Alabeo PA38 Tomahawk

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P3D. The boys at Alabeo have done it yet again. The stunning visuals, the realistic flight dynamics, the choice of aircraft. Alabeo is without a doubt among the very best in the business. Earlier this year, the team delivered the classic Model D17 in such a very pristine fashion, I find myself on the edge of my seat just wondering what they will deliver next. Today however, we literally take their latest release: the Piper PA38 for a spin! So, come with us! It's time for some TraumaShock!

 [Note: For format purposes, images are cropped.  Click each image for full size resolution preview.]

To boot you get six high quality liveries right out of the box to get you started!

A development company going in the right direction!

When you first look at the Alabeo PA36, you will quickly find that it's the visuals of the aircraft that steal attention of the eye and not the aircraft itself. What do I mean by this? Well, let's face it, the Tomahawk is not exactly the most glamorous aircraft around. Many of us have seen better right? But from a flight training perspective, Piper hit the nail right on the head in terms design and usability for it's intended purpose. 

For example, note that bubble canopy. Unlike many standard training aircraft, the PA38 offers an almost entirely unobstructed 360 degree view. Besides this, it's wing design allows the pilot of the aircraft the ability to quickly recover from stalls and spins, provided the proper procedures are followed. Spin recovery is not only an attribute the aircraft has become famous for it's also it's purpose. In fact, the design itself is based on the input of flight instructors that the aircraft be specifically designed for spin recovery training. 

Here in the US, the PA38 is one of the few aircraft approved by the FAA for conducting intentional spins for training purposes. And unlike the Cessna 150 and 152 respectively which were designed to spontaneously fly out of a spin, the PA38 forces the impetus on the pilot to properly implement the proper control procedures to recover from spins. This coupled with the airfoil design and added stall strips makes the PA38 the very best aircraft in it's class for spin recovery. Sure there are similar aircraft out there like the Skipper, Tangará, and the Aussie Boomerang...

But it's the Tomahawk you really want. Trust me.

So getting back to my point, Alabeo is a company going in the right direction in terms of aircraft selection and this was without a doubt, a very good choice! This choice was also something of a shock to me as well as it seemed to me that Alabeo was moving away from acrobat and farming type aircraft. (Which I do enjoy) But what I now seem to understand is; this company does not want to be defined by creating a certain specific type of aircraft in the way it's parent Carenado is trying to emerge from. 

These Alabeo guys are setting out to develop a bit of everything including helicopters. I greatly respect this business model. Thus to this notion, as i stated before; I'm on the edge of my seat wondering about what these guys will produce next! Lets take a look at the aircraft.

 

As my eyes now hardly start to divert from the visual ascetics of the 3D model... you know... like the personalized dynamic reflection style Carenado and Alabeo is so famous for... I now start to see just how well this virtual rendition matches up to the real thing. I honestly have to say, minus the beating these babies take in real life, this old girl here looks only a few days old from the exterior.

From the interior, I easily get the same impression that this aircraft is new. It's only when I get to the seats am I somehow reminded that this girl does have some hours on her after all.

I love the gauge reflections! Great technology here. But if you find this to have an effect on your frames, there is an option to disable this feature. I found it has no impact at all so some users may just not like the feature and may wish to disable it.

The panel is very clean without any signs of wear&tear. So one might assume the reference aircraft might have been refreshed. I would not mind if from time to time, Alabeo beat up on some of it's aircraft. Not everything should look so new.

The Staggerwing's newness and cleanness I understand. That is a luxury aircraft. But the Tomahawk here is a working plane that sees many butts hit those seats and many hands touch those controls. It should look used.

 

Very spacious work space here and plenty of elbow room. Not that it matters much, I have plenty of arm and leg room here at my desk. Nonetheless, I do like the interior.

Some sort of rusty looking stain on the seat there. This is what I was referring to earlier when I mentioned that i'm somehow reminded that this girl does have some hours on her. Even though the chronograph only shows 16 hours flown... Hmmm... okay I guess the year is 1983!

I have read some remarks that the panel could be a bit higher in resolution. For me, it looks perfectly fine. Besides, I am getting frames in the 40's on the ground and in the 70's in the air so let's just keep it this way. the last thing I need is a lag or stutter while trying to recover from my spin.

Okay, you want to remember that this baby is a slow dog. You'll be looking at about a 65-70 KIAS on the climb. So keep that nose low. It's going to be a long way up to altitude.

 

 Now the view through bubble canopy along with my Track-IR really make the PA38 a nice sightseeing aircraft. I really enjoyed the view for a while just flying her around. That's correct, no autopilot here. You need to do the work.

Buy the way, we departed from Belp and are now cruising at 100KIAS as we move into an area just East of Chambery. It's very scenic here. The slow ride really let's me take in the view. A note from my harddrive to to my old JustFlight: Flying Club Tomahawk, good bye old buddy!

Before we get ready for what we came up here for, let't enjoy some nice air to air screenshots!  She photographs so nicely!

 Okay enough of this screwing around. Let's get down to it. We are here to spin. Now before you try this, be sure to check your realism settings. Here in P3D, all realism sliders are maxed to the right which will allow for the most realistic behavior currently possible in the sim. 

 The first thing I do is reduce throttle to idle and wait for the speed to start to bleed out. Once we are near zero forward momentum, I notice the Tomahawk starts to stall very similar to that of the C150 when I limit the pitch angle of the nose to just slightly above the horizon. But do to perhaps a limitation within P3D or the FDE, I found this was not quite enough and it was taking a bit too long for the nose to drop completely. So to compensate for this, I went back further to almost 15 degrees.

 At this point, I expected the aircraft start to exhibit normal stall characteristics with the lost of buffeting, followed by nose drop. Instead, the right wing lost lift and began to drop forcing me into the spin. I started to think that perhaps I did something wrong. Nevertheless, the nose finally dropped and the aircraft rapidly increased it's spin trajectory.

Almost instantly as as the stall begun, the loud rattling of the flexing and shaking tail-feathers started. This was a very realistic feature! Very well done here!

 

Being very careful to not get a case of happy feet on the rudder pedals, I start to apply

power with corresponding right rudder pressure, after what I think I counted as 3 full spins, the PA38 start's to fly out of the spin with only a few hundred feet lost. I will need to work on this a bit more. It all felt very sloppy. But in an effort to deliver you this review within 24 hours after release, I present you with this first attempt. I also left the stall benchmark visible in the lower right corner of the screen for your reference. Be sure to manually scroll the shots in the box above.

 

 

 Now leveled out and on approach, the first thought to my mind is: 'I want to do that again!' but it's late and i'm sleepy so that will have to wait. Besides, I really need to improve on my skill. I did not enter the spin as I should have or the aircraft did not as it should have. There will be another update later after a few more tries.

I do hope some of our readers can provide their feedback on their experiences as well.

 Now on the ground at Le Versoud.

Final thoughts.

Alabeo has done a very stunning job here and even for an aircraft of this size, the eye-candy features are very appealing like the exterior glass canopy effects, the shimmering glisten of the step areas on the wings, and the volumetric side view and dynamic propeller shine effects. Just 2 years ago I could have never imagined having so much fun with such a slow aircraft. I was high in my ivory tower 757 at mach speed. But alas, I truly am having a great time and if you are a fan of these types of aircraft, I am very confident you will too! So go get one and have some fun! Besides, the low price they are selling this thing for, it's practically a giveaway!

Great job yet again Alabeo!

Get yours here: http://www.alabeo.com/index.php?accion=product&correl=95

Happy flighting!

D'Andre Newman