• Carenado Piper PA-32R Saratoga

    Carenado Piper PA-32R Saratoga

    By Jude Bradley (7 December 2009)

    It's been a while since I've done a review and I thought it's about time I put pixel to paper again, To be honest, I tend to fly commercial aircraft rather than private or light aircraft, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about.

    First, a bit of history of the plane itself.


    Beginning production in 1965, the Piper PA-32 Series provided 6 and 7 seat single-engine designs based on the smaller Cherokee. Variously named the 'Cherokee Six', 'Lance' and 'Saratoga' these were available with both fixed and retractable gear models. The 'R' in the PA-32 model designates retractable undercarriage, and this is the subject of this review. Production of the PA-32R 301 Saratoga began in 1980 and ended in 2009.


    The installation file is quite small at 68 MB and this also includes five liveries, a white one and four others labelled 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000, presumably in the color scheme of the times. The install of the aircraft is standard with no hitches whatsoever, and only needed the insertion of the product key and I was ready to fly. One thing to note is that the documentation is not installed in the start menu folder (which would be nice), instead you have to browse to the Carenado folder in the following path. 'Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Airplanes\Carenado PA32 SARATOGA SP'. It's a good idea to read the documentation at the start, but what I tend to do is take it for a test spin, and then find out what I can't work out for myself and then look for the manual.



    Since I was a 60's child, I thought I would try the 70's scheme first. I tried a short test-flight from Dublin to Isle of Man, (about 40 minutes flying time) in dusk setting to get an idea of how the cockpit looked. I loved the look of the cockpit in the evening, but as it got darker, it got harder to figure out where the switches were, since I don't have the tooltips switched on.

    In the daytime though, the gauges are revealed in all their glory, they really do make a difference between the default aircraft. I got between 8 and 43 fps and even peaked at 93 fps, but on average I got about 23 fps. Removing the Light Bloom from my config file changed the performance considerably, and upped my average to about 34 fps.

    Don't blame it all on this aircraft as I seem to have general frame rate issues in all my aircraft. I was impressed by the interior and felt I was more in a sports car than an airplane. I felt I could actually relax in the leather seats!


    Time for a read of the manual then to find out how to really fly this bird! As I already pointed out, the manuals are installed in the Carenado PA32 folder, so a quick read of the manual, and it was quick, because all but the autopilot are one page long, the autopilot manual being three pages - told you I'm used to flying the heavies!

    In any case, the time wasn't wasted because it did point out; there are popup gauges to assist you in particular the autopilot popup was invaluable in controlling the plane.


    In general I have FSX saved as cold and dark and this was no exception. This was where I had a glitch, where's the starter switch? After reading the Virtual Cockpit guide, there was no mention of it, but a glance at the cockpit diagram showed it to be under the control yoke. In order to access this, I found I had to pull the control column back as if I was climbing and then use the starter.

    I later found out, that clicking on the hotspot of the control column, that this vanishes and allows access to the starter switch. While we're on the subject of cockpit, this model only has a virtual cockpit, so for all you who still use the standard cockpit you may find this a bit hard to get used to but I think most users in FSX have embraced the VC at this point.



    I was impressed by the sounds, which I am told are recorded from the actual aircraft, especially when starting and at take-off I really got the impression that there was some power in front, and when throttling back to land, you can hear the wind rushing by the wings.

    One difficulty I had was of opening the aircraft doors. From the support site, it advises that the doors can be opened with the following key combinations:

    "SHIFT + E" usually the main door or pilot door.
    "SHIFT + E + 2" usually co-pilot door (if equipped).
    "SHIFT + E + 3" usually the baggage compartment or cargo door.


    I did at one stage manage to open the baggage compartment door but then found I couldn't close it again.

    I loved the flying qualities of this machine and the handling was very smooth. As I say, I'm not used to flying smaller aircraft, but it was a nice surprise and I found it more challenging than climbing into a 757 and pressing the autopilot button and engaging the auto land after a few hours. This is back to basics flying and it was a nice feeling to be actually 'flying' the plane rather than performing data entry.

    I loved the scenery at 6000 feet, or FL6 if you are in Europe. The weather constantly changing was a nice change for me, and I had a new learning experience as I had to land the aircraft by disengaging the autopilot. I found that using the trim wheel on my Saitek unit was very helpful in this regard.



    On the positive side, this was a nice first aircraft for my first foray into the world of general aviation and it was a nice change. I found the aircraft nice and easy to handle and very impressed with the appearance - both interior and exterior. The rivets were plainly visible on the wings and the detail on the cockpit instruments was impressive. I also thought the animated pilot was a nice feature, as was the animated sun visor. And for the price, I thought this was excellent value for money.

    On the minus side, I would have been nice to have animated door opening for the cabin, as I still can't figure out how to open the doors!

    Test System:

    FSX with SP2 installed
    Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
    Processor: Intel Q6600 Quad-Core 2.4 GHz
    Memory: 4GB RAM
    Hard-disk: 1 TB SATA Drive
    Graphics Card: Nvidia 9800 GTX+

    Jude Bradley
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here

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