Alabeo PA-36 Review
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PA-36 Pawnee Brave 375
For FSX & P3D Published by Alabeo
Reviewed by Sean Young
March 2013

Introduction

I'm a hick. There I said it! I do somewhat hick things and say somewhat hick things. I bring this up because the first time a friend of mine flew his Pawnee into the airport I was working at I fell in love with the airplane and it's mission of low altitude spraying of crop fields. Somehow only a hick could love it and think FSX was missing a good spray plane. I have had a few other run in's with Pawnee's while flying sailplanes and getting towed behind them.

The Pawnee Brave that is modelled by Alabeo is that of the Brave 375. The PA-36 Pawnee Brave is a newer model of the original PA-25 Pawnee. Upgrades include a bigger engine, in the 375's case a 375hp Lycoming IO-720, a new stronger wing that didn't need the struts found on the PA-25, and lastly a bigger hopper.

So does the Alabeo PA-36 Pawnee Brave live up to the Alabeo name and bring us simmers a good spray plane to FSX?

Downloads, Installation, and Documentation

The download comes in three parts, the PA-36, a free mission, and lastly some free scenery. All three come with auto installers that put everything where it needs to go without any fuss or moving files within FSX.

The PA-36 comes with two models. One with spray bars/equipment and one without. Six repaints for the aircraft with spray bars and five repaints for the aircraft without, there are repeats of the same repaints of the spray equipped aircraft.

Documentation included is a single page called “facts sheet”. The documentation for this product is very disappointing. The only useful information are some airspeeds. There is no checklist or recommended power settings which is something that I really would like to have seen as a basic guide on how to fly a crop duster.

External Model

The external model is very sharp and looks like a real Pawnee (minus the wing struts). A lot of attention has been paid to the details. The rivets, screws and individual skin panels give the aircraft an “I can almost touch it” feel, with the anti-skid sections on the wings giving you a “I'm going to scrape my knee” feel. The individual paints have a well used, and acceptable dirty look to them. Giving you an impression that this is an airplane which works for a living.


Lots of detail in the livery

It's like a tractor

The attention to detail can be seen again in the spray system. Each nozzle looks exactly like a nozzle on a Pawnee spray bar should look like. The pump assembly, and piping are really spot on and include one of my favourite animations.


The livery makes the plane looked well used

Some great camera views

Another nice view

Spray bar up close

Speaking of animations, they are well done . Everything is nice and smooth, and beyond the usual. You get a pilot who moves with control inputs, both sides of the canopy can be opened, the air vents can be opened, the exhaust pipes shake, and the spray system's pump fan/prop spins. But the pièce de résistance is the actual spray coming out of the spray bar. When the spray system is engaged you see the “chemical” come out of each individual nozzle and then join together in a mist and then finally the “chemical” dissipates but when it does you see beautiful wingtip vortices disrupt the spray.

Internal Model

The same attention to detail we see in the external model is brought inside to the cockpit. The cockpit itself looks used, with little scratches and scuff marks and dings. The cockpit has a very basic and spartan look to it, there's nothing fancy like a directional gyro or GPS, that being said it does look like what the average Pawnee cockpit would look like.

All the gauges are super smooth and are nicely done. One complaint though is that the RPM gauge seems to be reused from Alabeo's Cessna C188B Agtruck. Normally this isn't something I wouldn't mind too much but the markings on the gauge don't work for the Pawnee. For one the redline is at 3000rpm but the Pawnee doesn't rev past 2500rpm.


Cockpit details

Close up of the minimal guages

2D gauges for spray plane

2D windows no spray equipment

PA36 without spray bars

This little window down makes a lot of noise

You get three 2D gauges, one for settings, and a second for controlling the amount of chemical in your spray tank, and a 2D radio.

The settings can be used to open and close the canopy doors, change the reflections on the gauges on or off, turn on or off the canopy reflections, and lastly you can raise or lower the visor on the pilot’s helmet. The gauge controlling your spray tank is well done, and is simple to use. You can adjust the amount of liquid from 0 to over filling up to 1550lbs, there’s a nice quantity remaining section that will count down to 0 as you spray, and finally a little button that will refill your hopper to your set amount of liquid when you’re on the ground and have the engine off.

All in all the cockpit is well done and is very easy to fly the aircraft from.

Sounds

Sounds are what can make or break and aircraft add-on. I'm happy to report that the sounds don't disappoint here. The start up and shut down sounds are truly good. The engine comes to life in spits and sputters before roaring into life and finally settling down into it's idle purr. However the highlight would be if you open up one of the little vent windows while in flight you hear the wind rush into the cockpit, and includes a little feedback from the mic as the wind hits the mic in the helmet.

Flying

Flying the PA-36 Pawnee Brave 375 is a ton of fun. The airplane is manoeuvrable but yet solid in the controls. The airplane can be easily trimmed for hands off flying and is a joy to hand fly. Because the pilot sits so high in the plane you get a beautiful view of your surroundings. When siting on the ground the airplane sits a little funny. It's nearly level with the tail much higher than a normal tail dragger, this gives an interesting view for take-off and landings, as you can see over the nose. An added benefit is that it makes judging height off the ground easier, which will help you in the mission discussed below.


Good manoeuvrability

Vortices forming in the spray

The spray system is nice and simple to operate, press ‘I’ or move a lever in the cockpit and the aircraft starts spraying. The great thing is that as you spray you get a weight reduction which is noticeable. The aircraft becomes more manoeuvrable and actually requires more skill to fly.

However, in all honesty the spray system didn't work for me right out of the box. When I activated it there was no weight reduction at all. I had to contact Alabeo's support for help. After a week of communications their solution was to install the Cessna C188 AgTruck to see if that spray system worked. Not only did the C188 work but the PA-36 worked after the install. I can’t tell if it was something with the PA-36 or with my PC, and will have to give the benefit of the doubt to the PA-36.


Reduced chemical after spraying for a while

No spray equipment

I've found that flying the PA-36 without the spray equipment really nice for exploring sceneries, doing bush flights, and generally having nice relaxing flights. With it's good slow speed handling, big engine, and good manoeuvrability you can get into and out of some tight spots such as canyons and short fields.

The FREE mission and scenery

As previously stated you get one free scenery and mission.

Starting with the scenery you get an airport, IL57 Cottonwood in Bloomington in Illinois (USA). The airport is a single runway roughly 1800ft X 130ft and is grass. The airport has one apron filled with static AI aircraft, and a few nicely done buildings. The airport is extremely easy on the frames, I didn't notice any hit at all.

Included with the airport is around 10 sq.km of farm land for you to go play in. The scenery is high quality and the fields look nice when flying high and keep their quality when down on the deck spraying. The scenery blends well with default FSX scenery. I only have one quibble with the scenery, and that is it only comes with one texture set for spring/summer. If you are flying in the winter you will see a big square patch of summer farms surrounded by bare snow covered land. I applaud the area that the developers chose for the scenery. The farms are big and the land isn't flat but filled with small hills and ridges and gives a nice challenge.


Area around the free scenery

A field in the free scenery

The free mission requires the free scenery to be installed. The mission briefing has some great information in it. Besides the map of the area, it includes a “how to” section on how to fly a crop duster.


On mission have to fly under those

Not low enough

Now I'm low enough

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!

The mission starts you off in a cold and dark airplane in the early morning at Cottonwood. Your job is to go spray a field within a time limit. What the mission really is, is a bunch of gates you have to fly through. After take-off you head over to the field and once you pass through the first gate the timer starts. When you pass through the last gate of that row some arrows show you which way you have to turn in order to complete the “crop duster turn” and line yourself back up for the next series of gates during your next pass along the field. The process repeats until you’re done. The mission seems easy at first and after a few tries to complete it (*cough cough 10ish) it is, but as the airplane gets lighter, it gets faster and harder to keep close to the ground.

Conclusion

I have had a lot of fun with this airplane, whether it was dusting some crops, or exploring some scenery, or just touring the countryside in a relaxing flight. For less than $20 USD you will get a quality, fun airplane to fly.



Verdict
score

    • External model:
    • Internal model:
    • Sounds:
    • Flight characteristics:
    • Flight dynamics:
    • Documentation:
    • Value for money:
9.5/10
8.0/10
10./10
9.0/10
7.5/10
3.0/10
9.0/10
 


Overall Mutley's Hangar Score 8/10