On September 7, 1927, the Cessna Aircraft Company was a fact, but Clyde Cessna had built and flew his first airplane already in 1911. Since those days, the company has become famous for the Cessna 150 Series but even more for the good old modern elegant and stable Cessna 172. Of course, these two models are just a few from the large list of single-engine airplanes, ranging from small to medium distance, 2 to 6 seat versions, retractable gear and many more options. The Cessna 172 is available as the Skyhawk and Skyhawk SP version.
According to Flight1, we have to deal with a general aviation airplane that captures the spirit and feel of this famous and popular high wing, single engine aircraft. Features include a photo realistic 2D panel, 3D aircraft model, exceptionally clear virtual cockpit, new sounds, and flight dynamics that have been developed using the real performance tables.
Is it really such a great add-on airplane or not?
When you have flown this Cessna 172 in real life, then I can say “yes, it is really a superb add-on with many details”. We know this Flight1 model already from FS9, and now it’s also available for FSX.
In this world
of small general aviation add-on airplanes, there’s a
huge competition between designers like FSD, Dreamfleet, Carenado,
Making 2D and VC panels, including an attractive exterior look, are unfortunately not the only things that makes a model superior. A model becomes superior over others when flight dynamics or flight characteristics, including sound, are as real as it gets. Ok, sound is not too difficult to simulate since designers are able to make live recordings from a C172. But flight dynamics …. that’s not that easy since a lot of things related to the aerodynamics of the airplane must be simulated in one way or the other.
Although the default FSX C172 is dramatically improved compared to its FS2004 sister, it doesn’t offer as many things as this Flight1 product. I have to be honest by saying that Microsoft has done a good job by reconstructing the default C172. The 2D panel has a real look, not speaking about the VC or 3D cockpit. The exterior of the default FSX C172 is completely different then the one from FS2004 but .. yes there is always a “but” … Flight1 adds so many new features to it, like highly detailed panels and exterior model, which initially gives me a very good impression.
When you choose the download version, you can take either the FS9 or FSX one. When ordering the CD; it comes with both FS versions. Here there are no problems with key’s or Internet connections to validate your product. It’s up to you if whether you request the CD or the download, since there is no price difference except for the shipping costs.
I’ve installed the C172R via the CD-ROM, which makes life easier since we don’t have to contend with any download problems and at the same time we get both FS versions. Since this review covers the FSX version, there is something important to know during the FSX installation. Due to the provided small booklet with the CD, you easily forget to read it while being busy with the FSX Flight1 installation.
Regarding the documentation, I would like to combine the following items;
and digital Flight1 documentation or Flight1 POH (Pilot Operating Handbook),
The small paper Flight1 booklet supplied with the CD contains essential items as well as the complete checklists. Except for the cover, the content is black &white but easy to read. The digital Flight1 documentation is in one word -"great" - and is called up via the Flight One menu created during the installation process and found via the Start button.
It comes as a Microsoft HTML file format (*.CHM) and it is just 1.1Mb in size. It's very detailed with all kinds of information needed to fly this C172R in a professional way. Apart from the introduction, the manual is split into seven sections containing background airplane information, panel description, lots of performance tables and all the different checklists. Pay special attention to section six. This contains an operative weight and balance (W&B) form.
What does this mean - “operative”?
Before you fly, you would like to know if you’re not over weighted due to too many passengers with their luggage. This real working W&B calculator helps you to see and find out if it is safe to fly. Keep in mind that the calculator only works in pounds.
A last remark
concerning the documentation is section seven, sub chapter 7-7 and
you find how to operate selector knobs
for the avionics panel as well as how to control the autopilot. It’s
really important to have a look to this section, since every add-on
manufacturer has its own way of doing/operating it.
After contacting Flight1, I found out that liveries from FS2004 can also be used for the FSX model, which makes the list of liveries much longer. Although Flight1 doesn’t offer any other livery, here at AVSIM you will find a lot of liveries. See some examples below.
A last word about the Text-O-Matic manual. It explains in clear steps the procedure how to add a new paint scheme to your model. Keep in mind that the FSX Text-O-Matic looks very similar to the FS2004 version, but it’s specially designed for FSX.
If you own two monitors, just undock what you need and put them on the other monitor. But keep in mind, too many of those panels could slightly reduce your FPS. Although I haven’t noticed it, it also depends on your own system and graphics card. When looking close at those sub-panels, I’m amazed by the details and sharpness of the levers, and switches etc, like on the throttle panel or elevator trim panel.
Believe me; it really looks like it does in real life!
I locked the system at 25FPS and let’s say, it was somewhere between 23-25FPS. Of course, it also depends on the settings and tweaks on FSX. I did no tweaks and restored every “display setting’ to default. The pictures from the test flight were made under Windows XP and not under Vista. The reason for this is that the nVidia driver is not yet optimum for my system, which also reflects bad behavior under FS2004 and FSX.
Virtual Cockpit (VC)
Probably not every real C172 sounds exactly the same and over the years, engines are modified or even replaced by different models depending on their needs. But I can tell you from real experience that the Flight1 C172R sounds like real!
The only thing that is missing is the engine vibration but you never know, probably within 10 years Microsoft may be able to simulate vibration while sitting in the cockpit or flight deck. What you could do for the time being is place your subwoofer on your desktop, that will surely simulate some vibration as you are sitting and enjoying in the cockpit.
The cockpit interior sound level is, with a subwoofer available, very realistic. In real, with an average of 2200 engine RPM, you still hear the true engine sounds in your headset and that’s also the case with this Flight1 model.
Flight Impressions (Aircraft Dynamics)
Before doing anything, it important to mention that we have to decide what kind of aircraft flight dynamics we want to have. Open the Configuration Manager and click either for a stable configuration or a more spinable dynamic.
OK, let’s have a quick look while doing our walk-around check. It’s amazing how detailed the wheels, fixed gear struts, wings, fuselage body and tail look. Text written on the aircraft, even during a close-up inspection, is very good, not to mention the rivets all over the fuselage.
Due to the size of the airplane, we are quickly finished since we have only limited access to certain panels like the fuel cap on top of the wing or engine cowlings, except then for the doors and luggage panel. If such an option is important, that's dependant on the user himself. Some like to open all kind of panels and see what is behind them. It's nice and gives a very realistic view but it means a lot more programming to simulate how something looks behind that panel.
Once we’re finished the walk around, we jump into the aircraft. Put your belts on and take out the checklist. Either you do it via a paper version or you can call it up from the Panel Manager by clicking on the checklist icon.
Our test flight starts at Kissimmee Gateway airport (KISM) in Florida and ends here as well. While in this region, we will not just fly around, no, we will see the behavior of the aircraft when we do special exercises like a slow flight with and without flaps, POWER OFF STALLs, spins, steep turns and so on. The idea of those exercises is to see if the simulated Flight1 model offers real characteristics compared to the original model, as far as possible of course.
One thing in the VC configuration that really disappoints me is the lack of the green windows in general. The propeller rotation is very well simulated as well as the different power “sound” settings, but in the VC there is nothing in front of us, no green shaded color or anything in that direction. The other thing that disappoints me is the side view and aft cabin view while in the 2D configuration. After consulting Flight1, is seems that Microsoft changed their policy from photographic options to VC look panel views. Just to give you an idea, see the details in the pictures below and judge for yourself!
The different side and aft views in the FS2004 version are of a high photo quality, while this is completely missing in the FSX version. When you fly the FS2004 version with add-on scenery installed for this area, you really have the sensation of a superb flight sim experience. The screenshots are self explanatory; however in the FSX version you don’t have those, but what was written above is due to the Microsoft designers and we cannot blame Flight1 for that.
Ok, let’s continue with our test flight in the Sunshine State of the US. In the meantime, we have reached 3000 feet and are flying on a heading of 330°. We reduce the power to 2200 RPM and keep the speed at around 100 knots. Let’s first enjoy the outside view and yes, we will simulate our first practice, a slow flight without flaps.
Let’s have a look how the Flight1 C172 performs during a slow flight with flaps. There’s not much difference except that the flaps are fully extended. Thinking back to my own PPL lessons, this is really super. The only thing apart of the vibration which is missing, is the wind sound but when we forget that, the feeling is very realistic.
One other trick to do, since this is difficult to simulate, is a full stall and then watch the aircraft behavior when the airflow is no longer able to keep us in the air, thus a spin (when you go too far)! Therefore, the aircraft dynamics can be adjusted to a more “unstable" or "real” performance during this simulation.
Ok, let’s simulate a full stall without flaps.
The only question for you, is do you want to do this? I don’t know, but what I do know is that the simulation of this critical part is very well simulated.
With a lot of sweat in our hands, let’s go back to our intended 3000 feet and let’s enjoy the outside view of this part of Florida. In the mean time, we can think back to our practices and conclude that the aircraft aerodynamics are very well simulated. The possibility to adjust the spinable feature is really great although not everybody will use it.
While we plan to fly to the east coast of Florida, just 30 minutes from here, we make it a little easier for ourselves by connecting the Auto Pilot. We connect for an altitude of 3000 feet, so no VS entry is needed while flying a heading of 90°. Simple click the HDG knob on the AP panel of the radio stack and the current heading is locked (ROLL indication) or click a second time for HDG HOLD. In this configuration, the AP HDG follows the HDG bug on the indicator.
Keep in mind that this requires a different approach when comparing it with the default FSX C172, but you have the Flight1 manual to figure out all those differences. I should mention, forget the default C172 as this Flight1 version is like the real model and needs to be handled as the real model and not the simplified version from Microsoft itself.
In the mean time, we’ve reached the coastline so a double practice is left; S-turns along the coastline and then above the sea, steep turns. I doubt that this Flight1 model will not behave as we may expect, but we want to be sure how it will do and if the pilot can survive this.
We’ve passed the coastline heading to the open sea. Don ’t worry, we'll only go 1-2 miles out!
Before returning to Kissimmee Gateway, we fly towards the coastline and the moment we pass the beach, we start with our S-turns. It’s not that much different then a steep turn, except we only turn 180° in either direction and maintain a normal bank angle. I can accept it, the aircraft performs well within limits and even in VC mode it’s very realistic since we need to look outside when we turn in the other direction.
Completely exhausted from all these special performances I think we can conclude that the Flight1 C172R Skyhawk dynamics are very realistic and worth the money for this model.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Finally there’s always the question, is it worth the money?
Ok, let’s put a few things together. Flight1 offers you the FS2004 and FSX model for one price, which is not always true with others. Sometimes you can buy an FSX upgrade, while with other add-on designers you need to buy a complete new FSX product, for example the upcoming PMDG 737NG.
With Flight1 they even go further; when you bought the FS2004 C172R Skyhawk, you can download the FSX model via their website and use your original key which was needed for activate the FS2004 model, but now for FSX.
You get a good and very realistic model with highly detailed 2D and VC panels, including an excellent exterior model and few things like opening panels. But more important, you get sounds and flight characteristics that are very close to the real C172 Skyhawk model. Since there is no other add-on C172 to compare with, I still think this Flight1 model is worth the money.
The item that disappoints me the most is the lack of details from the VC cabin interior. Today standards and technology should make it possible to create a more realistic image of the seat's leather (if applicable), and wall and ceiling panels as well.
Despite this remark, it’s still worth purchasing even though you will spend some time looking around for other paint schemes.
What I Like About The Cessna Skyhawk 172R
What I Don't Like About The The Cessna Skyhawk 172R
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