[Reviewed By: Mike Cameron] Introduction. I gathered the information for this introduction from a 2002 article on Aopa.org, the airliners.net website and the product documentation. The PA-32 Series of aircraft began life as the Piper Cherokee Six, a highly modified six seat development of the PA-28 series aircraft. The Cherokee six had a similar configuration as the PA-28 Cherokee but differed in several major areas. Two of the major differences were referenced in its name. The Cherokee Six featured a six cylinder O-540 or IO-540 engine and had featured seating for six people. The wing was based on the Cherokee but the fuselage was substantially longer, with a strengthened undercarriage and a larger tail. The first flight of the PA-32-260 Cherokee Six was in December 1963 and the first deliveries began in 1965. As with all aircraft series, improvements were made and new models introduced starting with 300hp fuel injected IO-540 powered Cherokee Six 300.
Production of the Cherokee Six and the 300 ended in the late 1970’s but a third model had entered production, the PA-32R Cherokee Lance or just Lance from mid-1977 when the improved Lance II was introduced which featured a retractable gear followed by the PA-32R-300T Turbo Lance and finally the T-tail PA-32RT model. These models remained in production until late 1979 and up until now all of these models had served as one of the most popular heavy-haulers in general aviation’s piston single engine fleet. They featured a good blend of useful load, cabin comfort, speed and the access afforded by the huge double doors. These aircraft have been sold to more than 6700 customers worldwide. The latest model in the series, the Saratoga keeps this long tradition alive.
The Saratoga was available in fixed or retractable gear with standard or turbocharged engines but the major change over the earlier models was the new increased span tapered wing. Production ended on the Saratoga in 1985, but the New Piper Aircraft Company reintroduced the Saratoga II HP in 1993 with aerodynamic upgrades and a revised instrument panel & interior. The turbocharged Saratoga II TC was introduced in 1997. The non-turbo Saratoga II HP was not as popular as the Saratoga II TC with only 20 deliveries of the HP model versus 68 deliveries of the TC model despite the turbocharged models standard equipped price of $472,200 in 2001. The 1999 models of the Saratoga II TC introduced the new Garmin and S-TEC avionics and a five seat interior with an entertainment workstation console similar to what was available on the Seneca V could be purchased as an option. The AOPA article also provided prices for some of the common options for the Saratoga II so I thought it would be good to include them here.
- Air Conditioning $10685
- Built in Oxygen System $7965
- Altitude Alerter $3990
- Copilot Electric Pitch Trim $1795
- Copilot Instruments $7865
- Goodrich Sky Watch & WX-500 Storm Scope $35035
The primary competition for the Piper Saratoga II TC was the Ratheon Beechcraft B36TC Bonanza which offered 200 knot cruise speeds and slightly less useful loads than the Saratoga but sold for an average equipped price of $665,000 which was way out of reach of many new airplane customers. I will comment more about turbocharged aircraft during the flight model section of the review. According to the 2002 article, Piper offered a nice incentive for Piper Warrior & Archer owners that allowed them to trade up to the Saratoga II TC at a prearranged price and Piper also offered the similar incentive to Saratoga owners who wanted to trade up to the Mirage or Meridian models. The Saratoga served to bridge the gap between Piper’s piston and pressurized models.
- Powerplant: Textron Lycoming TIO-540-AH1A, 300hp turbocharged engine
- Propeller: Hartzell Three-blade Constant Speed
- Length: 27ft 10.5in
- Height: 8ft 6in
- Wingspan: 36ft 2in
- Seats: 6
- Cabin Length: 10ft 4in
- Cabin Width: 4 feet
- Cabin Height: 3ft 6in
- Standard Empty Weight: 2465 pounds
- Max Takeoff Weight: 3600 pounds
- Max Ramp Weight: 3615 pounds
- Max Useful Load: 1135 pounds
- Max Payload With Full Fuel: 523 pounds
- Fuel Capacity: 107 gallons
- Baggage Capacity: 200 pounds
- Takeoff distance, ground roll: 1110 feet
- Takeoff distance over a 50 foot obstacle: 1810 feet
- Maximum crosswind component: 17 knots
- Rate of Climb, Sea Level: 950 fpm
- Cruise Speed/Range with 45min reserve, standard fuel
- @ High-speed power, peak TIT, 10,000 feet: 176 Knots/750 NM (20GPH)
- @High-speed power, peak TIT, 16,000 feet: 160 Knots/955 NM (12.56GPH)
- Max Operating Altitude: 20,000 feet
- Landing distance over a 50 foot obstacle: 1700 feet
- Landing distance, Ground roll: 880 feet
- Various V-Speeds:
- Rotation (Vr): 80 KIAS
- Best Rate of Climb (Vy)
- Gear down/flaps up: 81 KIAS
- Gear up/flaps up: 95 KIAS
- Maneuvering Speed (Va): 134 KIAS
- Max Flap Extension Speed (Vfe): 110 KIAS
- Max Gear Extension Speed (Vle): 132 KIAS
- Max Structural Cruising Speed (Vno): 167 KIAS
- Never Exceed Speed (Vne): 191 KIAS
- Final Approach Full Flaps: 80 KIAS
- Stall Speed (Clean): 67 KIAS
- Stall Speed (Landing Configuration): 63 KIAS
Alabeo aircraft are very easy to install and the whole process should only take a couple of minutes to complete. I received my copy directly from Alabeo so your install process may differ. I received an email with a download link, User Name (purchase email) and a Serial Number. The Serial Number is very long so I recommend copying it and pasting during the install process to avoid typing mistakes. Start the setup program, read the License Agreement, enter the User Name, Serial Number and press “Next” to continue. If everything is entered correctly, the simulator selection page will open and Alabeo provides a triple installer with their aircraft so you have your choice of FSX, P3Dv1 and P3Dv2, no additional purchase required if you own both FSX and P3Dv2 which is great. I am going to be reviewing the FSX installation and I do not know if Alabeo includes any P3Dv2 features with that installation. The installer should automatically find your simulator location but if it does not click on the “Browse” button to locate.
Press “Finish” to complete the installation. Alabeo does not provide a comprehensive manual with their aircraft but provides individual documents and these are located in this aircrafts folder in the FSX Aircraft directory. The included documents are Normal & Emergency Procedures, Performance Tables, Alabeo GNS 430 & 530 Guide, Autopilot & AVSS Guide and a Quick Reference document. These are all in PDF format. These documents should be enough for most simulator aviators but I wish Alabeo would have included a cockpit layout document because the Saratoga II TC has a more complex instrument panel than previous Alabeo aircraft. The first time that you load one of these aircraft into FSX, you will be asked by the Microsoft Security Alert System to verify the ALSound_PA32TC.dll file, select “Run” and “Yes” to designate this module as ‘Trusted’. Repeat with the PA32TC.dll and Radio_PA32TC.dll files.
If you are unfamiliar with Alabeo or their parent company Carenado, they are known for the quality of their interior and exterior textures. The Piper Saratoga II TC continues this tradition with outstanding textures and features. First impressions are important and looking at the right seat I can see the amount of detail that went into producing this aircraft. The leather seats look very realistic and I like that Alabeo has included creases in the leather to indicate someone has actually sat there. I personally like my simulated aircraft to have some textures that indicate the aircraft has been operated instead of looking like it was just off of the factory floor. I also like that Alabeo did not go overboard with these textures because I cannot see this aircraft operating in a bush environment. I think they included just the right amount. Other signs of wear in the cockpit are what looks like small tears in the fabric on the right door, the carpeting and stains on the floor mats.
A feature that I look for with premium aircraft is the ability to open & close the windows & doors with a mouse click instead of a keyboard shortcut or 2D window option. The animation & sound effects of the window and right front door are excellent. A small nitpick that I have with the pilot window is that it is missing some textures when it is open. The sun visors are animated but only have two positions similar to previous Alabeo aircraft. Interior signage both large and small is great looking without blurry looking textures. When you can read the serial number on the window that is an incredible amount of detail. There are two alternate interior views and the details of the passenger compartment are just as impressive as the cockpit. All of the interior features are three dimensional and look very realistic.
The large passenger compartment doors cannot be opened with the mouse but Alabeo does provide this as an option with the Toggle_Control window. The right door in the cockpit can also be opened with this window. Another nice feature is that when you click on the top of the table when it is stored, it will open with a nice animation and the texture of this table is also very good. The Alabeo Saratoga also includes animated window shades which is another nice realistic feature and adds to the overall experience. Interior lighting is very good and is controlled from the dials and dome lights near the upper switch panel.
The package includes six exterior paint jobs plus a blank texture for the talented aircraft painters. Before commenting on the exterior features, I first want to quickly comment about a small feature that I have come to expect from quality flight simulator aircraft, static ground objects for your parked aircraft. These are displayed by selecting this option on the Toggle_Control window. I am very happy that Alabeo has included this feature with the Saratoga and the first screen grab of this section is an exterior view with these objects in place with the doors open. The only improvement that would make this feature more impressive would be the ability to also remove the pilot and the right seat passenger when the aircraft is parked. They are very detailed but look out of place with a parked, cold and dark aircraft. I have to agree with what other users have commented, that it is time for Alabeo & Carenado to replace these two people with new ones, they are the same with all of the recent aircraft.
There are eight alternate angle views to allow you to simulate the preflight exterior inspection and for me to review the exterior features. If needed, I will zoom in closer to get a better view. As I have come to expect, the exterior textures and features are outstanding. All features both large and small are three dimensional and look great. My only wish would be the ability to open the doors from the exterior views. I love the amount of detail on the gear assemblies. Another minor issue that I have is that the various angle views do not follow a logical order. For example, view 2 is the front left and view 3 is front right instead of looking directly at the propeller or the front of that Saratoga. The best view of the propeller and the front of the aircraft is view 7. This view allows me to look at the detailed front gear assembly and some of the small details, the decals on each of the propeller blades! You can also see some detail inside of the cowling which is nice.
The other exterior labeling is also very good. The one feature that Alabeo does not include but would add to the experience is the ability to remove the cowling to view the engine or at least open the small door to simulate checking the oil level. Exterior lighting is very good with the Saratoga. I could not find a rotating beacon switch on the instrument panel but the strobe light switch has three positions “ON”, “OFF” and “Fin Strobe”. I verified this on the support forum and the Fin Strobe position is the rotating beacon for the Saratoga. The landing light switch also has three positions, “Pulse”, “Off” and “On”. The first lighting screen grab is with the ON position and the next one is with Pulse. With the Pulse setting, each landing light alternates on and off, creating the pulse effect. This is the first simulated aircraft that I have installed that has this feature. The final screen grab is with the Fin Strobe light turned on.
The first screen grab here is the default VC view on my system and I normally adjust my eye point and zoom level so that I can see more of the instrument panel from the default position. I am not going to do this with the Saratoga because there are some instruments that are pretty small and I would just have to adjust my view again when using them. Also with this aircraft I could smoothly pan around the cockpit to see instruments and switches that were outside of my view. This is a good time to comment about the last two options available on the Toggle_Control window, VC Window and Instrument Reflections. The first two screen grabs are of these features enabled and the third and fourth are the clear windows and instruments. I usually keep the VC Window textures enabled but I prefer the non-reflective instrument glass. The primary flight instruments are right in front of you and are large enough to be easy to read. The dials in the instruments also have smooth movements which is great. To the left of the Airspeed Indicator and Turn Coordinator are the clock and the NAV2 CDI with Glide Slope.
I know that Alabeo is not known for complete systems modeling but the only function with the clock is the time. I do not expect the advanced clock features but a timer function would have been nice. I do like that the NAV2 CDI is right in front of me because I like to use it as the backup to the GPS flight plan which is sent to the horizontal situation indicator (HSI). Also, the glide slope is easier for me to see on the CDI instead of on the HSI. Another nice instrument panel feature on the Saratoga is that the Yoke only obstructs the instrument panel lighting controls so I only have to adjust my eye point or hide the yoke when I want to operate these lighting controls. The ELT and Oxygen gauge and control are also in this area. The ELT switch and Oxygen knob are animated but these systems are not modeled with the Saratoga. The electric trim buttons on the control yoke do not work so you will have to use the aircraft trim wheel on the floor next to the pilot seat or hardware controls. To the right of the oxygen gauge are the gear & parking brake levers and the throttle quadrant. Labeling in this area of the panel is very good and is clear and easy to read. Below the parking brake are the fuel selector and the rudder trim.
There is a very odd graphical glitch with the fuel selector is that when I mouse over the left tank for the first time, the tool tip displays “ALL” instead of “Left” and when I switch over to the right tank and back again, the display is correct. The center of the instrument panel contains the analog system instruments, a wonderful digital display of your engine & system settings, Altitude & Vertical Speed Selector (AVSS) & digital AP Mode display at the top, GPS displays and the Master Avionics, Autopilot/Flight Director, Pitot Heat and some other switches at the bottom that I have no idea what their function is. This is where a cockpit layout document would have been nice to know what function the GND Clear and TKS switches provide. The digital system display is the primary reason why I did not adjust the view when I first load the Saratoga II TC. It is very easy to read these displays and then look down at the analog instruments to verify everything is in the green. The small control wheel allows you to switch between the various displays and I will comment more about this wonderful unit during the flight model section.
The three screen grabs that I am displaying here are the Engine, Electrical and System Date & Time. The other two display modes are Power and Outside & Cabin Temperature. The AVSS allows you to adjust the barometric pressure, autopilot altitude and vertical speed settings and is another thing that is nice because it is right in front of me. One of the major features that I was looking forward to with this aircraft was support for the Flight1 GTN 750 GPS display in the instrument panel. Alabeo has provided options for installing the RealityXP GPS units on previous general aviation aircraft but this is the first time that this modern GPS has been included as part of the package without having to edit the panel.cfg or just having a 2D window. Unfortunately only the larger displays are supported the RXP GNS 530 and the F1 GTN 750. Alabeo decided to leave the default GNS 430 installed instead of having the option to have the upgraded units from these companies. I hope that support for the RXP GNS 430 and the F1 GTN 650 can be added in the future. I will comment more about the various GPS options in the next section.
Above the Audio Control Panel is the excellent Annunciator Panel and these displays are very easy to read. The right side of the instrument panel contains the Autopilot Mode selector, Transponder and the right seat flight instruments. I like when aircraft developers include the right seat instruments in case I wanted to fly the aircraft from the right seat view. The Transponder is very basic with only the ALT, numbers and Timer buttons functional. Personally, I would rather have the timer on the clock but at least I do have a timer function on the instrument panel. All of the electrical, engine start, fuel pump and exterior lighting switches are installed on the overhead panel and are within easy reach of the default VC view. All of these switches have appropriate animations and nice sound effects associated with their operation.
The instrument panel lighting is excellent especially when combined with interior dome lighting. Besides the right seat view there are an additional three alternate panel views but the default view is so good with everything right in front of me and looking around the cockpit is so easy using my joystick panning function, I probably will not use them. To summarize, even though the Saratoga II TC cockpit is the most complex to date, Alabeo has done such a good job with its layout, that most simulator pilots should not have a problem memorizing the locations of all of the instruments and switches.
This is my first aircraft review for AirDailyX, so I thought I should explain how I review the flight model of the aircraft. I am not an expert in flight dynamics so I approach my reviews from an experienced flight simulator user point of view. I am more concerned with how the aircraft handles and how easy or hard it is to hand fly rather than reviewing how realistic the airspeeds for all phases of flight, especially cruise. I do like to follow the checklists to verify the accuracy of the included documentation. I will then comment when things work right and also where I think a procedure is missing or just does not seem right to me. Let’s get started because there are a lot of things to cover. The Before Engine Start and Normal Start – Cold Engine are straight forward and I was able to quickly memorize these steps. I do not think they are modeled so I did not try the other engine start procedures but they are included in the documentation if you want to use them. I have read that some people are unimpressed with the engine sound effects with this aircraft but I thought they were pretty good but maybe not as loud as it should be. I also have never been around the real Saratoga, so I do not know how accurate these sounds are. By now there are probably some videos available on the internet for you to hear the included sound effects and if you do not like them, there are some alternatives for you to try.
The least expensive and easiest is just not buy this aircraft but you will miss out on what I consider Alabeo’s best aircraft to date. Another option if you own other Carenado aircraft is to try aliasing other aircraft sound effects for this aircraft, do an internet search for this procedure. Finally, Skysongsoundworks has produced a HD sound set for the Saratoga and they have a video on their website located here for you to listen and watch: http://skysongsoundworks.com/product_info.php?products_id=64 . I consider realistic sound effects a bonus feature and prefer a nice flying aircraft instead of having the most realistic sounds. An issue that I found when I turn on the master battery and alternator is that the master avionics switch is already turned on. This should be off for engine start, this is an easy procedure to perform before starting the engine, but I wish Alabeo would have had this switch in the off position when you first load this aircraft.
The flight that I going to do for this section is from the freeware Orbx Bowerman Field (KHQM) in Hoquiam, Washington to Felts Field (KSFF) in Spokane, Washington which is an Orbx premium scenery product. While I am reviewing the flight model of the Saratoga, this flight will provide many scenic sights for me to capture some pictures for this section of the review. For this trip I will be using the RealityXP GNS 530 GPS and while the engine is warming up I will create a flight plan on this GPS unit. I am also going to cruise at 10,000 feet which will allow me to review the climb and cruise performance. After the flight plan is entered, I will turn on the Flight Director on the autopilot, activate NAV & ALT modes on the autopilot and dial in my cruising altitude on my Saitek hardware or on the AVSS on the instrument panel. I am going to go into more detail about the various GPS options later but for now the waypoint information is displayed in the bottom half of the Carenado GNS430 and the Flight Director is also sending this information to the HSI. The Taxi checklist is self-explanatory but does not reference lighting procedures. None of the included checklists have any references to lighting which seems like an omission to me.
I do not expect a checklist item for each of the lights but one line reminding you about the lights would have been nice. I am an experienced virtual aviator so I know when to use the exterior lights but if you are new to this wonderful hobby, there is plenty of information on the internet. The Saratoga is a very easy aircraft to taxi and I did not have any issues. The same can be said about the Ground Check procedures, very self-explanatory and I quickly memorized these steps. This is where I love the digital monitoring display, when I performed the magneto & propeller checks, I could look down and quickly read the RPM display and RPM drop was exactly as it was supposed to be. I also love the tonal sound change when performing the propeller check. This display also helps when verifying the fuel flow setting when checking the fuel pump operation; it is right in front of you on the digital display. I do not know if fuel flow is supposed to change when cycling the fuel pump on and off but on my system the fuel flow amount remained the same whether it was on or off. All of these settings are also displayed on the analog instruments but the digital display is so much easier to read. The autopilot check produces a very nice alarm when switching from the ON position to the FD or all the way to the OFF position. Continuing on, I did not have any issues with the Before Takeoff, Takeoff and Climb procedures.
The Alabeo Saratoga performed exactly as the checklist said, normal liftoff at 80KIAS, best rate of climb (gear up/flaps up) 95KIAS and enroute climb at 105KIAS. I have to say that the Saratoga is one of the easiest aircraft to adjust power & trim for all phases of flight of any aircraft that have as part of my virtual hangar. I like to hand fly the aircraft to my cruising altitude and this is also a wonderful aircraft to manually fly, it is very responsive to my control movements. Climb performance is outstanding; I was able to maintain 1000 FPM at 100 – 105 KIAS with only a minimal amount of mixture adjustment. Now that I am climbing, I thought this would be a good time to explain what exactly the turbo charge feature brings to an aircraft.
I am not knowledgeable about this subject so I decided what I could find on the internet and found a Piper Aircraft forum where a Saratoga owner was asking this very thing. The short answer is that a turbocharged engine provides more available power at higher altitudes. My fight to Felts Field at a cruise altitude of 10,000 feet can almost be considered a low altitude flight for a turbocharged aircraft. One of the pilots who responded said that he had no problem cruising at 14,000 feet and that the aircraft can go as high as 20,000 feet if needed. As long as oxygen is available (the Alabeo Saratoga II TC includes an oxygen system that you can turn on or off but lack of oxygen effects is not modeled), you can fly over most mountain ranges or climb above weather. Another benefit according to this same pilot is easier takeoffs and landings at high altitude airports such as Bryce Canyon. With a turbocharged aircraft there is no need to lean for max power, keep the mixture at the full rich setting, apply full power and you should have all of the power that you would want. Another pilot responded with some of the sacrifices that you have with a turbocharged engine.
Mainly these are higher costs associated with turbocharged operations. You have a higher fuel flow because of the higher manifold pressure, more routine maintenance because of the additional parts that can break and the shorter time before overhaul (TBO) 1800 versus 2000 hours. Plus, there is the cost of an oxygen system if you plan on operating at higher altitudes. I hope this explanation is correct and is easy enough to understand. Towards the end of the review process I decided to fly from Bryce Canyon Airport, Utah with an elevation of 7589 feet MSL to Centennial Airport, Colorado which has a field elevation of 5885 feet MSL, to test the high altitude characteristics of this aircraft. To add to this test, I also changed the month to summer and selected an outside air temperature of 90 degrees. Just as the real world pilot said, with the mixture at full rich, I had all the power that I needed to perform a normal takeoff. Climb performance was wonderful but I did start to lean the mixture which produced more power and was able to climb to my planned cruise altitude of 13,000 feet with ease and once I was at this altitude and adjusted my power for this altitude (I will comment more about this in the next paragraph) and was able to cruise at a nice 135 KIAS. I did have to climb to 15,000 feet to cross some mountains and without adjusting my settings was able to climb at 110 KIAS. I love having a turbocharged simulated aircraft.
Now it is time to get back to my flight from KHQM to KSFF. Now that I am at cruise altitude it is time to use the Cruise checklist and it is very simple with only three checklist items. The digital system monitoring display is very useful for the cruise power settings. I know that this is not realistic, but I do not usually look at the performance charts or tables for my simulated aircraft. I usually lean the mixture by feel, when I receive some vibration or audible effect and if equipped in the aircraft, a peak turbine inlet temperature (TIT). The cruise performance charts with the Saratoga are so easy to understand that I did use the Normal Cruise chart for this review. I just adjusted my power and propeller settings according to the chart, then adjusted the mixture for peak TIT for the altitude that I was flying. The outside air temperature also is needed for these cruise settings but I ignored this for now. This is another subject that I am not knowledgeable about so if I explained this technical subject incorrectly please correct me in the comments section after the review is published.
The last position on the digital system display is the Power settings and pressing the up and down arrows on this instrument will provide different power settings similar to what is on the performance charts. I make a mental note of these settings then I return to the Engine display, I simply adjust the power & propeller to match these settings from the Power display or the chart and finally lean the mixture for peak TIT. I am now cruising at a nice 145 KIAS at 10,000 feet. Both the Power display and the chart indicated that I should have a fuel flow of 16.5 gallons per hour with a setting of 30” manifold pressure and 2300 RPM, but I could only achieve 15.6. Now that I am at my cruise level, turned on the auto pilot and are enjoying the scenery, I thought this would be a good time to comment about the three GPS options that are available for the Alabeo Saratoga II TC.
The included Alabeo GNS 530 and 430 GPS displays are very basic and have similar features as the default FSX GPS system. You can enter a Direct to flight plan on the unit or load a FSX flight plan and that is about it. You can also load and activate instrument approaches but these and your flight plans cannot be edited, so you cannot delete a waypoint if it is not required. Another disadvantage is that these GPS units use the default FSX navigation database which is now several years old. The major benefit with using the default units is that the flight plan is loaded on both displays, so you can have the moving map on the GNS 530 and digital waypoint information on the smaller GNS 430 unit. The flight plan information is also sent to the HSI for the pilot to follow. As mentioned previously, Alabeo has included VC panel support for the RealityXP GNS GPS products for some time. The primary benefit to the RXP GNS products is that they have been on the market for several years and is supported by many flight simulator aircraft developers. The RXP GNS 530 GPS is a realistic simulation of the real world GPS and requires the virtual pilot to manually enter flight plans and this unit does not accept FSX loaded flight plans.
Due to FSX limitations some real world features are not modeled but you can manually edit your flight plan which is wonderful. This unit uses a newer navigation database then the default FSX one and other than an update from a couple of years ago, it cannot be updated to a more current database. Another limitation with RXP products is that even though they can still be purchased and there is still an active support forum, RealityXP has not updated the software or responded to support requests for some time. The good news is that there are many experienced users available to answer your questions and to help with installation of these GPS units into your favorite aircraft’s instrument panel. Waypoint information is sent to bottom half of the Alabeo GNS 430 and to the HSI but the top part of the GNS430 display is blank. For more information here is the link to the product page: http://www.reality-xp.com/flightsim/gns530/index.html . Earlier this year, Flight1 Software released the Garmin GTN 650 & 750 GPS displays for FSX and Prepare3D (available from Flight1 Aviation Technologies, their non-entertainment division). The real world GTN displays were the replacements for the Garmin GNS 430 & 530 GPS units.
The Alabeo Saratoga II TC supports the GTN 750 display installed in the virtual panel and Alabeo is one of the first developers to offer this option without the user having to edit the panel.cfg for installation. I wish Alabeo would also have included an option to install the GTN 650 to replace the Alabeo GNS 430 but maybe with a future update or new aircraft. The GTN 750 features a detailed large touch screen display that makes it very easy to enter your flight plans and use other functions. Similar to the RealityXP GPS the Flight1 GTN 750 uses the free Garmin Trainer that is installed on your computer to provide for a very realistic simulation of this display. Also similar to the RXP GPS some features are not simulated do to FSX limitations. This large display allows you to zoom in and out quickly to see detailed airport maps (U.S. only) and other detailed map features. This GPS unit can also display airport and other instrument procedure charts if available, which is nice. The texture quality of the charts is not very good from the VC view but I like that it is available in the cockpit instead of having to find them on the internet.
This GPS display does suffer from VC Lighting so depending on the direction and time of day, the VC display can be very hard to see and viewing the charts is especially hard to see. The 2D display is not affected by this lighting issue and Flight1 has fixed this issue with the just released Version 1.05 of the GTN software. Technically, this GPS does not accept FSX flight plans but Flight1 has provided a click spot to switch from the GTN Flight plan to the FSX plan. This does not change flight plan information on the GPS but rather the HSI is now reading the FSX flight plan instead of the GTN flight plan. The nice thing about the Flight1 GPS is that all of the waypoint information is sent to the Carenado GPS including the waypoint identifiers. This GPS has the most current navigation database but forget about updating it because it can only be updated from Garmin which charges a lot of money for this service. I hope more developers start to include this wonderful GPS unit as an option for their panels because it has become my favorite GPS display. To learn more about this GPS unit here is the Flight1 product page: http://www.flight1.com/products.asp?product=f1gtn .
I did not have any issues descending and setting up the approach for landing. The Saratoga slows down very nicely but I just had to remember as with all aircraft to plan my approach well ahead of time when descending from a higher altitude. The gear up warning is very impressive as is the actual gear and flap operation sound effects. I decided to fly the Runway 22R ILS approach and both the Realty XP & Flight 1 GPS approach procedures along with the autopilot worked great. I also tuned the ILS frequency on the Alabeo GNS 430 NAV2 radio so that I could manually fly the approach using the CDI when I turned off the autopilot. This also worked flawlessly and as with other phases of flight the aircraft responded well to my control movements. I did not have any issues landing the Saratoga and I was able to consistently reach the proper landing speeds without being too fast or too slow. Another nice feature is that after I had landed, I could use the elevator to slow down without having to use the brakes until necessary. Everything with the shutdown and securing the aircraft worked as it should.
- Intel Desktop Computer
- Intel i5 4670K 3.4Ghz Non OC Processor
- 8GB DDR3 1833 Memory
- 2TB SATA HD (7200 RPM)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX550Ti Video Card with 1GB GDDR5 Memory
- Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystic
- FSX with Acceleration, Windows 7 – 64 Bit
- REX 4 Texture Direct
- DX10 Scenery Fixer
- FSX Fair Weather Theme
- Flight Test Time: 25 hours
This has turned into a long review so I am going to keep this brief. I own several Alabeo aircraft and with each new one they seem to keep getting better and better in one way or another. The interior, exterior and panel textures and features are the usual Alabeo quality. The sound and animation effects are also pretty good. There have been some complaints about the sound effects but I think they are pretty good and I do not think it worth buying an additional sound package. I did not have any issues with the flight model; I am not an expert and have not read any real complaints so I think the flight model can be considered excellent.
Granted if you expect all of the aircrafts systems to be simulated, you had better look elsewhere because this is still an Alabeo aircraft but will still provide most simulator pilots with plenty of enjoyment. What I was most looking forward to was the Flight1 GTN 750 virtual panel integration. Alabeo also includes RealityXP GNS 530 support which is now expected with most general aviation simulated aircraft. I only had very minor issues and they were cosmetic and by no means prevent me from recommending the wonderful Alabeo Piper Saratoga II TC aircraft. I will definitely be keeping this aircraft as part of my virtual hangar. The Alabeo aircraft releases have been slowing increasing in price and at $29.95 it is one of their highest priced aircraft but I still consider this a good value for the amount of features that it includes. Personally, I consider the GTN 750 integration worth the purchase price alone and everything else is a bonus.
For more details about the Alabeo Saratoga II TC visit the product page located here: http://www.alabeo.com/index.php