AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Cessna 172N Skyhawk II

Product Information

Publishers:  Carenado

Description: GA aircraft.

Download Size:
30 MB

Simulation Type:
Reviewed by: Jason McKee AVSIM Staff Reviewer - April 14, 2009


The venerable Cessna 172 has been built since 1956 and is the most successful mass produced light aircraft in the world. 43000 airframes of the 172 had been built to date in a variety of different models.

The 172N was introduced in 1977, it was also known as the 172 Skyhawk/100 by Cessna. The 172N had reliability problems with its 160hp Lycoming O-320-H2AD engine, which was designed to run on 100 octane fuel as opposed to the 80-90 octane fuel used in previous versions of the 172. These engine problems were overcome by fitting a new engine, a Lycoming O-320-D2J, which created the 172P in 1981.

Production ended in 1980, but in the time the 172N was in production, there were options available on the base airframe. These included rudder trim, air conditioning and extra fuel cells which increased the fuel capacity to 66 US gallons (250ltrs). In 1977 “pre-selectable” flaps were standard, also in 1978, 28 volt electrical system was introduced to replace the 14 volt system that was installed up until that time.

The 172 is still produced today, but only the S model is available.

Test System

AMD Phenom 9850 Quad Core
4Gig 1033 Ram
Gigabyte 9600GT 1Gig PCI-e Video Card
Saitek Pro Yoke and 2 Throttle quadrants
Windows Vista SP1

Flying Time:
15 hours

Installation and Documentation

Installation is easy, as per usual from Carenado. You will receive an email which has your user name and password in it, you will need this to install the product on your system. This will install the 172N into your default FSX installation.

You will find three readme files in the Carenado 172N folder. These include the copywrited pdf for repaints, a 8 page checklist pdf and a 1 page reference pdf with all the relevant speeds and weights.

There is no flight manual, as such, included with the aircraft and you are pretty much left to fly it yourself. This isn’t really a problem as it is a simple aircraft to fly. The checklist pdf covers the procedure from start up to shut down and is a "must have" sitting beside you for your first flight.

Exterior Model

The 172 is an aircraft that is built for a reason; to be a cost effective trainer and an inexpensive to own and operate private aircraft. As a trainer its stable flight characteristics and docile handling make it an easy aircraft to learn to fly in. The exterior of this package looks spot on to my eye.

I used to spend a bit of time on the wing of these aircraft as I used to refuel them. From the outside all the curves seem to be in the right places and the wings and tail look to be of the correct size. Overall, the aircraft looks well in proportion.

The four different liveries that come with the package.

With the 172N from Carenado you get two models, one with spats and one without. You also get three liveries with the two options and one livery which is a 50th anniversary special. This is the livery that I have done most of my flying in.

A note on the textures, which could cause a problem for repainters, is that the upper parts of the aircraft are mirrored. So if you put some writing on the tail for instance, you will get a mirror image on the other side. This will limit the repaints that can be done and it has an effect on the included 50th anniversary paint as the stripes should continue over the back of the fuselage. Due to where it is, it would look incorrect as the stripes are not included in this area. A small point but still doesn’t look 100% right.

Little things like the fuel caps and aerials look great. Another feature is when you turn the battery off, chocks on the main wheels and a remove before flight tag on the pitot tube appear.

The paint on the aircraft looks like a well looked after, slightly used aircraft. They remind me very much of the 172’s I used to refuel, they got washed almost once a month and they looked like these models do.

The external camera angles give a different perspective.

The default 172 cannot compare to this add-on as it is night and day comparing the two. The default looks small and underdeveloped compared to Carenado's version. There are seven exterior viewpoints defined with this aircraft and they do make for some interesting camera angles as they are different from the default views you get.

Interior Model

The interior model looks stunning. It has that used but well maintained interior, just like a well loved and cherished aircraft. The cockpit is based on a base model 172N, with the standard fitment of radios and instruments.

Overview of the Virtual Cockpit. Looking over the seats to the rear cabin.

Speaking of the instruments, these are clear and easy to use and they display all the information required in a simple and easy to read fashion. The interior model is almost photo-real in the fact that it looks like a real cockpit.

In fact, the real aircraft that I have sat in looked exactly like this cockpit, right down to the colors. The left hand seat moves forward and back at the click of a mouse, the windows open and close, and you can open and close the doors from the inside by clicking on the handles. The ashtrays will not open no matter how many time you click on them. It's nice to see you can’t smoke and fly! Maybe it would be a better option to remove the ashtrays altogether? The air vents on the wing roots move in and out with a simple mouse click.

There is no texture issues inside the cockpit and all the panels fit together well with no gaps or texture differences in any of them. Again, it looks like a well looked after interior with the odd scratch here and there.

Virtual Cockpit

Right Hand Seat View Point. Radios and instruments View Point. Throttle and Switches View Point.

The virtual cockpit looks great and is nice and smooth to pan around in. As stated earlier, all of these textures look great. The gauges are excellent and each gauge is able to be clicked on to enlarge them, not that you really need to as they are very readable. All the gauges are smooth and fluid with no stutters or glitches. Flight yokes and throttle controls all move smoothly through their full range of movement.

Opening windows. The right hand seat in its forward position.
The outside views from the virtual cockpit

There are custom view points set by Carenado that can be accessed by right clicking in the cockpit window. These views allow close-up views of the radios, the light control and the left hand seat, from which you can fly from. There is just the right amount of reflection on the cockpit glass.

The night lighting is very bright, with the main panel being lit by a spotlight mounted on the left hand side of the cockpit. With this light on and it being dark outside, it does make it hard to see the outside world. With it off, the gauges are hard to read. The dome light illuminates the cockpit in a while light, it doesn’t leave any dark spots, which would be expected from a dome light and I have yet to see a dome light that is that bright. It's like a 50 watt spotlight.

There are no interior shadows from either light source which does take a little away from the realism, but then you are normally too busy with what is going on around you to really notice this.

Night lighting is very bright. Interior Dome light. On Final Approach the interior lighting does make it a bit difficult.

2D Cockpit

The 2D cockpit is good as well, almost as good as the virtual cockpit, but it doesn’t flow as well as the virtual cockpit. All the instruments work well, again the same as in the virtual cockpit, they are fluid and smooth.

The gauges are very easy to read, they are also clickable to enlarge them and there is a click spot on the yoke to display the yoke in the 2D cockpit. This does get in the way of some of the switches though.

Night lighting is again the same as the virtual cockpit, very bright and makes it hard to see the outside world when it's dark, a bit like driving with the interior light on. The outside view point is a bit low and does make it hard to see the runway or ground from the pilot’s seat.

The 2D cockpit. The night lighting on the 2d cockpit.
The icon panel at the top right, and the panels it opens, and the gauges enlarged by clicking on them.

There is a icon panel that allows you to quickly open and close the GPS and trim panels. You can also open the map, kneeboard and ATC menu from this icon panel. Pressing the red "X" closes the icon panel.

Some people will prefer to fly from the 2D cockpit and some will choose to fly from the virtual cockpit, personally I prefer the virtual cockpit as it is more natural to use and more flowing. Also, the view points are a little low for my liking.


This sounds are like the real deal. From the outside I would be hard pressed to tell the difference from the sim and the real aircraft. From the outside viewpoints the flap motors and engine idle sound bang on.

I have been told that if you want the best realism you need to remove the flap motor sounds as they cannot be heard inside the cockpit with the engine running and headset on.

Right from start up to shut down, the engine note changes in bass during every aspect of flight. Give it full throttle and the engine picks up revs and gets that Lycoming engine sound to it, it is hard to describe but it is unique to the Lycoming engines.

In the cockpit you get the right amount of wind noise and engine sound, glide for awhile and the engine dies to a quite idle and the wind noise over takes the engine somewhat. If you stall the aircraft, you get the loud stall warning horn about 10knts before the aircraft will actually stall.

Compared to the default sounds there is a definite difference to Carenado's 172, they sound more realistic and match the real thing closer than the default Cessna.


This aircraft performs as good, if not better, than the default 172, in fact I was getting better frame rates that the default. Considering the extra details with this add-on, I would have been happy with a frame or two reduction, but this simply is not the case.

This aircraft also works flawlessly in Direct X 10. All the features of DX10, like the cockpit shadows and advanced bloom effects, make this model look simply stunning, if you can get over the rather blocky shadows in the cockpit. This is not a problem of the developer, rather a flight simulator problem.

Everything open and the chocks and remove before flight tag in place.

The aircraft flies as per the numbers listed in the reference PDF. Having never flown a real 172, I can only go by my experience in the default 172, which is an S model, not an N. To me it seems that this aircraft is easy to fly and it displays its benign handling characteristics to a tee. I can see why the 172 is such a popular aircraft for training. It has easy to recover the stall characteristics and is very easy to trim in level flight.

Compared to the default 172, this aircraft feels nimble and lands with a minimum of fuss. If you can fly the default aircraft well, you will find that flying this aircraft will be a dodle, and for those jet jockeys that want to fly a little slower and lower then this is your bird. It makes for a great scenic flight aircraft.

Summary / Closing Remarks

This aircraft is a typical Carenado aircraft, well built, not too complex, but with enough realism to satisfy some of the most demanding simmers out there.

There are some issues like wing light and tail lights that show through the wing or fuselage and can been seen inside the cockpit, or the repainting issue with mirrored textures for some of the surfaces. Apart from those little issues, overall this is a really nice aircraft to fly. It leaves the default 172 in its dust.

One of the light issues with the lights showing through the wing.

Overall, I enjoyed flying this aircraft. It was easy to fly and even novices will love flying this aircraft. Having said that, old hands will enjoy this aircraft too. It really does look and sound like the real thing. In fact, my wife thought that some of the screenshots I have taken for this review were real aircraft. I highly recommend this version of the Cessna 172N.


What I Like About The Cessna 172N

  • Nice easy to handle aircraft
  • Great cockpit and interior details
  • Exterior model looks great and correct dimensions
  • Great sound pack included


What I Don't Like About The Cessna 172N

  • Small exterior light issues
  • Texture mirroring issues will be a problem for repainters.



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