Alabeo Model D17 Staggerwing
P3D. It's the toy many of you already have and as such, many of you are still unsure if it's for you. I'll say this, the Alabeo D17 is a must have aircraft for every prop-head. It has looks, style, and it's just downright fun to fly. So much so, that we skipped the ADX FirstLook entirely in favor of an all out review. The 3 of us are very impressed with this one! Mark has also decided to give his brief perspective as we had to change our plans. So comesee why our panties are in such a bunch this time over this exciting airplane! We're gettin staggered baby! You ready?
[Note: For format purposes, images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
Alabeo, I am your new biggest fan!
When the team started up operations last year my interest in their projects was mediocre at best. My impression based on how Carenado announced Alabeo to the FS world was something to the tune of: "Here is a new team whose products are on par with ours. However, they are going to make aircraft we don't want to make. A special niche market if you will." Now granted, Carenado did not say that outright, but that's how I surmised what Alabeo's purpose would be for.
My other reason of non interest was for 2 reasons:
1. I was not yet interested in acrobatic aircraft.
2. They were not interested in developing for FS9.
But earlier this year when I went full blown P3D on my system, I took advantage of a fire-sale they were havin, and went home with both the Waco and Pawnee for the price of 1.
If ever I am on the fence about buying a product, I just wait for the right sale.
The second I climbed into that Waco, I was instantly in love. I was attached to it for like a week before it led to me getting the Baytower Vans RV/7. So as a result, you could say Alabeo is responsible for me having bought many other models of this type of aircraft.
Given the fact that the quality is what we have come to expect from Carenado, each release from this team is a no brainer for me.
So Alabeo, you guys are all aces in my book and i am pleased to be giving my first impression on one of your products for the very first time. May it lead to many...
If you have never read one of my reviews before, beware, you are in for something totally backward.
5 Classic liveries!
So finally trying to decide what livery I wanted to feature in this review, I went with the one that I feel represents the aircraft best. Oddly enough, it's not that famous bright red livery that floats my boat as I initially thought it would. As it turns out, it's actually the metallic metal that makes this baby come off as more of a trophy worth showing off. And this girl loves the camera. I found that no matter what angle I choose to shoot her from, she just continued to look picturesque nonetheless. She is sexy and she knows it. So let's climb inside her....
The first thought that appeared in my mind is that if she were a woman, she would be a cougar no doubt. She is old, way old! But yes, there is something about the sleek design that gives this aircraft a somewhat sporty and athletic appearance. But once inside, you are no doubt reminded that she is an old girl and yet she has so many characteristics that make her just seem so young. She is experienced and yet she can handle the young hotshot pilots with ease. So like I said, a cougar. Okay, i'll explain further.
BTW for the late person, a cougar is a slang term for a mature woman in her 40's/50's that prey on young men.
The front bucket seats and back bench are no doubt designs from a bygone era. You notice it right away as you a car from the same era. But the newly upholstered interior gives it somewhat of a new feeling. Like when your grandparents finally took the plastic off that 40 year old couch in the living room. Couple that with the freshly refinished stained wood trim found lining sides and you feel exactly what this baby was like on the showroom floor all those years ago. Damn I wish new aircraft had showroom floors...
Now that the Sun is finally rising and clouds breaking up a bit, let's get a better look at the interior and business end.
One thing is clear about this aircraft: No matter how young she might feel or new she might smell, (you shouldn't be smelling anything) she is going to remind you that she is old enough to be your grandma the moment you look at that panel and yoke. In this area, time has passed her by unlike many other updated aircraft her age.
You will not find a GPS screen or any modern avionics of any kind minus the digital radio controls almost hidden out of sight. No autopilot here people. She is a lady and she likes to be touched. So you if you want to enjoy all she has to offer, you are going to have to put your hands on her and work for the entire flight.
Sorry if this review is getting a bit sexual but my wife is walking around the house half naked and I suspect that has something to do with my mindset at the moment... Looks like she is trying to compete with my computer again so I am going to have to wrap this up soon.
Now we get a sense of what i mean by the nice wood trim paneling I was talking about. Very nice glossy finish. Also note the clean upholstery. Love that classic Beechcraft logo! Also remember, she is actually completely made of wood, so it's really nice to see some of the exposed wood. Hey, that's how it was done back in the 30's...
Another note, the earliest model D's had hardened wood chairs that were extremely rude to the butt cheeks. So these seats are a very nice and cushy upgrade.
Okay, lets start her up. Ooohhhhh listen to that sound.... Very distinctive! Note the animated exhaust outlets pulsing when you get her fired up! Also note the closeup attention to detail on the gear. When she bounces on unpaved airfields, those shocks really get going! Well done Alabeo.
Okay, let's get her out to the active and see what she's got!
Now before I get her airborne, I need to remind you about what i mean when I say she is going to put you to work or make you work for it or whatever it was i said before my wife left the room. Now before I get her airborne, I need to remind you about what i mean when I say she is going to put you to work or make you work for it or whatever it was i said before my wife left the room.
If you have not read Mark's GeeBee review here on ADX, I suggest you do. What this girl has in common with the Geebee is she is a total bitch to taxi around. Not that she is difficult to maneuver or anything, but I can't see shit over that glare shield. I got my Track-IR on and i'm in front of the computer damn near standing on my chair with a toe on the ruder pedals to look over the panel. When that is not good enough, I tried moving my head to the far left to see around the panel and very little joy there too. I get the feeling she is laughing at me? What my wife or the plane? Well both as I look like a dumbass doing this.
For those without T-IR you can just position the eyepoint upwards but because of the limitations in P3D, eyepoint movement it's not possible unless T-IR is in pause mode. And when I have my head position set perfectly, I aint movin it man.It's too much work. So most might elect to just say "screw it" and move to the exterior POV which is exactly what i did here.
Now the good news, this baby rotates forward in a matter of seconds so on takeoff and landing you can remain in the VC unobstructed with that support bar in your face. You are always good visually as long as the back of her ass is off the ground. By the way, you can click to remove the support bar. I just elect to keep it there for realism purposes.
The gear. So this is another point where I say how her age seems young and appealing. There were very few consumer aircraft back then in this size with retractable gear. Heck even the tail wheel retracts. Now that's cool!
Pulling back on the yoke, she lift's off gracefully. She is not a hot-rod so be mindful on your angle of attack.
Framerates are exactly what I expect from Alabeo. With current settings for this flight, FPS was high 30's low 40's. NO STUTTERS! Great work! This is one aircraft anyone can use in P3D with no worries!
My initial concern with the negative stagger was that the lower wings would obstruct my view of the ground while in the air. But the pilot's seat is forward enough that this is not an issue. So you still get a very good vista panning around.
Really like the NAV light effect.
As I continue to pan, I realize just how big the windows are! There is much to see for both the folks in front and the back!
Note the window reflecting the interior. This is not static. It comes and goes from view depending on the aircraft's angle from the Sun.
I'm not going anywhere on this trip. I just want to fly her around and enjoy her. She and I stayed up there for nearly an hour before my wife made me come to bed. It's just that much fun to fly. Now many of you know I use the Thrustmaster Warthog flight system. But on aircraft with no autopilot, my arms tend to get tired. I have 2 fixes for this:
1. Edit the aircraft .CFG to include HDG and ALT AP functions.
2. Use my much smaller Cyborg-X, stick it between my legs, and keep my arm rested.
Usually, for aircraft like this, option 2 is best for me and I just stay up here!
Her responsefullness is very realistic and stable, so feel free to have some fun! Want to try a barrel roll? Go for it!
Like I said, she looks good from all angles! She was also voted Top Ten All-Time Favorite aircraft in a 2003 issue of Plane & Pilot magazine, voted by nearly 3000 AOPA members in 2007 as the Most Beautiful Airplane, with the perfect balance between muscular strength and delicate grace, among many other accolades. It's no wonder Alabeo choose to bring her art deco classic lines and symmetry to the world of flight simulation!
Love those rivets!
Finding the airfield to my right side again, we head out over the Channel and prepare for landing.
No obstructions! But that pole can get annoying. It's okay though, after a while, you forget it's there. Of course, you can always remove it by clicking the left and right hand vents on the panel.
Bringing the gear back out. It's very audible! Great for the Buttkicker Gamer experience beneath my seat !
First, I am glad to see Alabeo moving out of the acrobat type aircraft. Although fun, I tend to get bored with them rathar quickly. I had a feeling that those aircraft would be their definition. But not only do we see that this is not the case, but we also are starting to see the team move into training aircraft and helicopters. As a result, Alabeo is becoming unpredictable and that is a VERY good thing! I have been wanting a proper Staggerwing for quite some time and Alabeo delivered on all my expectations. I have not 1 thing negative to say about the bird! But, if I were to whine at all then okay fine. The only things I will whine about are perhaps more liveries could have come in the package and perhaps the tie-down modes could have been added like Carenado is famous for. But that's it.
Another thing I really want to address to our readers, in particular the type of die-hard PMDG people who would never buy an aircraft like this. Hang on, i'm not saying all PMDG fans are uninterested in this type of aircraft, I am talking to the people that mirror the type of FS pilot I used to be. Only interested in high, heavy, and fast. This airplane has no FMC, CDU, PFD, or any kind digital screen. The screens she does have are the ones you use to look out at the amazing vistas and landscapes. This aircraft both in real world and in FS is about enjoying the experience of flying. No damn computers but the one in your head and the one at your desk. Don't spend so much time on zero fuel weights, V speeds, and flight plans. Just grab the stick and go. Enjoy the view. Let the steam gauges take you back to the days when a satellite was a term for the moon. When you do, you will finally see what you were missing up there at mach speed.
Enjoy the flight. That is what the Staggerwing is about and Alabeo captured the experience perfectly.
It's a great airplane, it's fun to fly, and she just looks so damn beautiful! Go get yours here: