Review by Ray Marshall. Folks, this is it. This is the one we have all been eagerly awaiting. There may be other Cessna Skyhawks one day soon, but, this one falls into the here and now category and it is even better than expected.
In work for more than a year by one of the most qualified teams in the business it is based on a specific real world Cessna that has been videotaped and sound recorded in HD for direct comparison. This extraordinary team includes 15 pilots all of which have Cessna 172 flying experience. A few weeks prior to the official release of the C172 Trainer, Scott Gentile, who is also a pilot, ran the test flight program and posted a couple of YouTube videos to show off some of the more innovative features. Several additional feature specific videos are in work to be used as short tutorials to clarify certain aspects of the airplane operation.
This is not a simple FSX/P3D add on, this is a full blown simulation both in the air and on the ground. You can spend as much or more time on the tarmac and in the maintenance hangar as you do flying the pattern or on cross country flights. Using their Accu-Sim engines and accumulated system knowledge obtained designing and building complex warbirds, A2A has designed something special for the broad base of flight simmers.
Practically everyone recognizes a high wing Cessna, whether it is our R model Skyhawk, or its big bother Cessna 182 Skylane or maybe the smaller Cessna 150/152. More pilots have trained in Cessnas than all other makes and models put together. Even those that learned to fly in one of the low-wing trainers probably have some logged flight time in a C172. With more than 60,000 Skyhawks out there someplace, with production starting in 1956 and continuing almost non-stop it is no wonder A2A chose this particular one for their general aviation Trainer debut.
This C172 Trainer will amaze you with innovative features like the preflight walk-around, a first for FSX. Those not familiar with Accu-sim are in for a real boost toward reality and almost unbelievably realistic flight characteristics, sounds and eye-popping surprises.
Not every feature is new to FSX, but many are, and most are improved from previous models. The Accu-sim core program is being constantly updated from many sources and the Trainer is constantly being updated, even in-between formal updates. The A2A forum is open to everyone, even those that have not purchased any A2A simulations so you can read and see what is going on daily. Further, all A2A Simulation models are backed by a pledge for your happiness or you can request a refund. Even more astounding is that they have chosen not to use any intrusive copy protection schemes that impede your installation and enjoyment.
I recently wrote the AVSIM review of the A2A P-51 Mustangs, both Military and Civilian models, so I am already familiar with the A2A management team and Accu-Sim. Why don’t you read what I thought about it in that review here and I won’t have to repeat it. For those in a hurry to get the end of this one, suffice to say Accu-sim is on the leading edge of simulated reality and a large cut above most of the competitors.
You can also read about how Scott Gentile took Shockwave Productions from a one-man startup company to the leader of FSX Warbird Simulations in ten short years with an early name change to A2A Simulations. Not just military aircraft as the A2A Piper Cub is still near the front of my hangar and the one on floats is moored nearby and the classic Boeing 377 Stratocruiser is something to behold. You can read my thoughts about the Cub and Accu-sim in this review. Again, for those not interested in jumping to another review, I received my real world Seaplane rating in the J-3 Cub at Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base near Orlando many years ago.
“Regarding the A2A 172. I think it’s a revelation! It’s been the only thing I’ve flown since I got it, and it has definitely retrained me back into some good habits. Like a lot of low-time pilots, the 172 is the only plane I have actual experience flying, and A2A’s version is absolutely spot-on to what I remember.”
Anyone can write a review, but it helps to have some logged hours in small Cessnas in addition to being a FSX simulator nut. I know the feel and smell and sounds of what this C172 Trainer brings to the table. It is not just the thumps, thuds, bumps, clicks, and swishes that make it seem so real, it is the fact that you now have total ownership of the Skyhawk. This simulation features a persistent airplane where systems, corrosion, and temperatures are simulated even when the computer is off, something most flight simmers have not previously witnessed but will thoroughly enjoy. You will find your next flight, or better yet, even before your next flight, you will find the aircraft the way you left it from your last flight. If you noticed a squeaky brake when taxiing from that last cross country it will still be there for this next flight.
Fortunately the Maintenance Hangar takes virtual credit cards and even Monopoly money if you choose to pay in cash for the upkeep of your new baby. I can see where those with a slant toward the mechanical side will be in hog heaven and spend most weekends in a dirty jumpsuit with grease under their fingernails. Others can simply click on ‘Complete Overhaul’ and be ready to go in minutes. You can also select or elect to have a ‘Used Trainer’ and be the instant owner of a high time aircraft if the random number comes out on the high side.
This is also where you can select a different propeller, add or remove wheel pants, and perform all sorts of checks and repairs, both minor and major. Records are kept so you will have a journal for reference. Wear and tear is the name of the game now so failures and routine maintenance actions will be an everyday part of your Skyhawk ownership.
With Accu-Sim running the engine and systems, you will see accelerated degradation should you misuse your airplane and have normal wear and tear based on flight time. This can be both visual and aural so you will also develop a keen ear for those new sounds that may be changing over time. Vibration is also a key factor in monitoring performance of the Lycoming engine. The panel vibration is not just for visual entertainment; something is causing that shake or rattle. That rough running engine with the fouled sparkplugs may be first noticed as an erratic RPM needle or maybe an abnormal magneto drop or possibly just a hard to start engine. You will learn that maybe just revving up the engine to a higher RPM will clean those fouled plugs.
Over time you will develop not just the seeing and hearing but the feeling of what is right and what is not so right. Your butt will also be checking for small changes in vibration levels and may be the first to notice a previously unnoticed thump or thud. So, in addition to a well-tuned PC system for FSX or P3D you will want a good sound system with a subwoofer and a good headset.
There has never been a better time to step up to a good yoke, throttle quadrant and rudder pedals. The large USB Cessna Trim Wheel will look and feel just like the one in the C172 Trainer panel. All my flight hardware comes from Saitek with several having the Cessna logo.
“Pilots and aircraft enthusiasts are a discerning, sensitive bunch. We’re tough to please.”
Rather than just repeating or copying charts, tables, and lists that can be found at the A2A simulations web site or found in the excellent Flight Manual or the individual avionics manuals I am going to provide links for more details and use the space for new and original screenshots and dialogue.
For those that are not yet aware of this new simulation, it is important to highlight a few of the new items or features not normally found in a FSX/P3D add on.
- It is designed for both professional pilot training and entertainment.
- Many of the parts and systems are true simulations reflecting accurate actions and reactions. Examples are a true propeller simulation, electric starter with accurate cranking power including accurate battery drain. The engine is a functionally modeled Lycoming O-360 engine – air comes in, mixes with fuel and ignites, parts move, heat builds up and all work in harmony to produce that wonderful sound we pilots are so found of hearing.
- Oil pressure is affected by oil viscosity which is affected by temperature. Now when you start the engine, you will need to pay close attention to the temperature gauges as the engine requires a proper warm-up. Sparkplugs can clog and eventually foul if you allow the engine to idle too low for too long.
- Engine, airframe, cockpit panel and individual gauges or needles tremble from the internal combustion engine. Airflow, air density and temperature not only affect the airplane performance but also how the internal systems operate.
- System failures like flaps can jam or break based on the forces you put on them during flight. The upper limits of that white band on your airspeed indicator and those speed placards now have meaning when flying this simulation.
- Authentic fuel distribution now includes proper priming and mixture behavior. The mixture can be tuned using the EGT, by ear, or by using tool tips for % mixed. Even primer-only starts are possible with Accu-Sim monitoring the fuel injection.
- The Bendix King radio and avionics stack is so authentic that links are provided for the real world manuals for proper operation.
- Dynamic ground physics for both hard pavement and grass surfaces.
- There are lots of other neat things included but I don’t want this to sound like an advertisement.
One of the newest features is user adjustable elevator force. This has been a historical irritation for those with yoke and hand controllers and the interpretation of the deflection or movement. There is a new slider in the Controls menu for the ‘Simulated Elevator Force’ used to adjust the sensitivity of elevator movement as related to yoke or controller deflection or movement.
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All FSX torque and P-factor physics has been totally removed and replaced with new physics in Accu-Sim. This should be a very welcome improvement and more realistic.
For those two or three people that may not be familiar with the Cessna Skyhawk, I will state that it is a high-wing, four-seat, propeller-driven, tricycle fixed-gear with good range, good economy, easy to fly airplane that is ideal for basic flight and instrument training. All seats provide very good visibility both on the ground and in the air, and are comfortable for a flight of a few hours. This airplane has never been confused with or even compared to the higher performance constant-speed prop, retractable gear planes. This one will always be flown lower and slower but will be reliable and safe provided you observe the speed limitations, don’t exceed the passenger and baggage weight limits or the CG envelope and for goodness sakes don’t ever run out of gas.
The A2A C172 Trainer comes with three repaints: A typical American trainer, a typical European Trainer and a Civil Air Patrol. Fortunately, it comes with an excellent free paint kit and new paints are arriving daily. Many reflecting nostalgic paint schemes similar to the ones used for primary flight training many years ago as best remembered by the new owners.
It also comes with a full Bendix King avionics stack including the KMA 26 Audio Panel, two KX 155A NAV/COMMS, KR 87 ADF, KT 76C Transponder, KN 62A DME, and KAP 140 Two Axis Autopilot with altitude pre-selection. Three configurations including no GPS, GPS 295, or the GNS 400 and built-in, one-click automatic support for Reality XP GNS 430 and 530 are available.
The panel of A2A C172 Trainer is a dead ringer for the FSX default Cessna 172SP. This is because both simulations properly reflect the real world model. I have always thought the visual model found in FSX was one of the better models. Once you get a little closer to the A2A C172 Trainer you will immediately note there is no longer any comparison between the two.
If the pre-flight walk-around doesn’t convince you that you are in the presence of something new and truly fantastic, then the engine startup surely will.
A good start for any new owner would be to at least browse the excellent 102 page Pilot’s Manual. This begins with a nice pictorial history of the early Cessna 120/140 tail draggers that were knockoffs of the Luscombe 8a. These grew into the Cessna 170 and 180 and were very popular in the early to mid ‘50s
Competitor Piper Aircraft was having great success with their tricycle gear PA-22 Tri-Pacer, an unattractive stubby looking airplane introduced in 1951. Clyde Cessna saw the writing on the wall and secretly organized a team to counter the Tri-Pacer. This would be the C-170A with Land-O-Matic (tricycle) landing gear and ‘barn door Flowler flaps’ dubbed Para-Lift Flaps with a newly undated model number – the Cessna 172.
Early media promotions touted the C-172 as an alternate to the family car. Later models added the now common swept tail and the full glass wrap-around view, more power, fuel injection, electric flaps, nicer interior, better panels and instruments, upgraded radios, floats, etc. The Skyhawk name was first used in 1961 on an upscale model, eventually all models were called Skyhawks.
For a slight diversion, jump over and read and feast on some great shots of a fully restored 1957 C172. Good abbreviated history also.
In 1980 the 172RG ‘Cutlass’ was introduced and looked like a small version of the ever popular Cessna 210 with the clean underbelly. With the gear sucked up and a constant speed prop pulling the Lycoming 180 hp engine it only managed a meager 20 knot increase in cruise speed. Although not a superior performer for the value, the RG did meet the criteria for a complex aircraft for flight schools to meet the Commercial Pilot’s Certificate requirements.
Things were humming along in the mid-80s when the mostly unemployed, ambulance chasing lawyers finally broke the camel’s back with their ‘We can sue anyone for any reason and get you lots of money after we take our cut’ attitude. A few landmark product liability suits basically put the entire U.S. general aviation business out of business for about 10 years. In 1994 then President Clinton signed the General Aviation Revitalization Act which limited the manufacturer’s liability for light GA airplane accidents and Cessna immediately cranked up the production line.
A year later the Cessna 172R model arrived with a larger, fuel-injected Lycoming derated to 160 hp making it quieter and more fuel efficient than the previous P model. This one had a spiffy new interior with upgraded seats, a new ventilation system, 4 –seat intercom, upgraded radios and GPS, and lots of soundproofing. Larger fuel tanks, dual vacuum pumps, tinted windows, easy to read backlit instruments and a systems annunciator panel rounded out the upgrades.
Which new feature really stands out in the A2A C172 Trainer?
I think it is the new Pre-Flight Inspection – a virtual walk-around from within the flight simulator. As an old retired flight instructor, I can really appreciate this ambitious new feature. You can now, more than ever, visually see the state and condition of the airplane. You can check for water in the fuel, inspect various hinges, check the oil, tires, and even wiggle the flaps by hand to see how secure they are.
A2A’s comment is that this walk around system is so complete, that you could hand this product to a future pilot who has never even gotten close to a Cessna 172 and a week later, ask him or her to perform a pre-flight inspection on the real aircraft. The result would be a person with a solid understanding of what parts and systems need to be checked and why, and this would have all been learned without realizing it since it was, in this case, interactive and fun.
A tutorial for the walk-around has already been posted in the forums by one of the early purchasers to aid those non-pilot types that may not know what they are looking for or what may be good or bad when they look at a hinge or cotter pin.
During my first ‘virtual walk-around pre-fight inspection’ of the Trainer I was amazed at how simple, but yet, how comprehensive the inspection was being performed. When I came to the ‘flap wiggle’ I almost wet my pants. This ranks up there with my first witnessed bug splat in the Flight1 Cessna 182 and my first accelerated stall in the RealAir Legacy and my first takeoff in the Volair simulator. All of these are in the game-changer category for me.
A visit to the Maintenance Hangar (Shft+7) should be on your indoctrination list. Here you can add or remove wheel fairings (Main and/or nose), change propellers (neat), add flap seals (something new for me), explore different batteries and tires, select the engine heater for those cold places (brrr), work on the engine and check the installed Airframe, Engine and Prop specs along with the latest Mechanics Report and Notes.
You can even change the oil and filter as the used oil starts changing color and getting thicker. A2A recommends changing the oil at 25 hours if you are an occasional flyer and changing the filter at 50 hours.
Each new owner will likely have a different feature as their favorite. The enhanced sounds ranks up near the top also.
Quick Start Guide
Should you be in a great hurry to get going start on page 25 of the free downloadable Pilot’s Manual and scan the extensive List of Features. The next 3 pages will give you just enough information to get you airborne and some hints on how to land. Do pay attention to the Realism Settings for FSX making sure all sliders are full right and the proper boxes do or do not have the checkmark. Special attention is called to the unchecked auto-mixture and auto-rudder boxes.
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The next 15 pages cover the Accu-Sim way of doing things and how it works with the combustion engine and how propellers work. The R model specs start on page 45 with some of the most comprehensive specs for any FSX airplane.
Keep in mind the C172 Trainer’s Max Takeoff Weight is 2,450 pounds, the Standard Empty Weight is 1,639 leaving 818 pounds to divide among the useable fuel, pilot and passengers and baggage. Do the math. Full fuel is 53 gallons x 6.5 lbs/gal leaving 474 pounds available for 4 people and baggage. Kind of sounds like it should be a 2+ place aircraft to me.
Coming the other way: A standard weight pilot and one passenger weighing a measly 170 lbs each with a couple of children in the backseats weighing 90 lbs each and NO baggage leaves you overgrossed by 45 pounds. Add a hot day, short field with tall trees at the end of the runway and you have a disaster waiting. Fortunately, this is only a simulation, but, if you want to keep it as real as it gets, use those charts and graphs for your preflight calculations.
Most of the Normal Operations, starting on page 48, followed by some nice checklists and detailed procedures should be where you spend your time as you are learning or relearning how to care for your new plane and how to safely fly it. Performance charts and emergency procedures follow then beginning on page 78 you get a really well written and fully illustrated description of the airplane and systems. This chapter is worth reading 3 or 4 times. The balance of the Pilot’s Guide is devoted to explaining the handling, service and maintenance. This is where you master the 2d panels with all the options and selections.
Hats off to Mitchell Glicksman, Matt Newton, Mark Lee and Scott Gentile for preparing this great manual.
I only have FSX/Acceleration so I can’t speak for the Prepard3D part but, it is there for you. The notes state that you will need a minimum of FSX SP2 w/win XP SP2, Vista, Win7 or Win8. A2A states the simulation was built using the SP2 SDK so using SP1 is iffy and Acceleration is not required. All the other requirements are pretty much standard stuff, see page 27 of the manual (free download prior to purchase) for the full Systems Requirements.
Depending on the timing of your purchase, you may need to visit the A2A forum and download the latest patch and then keep the installation in the proper sequence as stated in the instructions. This depends on whether or not you already have the Accu-Sim Core program already installed and up to date. The C172 Trainer is the first A2A simulation to actually come bundled with Accu-Sim. All the others require a separate purchase although you receive a small discount for the bundle.
The install file comes as a single EXE file and all the normal cautions apply as to having any protection type programs disabled during installation and having the proper Admin rights for the later versions of Windows.
Are we up and running?
Start FSX as a Free Flight and select A2A Simulations as Publisher. Most likely the first three choices will be the 3 repaints that were just installed. I suggest you select an airport with a familiar layout with plenty of parking and taxiways for your indoctrination. If like me, you will want to spend some time looking around the new Trainer, clicking on the various 2d panels and seeing some of the results. Sounds are a large part of the simulation so make sure you can hear all those clicks, swishes, clunks and thuds.
I suggest you try the Pre-Flight Walk-around (Shft+8) before taking to the air. Few flight simmers are familiar with the proper starting sequence of the fuel-injected Lycoming O-360, although they would never admit it but the Pilot’s Manual is there for reference, if needed. This startup can range from the proper mouse clicks to the use of external throttle quadrant and Switch or Multi-Panels to even the old standby CTRL-E (AutoStart is available in Shft+3). Without prior knowledge, you may not get it going on the first try. When you do get it fired up you will be rewarded with some wonderful sounds and a visual feast of smoke, bouncing needles and vibrating panels. Set your Parking Brake to On while you continue to explore.
The Controls 2D Panel, Shft+3, is loaded with the various Selections available to you. I suggest just walking through the list using the Pilot’s Manual for reference. This is where you can configure or change some of the basics to personalize your Trainer. From this panel you can select/deselect things you would want to normally remove while on the ground and performing the preflight. These are generally grouped as MISC items.
The middle of the Controls Box has the ELECTRIC selections and the Right column is labeled as LIGHTS. Several rectangular boxed near the bottom of the box is where you can experiment with the Cold and Dark, Auto-Start, Yoke/ No Yoke, etc. This is also where you can click on the USED box and have an instant high time Trainer that will immediately show the proper sign of wear and tear. This seems to be a random assignment of accumulated hours so you will want to check with the Mechanic to see the condition of the systems and components.
You can also turn On or Off the Accu-Sim Damage in the lower right. You can click on the GPS configuration box to try the No GPS, a bracket mounted GPS295 handheld unit or the panel mounted GNS400. Should you own some Reality XP units you can choose between the 430 and 530.
I have the Reality XP GNS530 and it fits like a glove in the panel with the one click. Nothing else required. Neat.
Shft+4 brings up the Payload and Fuel Manager box. This totally replaces the FSX Fuel and Payload drop down selection with interactive visual selections for individual passengers, fuel, oil, and baggage. The metric vs. imperial selection is a toggle in the lower right. This is a huge improvement over most add-ons with the choices of pilot and passengers. I would like to see more choices and even some personalized choices but this alone is a nice step forward.
Shft+5 pops us a large zoom able navigation map with a selection box for customizing. This was first introduced with the A2A J-3 Cub and has been a mainstay in all their simulations and is a very handy feature rich add-on. You are always portrayed in the center of the map. One feature that I really like is when you click on APT (Airport) all visible airports will appear with their identifier, a second click and the airport name is added, a 3rd click adds the runway elevation and longest runway length, and the 4th click adds some useful frequencies. The next click removes the airports from the map but resets the cycle as detailed.
You will want to explore the many subtle feature like Compass Rose, Distance rings, night, Airways, fixes, flight plans, etc. It is so easy to identify that airport in the distance while flying in a new area. The runway orientation is depicted to aid in the proper identification. This is also a nice way to see what airports are within say 15 or 20 miles, with or without facilities, hard surface or grass, etc.
The little Quick Radio box is also a real time saver if you don’t have tunable external Radios (Shft+6). To give it a try, right click on the active screen and right click and select Cockpit then Light Switches. Turn on the Battery side of the Master Switch and the Avionics Master (assuming you are on the ground without the engine running). Now right click again on the active screen and select the Radio Stack. Key sequence Shft+6 will activate the popup window for the Quick Radio tuning. Of course, you can unlock the small window and move it around the screen to a handy spot.
The selected Active and Standby radio frequencies are shown in the box and can be changed by right or left clicks directly on the frequency. An increment of .25 or .50 can be selected for COM1 or COM2. The ADF and Transponder can be quickly changed also. Click on the up/down Arrow box to switch the Standby Frequency and Active Frequency.
Of course, you can make all these frequency changes directly on the radios by making a mouse fist near the proper button and sliding the mouse. The programing makes good use of the center mouse wheel for many changes not just radio frequencies. Be sure to experiment with alternate methods. Links are provided to download the real world Bendix King Radio manuals.
The KAP-140 Autopilot, as modeled, is not WAAS capable, therefore LPV approaches are not available in the Trainer. Upgraded models of the KAP-140 come with WAAS support. This upgrade could be easily implemented, provided we get one of the team members' attention and ask real nice. My idea of using the C172 Trainer for instrument training requires an up-to-date WAAS capable GPS and AP. I think today’s pilot has become accustomed to the advantages of modern up-to-date navigation systems and we should not be deprived of all those new LPV approaches while flying the C172 Trainer. The Reality XP GNS series is already WAAS certified, we just need a couple of internal switches flipped by the programming team for the KAP-140 to acknowledge the glide slope while in the GPS mode.
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One of my flight sim buddies tells me he has figured out a certain sequence of button pushing while executing a GPS approach that will indeed activate the vertical glide slope and therefore enable LPV minimums. I tried several times but was unable to duplicate his efforts. I think the two of us may be using different versions (v1.03 vs. v1.022)
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So how does it fly?
My personal assessment is that A2A has a real winner on their hands. After a week or two of growing pains with some brake issues and some mysteriously vanishing VC click spots being solved for most users, they have settled down to making minor adjustments here and there and adding new bits and pieces to the simulation. The version that I initially loaded already had most of the early issues resolved (v1.022).
I have always grasped for the correct words to describe or explain the ‘feel’ of flying a simulated airplane using a desktop computer and a few hundred dollar’s worth of yokes and pedals. Many of those posting at our forums try to come off as experts and are quick to slam and blast the developers should the first edition not run absolutely perfect on their 6 year old PC using WinXP. I am just the opposite and greatly appreciate all the hard work by the development teams and beta testers and I am always willing to wait on the sideline while the inevitable early bugs are resolved. I personally think the A2A C172 is a marvelous simulation and will be even better as the team has the time to work on some improvements.
The A2A Management is already on record as stating they are and will continue to be ‘Customer Focused’ and will work to solve any and all problems with their Accu-Sim based simulations. They recently changed from the standard periodic SP updates with the accumulated fixes to smaller and more frequent ‘hot fixes’ in order to get the revised programming in the hands of the user more quickly. This change is evidently very well received as evidenced by the happy users posting on the A2A forums.
I think the words I would use to describe my experiences flying the A2A C172 Trainer would be the same words I use to describe flying a real world Cessna 172. Remember, the Skyhawk is not a complicated, high-performance airplane. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite. It was designed and built to be a simple, stable, safe, family airplane and it continues in that same tradition today. The fact that the Skyhawk is by far the most popular airplane of all time supports these comments.
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Any list you should happen to find will have the Cessna 172 near the top if not at the top in ratings for economy, safety, reliability, etc. Insurance companies love the Skyhawk, Flying Schools love the Skyhawk, all those thousands and thousands of owners love the Skyhawk, and mostly for all the same reasons – it is predicable, simple, easy to fly, slow enough that you can usually get out of trouble, fast enough to get you there the same day you took off and will not break the bank.
I looked up a few of the NTSB historical charts to see that Cessna as a company has the safest airplanes of all the major airplane builders. The Cessna 172 holds the last spot on the engine failure list, meaning it is the least likely to experience an engine failure in flight. As for in-flight airframe failures, only the little brother Cessna 150 is safer with the C172 in the number two position. All the other charts have the Skyhawk rated in the top 10% or bottom 10% depending on how the numbers are compiled.
I guess the Insurance Carriers say it best with these statements: “Insuring the Cessna 172 is easy, as there are no real secrets to them. They are reliable, easy to fly, and replacement parts are available everywhere” and “We feel very comfortable about insuring low time pilots in the 172 because the Skyhawk makes flying a family affair, and that generally makes for safer flying.”
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A2A has already stated the C172 Trainer is their most popular simulation ever so it looks like we will be able to follow tradition and talk real world Cessna 172 and A2A Cessna 172 hangar talk as one in the same. You can elect to use the Cessna published POH for the 172R and use the Bendix King avionics manuals to operate the real aircraft or the A2A simulation or use the provided Pilot’s Manual. Kind of seems like one in the same to me.
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OK. Back to how does it fly?
She flies very nice. Stable, predictable, smooth, easy to handle, comfortable. Am I taking about the real one or the A2A C172 Trainer? Yes.
The Shft+2 2d box contains some handy notes, speeds and limitations and some small abbreviated checklist for the various phases of flight. This makes it easy to pop-up and review prior to climbs or descents while you are still learning the speeds.
I would like to briefly discuss one of the forum topics that caught my eye last evening. One of our experts was complaining that the C172 Trainer did not have enough rudder authority and was not properly designed for crosswind landings. Using his own personal flying technique, that who knows where he may have learned, he had great difficulty holding position against the crosswind, ran out of rudder control way too early, and floated above the runway for way too long before landing with a thud in the last 3rd of the available runway.
A few other, would-be’s, wanna-be’s, and other aerodynamic experts chimed in and agreed and stated they were having the exact same problems or similar problems maintaining control in the crosswind landings.
Speaking only as an old retired flight instructor with several thousand logged hours in Cessna 150s, 172s, 182s, 177s, 210s and a few hundred more in the O-1a Birddog, I see it from a much simpler point of view. I taught students to crab into the wind to hold position with the center line of the runway and depending on the severity of the crosswind to gradually transition to the low wing into the wind method when they were sure they had the runway made in case of engine failure, then to use enough rudder to align the aircraft with the runway prior to touchdown while maintaining the proper airspeed for the conditions. Nothing any more complicated than that.
The key thought is the airplane absolutely must be aligned with the runway at touchdown if you ever want to fly with me again or fly one of my airplanes. Not one of my students ever ground looped one of those Cessnas, never damaged the landing gear, and never made a fool of themselves. (Of course, we did not have forums back then.) BTW, I have never came close or even thought of running out of rudder either in any real world Cessna 172 or the A2a C172 Trainer.
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I have always considered the Cessna 172 Skyhawk as just a slightly larger Cessna 150 with a backseat or a slightly smaller Cessna 182 Skylane or a smaller Cessna 210 with fixed gear or a really docile version of the Birddog with more instruments, radios and a yoke. I don’t remember having any problems with crosswind landing in any of them or any problem floating way too long or ever running out of rudder authority. Each of these Cessna models are quite different and the power loading, panel layout and flight characteristics are sufficiently different to require a pilot that flies the different models often to pay special attention to those differences.
When I was a flight student I commuted from Titusville, Florida to Daytona Beach when I was training in an Apache for my Multi-engine rating and later flying the DC-3 for a type rating. I use one of my Cessna 150s for the commute. Can you imagine how simple that Cessna Trainer was after climbing out of an old, run-down DC-3 for the flight back home? I think that is why it is not uncommon for an airline pilot to have a J-3 cub for a personal airplane.
I have a lot less hours flying the A2A C172 Trainer, but it looks like nothing will change – crosswind landings are a breeze, no problem floating, and I am yet to run out of rudder authority. As a matter of fact, there is nothing that I dislike about the C172 Trainer. Once I settle down at cruise altitude, I always seem to wish it was another 10 or 20 knots faster but then again, it’s a Trainer not a cross country airplane. It just seems do a lot of things right and does not have any faults. Give me a clean, smooth running Skyhawk to practice pattern work, fly instrument approaches and just build flight time and I’m happy. Thanks Scott.
I hear a totally revamped RealAir Piston Duke is slated for reintroduction as v2 any day now. That should keep me occupied when I have an urge for a cross country flight.
Mostly due to the power loading, the real C172 requires a special touch with the trim wheel when leveling off for cruise. It seems slow to accelerate from climb speed to cruise speed and wants to keep climbing while you continue adjusting the trim until everything settles down. Many pilots just climb 100 or 200 feet above their desired cruise altitude, lower the nose and let the speed build up as they level off. The old joke goes like this. How long does it take a student to learn to properly trim a Cessna 172 for cruise? Answer: 40 hours.
Some thoughts about flying the Cessna 172
As I stated earlier, I tend to think of the Skyhawk as a roomy 2-place airplane with plenty of space for baggage. That way the performance seems closer to the POH graphs and charts and chances are I won’t be sneaking up on the Max Gross Weight and violations of the CG envelope with full fuel. Most of my flight time was with the two front seats occupied, totally empty back seats, no baggage and starting the day with full fuel. Occasionally, I would have an observer in the back seat, usually one of my instrument rating students along for the ride.
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I remember practicing the commercial pilot license maneuvers in a Skyhawk in Central Florida. Chandelles, Lazy eights, Eights on pylons, steep turns, and power on stalls were an absolute breeze. I used my GI Bill benefits to pay for a Commercial, Multi, Instrument and DC-3 Type Rating. I thought at the time that it couldn’t get any better than this. I chose a flight school in Orlando for my Commercial that was strictly Cessnas and although I lived 50 miles away, taking a new Skyhawk home for a week at a time was no problem back then. I just wanted to log flight time. I jumped over to a Piper school in Daytona Beach for the Multi and Heavy Type rating.
Back to the Simulation
I updated my A2A C172 Trainer to the 1.03 version last night and took it up today for some nostalgic commercial certificate practice. I started with slow flight by easing the power back until one wing or the other would drop then I would gradually bring the power back in. After a few minutes of this, I tried some more aggressive power-on stalls, then some full-flap stalls, and before you know it I was back in the Florida swamps doing Lazy eights and Chandelles. As much as I can remember, flying the A2A C172 Trainer is no different than flying the real ones based at Herndon Airport in Orlando all those years ago. The sounds, except for the Lycoming vs. Continental engines, are practically the same, the feel, as such, is spot on. I just wish they could add a couple of simulated G’s. Maybe that will be in a future update.
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Back to the airport for a few landings. Touchdown was always one of my specialties. I could grease anything with wings on to a runway and get a kiss from the tires almost every time. No surprises here either. The A2A C172 Trainer is just as predictable as I remember the real world version. Same speeds, same attitude, same sounds, and same kiss.
How about all those additional repaints I see in these screenshots?
All are available, and all are free. Using the A2A provided paint kit, repainters all over the world are working day and night adding to the inventory of free C172 Trainer repaints. Many of these are from first-time painters. Imagine that. Some of our mainstay repainters are already in the double-digits of gorgeous repaints uploaded to our AVSIM Library or at various drop boxes with images and links at the A2A forums. Most of those N numbers ending in RM were at my request and I think they are absolutely knock-your-socks-off gorgeous.
The good thing about having a 50 year old model is there are probably an unlimited number of paint schemes and somebody, somewhere can reproduce one for you, and maybe even a custom interior and personalized registration number – real or fictional – it matters not. I personally prefer the light blues and burgundy colors.
The C172 Trainer could easily become the most popular repaint in all of general aviation repaints. I could see several hundred available before the next A2A Simulation is completed.
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Every time I check the A2ASimulations forum for the latest scoop on the C172 Trainer I see where a few more new repaints images have been posted. The most recent to catch my eye was a US Coast Guard scheme by trucker17. I was also pleased to see Al Heline, Al FR-153, has posted download links for 3 new leather interiors with the A2A logo prominently displayed of the seat backs. Thanks Al.
Many of the screenshots that Soya captured while vacationing at the Isle of Man features special repaints that were generously made for the author by ‘Skyhawk’, my Norwegian friend that also answers to Gunnar van der Meeren. Gunnar doesn’t just paint an airplane, he researches the images for accuracy and usually adds an original matching interior to keep it historically correct. Tusen Takk, Skyhawk.
Night Flying in the C172 Trainer
When the sun goes down and it is sufficiently dark enough to require manmade lights in order to see around the airplane and to actually fly you are in a totally different environment. The new high intensity taxi and landing lights mounted on the leading edge of the left wing are truly bright and do indeed light up the countryside on climb out or approach to a landing.
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The panel and instrument lights are more at the discretion of the individual pilots. Some like a dark cockpit, other like to light up the cabin and most are somewhere in between. Fortunately, everyone can be happy with the lighting package for the C172 Trainer.
Some of the really nifty features
There are so many, and I probably have only discovered a few but, the Maintenance Hangar just keeps me coming back for more. Forgetting reality for an instant, I enjoy overriding the intent and clicking on the red bar so I can view the various changes while in the air. Like when you change the prop, the sounds change and the RPM gauge and settings change, in additional to any visual differences. The Flap Seals are fun to click on and off while viewing from underneath the aircraft. That has always been a very large gap to disturb the smooth air flowing under the wing.
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Enabling the Flap Seals and adding the wheel covers may assist you in squeezing out an extra knot or two of cruise speed, but, just keep in mind the C172 was never intended as a high speed cross country airplane.
I checked to see if the open window is also open from the outside view and yes it is. Be sure to check out the headphones – visuals and sounds. There are just so many little things that we have not seen or even thought about in FSX to explore with this simulation.
“Maybe someone will start a ‘bucket list’ of things you should do with the A2A C172 Trainer before you move on.”
The 2D popup Controls Box, Shft+3, will also keep you entertained. I recommend you try each and every click, box, selection, slider, etc.
Someone posted a comment on the forum that making changes while in flight may be a contributing factor to the loss of VC click spots. Could be, but I am yet to experience the click spot problem that a few users are having.
Incompatibility with some Saitek hardware
I know the external cockpit groups and those using the Saitek Flight Instrument Panels (FIPs) were disappointed to discover the A2A C172 Trainer with Accu-Sim is not compatible with their Mad Catz/Saitek hardware. This results in about half the FIP gauges having erroneous readings. There is not a clear explanation of why some work correctly and some don’t. The culprits are the RPM, Manifold Pressure, Fuel Flow, EGT and Oil Temp gauges. The ones that seem to be compatible are the altimeter, airspeed, Vertical Speed and Directional Gyro. Having two gauges that read completely different RPM is disconcerting at best, and the error is not linear. You know the old adage of having two clocks – you never know for sure what time it is.
The A2A technical explanation is difficult for me to grasp as it basically blames FSX’s poor programming for the error but yet many of the FSX gauges agree exactly with the Accu-Sim gauges, others don’t. The common question seems to be what makes the RPM gauge so special that non-compatible coding has to be totally re-developed?
Speaking as one of those that has the full complement of Saitek hardware, I sure wish some bright mind would take this on as a project to resolve the differences. The short forum discussing the technical issues doesn’t present A2A’s case very well and all the Saitek FIP users are left in the dust. One post from the design team stated “.. the standard variables are constantly overwritten by FSX engine with its own, usually incorrect, calculations.” Hmmm.
I fully realize that none of our developers should be expected to coordinate their design with existing 3rd party add-ons, but I would like to hear someone go on record as to why Aerosoft, Flight1, RealAir, Milviz, and others are not experiencing these problems and they are also programming outside the FSX box so to speak.
Maybe a disclaimer should be added that at present the A2A C172 Trainer is not compatible with the Saitek FIP external hardware gauges. This could save of lot of frustration for some users and save some paperwork time for A2A.
Where are the Weight and Balance Calculations?
Weight and Balance is mentioned a few times in passing in the C172 Manual but there are no discussions or explanations, graphs or charts. Center of Gravity is not even discussed other than the defined limits in the Specfications. Cessna devotes a generous portion, actually a full chapter, of all POHs to Weight and Balance/Equipment List due to the importance that it has on aircraft performance and safety.
Designed and built to be flown “By The Book.”
A2A C172 Manual
As I mentioned earlier, the C172 Skyhawk is easily overloaded with two adults, two small children, and almost no baggage and less than full fuel. Most likely any weight condition exceeding Maximum Gross Weight will result in a center of gravity outside the allowable envelope that will severely affect elevator effectiveness and climb performance among several other things.
I think airplane Weight and Balance is sufficiently important enough to deserve its own A2A C172 Trainer pop-up and linked to the selected payload. It would be great as fuel and oil, pilot, passenger, baggage and new equipment is added or removed the W&B would reflect these calculations with total weight compared to the Max Takeoff Weight and the calculated Center of Gravity could be plotted for visual review.
Some commercially available apps exist that are specific to aircraft models. Here is a snapshot from a demo for a C172S by Gyronimo Systems. These usually require a later model iPad due to the memory intensive calculations but for about $17.00 you can get a C172R app that will increase the reality factor even more and does a whole lot more than W&B calculations.
Here is a free online Weight and Balance calculation sheet. It is for the C172S model but other than the higher gross weight it is close enough for practice and here is another free one for a C172R. Should you find a free online calculator that can be used for the C172R Trainer be sure to post a link at the forum.
Some final thoughts
I read with keen interest the list of updated features the development team rolled into this latest hot fix. I find it amazing how aggressive these guys are to make this C172 Trainer as much like the Skyhawks they are renting to cross check their work. Jump over to the open A2A forums and take a look at the list of items in this thread.
I don’t see how anyone could do any better than choosing the A2A C172 Trainer for a simulation. The rate these guys are advancing makes one wonder what they will pack into the next release. Sure, it is not perfect and there will always be room for improvements, but then it only cost 50 bucks including the Accu-Sim.
I would venture a guess that if we rated the A2A C172 Trainer against all other general aviation simulations, it would take first place when compared to the same type and category airplane. That is not to say some of the other higher performance, retractable gear, singles and twins would not come away with first prize in their category.
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I would like to see more user controls for some of the subjective features so each pilot or owner could fine tune his or her model to their personal taste. This would be like the recently added adjustable elevator force slider or maybe just a more or less or increase or decrease or a radio button selection for the runway thump and bump sounds or other items that folks would want more or less volume, action or reaction -maybe something along the lines of the Accu-Feel slider selection menu.
I have to admit that I am surprised at the number of complaints that just keep showing up in the forums. This may be perfectly normal because I usually am not privy to the nitty gritty details because most developers don’t have their forums open to the public. It just seems like the final product was not as polished and fine-tuned as some of the other A2A products and similar products from competitors. What we tend to overlook is that the vast majority are not experiencing any installation difficulties and are happily enjoying their new C172 Trainer.
A feature that is disappointingly absent and quite noticeable to me is the total lack of yoke and rudder pedals physical movement when using the autopilot. I expect some coordinated yoke and elevator movement when airborne and I move the trim tab either up or down or I when select a new heading I expect to see an instant turn to that heading with the accompanying yoke and pedal deflection. The airplane as a whole reacts properly to the autopilot inputs but the yoke, ailerons, elevator and rudder are frozen. This appears very odd for such an otherwise realistic simulation.
The development team is continuing to add features with functional Accu-Sim circuit breakers high on the list, along with fine tuning the p-factor, flight physics, ground handling, and tweaking some of the sounds and who knows what else they may be working on for us.
A2ASim’s new method of mini hot fixes and incremental updates is masterful in my opinion. If you are waiting for the SP1 to purchase this one it will be a long wait because there will not one coming. The Accu-Sim engine is constantly being updated and those specific updates for the C172 Trainer will be in the form of small timely ‘hotfixes’.
The technical knowledgebase for FSX improvements is both broad and deep and some of the better ones are freeware. I would expect to see a freeware edition of the bug spats on the windscreen any day now and a personal registration number and color scheme is practically free for the asking, provided you ask nicely.
My personal wish list
1. Bug splats on the windscreen.
2. Upgraded Autopilot for full LPV approach practice. There are numerous upgrades readily available for the King KX-140 Autopilot that make it much easier to use and enables the WAAS approaches. Maybe just a more feature rich unit.
3. The ability to add additional pilot and passenger images to the available inventory. Just Flight had a utility to add your own mug shot to the pilot and passenger lists way back with their 'Flying Club edition' and the JibJab library is so simple a cave man could do it. I would like to have some family images as the pilot and crew. I would even be willing to occupy one of the back seats to watch my two grandkids fly and navigate. Cammie already looks a lot like Heidi and Dalton would be a handsome devil with those Terminator sunglasses.
4. Additional switch position memory for both aircraft and flight. I would like to find the Trainer just the way I left it from the previous flight. The memory falls into two categories - airplane and flight plan - and more of each could be incorporated in the Trainer.
A wish list is always personal and based on experience and desire. Fortunately, the A2A team is customer focused and willing to listen to any and all customers.
For all those reason’s that I touched on throughout this review and all the innovative new features packed into this simulation, I wholeheartedly recommend the AVSIM Gold Star be awarded the A2A Simulations C172 Trainer. Go get it and start training, again. I did.
Be sure to check those cotter pins.
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The A2A C172 Trainer is available for purchase.
Scenery used in the screenshots is the newly released Isle of Man at Earth Simulations Ltd. A separate AVSIM review of this outstanding scenery package is in work.
Look for dolphins SW of Island Monir.
A2A Simulations for providing the C172 Trainer, Thanks Scott and Lewis.
Soya, aka Patrick Van Der Nat, for the great screenshots used throughout the review.
Other Screenshots by Author.
New Skyhawk image with specs at Cessna.com
1957 172 Cessna story and images.
Weight and Balance and performance apps.
Interview with Scott Gentile, A2A Simulations Founder and Visionary. Questions by Ray Marshall, AVSIM Contributing Reviewer. November 2, 2013.
Q. Why did A2A decide to create a C172 with such a high degree of accuracy?
A. Our team wraps the business around our passion. We created the Cessna 172R because it is pertinent to what we are doing now with pilot training and the accuracy comes from our desire to replicate these experiences. For example, a proper walk around is central to flying any airplane today, so the new walk around feature came out of necessity to present the airplane properly. Additionally, we probably now have the most in-depth and complete flight testing process available. Our Accu-Sim flight test program was born out of necessity since there isn’t a single flight test or compilation of tests done by aircraft manufacturers or the military that provides the information required to build an Accu-Sim aircraft. For the C172 Trainer, and much like our previous Accu-sim aircraft, our program consisted of fifteen test flights in various C172R’s, with multiple high definition cameras and sound recording devices.
Q. Were there any special challenges in your attempt to recreate the C172 experience within FSX?
A. Microsoft Flight Simulator X is a massive platform built on a staggering amount of man hours and money, to the likes that we may never again see in our lifetime. Fortunately Microsoft did a great job opening up the back end using technology (known as SimConnect) which makes for an almost infinitely expandable development platform. The mere fact we have elevated the simulation to the level seen in this Accu-Sim C172 Trainer is proof of the power of Microsoft Flight Simulator X as a host platform. The power is, we take the best of decades of Microsoft development and the best of Accu-Sim to create something that we feel is fresh and immersive.
Q. What features of the Accu-Sim C172 do you think makes it unique and perhaps a "game changer"?
A. Accu-Sim is built from a pilot / aircraft owner’s perspective and implemented to be natural and intuitive for the user. For example, the new walk around was designed by us going back and forth from the airport with various photos and videos and endured three design changes to become what it is now. It is simply you, walking around making visual and physical checks. It’s dynamic and, like the real airplane, doesn’t break often. You can easily have twenty straight flights without anything going wrong, and on your 21st flight, for example, your elevator lower actuator may be missing a cotter pin that helps to hold it together. If you miss this then go up and fly, there is a chance, just like in reality, that the bolt may fall out resulting in not being able to pull back on the elevator in flight (in this case, you would use throttle and elevator trim to control altitude). All of the internal control linkage that you see in the walk around is built in the simulation, and you could fly this plane for 1000 hours and still not come close to seeing everything it has to give. Remember, the airplane is a reliable machine and so is Accu-Sim. Realism isn’t hard, it’s fun. And when things happen, it’s a learning experience. So don’t expect your Accu-Sim airplane to fall apart. That would of course be harder, but wouldn’t be realistic.
Perhaps the other area of Accu-Sim that stands alone is the slow flight characteristics of the plane. This is needed in flight school training simulators and another reason why this trainer has so much demand.
Q. Who is the C172 Trainer targeted at? (beginners or more advanced users)
A. Just like the actual airplane, both. You can throw a kid inside a real C172 and they will have fun, so we expect to simulate that same fun. My son made a comment the other day that I thought was fitting. He said “Dad, you know what I like most about A2A aircraft? The 2d panels. They are so simple and easy to use.” This is because our own Robert Rogalski spends hours on end with every change or addition to these panels, with the customer in mind. It’s hard work to keep something simple to use.
Another example is, we still support the basic features like the default FSX auto start. The way we look at it is, even being realistic; if the customer wants to have the engine started for them, then let them. We have always tried our best to make sure that the advanced features can be turned on and off so for those moments when time is important you can quickly jump in and fly for those quick 10min flights. Who are we to force a customer to jump through hoops to accommodate us? While we spend a tremendous amount of time on our manuals, we spend just as much time making sure the product is so intuitive, you don’t need to reach for the manual to know how to use the program. Refer to the manual to learn about the aircraft and deeper features in the program. If both a kid and a seasoned pilot cannot have fun flying the product, then it is a failure IMO.
Q. Do you think the C172 Trainer can be of any practical value to real world pilots who have perhaps started their flight training on the real aircraft?
A. Absolutely. We have fifteen pilots in our organization, all of which have Cessna 172 flying experience. I am also a pilot and ran the test flight program for this project. Our own test flights are the core of the source we build the physics from. The Accu-Sim C172 Trainer is also getting ready to be implemented into real world simulators for flight schools around the globe.
Q. Given the fact that there are many advanced airliners on the market for FSX, do you think the Accu-Sim C172 Trainer will capture the attention of the FS community? If so, how?
A. So far, this aircraft has energized our community like we’ve never seen before. We also visit and support AVSIM customers as well as other communities as part of our daily schedule.
Learning to walk before you can run is often lost in the FS world and it’s great to see so many airliner sim pilots try the C172 Trainer (refreshing the basics). Essentially, it’s learning to fly all over again in the sim and quite like a true story by Mitchell Glicksman of the “747 pilot who forgot how to fly,” in which an accomplished 747 pilot was presented with a Piper Cub and discovered he could no longer fly it like he used to.
Q. Now that the C172 has been released, will this be the end of this products development? Or will we see additional expansion packages? Some have requested a G1000 version. Will A2A consider these options and perhaps create an in-depth G1000 expansion pack?
A. We didn’t test fly with the G1000 but there are two G1000’s out there on the simulation market already, so if we want to get a G1000 in our plane, we would likely approach one of those companies rather than create such a complex piece from scratch. However, right now we are already fully committed to our own projects and contracts with new business partners.
Beyond this, however, the C172 Trainer is part of the core Accu-sim range of products and updates will be available via the core update system as each new update or product comes out. In the meantime, mini 172 updates can be found on our popular community forums, and if anyone ever has any questions we welcome them to sign up and post. There are no newbie questions, just questions.
Q. A2A is well known for their vintage line of aircraft add-ons. With the addition of the C172 to your list of products, will we see more light piston aircraft in the future from manufacturers such as Piper? Perhaps even a twin piston aircraft with the Accu-Sim touch?
A. We’re actively working on an F-104 Starfighter and a Piper Cherokee, and we certainly will not be stopping there. We also have some guest developers creating some great Aircraft Factory aircraft. The future is looking really good with the new stuff coming.
Q. A2A has mentioned that at least two official sponsors in creating the C172 Trainer, do you wish to share with us how instrumental their roles were in making the product what it is today?
A. This again was echoed by our own experiences. To give an example, we researched the best oil and additive to use in aircraft today for our own aircraft. We concluded, right now, it’s Phillips multi-grade oil with Camguard additive so we partnered with Conoco Phillips and Camguard ASL for the C172 Trainer. We’ve talked many hours on the phone about everything from oil viscosity to acidic buildup to what conditions can cause the oil bypass valve to open. These are all questions aircraft owners discuss and debate every day, and we need as much clear information about these topics to keep our general aviation fleet in good condition.
Hellfire FS Intel i7 2700 OC to 4.5 GHz
FSX w/Acceleration, Win7-64, 8 GB RAM
nVidia GTX580 w/1.5 GB RAM
Crucial M4 256 GB SSD, Intel 330 180 GB SSD
Seagate 3TB data drive, WD Black 1TB data drive
WD My Passport 750 GB USB 3.0 External Drive
Dell 27 IN WS HD monitor
Full Mad Catz/Saitek hardware cockpit
8 Saitek Flight Instrument Panels,
BIP, Switch Panel, Multi Panel, TPM,
dual power quadrants & Cessna trim wheel.
Saitek x52 Pro Flight Control System
Saitek Combat Rudder Pedals
Cessna Yoke System
Logitech wireless Keyboard and Mouse.
Bose Companion 20 speakers
Apple iPad / iPhone
Commercial Pilot License with Single-Engine Land and Sea, Multi-engine Land, Instrument Airplane and DC-3 type ratings and Instrument and Advanced Ground Instructor and expired CFI/CFII licenses.