It isn’t a stretch to say that the Cessna 182 is one of the most popular general aviation aircraft around. Its high performance engine, coupled with signature Cessna-like manners, is a winning combination in the eyes of private pilots around the world. In 1977, Cessna opted to improve the Skylane by adding the virtue of retractable gear. At the time, it was a sensible evolution for the aircraft, but unfortunately, the Skylane RG II, as it became dubbed, was nowhere near as popular as its fixed-gear predecessor. The retractable gear variation proved to be more expensive to maintain and suffered an inevitable decrease in gear strut robustness, which took some of the wind out of the increase in performance the retractable gear provided.
Even so, the Skylane RG II continues on. Chief to this is that it is still one of the few single engine piston aircraft in which one can earn both a complex AND a high-performance endorsement simultaneously, and is yet student-friendly. It is these characteristics in which the R182 has remained popular with flight schools. Independent owners also remain fiercely loyal, too.
When I learned about Carenado’s Skylane RG II being put up on the bid board, I was more than interested. I was one of those who chose the R182 as a means of transitioning to a ‘real airplane’. Time to dust off the old memories for the purpose of comparing them to what Carenado has offered here.
Installation and Documentation
As is the norm for most, if not all, payware packages that I have been dealing with lately, Carenado’s R182 is easily placed into FSX via a single auto-installer file. It’s not too difficult. A double-click followed by adherence to the installer prompts and voila, four Skylanes magically appear in the aircraft selection screen. Like I said, it’s what one would expect these days. Minimum fuss with expected results.
Documentation is interesting. Sent directly to the aircraft’s folder in SimObjects/Airplanes are a grand total of six documents designed to familiarize a fledgling pilot on the workings of the Skylane RG. Of these, five (four PDF's and a single Word Doc) are (in my humble opinion) essential for knowing what’s to know when it comes to flying this bird. Covering instrument panel orientation, normal and emergency checklists, aircraft limitations, and performance charts (a redundant Word Checklist rounds out the mix).
I found that there was no documentation that provided a tutorial flight for those new to the R182; this is not necessarily a bad thing. We are after all talking about the C172 Skyhawk’s bigger brother (with fancier retractable gear, mind you), so if you’re familiar with that plane, you should be able to saddle up in the Skylane rather easily. However, as a reviewer, I’m supposed to point out anything I think is worth mentioning, so there… I just mentioned it.
Let’s Take A Look
I heard somewhere that Carenado has some of the best looking GA add-ons for Flight Simulator. And in regards to the Skylane RG, I can state from my experience with this plane, that the boast is pretty well-deserved.
In the scrutinizing of the external model of R182, I came up short trying to find anything amiss. Their Skylane is a practical clone; it really appears as if the developers didn’t miss a single thing. Every item that I looked for was found and looked just right, rendered in properly scale and textures that are exquisitely real. Propeller, visible engine components, the fasteners on the cowl… I could go on and on, but I think I made my point clear. This is one excellently-rendered external model.
Inside, it doesn’t stop. The included documentation hints that this is a 1978 R182, and the cockpit, especially in VC mode, screams this fact out in colorful, loud-n-proud fashion. Fabric, either blue or brown depending on Skylane RG you’ve chosen, covers the seats and interior, and the instrument panel, with all the engine-related instruments still on the passenger’s side, also hints at the aircraft’s vintage.
A Cessna Navomatic 300 (a older single-axis autopilot) and the avionics stack (with the exception of the default GPS in pop-up form) further solidifies Carenado’s adherence to this plane’s true era. The plane is completely flyable in this view mode, although one would have to seriously move around in order to reach the switches and knobs hidden behind the yoke.
Functionality-wise, both the VC and 2D panels are great, although admittedly, I hardly used the latter. The one real exception was when I had to access any switches that were obscured by the virtual yoke. For 2D panel fans out there, you’ll appreciate the VFR/Standard/Full IFR viewing modes, as well as the plethora of pop-up windows that cover every section of the cockpit that would have a switch to be thrown or a dial to be spun.
Please note, however, that not all these panels are accessible through the Shift+Number key combinations; the Mini-Icon window is crucial to accessing all the windows that you might need.
The sound set for the Skylane RG deserves praise as well. The representation of the O-540 powerplant is plenty convincing, with no discernable audible looping of the sound files. Also great, was the whirling noise of the hydraulically powered landing gear motor, something that I guarantee I developed an ear for. The only shortcoming for the sound set was the Gear Warning alarm, which is distinctively different from the default FSX configuration warning horn, which is used.
With not a little bit of reminiscing of those days back when a Skylane RG was available for my personal use, I loaded up Carenado’s version. For my test flights, I allowed myself the fantasy of operating the R182 as an air taxi in the cluster of islands commonly known as Tahiti. Today’s flight would be from Moorea to Bora Bora via Huahine, with the plane’s default load of 697 lbs worth of people and 61 gallons of fuel. Online updates had the weather as a little rainy.
Starting at Tamae Airport, three pumps of the primer and a twist of the key got the Lycoming O-540 running with minimal effort. It took 1400 worth of RPM's to get the Skylane rolling, at which point a setting of 1100-1200 kept the plane going. The skies were beginning to clear as I ran the engine through it’s run up checks, which was completed with satisfactory results.
Takeoff was spectacularly R182. Full throttle yielded an MP equal to the current altimeter and the RPM’s hinting at the redline at 2500. Pulling back on the stick at 55 KIAS, the Skylane’s nose came up with the wheels finally giving up their grip on the wet asphalt a second later. The plane attained an initial climb rate of 1500 FPM as I pulled the gear up, which came up with it’s usual reassuring whirl. Pitching the nose down and reducing to the standard climb settings of 23” MP, 2400 RPM, the plane held a steady 700 FPM ascent rate at 105 KIAS, as surely as it would be had I done this in the real thing.
A note on that ‘gear up’ if you will. By force of habit, I adjusted my view to watch if the left main wheel dropped out of view, and déjà vu – the wheel did indeed fall away just as I’ve seen in the real thing. It’s also a carbon copy animation from the outside, where the mains pivot straight down before pivoting upwards into the wheel wells. It makes for a rather strange sight, where those struts actually look like they’re dangling below the fuselage, but it is what it is. Carenado is racking up the points today.
I hand flew the Skylane up to 2000 ft, putting it through its paces. The experience was a fair clone of the real deal, and I’ll cite the power-on stall maneuver as my example. Just when you think you’ve pulled that nose up too much in the real-world Skylane to obtain the desired stall, you’re not even close to what nose-up pitch is truly required.
Here in Carenado’s R182, I thought I had pulled up enough, only to discover that the 235 ponies was more than enough to keep the plane sailing skywards at 60 KIAS. Another hefty tug on the stick produced the desired effect, with the stall finally settling in as the airspeed dropped through 50 KIAS, right where the POH says a Skylane should stop flying.
That done, I dialed in the Huahine VOR and took the plane up to 8000 ft, the Navomatic doing the flying in NAV and GPS modes. Establishing a cruise setting of full throttle at 2200 RPM with the mixture set for best power (50 deg rich of peak), the DME showed a cruise speed of 136 kts despite the 10 kt headwind that the online weather was hitting me with. That worked out to 147 kts true, a rough number I’d expect for that power setting, and only 2 kts less than the ones listed in the attached performance charts.
Some forty-five miles later, I disengaged the AP and began the descent. For those of you that might be considering getting a high-performance endorsement, the Skylane with it’s six-pack of cylinders, demands a slow letdown from altitude. With the cowl flaps closed, a reduction of two inches of MP every two minutes (or one inch every minute, depending on what instructor you talk to) is the mantra, lest one wishes to expose the engine to shock-cooling. Such a gradual power reduction means one would be keeping up the speed all the way through the descent, and Carenado’s virtual Skylane RG held up well to this procedure. I was seeing speeds of approximate 150 KIAS as I took her down.
Down to 1000 ft, I found myself some nine miles out from Motu Mute, well aligned for the straight in for Rwy 29. Ensuring speed was at or below the VLo speed 140 KIAS, I let out the gear at about five miles from the field, following up with the flaps until they were fully deployed. In this configuration, 60 KIAS will net relatively easy landings on strips with as little as 1000 ft of room. As you can probably guess, it was an absolute cinch on Bora Bora’s 4900 ft runway.
There were only a few small issues that I found in Carenado’s R182, only one of which might potentially affect the usability of the aircraft.
Night Cockpit Textures – No SP1 Installed: Carenado’s
website lists the R182 as compatible with SP1/Acceleration. It
would be more accurate if it stated that the product REQUIRES SP1/Acceleration.
Without the installation of this patch, the cockpit lighting textures
are affected to where the readouts on the radio panel are completely
obliterated. The flight instruments are also affected, although
to a lesser degree. Day cockpit textures are not affected at all.
This was the most serious of the problems found, and considering
how popular the SP1 patch is, it should not affect many, if any,
3. Throttle - Gear Configuration Warning – In the real-world R182, the alarm is sounded once the throttle is retarded to under 15” MP with the gear still up. Carenado sounds this warning closer to the throttle being at idle.
Again, outside of Item #1 (which again, shouldn’t rear its ugly head in the first place if SP1 is installed), these items are very minor in nature. Overall, Carenado's R182 proved to be a very stable add-on, with no other gotchas noted in the course of this review.
I learned rather quickly that Carenado’s reputation for resource friendly packages is well deserved. I’ve gotten used to my med-low end rig suffering under the load of anything outside of FSX’s default offerings. However, the R182’s hit to the system was on the low end, with nary a 2 FPS penalty.
In closing, there was plenty for me to smile about Carenado’s R182. The package holds very true to it’s inspiration in terms of visual and audible details, and the flight model is supremely spot on. Yes, there were couple of glitches that could certainly be addressed, but they weren’t of a caliber to where it detracted from an enjoyable experience. Furthermore, in a day where the cost for add-ons are beginning to rise, it’s nice to know that Carenado is keeping theirs in a more realistic realm. Quality can be had for a good price.
anyone out there wanting to look a little closer into the retractable
and/or complex world of aviation, I’d recommend Carenado’s
Skylane RG without hesitation. It’s a great little package
of a plane that has promoted the concept that (pardon this terrible
pun) leaving things hanging in the wind is just a drag.
What I Like About The Cessna Skylane RG II
What I Don't Like About The Cessna Skylane RG II
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