The Cessna 152 is to flying, what "Janet and John" is to reading. It's how we all learnt. Whether we are 747 captains, aerobatic champions, or just plain weekend pilots, if we have been through a civilian flying school, we will have met the famous "Spamcan" in those early hours. Not young, not pretty, certainly not fast, but a rugged and forgiving plane that suffered our clumsy nose-first landings with the same patience as the family dog put up with our toddler torments.
Flight 1 have created a virtual replica of the most famous training aircraft of all time, and one of the most inexpensive light aircraft for personal use. Sadly it has gone out of production. However there are still over 20,000 of them flying worldwide, with a large owners' club. It is a good aircraft to model, simply because it is so popular in real life. Not only that, it can potentially be a good training aid (but of course with all those legal caveats about "not for real world aviation"). Certainly, when I was learning to fly, I would have benefited from having some virtual practice on a 152 in between real lessons. With UK flying lessons at $150 an hour, you can easily spend $2-3 during the engine checks just looking for the vacuum gauge!
Installation & Documentation
Installation is by download or CD-ROM. The download procedure involves the Flight 1 Software Wrapper method. Purchase with a credit card results in a key file being mailed to the customer; this key then "unlocks" the separately-downloaded package, and installation proceeds from there. The product works with both FS2002 and 2004. If the installation routine detects both versions on your machine, it will install to FS2004 by default. However you can manually intervene, to install to FS2002 instead, if you wish.
Documentation is a "Cessna 152 Orientation Manual", that is a clear, well-written guide to finding your way around the virtual aircraft and using the Configuration Manager and Text-O-Matic utilities. (The Configuration Manager allows you to set things like night lighting colour. Text-O-Matic is an updated version of this Flight 1 utility that allows repaints to be created.)
Support consists of FAQ's on the Flight 1 web site, a Support Forum, and an email facility for specific requests such as lost keys.
The aircraft is accessed via the Aircraft menu, thence "Flight One Software". (OK, time for a small niggle here. The menu says "Aircraft Manufacturer", not "Software Manufacturer". The aircraft manufacturer is Cessna. Flight 1 make software, not aeroplanes. Flight 1 aren't the only ones to do this, but it's a marketing ploy I find irritating. In a year's time, when I go looking for the 152 under "Cessna", I won't find it, grumble "I'm sure I installed it", and blame my defective memory on advancing years.) Anyway, having located it, there is now a choice of male or female left-seat pilot, which is nice. The initial choice of liveries is the same as for the Ford Model T. However the Text-O-Matic utility makes it easy to create repaints. A search of the AVSIM file library will reveal a number of variations for free download.
The exterior detail is very clean and smart, so this is obviously some private owner's pride and joy, not a training workhorse. Approaching close to the aircraft, the detail is well-rendered, with lines of rivets, panelling, and rust smears from the flap hinges all visible. The Fowler flaps themselves, for me the best piece of engineering on the 152, are very well done, and it is possible to see the "slot" they create between flap and wing when fully extended.
The 152 comes with nicely-crafted photorealistic 2D and VC panels. My only criticism is that the aircraft nose beyond the windscreen looks like a smear of red paint, and detracts from the overall appearance; some basic shading would have improved it considerably. The 2D panels can switch between left-seat and right-seat views, with a simple mouse-click at the top of the glareshield. There are the standard FS2004 SimIcons, plus a special one to bring up the ADF gauge. Gauges and switches were easy to read on my 18" display, and are reasonably intuitive to operate with the mouse pointer. For greater clarity, many of the gauges will show a digital readout when left-clicked. A very useful feature was the ability to make a gauge "disappear" with a right-click; this is ideal for so-called "Partial Panel" practice, when failure of various instruments is simulated; in real life, an instructor will cover them up with a rubber disc.
The instrument and avionics layout is exactly what you will see when you go and sit in your nearest training Cessna 152 - there will be absolutely no surprises. I just wish that I could have used a virtual 152 when I was training, especially for cockpit familiarisation and going through the checklist; I could have saved myself many pounds! As with the most real 152's, there is no autopilot, but when properly trimmed this is a very stable hands-off aircraft. A departure from real life is the absence of a fuel lever, but I've only ever seen them in the "On" position, and suspect they are all rusted open. Clicking on the Glove Box door will open it, revealing a dog-eared manual. In my experience, there's always the instructor's empty McDonalds carton in there - perhaps someone could develop a freeware addon for that!
The virtual cockpit is the same high quality as the 2D panels. The cabin of a 152 is cramped, and the VC does convey that feeling of "being there". It's a combination of claustrophobia and agrophobia - cheek-by-jowl with a large instructor who follows the McDonald's Diet, and on your left, all that's between you and the outside world is a rather flimsy door with a dodgy lock.
The sounds are excellent, and much more convincing than the default 172. There's the throaty, tractor-like sound of the engine at low revs, a voice that says "Clear Prop!" when you start the engine, and the sound of gyros spinning up and down when the electrics are switched on and off.
Flying the Cessna 152
Nobody would buy this virtual aircraft for its blistering performance. On a good day, it will climb at 500 feet/minute and, once level, chug along at 90 knots. That's why it's a good training aircraft. It doesn't "get ahead of the pilot", it allows him time to think. People will buy this aircraft because they want to practice at home what they have learnt at flying school, or else just experience the most popular and forgiving of training aircraft.
I therefore concentrated on the realism of this aircraft's performance. Is it so "true to life" that it behaves just like the real aircraft you used earlier in the week? Do the checklists and procedures work in the same way? Does it "follow the numbers" - in other words, lift off at the same speed, stall at the same speed? Does it have the same "feel"? Unlike 98% of the virtual aircraft I have flown, I do feel qualified to answer these questions, having spent many many hours in 152's in all weathers and situations. And the answer, subject as always to the limitations of a computer simulation, is a definite "Yes".
When starting, there is a working fuel primer to operate. Switching the key to start, your co-pilot calls out that warning. At the threshhold, the engine checks work correctly, and there is a slight RPM drop when switching to one magneto, or using carburetor heat. Once lined up on the runway, and with full throttle engaged, the 152 bounced realistically down the runway and lifted off cleanly at 60 knots. Climbing at 65 gave a climb rate of around 500 feet / minute. I levelled off at 5,000 feet, and with an RPM setting of 2100, the speed gradually crept up to 90 knots.
Time to check out the Stall and Spin, those favorite exercises for all student pilots! With full flaps, I pulled the throttle back and kept back pressure on the yoke to maintain level flight. Soon the nose was pointing up in the air, and the controls felt that they had turned to elastic. The stall came at 32 knots, slightly lower than the book figure of 35 knots, but close enough for realism. Repeating the exercise, and kicking the rudder at the point of stall, I tried to induce a Spin. Unfortunately all I got was a tight spiral dive. However this is a common failing of most aircraft in FS2004, and twisting down towards earth is still a close enough experience to the real thing.
Heading back to the airfield, I lined up with the runway at around 55 knots and 30 degree flaps, and once again the flare and landing felt and behaved as I would expect.
Overall, the flight model has obviously taken a lot of care and attention, and this virtual Cessna 152 acts as you would expect the real thing to do.
On my set-up I have most sliders to the right, and 100% traffic. I saw no difference in frame rates between the Flight 1 Cessna 152 and the default Cessna 172.
Reviewing this product took me back to those distant days as a student pilot. Sitting in front of that panel, hearing those familiar noises, flying a plane that behaves just like the original, it could have been the real thing. If this had been around when I was a student pilot, I would have practiced on it endlessly, and saved myself some hours and many pounds.
Flight 1's Cessna 152 is not innovative in the way that some new products are, and does not push the boundaries of simulation technology. However it is a very accurate recreation of the famous 152, and its rating is well-deserved. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to develop their virtual flying skills in this most popular of aircraft.
*To buy this aircraft package, go to Flight 1
(Airport scenery by UK2000 Scenery)
|What I Like About the Flight 1 Cessna 152|
Excellent visual appearance and panels
|What I Don't Like About the Flight 1 Cessna 152|
One or two minor niggles, nothing serious
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