The general aviation category is filled with a rich and wide ranging plethora of models and variants from an equally wide ranging number manufacturers. It is a veritable landscape (maybe that should be skyscape) of diversity. Now, everyone is generally familiar with the more well known models and manufacturers, but every now and then we come across a model from a well known manufacturer which, whilst it is a popular mainstream model, it seems to have a lower public profile. Such is the case with the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' and this twin engine, light aircraft is more often seen around flight training schools.
Alabeo's release of the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' sees the continuation of their established trend in producing aircraft from all corners of the general aviation category. So, if you are a flight simming, general aviation devotee, the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is something which may well tempt you to further expand your flying experiences.
The Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is a twin engine, low wing monoplane with a high T tail, in the general aviation aircraft category. It is powered by a pair of Lycoming O-360-E1A6D, air cooled, four cylinder, horizontally opposed, 180 hp engines and has seating for up to three passengers. Of particular note is the engine type fitment, as the right hand engine is a Lycoming LO-360-E1A6D variant (note the L prefix). This engine's rotation is opposite to the left hand engine in order to eliminate 'critical engine', thus making the aircraft more controllable in the event of an engine failure.
The Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is a development of the Piper PA-28 'Cherokee' and is primarily used for multi-engine flight training. A relative newcomer in its category, it was only certified as recently as 10 March 1978 and entered production in early 1979. Production has not been entirely continuous though, with an initial production run from 1979 to 1982, again from 1989-1990, and continuous since 1995.
The Alabeo Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is currently available direct from Alabeo and Alabeo resellers as a download only product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is priced at US$34.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 325MB and it requires 900MB of HDD space for installation. An activation key is issued on purchase and is used during installation and the installation process is intuitive and seamless.
General Overview. The design of the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is simple and practical and its appearance is similar to its contemporaries. The compact appearance certainly gives the impression that the PA-44 'Seminole' is agile and manoeuvrable. Alabeo have modelled the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' on an early production variant.
Exterior. The Piper PA-44 'Seminole' has a very streamlined appearance, from the pointed nose through to a sharply tapering rear fuselage, and with the high T tail design giving it a very distinctive look. The two bladed propellers are not a common sight on a twin engine aircraft, but the engine cowls have a characteristic Piper appearance to them, making this aircraft's pedigree somewhat obvious.
Interior. Alabeo has modelled the interior on a standard passenger configuration for the variant with a cabin layout of two passenger seats in a row arrangement and a luggage storage space behind these seats. Textured seating, carpet, and padded side panels are typical of the era and consistent with the quality seen in the Alabeo model range. The cabin is modestly appointed, and is presented with a degree of wear and tear, particularly in the cockpit and the carpets, giving the true appearance and feel of an aircraft which has seen a fair few service hours in its life. This less than pristine appearance adds a nice character to the environment.
Flight Instruments and Systems. The cockpit of the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' represents the typical layout for the Piper PA-44 series and the production period. The standard analogue flight instruments are typical of the model range and consistent with an aircraft of this category and age, and they are supplemented with the Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit. Additionally, the Garmin G600 Primary Flight Display can be toggled on in each aircraft to provide a more modern avionics fit out for those who enjoy a glass cockpit experience.
Models and Liveries. The Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is provided in a single model with five individual liveries (a selection only shown below). Each aircraft has a unique aircraft registration number and there is an additional blank texture for aircraft painting enthusiasts. The supplied paint schemes are of a retro style, again, consistent with the production era. Displaying the usual Alabeo high quality, the surface textures, reflections, and shadings, along with additional scuff marks, scrape effects, dirt, oil, and grease stains, give each aircraft a realistic appearance.
Alabeo's rendition of the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is highly detailed and accurate, the visual quality is excellent, and it provides a faithful representation of the real world aircraft. All elements of the cockpit are clear and easy to read, with the typical range of various alternative cockpit camera views to provide more detailed clarity. Any noted visual variations were minor and are considered to be related to real world production variations or a degree of artistic licence on the part of the developer. Any noted issues and variations with cockpit functions and operation were considered minor and / or in the interests of simplifying the function for practical flight simulator use.
The animations of the primary and secondary control surfaces and other moving elements on the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' are all modelled faithfully and include:
primary control surfaces - ailerons, elevator, and rudder;
secondary control surfaces - flaps;
others - elevator and rudder trim tabs, cockpit and cabin doors, baggage compartment door, cockpit windows; and
various static elements.
The lighting and lighting effects on the PA-44 'Seminole' are very good and are a realistic representation of the real world aircraft. The engine sounds are a reasonable representation, albeit somewhat generic in nature.
The general characteristics and performance specifications for the Piper PA-44 'Seminole' are provided in the table. This is based on data from the official Piper PA-44 'Seminole' Pilot Operating Handbook, data provided by Alabeo, and general research sources. Some of this data varies between sources and also may be an approximation due to variances in data and the specific aircraft modelled by Alabeo.
A specific Test Flight was conducted to test the flight performance of Alabeo's Piper PA-44 'Seminole'. The flight was conducted in clear weather with a full fuel load and the aircraft at maximum takeoff weight (MTOW). A cruise altitude of 5,000 ft was adopted and the route distance was particularly chosen to provide a basis upon which to test the range characteristics of the PA-44 'Seminole'.
The aircraft was easy to taxi. With flaps set at zero, aircraft rotation occurred at approximately 70 KIAS and effortlessly lifted off the runway, with a climb out which was expected for the aircraft. The PA-44 'Seminole' is very agile and it quickly establishes on the climb to cruise and climbed effortlessly until the aircraft was established at the cruise altitude.
During cruise, a power setting was established for cruise as per the performance tables. This cruise setting produced an average speed, fuel flow rate and an endurance reasonably consistent with the performance tables and the characteristics of the aircraft. Any noted variances in performance were minor and had negligible impact on the operation of the aircraft. The Test Flight confirms the modelling of the aircraft for speed and range performance to be reasonably accurate.
Configured for landing, with full flaps, and trimmed for a descent rate of approximately 500 ft/min, the aircraft's approach speed was approximately 77 KIAS and it touched down at approximately 70 KIAS, with a landing roll out comparable with the specifications for the aircraft.
In testing the accuracy of the instruments, based on the measured Test Flight, the speed indications on the airspeed indicator, were consistent with the averages measured. Additionally, when establishing a set rate of climb on the vertical speed indicator, the respective gain in altitude on the altimeter was achieved within the measured minute, and a standard rate turn was achieved within the measured two minute period using the turn coordinator.
The performance of Alabeo’s Piper PA-44 'Seminole' was excellent in flight, displaying the expected general flight characteristics of this aircraft. The aircraft's handling characteristics are very good, making the PA-44 'Seminole' a pleasure to fly. It is agile and responsive to control inputs and also very steady once trimmed for level flight or established on approach. Overall, the aircraft model displays a reasonably accurate rendition of the flight characteristics and performance expected of this type of aircraft.
There are eight primary manuals / documents provided in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf) for the Piper PA-44 'Seminole':
Alabeo Garmin G600 Primary Flight Display - this 10 page document details the operating of the Alabeo Garmin G600 Primary Flight Display;
Alabeo Garmin GNS 530 GPS - this two page document details the operating of the Alabeo Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit;
Piper PA-44 Autopilot Operation - this two page document details the operating of the autopilot flight system;
Piper PA-44 Performance Tables - this six page document details the performance tables for the aircraft;
Piper PA-44 References - this two page document details the airspeed limitations for the aircraft;
Piper PA-44 Normal Procedures - this 11 page manual details the procedures for the normal operation of the aircraft;
Piper PA-44 Emergency Procedures - this seven page manual details the emergency procedures for the aircraft; and
Recommended Settings - this two page document details recommended display and realism settings for the aircraft.
Additional documents provide information for P3D users and information on the integration of the Flight1 GTN 750 and Reality XP GNS 530 GPS units.
It is noted there has been a consistent increase in the price of Alabeo products over the last two years. In some instances, this represents a significant closing of the price gap with what could be considered comparable products of Alabeo's sister company, Carenado. Nonetheless, on a value for money assessment, the Alabeo Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is still considered good.
The aircraft model performed excellently within the existing settings I have in FSX. I have most of my settings set very high and there was no need to make any adjustments. There was no discernible frame rate impact directly attributable to the Alabeo Piper PA-44 'Seminole' and FSX continued to perform smoothly.
This version of the Alabeo Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is for FSX / FSX SE / P3D only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:Windows XP (with SP3 installed), Vista, or Windows 7 (32 or 64bit);
The Piper PA-44 'Seminole' is a wonderful, twin engine, light aircraft. Alabeo's attention to detail and quality are again evident in the accuracy of this model. The overall performance characteristics of the PA-44 'Seminole' are typical of what you would expect of this type of aircraft and Alabeo's modelling is consistent with their aim of producing aircraft which are fun to fly.