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Review: WSS Piper Seminole PA-44

WSS Piper Seminole reviewOur regular review on Sunday from Peter Hayes hailing from down under: “ This is the WSS version of the Piper PA-44 Seminole twin airplane.  It is well modelled with nice clean lines and you get 5 repaints in the package.  In general the instrumentation is good, nice and clear and functional, as are the sounds (internal and external), and it flies extremely well.  Being a twin engine plane it is very useful for mid-range GA flights being suitable for both VFR and IFR. Inevitably you would have to compare the Seminole to the Twin Comanche (as the former was built as a possible replacement for the latter), and I feel that it does compare quite favourably.

The Interior looks pretty good too being equipped for luxury business travel (although it was basically sold as a a “twin-trainer”, with the seats having realistic lines.  Unfortunately it does not have facilities for loading, maintenance or repair during use, and that would have made it a much better plane in my opinion.  This will still be a nice addition to my virtual hangar”

The Piper Seminole — A Florid Review

Background: (Courtesy of Wikipedia and Airliners.net)

The Seminole is a light-twin, 4 seat, (pilot plus 3 passengers) low wing, metal constructed aircraft, powered usually by two 180 HP Lycoming O-360 flat four piston engines with 2 x 2-blades constant speed, propellers and retractable “tricycle” landing gear.  There is good forward visibility allowing easy taxiing to take-off, as well as general on-ground manoeuvring.  The right engine rotates in the opposite direction to the left engine, reducing the “torque” effect on full throttle and easier to control in a case of (single) engine failure.  Apparently in the real world in some variants the two propellers can be synchronised (rpm) to eliminate any out of balance effects which could cause shuddering when flying.  I could not find that this automatic synchronisation was modelled in the Sim, but I could get reasonable synchronization by listening to the two engines and adjusting the rpm appropriately.  The Seminole features a high T-Tail, which has little impact in the Sim, and apparently this is the only Piper plane still in production that features a T-tail.  Production of the Seminole continues but at quite a low rate.

In the Sim

Installation was painless with a self extracting “exe” file which installs in the correct FSX location.  The documentation i.e. the Manual) is installed along with the plane in the \simobjects\Airplanes\Seminole folder.

Settings: On my system in the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” I was presented with the tab for “WSSimulation” and this allows the choice of all 5 Seminole repaints.  My flight control settings are full right — as realistic as you can get.

The Guide: There is a sort of manual of 24 pages, which is basically a checklist of standard operating procedures, minimum system requirements, and a series of pictures of the cockpit which have annotations showing what button, gauge, lever, etc does what.  These are well laid out and it is easy to find what the purpose of a particular gauge, etc is for.  Again there is very little interesting background information on the Seminole with just a few brief lines outlining its history.  However, as most of the instrumentation is typical of a twin GA plane, there may be no need to fully describe the functions of each particular instrument.

The Visual Aspect

Outside the planes have nice clean lines and are good representations of the real deal.  There are no jagged edges and there are nice reflections from the windows, wings and fuselage.

Figure 2 real world seminole on the groundFigure 2 Real-Life Piper Seminole Courtesy of Wikipedia and AHunt.

Figure 3 WSS FSX seminole on the groundFigure 3 WSS Seminole

As you can see in the pictures above there are some minor differences between the real world variant and the WSS model, but that may be due to model variation and/or the relative angles of taking the pictures.  I notice that in the real life variant the front nose wheel appears shorter and it is more parallel to the runway, but low and behold when I applied power the WSS Seminole, the front wheel suspension compresses, and the tail comes up and the plane is now more parallel to the runway.  Good modelling.

The Interior is well appointed showing the luxurious club seats available in this aircraft — look at the stitching:

figure 4 WSS Seminole InteriorFigure 4 Interior from the front

figure 5 Seminole Interior rearFigure 5 Rear Interior

The, handles, buttons, gauges, levers, lights and wheels all look realistic and are quite clear. Unfortunately, none of the gauges “pop-up” or increase in size when clicked (neither do they in real-life), so a TrackIR would be a good investment. There are no 2D panels.  Shift + 2 Pulls up the Radio etc stack, and shift + 3 displays the GPS a GPS500 which looks and operates like the standard FSX gauge.  The blurb states “almost all gauges are also exclusive”, it would have been nice to know which gauges were exclusive and which were standard FSX gauges.  I had no visual issues inside or out when using “DX10 Preview” in the sim.

Figure 6 Real VC seminole Greg duffFigure 6 Real Cockpit Photograph – Courtesy Greg Duff and Airliners.net

Figure 7 WSS SEminole VCFigure 7 WSS Seminole VC This is a reasonable representation of the real VC.

Figure 8 VC Gauges at NightFigure 8 VC Gauges in VC note the “spotlight” effect

Figure 9 Throttle and pedalsFigure 9 Throttle and pedals

Figure 10 VC shwing Radio StackFigure 10 VC and Radio Stack Pop-up

Figure 11 VC Showing GPS pop-upFigure 11 VC showing GPS Pop-Up

There are 5 repaints Brown; White/Red; Blue; Red/Blue and Black/Grey, these are apparently based on real-life aircraft and it would have been nice to know the history of those 5 planes and why they were chosen.

Piper Seminole Repaints:

Figure 12 Seminole Black Grey RepaintFigure 12 Black/Grey Repaint

Figure 13 Seminole Brown RepaintFigure 13 Brown Repaint

Figure 14 Seminole Blue RepaintFigure 14 Blue Repaint

Figure 15 Seminole White Red RepaintFigure 15 White Red Repaint

Figure 16 Seminole Red Blue RepaintFigure 16 Red Blue Repaint

There is only one door, i.e. the front access door, it opens and closes, and there is a “tread” strip on the wing allowing access to the plane.

Figure 17 Seminole Tread strip door openFigure 17 Seminole Tread Strip – door open

Range: On normal fuel usage (approx 10 US gallons/Hr per engine = 20 USG/hr) you can fly for around 10 hours, i.e. around 700 nm up to around 820nm.  One flight I had ran for 600nm and the fuel was definitely on the low side when I landed.

I did not see any significant drop in performance (frame rates) in FSX in this plane.

Instruments in the Interior:

There is one and only one cockpit layout for the 5 repaints.  This depicts the usual avionics/navigation instruments many of which are apparently exclusive to WSS.  The gauges are really from an earlier era, probably the 1990’s and it is a pity that there is not just one model featuring up to date instruments.  The instruments look good at night with clear illumination.  However, the landing/taxi lights are poor with very little illumination, so it will be interesting to see a Shockwave Redux version.  One issue that I had was that there seem to be two landing lights?? — one on either side of the front nose, but I couldn’t get these to switch on or off with the usual keyboard commands or with any of the cockpit switches.  I found a picture of a Seminole landing (unfortunately could not get approval to use the picture) and this shows these lights as being operational. — Mystery.

I could not find any manual modelling for lowering the landing gear in the event of failure.

See Figures 6 — 11above.

Figure 18 Seminole at night weak landing lights - centre lights not workingFigure 18 Seminole at night weak landing lights – centre lights not working?

Figure 19 Seminole VC at night nice spot light effectsFigure 19 Seminole VC at night nice spot light effects

The Payload

These are set within the Sim for a pilot, co-pilot and two passengers and baggage, so that reflects the payload of the real life plane.

In the air

The engines can be started manually, or Ctrl + E will also work, and this is outlined adequately in the manual.  I set all my controls in FSX to realistic ie to the far right.  My Saitek Pro Pedals chose this moment to “die” on me so I had to resurrect my venerable CH pedals to complete the review.  I also swapped by X-52 joystick for a CH Eclipse Yoke and CHTQ to get a more realistic control of the plane.  Using the Eclipse paddles taxiing was a breeze (even though in DX10 mode you don’t get the inbuilt FSX taxi cheat, but have to rely on actually following the taxiway signs).  I have the eclipse paddles set to “steer” the plane up to 40 KIAS, at which time the rudder pedals take-over, the paddles are quite sensitive and allow you to steer accurately whilst keeping that nose-wheel on the yellow line.  I also used the CH TQ to power one engine preferentially over the other (differential power control) in order to achieve a nice tight turn at low speeds.  This is well modelled.

For take-off I followed the manual checklist, i.e. brakes hold, flaps 10⁰, throttles at 20” manifold pressure, check gauges, release brakes, push throttles to full and rotate at around 75 KIAS which equates to around 1500’, so make sure you do have a long enough runway.  (There was no noticeable torque effect on take-off.) I climbed at around 90KIAS, retracted the gear at the end of the runway and decreased flaps at 300’.  Airspeed picks up rapidly, even at a climb of 1300’/min, and you need to keep an eye on things so that you don’t over-speed.  I cruised at around 7,500’ and it was easy to trim the plane for level flight at a cruise of around 150 KIAS.  You need to adjust the mixture for best EGT for the plane to run smoothly.  The gear retracts with a satisfying thunk. There are cowl flaps on this plane and these may need adjustment in flight to prevent the engine getting too hot or cold.  With a full load on board it to took me nearly 2000’ to take-off.

Figure 20 Seminole Gear RetractedFigure 20 Gear Retracted

Figure 21 Seminole Gear DownFigure 21 Gear Down

The ceiling of this plane is around 15,000’ and it achieves this in around 20 — 30 minutes depending on load, etc.

Once in level flight switching off one engine gives some very interesting effects, and I had to reduce altitude and adjust the controls to attain level flight.  You have to bank the plane toward the good engine in order to achieve level flight and you can see that your speed falls rapidly without that extra engine. I don’t think that I would want to attempt this is a storm or in a high cross wind.  I did land on one engine and once you have setup flight for only one engine, the landing is quite normal (that is after about 10 virtual crashes).

This WSS aircraft handles very well and is a joy to fly.

Stalls

Inducing a stall was according to the “book”, i.e. above 3000’, no flaps, landing gear retracted, reducing the power to idle and trying to maintain level flight.  In the sim the stall occurs at around 55KIAS (same as real-life) the plane becomes very heavy, shakes a lot and wants to descend rapidly i.e. almost uncontrollable.  Recovery was also by the “book”, i.e. decreasing the angle of attack and advancing both throttles to full power, until I had full control back again.  I did not try the manoeuvre with full flaps, in turns, landing gear down or in turbulent weather.  I thought that stalls were well modelled in this plane.

Landing

I set up my approach at around 5 — 7nm out (with gear down and with 10⁰ flaps) by reducing speed and stabilising to around 100 KIAS, descending at approximately 500’/min and the plane flew very well using this technique.  The controls were good during landing, being both light and responsive.

On the short grass strips found in the Newfoundland scenery, I set the flaps to 40⁰, gear down slow to 70 -75 KIAS and the landings although bumpy, I did get down in one piece.  Cross wind landings (max cross wind of 10 knots) are achievable using 10⁰ flaps and approaching at around 80 KIAS, although many times I totally missed the runway.  This plane has very good landing characteristics.

I didn’t find a “one engine” landing overly difficult (try that in the Citation CX), there was a need to bank the plane to keep it level, so I’m not sure how well this was modelled compared to real-life.

Figure 22  Seminole LandingFigure 22 On Final Nice plane to land

Sounds

I liked the sounds they vary (as they should) from outside to inside and front to back.  There is no hint if these are real life sounds; it just states in the blurb that there is a “sound pack”.  Pity it would be nice to know the source of these sounds.

Repaints

None that I could find, even on AVSIM

Support: This was by email.  I sent two emails requesting support but did not receive a response to either.

Summing Up:  This is another nice “no frills” twin which will be useful for fast medium range cross-country journeys.  It is reasonably fast and so you cover the ground rapidly.  The plane handles beautifully and it looks very good.  To me the disappointments were minor, but the absence of fast responsive support is a bit of a worry.  I thought that the manual was deficient in not describing fully the instruments or other functionality of the plane.  Again the “Gyro Suction” gauge is modelled but not acknowledged in the manual.  What is it about this gauge — everybody avoids it? There was no facility for maintenance or repairs and it used the inbuilt payload function of FSX when it would have been good to see a dedicated load manager.  On the good side it handled extremely well and the flight dynamics were excellent i.e. it seems to simulate the real deal in many ways.  It will be a good basic airplane to have in the virtual hangar.

WOW Factor: 7½/10
Peter Hayes, Australia, December 2009.

Table of the Important Bits:

Publisher:

WSS (Wydler Studios)

Supplier:

Simmarket by direct download.
http://secure.simmarket.com/wssimulation-piper-pa-44-seminole.phtml

Download
File Size:

24 MB (exe file)

Installation
File Size:

195 MB

Simulator Requirement:

FSX supports SP2 (or Acceleration/Gold) and DX10;

OS Requirements:

Win XP, Vista and/or Win 7;

Variants:

N/A

Paint Schemes

5 Different paint schemes: Brown; White/Red; Blue; Red/Blue and Black/Grey.

Cockpit

3D (VC) only

Supplementary:

N/A

Testing System:

Intel E8600, 4GB DDR 800 RAM, Vista 64 SP2, nVidia 9800 GT, 182.50 Driver;
FSX SP1 + SP2; 750GB SATA II Seagate 7200 HDD.  Saitek X-52 Joystick, Saitek Pro Pedals, CH Eclipse Yoke, CH TQ Quadrant.
No Tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.

Scenery:

FSX standard, GEXn, UTX, FSGenesis LC/Mesh; X-Graphics; Newfoundland VFR Vol 1 and 2.

Installation:

Installation is simplicity itself being automatic via a self extracting exe file.  Should be installed with Admin rights — VISTA right click “Run as administrator”.

Manuals / Documentation

One with checklists and basic instrument operation.  Not as comprehensive as I would have liked

Support:

manlio@wydlerstudios.com.ar

Forum:

N/A

Updates

N/A

Figure 23  Seminole close-up and personal

Figure 24  Seminole Side view rivets

Figure 24  Seminole Side view rivets

Figure 25 Seminole Under belly exhasut staining

Figure 26 Seminole Lift off amongst the balloons

Figure 27 Seminole Lift off into the balloons

Figure 28 Seminole Lift off into the balloons

Figure 29 Seminole Instrument close up co pilot

Figure 30 VC at night

Figure 31 Top down view

 

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