There are currently three Piper Arrow III models by three different developers (Aerosphere, Just Flight and vFlyteAir) available on the market. vFlyteAir are currently working on version 5 of their Arrow III, while Just Flight only recently released their offering (their debut on the X-Plane market). Aerosphere on the other hand just updated their Arrow III to version 2.1, adding the latest X-Plane 11 features. Sounds complicated? It somewhat is!
Anyway, I wanted to know which Arrow III is the best. However, since the current version 4 of vFlyteAir’s model will be outdated soon now that they’re working on v5, I decided to review the models by Just Flight and Aerosphere only. This also makes it less complicated to write and read this review. As soon as vFlyteAir’s version 5 will be out, I will review that model too, though, and update this review accordingly, but that is still some months away. This does not mean that vFlyteAir’s current Arrow III is bad or outdated in any way. As a matter of fact I spent uncounted hours in their Arrow III and I enjoyed each and every one of them! I just wanted to review something that is newer. So let’s concentrate on the models by Just Flight and Aerosphere for now.
Let’s start with a little walkaround. Both models look good on first sight. If you take a closer look, though, Just Flight’s model shows more detail. Their mesh quality apparently is higher than Aerosphere’s. However this is not really a surprise. Aerosphere take great importance in great (or better: outstanding) performance which basically means, they use lower polygons in their meshes than most competitors. For some, this is certainly a good thing. Pilots with a powerful PC or anyone who prefers looks over performance will probably prefer Just Flight’s model. Especially if we take the cockpit into consideration. Let’s take a look at that later, though.
One considerable difference in Just Flight’s model are the different menu items, which are accessibly via an awfully looking menu icon on the left side of the screen. Thankfully this horrible and huge icon can be hidden by using the scroll wheel while hovering over it. Otherwise this might have been a personal deal breaker to me since (at least to me) it is very distracting. Anyway, since it can be hidden (which I did on almost all screenshots) it’s not a real problem luckily. The actual menu items (see screenshot below) are nice for the most part. Nothing too special here (I am actually quite sure I won’t use them at all). One thing strikes me, though. Just Flight’s menu is linked to some X-Plane native menus. What’s the point of that? It’s somewhat weird to advertise features that are actually built-in into X-Plane. Not really a problem, I just expected more.
One thing that definitely needs improvement are the menu graphics. As you know, Just Flight’s Arrow III was converted to X-Plane by Thranda Design (creator of the popular Kodiak Quest). Thranda certainly do have a remarkable talent for most development aspects. 2D artwork is certainly not included in that talent, unfortunately. But then again, this is just a minor issue and does in no way distract the actual flying experience.
I think it’s pretty darn obvious which model wins this category. Visually, Just Flight’s model surpasses the competitor’s model in every imaginable way. Just look at all that detail in Just Flight’s model. It does look incredibly beautiful and it certainly raises the bar for GA aircraft in X-Plane. You can also add your RealityXP GTN 750 Touch gauge into your Just Flight Arrow III panel (see screenshot below). When you do that, the GTN 750 remains fully operational. You don’t need to pop it out first.
Compared to this visual quality and feature set, Aerosphere’s cockpit just looks old and dull (their Warrior II was much better in that respect). Don’t get me wrong, I love all of Aerosphere’s products and they do have their assets (don’t miss the flight model section in this review). I just wish their cockpits, especially their panels, could look a bit more like the competitor’s. I usually don’t mind this visual quality level, but seeing those planes in direct comparison, I did have a hard time going back to Aerosphere after spending some hours with Just Flight’s model.
There is also a lot more to discover in Just Flight’s Arrow III. Apparently a lot of time, love and devotion went into the recreation of Just Flight’s model. All this love definitely pays off. I basically own every quality GA aircraft for X-Plane and I owned almost all A2A and RealAir products back in my P3D days so I’ve seen ’em all. My point is, (visually) I have never seen a better looking GA model before. If this becomes the new standard in X-Plane, then our platform will have a bright future! Surprisingly Just Flight’s model showed good performance, definitely better than I expected. Aerosphere’s Arrow III was still performing a lot better, but that’s basically their specialty, offering a great flight model with great performance.
Just Flight with RealityXP GTN 750
Flying the Beast
OK, so visually we got a clear winner here with Just Flight. The outstanding visual quality alone justifies the higher price tag of this model (Just Flight charges currency dependent either £27.99, €34.95 or $41.99, Aerosphere only $24.95). That said, since these products have a different price tag this comparison is probably somewhat unfair. Please bear that in mind. Anyway, who cares about all those eye-candy features? We are pilots, right? All we care about is the flight model 😉
So let’s find out how these birds actually fly. In theory there should not be any difference, it’s the same model after all. In reality, however, these birds do not fly like the same aircraft model (similar, but not the same). As for Aerosphere, their flight model is similar to the flight model of their Warrior II, which I found was great (see the full review here). The controls are somewhat twitchy or sensitive and you have to be careful with your control inputs. This sensitivity makes a lot of sense to me, though. This is a small and light aircraft and I expect it to be reactive on input controls. I am also pretty sure that this sensitivity was made with the user owning a yoke in mind (which I don’t, I fly using the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog flight stick). I can imagine that the sensitivity is just right for yoke owners, but maybe a tiny tad to high for flight stick owners.
Just Flight’s Arrow III on the other hand doesn’t behave twitchy at all. Instead it feels a lot more “stable”. This can be a good thing for some. Personally I prefer Aerosphere’s flight model, though. It is more challenging and more fun and it feels more realistic. But there also appears to be something wrong with Just Flight’s flight model. I never flew a real Piper and only have some hours in a C172, so my opinion might not be accurate at all and just nonsense. However, if you own Just Flight’s Arrow III, try to stall her and see what happens. This behavior cannot be right (download this video to see for yourself). It certainly doesn’t feel realistic to me. But again, this is just my opinion. If you don’t do stalls, you probably wouldn’t even notice this issue. It certainly does not affect normal flight operations, which are fine in either model.
On the other hand, Just Flight offers far more features than Aerosphere. The full feature list is just ridiculously long, too long to post here. Instead, follow this link for the full feature set and a feature comparison of this beast with its FSX/P3D counterpart (the X-Plane version actually has more features). Aerosphere’s feature set is much shorter (but again, it’s a lot cheaper too):
- 4 HD (4096 x 4096) liveries with a plain white texture that can be used for custom paint schemes.
- Steam gauge trainer cockpit model to help pilots in the training environment with required instruments for IFR.
- Garmin 530 & 430
- All gauges are 3D
- Detailed flight model and interactive 3D virtual cockpit with animated knobs, buttons etc. cabin door, storm window and rear baggage compartment door.
- Toggle button to remove/display yoke
- Compatible with HDR and normal lighting effects
- Many textures taken from the actual aircraft
- Custom sounds compatible with X-Plane 11
Another aspect of flying is the immersion factor, with the sound being a very important part of it! The sound is great in both models but definitely more refined in Just Flight’s Arrow III. Actually, when I first heard Just Flight’s Arrow III roar up on departure, I was impressed. Great sound immersion, best I have ever heard in X-Plane thus far. We definitely need more of this! This does not mean that Aerosphere’s sound is bad, it is just not as perfect as Just Flight’s!
As you would expect from each model’s flight characteristics, both behave a bit different when trying to land. Aerosphere’s Arrow III feels more twitchy and responsive, while Just Flight’s Arrow III is easier to handle on final approach. However, both of them are challenging to land by the book, which probably is a characteristic of the real Arrow III. That’s definitely a good thing.
This has been a rather unusual review for me so far as I normally try to concentrate on how an aircraft “feels” in terms of immersion. The nicest visuals, the sharpest graphics and the best sound modeling is nothing if it’s not packed together in a way that makes you feel like you are actually in that plane. And in that respect, both products win! Yes, the Just Flight Arrow III has superior visuals, outstanding sound and it is packed with a lot of awesome features (it is also a lot more expensive). This does not necessarily make it the better product, though. Aerosphere definitely made another fine aircraft here that is a joy to fly and worth its (much lower) price tag.
That said, I find it hard to say which one was overall better. I liked both models, each having its own characteristics. The Just Flight model visually surpasses basically any other GA model available on the market. It does lack realism in its flight model to a certain extent, which leaves room for competitors with a more refined flight model. I guess it is a matter of personal preference. I for myself will continue to fly both aircraft and benefit from Just Flight’s visual quality and perfect sounds, as well as from Aerosphere’s outstanding flight model, which make all of their products challenging and a real joy to fly!
Get the Aerosphere Piper PA-28R-201 Arrow III for only $24.95 at the x-plane.org store here. Just Flight’s Piper PA-28R Arrow III is available at their own store for just £27.99 / €34.95 / $41.99 here.
EDIT 11/25/2017: Added RealityXP configuration option to Just Flight Arrow III.