Alabeo Cruz PiperSport Review
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Cruz PiperSport
For FSX / Prepar3D Published by Alabeo
Reviewed by Andrew Godden
August 2014

Introduction

The light sport aircraft (LSA) category of aviation has expanded the opportunities to fly. This category brings the dream of flight much closer to being a reality than ever before, not just as a pilot, but also to be able to own your own aircraft. This category has evolved over the years from very basic models of metal tubing, wire bracing and fabric, to complex aircraft, manufactured using the latest composite materials, with everything from a basic avionics fit out to a full glass cockpit fit out.

Alabeo continue to produce a great range of aircraft. They have now added a beautiful LSA to the range, the Cruz PiperSport. This aircraft has all the stylish appeal of its larger cousins in the general aviation category and with the aesthetics to make it look like a pure delight to fly. With reasonable capacity and range for its class, the PiperSport makes for a delightful tourer.

History

The Cruz PiperSport is a two seat, single engine, LSA, of all aluminium construction, with a low mounted, cantilever wing, and a tricycle undercarriage. Developed by Czech Sport Aircraft, formerly Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW), as the SportCruiser, it was first introduced in 2006. It was added to the Piper Aircraft product range as the PiperSport in January 2010 under a licencing agreement, an agreement which was subsequently terminated in January 2011. The PiperSport saw minor modifications to the original aircraft, namely a stronger nose gear, a Ballistic Recovery Systems parachute, modified pitch controls, leather interior, a canopy sunshade, and a custom paint scheme.

With over 400 aircraft produced to date, the PiperSport / SportCruiser is still currently marketed by Czech Sport Aircraft.

Availability and Installation

The Alabeo Cruz PiperSport is currently available direct from Alabeo and Alabeo resellers as a 'download only' product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is priced at US$22.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The file size of 177MB is reasonable for an aircraft of this type and quality and it requires 435MB of HDD space for installation. Depending on where it was purchased, an ‘activation key' may be issued to be used during installation.

Model Features

With a basic avionics suite, the Cruz PiperSport is a fantastic LSA and Alabeo have modelled the aircraft beautifully. With no autopilot, this is an aircraft for hands on flying which allows you to enjoy the pure pleasure of flight.

The model features listed by Alabeo for the Cruz PiperSport are typical of models in the Alabeo range and include:
    ● HD quality textures;
    ● high quality 3D model and textures;
    ● Alabeo Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit;
    ● Reality XP GNS 530 integration;
    ● material shines and reflections;
    ● gauge reflections;
    ● windows scratches (crazing) and blade shines; and
    ● realistic behaviour.

There are two models provided (one and two pilots), five HD paint schemes, and a blank texture provided for aircraft painting enthusiasts.

General Visual Appearance

Exterior. Alabeo are very consistent in representing the exterior of their models and the Cruz PiperSport is no different. The PiperSport, generally, displays a very high level of attention to accuracy and detail. A comparative review of photographs of real world aircraft to Alabeo's rendition reveal the exterior shape and dimensions to be extremely accurate and a true representation of the real world aircraft. The were some noted minor differences on the underside of the fuselage, but these are considered to be due to developer latitude for the level of modelling adopted for the Alabeo aircraft range and are not significant in the overall representation of the model.

Interior. Consistent with the exterior, the general appearance of the cockpit and the panel layout are also modelled to a very high degree of detail. Naturally, due to avionics fit out options, the avionics layout and fit out of Alabeo's Cruz PiperSport varies from the layout of researched real world PiperSports. Nonetheless, when compared to real world photographs of similar layouts, the cockpit and panel layout are modelled to a high degree of accuracy.

Paint Schemes. There are five individual paint schemes provided with the Alabeo Cruz PiperSport and each aircraft has a unique aircraft registration number. The surface textures, reflections, and shadings give the aircraft a crisp and realistic appearance, providing for a very natural look.

Paint Scheme 1


Paint Scheme 2


Paint Scheme 3


Paint Scheme 4


Paint Scheme 5

Exterior

The exterior modelling accuracy of the Cruz PiperSport is excellent, with a very high level of detail. The level of this detail includes wheel fairings, individual fuselage panels and panel rivets, access panels, wing locker panels, brake lines, aerials and antenna, fuel tank caps, tie down points, and exhaust and oil stains on the underside of the fuselage, which add to the overall realistic appearance.


External General View


External Top View


Nose View


Great Detail

Interior

Alabeo’s rendering of the cockpit of the Cruz PiperSport is also excellent and very realistic when compared to real world layouts.


Virtual Cockpit View


Panel View

Instrument Panel Layout. All primary flight instruments in the Cruz PiperSport, are on the left side (pilot side) with the engine, fuel, and electrical system management instrumentation on the right side of the panel. The Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit, Apollo SL40 COMs radio, and Garmin GTX 327 digital transponder unit are all located centrally. The GNS 530 provides for tuning of the COM and NAV radios with the Apollo SL40 unit having extremely limited functionality and being primarily aesthetic only. The throttle controls and fuel tank selector are all located on the centre console to the pilots right side and all electrical system, light, and ignition switches are located on the panel, below the primary flight instruments. The yoke is a centre stick type and has trim controls located on the top. The primary flight instruments are laid out in the standard “T” and "six pack" arrangement and all the flight instruments are extremely clear and easy to read and have the option for instrument glass reflections to be enabled or disabled. The yokes do not obstruct the view of any major instruments or controls. Various alternative cockpit camera views are available to provide more detailed views of the instruments, however, there are no checklists or aircraft reference data provided on the 'Kneeboard'.


Right Side Panel View


Panel View from the Passenger Seat

Cockpit Layout. Being a two seat LSA, the cockpit layout of Cruz PiperSport is somewhat basic with the rear space being for baggage storage only. As with other aircraft in the Alabeo range, the attention to detail and small features differentiate the quality, even though they are mostly aesthetic rather than functional. The textures of the seating, seatbelt webbing, and floor carpet provide a good and reasonably realistic appearance.

Overall, the attention to detail on the interior is, again, of a high quality. However, with no marks, scratches, or blemishes, I did find the finish on the panel, particularly, to be very sanitary.

Animations

The animations of the primary and secondary control surfaces and other moving elements on Alabeo's Cruz PiperSport are all modelled faithfully.

Animations include:
    ● primary control surfaces – ailerons, elevators and rudder;
    ● secondary control surfaces – flaps;
    ● others – elevator and aileron trim tabs, retracting landing lights, rolling wheels, cockpit canopy open / close, canopy sunshade; and
    ● pilot head movement.


Canopy


Landing Configuration

Lighting

Lighting representation has been another consistency in Alabeo's modelling and they have again done a credible job on the lighting and lighting effects on the Cruz PiperSport. The effects provide a good, realistic representation of the real world aircraft. There is the usual navigation lights, strobe lights, landing light, panel lighting, and cockpit lighting. Other than the landing lights illuminating the ground effectively, the strobe lights also provide this illuminating effect. The detailed night light effects for the instrument panel, generally, are very good and replicate the night lighting seen in photographs of real world aircraft. All interior lighting affects can also be seen when viewing the aircraft from an external view.


Instrument Lighting


Instrument Lighting with Cockpit Lighting

Sounds

The Cruz PiperSport is a basic aircraft with a basic engine. Represented sounds seem to be quite reasonable, however, there was a noticeable inconsistency in the sound of the engine on start-up in that the engine didn't 'crank', it just went straight to idle. As usual, there is also the normal array of sounds associated with switches, flap operation, and canopy opening / closing.

General Characteristics and Performance Specifications

The general characteristics and performance specifications for the Cruz PiperSport are provided in the table. This is based on data from the PiperSport Pilot Operating Handbook, data in the aircraft details provided by Alabeo, and general research sources. Some of this data varies between sources and also may be an approximation due to variances in data and the specific aircraft modelled by Alabeo.



Flight Performance

Flight testing was conducted in clear weather with a full fuel load and the aircraft at maximum take-off weight (MTOW). Like most aircraft of this type, adjustments must be made to fuel / pax loading to remain within the MTOW limitations.

A cruise altitude of 3,000 ft was adopted on the Test Flight. During cruise, an rpm setting of 5,000 rpm was established. This cruise setting produced an average speed of approximately 101 knots true air speed (KTAS) and an endurance consistent with the range characteristics of the aircraft. The Test Flight confirms the modelling of the aircraft for range performance to be quite accurate.


In Flight 1


In Flight 2

The aircraft was easy to taxi. With 0° flaps, aircraft rotation occurred at approximately 45 knots indicated air speed (KIAS) and the aircraft easily maintained a normal climb speed of approximately 65 KIAS at a rate of climb of 1,000 ft/min. Even at MTOW, the Cruz PiperSport climbed effortlessly within the specified rate of climb and speed performance parameters for the aircraft. When climbing to the service ceiling altitude, with the obviously required adjustments to the rate of climb, the aircraft was able to climb to this altitude. Configured for landing, with full flaps and trimmed for a descent rate of approximately 500 ft/min, the aircraft’s approach speed was approximately 60 KIAS and it touched down at approximately 45 KIAS, with a landing roll out comparable with the specifications for the aircraft.

In testing the accuracy of the instruments, based on the measured Test Flight, the speed indications on the airspeed indicator, were consistent with the averages measured. Additionally, when establishing a set rate of climb on the vertical speed indicator, the respective gain in altitude on the altimeter was achieved within the measured minute, and a standard rate turn was achieved within the measured two minute period using the turn coordinator.


In Flight 3


Landing Roll Out

In all, the performance of Alabeo’s Cruz PiperSport was excellent in flight, displaying the typical flight characteristics of this aircraft. The Cruz PiperSport a delightful aircraft to fly and it handles beautifully. Once established at cruise, and trimmed accordingly, the PiperSport flies steady, requiring only occasional minor trim adjustments to maintain altitude and course. Overall, the aircraft model displays a very accurate rendition of the flight characteristics and performance of the real world aircraft.

Documentation

There are three manuals / documents provided in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf):
    ● Normal Procedures – this nine page manual provides the procedures for the normal operation of the aircraft;
    ● Emergency Procedures – this nine page manual provides the emergency procedures for the aircraft;
    ● Performance Tables – this three page document details the operating cruise performance specifications of the aircraft; and
    ● Reference – this three page document details the performance specifications of the aircraft.

Value for Money

On a value for money assessment, the Alabeo Cruz PiperSport is considered exceptional. Whilst it is a basic aircraft, it is very detailed in its modelling and provides a great platform for either short hops or those longer trips.

Simulator Performance

The aircraft model performed excellently within the existing settings I have in FSX. I have most of my settings set very high and there was no need to make any adjustments. FSX continued to perform smoothly and as it would with any default aircraft.

Technical Requirements

This version of the Alabeo Cruz PiperSport is for FSX / P3D only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:
    ● Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 (32 or 64bit);
    ● Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX with SP1 and SP2 (or Acceleration Pack) or Lockheed Martin Prepar3d Flight Simulator installed; and
    ● Pentium V, 2GHz or similar, 2GB RAM, 512MB graphics card, and 435MB available HDD space.

Review Computer Specifications

The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
    ● Intel i7 990X Extreme 3.46GHz;
    ● NVidia GTX580, 1536MB graphics;
    ● 12GB Kingston DDR3 2000MHz;
    ● Windows 7, (64bit);
    ● Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX Acceleration; and
    ● additional major add-ons include: Active Sky Next, REX Essential Plus Overdrive; Ultimate Traffic 2; Orbx FTX Global BASE;
       Orbx FTX Global VECTOR; Orbx FTX Global openLC EU; Orbx FTX region series; and Orbx FTX airport series.

Conclusion

The Cruz PiperSport is a fantastic LSA and is not only easy to fly, it is a pleasure to fly. This review has involved over 15 hours of specific flight testing flying hours and it is evident Alabeo have delivered an aircraft in the Cruz PiperSport which is focused on the simple pleasure of flying. Alabeo have done a wonderful job of recreating the Cruz PiperSport and the aircraft displays a good balance of quality and detail at an exceptional price. Detected issues were minor and do not impact or significantly detract from the general flying of the aircraft. If you are a fan of aircraft in the LSA category, you will enjoy the Alabeo Cruz PiperSport.


Sheer Simple Pleasure

Verdict & Rating

The Cruz PiperSport is another solid product from Alabeo which displays a high quality and attention to detail and represents exceptional overall value for money.

Pros:
Quality and attention to detail.
Realistic modelling and performance.
Excellent documentation.
Exceptional value for money.

Cons:
Engine sound inconsistencies.

Scores: gold
   ● External Model: 9.5/10
   ● Internal Model: 9.5/10
   ● Sounds: 9.0/10
   ● Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers): 9.5/10
   ● Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like): 10/10
   ● Documentation: 10/10
   ● Value for Money: 10/10

The Alabeo Cruz PiperSport is awarded an overall Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.6/10,
with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.

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