• Review: Alcala Simulacion PA38 Tomahawk

    Review: Alcala Simulacion Piper PA38 Tomahawk

    By Douglas Dumas

    Let me introduce myself. My name's Douglas Dumas (aka Dougie D.), and I've been into flight simulation for over four years now. It started with my first time sitting in an airplane, when a CFI took me on a tour of his company's fleet of Diamond Eclipses. He recommended Microsoft Flight Simulator to start learning with, and it grew on me quickly.


    Now I fly on X-Plane, as it has a more realistic physics engine, but I'm fluent in FS2002 and FSX as well. Since I like to review things, I'm more than pleased to give back to the community that's encouraged me to log 2,500+ simulated hours and helped me get a feel for planes before ever actually flying one.

    Disclaimer: I evaluated this aircraft with X-Plane 10.25, both 32 and 64 bit (there seemed to be no issues in 64 bit). I do not have X-Plane 9, but the creator says that it should work with either. This review is specifically for the PA38 1.0, some of the content here may be inaccurate if and when the creator decides to add a revision.

    With that said, let's get to the download. If you keep an eye on the reviews, you'll see that Dominic Smith recently did a fine piece on the Alcala Simulacion Piper PA11 Cub Special. I'd like to continue on Adrian Fernandez Gomez's fine work with his Piper PA38 Tomahawk. We'll start with the most obvious first: the cockpit.

    To begin with, I typically cannot do without a 3D cockpit. I like to look around, flip switches, pull knobs, and generally get the feel of controlling an airplane. And the Tomahawk here is a very decent rendition of its real life counterpart. Included below is a photo from Mark Addison of a real bird's panel (taken from Wikipedia), and beside it a shot in X-Plane from a similar location and angle.


    See, the two are very similar. The only difference worthy of mention is the Garmin GPS, which certainly was not standard (the PA38 was made from late 1970's to early 1980's, whereas the GPS made its public debut in the 1990's). Of course, there's always the possibility that after thirty plus years of being around, a private owner might well have added one. One great feature is the radios and transponder, which are splendid copies, as well as the perfectly modeled gauges.

    One slight flaw with the Alcala model, is the alternator annunciator just above the six pack. It seems that the panel model (circle hole) and the gauge (square bulb) do not come together properly. It still lights up, and that's what counts.

    Wikipedia's file on the PA38 states that the Tomahawk was made to spin, unlike its rival the Cessna 152. In fact, this was apparently a major marketing point for Piper. As a result, however, the spin fatality rate is much higher than the C152, and the PA38 was graced with the nickname "Traumahawk" by those who flew it. So... does the Alcala Tomahawk spin?

    Short answer: no. Long answer: I pulled out my FAA Airplane Flying Handbook and followed the spinning instructions to the letter. I leveled off at 3000' AGL, reached cruise speed, pulled up and held a high AOA, let the airspeed needle go to 40 kts, then pushed the rudder over as hard as possible. The nose fell rather nicely, then went straight down and spun hard. I did cut the throttle to avoid going over Vne, but the handbook implies that a real plane should go on spinning until you properly stop the rotation.

    So I let go of the rudder, to see if it would keep spinning. She just stopped, gained speed, and actually tried to pull up on me. I tried it four times, with different rudder directions and stalling techniques. So, the "Traumahawk" wouldn't spin. But hey, who spins their personal plane on a simulator, let alone in real life? But this is worth mentioning.

    Now, the rest of flying is a breeze. I've never even seen a Tomahawk that I was aware of, so I do not know if the engine and flight characteristics are actually realistic. But what I can say is that the model tends to torque persistently towards the port side, and this might be close to the mark.

    The previous brings me to a very good subject, though. That is the functions on the 2D panel. They look like those nice little MFS SimIcons, and pull up windows just the same. I'm not going to cover it in detail, but the greatest part is the well done aileron and rudder trim. To adjust it, you have to have the wheels on the ground and the engine can't be turning, just like the tabs in real life. It shows true creativity, congratulations to Gomez for that!

    1. LowTransition's Avatar
      LowTransition -
      Nice review, Douglas! I really enjoy this model as well and all of Adrian's fine aircraft for that matter. His Tomahawk is my, "go to," airplane when I just want to do some pattern work and short VFR hops. What Adrian seems to understand that is apparently lost on many other developers (payware or otherwise) is that a proper technique for landing in a light GA airplane like this is to actually stall the aircraft onto the runway while in the flare in ground effect. His airplanes, the Tomahawk included, float nicely in the flare and, "stall on," near the published stall speeds, like they ought to! Try to simulate that with many of the GA offerings out there and you'll be disappointed as the airplane unceremoniously and unrealistically crashes onto the mains WAY earlier than it ought to if you're making an attempt at doing things right. Gomez does a stellar job in this regard, in my humble opinion, and is to be commended for it. His fine work is easily representative of payware quality, yet he continues to generously gift the X-Plane community with wonderful models such as the Tomahawk. I can't wait for his Cessna 170B, which looks like it could be his finest work yet.
    1. startrek66's Avatar
      startrek66 -
      Thanks for your detailed report. I do not agree with you, however, that the model of Alcala not spin. I succeeded. The procedure that you describe to spin is not correct. You must wait that stall alive, and after insert the rudder.
    1. c_hurricane's Avatar
      c_hurricane -
      Great review and very helpful - thanks. One comment: the real airctaft actually starts spinning quite qiuickly and almost all by itself if you have a light sidewind component. You almost immediately have do give counter rudder or recover from a stall to prevent it from goint into a spin.
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