Review: Carenado C172N Skyhawk II For FS2004
By Rohan Nair (11 April 2010)
When we talk about training planes both for flight simulation and real world training, the most common suggestion will be the Cessna 172. After all, it has been there in flight simulator since FS2002. Thus, there was a need for a highly detailed and realistic version of the 172. Carenado took up the responsibility and developed a 172 for both FS2004 and FSX. That's what this review is going to be about.
Carenado developed this aircraft for FS2004 only. An FSX version is available separately. Yes, I haven't lost faith in FS2004 yet. The model offered is the 172N with and without gear fairings. The aircraft has a 2D panel and a fully functional 3D virtual cockpit. All standard animations are present including some special animations like a moving sun visor and vibrating antennae. A total of four liveries are available and there is an option for the gear fairings except for the 50th anniversary livery. There is no product manual but a reference card and checklist/procedures manual are provided.
The Cessna 172 is a four seat, single engine, high and fixed wing aircraft. It was first flown in 1955 and since then had proved to be the most popular private and training airplane. The 172N was introduced in 1977. The model featured a new engine and an optional rudder trim and pre-selectable flap positions. Several improvements were made to the model after its launch and production ended in 1980 with the coming of the 172P.
Download and Installation
The product comes as a 30 MB zip file download from the Pilot Shop. Installation is very easy. Simply extract the file, run the installer, enter your name, serial key and follow the instructions on screen. Please note that the installer will not automatically detect your FS installation if it is installed somewhere other than the default installation folder. You must point the installer to it manually. Rest all is fine. System requirements have not been specified. I did the review using a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 GB RAM and a 384 MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD2300 on a 32 bit Vista SP2 OS.
After installation, you can find a single folder in the start menu that contains the uninstall file only. Two manuals can be found in the following directory: '[FS Root]\Aircraft\Carenado C172II N\'. There is no product manual. One of them is a reference card and the other is a checklist/procedure manual. The reference card contains all reference speeds and the checklist/procedure manual contains all normal procedures as well as emergency procedures too. Both manuals are well made. A copyright and repaint policy statement can also be found in another PDF in the same directory. You can find the aircraft in FS2004 under the 'C172N' model of the 'Carenado' aircraft manufacturer in the aircraft selection menu.
The 3D virtual cockpit of this aircraft looks fabulous. The gauges are quite clear. Do not zoom out too much because it will be difficult to read them. All switches and knobs that have been modeled are fully functional in the virtual cockpit. The fresh air controls that can be found at the top right and left corners can be pushed in and out too. You can bring the sun visors down by clicking on them. They look just like the ones from automobiles. A nice thing to note is that all gauges have dynamic tool tips. Some of them are wrongly labeled such as those of the VOR 1 and 2 indicators and the carburetor heat and cabin air full on. A strange thing is that you can make the yokes disappear by clicking on the socket holding them. Night lighting in the 3D cockpit is excellent. You can also open and close the windows by clicking on the window latches.
The 2D panel of this aircraft is finely designed. It may seem a little too small but that's an issue with quite a number of GA aircraft add-ons face. The gauges are clear. You can get pop ups of several gauges on the panel to make them bigger. The yoke can be brought up in the same way described earlier. You can get an icons panel by clicking the 'x' button found on the lower right hand corner of the panel. This is just a basic panel selector. An issue here is that the pitot heat switch doesn't function in the 2D cockpit but does so in the VC. The 2D contains the entire front panel from the extreme left to the radio stack on the right (included). The eye point in the 2D panel is too high. Press Shift + Enter to lower the eye point. Night lighting in the 2D is great.
The exterior model of this aircraft is very well designed. It's very detailed with some realistic dirt effects too. Even the rivets holding the fuselage together are also detailed. The airplane sits with its nose slightly canted upwards, just like the real one. The pilot is also modeled nicely. He has some cool sunglasses too! He even moves his head around when sitting idle. His head moves up or down, left or right with respect to the movement of the yoke. The lights are working normally.
Most of the aircraft's systems work fine except the radio stack and lights. The radio stack is quite confusing to use. It has a dual set communication and navigation radios but the tool tips are very misleading. For some reason, I can't get the other communication radio to work. The transponder and ADF work fine.
The pitot heat switch is not functional in the 2D cockpit but it is in the VC. Also, there is no switch for the panel light. You will have to turn on all the lights by pressing L or by assigning a key command for the panel light switch. The strobe light switch doesn't work either in both types of cockpits. The navigation light switch can be used to bring up some strobe type of lighting on the wings.
In my opinion, the flight dynamics of this aircraft are very good. It feels and handles just like a real Cessna. This is another reason why Carenado have such a good reputation. The plane behaves well and is very easy to fly.
The sounds of this aircraft are amazing. Both interior and exterior sounds sound as if they have been recorded from the real world. You can get the feel of those pistons pumping as you pour on the coals. The exterior sounds are great too. You can hear the flaps extend and retract but in the real world, these sounds cannot be heard over the noise of the engine and while wearing ANR (Active Noise Reduction) headsets.
With this aircraft, I get fluid frame rates. It's kind of obvious since it's a simple GA aircraft. To keep it simple, if you get a good frame rate in the default Cessna 172, you'll get pretty much the same results with this product.
This aircraft is great package for any avid flight simulation enthusiast. I highly recommend that you get this package because I think it's the best one around. The model is great, the cockpit is also great, the systems are good, flight dynamics and sound are excellent and you get fluid frame rates. Don't forget the fun of flying low and slow in a classic airplane! Please feel free to contact me.