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Sunday
Jun142009

Review: Aerosoft's PBY Catalina X

Reviewed By: Eric McClintock

Overview

Called the new “Reference Plane for FSX” by SimFlight.com, Aerosoft’s new PBY Catalina certainly lives up to the hype. The model comes as a 300MB installer and uncompressed will eat 1.1GB on your hard drive. The first PBY Catalina made itself known in 1935, and quickly transformed into the PBY5A amphibian model it is known for today. The aircraft served many roles including search and rescue, and shipping and anti submarine patrols.

Model

You get a total of 11 different models, each based on the PBY-5, PBY-5A, and PBY-6A. There are small details between the different models, and each model category includes modern radio and electronics, and another one with accurate 1940’s cockpit equipment. The models include cowl flaps, floats, and accurate landing gear that will realistically affect the amount of drag on your aircraft while in flight, which you really can notice. I did notice what could have been a bug with the PBY-5 model, in that when retracting the landing gear they simply disappeared. I also had an issue when after purchasing the aircraft, it would lock up and crash FSX when I selected the aircraft. I contacted Aerosoft customer support, and they responded in about 24 hours with a fix. It gives me peace of mind knowing that even shortly after a product launch this size, they are still very responsive. The issue ended up simply being that in Windows 7 (And Vista I am guessing) FSX had to be run as administrator. The model handles very realistically, and is overall a joy to fly. There is, however one tip that may come in handy... Aerosoft says in their forums that in order to get more realistic behavior when taking off from water, or while the cowl flaps, floats, or landing gear is extended, the model has “invisible flaps and spoilers” The real Catalina did not have either flaps, or spoilers. However, because FSX does not simulate things like landing gear drag, or taking out of water as realistic as it should, Aerosoft uses additional programming to control these “invisible surfaces” – So Aerosoft recommends de-assigning any command or axis for these surfaces, however it seems as only users who use FSUIPC to handle joystick operations should run into these issues.

Virtual Cockpit

The Virtual Cockpit is where pilots will spend most of their time, and Aerosoft cut no corners on the VC of the PBY Catalina X. The entire VC and all instruments are modeled in full 3D. Depending on which model you select at startup will give you different VC’s. In a modern cockpit, you will be given a Bendix King radio stack, and a Bendix King KLN-90B GPS receiver. Aerosoft says that you’re welcome to download the real manuals for this equipment and use it on the Catalina. In older cockpits, you will be presented with a simulation of a Sperry A-3A autopilot. The VC includes an interactive checklist and allows you to set the startup mode (Cold & Dark or Flying Mode) and engine realism settings. It also includes full instructions for power up, water operation, power settings and much more – All accessible from the VC in FSX. There is also a full virtual cabin, and aerosoft includes helpful pre-placed views to make accessing the back panel, First Officer, and electrical panel easy to use.

Sound Set

There is simply nothing like starting up the engine in the Catalina X. It includes no electronics so starting and tuning the engines must be done by hand. You can find full instructions on their forums, and a video tutorial… Or you could also just choose the aircraft in an already on configuration, but that’s no fun! Lets go through a quick startup procedure. First switch the battery on, and verify that you’re getting at least 27 volts. If you keep the aircraft running from battery too long, you may find your battery running low. Anyone here have jumper cables?

  • Now make sure that all other electrical switches are off, cowl gills are open, parking brakes are set, and master ignition is on.
  • Go to the back wall of the cabin, and turn your beacon lights on, and set the right fuel selector to both, and the right engine mix to full rich.
  • You’re going to need to open the throttle a bit, and turn on the right fuel booster. Engage the starter, and wait 6 seconds… Then prime the engine, turn the right magneto to both, and mixture to auto rich. Turn on the generator, and switch the starter and fuel booster to off.
  • If you start to hear the engine RPM drop, you will need to use the primer until the engine warms up. Repeat for left engine.

The reason I put this under “sounds”, is because you can use the sound of the engine to determine how it is running, and when you may need to prime it. That is how much detail Aerosoft put into this product.

Extras

There are so many extras I can mention. I would have to pick the sheer realism of this model, though. Lets just take a look at some things to remember while flying:

  • Keep watching and LISTENING to the engines until your oil temperature reaches 30*C. Keep priming those engines until then as the RPM falls off.
  • Watch it while going slow! Keeping the RPM below 1,000 RPM may cause the sparkplugs to misfire, keep the RPM up!
  • Keep the carburetor heat on when flying in high humidity or hazy weather to keep your engines from failing due to moisture in the carburetor.
  • Watch the ice. Your aircraft will start to slow down if too much ice or freezing rain builds up. Use the de-icer before too much ice builds up otherwise you may find yourself literally starting to fall out of the sky due to the extra weight on the body.
  • Don’t cut the throttles too fast. If you’re running a hot engine and you cut the power, it could cause an engine failure due to excessive cooling. Be gentle and move the throttles gently!

Aerosoft also includes a 400 page operating manual for the PBY Catalina X. This is the actual aircraft manual, which you can use for flight in FSX. You can pick up the Aerosoft PBY Catalina X for 27.95 Euro here. [Link] Information in this review can be found in various locations: [Link], and [Link]. Video: Starting the engines in "Realistic Mode" in the Aerosoft PBY Catalina X:

Screenshots: [nggallery id=32]

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