This is flying. You cannot get more grassroots or classic when it comes to aviation than flying 1000 feet AGL on a warm, sunny day with the door open in a J-3 Cub. With the gentle purr of the 4 cylinder Continental pulling a wooden prop it is easy to see why this is one of the most iconic ways to go for a flight.
A few years ago A2A Simulations took on the daunting task of giving the venerable old Cub justice in the simulation world. Holding true to the Cubs tradition and pedigree would be a challenge and after flying it now for the last couple of days it is of my opinion that they have given the J-3 the attention it rightfully deserves in the land of flight simulation. So come on, let’s get the walk around done and go for a local flight around Spruce Creek (7FL6) and see what kind of fun we can have with the A2A Simulations Piper J-3 Cub.
The first thing that I noticed when doing my first inspection of the model is the obvious attention to detail that A2A simulations has put into this Cub. The reputation of A2A and their eye for detail is very evident in this interpretation. All the fasteners, wires and even the individual cooling fins on the cylinders are all there. The texturing of course is second to none with this great model. When dealing with a legend in aviation such as the Piper Cub, anything else would be a disservice to a true Cub experience.
Given that this is an older release for A2A Simulations the Piper Cub does not have the walk around option like the newer releases (Cessna 172, Piper Cherokee and the new Cessna 182). Nonetheless, you still want to make sure that your engine is in good shape by inspecting the fluids and condition. You don’t want to find out you’re out of oil shortly after take off!!
Another interesting item is the fact that you can move the airplane around the ramp using the controls on the F3 tab. The soon to be released A2A Simulations Cessna 182 will also have the capability to tow the aircraft around the ramp which is something aircraft owners and line service workers (like myself) confront daily. Just another small detail that adds to the immersion factor of this model!
The first thing we are going to do once we enter the cockpit is decide if we want our passenger along for the ride. What fun would flying a Cub be without a passenger? With the A2A Cub you can pick what kind of emotional state you want your passenger, Heidi, to have. I usually go with the calm version but you can also select nervous to calm. Depending on what version of Heidi you have picked and the way you fly will determine her reactions. I would not recommend going into a spin with the nervous Heidi.
Climbing into the Cub one object that was most noticeable is that there is not a master switch to turn the battery on. There simply isn’t one, this is barebones flying and who needs a battery! Speaking of things that the Cub lacks (which is completely accurate) is that there is not any form of fancy avionics to play with. Instead what you will find is a little handheld com radio.
As far as navigation goes you have a little map you can pull up by hitting F5 but that’s it. Not even a VOR and certainly not a GPS. This is dead reckoning navigation which is certainly a refreshing way to fly after flying most aircraft equipped with Garmin 430’s and 530’s.
Getting the Cub started takes a little practice since there is not an electrical starter. That’s right you have to hand prop it. Hand propping has become somewhat of a lost art as almost every single aircraft built these days has an electrical starter but for today’s flight we are going to have to give it our best shot in getting it started the old fashioned way.
First, we turn the fuel flow on, followed by a few shots of primer. It’s relatively warm today down at the Spruce Creek Airpark so it should not take much to get it started. Making sure the area is clear we then switch the mags to both and we are ready to bring the little Continental to life. To hand prop the aircraft we want the viewpoint where it is directly to the right and behind of the engine and we do this by being in the virtual cockpit and hitting the “S” button until we’ve cycled through to that view. Once you are in that viewpoint we can move the cursor over the prop blade where you will notice that instead of the arrow pointer it turns into a hand. As this appears you want to hold down the left mouse button to grab the propeller blade and swing the prop through using the mouse. It will take a few tries to get it started but on the plus side you do not have to worry about a starter over heating or running out of battery power, the only drawback is if you run out of arm power trying to get it started.
Once started, we can go ahead and turn out hand held radio on to get the local traffic in the area. Spruce Creek isn’t too busy so we should be the only ones in the area but we are going to want to avoid Daytona Beach International (KDAB) airspace the North. One thing that I noticed right away is that the Cub is not as squirrely as I thought it would be on the ground. The Cub actually tracks pretty straight and true and this would lend itself to the steerable tail wheel in the back. Had it been of the free swiveling variety then it would be a different story.
As we taxi out to runway 5 at Spruce Creek we will want to “S” turn a little bit just to make sure there is no one in front of us. This is something that should be done with almost every tail dragger and it is critical to make sure that we are not going to hit anything that might be in front of us. Once we get to the end of the taxiway we will want to point her as closely into the wind as we can for our engine run up. This is one occasion where it feels like during the run up there should be more to check but all you have is a mag check, carb heat check and go over oil pressure and temps and we are set to go. One last check of the flight controls, transmit to local traffic that we will be taking off and we can taxi onto the active.
Bringing the power up with a little forward elevator and the tail rises almost right off the bat which helps with any sort of a crosswind you might be taking off into. Surpassing 45 indicated we can start to bring the stick back and the Cub will fly itself nicely off of the ground. The Cub climbs well enough for the amount of horsepower it has as we climb out over Spruce Creek. Climb performance wise you can tell that this is the grandfather of the Super Cubs, you can sense that if given a lot more horsepower you would have a hot rod in the climb. But I digress, this about the classic Cub and not what would be spawned from this iconic aircraft.
Reaching 3,500 feet, we can bring the power back and set up for cruise. Actually bringing the power back for cruise is the only thing that you do once you reach your desired altitude. No props to adjust or fancy avionics to mess with, just level off and enjoy the view. Simple and yet iconic.
The elevator and rudder has a feeling of lightness and they are certainly responsive. The ailerons on the other hand seem to be a little sluggish and my expectation before the flight was that they would be more responsive. Obviously not Pitts or Extra responsive but more than how they are. This isn’t a bad thing and in fact it is one of the quirks that I really like because it adds immersion. Once the Cub is trimmed up like any great trainer you can fly it hands off and it will track straight and true.
Climbing up to 5000 feet I decided to take the Cub for a spin, literally. This has always been a huge shortfall with FSX and the MSFS products, the ability to put an airplane into a spin and have it be correct. Bringing the nose up and pulling the power back I got a good warning buffet on the airframe before the stall. Once I was right on the verge of the stall I kicked in the rudder as it stalled and the horizon started to spin. It doesn’t tighten up until after the first turn which is correct and once after that first turn the ground becomes a blur in front of you. Neutralizing the ailerons and elevator I added opposite rudder and the Cub stopped spinning after another half to full turn of the spin. I was very pleased by this and I cannot imagine the work that A2A put into this to simulate a fully developed spin.
In the pattern visibility is somewhat compromised since this is a high wing design. When turning you do lose sight of where you are wanting to go thanks to the wing above you, but this is to be expected with the design. Airspeed in the pattern is slow but again it is extremely stable. In fact, I’m so used to flying the A2A Civilian Mustang that the first time I was in the pattern with the Cub I had a tendency to want to come and touch down at 60 knots and even that felt to slow. In all reality you can fly your approach at 55 and be touching down right around 40 or so. If you find yourself needing to drop altitude and airspeed you can always perform a forward slip which brings the side of the fuselage out into the air stream and acts like a giant speed break.
Coming over the numbers at around 50 mph for a wheel landing, she gently eases herself onto the runway as the power comes back. Bringing the power back you realize how much drag the little Cub has as it wants to slow down rather quickly. Crosswinds can be a workout since the cub is so light and the best thing to do is to get it pointed into the wind as quickly as possible. All in all, you can look like an absolute ace when landing a cub and if you are not paying attention you can make yourself look like a total rookie.
Bringing her back to the barn we pull the fuel shutoff and switch the mags to off and the little continental comes to a stop. I top her off after every flight and check the fluids to make sure everything is good even though I will still check it before going out on the next hop.
I cannot imagine the huge responsibility that the folks at A2A work under. Not that the pressure comes from the company but the fact that A2A takes on iconic aircraft and really puts them under the magnifying glass to try to get them right. One thing I really took note of was how slow the ailerons are and I asked my Father who has time in Super Cubs how they are in a real world Cub. He replied:
“Sounds about right…yep, the rudder and elevators were very responsive, the ailerons not so much…they worked but nothing near as responsive as the tail controls…”
This is proof in the pudding that A2A really goes far and away to get their models right. What makes it even that much better is the immersion factor. From hand propping to systems (or lack thereof) to even Heidi, they make the extra effort to make you feel like you in fact own a Cub.
For anyone that is looking for an airplane that you can jump in and just fly but still have the immersion factor I would highly recommend the A2A Simulations Piper Cub with the accusim add on. You get the standard version, two models with the big tundra tires, two on skis and three on floats. Even after quite a few years of being on the market it is easy to see why so many people are still so keen on the A2A Piper Cub and I look forward to getting their newly released Cessna 182!!
I want to thank Lewis and everyone at A2A for giving me the opportunity to review their Cub and also to my Father for giving me an insight into the flying qualities of the Cub line of aircraft. I can honestly say that I have had a blast going low and slow in the A2A Piper J3 Cub!!!
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