Republic RC-3 Seabee (V1.1)
A popular out of production top-mounted single push prop amphibian from the 1940's comes back to life in full detail.
145 MB Download for FSX
Reviewed by:Drew Sikora – AVSIM Staff Reviewer – 22 April 2012
The Republic RC-3 Seabee is a very interesting aircraft in many ways. First of all, it is a rather unique amphibian meant to embody the "flying car" concept that has captured the imagination of inventors for centuries. In this regard it really does resemble a bit of a VW bus with wings and a keel. Furthermore, the Seabee was not even meant to be for civilian use. It was originally designed under contracts for the various armed forces that were looking to use them as rescue craft in the war against Japan spanning the south-western Pacific.
Republic Aircraft, the design and manufacturer behind the Seabee, was already well-known for its previous contracts for fighter aircraft like the P-47 Thunderbolt but the timing of this contract was unfortunate for the company, as the US victory over Japan occurred before the Seabee could be delivered and the contracts were cancelled. The man behind the vision of the Seabee, Percival H. Spencer, carried the aircraft over into the commercial market hoping for a post-war aviation boom that didn't happen.
Just over a year after the first aircraft was delivered to the first customer in 1946 production ceased, with the last aircraft being sold in early 1948.
As short-lived as the aircraft was, people nevertheless latched on to its unique look and simple functionality. Despite the many years that have gone by since the aircraft was first produced, a good many still fly today and a large community has sprung up around the plane, which can be explored fully at the www.seabee.info website.
Installation and Documentation
The Seabee install screen
Putting the Seabee on your computer is done easily through the Flight 1 purchasing program; I have never encountered an issue with this method and did not this time either. After you download the product you can then purchase it or use an existing license file to re-install it. Once the main installer unpacks to a location of your choosing, you can have it auto-run and place the Seabee product files either in the FSX directory it detects or one of your choosing.
Once the install is through you aren't given the option to load up the user manual, which I always like to do first thing after installing a new product. There was no Start menu folders added either so I had to dig down into the directory where the plane was installed in order to access the manual.
If you like to store your aircraft outside of the main FSX directory you can also do this with the Seabee. However to allow extra files like effects and such to be installed properly, it's best to let the aircraft install to the main FSX folder and then afterwards you can just move the aircraft files to your alternate location.
When you want to remove the Seabee from your computer there isn't much you can do except delete the aircraft folder from where it was installed or moved to. There's no uninstaller link in the Start Menu nor could I find an entry to uninstall from the Programs and Features window of the Control Panel.
A search of the default FSX folder, which contains a number of other add-on uninstaller files, also came up empty. Ultimately this isn't a huge deal as 99% of the hard disk space taken up by the Seabee is located in that aircraft folder. The installer places one effect and one sound file outside of the aircraft folder and that's it. Still, I don't think that justifies not having something as commonplace as an uninstaller.
The Seabee comes with three different PDF files as well as the necessary files for the kneeboard reference and checklist items. The three PDF files include the operating handbook that seems to be built off the original documentation, a checklist sheet that looks to be scanned in also from original documentation and a parts catalog that serves absolutely no purpose for the sim aircraft but is nevertheless a neat inclusion that really lets you see how the aircraft is assembled.
The owner's manual is a nice hefty 57 pages of material with what appears to be the original illustrations - they certainly throw you back into the period in which the Seabee was released. There is reference in the POH however to a weight book and to power charts that I could not find included with the documentation. Given that nearly half of the POH is dedicated to the proper care and maintenance of the aircraft, I wish this plane came with a wear and tear system that allowed you to put at least some of this knowledge to actual use.
One glaring omission from the documentation was any simulator-specific information like cabin click spots, radio operation, flap/gear operation, prop reverser operation, etc - I will address these issues in more detail throughout the review and would like to note that after turning on tooltips in the cockpit, things became a lot clearer but I hear many people telling you these should be disabled for performance/stability reasons so relying on them to learn how to operate some areas of the aircraft is not a great solution in my opinion
A listing of all 5 liveries
Excellent information window text
When you load up the simulator for the first time you can find the aircraft in your library by choosing either Republic for the manufacturer, KC Flight Shop for the publisher or Single Engine Prop for the aircraft type - although for this last one I was expecting to find it under the Legacy category.
They all contain great descriptions for the aircraft in the information window text area although some of the specs listed are done so with "xxxxx" for some reason, as you can see in the image above right. Once you select a livery you will be asked to approve a gauge file - make sure you click "ok" and then "yes" so you don't get prompted again.
Let's have a walk around this bird and check her out. There are 5 different liveries included with the Seabee package to give you some visual options while flying, and no doubt repainters are already busy working on their own as you read this.
The 5 included liveries – one has the tail 'NC1701' for any of you Trekkies out there
Each texture comes with its own qualities - some are cleaner, some are dirtier; while some are brighter and some are duller. They are all high quality and look great both near and far away with proper mapping that lets the sun glint off the surface when the angle is right without the textures appearing flat in the process. I did notice however, that the cabin glass seemed to be neither specular nor reflective - it was simply flat and did not react to the light at all, which was a bit of a disappointment.
A closer look at the front - check the engine intake!
A detailed look at the texture work along the wing and tail
Control surfaces all animate and function as they should - you can even see the elevator trim tab on the horizontal stabilizer adjust. You can spot the fixed trim tab on the rudder as well, though the one on the aileron is not as obvious. The propeller pitch is adjustable but moving the axis does not affect the blade angle on the model when the engine is off - however most planes require hydraulic pressure for this, so perhaps that's the case here as well.
I'm not sure what the horns atop the cabin do - I've spotted them on some Seabee images but not all. I couldn't find a reference to it in the parts catalog either. But they look cool I guess. Inside the cockpit is an articulated pilot that will look around and also react to your control inputs.
Land tie down with all doors open
Water anchor with the front (higher) door open
When the aircraft is shut down and the parking brake is set, you'll get some nice tie down appearances. On land you'll see the tie down ropes and wheel chocks and on water you'll see an anchor rope attached to the cleat on the nose of the aircraft. I'm not sure what's up with the "spray" or "smoke" effect that constantly rises from the water while in this state however. It certainly doesn't look good in my opinion. These tie down effects are things common with aircraft these days but would still be something worth mentioning in an FSX-specific section of the manual.
You'll also find three exits you can click open from the interior or use the door exit key + 1, 2 or 3 to operate. While digging through the aircraft.cfg file for other reasons I noticed that there was a 4th exit listed for "storage" but pressing the key combo to open it didn't make any extra doors open on the model that I could see looking both inside and out.
Shadows on the wing tips
While flying around I sometimes noticed some weird self-shadowing on both wing tips of the aircraft. I was unable to determine exactly what the cause was but they weren't always there. Other than that, if you fly with self-shadowing enabled the rest of the aircraft is shaded nicely - you can even see the central rib of the cockpit windshield shadowed atop the instrument panel and the seats are also in shadow at certain times of the day. Looks really nice, especially with the wing up top casting shadows down over the fuselage.
Exterior lights and interior lighting is also displayed
The anchor light atop your tail for water mooring
When darkness falls you can turn on some position lights to help make other aircraft aware of your presence although there are no strobe lights or landing lights. The only other exterior light option is the anchor light atop your tail - which I had to look for after I switched it on in the cockpit because I had no real clue as to what it was since there was no mention of it in the documentation.
Even in the parts catalog if you happened to look through it carefully the light is mislabeled as "1074 - Stabilizer-Left Hand (with trim tab controls)" although the vertical fin part name does say "Fin-with electric wiring and anchor light". Also I noticed in the aircraft.cfg that the entire light section is commented out, which means the lights are integrated into the model somehow and you can't use Shockwave lights if you have them.
This isn’t to say that these lights are bad, mind you. I do think the anchor light is rather dim though and hard to see compared to, say, the tail navigation light.
Stepping into the cockpit we are presented with a well-appointed interior including leather seats and the original production panel of the Seabee aircraft.
View from the captain's chair
Removable yokes are nice
While there are 5 different liveries to choose from, each one features the same interior textures. They're nice textures though - I love how you can see the roughness and stitch to the various leather appointments, and the shine off the leather from the sunlight is also excellent. I think the upholstery, controls and panel could use a bit more age and roughness to them, but there is some evident in small pits and scoring so the aircraft doesn't look entirely new. You can imagine it's been owned for about 5-7 years since it was produced off the line.
The controls all operate properly with the yoke wheels turning and the whole column moving in and out. The removable passenger yoke is a feature of the actual Seabee and the removable pilot yoke is an FSX addition that is great for making the engine instruments viewable. The rudder pedals actuate as well - although the toe brakes don't register any movement when used. I haven't really seen this in other aircraft and besides they are out of view when sitting properly in the cockpit.
Switches and knobs are all clickable on the dash although I do have issues with some of the switches - a few require left and right clicks to use and that's not obvious without tooltips. My first attempt to use switches that toggled left/center/right was to try and grab the switch and drag it with the mouse. Again here is where some FSX-specific documentation would have come in handy. The left/center/right switches also move left with a right click and right with a left click which I find counter-intuitive. It would indeed be nice if such switch behavior could follow a set of standard use guidelines.
Still no glass shine - instrument glass is flat as well
Reclining seats! Just like they should, to make a double bed
Some more exploring of the cockpit by moving the cursor around to see when it turns into a hand also revealed that the seats can fold down just like the POH describes (in real-world fashion, not by saying you can do this in the sim) which lets you make them into a double bed for sleeping in the aircraft. That must be really cool to do in real life - fly in to a cove somewhere and anchor for the night.
Clicking and dragging the mouse will move the seats into various angles of recline. A side-effect I discovered to reclining the pilot seat is the pilot model will disappear from the external view, which is a nice way of emptying out the plane after it's been parked. I like the feeling of discovery and all, but even things like this are things I would like to be informed about.
Since the exterior model sported no specular shine or reflectiveness for the cabin glass, I decided to check on the instrument gauge glass and found that they too were indifferent to the light angle, as demonstrated by the image above left where I positioned the plane so the setting sun would glint off the inside of the instruments as evidenced by the shine on the inner gauge bezels. The rest of the cockpit responds very well to changing light conditions, especially when the sun is behind you to your left which causes the half-panel to shadow the nose exit space.
Great details when you look close, like the facets of these lights
This placard and text seems to just pop right off the panel!
Zooming in closer to the panel reveals a lot of great little details that shows a lot of time and care were put into the creation of it. Those bulbs, for example, may be just low-polyed but they also very much resemble the style of bulb designs you see on older equipment. The other image above right showcases some great texture work but also shows the dynamic airplane ID placard text, which is nice if you change the registration of the aircraft in the information window or you're using one of the other liveries for the first time and have trouble remembering. It looks a bit plain next to everything else, unfortunately, but it serves a good purpose.
Improper mixture knob operation
Old-style radio excellent but hard to use
Two fuel pressure gauges?
The aircraft cockpit is not without issues however. For one thing, they have the mixture control knob backwards. The POH specifically states that the mixture knob, propeller pitch knob and throttle knob are all high when pushed in and low when pulled out. The mixture knob in the image above left is labeled "Push Mixture Lean" and indeed moves inwards when the mixture is leaned. Also in that image you notice the red "Remove Before Flight" tag hanging from the key (which sways with airplane roll, nice) - I'm not quite sure why that's there. Are you supposed to remove the key prior to takeoff to prevent the magnetos from being switched off? Nothing regarding this is mentioned in the POH or checklists and the key and tag cannot be hidden by any means I could find.
The radio is also a bit of an issue since until I turned on tooltips; I had trouble figuring out how to use it properly without any documentation. The Tuning knob handles both MHz and Hz tuning but since it's a single knob and not the big knob with a smaller knob inside it, common to modern radios, you need to get the hang of where to position your mouse cursor to adjust the right part of the frequency. Switching the center knob will change the Tuning knob from adjusting the Com1 frequency to the Nav1 frequency, which is a bit puzzling as I don't know what you would tune to with the navigation radio since there is no instrumentation to use it in the cockpit.
It also didn't help that when the master battery is off, the Tuning knob will not work; which initially made me think it was just a cosmetic feature before I enabled tooltips and saw it registered something - it just didn't function until the power was on, at which point you will see the frequency card rotate as you turn the knob. But the card doesn't match the frequencies you set, so it's important you have tooltips on to see what the current frequency is.
The above right image showcases the engine instrument panel, which I found has two fuel pressure gauges. In the POH, the operation of the Fuel Pressure switch is described thusly: "A fuel pressure gage indicates pressure for either the left or right fuel pump as selected by a fuel pump switch on the instrument panel."
This sounds to me like the instrument panel is only supposed to contain a single fuel pressure gauge. I went online to try and find a Seabee panel to compare this and found that all Seabee photos are of modernized panels. Looking through the parts catalog there are two different types of engine instrument panels so this could be just a slight discrepancy between the manual and the type of engine instrument panel used for this aircraft. The parts catalog did not specify what gauge was what in the two engine instrument panels.
Cold & dark at night - though the Kollsman window is a bit bright
The dome light provides a nice soft glow
Bright instrument lighting is too bright
Dim instrument lighting is perfect
Looking at the cockpit interior at night is a bit tough without lighting, so fortunately the Seabee comes equipped for night time excursions when needed. With all lights off you'll notice that the Kollsman window in the altimeter is a bit lit up anyways, which I suspect is a texture error. Turning on the dome light provides a very nice soft light to the interior and is bright enough to let you read all the instruments and still dim enough that it doesn't glare on your cockpit windows to decrease your visibility outside.
Still, if you don't like flying with the interior all lit up (I hate driving like that too) you can always rely solely on instrument lighting, which can be either bright or dim. The bright setting is way too bright; it actually washes out the white of the gauge lettering making it a bit harder to read. It also does a good job making the instrument glass look backlit unlike the glass itself looking shiny or reflective to external light. Putting the instrument lights on dim makes them very legible at night.
Some additional quirks include pretty slow animations for pulling out the knob that detaches the passenger yoke and turning the magneto key from Off to Both and back. The two animations each take a good 2 seconds or so to play out whereas the battery on/off knob simply pops right out and in.
Also as mentioned earlier, this aircraft uses a lot of lighting tied directly into the model - so for example, you can't toggle the navigation light switch by using the keystroke for navigation lights. However, you can toggle the dome light by using the panel light keystroke - but this does not toggle the dome light switch. So if you use the switch to turn on the light then toggle it off with the keystroke, using the switch again will toggle it from On to Off and turn on the dome light.
Checklists and Reference
Time to review our procedures prior to taking flight. As mentioned earlier you can access the checklist and reference sheet for the aircraft via the FSX kneeboard or you can open the files in Word or a web browser if you fly with multiple monitors. A comparison between the kneeboard checklist, the POH and the separate checklist PDF sheet shows a couple of discrepancies throughout - although it should be kept in mind the PDF manual/checklist were made for real-world flying and the kneeboard checklist was adapted for FSX. But still:
- You're asked to ensure your emergency fuel cutoff knob is pushed in. It's difficult to check the fuel cutoff knob if you don't have a TrackIR setup as you have to peer down and lean to the side to look a little under your seat and spot the knob. Without TrackIR you can switch to the interior view over the flap/gear controls and recline the seat to see the position of the knob. Really though, the knob cannot be pulled out or pushed in so you can always assume this item is okay.
- You're asked to lock and unlock the tail wheel. I couldn't find any control or indicator in the cockpit as to whether my tail wheel was locked or unlocked.
- You're asked to check your fuel level - the response for which is "Battery & Master On", which you are told to do again later.
- You're asked to check magnetos, but the magneto key will only turn to Off and Both. Additionally it says the maximum permissible drop is 100 RPM when the POH and PDF checklist specify 150 RPM.
- You're asked to set the trim for takeoff - there's nothing on the trim indicator telling you where this is and no mention of takeoff trim is in the POH
- There is no after landing or shutdown checklist in the kneeboard version although both the manual and the PDF checklist specify these procedures
- You're asked to idle at 800 RPM to warm up the engine in the kneeboard checklist whereas both the POH and PDF checklist say 900 RPM
- You're asked to ensure fuel pressure is in the green - there are no colored bands in the fuel pressure gauges. Perhaps this is figurative?
Alright we've done enough ground work, let's take her up! Below are the realism settings that were used when flying this plane during testing, unless otherwise specified. The aircraft does not have a magnetic compass nor is the compass gauge adjustable, so gyro drift is disabled.
Flight testing realism settings
Flight testing was carried out via pattern work and randomly flying around N51 Solberg-Hunterdon airport in New Jersey; a cross country VFR flight from N51 to KFRG Republic airport (where the Seabee was designed and built) on Long Island, NY and various water takeoffs and landings in the ocean and bays and coves along the NJ and Long Island coast.
Load and Balance
It's always important to make sure you properly load your aircraft according to the number of passengers and distance you are flying. The Seabee can carry 1 pilot, 3 passengers and 200 lbs worth of luggage but don't forget fuel weighs a lot as well. In fact, the default load out with full fuel will put you a few pounds over the maximum gross weight.
We're already at just 1 lbs under max gross without even loading full fuel
Just under 98% fuel load out allowed at default weights
Default weight load out with the proper amount and labeling of weight stations
The problem with the above images is that the Empty Weight is incorrectly specified at 2350 lbs when it should in fact be 2190 lbs. This can be easily fixed by editing the aircraft.cfg file however - see my review addendum for details. Other than that, the tank and weight stations are all as they should be and properly labeled. Even with the adjusted empty weight you can see how carrying a full passenger load plus baggage will cut into your permissible fuel amount, so remember when you load up for a family outing!
Going through preflight, which includes cabin checks, engine start and warm up, I came across an issue with the fuel pumps not allowing me to start the engine. I discovered this because I was playing around with the fuel pressure switch and noticing some weird gauge behavior. The switch can be positioned left to check the pressure from the left pump, center (which drops both dials to 0) and right to check the pressure of the right pump.
However I found that when the battery knob is out, if I click the switch to one side the pump will still register pressure. I guess even without battery power there is a bit of pressure in the pumps? They are above the tank though so I'm unsure whether this is correct behavior or not.
Right fuel pressure gauge toggled and active, battery knob pulled out (off)
Battery knob in (on) and now gauge is registering properly
So that was a bit of an odd behavior but getting back to the engine start issue, I happened to have the fuel pressure switch centered when I went to turn over the engine and after a cough and whirr it would fail to start. It frustrated me for a while until I thought to try toggling the fuel pressure switch over to the left (or right - didn't matter) after which the engine turned over without a problem. I then re-centered the switch and the engine cut, but toggling it back to one side allowed the engine to resume running.
I guess the switch in the sim actually toggles the operation of the fuel pumps rather than merely activating the gauges to register their pressure? If so, it would make sense that cutting the pumps would cut the engine as the fuel tank is in the lower fuselage and the engine is up top so a pump is required. But as far as the POH goes it sounds as if the pumps are always operating with the start of the engine and the presence of battery power - the gauge is merely to ensure you have pressure and thus proper engine operation.
The reverse prop control (and elevator trim control)
The Seabee has the ability to completely reverse the pitch of its propeller so it can be taxied backwards on both land and water. You have to test it during preflight and to operate it you have to lower the prop pitch all the way in order to unlock the slide knob that will reverse the propeller. Here again some FSX-specific instructions would have been nice as I (without tooltips enabled) once more attempted to grab and slide the knob then clicked over in the opposite area and finally tried right clicking, which made the knob slide back and begin FSX's built-in pushback feature.
So that was a bit disappointing as I was hoping to be able to throttle up and control my reverse movement speed. So instead what I ended up doing with my Saitek Pro Flight Yoke's throttle quadrant is have the reverser function of the prop pitch control toggle the FSX pushback since I have to pull it all the way down anyways to unlock the propeller reverse knob. It doesn't make the slider knob animate but it gets the job done without me having to look up and click it.
Later on looking through the Seabee support forums, I discovered that you can in fact use the throttle to move backwards, but I didn't find it any better than the auto pushback and slower too in addition to having to throttle up to full power to get the Seabee to move - and not fast enough to make the sim engage the tail wheel for steering.
The kneeboard checklist asks you to throttle up to full power (so does the POH but the PDF checklist specifies only 2000 RPM) and check for RPM drop on each magneto. However you can't do this because clicking on the key will only make it turn to Off instead of passing through L and R first. In fact, you can't even use a keystroke - I set a key for Magneto1 Off in FSUIPC and toggled it - the engine cut as expected and the key animated to the Off position. So I restarted it and then set the key to toggle Magneto1 Left. When I pressed it the engine cut again and the key moved all the way over to Off. I also experienced a bit of forward roll with the parking brake on at full power, while 2000 RPM barely budged me.
The kneeboard checklist also tells you that with the throttle wide open you should pull pack the prop pitch completely and see a drop of at least 500 RPM, but I only ever saw a drop of about 350 RPM from around 2500 to around 2150 RPM. The PDF checklist says you should check to ensure the prop pitch is working (by noticing an RPM drop) but does not specify what this amount should be, nor does the POH. I'm not sure where the developer got 500 RPM from. The PDF checklist also asks you to exercise the propeller at only 1200 RPM.
All fired up and ready to go!
Some more additional things: The kneeboard checklist tells you to pump the throttle - I assume this is you simulating turning over the prop several times when starting a cold engine; like other aircraft this one will load with certain features set regardless of what state the aircraft was in when you saved the flight. In this case the control yokes will always be there, the dome light will be on and the instrument lighting will be set to dim.
I'm still unsure whether this is the fault/limitation of the sim, the model or both; you'll find the lights can be operated with the master battery knob pulled out (off) - although I can't determine whether this behavior is proper or not. Certainly you would want the anchor light on all night at least when not moored at a dock. There's nothing in the checklists (both official and adapted) for navigation lights - I keep forgetting to turn them on prior to takeoff, even at night, unless I happen to switch to an exterior view and notice they are off.
You'll find that the aircraft has a steerable tail wheel and a very decent turn radius. I had no trouble taxiing about the airports I visited and the Seabee gets rolling along at around 1500 RPM after which you can pull back to around 1000-1100 RPM and trundle along nicely.
Your nose-high attitude on the ground is not nearly as extreme as, say, a Piper Cub so jacking up a bit higher in your seat is a doable alternative to weaving back and forth if you don't mind the fact that these seats don't really jack up. It's hard to make this aircraft run away from you while taxiing, which is nice.
The Seabee's outrigger pontoons make the aircraft extremely stable when taxiing on the water - it's practically impossible to capsize, trust me I tried really hard like accelerating up to 50 knots and jamming the rudder over hard to one side. This lets you take drastic measures to avoid collisions with any boat traffic you have plying the waterways.
Although you still shouldn't make hard turns where your downwind wing will lift up and let the wind get under it. That could be iffy. Also while FSX doesn't model tidal action or currents, you will still find yourself weather cocking a lot more while on the water versus on land so be mindful of wind strength and direction.
Watch out for muddy ground
Made it out of water and on to land
Because the Seabee is an amphibian you can lower the gear while in the water and then taxi up onto land. This is best done with scenery that is actually designed for amphibian use but can be done practically anywhere you can find a low enough shoreline to let you taxi up out of the water. The transition from water to land can be abrupt, and if the ground is uneven the bouncing can cause a crash. You could also get stuck with your wheels buried and unable to move.
While there are again no FSX-specific tips or anything included in the documentation taking the angled soft sand approach described in the POH seems to work best for areas not modeled specifically for amphibian use.
For takeoff within the shortest 800ft distance you're going to want to lower full flaps. Once more flap operation is another thing that could have been explained better in terms of operation in FSX. I found the flap lever control and the hydraulic pump handle confusing and difficult to operate using the mouse and in the end decided to just use one of my joystick axis to control them.
I found the same for the gear lever/pump control via the virtual cockpit and just used the keystroke instead. This causes the gear lever to move and the pump handle to actuate throughout the full travel of the gear, which is nice because if stopping is your indicator as to when the gear have traveled to the fully up position - the light instantly changes from green to red upon beginning to raise the gear.
Shortening the runway at N51 to 800' to test my takeoff performance
You'll also want to lock the tail wheel for takeoff but there's no control I could find in the cockpit that lets you do this, so I had to map it to a keystroke. But then you still have two problems. One is that because there's no cockpit control, there's no way to tell if your tail wheel is locked without rolling forward a bit to test it. The second is even more fundamental, in that the Seabee's aircraft.cfg file is missing the parameter that will even allow you to lock your tail wheel in the first place. Again this is an easy fix - see my review addendum for details.
Once I got everything mapped out and figured out, I set maximum up trim, held on the brakes, throttled up and rolled out down the runway. Without touching the yoke my wheels came off the ground just as I reached the end. Excellent!
Taking off from water is relatively easy, and getting "on step" is not as tricky a business as it is in real life since FSX does not simulate serious wave action, tides or currents. Still, you need to consider the aircraft's increased desire to weathercock and if you have random boat traffic tooling around, picking a spot to takeoff from can be tricky while still maintaining your heading into the wind. Oh and it's too bad you can't look at the water's wave direction to see which way the wind is blowing if you don't have a sock or weather report to rely on. Best bet then is to just start taxiing and let the aircraft turn into the wind on its own.
Once you're up and cruising the Seabee handles as you would expect, slow but steady and reliable. The aircraft is very well behaved in all manner of normal maneuvers and stalls - but as the POH and various placards warn, don't try putting her through any spins or aerial acrobatics. You'll regret it.
I'll admit it's a bit weird to fly with so little in the way of instrumentation. The Seabee is a pure VFR flyer with no radio navigation equipment whatsoever unless you call up the 2D GPS panel - which would have been cool to have been modeled as a separate mobile unit on top of your dash or something. Your compass isn't a rotating card like you usually find in aircraft but a needle in a round gauge pointing at your current heading.
For people like me who suck at math (like, abysmally) this takes away the ability to quickly come up with your 4 compass headings (forward, left, right, rear) without running some numbers through your head. Additionally, there is no vertical speed indicator or artificial horizon, so you have to pay careful attention to your altimeter to determine whether you are trimmed level. Personally, I find this a refreshing and challenging aspect to flying the Seabee.
Airspeed indicator numbering and colored arcs designed for MPH but the needle reads out KTS!
A major problem I discovered upon leveled out flight appeared at first to be that the aircraft was underpowered. I would have the throttle full open with the aircraft clean (gear and flaps up) and I would barely be pushing past 90 MPH, only a thousand feet or so above sea level. The specs for the Seabee tell me that at only 75% power, I'm supposed to be moving along at 103 MPH. So what gives?
I checked to make sure my throttle axis sensitivity was at max and even pressed F4 to make sure the throttle was fully open. I thought maybe the fact that I was using my Pro Flight Yoke and X52 HOTAS at the same time was causing mixed throttle signals. After a few more tests showed me none of this was the problem, I finally happened to notice at one point when I had the speed/wind/location/etc text displayed at the top of the screen that the readout for my speed in knots looked extremely close to what my airspeed indicator was showing. I throttled down to 80 kts and watched the needle hover right next to the 80 on the airspeed indicator.
I knew the discrepancy between knots and miles per hour wasn't that small so I did the conversion and realized that the 80 knots I was currently traveling at equates to 92 MPH, and I had pulled throttle back below 75%. This was more in line with the performance I was expecting. I'm a bit stunned, frankly, that this issue made it into the release product.
Some other mentions: Although the actual tabs are fixed, you can still adjust the rudder and aileron trim while in flight. This should have been countered via the Flight Tuning section of the aircraft.cfg. I also once accidentally engaged the autopilot to hold my heading when I slipped on a key press and didn't really realize it until I tried turning a bit later. Again, this should have been disabled in the aircraft.cfg. These fixes are also included in my review addendum.
Coming down for a landing on land is just as the procedure dictates it should be. The nice thing about lowering your gear is the warning light does not switch immediately from red to green; instead the green light comes on only after the gear has finished its travel and locked into position. None of the documentation specifies how you should land but I figure a tri-wheel landing is best.
At first I was rather surprised at how bumpy and rough the landings always were but then of course after I realized the error in the airspeed indicator it became clear as to why - I was landing at close to 70 MPH instead of 58!
You're supposed to have your tail wheel locked for landing but again since there's no control or indicator you just have to hope you didn't accidentally toggle the switch during flight if you locked it as you should for takeoff.
Again, the water landing procedures are spot on. The only trouble you might have when landing is figuring out the wind direction if you don't have a sock or weather report to go on (of course you can always "cheat" and use the Shift+Z info text!) and making sure you don't run over any boat traffic if that's enabled for you. If you have your water textures set to a glassy surface you can follow the procedures included for that special case scenario.
I performed a number of water landings and had no trouble getting onto the surface in one piece every time. Double check that your gear is up!
Once you're moored or parked and it's time to shut down, you can use the manual or PDF checklist to go through the steps needed to put the Seabee to bed, which is mainly a cool down period followed by a mixture cut off. I've also included my modified kneeboard checklist in my review addendum which has “after landing” and “shutdown” procedures.
I found the sound set for the Seabee to be of good quality. I find this is an area I'm very forgiving about in general, although I did notice that the transition from various engine states (startup to running, running to shut down, etc) was a bit abrupt and didn't really meld together that well. Also the cabin was extremely quiet compared to the outside engine noise - no doubt as it is in real life considering the all-metal construction and the engine situated high above and behind the cockpit. But at the same time, when you have the sound up to get a good feel to the interior noise and switch to the outside view you nearly deafen yourself in comparison. I like how the exterior sound differs from the interior sound but I wish it wasn't so much louder.
When you are anchored in water (engine off, parking brake on) you get a nice sound set of birds chirping and water lapping at your keel. This is very nice, but I couldn't get it to go away when I pulled up anchor and started up the engine without resetting the aircraft.
A known issue I was informed of by the developer when starting this review was the interior sound.
I'm still not sure if this is really the responsibility of the developer but I personally would consider it to be so: aircraft voice pack. There is no entry in the default FSX voice pack with which to reference the Seabee, either by name or manufacturer, via ATC communications. So ATC will always only say your registration tag and you can hear the gap in which they would call out "Seabee" as defined in the aircraft.cfg file. I've created a voice pack for the Seabee, which you can find in my review addendum.
Finally, switches don't click. I like my clicking switches.
Can't say I noticed any real performance impact while operating the Seabee on my various test flights. Frames were in their normal range for the small type of GA craft that the Seabee is. I never even bothered with boosting my clock speed up to 4.5GHz at any time during testing. Even better is the slow speed of the Seabee ensures that you won't have any issues loading ground textures as you putt-putt around.
The Republic RC-3 Seabee is an aircraft from another time in aviation history, and it's nice to be able to climb in and be transported back to the days when the sky was a more open place. The amphibian capability coupled with the ability to take off and land in short distances means you can go virtually anywhere. This would be an amazing aircraft to fly around the Pacific Northwest - its only weakness being a relatively low service ceiling of 12,000 feet. As much as I enjoy the classic cockpit layout, I wish a modernized cockpit model had also been provided as well with radio navigation instruments.
Many of the issues I came across in this review are already being addressed in a service pack that has recently been released, but unfortunately well after this review was written. Really the main issue I want to see fixed is the airspeed indicator - that really makes flying the Seabee annoying for me. Again, more documentation on how the aircraft operates in the simulator as opposed to merely in the real world would be nice as well.
The aircraft does a good job modeling many of the real world behaviors and options but figuring out how it does this in the sim is not simple or intuitive in some regards.
All-in-all the Seabee does a great job of providing its very own unique flying experience, and that in my opinion is the best thing an aircraft can ever offer.
- MSI P67A-GD65
- Intel i5 2500K @ 4.5GHz
- Corsair 8GB DDR3 1600
- Radeon HD 5870 1GB
- Catalyst 12.3
- WD VelociRaptor 10k RPM SATA 150GB
- Windows 7 x64
- FSX Acceleration
- Saitek X52, Pro Flight Yoke, Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
Screenshots enhanced with
REX, ENB, Shade
Test Time: 8 hours
What I Like About the Seabee
- Has many unique qualities to make flying it different and challenging in its own way
- Well modeled, textured and animated
- Nice tie down appearances/sounds for land and water
- Many actual aircraft behaviors modeled like folding seats and reverse propeller
- Excellent periodical illustrations and material from the actual aircraft POH
- Improper instrument panel operation (airspeed gauge, mixture knob, fuel pressure gauges, etc)
- Improper and incomplete kneeboard procedures
- Improper aircraft control operations (lack of tail wheel lock, autopilot, trim tabs, etc)
- Improper aircraft specs (empty weight)
- No modern cockpit variation
- Lack of FSX-specific documentation to explain many features
- Several sound issues
- No uninstaller program