Review by Mike Cameron.
I could not find a lot of background information about the Cessna 172RG II Cutlass. I was able to find a small section on www.aviationexplorer.com and the performance information I gathered from the included documentation and from www.172guide.com .
Cessna introduced a retractable landing gear version of the Cessna 172 in 1980 and named it the Cessna 172RG Cutlass. I could not find why the “II” was added to the name. The Cutlass featured a variable pitch, constant-speed propeller and a more powerful 180 horsepower Lycoming O-360-F1A6 engine. The 172RG sold for about $19,000 US more than the standard 172 of the same year and produced an optimal cruise speed of 140 knots, compared to 122 knots for the 160 horsepower fixed gear 172.
The 172RG did not find a wide acceptance in the personal aircraft market because of the higher additional initial and operating costs accompanied by a mediocre cruising speed, but was adapted by many flight schools because it met the specific requirements for the “complex aircraft” experience necessary to obtain a Commercial Pilot certificate which was the role for which this aircraft was intended at relatively low cost. Between 1980 and 1984, 1177 Cessna 172 RG’s were manufactured with a small number built in 1985 before production ceased.
While the Cutlass was sold and marketed as a 172, the aircraft was actually certified on the Cessna 175 type certificate.
· Horsepower: 180
· Top Speed: 145 Knots
· Cruise Speed: 140 Knots
· Stall Speed KCAS(Flaps Down, Power Off): 50 Knots, (Flaps Up, Power Off): 54 Knots
· Gross Weight (Takeoff or Landing): 2650 Pounds
· Empty Weight: 1627 Pounds
· Fuel Capacity: 66 Gallons
· Cruise Range (75% Power, 9,000 Feet): 720 Nautical Miles
· Maximum Range at 10,000 Feet: 840 Nautical Miles
· Ground Roll: 1060 Feet
· Over a 50 Foot Obstacle: 1775 Feet
· Rate of Climb: 800 FPM
· Service Ceiling: 16,800 Feet
· Ground Roll: 625 Feet
· Over a 50 Foot Obstacle: 1340 Feet
Installation and Documentation
Installation of the Cessna 172RG II Cutlass is very easy. I will be using the Alabeo install method so if you purchased from another vendor, your procedure may differ. After purchase, you will be emailed a download link and the serial number. I recommend copying this number and pasting during the install process to avoid typing errors.
Run the downloaded install program, read the License Agreement, enter your email and serial number, select your simulator and yes P3D 2.0 is included, verify correct simulator location or browse to locate then click on the “Install” button.
Four PDF documents are included and they are located in the aircraft’s folder on your flight simulator directory. These documents are, Emergency & Normal Procedures, Performance Tables and a Reference document. No documentation is included about the panel instrumentation and I will explain more about this later in the review.
The first time that you load one of the aircraft in the simulator, you will be asked to allow a few installed files as trusted. After this process is finished, you are now ready to enjoy the Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass. A service pack for the 172RG has been released to fix some post release issues and if you purchased before January 30th 2014 visit the Alabeo website to download the update for this aircraft.
The interior textures of the Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass are outstanding. I have to say that this aircraft has some of the best interior textures of any single engine Cessna aircraft that I have installed on my system before the custom interior modifications became available from talented flight simulator enthusiasts.
The interior textures look very realistic with the seats having two shades of tan or brown fabric and I love that the fabric of the seats looks like fabric including stitching and seams. The rest of the interior includes wood and leather or maybe vinyl trim to give this aircraft a much more luxurious look to it than your typical single engine Cessna.
My only minor complaint is that all of the interiors have the same textures. It would have been nice if other interiors would have been included to better match the other aircraft external colors. For a relatively low cost simulated aircraft ($22.95 US), I can live with this limitation and maybe someone will create some new interiors for this aircraft.
I personally like signs of use with my simulated aircraft and Alabeo includes these types of textures with the Cessna 172RG. There are stains on the fabric & carpeting, scratches on various surfaces including the window and even the Cutlass RG II labels on the yokes look like they had fallen off and placed quickly (crooked) back on the yokes. There is not a lot of interior labeling in this aircraft but it is nice to be able to read the Cessna name on the seat belts and if you adjust your eye point the circuit breaker labels are readable.
All interior items both large and small are three dimensional and look great. This aircraft does not have a rear seat interior view so I adjusted my viewpoint to look towards the front from the rear seats. The rear of this aircraft is also modeled very well with the same quality details as the front seats. It is nice to see that the placard at the back of the baggage area is very clear and readable from a distance. The interior lighting on the Cutlass is also excellent with easy to use controls on the ceiling.
Five high definition paint exterior paints are included with the package and also one with blank textures for painters. First, this has already been commented on in the forum that the pilot and instructor are the same two men that are included with other Carenado & Alabeo aircraft. This is another one of those cosmetic things that I really do not have and issue with but hopefully someday Alabeo & Carenado will add an option to include other people, both male & female, for the pilot and instructor or front passenger. At least the textures of these two people are presented very well with realistic looking clothing, which is nice.
Another nice feature when viewing the aircraft from the front spot view is that you can see the detailed interior. Also from this viewpoint you can see how the sun reflects off of the cowling & propeller which is wonderful and small things like the stickers on the prop also have good looking textures. I appreciate that Alabeo has included several alternate exterior views which I like to use for simulated pre-flight walk around.
These alternate views also allow me to look at the exterior features up close and just like the interior; the exterior textures are impressive looking. I would have to adjust the zoom level though to get a closer look. Exterior labeling is excellent and I like that there is an appropriate amount of stains on the exterior.
As you would expect on a premium aircraft all exterior features are three dimensional both small and large. Exterior lighting with the Alabeo Cessna 172 RG II Cutlass is also excellent and I think an appropriate amount of light shines on the surface in front of the aircraft.
If you like your simulated aircraft to have modern avionics such as glass panels or even a portable or panel mounted GPS, then look elsewhere. This aircraft was primarily designed for flight training for the Commercial Pilot Certificate so I do not have an issue with this and system performance is also not an issue because of this. This will be my aircraft when I want to practice VOR & ADF navigation and ILS approaches.
Alabeo did not even include the default GPS as a 2D window. I am going to install my RealityXP GNS 430 as a 2D window for cross country flight planning. My default VC view provides a nice close view of the instrument panel and I love the cream or light tan textures of the panel instead of the gray textures that are sometimes used with single engine Cessna aircraft. The first screen grab below is with instrument reflections activated and is enabled or disabled with the Control Windows display. The second picture is with reflections disabled and I personally like the look with reflections enabled.
The clear textures look nice but they also look like the panel lighting has been turned on and I would rather control the panel lighting myself. Activating the transparent windows and opening and closing the passenger door is also controlled with this option window. The difference between the transparent window and the VC window texture is so minor in my view that I just left the VC windows enabled. Opening and closing the door requires only a simple click on the handle so I did not use this option and the Alabeo Cessna 172RG only has the one simulated door.
The textures of the instruments themselves are excellent with realistic movements. The one instrument that is installed but not always included on most simulated aircraft, other than the more complex aircraft, is the Fuel Scan 450 Fuel Flow indicator.
Documentation on how to use this instrument is not included but for the most part the functionality is self-explanatory. However, I did find a link to some documentation . Obviously not everything is modeled with the simulated instrument but provides a good reference.
At the top of the display is the fuel flow per hour and at the bottom are two buttons, “STEP” which in the simulator steps through each display and when I first turn on the avionics after start-up, only “USD” and “REM” displayed a value. The “H.M.”, “REQ” and “RES” values will display when you get in the air, at least on my system. On the simulator, the “AUTO” button resets the used counter, which is handy if you are using a paper navigation log. To the left of this instrument is the Tachometer with a working HOBBS meter, which is another nice realistic feature that I love when it is included with aircraft at any price point. The Pitot Heat and lighting switches are obstructed by the control yoke.
There are a few ways to see them. The easiest way is to hide the yoke by clicking on the base. I am trying to get into the habit of not using this option because to me it takes away from a realistic experience. As you can see from the screen grab below which is my default VC view with the yoke hidden, the labeling is very small and impossible to read. This is not an issue because there are not that many switches and I was able to memorize them after about a couple flights.
The second option and the one I used the most are adjusting my eye point view. The last option is to use the “Switch” alternate panel view. The alternate view is nice because I can adjust the zoom level for just this view and FSX will remember this zoom level for the remainder of the flight. I would also adjust the “Right Seat” panel view zoom level for easier radio operation though I did not have any issues operating the radios from the default view.
The panel knobs and switches are very easy to operate either with mouse clicks or with my personal preference, the mouse wheel. The one radio that I did have a minor issue with is the ADF. The knobs of the ADF are not modeled; you have to click on the display to tune each of the numbers of the frequency. Again, it is much easier to use the mouse wheel for this operation because I had trouble finding the click spots for increasing the digits, only the “-“would display. I was able to find the “+” spots which are directly below the “-“spots but this is very tricky in flight, especially one handed with turbulence. With the mouse wheel, I only needed to be in the area and I could easily move up and down the digits. Considering the low purchase price and the fact that the ADF is the least used navigation waypoint at least in the United States, I can live with this limitation.
The instrument panel lighting is also excellent and the effect with the combination of panel and interior lighting is very nice.
I am not an expert at flight dynamics so I will approach this section from an experienced flight simulator user point of view and comment on how easy or hard the aircraft is to control in flight.
For flight testing I like to follow the checklists for operational accuracy. There are ground static objects included and the exterior pre-flight is not modeled so you can skip ahead to the Before Engine Start checklist. It is still fun to use the alternate exterior angle views to simulate the exterior pre-flight inspection.
I did not have an issue with the Before Engine Start checklist. The only oddity that I encountered with the Engine Start checklist is that the checklist said to pump the throttle to prime but the instrument panel also has a primer lever. I did not have any issues with the remaining checklists.
Like other tricycle type landing gear aircraft, the Cessna 172RG is a very easy aircraft to taxi. I did not have any issues tuning these digital radios, when operating out of complex airports or scenery areas I sometimes have some hesitation when tuning the GNS 430 & 530 GPS radios. I did not have any hesitation when tuning the radios on this aircraft.
During the Before Takeoff checklist, it was nice to see the RPM drop when checking the carburetor heat operation. Sometimes small realistic features like this are skipped with aircraft at this price point and I like that it is simulated with this aircraft. No issue with the takeoff procedures and this is a very easy aircraft to trim for all phases of flight.
This aircraft does not have an autopilot which forces you to hand fly the aircraft and the Alabeo 172RG is very responsive to my control movements and I do not know if this is a real world characteristic but it did not want to drift left or right like some other aircraft, where I would have to have constant left or right rudder to fly straight. This makes for a much more relaxing aircraft to fly.
This aircraft climbs, cruises and descends nicely, all within the speeds listed on the checklists and performance documentation. Cruising at 8500 feet, 20 inches MP and 2300 RPM, I was able to cruise at a comfortable 120 to 130 Knots indicated. On a couple of flights when conditions were favorable, I was able to cruise at around 140 knots. The navigation radios work very well so this will be my go to aircraft for practicing VOR & ADF navigation and ILS approaches.
I did not have any issues setting up my approach and landing. This is not one of the fastest simulated aircraft so it is very easy to plan your approach and as mentioned earlier is a very easy aircraft to trim.
Sounds & Animations
The Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass has excellent sound and animation effects. First, the engine sound is very impressive and I love that after you shut down the engine and avionics, you can hear the avionics powering down.
All of the instrument panel switches and knobs have an audible sound effect and appropriate animation. All of the control surfaces have realistic animations and my favorite is the gear being raised and lowered. Other animations include the sun visors and the door.
My only small issue with the visor animation is I wish that it would stop in the down position. The only two positions are raised and the complete opposite direction where it is not doing too much good to block the glare. I love that when I open & close the door, the handle is animated in both directions.
The only animation that is missing is the ability to adjust the right front seat to simulate allowing your rear passengers to enter the aircraft. This is another one of those small cosmetic features that I can certainly live without for an aircraft sold at such a terrific price.
Summary / Closing Remarks
I cannot believe that the Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass sells for such a reasonable $22.95. This aircraft is a terrific value with great looking interior & exterior textures, wonderful sounds & animations and a very good flight model. I love the small realistic operational features that Alabeo has included with this aircraft such as an operational Hobbs meter and a RPM drop when activating the carburetor heat.
The only issues that I have with this aircraft were minor and were mostly cosmetic and they do not prevent me from recommending the Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass.
In conclusion, this is an excellent aircraft for practicing your radio navigation skills and short to medium cross-country flights. I want to thank Alabeo for providing the review copy of this aircraft and for details visit the product page. The Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass is available directly from Alabeo or from your favorite flight simulator store.
What I Like About the Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass
· Outstanding interior & exterior textures
· Wonderful sounds & animations
· Terrific flight model
· Very good system performance
· Wonderful value
What I Don't Like About the Alabeo Cessna 172RG II Cutlass
· Would like to see another interior texture to match exterior textures
· Wish the visor animation would stop in the down position
· Instrument panel includes a primer lever but checklist says to pump the throttle to prime