• Frat Bros A-4K "Kahu" Skyhawk

    Review: Frat Bros A-4K "Kahu" Skyhawk

    By Scott Woodford (5 January 2011)


    A Kahu is a breed of hawk that is native to New Zealand. So it makes sense that the Royal New Zealander Air Force came up with the name "Project Kahu" for their A-4 Skyhawk upgrade which was completed back in 1991. Frat Bros Design has produced an A-4K for FSX which aims to replicate the looks and performance of the aircraft affectionately known as the "Scooter".


    The product is downloaded as a zipped package containing the installer application and five PDF files. These PDF's include the operating manual for the model, and a series of very well written and informative historical articles on the A-4K Skyhawk. For those with a soft spot for the Skyhawk, these documents will be an added bonus.

    The installer works well, with no apparent misplacement of files.

    The Model

    For your money you get four model configurations of the A-4K Skyhawk being clean (no stores); "buddy" in-flight refuelling tank with probe/drogue system; air to ground and air to air weapons loads. The paint scheme is common across all configurations and reflects the aircraft as it served in 75 Sqn of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Whilst the textures are aesthetically pleasing, and appear to be true-to-life, there is some loss of resolution with the smaller markings such as the "RESCUE" arrows.

    All control surfaces are animated and move smoothly. The cockpit canopy is also animated, as is the pilot, who turns and tilts his head with control inputs.

    This model also features custom sounds which are quite good and include engine startup and shut down sounds and a stall warning.


    The aircraft, like most FSX aircraft, is supplied with a virtual cockpit (VC) only with eight separate panel views accessed by the Shift key combined with numbers 1-8. The cockpit is again a good representation of the real aircraft, but only a limited number of switches/dials actually work.

    Ground Performance

    Once started, the engine responds well to throttle adjustments. However, this aircraft proves to be a handful on the ground. It is extremely unstable and pilots would do well to avoid taxiing much above 5 KIAS or using full rudder inputs to steer as it will almost certainly result in the aircraft tipping off the undercarriage. I found the best results were obtained by taxiing at or below 5 knots and using very small steering commands to alter direction.

    Applying full throttle the aircraft will accelerate swiftly and be ready to rotate off the runway at around 145 knots.

    Flight Performance

    Once airborne, I allowed the aircraft to accelerate as I retracted the gear and flaps. At 250 knots, I pitched 25 degrees nose-up and found I could achieve in excess of 6000 fpm rate of climb. As the airspeed slowly bleeds off, the nose will drop naturally and predictably.

    Maximum speed for this aircraft is 570 knots, very close to the data for the real aircraft which indicates this speed is 578 knots.

    I tested this aircraft at 20000' and found that it cruised in level flight at 418 knots. A basic autopilot allows for altitude hold and heading hold, and is simple to operate. Testing of the unladen aircraft found that is stalled in clean configuration at 95 knots. This stall was announced by an audible stall warning, followed by a lowering of the nose that is best described as docile. Recovery was achieved by centering the stick and applying full power before easing back on the stick once flying speed has been reached again. A drop of 1500' was incurred during this recovery process.

    In landing configuration, the aircraft stalled at 88 knots, with the same stall indicators and recovery technique as above. A loss of 1200' was experienced during this recovery, so pilots need to be mindful of their airspeed on short final approach to avoid crashing short of the runway.


    The Frat Bros have considered the effects of weight on stall speeds and this is reflected in a higher stall speed in the loaded aircraft. Expect to add about 15 knots to the speeds stated above when flying one of the other aircraft.

    The Skyhawk possesses an incredible rate of roll which has been captured in this FSX model. Unfortunately, this also means that the aircraft can be a bit "twitchy", particularly on approach to land. Avoid sudden control input and the aircraft will be kind. Get aggressive with the stick, and the Skyhawk will bite back! Included in the VC is a small switch to deploy a drag chute. This is best activated whilst you are in the air as you will have your hands full as your landing progresses. When activated, the drag chute will automatically deploy once the aircraft has landed and, once slowed below 50 knots, the drag chute will automatically release from the aircraft.

    The drag chute is a visual effect only, and supplies no actual drag resistance.

    Although this aircraft does come with a couple of weapons load configurations, the weapons appear to be non-droppable.

    The Verdict

    This is the first Frat Bros product I have tried and I have mixed feelings.

    I have always had a soft spot for the A-4 Skyhawk. This aircraft is fun to fly due to its speed and agility, but it is a handful if you treat the controls heavily or have a lapse in concentration. It is disappointing that the drag chute has no effective ability to slow the aircraft and is ultimately nothing more than a bit of "eye candy", and the quality of the textures is also a little disappointing.

    The strength of this product is the in-flight handling. At $16 US it is at the lower end of payware models in terms of overall cost however, I think given the enjoyment to be had from mastering this aircraft, it is worth that amount. For those of you who like the idea of a sports car in your garage, the A-4K won't disappoint you.

    Test System

    FSX Acceleration & DX9
    AMD 64 X2 Dual Core 4600+ 2.4 GHz
    2 GB RAM
    Saitek X52 stick & throttle

    Scott Woodford
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here

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