AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review

Cessna C-185F Skywagon

Product Information

Publishers:  Carenado

Description: Cessna 185F Skywagon for FSX.

Download Size:
110 MB

Simulation Type:
FSX (SP2 & Accel)
Reviewed by: Philip Wilson AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 13, 2010


It’s nearly impossible to introduce the Cessna 185 without mentioning its forefather, the Cessna 180. It might even be immoral and illegal in some segments of hard core Skywagon lovers. In all actuality, we could trace the C-185’s lineage all the way back to the L-19 aircraft, but for the purpose of this review, we’ll stay relatively current.

The Cessna 180 of any vintage is a heck of an airplane. As originally produced in 1953 with its Continental 0-470-A of 225 hp, the designers borrowed heavily on the L-19 experience and introduced modern utility to those needing a serious working airplane. Although quickly replaced by the 182 in the gentleman-pilot arena, "serious" pilots still chose the tail wheel and the 180 continues to be the king of the bush planes.

The C-180 was produced until 1981 — at which time the total changes from day one were minor. The empty weight climbed 150 pounds to 1701, while the useful load went up 100 pounds to 1100. After the first few years, the engine was standardized at 230 hp and fuel options went as high as 84 gallons, giving the airplane incredibly long legs. Standard fuel was about 55 gallons and the airplane eventually got an option for six seats.

The original C-180s cruised at 157 mph and the last at 162, although the stall did decrease from 59 mph to 54 mph. None of these figures are even worth worrying about, since individual airplanes were on either side of any of these numbers.

In terms of flying, the C-180 set new standards for utility airplanes and was the favorite on floats. There are probably more C-180 and C-185s in the North Country than any other single airplane. The plane is also the favorite for jungle bush pilots working rough, short runways.

A very nice real C-185
Image courtesy of Skywagons.org
Many 185’s have floats
Image courtesy of Skywagons.org

The Skywagon was a move to upgrade the 180 to put it in a class by itself — which was redundant because that's where it was already. Initially when introduced in 1961, the six-place 185 had 260 hp but, by 1966, the Continental 0-470 had been heaved out in favor of an 0-520 of 300 horses. The airplane was produced until 1981.

There's a general misconception that the C-185 is bigger than the C-180, but this is not the case and it just appears that way because of the longer windows. In actuality, the specs show the C-185 to be nearly a foot shorter with exactly the same wingspan.

The 300 horses, as would be expected, makes the airplane a spectacular performer as well as increasing its utility. The useful load goes up to nearly 1600 pounds, but this fact doesn't give away any of the plane's short-field capabilities. When lightly-loaded, these things are second cousin to a helicopter!

(Source: Plane & Pilot’s Bud Davisson, Skywagons.org)

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Dell XPS720 DuoCore2.66MHz
4Gb RAM 667MHz
nVidia 9800GTX+512M
SB X-Fi Extreme Music
CH Fighterstick, Yoke, Throttles and Rudder

Flying Time:
20 hours

From Carenado’s C-185F product page you can choose “Buy” and purchase directly from Carenado, or purchase from several leading flight simulation retailers including right here at Avsim. The price is a reasonable $25.95USD and I guarantee it is worth every penny. There are two small patches (less than 200k each) and are included in the current installer, so no worries there.

Installation is straightforward and simple as long as you have your license information handy.

The following text is from the Avsim Store and outlines what you receive.

Four different paint schemes and 4 models: with and without fairings, side windows on both sides and two & three blades prop

FSX features: (This is an FSX only product)

• External dynamic shadows, internal dynamic shadows on VC, volumetric normal mapping, specular mapping and bloom lights
• Polygon optimized model, friendly FPS
• Original HQ digital stereo sounds recorded from the original aircraft
• New feature: Control windows to control eyes candies (wheel chokes, bag & package, pitot cover, sights prop and tie down ropes)
• Autopilot installed
• Pop up Skywagon manual with performance charts and normal & emergency procedures
• Original instruments
• Interactive virtual cockpit
• Full moving parts: Ailerons, elevators, rudders, flaps, rolling wheels and trim tab
• Animated sections such as: propeller, doors, windows
• sun visor, air vents, copilot seat, vibrating antenna, cowl flaps, pilot, engine and exhaust pipe
• Lights: Navigation lights, landing and taxi lights
• Realistic light effects on gauges Built-in zoom gauges
• Separate switches for instruments lights and dome light
• Real behavior compared to the real airplane, Real weight and balance
• PDF documents: C185 history, operation tips, reference and owner’s manual

For the record, I’m a huge Carenado fan. I’ve purchased 11 aircraft from them and had extremely high expectations going into this review. Immediately after installing the Skywagon I wanted to jump in and fly, but had to pace myself and read the manual first. When it comes to reviewing products, especially complex ones, it is easy to miss something, or note something of interest and forget to include it in the review. Carefully reading the manual offers a wealth of information, and more often than not, will tell you about features on a particular model you didn’t even know were included.

C-185 Manual Performance Specifications Page
Emergency Procedures Airspeed Correction Table
Stall and Airspeed Data Cruise Performance
Landing Distance Table Glide Performance

A comprehensive C-185F manual is accessed from the cockpit, and it is one of the finest representations of a single engine aircraft’s POH I have seen for FSX. There was not one single item left out, and there is more information you could ever need in the course of the most demanding flights.

The full documentation consists of the following:

Owner’s Manual – 3.9MB PDF
Copyright – 749KB PDF
History of the C-185 – 15.3MB PDF
Reference Sheet – 506KB – PDF
Operational Tips – 1.9MB PDF
Ref & Check HTML documents

I give Carenado high marks for beautiful and complete documentation covering everything you need to know about both the real aircraft and the Carenado version.

Models and Textures

While trying to come up with the correct words to describe the models and textures, words like Completely Amazing, or Breathtakingly Accurate didn’t seem quite adequate. Although true, the aircraft are so much more. I’ve spent some time in various flavors of real world Cessna 185’s and as I worked my way through the Carenado C-185, I found myself saying things like “HOLY &@#%” and “WOW!”

Beautiful Paint Check out the detail
You can even count the rivets Excellent engine detail

It’s funny how the smallest details make the greatest difference, and it seems as though Carenado didn’t miss a single thing. Case in point; Cessna 185’s of nearly vintage age (and most legacy aircraft for that matter) have what I call Ode To The Funk. Unless yours is a pristine and freshly restored example, there will be grime around the outside edges of the windows, smudge marks on the sides of the front seats where people grabbed while getting in the rear seats, funk around the vents, and seemingly forgettable areas where dirt collects.

Look at the funk around the window Is that pocket lint on the seat?
The side of the seat needs cleaning Window funk and strut dings

As I was panning around the Carenado C-185, all those tiny elements were there. Many years ago my friend Jim was getting into the back of a 185 and left a dirty handprint on the inside edge of the right front seat. Looking down I could almost make out his hand print in the Carenado model. Now that’s about as real as it gets.

The external textures are another fine example of high quality workmanship which has become a Carenado trademark. From any angle, the different models are truly beautiful. From tie down hooks to brake lines, everything is there. As mentioned above, the four models feature aircraft with and without wheel fairings, two and three bladed props and I can confirm every feature listed works perfectly.

Red US Reg Chrome and red Canadian Reg
Beautiful New Zealand Reg Yellow and White US Reg

The exterior bump mapping is spectacular and the chrome model is as perfect as I’ve seen yet. Since there are so many C-185’s on floats, I though a float version should have been included.

Look close at the flap and brake detail Excellent bump mapping on the wing


Regardless of how well designed a product is, or how many beta testers review it, when it hits the market there will inevitably be customers who experience problems. A great way to gauge a company’s commitment to its customers is the level of support they offer after the sale.

Carenado has a good reputation for ensuring bugs get fixed quickly, and they include the patches in the latest installers so future customers receive the full product. With some other companies, this is not always the case. It irritates me to purchase a product, and then have to download and install various patches which I feel should have been included in the current .exe file.

It is a well known fact you can’t please everyone all the time, but Carenado goes a long way to make sure their customers are well taken care of after the sale.

Cockpit & Panel

Make no mistake, the Skywagon is a workhorse, and earns its keep in some of the most rugged country in the world. Bouncing down a rocky riverbed is no place for sensitive high tech equipment, and the cost of those avionics is often prohibitive considering the average cost of a C-185. (For those interested Skywagon’s cost anywhere from $70K to $150K depending on year, condition and options).

Although we won’t go too far down this road, the latest Aspen Avionics Evolution flight display system and economically priced entry level glass systems from King, Garmin and Avidyne are making the price argument nonexistent these days. But, if you have a $100K Skywagon, you might think really long and hard about installing $25K in new avionics.

Yes, that’s a virtual cockpit These are the best seat textures I’ve seen
Notice the reflection on the glass Need fresh air? Just open the window
Nice leather seats Click to see the minor bleed through

For those users who want an EFIS (glass) panel in their Carenado C-185, Flight1 does offer their FS Aspen product which was previously reviewed by Avsim.

Carenado’s models are indeed working class machines and don’t have the latest in glass cockpits, nor should they have. What you do get is a highly accurate panel that is perfect for back country flying.

I did notice a small area where there was minor texture bleed-through at the seam near the lower cabin area, but given the overall excellence of the rest of the product, this is hardly worth noting.

The interior comes in different colors and material, meaning cloth and leather. I really like the fact the seats were worn and stained in places, much like real bush planes. The panels are well designed and realistic to look at, with gauges and placards legible and clear up close.


The sound file for this aircraft was recorded from actual C-185’s, which is to say it doesn’t get any more real. That being said, in my personal experience with Skymaster’s sporting 300hp, the sound at takeoff power is much more aggressive with the prop tips reaching near supersonic speed. The real Continental IO 520D is rated at 300hp for 5 minutes at takeoff, then 285hp thereafter. I can tell you, 300hp turning a screaming prop down a small valley airstrip will definitely get your attention!

The Carenado sound file is excellent, but having “been there” I pick up on things those unaccustomed wouldn’t know was missing.


The airfile is an area where experience counts. That is not to say modeling and gauge design are any less demanding fields, but a designer can spend hundreds of hours working on an airfile, and still not get it right. With my engineering background I thought tweaking an airfile would be relatively easy, and since I’m a pilot and technical type, it would come naturally.

You just have to love mountain flying

I’m here to tell you…I was humbled by the experience. People who develop airfiles for a living are a “special” breed. When a designer working with tangible objects, such an airframe, needs to tweak something, they can see what needs to be changed. Working with airfiles requires the designer to create or change the feel of something, which is an entirely different way of life.

An aircraft’s “numbers” are so completely overrated. They are used heavily in marketing material, but it took company test pilots, using factory new equipment in perfect conditions, to arrive at those numbers. In the real world, and given the age of airworthy 185’s, those numbers are a fantasy.

Test flying the Carenado Skywagon, I was looking for the performance numbers to be in the same neighborhood as the published specifications, but more importantly, I wanted to see if the aircraft felt right.

I can say with confidence Carenado got the airfile right. Whether you’re hanging by the prop climbing out of a narrow ravine, or carefully winding your way down to a postage stamp size landing area, it feels right.

Dawn flight in Alaska Waiting to work
Canadian 185 ready to go A beautiful sight

Even though it is correctly modeled, I did not notice much difference in performance between a heavily loaded (full tanks) aircraft and one with little fuel remaining. Funny thing though; when you’re flying through canyons, and trying to avoid clipping the trees with your wings, the last thing you are thinking is “shouldn’t this aircraft feel heavier with more fuel?”

Summary / Closing Remarks

The Carenado C-185F is without a doubt the most realistic and highest quality rendition of this venerable aircraft to date. Their industry leading documentation includes a well developed and comprehensive owner’s manual accessible from the cockpit, and the full history on the C-185 in a beautifully created PDF.

I highly recommend this package; it’s a must have for any bush plane enthusiasts.


What I Like About Carenado's C-185F

  • Price and Performance
  • Fun to fly
  • Beautiful textures
  • Excellent sound package
  • Four individual models
  • Great Technical Support


What I Don't Like About Carenado's C-185F

  • I wish they had included a float equipped model



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Cessna 185F Skywagon

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the product producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment as experienced by the reviewer. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any presumed connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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