Test driving the new Archer 3

My instructor Rocky called the Aero Clubs new Archer III ZK-WIT "the Mercedes Benz of our fleet". To be honest, I must agree. Everything inside is new (it has around 340 hours total time on the airframe), it even has a new car smell from the plush leather seats. The seat adjusts in 6 different directions, has lumbar support, pre-tensioned seatbelts, the aircraft even has air-conditioning!

The major difference between WIT and the two Archer II's I fly FWS and UFS is the start up procedure. Unlike the Archer II, WIT does not have a key turn starter. Instead it has a push button starter (very English I thought). You must also start the engine on one magneto and turn the second one on once the engine starts.

The pilots control column has a lot of hands on functions. Two axis electric trim, push to talk (PTT), autopilot disconnect, and a button that I didn't use and didn't ask about either.

Doing a walk around I notice the improved wing with a few aerodynamic aids like small wing fences on the outboard tapered section of the wing and some stall strips. There is a totally new engine cowling with smaller engine cooling ducts and the absence of a nose mounted landing light (it was moved to the wing).

Everything else was pretty much the same as an Archer II.

I climbed into the pilots seat and adjusted my chair. One thing that separates our Archer III from our II's is that the instrument panel takes up a large amount of forward view, but after adjusting my seat height up (I wonder how vertically challenged people will cope) I could see out front to my satisfaction. Another thing that you can see from the outside is that the Archer III has smaller windows than the II. I thought this might be a problem but I didn't notice any difference once I was inside.

After starting up we taxied out to do the runup and checks. They are essentially the same as what I was used to with the singular exception of checking that the airconditioning unit is off prior to takeoff.

The first thing that struck me when I applied full power was how quiet the plane is. While it will never be whisper quiet the interior engine and prop noise was significantly lower that what I expected. Once airborne I found WIT to be stable and smooth through all the standard manouvers I put her through.

Once we were established at our cruise altitude, Rocky demonstrated the autopilot to me. WIT has dual Garmin 1000s slaved to a 3 axis autopilot. I didn't get to use the Garmins but the default moving map feature was very cool. We tried a few turns and climbs using the autopilot to fly the plane and I must admit it does a better job than I do.

I had a problem with the throttle friction being too heavy. Rocky fiddled with it and eased it somewhat but it was still a little too heavy. We came in on final for Grass 36 and caught a patch of lift crossing the boundary fence. I reduced power to idle and deployed full flap. At that precise moment the lift went away and down we came. I applied power but we had too much for too long and we drifted down the runway before touching down. My second landing was better but we still came down hard. After plenty of soul searching and thinking about it I must take the blame.

My final verdict is that it is one lovely plane to fly and be flown in. No expense has been spared in the comfort stakes and you feel like you are aboard a much larger passenger jet. The downsides are two fold. Firstly, as it is intended as the Clubs primary instrument trainer the opportunities I will get to fly it will be limited to an hour here and there. Secondly, as it is also a pretty new airplane the hourly rate will reflect the clubs financial investment.

I forgot to take my camera with me but Chris has some nice photos of WIT on his blog.


Euan Kilgour said…
Just a corrective note here. I was wrong about the GPS units in WIT. After reading the manuals they are both 430's, not 1000's as I blogged. Never the less they are pretty damn awesome.
ZK-JPY said…
Lucky sod... I joined up at WAC the other day I was down that way, mainly because I want to take WIT for a spin.

Flying an aircraft that is younger than me... what a novel idea! ;)
Euan Kilgour said…
WAC has plenty of aircraft which are younger than you are Jarred. All 3 Alpha's, WAM (C172R) and now WIT.

We've only got the Arrow, Archers FWS/UFS and our new to the flight line C170 OCC which are there to remind you of ye olde days.