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Specifications: (1973 Cessna A188B-300 AGtruck)
Installation and Documentation
As you would expect from a one seat agricultural work aircraft, the interior is very basic but extremely detailed. Like the exterior, the interior of the C188B contains plenty of dirty textures. Stains are everywhere; even the belt buckle has scratches to indicate a well-used aircraft. All of the lettering on the interior wording remains in focus even when zoomed in close.
Another nice thing about the interior of the aircraft is the visibility from the cockpit. The clear canopy surrounding the pilot allows the virtual pilot to look in all directions to locate the correct fields to spray.
The instrument panel of the Alabeo C188B AGtruck is also very basic. The only included instruments are the ones that are required for basic VFR flight as well some instruments to monitor the engine and other systems. The only instrument that is digital is the communication radio. This aircraft does not contain any navigation radios or instruments.
There are some switches for operating a GPS, but a GPS is not included with this aircraft, not even an FSX default GPS available as a pop up instrument. This is too bad because a GPS would have been a useful tool for flight planning and to help locate the fields for spraying.
I wish Alabeo had included a panel layout as part of the documentation because like the GPS controls there are other levers on the panel for the Hopper Shutoff & Boom Pressure that operate but do not seem to do anything. Documentation explaining these controls and which are inoperative in FSX would have been much appreciated.
For the most part, the textures of the instrument panel are very good. The instruments are large enough that they are very easy to read. When zooming in close to the placards and other labels, the lettering is very readable which is wonderful. Unfortunately, the lettering next to the switches is very small and without Tool Tips enabled, I would not have known what that switch is used for. All of the switches and levers are animated and the switches have sound effects.
The other minor issue that I have with the panel is that there is not an instrument for chemical quantity in the Hopper. The chemical quantity is only available via the chemical loader pop up window which takes away from the experience for me.
Other included popup windows are the radio, one to control the interior effects (transparent canopy on/off, instrument reflections on/off, canopy open/close and pilot helmet visor on/off) and the information window displaying the keystrokes for each of these windows.
Sounds & Animations
The Alabeo C188B AGtruck includes some impressive sounds and animations. Custom sounds were recorded for the aircraft. I have already mentioned the sounds and animations for instrument panel switches. My favorite sound effect is the engine sounds. I like how realistic it sounds when reducing power or adjusting the propeller and mixture controls. I also like the sound effect associated with the wind effect when the window is open in flight.
The primary exterior animation that you would expect is the agricultural spray effect which is very impressive. I especially like how the wind affects the tail end of the spray. If there is a sound effect associated with agricultural spray animation, I could not hear one. Here is where some form of getting started guide is again missed, as you need to use the keystroke assigned for smoke on/off to turn the spray on and off. I knew this was probably the case but this was confirmed when reading about it on a web forum. There is also a lever on the left side of the cockpit that performs the same function. I assigned an unused joystick button for this function so that I can quickly turn the spray on and off without having to look for the lever or having to remember the proper key command.
Other nice animations include the canopy opening and closing on each side of the aircraft and the pilot animation.
As with all premium aircraft, I recommend that you load a default aircraft first, then load your purchased aircraft. I have the default Trike parked on the runway in the cold and dark configuration at Friday Harbor in Washington State setup as my default flight.
I am not an expert on flight dynamics but from what I have researched; Alabeo has created an aircraft with an accurate flight model that responds to the total weight of the aircraft. I discovered this the hard way. My default flight is an aircraft with a full fuel load and when you load an AGtruck with the dispersal system, the hopper is loaded with the maximum amount of chemicals for the amount of fuel that is loaded on the aircraft. I was able to take off and proceed to the agricultural field for spraying, but after making one pass, I turned a little too steep and my aircraft stalled.
When you stall this close to the ground the results are not very good. Luckily I had crash detection turned off so I was able to keep flying. Others may not have this problem; I had to practice several times in order to perform agricultural spraying correctly and without stalling.
After some practice, this is a very enjoyable aircraft to fly. Also there are non-dispersal system models as part of the package if you just want to fly from point A to point B without the added weight of the hopper and the chemicals. Remember, with this aircraft you have to navigate the old fashioned way, with a map and outside landmarks. If you are the type of pilot who likes to fly without modern navigational instruments, then you will have a lot of fun with this aircraft.
In order to find areas to spray, I loaded Google Earth to find areas that looked like farms, orchards or vineyards. I then located the closest airport to this area and loaded the AGtruck at this airport. I highly recommend having the free Plan-G flight planner running alongside FSX when you want to perform crop dusting operations.
I place Plan-G in Hybrid mode so that you have the Google Earth view from earlier and still have your flight simulator waypoints. This makes it very useful to find the location that you want to spay and you can also create a FSX flight plan in Plan-G for your crop dusting job.
Summary / Closing Remarks
I wish someone would develop a program for the crop dusting business. I had a lot of fun spraying random agricultural fields but this would be much more interesting if you had a clear goal and was making and spending simulated money.
The instrument panel is very nice with large instruments that are very easy to read except for the switch labels which are too small and were impossible for me to read. A GPS is not included (not even as a pop-up window) or any navigational radios and instruments, so this is not the aircraft for IFR flights but as mentioned earlier, the canopy makes it easy to locate ground landmarks. I miss the GPS because it would have been helpful for FSX flight planning and to help locate the proper agricultural field.
I also wish Alabeo would have included an instrument to indicate the chemical quantity instead of having to rely on the Chemical Loader pop-up window.
The biggest issue that I have with this product is the lack of documentation. I am not saying that I need a multipage technical manual but a simple getting started guide and panel reference would have been nice.
What I Like About the AGtruck
What I Don't Like About the AGtruck
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