• Review: C172RG Cutlass II From Alabeo

    Flight Model

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. In my humble opinion, the flight model is (or should be) the most important aspect of building an aircraft model for X-Plane. This is a flight, "simulator," after all, not merely a flying game, and I think the utmost effort ought to be made to make payware airplane add-ons fly as closely as possible to their real world counterparts and not just look and sound good. Fortunately, Alabeo and Carenado have largely been able to combine the best of both worlds (with some of their latest models, especially) and their new Cessna 172RG Cutlass II isn't too bad here, either.

    I'll start off with the things I like and keep the few negative issues I had short and to the point. I've spent a good chunk of time testing this airplane and putting her through her paces recently and overall came away pretty impressed. When compared to Carenado's Cessna 172N, I like the way the Cutlass flies much better. It feels a lot more like a 172 to me. I tested the airplane largely at gross weight and actually preferred the way it handled in that configuration than when lightly loaded. It made the aircraft feel, "heavier," and more authentic in a way that I can't quite put into words. Of course this is only my opinion, here, and others may prefer it differently.

           

    I found Alabeo's aircraft performed very realistically in both climb and cruise when contrasting it with my own experience in a real Cutlass. Despite having a 180 hp Lycoming O-360 on the nose, the added weight of the engine itself, the constant speed prop, and retractable landing gear don't really give the Cutlass stellar climb performance. Hence the nickname, "gutless Cutlass," something the flight instructor who rode with Dad and I was amused to tell me. Still, the added horsepower combined with low-drag retractable gear help to get the Cutlass up to about 140 knots true at max cruise. I asked the flight instructor about this number and he suggested that the 120's to 130's are more realistic cruise figures, adding that they never run their Cutlass that hot.

    I like flying fast (okay, fast for a 172), so I took Alabeo's Cutlass up to 8000 feet to try to see 140 KTAS under simulated no wind standard day conditions. I will add here that I took off at gross, climbed a little shallower than Vy, and referenced the provided, "Performance Tables" pdf within the Documentation folder. At 8000 feet with the 2700 RPM, 22" of manifold pressure and burning 10.3 gph, I was able to see that 140 KTAS...exactly the book number! How is that for flight model precision? Now, I must add the caveat that I would never run my airplane like this (at least not for any extended period of time) if I cared at all about engine life as I pretty much had all three knobs to the firewall. Fortunately, X-Plane is just a computer program so I don't have to worry about an expensive and early engine overhaul! At any rate, just because an airplane will do it, doesn't mean you ought to!

           

    I did some other speed runs at more reasonable cruise settings and found that Alabeo's Cutlass essentially perfectly matches up with all the published book speeds that I tested. This makes me really happy and tells me a lot about the attention to detail paid to the flight model. Well done here, Alabeo!

    Now I want to take a moment to touch on the area that I really didn't like at all about Alabeo's Cutlass, and that is the landing approach phase of flight. The provided, "Normal Procedures," pdf file shows the recommended speeds to be flown on approaches. They are as follows: Normal approach with flaps up: 65-75 KIAS, normal approach 30 degrees (full) of flaps: 60-70 KIAS, and short field 30 degrees of flaps: 63 KIAS. It was my experience that flying approaches at those speeds with those flap settings was nearly impossible. The flaps seem to be modeled with far too much drag and required an unrealistically hefty application of power just to see these appropriate approach speeds. Also, when deploying flaps, I was experiencing a severe nose up pitch that required a combination of stick forward force and nose down trim to correct. So much nose down trim was required, in fact, that I eventually would run out of trim and would have to hold the nose forward with my joystick on approaches anywhere between 60-70 KIAS. The more notches of flaps I added, the greater nose forward pressure on my joystick was required. I tested my joystick to ensure that the problem was not my hardware and found it to be in proper working order. Furthermore, this is the only airplane file I have where this has been an issue. Needless to say, this aspect of the flight in Alabeo's Cutlass is a disappointment for me. I also should add that this was just my experience, here, and may not be representative of what others experience with the file.

           

    On a brighter note, the flare during landing is much improved versus some of the Carenado files I own (which tend to land fast), notably the 172N whose landing manners I find to be quite unlike the real thing. Alabeo's Cutlass, in sharp contrast, floats nicely in the flare and lands around Vso like a real 172 does. Now if the trim/flap situation could be fixed (if it is, indeed, a problem outside of my experience), I believe X-Plane would have the most realistic flying Cessna 172 in Alabeo's Cutlass.

    Conclusion

    Alabeo's Cessna 172RG Cutlass is, for the most part, another wonderful addition to the X-Plane line up of General Aviation aircraft. The visual and audio fidelity combined with a decent flight model and reasonable price point makes this file a real value that should appeal to many X-Plane users interested in GA airplanes.

           

    I recommend it for users who may have just learned to fly in the simulator but are now ready to develop their skills with a complex airplane, just like a real Cessna Cutlass is so often used for. Other, more advanced users may find that they prefer a more modern cockpit with GPS and an autopilot. If that describes you, than you'd probably get bored with Alabeo's Cutlass. As for me, I can honestly go either way. I enjoy the modern amenities like those found in the aircraft manufactured these days, but can also see the appeal of hand flying a simpler airplane like this one. Good thing we've got plenty of options!

    Purchase Alabeo - C172RG Cutlass II

    Shawn Weigelt

    Purchase Alabeo - C172RG Cutlass II


    7 Comments
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      A very thorough and informative review. Great to see the comparison shots.

      Thanks for the review Shawn, top drawer stuff!
    1. RatRace's Avatar
      RatRace -
      Always refreshing to read a review by someone who actually knows how the real thing flies.
      Sad to hear about the landing approach problems though. I don't have the Alabeo C172RG Cutlass II, so I don't know whether this is a general issue or not.
      Did the reviewer consider approaching Alabeo with regard to this problem?
    1. LowTransition's Avatar
      LowTransition -
      I mentioned my experience with landing approaches when I emailed Alabeo support. I was not told whether or not they would do anything to correct it, however. The nice thing about X-Plane is that we have the freedom to alter the flight models as we see fit with PlaneMaker. I'm assuming that some of the values for the flaps need adjustment, but I personally haven't tried it yet.
    1. 5171's Avatar
      5171 -
      Shawn this is the most complete and revealing aircraft review I have read without falling asleep! LOL You did a stellar job with this, and what a great gift to any prospective buyer. I whole hardily agree with you about Alabeo. They offer so much with out depleting one's budget for payware aircraft. You have made the choice to buy or skip this one very clear and thanks to your review no one is going in blind on the C172RG Cuttlass II.
      Thank You!

      Mark
    1. MdMax's Avatar
      MdMax -
      Great review. Thank you Shawn.
    1. jstodaro's Avatar
      jstodaro -
      Thanks, Shawn, for the very informative review!

      Incidentally, about a week ago, I debugged and resolved the problem you mentioned in your review: ["I cycled through all of these and only found that the, Switches," view option only seemed to snap my perspective to the, "TailCam," view."])

      I can email you the updated [views.lua] config file (and even post it somewhere for others to grab) if you like. It was just a one-line fix. I've thoroughly tested it, and is working like a charm!

      Note: I did, in fact, contact Alabeo Support; but after one of their support reps accidentally emailed me the wrong [views.lua] file -- (which they mentioned they'd already fixed on their system, just hadn't uploaded it yet to all their resellers) -- which, apparently, was from one of their other products -- I decided (that with a background in C/C++ programming, and the fact that I've recently retired after 40 long years) I should try and fix it myself (which was kinda fun actually), which didn't take too long, just one afternoon. Anyway, I made sure to e-mail the fix back to Alabeo Customer Support.

      Thank you
      - Joe


      MY FLIGHTSIM RIG: X-Plane 10 | Win8.1 64-bit | Quad-Core i7 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD | 2 x GT-755M | Lightspeed Zulu PFX Headset | FSX Aviation headset/USB adapter | Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Yoke, Throttle Quadrant, Trim Wheel, Rudder Pedals, TPM, X52 Joystick and Throttle, V2 Stand for Saitek Yoke
    1. jstodaro's Avatar
      jstodaro -
      Oops!

      Hey, Shawn, never mind about that [views.lua] stuff in my previous post.

      Unfortunately, I didn't realize until about 3 hours ago, that a major upgrade (now v3) to the Alabeo C172RG Cutlass II model was officially released by Alabeo on 10 Jan 2015.

      Wow! Well done! Alabeo designers. Thank you.

      PS: Jeez, I'm surprised Alabeo Customer Support didn't mention this to me in their email (which I received 5+ weeks after the release of v3), instead of just sending me a [views.lua] file. Hmm...go figure.

      - Joe
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