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: