has a rotary heading adjustment. And that is the odd commonality between the panels. 

 

On the pilot's side there are also instruments for radar height, localizer indicator and ADF pointer. There is a very nice EDM 760 digital readout for dual channel Lean Assist and an analogue clock.

 

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On the co-pilot's panel besides the standard six you get only one instrument in the VOR/ADF pointers. Very nice but in the wrong place for me as I use the VOR/ADF pointers a lot for airport or runway alignment, and being right over the other side of the aircraft's panel for me makes it useless...  unless I fly in the right hand seat and I still hate this pointer position and I never got used to it, I really wish I could swap their places.

 

Centre panel has at the top a very nice set of annunciators that can be tested and below are four dials that covers both engine outputs in Manifold Pressure, RPM, EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) and Engine Fuel Flow (FF).

 

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Equipment stack is very good. Standard issue Garmin 347 audio panel is top left with the X-Plane Garmin GN350 GPS system below. Then there are a set of three Bendix/King units in one KR87 TSO ADF unit that is hard to adjust, and two KR 64 VOR/DME speed and range sets. The RealityXP's GTN750 can also be used if you have that option.

  

Right stack includes a Bendix/King KX 165 TSO Comm/Nav (VOR2) tuner and a Garmin GTX 320 transponder. The weather radar is a Bendix/King and comes with a manual that notes you can adjust the range and radar angle, but I couldn't do any adjustments accept to turn it on, test and adjust the brightness and you would think by now that Laminar or someone would have this unit updated, it still looks and feels like the dead weight it is.

 

Lower panel switchgear left is minimal except for the landing gear lever and position display as most switchgear items are on the roof. The wiper switch is great with a three way action in park (which is actually intermittent) slow and fast. Side panels are excellent with nice fuse panels, there is (Goodrich) Prop-Ice amp gauge that works when you turn on the de-icing...  a nice touch.

 

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The rest of the right side panel are for the Flap position in 0º - 158 - 15º - 127 - DN, and the numbers 158 and 127 are the speed zones in knts for those flap positions...  then gauges for pressures in gyro, fuel, oil and cylinder head/oil temperatures and the oxygen supply knob is set out below. 

 

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Centre pedestal is excellent. All twin-engine levers are well done for Throttles, Propeller (feather) and Mixture...   as are all the three lower trim wheels and knob that have great position marks that are easily noted, set and seen. Built in Autopilot is mostly used with the pop-up, but down here on the pedestal panel it is not to hard to use either if you want to. The "Cowl Flap" switches are set very low down (one each under the engines), but the position indicators are great to use. 

 

Reflying the PA-31 Navajo XP11

Developers had to go back to basics with the newer X-Plane11 dynamics. They are significantly very different than the earlier dynamics of X-Plane9 and X-Plane10. This is more highly noticeable on these medium or light twin-engine aircraft. Power from each engine is now far more and highly felt, if not only through "your seat of your pants", but more so if you have a twin lever throttle system in the way you use your throttles to fly the aircraft. If you have already felt this effect, more so on the slightly more larger twins like the 690B Turbo Commander and the Dornier Do 228 100 then the same dynamic changes are in evidence here as well on the PA-31.

 

The earlier version was an exceptional aircraft to fly, you loved it the moment you flew it and knew it was something special. The newer version is slightly different in this aspect, it is more finer in the feel, or more agile under the yoke, so you have to be more smoother with your inputs. But the biggest change is in the throttle feel. We all know that the current X-Plane11 ground effects are not perfect, but if you are willing to learn and practise you can sorta overcome the major issues of just keeping the aircraft straight on the centre line. More so here as you can use your throttle thrust to balance out the negative effects. It is not easy at first but with practise you can do it, but overall it shows the XP11 dynamics and how you can use them for your own use and rather than allowing them to control you. The PA-31 Navajo was not an easy aircraft to takeoff...  in fact that is a bit of it's personality as this 310 version has the standard twin clockwise rotation propeller setup, the later Chieftain was created to fix this aspect with an opposite-rotation LTIO-540 installed on the right-hand wing to use the more counter-rotating thrust aspect of finding a more easier way of making the aircraft's thrust more balanced in takeoff and smoother in flight.

 

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So the awareness is of that the pull of not one but two very powerful engines in wanting to take you right and then flinging you into the scenery, then this creates the need to find the right throttle positions to balance out the effects of the same rotation thrust direction.

 

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It actually is not that hard to do, but does require a little practise to get it right, but the point is the better XP11 dynamics allow you to do this to a finer point and in making such power adjustments realistic. Once felt, it becomes a second nature thing in the future, so feel is important. But it is very realistic and adds into a lot of the aspects of the aircraft that brings out more of the skills in yourself to master. Obviously a lot of X-Plane11 aircraft are the same, but the effects are more highlighted here because of the iconic nature of this aircraft. It will be interesting when the XP11 version of the Chieftain from Alabeo (Carenado?) comes out to compare the two aircraft.

 

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You can rotate at around 110 knts, but watch your vertical speed and keep it under the 1000 fpm line to keep the acceleration moving forward until you need to adjust out the speed around white band cutoff of around 180 knts, official rate of climb is 1,445 ft/min (7.3 m/s), but you can use more if you are light and still not rub off or lose speed.

 

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It also highly important you do set all those three trim positions to neutral before takeoff, obviously any pilot will do so anyway, but if you have used the A/P on the last flight and then that can seriously put those positions into a very different set of settings that makes the Navajo quite a handful if the aircraft is not rebalanced, get that neutral trim set and the aircraft is far more easier to point and control as you want it to.

 

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As noted smooooth input are the best way to get the thrill out of the PA-31 and to fly the aircraft as a pro, control in bank angle and watching the V/S indicator to hold them both tight takes a bit of skill, but highly rewarding as this aircraft does deliver that sort of feedback so well.

 

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Carenado do have real world pilots to check that these feedback and that the handling aspects of the Navajo are correct, so yes the XP10 Navajo was very good, then this XP11 version is much, much better... but you also have to understand it more and to go deeper to get those certain results that the aircraft can deliver.

 

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I am going to debate the sounds a little. They are the same high quality original Navajo sounds that are now repackaged in a FMOD container, so yes they are very good with excellent 180º doppler effects, and certainly from the internal perspective and the switchgear clicks and thunks like they all should. But externally the engines feel at higher revolutions more higher buzzy, buzz, buzz than the feeling of a 310 hp engine should be, lower speeds are great and no doubt the sounds are correct, but I think more bass would have helped to make them feel a bit more realistic when higher up the range, overall I'm not over crazy on the external sounds at cruise speeds.

 

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Another change is the older tree based custom manipulators have gone. Carenado tried to do something different in the way you scrolled knobs, but it was a very fiddly way of doing simple adjustments, personally I never really took to the idea, as to scroll this way, the adjustment usually went in the other direction...  now (on all Carenado/Alabeo) aircraft we are moving back to the more improved native X-Plane manipulators, and they are certainly far easier to use. This was highlighted by checking out the older version in the last version, "yes, I just found them just as awkward to use again" and was very glad to back in this XP11 aircraft and again using the newer if basic manipulators.

 

Fine tuning the mixture to the digital lean assist, can get you a better fuel flow (FF) without the loss of speed and more range, something to play around with when having different aircraft payload weights and fuel loads, so you want and can get the best refining you can deliver for your dollar.

 

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Memories...  they come back with a jolt, and with a hit in the back!

 

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As the Navajo can still be a bit of a handful in a crosswind, so you need to keep your nerve and skill. 

 

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Full 15º flap and your approach speed target is 90 knts, and the aircraft feels nice in this zone, and that all that is to take care of any quick yaws that need to be addressed from the sudden wind bursts. Note the different throttle positions on both the Manifold Pressure and RPM, with more power to the left engine than the right to keep the runway alignment straight...

 

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...  here use the pitch to lower your height while holding the same 90 knt throttle speed, not the other way around, until you are almost close to the runway, then lower or phase the throttles down to around 80 knts in a nice last minute high flare....

 

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....  still to remember as you reduce the power to keep the same throttle position margin in the left having more power than the right, the better you do this the better the landing will be.

 

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Tricky yes, but that is what flying is all about in controlling your machine in the right settings and conditions that brings out the best outcome... in this case a perfect and smooth landing.

 

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The Navajo will track the centreline better as well, even after the speed has ran off and only then you close up the throttles.

 

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So is the PA-31 Navajo the most sensitive twin out there? It is an interesting question, and it certainly requires a bit more concentration and skill, but it is rewarding as well if you understand the aircraft's performance and quirks, that is also highlights the X-Plane11's unique differences from the earlier versions.

 

Lighting

The Navajo's lit panel is simply beautiful, one of the best in X-Plane? well that is always debatable, but it is still a very nice one to look at and use.

 

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The overhead panel is nice as well, but more focused in the lighting. The four adjustment knobs are here as well for the overhead lighting itself, avionics and left and right pilot and co-pilot lighting of the main instrument panels (above right).

 

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There are two lovely switchable blue overhead lights, one above the cockpit and one above the entrance door. Note when the blue overhead light is on, then the Amperes gauge goes brighter... nice.

 

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There are four switchable animated spot lights above each passenger seat, so you can shine the light on any area.

 

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External lighting is a little basic, but an interesting featurefor a GA in that the wingtip navigation is two way with the standard nav red/green and also the option of noted "Recog" lights which are bright white lights for recognition on as well. Landing left and taxi right lights are as noted, tail beacon and the new brighter strobes are all new XP11.

 

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Liveries

One blank and six liveries are provided and are all the original XP10 versions...  One mustard with yellow, red and black stripes, then five white base liveries with Blue Stripes, Blue/Gold, Red and Stripes, Blue/Gold Stripes and Green Stripes. All are 4K HD high-quality (4096 x 4096) 350 pixel/meter texture liveries but updated and refined for X-Plane11 PBR and reflections...

 

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Summary

The X-Plane11 version of the PA-31 Navajo from Carenado looks outwardly the same as the X-Plane10 version, but it is in many areas quite different. You could say it is the X-Plane11 take on the X-Plane10 version.

 

But dig a little deeper and this is now a more all round aircraft, and certainly highly updated and in all the right areas. Visually it is also very different to the earlier now blander looking Navajo, as the Physically Based Rendering effects certainly brings out all the hidden detail, the better glass and the all round polish on the aircraft. And that is both externally and also with the high quality internal cabin and cockpit design that reflects its early-mid 80's feel.

 

The aircraft's manipulators have been updated, but not the average if dull (even useless) Bendix/King weather radar, sounds are now FMOD, but sound more higher buzzy at high throttle settings, but overall the sounds are excellent and the aircraft is VR compatible as well with the new manifest.json feature (personal fine tuning).

 

It is in the areas of performance is that I think it is were we have had the biggest gains. There is far more feel and variation between the two engines that you need to tune into or dial into the way this aircraft is now flown, certainly having an addon twin-throttle arrangement will give you a far more better experience and control, and yes you could even steer this aircraft left and right by the throttle inputs alone, but we won't go there. but the effects of correct trimming, and throttle control as Pipers are known for being hard to trim and keep trimmed at speed, and that is very evident here and it all adds into the more higher experience of flying a really good medium-twin engined aircraft, in other words the PA-31 is far better using X-Plane11 performance than the original aircraft was in the past and is in the use and in the overall handling of the machine.

 

The is a huge choice in these types of aircraft now in X-Plane, certainly in the Twin-Engine category, and we all have our favorites. But there is and always was something a bit different but very special about this Navajo, it is in its class it could be the very best in X-Planef or VFR and moderate IFR conditions

and to note the Piper Twin Comanche PA30 by vFlyteAir which is also extremely good, but the Navajo would always be my personal choice, and now it is even better...  Highly Recommended.

 

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The PA-31 Piper Navajo XP11 HD Series is a new release for X-Plane11 and is available here at the X-Plane.OrgStore

 

PA31 Navajo HD Series XP11

 

Price is US$32.95

 

The aircraft is directly available from Carenado as well.

  

Special Features

  • Version 1.0
  • Only for X-Plane 11
  • State-of-the-art configurable FPS-friendly logic system.
  • Fully VR compatible
  • Full PBR (Superb material shines and reflections)
  • Features
  • Specially designed engine dynamics for XP11
  • Support for RealityXP's GTN750* (integrated into 3D cockpit, when available).
  • Flight physics optimized for XP11 standards.
  • Ground handling adapted for XP11 ground physics.
  • Physically Based Rendering materials and textures throughout.
  • PBR materials authored with industry-standard software used by the film and gaming industries.
  • X-Plane GNS530 (FPS friendly)
  • Goodway Compatible.
  • Realistic behavior compared to the real airplane. Realistic weight and balance. Tested by several pilots for maximum accuracy.

 

Requirements:

Windows XP - Vista - 7 -10 or MAC OS 10.10 (or higher) or Linux
X-Plane 11
CPU: Intel Core i5 6600K at 3.5 ghz or faster.
Memory: 16-24 GB RAM or more.
Video Card: a DirectX 12-capable video card from NVIDIA, AMD or Intel with at least 4 GB VRAM (GeForce GTX 1070 or better or similar from AMD)
500MB available hard disk space
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Installation:

Download for the PA31 Navajo HD XP11 Series is 453.30mb and the unzipped file is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 521.80mb.

Key authorisation and a restart is required.

 

Documents:

There is Normal and Emergency procedures (checklists), excellent sets of reference and performance tables. But no full manual.

 

  • Copyrights.pdf
  • Credits.pdf
  • PA31-310 Emergency.pdf
  • PA31-310 Normal procedures.pdf
  • PA31-310 Performance tables.pdf
  • PA31-310 Reference.pdf
  • Recommended settings XP11.pdf

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Review by Stephen Dutton 
24th July 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 11.25

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

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro v1.07 US$69.90 : XPRealistic Pro v1.0.9  effects US$19.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- KHAF - Half Moon Bay by Rising Dawn Studios (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.00

  

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