Heidi High: The Accu-Sim Piper Cub

By Tim Stone on October 18th, 2009 at 4:45 pm.

We flight simmers are gaming’s reluctant hermits. We often go hours without seeing another polygonal personage. Sometimes we don’t even have our own arms and legs for company. It’s tough. Lonely. Thank heavens someone has finally sought to end the solitude. Not only is A2A Simulations‘ latest FSX adjunct – a Piper J-3 Cub – one of the most convincingly modelled sim steeds I’ve ever had the pleasure to pilot, it also comes with its own responsive cockpit companion, Heidi.

Heidi won’t chat knowledgeably about military history, or laugh uncontrollably when you do your excellent Rigsby-out-of-Rising-Damp impersonation, but she does react very naturally to erratic flying, changing temperature conditions, and passing traffic. Depending on which of her temperaments you’ve selected (fun, nervous, calm, silent) you can find yourself being reprimanded for recklessness, quizzed about your piloting qualifications, or egged-on to further aerobatic excess. Close your eyes and it’s very easy to imagine her replaced with a foul-mouthed flying instructor, a patient-monitoring Flying Doctor, or a mysterious briefcase-clutching stranger. Assuming they were prepared to licence it, A2A’s Passenger On Board concept could transform many a drab commercial FS mission pack.

The Cub – assuming you buy the Accu-Sim version – also comes with a frankly forensic level of flight and engine modelling. To start the beast, you must flip the magneto switch, press the primer, set the throttle, and, using the mouse, position then swing the prop.  It seems like a small thing, but that sharp life-giving moment of physicality adds to the immersion immeasurably.  Almost as involving is the meticulous tracking of engine wear. Habitually over-rev the 65hp lump chugging away in the nose, and it will start running rough and guzzling oil. Happily for the hamfisted aviator, oil refills and engine overhauls are always just a key-press away.

Other reasons why I’m cleaved to the Cub at present:

  • It floats like a butterfly when flown into strong headwinds. 
  • It stings like a bee when spun.
  • It creaks like a galleon in turns.
  • You can move the float version into and out of berths with a mouse-manipulated paddle.
  • You can slow down the tundra version prior to landing by delicately dipping its oversized tires in water. 
  • The PDF manual is a work of genuine scholarship.
  • It has the most beautifully modelled split pins I’ve ever seen in a sim.

Glimpse the steely splendour of those mini metal masterpieces at 1.05:

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23 Comments »

  1. Rob says:

    I’ve never had the patience for flight sims but i would love to try this just to freak out Heidi.

  2. PureHalibut says:

    Watching the spin brought back traumatic memories of my instructor doing the same in a C152.

    Scarily realistic, unlike the stalls and spins in the stock FSX aircraft.

  3. Hastur says:

    Spin training was by far the scariest part of flight school. My stomach dropped just watching that clip.

    • pirate0r says:

      Scariest part? I couldn’t get enough of it when I was learning to fly. For me it was right up there with short landings and simulated engine failures in the circuit.

    • Smithee says:

      Question: did you train in the US or Europe? I don’t know how the training curricula relate, but in the US the precursor to the FAA got rid of the spin training requirement back in the ’40s, substituting more stall awareness training. Pilots learning in US schools might (or might not) receive stall training, and only if the instructor feels like it. We never did anything more than get into an incipient spin, then back out before it had the chance to develop.

    • PureHalibut says:

      Same in the UK, spin training was removed but recovery is still taught. Spins are only done if the instructor feels like it.

    • pirate0r says:

      I trained in Canada, I don’t think it was required but I had a LOT of fun doing it.

  4. tibbles says:

    cue heidi fanfic in 3.. 2..

  5. schurem says:

    Heidi reminds me of Ivan the tailgunner in Il-2 Sturmovik.

    • nichevo says:

      You called him Ivan too eh? I suppose it’s the obvious choice. (Was your Stuka tail gunner called Jerry?)

      But I doubt Heidi will cry “OHHH NYEEEETTTTT!” when you fly like a maniac.

    • Rostock says:

      Hhaa… I loved making my tail-gunner shit himself… flying upside down close to the water.

  6. Smithee says:

    This looks impressive, especially since the stock Cub in MSFS is pretty terrible. I used to fly a Aeronca Champ in real life (which should have similar characteristics as the Cub, though old timers might get into fistfights over that), and was always disappointed with the FS Cub. It was impossible to taxi without groundlooping, developed Corsair-levels of torque from a 65hp engine, and was generally unforgiving. I tried a few mods, but they all made it feel like a tricycle gear and got rid of the fun dancing on the rudder pedals. I’m glad to hear someone may have gotten it right.

    Question for Mr. Stone: How’s the handpropping handled? Do you actually have to be “outside” the aircraft to handprop it, or do you just click on the prop? In my dream sim I’d love to see some of the joys of handpropping modeled, like not starting after the tenth throw and flooding the engine, accidentally leaving the throttle open all the way, or forgetting to tie down and having the plane taxi off all on its own. Or maybe Heidi could a good passenger and handle the gas and brakes while the pilot throws the prop.

    Also, checking out the website, I noticed that this comes with a “118-page, full sized Pilot’s Manual,” which is pretty hilarious considering that real J-3′s probably didn’t have any manuals at, or at best a single page.

  7. Tim Stone says:

    There are various custom views including one that simulates standing in the hand-start position. From there you grab the prop with the mouse pointer, find the compression point (?) at roughly two-o-clock, and pull down. I’m not certain about flooding, but I suspect it is modelled. On occasion I’ve been a bit over-enthusiastic with the primer and had to swing the prop a few times.

    With throttle open and brakes off the Cub will start moving after the engine catches, but as you’re not physically outside the plane it’s not really a problem. No danger of Heidi doing an impromptu solo.

    • Smithee says:

      I like it – good to see someone model handpropping well. FYI, compression point refers to where the propeller needs to be in order to have one of the cylinders go through a compression stroke. You can definitely feel a “tightening” at the compression point when you’re pulling the prop through.

      I do feel bad for Heidi, though. I hope she knows how to use heel brakes.

  8. MrSnoobs says:

    If you pretend he’s a brummie, every time he says Piper Cub, he actually says “paper cup”.

    Much hilarity.

  9. Caiman says:

    Is that camera shake in-game, or done in post-production for the video?

  10. terry says:

    Check the split pins on that!

  11. Ffitz says:

    Splendid. The Cub is one of my favourite aircraft in real life, so this is a dead cert sell.

    Hope Heidi’s got a good singing voice for those long cross-country flights.

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