• PBY Catalina

    PBY Catalina

    By Gene Davis (8 June 2001)

    INTRODUCTION

    Imagine the excitement of flying a seaplane or even having the luxury to be a part of that long since gone era of flight. Abacus attempts to capture part of that history in their latest release of PBY Catalina. Upon opening the box I found the box art to be exquisite, which merely made me anticipate the program even more.

    After I inserted the disk into my CD-ROM drive I was greeted by a nicely rendered menu selection system. I quickly installed both the FS2000 and CFS2 version of the plane and then chose to look at the video that is included on the disk. The video starts out as a series of picture stills and then about after 4 minutes the actual in flight video starts; well done! The music that goes along with the video, as well as the sound effects are great. The video depicts the restoration of the Princesse Des Etoiles (C-FCRR) a PBY that is the property of the Canadian Air Legends and has been entrusted to the Air Inc. Company of Oshawa, Toronto. On the disk you will also find the actual flight manual in PDF format to help you along with your journey. After about twenty minutes of looking at all the things the disk had to offer I was ready to get into the cockpit.

       

    THE FLIGHT

    I decided to launch Combat Flight Simulator 2 first because of its water landing capabilities. Jumping into the free flight mode I wanted to go for a quick hop. Sitting on the runway in Kahului in Hawaii the engines were quiet. Looking at the pilots' communication and electrical controls I switched the fuel pumps to both and then primed both engines, I was not greeted by any kind of startup sound. The engines sputtered to life with little or no fanfare. I set the trim up a few notches and throttled forward. The plane lumbered down the runway and as I reached 85 knots I pulled slowly back on the yoke. I found that the trick to taking off is managing your trim before and after takeoff. If you attempt to takeoff without adjusting your trim, you will more than likely stall out and crash, but I guess that is pretty much a given.
       

    Watching from the exterior of the craft the gear animation is impressive and really adds to the quality of the product. Going back into the cockpit I decided to look out to my right and to my surprise, there was no internal view! After spending some time with the P61 Black Widow they released this totally amazed me (By the way I totally recommend the P61.).

    After reaching about 1000 feet it was time to attempt a water landing, I throttled back and adjusted my trim downward. At about 750 feet I put the plane into a steep right turn and brought her around so she was facing the islands again. After reaching 450 feet I dropped the floats; these too are totally animated. At about 150 feet I was forced to throttle back all the way, as I was not losing enough altitude. I noticed that the plane does not lose its airspeed therefore it makes losing altitude rather difficult, as you need to throttle up for a water landing. I also noticed that the program does not have flaps, and if I am correct the original PBY did not have flaps. I pulled out a flight manual for the PBY that I have in my personal library and found no reference to flap settings, just cowl flaps. As the plane touched down I expected to hear water splashing against the fuselage, but again to my surprise there was none. Nothing to let you know if you were on the water surface or not, just your altimeter. I cut the throttles and the plane bobbed forward in the water just before coming to a stop. Maneuvering in the water is done with each engine and I found that part of the program to be well simulated. No turn of the yoke will help you here!

       

    THE PLANES AND THEIR COCKPITS

    First off I must tell you that the planes are beautifully rendered, every detail that you could think of was included on the visual exterior of the plane. The package comes with two naval versions of the PBY and one flying in civilian colors. The Princesse Des Etoiles (C-FCRR), the civilian version, has a more modern cockpit. It is set up with Nav and Com radios for better use with FS2000. The one thing I truly like about the cockpit for each plane is the ability to pan all the way left and right. Each side is different, so if you're in the mood to be a copilot instead of a pilot you can take the right seat. As for an internal view of the aircraft there isn't one. If you look out to the right or left all you see is air. This was totally disappointing to me, how hard would it have been to take some pictures of the actual flight deck and throw them into the program.

    I do like the panels that came with the program though, I think they are pretty well done. The naval versions have late 1940's style gauges that really add to the authenticity of that era. As for the flight models and what I know about PBY's I think they are pretty good. It is a very difficult plane to fly and the add-on does make you work a little harder than most planes. I did notice that the plane has the tendency to bounce on a runway when you start the engines. This is very obvious in CFS2, but not in FS2000. Although I did notice a strange occurrence on FS2000, the plane has the tendency to nose to the left and go into a dive. I don't know if this is a bug issue or just my Flight Simulator. I have tried adjusting each throttle lever to try and level it off, but that only works for a matter of time. It kind of reminds me of driving a car with a left wheel out of alignment.

    SOUND

    This was by far the most disappointing part of this add-on. Expecting water landing sounds and startup sounds for each engine and then not to find them was to say the least, aggravating. In our world of flight simulators the takeoff and landing sounds have become more predominant, adding a more realistic experience. Take the Evergreen DC-9 and panel, didn't cost a dime but was by far one of the best add-ons for FS2000 of last year. Now you have these companies that come out and do a quality product like PBY that costs $29.99 and doesn't include any of these sounds. I would hope that a future update would rectify this. Let's get off the bandwagon and get back to the subject at hand. The sound is okay; it does sound like a PBY.

    COMPARISONS CFS2 vs. FS2000

    This add-on works best with Combat Flight Simulator 2 because of its water landing capabilities. In CFS2 you are given three aircraft and in FS2000 you are given two versions of each plane, one with wheels and the other without. In CFS2 you have the best of both worlds in one plane and not a lot of extra files that you will probably never use. Since FS2000 is limited in the water-landing department, it would have made sense to just install the land-based planes instead and leave the others out.

    IN CONCLUSION

    This is an excellent add-on for Combat Flight Simulator 2 and I strongly encourage anyone that is really into the Pacific Theater of WW2 to add this to their collection. The planes are beautifully rendered and it shows that a lot of effort went into putting this project together. I have emailed Abacus Publishing about the sound and internal views to see if a patch might be forth coming, I will be glad to let you all know if and when one may be available.

    Gene Davis
    [email protected]">[email protected]


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