When Just Flight announced their Arrow III for MSFS, we knew it had the potential to be special. After all, it’s based on the same airplane for FSX, P3D and X-Plane, which has gained high praise by users of those platforms.
After the release last week, we had the chance to put the plane through its paces, seeing how it fares on its own, but also against the also recently launched (and cheaper) Arrow III from Carenado. Whilst we didn’t yet have the chance to test Carenado’s version, the consensus among simmers is clear: Just Flight’s version is just the most compelling, for its uniqueness, character, and overall features and fun factor.
When first checking the manual Just Flight handily provides, it becomes clear that they want customers to really go deep into the Arrow’s systems and characteristics. The manual explains every instrument in detail, something that will prove to be very helpful for those wanting to learn more about the aircraft. Existing pilots who are familiar with the plane, however, will feel right at home when entering the cockpit. It’s clearly an airframe that has seen its fair share of use both inside and out. In fact, this Arrow is based on a real aircraft, G-BGKU, based at Conington Airfield.
Thankfully, if you’re not really fond of the well-used instrument panel, there’s an alternative “clean” version included, which you can easily swap out by replacing a single file. Again, everything is well explained in the manual.
The best way to get started with the PA-28R is really to follow the tutorial flight, which will take you on a quick flight between Compton-Abbas airfield and Shoreham Airport. Here you will learn how to start the Arrow from cold & dark, set up the radios for VOR navigation and overall best practices to operate the aircraft. The great thing about this bird is that everything works, from each instrument and knob down to the circuit breakers.
The PA-28R is lauded for its excellent IFR-capable avionics, which turn it into a perfect training aircraft. And it’s been like that throughout its entire history, so it’s natural that Just Flight made sure this could be an accurate representation of the real-world characteristics. Besides the complete radio and navigation stack, you have the option to choose between three different GPS units: a basic GPS 100, ord the GNS 430 and 530. These can be handily selected through the EFB, a propped-up tablet where you can configure a number of features in the aircraft.
This EFB is particularly interesting, even if it’s somewhat of an antithesis in comparison with the overall interior environment. After all, it’s a modern gadget in an otherwise very vintage cockpit. But, it does provide some useful features and can be hidden away through the nearby intercom switch. Besides the aforementioned selection of the GPS unit, you can use it to quickly set the aircraft starting state, enable and disable exterior equipment, or see a series of real-time flight information. Here you can also enable a set of custom failures specific to the Arrow and manage the battery voltage and oil quantity. Very important if you want to avoid any problems!
Still in the cockpit, we are particularly fond of the vintage nature of the Arrow here, with its steam gauges and considerable wear. In fact, at the cockpit is when this Arrow looks better. The external textures, while definitely good, especially from an average distance, can be a slight disappointment when up close. The cockpit, however, is mostly gorgeous and very detailed, at least right in front of you. Look up and things start to deteriorate… but why would you do that?
When if flight, the PA-28R is very gracious, although it feels somewhat slow and ‘heavy’. This is not an aerobatic machine by any means, and there’s isn’t much power to get you going at a fast pace. And even though we can’t compare it with the real thing for the lack of personal experience, we can say that it flies very well and it’s a treat to manoeuvre. The audio experience is an absolute success here and the Arrow sounds very characterful.
Level flight is very easy, as it sits very stable when nicely trimmed at cruise speed with 75% power. That’s probably why the autopilot doesn’t include an altitude hold mode. In fact, it’s a rather simple system, but capable. For the sake of convenience, Just Flight added a concealed ALT HOLD click-spot on the Piper logo located in the navigation/approach coupler. Not realistic but can be helpful.
Real-world pilots of the Arrow often say that with power off it drops like a stone. This seems to be well represented here, and the Arrow is clearly not a good glider! When testing some of its flight characteristics, we were overall very pleased, as this is real fun to fly. However, when trying to stall or spin, it seems that it doesn’t like to do either of those things. We’re not sure if this is a real characteristic of the airplane, or if somehow the flight model is at fault here. But if you have real experience with the plane, let us know in the comments if Just Flight’s version is behaving well here!
Nowadays, saying that a flight simulator aircraft is a “study-level” experience is somewhat of a conundrum, but the reality is that Just Flight created here an in-depth simulation of the PA-28R, that will perfectly serve those who are learning about the plane and want to get familiar with it. Delve into it and the result will be a very rewarding experience.
In the end, flying this Arrow III from Just Flight is what we would call an “immersive” event. There’s a perfect mix here between a great graphical model that seems real, the in-depth simulations of all its systems and features, and the overall fun factor of getting in the cockpit and go on a tour with it. An easy recommendation and, in our opinion, the best third-party airplane yet for Flight Simulator!