Jump to content

Aircraft Review : Alabeo PA-38 Tomahawk II

Recommended Posts


Aircraft Review : Alabeo PA-38 Tomahawk II


Route : YROM Circuits


We all start our flying career somewhere. 95% percent of the time it is usually in a very lightweight aircraft or if you are really serious a trainer. Usually trainers are two seats (one for you and one for the instructor) and the controls are very basic and clutter free. The main aspect of a good trainer is perfect balance, spin recovery and power. Most learners usually have got their wings on a Cessna 150, 152 or 172, but one of the very best trainers around is the Piper PA-38 Tomahawk.




Piper Aircraft wanted to share some of the trainer market, and so consulted many flight instructors not only in the design of the aircraft but also in the testing. The result was the Tomahawk, a T-Tail, two-seat, fixed tri-cycle undercarriage aircraft that has exceptional spin recovery that was better than the current standard bearer the Cessna 152. The first flight and introduction was in 1977, but it was noted as a 1988 model. The aircraft was highly successful with 2,4854 built when production ceased in 1982.

Besides being a widely used primary trainer, it is also an effective budget cross-country aircraft for two persons with its spacious and comfortable cabin. Though it shares similar performance and costs of operation to the Cessna 152, the PA-38 has more shoulder room. It also has good cabin ventilation, using automotive-style air ducts. The 1981 and 1982 models were designated as the Tomahawk II (this version). They incorporated improved cabin heating and windshield defroster performance, an improved elevator trim system, improved engine thrust vector, 100% airframe zinc-chromate anti-corrosion treatment, better cockpit soundproofing, larger 6" wheels and tires for greater propeller ground clearance and improved performance on grass and dirt runways.


Specifications : Maximum speed: 126 mph (109 knots, 202 km/h) at sea level : Cruise speed: 115 mph (100 knots, 185 km/h) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m) (65% power) : Stall speed: 56.5 mph (49 knots, 91 km/h) (IAS), flaps down : Range: 539 miles (468 nmi, 867 km)at 10,500 ft (3,200 m), (65% power) : Service ceiling: 13,000 ft (4,000 m) : Rate of climb: 718 ft/min (3.65 m/s)




Alabeo has released the PA-38 Tomahawk. This is another quality aircraft from the Alabeo team. For its age the Tomahawk looks very modern for a non-composite machine. There are a few Tomahawks in Australia, but none flew with the RAAF (Royal Australian Air-Force) but I like the livery.


First hands on and you quickly realise this is a very sweet aircraft to fly. It is the sort of machine that with a slight trim you can steer though the rudder pedals and just revel in the balance. Hands back on the yoke and the aircraft will do anything you want with just a slight input of movement in the direction you want to go, even downwards. The throttle response is in perfect relationship with the controls, so you find the aircraft so very easy to fly. You could sit your elderly grandmother in the pilots seat and show her the controls, and I am quite sure she could fly the Tomahawk quite easily. (what do I do now dear?)


I doubt though you would want your grandmother to go into a spin. Here the aircraft is exceptional, The Tomahawk's GA(W)-1 Whitcomb airfoil addresses this requirement by making specific pilot input necessary in recovering from spins, thus allowing pilots to develop proficiency in dealing with spin recovery. And because of its stall and spin characteristics, the PA-38 earned the nickname "Traumahawk" from some pilots and instructors. The PA-38 is powered by a single Avco Lycoming O-235-L2C air-cooled flat-four piston engine, 112 hp (83.5 kW) that is required for its power to train pilots on the specifics of the important stall and spin recovery aspects of flying.


First of all the Tomahawk climbs exceedingly well, It can easily pull seven hundred feet per minute to get you to a safe altitude.





Slip the wing and put yourself into a bad spin. With ease you can bring in the strong power to pull yourself out of the spin and simply back into a near level flight. Impressive.




You can see why the aircraft is a very nice long distance tourer as well. It will power along all day without you fighting the aircraft and so you barely don't tire at all. There are no Auto-Pilot functions but you don't need them here either. A little trim and your happy.


Landing is a breeze as well, The landing speed is super low at around 75knots (stall is at 50knts). Even dropping the flap (twice) barely makes a ripple if your power setting is right.




A quick look left at the airport and you can make your smooth turn. There is a slight cross-wind that I have to correct for, but otherwise the touchdown is just a small bump and touch of rubber.




The aircraft is very good at touch and go's, even with full flap you can be quickly back into the air to go around for another practise.




Our Trainee looks quite pleased with himself.




Alabeo PA-38

The gap between Alabeo and aircraft from Carenado is closing certainly, Not only in price but in quality. This aircraft is more in style of a Carenado in every form. The design and detail is better now than ever before and that is even by Carenado's high standards.




It is sublimely good in the way the rivets are completed and the panels hang on the airframe, The NACA duct is a prime example and so are the door hinges. The opening doors (Both Pilot's and Instructor doors) are wonderfully designed in the way they pull away from the roof section. The detailing behind the seats in the small baggage area with support struts Is also perfect. The main attention must be given to glass and their reflections, it is about as real glass as you could get. The shading is breathtaking but the detailing is more skin deep as we will see in the dark. The wings and high (T) tail section ribbing is also absolutely first rate.




The propeller has some volumetric side view and dynamic shine effects. Put the aircraft into a low mixture setting and the shimmer of the low speed rotation is excellent., Undercarriage. Front and main is very simple in just struts, but the detail is excellent right down to the nuts on the brakes. With open doors you can see the excellent door detailing and the interior of the cockpit. Every area is well designed and textured.


Cabin and Panel



Inside the unpowered cabin the quality is again excellent, This Alabeo doesn't have that usual signature black hole as you look down towards the worn seats, carpets and metal heel scuff plates, The little trim wheel is expertly crafted and wonderful to use. The twin blinds are fully movable around both the front and side windows.




The glareshied textures are so real and touchworthy that you can easily smell that 70's vinyl. And you easily want to put your hands around the lovely chunky yokes with thumb tabs. It does not take much imagination looking here to know what the real Tomahawk would smell and feel like. A nice touch is that when you hide the yokes the "Alabeo" icon fills the hole.




Being a trainer then the panel is going to be very simple. It is but with a quality feel. The standard six instruments are added (to the right) by a VOR (2) The Omni-Bearing Indicator (OBI) and Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) bearing indicator, Below is a engine RPM and hours insturument and clock on the far left. 70's rocker switches for main power (battery/ALT), lighting and Pitot heat and Fuel pump. The fuel pump is interesting in that turn it on and then move the (big Red) Fuel switch on (or off) and the pressure shows on a gauge.




You can select left and right fuel tanks here also.


The radio stack is small but efficient, Standard radio set is set with a Bendix/King KX 165 TSO for COMM and VOR(2) settings, a KR 87 TSO is your ADF. (note a Technical Standard Order (TSO) is a minimum performance standard issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration for specified materials, parts, processes, and appliances used on civil aircraft.) A Garmin GTX 320 is your transponder. It may seem a small stack but it is quite capable of navigating you across the country.




The two position flaps are used via the long stick that like looks like a standard car parking brake, The actual park brake in under the panel. Note the beautifully crafted rudder pedals.


The night-lighting is best seen from the air, A quick flick of the key and the engine stutters back into life, You actually have to hold the key on for a while until it finally chuggs into life, as only quick key turn will not give it enough time for the starter to give enough turns to fire it right up.


Sounds are excellent in the same as Carenado 3d directional sound, There is quite a throaty power feeling at full under load power.




Only issue I found was with the front turning wheel, It doesn't turn cleanly even at slow speeds, To go straight in the taxi it has to be slightly off centre in that I presume is to counteract the asymmetrical thrust from the propeller which is quite large at slow speeds. When you disconnect the steering from the rudder, It does not do so well there either. So it is slightly odd and hard to manoeuvre around.






External night-lighting is basic but good, You only have one landing light, and the Nav/Position lighting. The strobes are the new Carenado design.




First thing that you notice as the low light comes into the cabin is the reflections on the glass, (side front), It speckles and it is excellent in its reflections of the markings on or in the glass, such detail is amazing, but it makes the flying very authentic.


The dials are well lit and slightly (just up or down) adjustable by the knobs low down on the instructors side. I couldn't find any overhead lighting except for a nicely lit air temperature gauge and a Compass.?


You can with the side menu (O) Options switch the panel lighting to be brighter or lower by the using the reflections options. You can also use this menu to transparent the windows and open both doors. 



The other © menu is the standard Camera menu, that gives you the various views and zoom function.



You get the default white and six other liveries in very high quality HD







The PA-38 Tomahawk feels more like a basic Carenado than a Alabeo, and the higher price reflects that. Yes it is a basic aircraft, but it is still a fully functional one. Design and detailing is simply first rate (In fact I feel the quality has slightly gone up a notch). The glass here in the aircraft and in their reflections is simply astounding. It is a perfect trainer for the experienced pilot and also the beginner (Into simulation as well). The aircraft can be as easy or as challenging you want it to be, and still you can use it as a two seater tourer across the country.

Some aircraft instantly become a favorite and the Tomahawk became very quickly one of them. I loved it the minute I felt the air under its wings. For value and quality it can't be bettered.


Yes! the Alabeo Piper PA-38 Tomahawk II is now Available from the X-Plane.OrgShop : Piper PA-38 Tomahawk II

Price is  US$22.95


Installation : Download is 165.80mb, and installation size in your aircraft folder is 228.30mb. Alabeo supply Recommended Joystick Settings and Recommended Settings X-Plane10. However with my standard settings I had no issues.


Documentation : post-2-0-68800400-1390389208.jpg


Developer Site : Alabeo

Review By Stephen Dutton

22nd January 2014


©copyright 2014 : X-Plane Reviews


Technical Requirements:

Windows , MAC OS 10.7 (or higher) or Linux

X-Plane 10.20 (or higher - 32 and 64 bit compatible)

4GB RAM/1GB VRAM - 250MB available hard disk space

Version 1 (last updated Jan 20th,2014)


Review System Specifications:

Computer System:     

- 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27”

- 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3

- ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb


- Mac OS Mavericks 10.9

- X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.25 (final)


- Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle


- YROM - Aussiepak7 - Barry Roberts (Aussie Scenery Packages)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Karlos V.

"With ease you can bring in the strong power to pull yourself out of the spin."  Umm, no. I don't think you've read the POH for the PA-38. No power during spin recovery.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I should have detailed this a little more...  You don't have any power during the actual spin (around or under 100 KIAS) which is throttle closed as you noted. The trick is the speed at the point you recover from the actual spin, If you are under the specified 88 KIAS then you can (I was well under at 64 KIAS) as I came out of the bottom of the recovery and was bleeding off speed as I started to slightly re-climb..  That was the point I put the power on full to pull out (or in this case just slightly before). It is safety aspect of having the power available to bring the aircraft back up quickly to a safe flying speed (stall is noted as 48knts) without using any flap for loss of lift at a slow speed. To stall at that point would not be the best thing to happen to you, and the feeling of the safety of the power surge pulling you away from the end of the spin is the best feeling to have. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...

Hoping someone’s still reading this thread.

Will the Alabeo X-plane 11 PA-38 spin? Realistically?

If it will, I’ll get X-plane 11 as I’d really like to try spinning the simulated version before I take delivery of the real thing...

I am running an Alabeo PA-38 in FSX. It won’t spin. I have spun a full sized 172 with my instructor and that was scary enough, in a plane that reputedly flies itself out of a spin...but sounds like  the PA-38 is a different “spinner”...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...