Piper PA-24 Comanche
|Type||Civil utility aircraft|
|Configuration||Low wing aircraft, Retractable gear aircraft|
|Propulsion||Propeller aircraft, Single-engine aircraft|
The Piper PA-24 Comanche is a four-seat, low-wing, all-metal, light aircraft of monocoque construction with retractable landing gear that was first flown in May 1956 according to a Piper Aircraft Company press release. Together with the Twin Comanche, it made up the core of the Piper Aircraft line-up until 1972, when the production lines for both aircraft were wiped out in a flood.
|f||Fuel tank select|
|~||Toggle nav lights|
|!||Toggle master battery switch|
|#||Switch on master alternator switch (not shown in cockpit)|
|@||Toggle fuel pump|
|$||Toggle landing lights|
|%||Toggle rotating beacon|
|^||Toggle anti-collision lights|
|*||Toggle pitot heat|
|(||Turn on and/or decrease panel lights|
|9||Increase and/or turn off panel lights|
|h||Toggle carburator heat|
|Ctrl+P||Toggle primer pump|
|B||Toggle parking brake|
|Ctrl+C||Display mouse "hot-spots"|
- All switches and controls (except yoke and pedals) can be operated via "hot-spots".
- Fuel on most full main (f toggles selector on left side).
- All toggles OFF.
- Battery master switch to ON (! toggles battery master switch).
- Alternator master switch to ON (# switches it on).
- Electric fuel pump ON (@ toggles fuel pump switch).
- Operate primer pump three times then locked (Ctrl+P cycles primer).
- "CLEAR PROP".
- Key to start (s engages starter).
- Pitot heat ON if IFR (* toggles pitot heat switch).
- Beacon %, nav lights ~, strobe lights ^ ON as required.
- Landing light if night ($ toggles landing light switch).
- Release parking brake (B releases brake).
Takeoff check list on panel.
Landing check list on panel.
Airplane of the Week/Month
The Piper Comanche was reviewed as 'Airplane of the Week/Month' on May 31, 2011 as follows:
The Piper PA-24 Comanche has a nicely modelled and textured cockpits down to useful checklists printed on the main panel.
The cockpit contains basic instrumentation for IFR flight and a Century autopilot. Pretty much all systems are functional (including the front window sunshades...), and the plane has a startup procedure and requires fuel management for long-range flights.
The exterior model is perhaps a bit simple by today's standards, some surfaces look a bit too uniform and lack detail, but the different light switches in the cockpit are all functional for the external model, and the cockpit and baggage doors have opening animations.
The PA-24 is a nice alternative to the C-172p - it is an easy to fly single engine plane with slightly more sophistication (it has a retractable gear and a variable pitch propeller). The FDM doesn't feel especially spectacular, but it certainly behaves in a plausible way for the plane (I have not done checks against actual performance data though). The basic relations between trim, elevator, engine power and flaps certainly work out nicely and the turn characteristics seem reasonable.
At higher altitudes the engine loses power as it should, and the EGT gauge reflects that. However, one odd thing is that even crossing over Mt. Blanc (at 17.000 ft) the engine would still run with mixture set to 'full rich' even though EGT would be very low, something I have never experienced with other planes, so here something may not be quite as it should.
A very nice feature is the autopilot, which I found well tuned both at high and low altitudes.
All in all, the PA-24 is not a spectacular plane in any single characteristic, but mostly a solid piece of work and a nice plane to enjoy the scenery and to learn how to deal with a variable pitch propeller, and as such it is worth some attention.
My personal wishlist
The engine behaviour at high altitude should certainly be clarified. Also, it would be nice to improve texturing of the interior away from the main panel - this is currently very simple, and to revisit the exterior model.
Things to experience
The Comanche is the only plane I am aware of which comes with two different versions of the autopilot, the Century CIIB and the CIII which can be selected at startup - so you can try both and compare.