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Aircraft Review : PA-38 Tomahawk by JustFlight-Thranda

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JF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Header.jpg

 

Aircraft Review : PA-38 Tomahawk by JustFlight-Thranda

 

One aspect of reviewing is to find or filter out aircraft that goes beyond the basic simulation of flying the aircraft. This focus is to recommend certain aircraft to be used in a learning context. In other words if you are coming into a simulator for the first time and know absolutely nothing about flying, but want to earn your wings or basic want to fly an aircraft, then what is actually the best aircraft to buy to do this. So such a basic trainer is required as learning to fly in X-Plane is not as far removed as you would do in the real world, and we all have to start somewhere.

 

Obviously the default X-Plane 172SP Skyhawk is the starting point, mainly because it is free and already included with the simulator, and it is certainly a good aircraft in learning the basics. But the point here is that the aircraft is just that in...  basic. 

 

But what if you wanted to start in a more quality environment, and this is important, because in this higher level of detail and functionality you do get a far more rounded and realistic view and feel of a real aircraft in detail and more importantly in better dynamics...  yes you are paying for that aspect of course, but I believe it is an important point.

 

But even at this level then the aircraft has to still deliver the basics, in feel, reaction and control adjustment. So an entry level aircraft is an important choice, and as I am in a different position in being able to review a lot of aircraft, I can steer the inexperienced in the right direction so they get the details right the first time and if their experience is a realistic and rewarding one, then they are more likely to enjoy and learn more of simulation. The biggest problem with an entry into simulation is that it is like facing a smorgasbord of food, there is a lot it and you can eat everything...  but the initial experience is very important, and get the wrong aircraft and you can get seriously overwhelmed technically, but more importantly is the fact that many aircraft are actually quite hard to fly, well not so much in the actual flying aspect, but in the set up, loading and trimming aspect. And if you get that wrong they you will be in early trouble in trying to fly the aircraft correctly, so you have to start at the bottom and the with the basics.

 

Which brings us to the JustFlight PA-38 Tomahawk. JustFlight already have released one aircraft that fills out already the high criteria of a "Good entry Level Trainer" with their Cessna 152 ll by JustFlight Thranda (review) which was an exceptional entry level trainer, but here we have another in the Tomahawk, it is if a more sporty machine than the high-wing 110 hp (82 kW) C152, and the Tomahawk is also slightly more powerful 112 hp (84 kW) (yes all of 2 hp) but a more streamlined low-wing and effective high-elevator design.

 

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The PA-38 is a direct competitor to the C150/152 because it was created by Piper to compete directly in the same trainer/twin seater market. Piper widely surveyed flight instructors for their input into the trainer design. Instructors requested a more spinnable aircraft for training purposes, since other two-place trainers such as the Cessna 150 and 152 were designed to spontaneously fly out of a spin. The Tomahawk's NASA 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.

 

The design is a sweet if perfect trainer aircraft. The quality is certainly in that high HD detail depth you expect from a $40+ reproduction. All latches door hinges and engine cowling tie-downs are great items designs, but the front cowling looks like it can be removed to see the internal Avco Lycoming O-235-L2C air-cooled flat-four piston engine... but it can't which is a real disappointment, and should that sort of detail be available on a $40+ priced aircraft...  yes maybe. Note the lovely 2-bladed Sensenich metal fixed-pitch propeller and spinner.

 

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There is the high normal mapping for down-to-the-rivet precision of aircraft features and accurate simulation of waves in the aluminium plates. Side fuselage NACA ducts are perfectly designed, as is the lovely wing fuel caps and installation detail.

 

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All aerodynamic surfaces are excellent and the detail is right down to excellent wing-tip lighting assemblies and the 1983 mandated additional pair of "Stall Strips" added to the inboard and outboard leading edge of the PA-38 wing to "standardize and improve the stall characteristics", here on the leading edge they are clearly seen.

 

Rear tail, rudder and high T-Tail elevator are all exceptional with the reproduction, note the well designed high set navigation light. Glass is top-notch in reflectivity, shape and has that depth of mottled tint between the layers.

 

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The landing gear on the Tomahawk is a very basic strut based tri-cycle design, and a very basic set up it is...

 

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...  but also beautifully well done here, note the worn and rusted brake disk and brake assembly bolts. Front gear is again basic but effective. Highlight is the LED landing light in the nose.

 

External design and detail then is excellent, no flaws and all high quality.

 

Menu

The Tomahawk uses the same menu system of all JustFlight aircraft, activated on the left side screen tab (mouse scroll to hide)

 

There are seventeen menu tiles to use including:

 

Top row : Open/close both cabin doors -  Toggle GNS 530 GPS pop-up window (or the GTN750 payware add-on by RealityXP) - Toggle window reflections and interior glass dynamic reflections - Toggle dome light if the engine is running, or flashlight when starting cold and dark.

 

Middle Row : Toggle GNS 530 (see later) -  barometric pressure scale between InHg and mb - Toggle automatic fuel selector (switches fuel tanks automatically) - Toggle fuel refill menu window - Open weight and balance window - Toggle sound volumes window 

 

Bottom row : Select ‘ready for takeoff’ or ‘cold and dark’ state - Toggle checklist pop-up window - Toggle flight computer pop-up window - Toggle logbook pop-up window - Toggle ground handling pop-up window - Toggle chocks and tie-downs.

 

Chocks, tie-downs and a ground pull handle are visible when activated. The animated pilot disappears as well, and yes he is realistic, but certainly not in the way of the better Carenado style human realism and I think here a trainee pupil in the second seat would have been a nice visual addition.

 

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The arrows at the very bottom of the menu panel allows you to select the livery you require and to do so far more quickly than the X-Plane menu.


The weight and balance window is very good, with weights for both passengers and baggage, fuel can be set here as also can the change from kg - lbs. A full list of weights, CG and a large graph of your settings are all very helpful in for balancing the aircraft.

 

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Weight limits though are extremely low, so if you put in a passenger then your fuel load (and range) is then highly compromised, you can set selections of Half or Full tanks and the standard variable scroll choices.

 

Interior

JustFlight's GA interiors are some of the very best in X-Plane, even in certain aircraft they are even far better than Carenado's renditions. And you are not disappointed here, this minute two-seater cabin it is simply gorgeous. Worn red leather seats (always love the red) with a very nicely carpeted rear baggage shelf...

 

JF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Cabin 1.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Cabin 2.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Cabin 3.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Cabin 4.jpg

 

...  all with realistic straps and seatbelts, note the really well done structure struts in the rear section, and the high detail of the door latches.

 

Glareshield detail is excellent with worn edges and vents, whiskey compass is highly detailed with external temperature gauge is again highly detailed, as is the lovely roof-mounted door latch handle

 

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Instrument Panel

For a trainer the first big surprise is that there are no primary flight instruments on the right trainee placement seat?

 

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Yoke detail and feel is outstanding, totally authentic and realistic, they both can be individually hidden, but oddly only the right yoke has the highly animated coiled cable? and as the aircraft is based on a real-life Tomahawk, G-BNKH, based at Goodwood Aerodrome with SportAir, then does the original have missing the same attachment?

 

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Instrument panel is outstanding in design and realism, I really love the texture and detail.

 

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The Standard Six (SS) flying instruments are front and centre... Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon and the Attitude Indicator are on the top row and the Turn Coordinator, Heading Dial/Course and Vertical Speed Indicators set out directly below. Left of the SS is a clock, and far right is an VOR OBS (Nav2) dial (SL30), below is a large Tachometer RPM gauge, but it is mostly hidden by the yoke. Mid-Console are the two fuel gauges (15 US Gal per tank) and selector. Throttle and Mixture levers are each side. Right lower panel are four gauges covering Ammmeter, Oil Temperature, Fuel Pressure and Oil Pressure, instrument panel lighting is below. Far right is a full working circuit breaker panel. All electrical switchgear is right panel.

 

Avionics are quite light. Top is a Garmin GMA 340 Audio Panel, Garmin SL30 COMM1/NAV1 radio, Garmin SL40 COMM2/NAV2 radio and lower a Garmin GTX 328 Transponder...  the SL30, SL40 and the GTX 328 panels pop-out, although the GTX is of a different default window than the two radios. The GTN750 payware add-on by RealityXP can also be installed replacing the GMA 328, SL30 and GTX transponder leaving only the SL40 visible.

 

  JF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Instrument Panel 7.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Instrument Panel 8.jpg

 

On the menu you can select the X-Plane GNS 530 to be inserted into the right panel side, the menu buttons are a bit confusing because one (row two) switches the unit, but the top row (third) will pop it out, but this doesn't work if the GNS is not showing, then just press the unit anyway to pop it out.

 

Air vents are beautifully crafted and animated to open and rotate, very impressive...

 

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...    under panel detail with the lovely branded rudder pedals is all very good, but...  the under panel point the pedal linkages that go into the instrument panel are quite under developed, and the ends of the linkages will show badly (in mid air) if in the full yaw position and the point of contact is just a plain/blank panel, so you have all this extensive detail but this is so average under here, yes it is hidden in a normal seating position, but it could have been finished off just a little bit better than this.

 

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Flap handle is on the long console (Up - Half - Full) with the pitch trim wheel (arrowed) that is set behind, now after me "the trim wheel is my best friend".

 

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Flying the Tomahawk

Starting the PA-38 is quite easy, but it must want to like you... Avionics SL30 and SL40 and GNS 530 must be turned off before setting 1/4 throttle and 3/4 mixture, fuel pump on (it makes a very annoying noise) then turn the key to start, once running then let the aircraft warm up and settle before idling the throttle (turn off the clicking fuel pump). You can simulate fouled plugs and battery drain, or not and if your really impatient then just hit the menu quick start tab.

 

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I found I had to click on and off the Alternator switch (twice) before the ammeter showed any voltage, which I found realistic.

 

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Turn on and set the avionics and your ready to go...

 

Let us be frank in that the Tomahawk is a very simple and easy aircraft to fly, there are no wizz-bang details to do here, it is basic machine in a quality feel and use, note the lovely LED landing light that is really well done...

 

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...  taxiing is always for me a general introduction to the quality of the aircraft in it's controls and feel, so the first impression here is of a lovely throttle control (mixture still set at 3/4) with plenty of idle to thrust feel, this makes taxiing a dream, and in also giving you full control of the speed.

 

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So the PA-38 tiddler is very nice to handle around the airport on the ground and you feel from the start you have a lot of control over the aircraft.

 

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Remember to trim the aircraft to neutral, mixture to rich and throttle up for power. Even at this high (for the aircraft's size) 1637 lbs (743 kgs) weight it is quite sprightly off the mark, but don't give it full power but feed it in nicely, then when confident give the Tomahawk full throttle...

 

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....  there is a slight asymmetrical yaw left, but nothing to counter heavily and the Tomahawk is very easily kept to the centreline, takeoff distance is around 1,460 ft (450 m)

 

At around 70 knts you can pitch slightly back for flight, not too much but 4º to 6º and find a 500 fpm climbout rate, Rate of climb is noted at 718 ft/min (3.65 m/s), so 500 fpm is about right with a speed set to around 80 knts.

 

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The Tomahawk is super, super nice to fly, very simple and supremely balanced. very little stick or rudder movements are required...

 

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... any banks or turns are a flow of instinct between the rudder and stick movements, but you have to be aware of a pitch drop as you go into the turn, and the need to smoothly counter that....

 

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....     once level and at your altitude you now need to trim the aircraft, in adjusting the pitch trim wheel to counter the pitch to neutral.

 

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There is no rudder or bank trim on the PA-38 so even with the aircraft neutral in pitch trim there will always be a tendency to drift left and the left wing will bank down, so you have to slightly counter that with a little right stick, otherwise the PA-38 tiddler will cruise along quite nicely all day with a minimum of effort...   Maximum speed is 126 mph (203 km/h, 109 kn) at sea level and an efficient cruise speed is around 115 mph (185 km/h, 100 kn) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m) (65% power), Range with full tanks is 539 mi (867 km, 468 nmi) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m) (65% power) and a full service ceiling is a surprising 13,000 ft (4,000 m)... but good luck on getting up there quickly.

 

It is all basic flying, stick, rudder and trim stuff, but also absolutely great for easy learning on how to fly and control an aircraft. There are no auto helpers and it is all VFR flying as well, but you do have VOR2 if you want to use that.

 

It would be very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. Taking off, and even flying the little Tomahawk is quite easy, as all trainers are...

 

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...  but landing as in any aircraft still requires skill, to me it is easy, as with constant practice and learning have over the years have finely tuned my skills, so to land the Tomahawk is a doddle...  easy. So practice and learning techniques is important, circuits and speeds are the most decisive and the trick is to use the tools made available to you. Here in the PA-38 I particularly liked the V marker on the upper Artificial Horizon - Rate of Turn. It allows you to make perfect banks and turns and mostly 90º circuits to make approaches look very professional, in the straight ahead position you tune into the centre O point

 

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So the tools are there, so you need to use them, I do wish though the Tomahawk came with a course pointer, I like to set it to the direction of the runway to set out the angle of the circuits. The Heading Dial can of course be adjusted, but a yellow course pointer to me is the better option. Sounds are from the original doner G-BNKH PA-38 and right down to the noisy fuel pump, so they are exceptional and FMOD in aural dynamics.

 

So a approach speed of 80 knts and down to 70 knts with the full flap extended is perfect, I do have a significant crosswind, so I have to do the approach in that context...  one thing to note though is that if you reduce the throttle it puts your fine tuned trim out as well, but you can adjust for that margin with the stick and a little bit of pitch and when level again the trim will resume it's set position.

 

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Lowering the speed down to 65 knts will give you nice slow descent towards the runway...

 

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... slight pitch to rub off the speed to slide smoothly into the flare... 

 

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...  in the flare (slightly nose up) your speed should be around 58 knts on touchdown, and I make it look easy, but remember I also had to counter that crosswind (rudder) and keep the aircraft steady and level before allowing the Tomahawk to drift down to the runway surface...  stall is 56.5 mph (90.9 km/h, 49.1 kn) (flaps down) or 50 knts so you don't let the speed drop more than 60 knts on the approach.

 

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Yes the PA-38 is an absolute doddle to fly and even land, so it is absolutely the best aircraft to learn your first few flights in, so all you need to do then is add in the practise of circuits to the repeated touch and goes.

 

Nightlighting

As expected the lighting is pretty basic, but it is very good. Both instruments and avionics lighting can be adjusted, and there is a good overhead light that is well done (menu). All instruments are sharp and clear.

 

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Externally there is that nice LED nose light, red/green and white tail navigation lights (tail light has a nice glass reflection) and bright wing strobes.

 

Rain Effects

The Tomahawk comes with the Librain (Rain) effect application and it is very highly effective here. As the PA-38 has a lot of glass area (certainly to the rear) and that makes it all very realistic. More so is you don't have wipers on takeoff or landing which can be very, very realistic and hard to see though the murk until it clears..

 

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Liveries

There is one white/blank and ten brand liveries. All are of high quality, but there are a few oddities... one Canadian register has a German flag, and the British Airways trainer is registered in France? But overall there is some nice designs in the collection and G-BNKH (donor aircraft) is also noted

 

JF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery White.jpg

JF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery C-GTAO.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery D-EEQI.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery F-HVFA.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery G-BMVL.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery G-BNNU.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery N2432G.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery N7803Q.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery G-BNKH.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery PH-MEC.jpgJF_PA_38_Tomahawk - Livery VH-UFA.jpg

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Summary

The PA-38 Tomahawk was created as a direct competitor by Piper to the dominance of the Cessna 150/152 in the twin-seater trainer market. The PA-38 is what it is, in a basic VFR flightline trainer, so there are no big feature lists here for avionics, autopilots and navigation tools.

 

Directly targeted at pilots to learn to fly in, it is also an exceptional starter aircraft for the same entry level into quality simulation flying. Yes you could fly a default X-Plane aircraft like the C172SP, but this is a far more detailed and refined aircraft to get your first feel to what simulation is really all about. Even for the experienced flyer they will also take a lot away from this aircraft as well in the shear pure context of flying a basic and very if excellent feel and handing aircraft.

 

Design and detail is exceptional externally and internally for the aircraft, and so it should be at this US$40+ price, and in that aspect to note, in that at this price should you expect more features, yes the feature list is high...   but noted items like say the opening engine cowling and modeled Avco Lycoming engine, extra pilot in the passenger seat, baggage in the rear, opening fuel caps and even now a virtual EFB (Electronic Flight Bag), the PA-38 just seems a bit too featureless at this price grade.

 

So if you would love a pure small twin-seater to fly or are even ready and approaching simulation for your first experience of flying a quality aircraft, then this excellent Tomahawk is the perfect flying machine for you... I found it an excellent experience and love the pure flying dynamics of this JustFlight PA-38 Tomahawk.

 

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X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

The PA-38 Tomahawk by JustFlight and Thranda is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

PA-38 Tomahawk

 

Priced at US$41.99

 

Special Features

Model

  • Our most detailed GA model yet, featuring numerous animations right down to a vibrating ignition key and fully adjustable cockpit air vents
  • Accurately modelled PA-38 Tomahawk, built using real-world aircraft plans and comprehensive photography of the real aircraft
  • Ground equipment including chocks and tie-downs
  • 4096x4096 textures are used to produce the highest possible texture clarity
  • PBR (Physically Based Rendering) materials with real-time environment reflections for superb quality and realism
  • Detailed normal mapping for down-to-the-rivet precision of aircraft features and accurate simulation of waves in aluminium plates
  • Support for rain (requires free Librain plugin)

Cockpit

  • A truly 3D virtual cockpit right down to accurately modelled seat belts and screw heads - every instrument is constructed fully in 3D with smooth animations
  • Cockpit textures feature wear and tear based on reference photos taken in the real aircraft to produce an authentic environment
  • Dimmable cockpit lighting
  • Interactive engine start checklist that responds to user inputs and sim variables
  • Interactive checklists for every stage of flight
  • Panel state system which will automatically save the panel state whenever a flight is saved and reload the panel state whenever that flight is loaded
  • Aircraft configuration system that will allow you to choose between 'cold & dark' or 'ready for take-off'
  • Fully functional and comprehensive IFR-capable avionics fit including:
     - GMA 340 audio selector
     - SL30 COM1/NAV1 radio
     - SL40 COM2 radio
     - GTX 328 transponder
     - Support for Reality GTN750 (sold separately, Windows only)
  • Flight computer panel with useful information such as fuel burn, endurance, speed and wind speed/direction
  • Interactive logbook panel for logging your flight details (X-Plane native)
  • GoodWay compatible
  • Option to activate flashlight from within pop-up window, to aid in those pitch-black cold and dark starts at night
  • Option to remove window and instrument reflection effects
  • Radio knob animations routed through plugin logic for optimum movement fidelity and sound synchronisation. All knobs, buttons and switches are configurable via the 'Manifest.json' preference file and have tooltip pop-up hints to make hooking up to hardware easier. (Just enable 'View>Show Instrument Descriptions' in X-Plane for tooltips).

Aircraft systems

  • Custom-coded fuel system, including the option of automatic fuel tank switching for use on those long-distance cross-country flights (this option is remembered for future flights)
  • Custom-coded electrical system with functional circuit breakers. Circuit breaker logic is linked to X-Plane's internal failure logic, so if the plane is set to fail a certain electrical component after a certain number of hours, the circuit breaker for that element will pop out.
  • Functioning carburettor and primer controls
  • Dedicated interactive engine pop-up window displaying values such as fuel tank weights and imbalance, fuel pressure, oil pressure, oil temperature, battery charge (with quick charge option), and information about spark plug fouling and vapour lock condition
  • Simulated vapour lock condition, with warning pop-up and suggested actions
  • Simulated spark plug fouling condition, with indication of percentage of fouling
  • Custom external light logic with custom strobe light pattern and custom light halos for added realism

Other Features

  • Realistic and accurate flight dynamics based on real-world performance and handling data, and input from pilots
  • Authentic sound set, generated using X-Plane's state-of-the-art FMOD sound system
  • Custom sounds for switches, doors, warnings and more, featuring accurate location placement of sounds in the stereo spectrum, 3D audio effects, custom atmospheric effects for both internal and external sounds, adaptive Doppler (affected by temperature) and headphone simulation
  • Exterior sounds spill in when window or doors are opened, different sound characteristics depending on viewing angle and speed, custom external sound effects that are weather-dependent and engine sounds which are affected by user interaction (engine temperature, throttle position, manifold pressure etc), engine even makes ticking sound when cooling down after shutdown!
  • Comprehensive manual with panel guide and performance data
  • PSD Paint Kit included so you can create your own paint schemes
  • Dedicated pop-up window for sound mixing, allowing for individual adjustment of the volume of exterior sounds, in-cockpit sounds and various effects
  • Custom weight and balance manager window

 

Requirements

X-Plane 11+
Windows, Mac or Linux
4GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended
Current and Review version: 1.1 (September 26th 2019)
Download Size: 690MB
 

Installation and documents:

Download for the PA-38 Tomahawk is 655 Mb and the unzipped file deposited in the aircraft "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 746 Mb.

Download the LIbrain rain effect plugin (add into the aircraft's plugin folder) for use of the effects

 

 

Documentation:

There are two manuals provided. The ODM is full of performance graphs and data and the X-Plane Manual is a full detailed manual of the aircraft's systems and layouts, a good if basic tutorial is also included

 

  • ChangeLog.rtf
  • EULAstandardcommercialandacademic2019.pdf
  • PA-38 Tomahawk X-Plane manual.pdf
  • PA-38 Tomahawk X-Plane ODM manual.pdf

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Aircraft review by Stephen Dutton

27th September 2019

Copyright©2019 : X-Plane Reviews

 

(Disclaimer. All images and text in this preview are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)

 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 1Tb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.35 (v11.30+ is required for this aircraft)

Addons: Saitek x56 Rhino Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : WorldTraffic 3.0 Plugin - US$29.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- KHAF - Half Moon Bay by Rising Dawn Studios (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.00

 

Logo Header X-PlaneReviews 200px.jpg

 

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