• Review: Cessna 120 3D By Flysimware

    Review: Cessna 120 3D By Flysimware

    By Bill Stack
    November 1, 2011

    Screen shots by Flysimware

    The Cessna 120 was tail-dragging, two-seat, high-wing general-aviation aircraft produced between 1947 and 1950. It was an economy version of the Cessna 140, both of which were produced simultaneously. The 120 model had the same engine as the 140, but it did not have wing flaps. An electrical system and the "D" shaped cabin windows were optional. More than 7600 120s and 140s were produced during this period, when industries around the world were converting to peacetime production following World War II and when people were enjoying more and more new consumer products. It cost about $3500 US in the 1940s.

    In October 1959, a Cessna 120 was guided to the Schenectady, New York, airport by a the captain of an American Airlines DC-6. The Cessna pilot, flying from Mansfield, Massachusetts, became lost and could not find his destination airport. Running out of fuel, he radioed the control tower. The DC-6 pilot heard the distress call and told the Cessna pilot to follow him to the airport. The Cessna landed with 20 minutes of fuel remaining. (Schenectady Gazette, October 4, 1959)

    Flysimware heralds these features of its Cessna 120 3D

    • Real world gauges
    • High quality textures
    • Custom sounds
    • Two models
    • Paint kit

    Flysimware's C-120 3D has the electrical upgrade that enables electric engine starter, avionics, and lights. It does not have the optional "D" side windows. The "3D" in its title refers to the 3D cockpit because all switches and gauges are 3D, the developer explained. "I decided to use the word 3D since all switches and gauges are 3D, and no 2D gauges except a GPS," Mark Taylor of Flysimware said. "Performance wise 3D gauges perform better. The 2D GPS is for users who can't see well."

    Selection Menu Red 2 Yellow
    Blue & Yellow Tundra Red & Yellow Tundra
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    Visual Features

    The product includes a basic version and a version called "Tundra." The only difference is the larger tires on the Tundra. "The Tundra model has the same setup besides the wheels," the developer explained in response to my question.

    Twelve paint schemes are available. They are basically red, yellow, and combinations of red and yellow. One is blue and yellow. Flysimware said all are based on real-world pictures.

    Exterior and interior surfaces are textured with bumps, rivets, and seams. Surfaces also reflect light and show shadows that change in relationship to the light sources as the aircraft turns or as views change.

    Everything about these aircraft appear accurate and realistic compared with the real-world photos I found on the Internet. I cannot find anything visual to criticize.

    C-120 CLOSE UP
    Red 2 Blue/Yellow Tundra Gear & Flaps Down

    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    Cessna 120 Interior

    The interior appears like real-world photos I found. The bright red interior finishes contrast dramatically with modern aircraft whose interiors are more subdued. This is comparable to automobiles from each period.

    C-120's INTERIORS
    Left Seat Right Seat Pilot
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    C-120's Instruments

    The instrument panel in Flysimware's Cessna 120 is basically realistic compared with real-world photos I found. There are many variations of this panel over the decades, so finding an exact match would naturally be difficult.

    All gauges are three-dimensional. The instrument panel is 3D only; there is no 2D panel. The only popup window is the hand-held Garmin 295 GPS.

    The opening screen when the Garmin 295 GPS first comes on says "Flysimware." The popup GPS and the virtual GPS mounted above the instrument panel do not work together, so the developer advises not relying on both at the same time.

    Switches, knobs, handles, and similar controls can be worked with mouse clicks. "Every switch and knob mimics the real world," Flysimware says in its product description and manual.

    All knobs and switches have tooltips for identifying their functions. Most of the large gauges do not have tooltips "to avoid annoying popups while your mouse is traveling," Flysimware says. These gauges work for the for U.S. standard or metric measuring equipment.

    Pressing "Ident" on the transponder squawks it back to Vatsim's online tower, Flysimware says, "bringing more realism to Microsoft Flight Simulator."

    There's a Nav-1 radio in the radio panel but no navigation instruments (OBI, HSI, DME).

    The view of the engine-temperature gauge and the tachometer from the pilot's eye level is by the yoke. Both yokes can be removed and replaced simultaneously by clicking on its shaft, however.

    This old-fashioned instrument panel takes some getting used to. The instruments are in the middle of the panel, so pilots must look toward their right to read them instead of directly in front of them. The lack of navigation instruments limits navigation to pilotage and dead reckoning. The aircraft is visual only. No instrument flying is allowed under law, and it isn't possible without the navigation instruments anyway. Granted the GPS can be used for navigating, but this aircraft was flown for decades without GPS.




    Red 2


    Screen shots by Bill Stack


    In addition to the basic animated parts such as ailerons, rudder, and yokes, several other items are animated:

    • The right seat moves
    • The passenger door opens and closes
    • The engine cover lifts off and lays on ground
    • Storage boxes in the instrument panel open and close
    • A Pilot's Handbook comes out of the right-side storage box and appears for the pilot to see
    • Fuses in a fuse box screw in and out
    • Yokes disappear and reappear for use of the 3D panel


    Cabin Door Open

    Cabin Door Open

    Pilot's Notepads

    Pilot's Handbook Box

    Pilot's Handbook

    Engine Cover Off
    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    The C-120's Performance

    For my flight tests, I used Cessna Airport (KCEA) in Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A., where Cessna tested many aircraft during the this period. Its long runway is asphalt 3877 feet, and its short runway is concrete 2000 feet. Elevation is 1378 feet. I used Flysimware's gross weight of 1329 pounds, which is 88 percent of the aircraft's 1,500-pound maximum gross take-off. And I used standard atmosphere (59F, 29.92 in), clear weather, and calm air.

    Starting: Flysimware's C-120 is running when any flight opens, but it quits a few seconds later, requiring a restart. The checklist says to open the throttle one-quarter inch for starting, but I don't see how we know what a quarter inch of throttle is. The throttle must be advanced slightly to keep the engine running. About 700 RPMs keeps it running but doesn't enable the aircraft to roll away. Nothing is stated about this in the checklist. To check engine performance, the checklist calls for increasing throttle to 1800 RPM, checking the gauges, then reducing throttle to 1000 RPM. This must be done with brakes engaged, or the aircraft will roll away.

    Taxiing: The aircraft taxis as other tail draggers do &#8212 it requires gentle touches on the rudder because it will oversteer easily. Too much pressure one way or the other causes it to veer sharply to one side or the other. Overcorrection is another hazard. Crosswinds make it worse. It can be managed with practice, which is true in real-world tail draggers. Flysimware's manual says its C-120 will tip over if full brakes are used and the yoke is pushed forward, which was a hazard in the real aircraft. I couldn't make the aircraft tip over, however.

    Taking Off: The checklist says "throttle full" for taking off. That raises the tachometer to about 2200 RPM. Then the checklist says to lift the tail at 20 KTS. Nothing I did made the tail lift below 40 KTS, however. The entire aircraft lifted off between 60 KIAS and 65 KIAS, using less than half the 3877-foot runway.

    Climbing Out: The checklist calls for climbing out at 70 KIAS to 80 KIAS. At 70 KIAS, it climbs easily at 700 feet per minute. At 80 KIAS, it climbs at 500 FPM. Without an attitude indicator, I couldn't determine my angle of climb, but the horizon outside looked like 20 degrees. The aircraft climbed several thousand feet at this speed and angle. For "enroute climb," the checklist says 70 KIAS to 85 KIAS with full throttle. Obviously the 70-KIAS climb is steeper than the 85-KIAS climb, but a steep enroute climb would be necessary only if there were very high terrain in the flight path. I pitched the nose up to reduce speed to 70 KIAS, particularly to see if it would stall, and it had no problem climbing at this rate.

    Cruising: I leveled off at 5000 feet MSL because this is a common altitude for visual flying. The aircraft quickly accelerated to 116 knots indicated airspeed. At this altitude, that quickly computes to about 126 knots true airspeed. It held this altitude with a little elevator adjustment. Elevator trim and close attention to altitude and vertical speed are necessary for level flight because this aircraft has no autopilot.

    Then I climbed to 11,000 feet and leveled off again. Although ceiling is specified at 15,500 feet, this aircraft is not pressurized and air is thin for human breathing at that altitude. The aircraft accelerated to 90 KIAS, which roughly computes to about 112 knots true airspeed at this altitude. The aircraft had no problem holding this altitude with just a little elevator trimming.

    Turning: This aircraft turns very easily. A nominal amount of yoke pressure banks the aircraft to one side or the other, and the same amount of pressure exits the turn and resumes straight flight. It doesn't lose much altitude during turns, either. Without an attitude indicator we must rely on the horizon, magnetic compass, and the altimeter and vertical-speed indicator to know whether we're holding altitude during a turn. The only instrument with a compass rose is the GPS, and that wasn't available for most of this aircraft's life. For simulation real to the period, therefore, we would use the magnetic compass to know when to exit our turns.

    Descending: To begin descent, the checklist simply says to reduce power "as desired" and to adjust mixture as needed. I had to pull the throttle back about halfway to induce a descent of any consequence. The aircraft then glided nicely at 90 KIAS and 500 FPM. For a faster descent, I pointed the nose down a bit. The aircraft then accelerated to 110 KIAS and 700 FPM. Due to normal flight dynamics, the aircraft naturally pitches up when the airspeed increases, requiring more adjustment. This basically means that merely reducing power doesn't induce a significant descent rate.

    Approaching: Since this was strictly a visual aircraft for many decades, finding destination airports required sharp eyes and good navigation skills. The airports in the KCEA area are so close to one another that pilots could easily head for the wrong airport! Granted today's GPS is very helpful in this regard, but it wasn't available to pilots of this aircraft for more than 40 years. Once the correct airport is found, turning into and through the airport circuit is very easy. The aircraft descended comfortably toward the runway at 60 to 65 KIAS.

    Landing: Without flaps, landing in this aircraft requires close attention to airspeed, pitch, and descent rate. The checklist calls for landing between 65 and 75 KIAS, but the aircraft didn't settle down willingly at those speeds, and stall speed is 45 KIAS. Indeed, the aircraft landed nicely at 45 KIAS on a subsequent landing. After touching down in the touchdown zone, it stopped well within the runway's 3,877 feet without braking.

    The throttle cannot be left at zero for long because the engine will shut down before the aircraft can taxi off the runway. Power must be increased slightly for taxiing.

    Navigating: Without navigation instruments (OBI, HSI, DME), this was a pilotage and dead-reckoning aircraft for most of its life. The GPS wasn't available until decades after this aircraft was built.

    Overall: Guidance for flying Flysimware's Cessna 120 3D is rudimentary, but it's enough for such a simple aircraft. Anybody with any flight-sim experience can learn to handle it. I observed no torque at any time during my test flights. The big challenge is navigation, even simply flying around for recreation. Without radio navigation aids, it's definitely a visual pilot's aircraft. Of course, the hand-held GPS is very useful, but it wasn't available for most of this aircraft's life.

    Having never flown any Cessna 120, I cannot personally attest to how closely Flysimware's rendition resembles the real-world aircraft's performance. Neither can I say how it compares to other Cessna 120s that might be available for MSFS.

    C-120 3D IN FLIGHT
    Red 3 Yellow Red 1 Tundra

    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    C-120 Performance Specifications
    Item Flysimware
    Occupants 2
    Empty Weight 818 LBS
    Useful Load 681 LBS1
    Gross Weight 1499 LBS
    Range 475 MI
    Ceiling 15,500 FT
    Endurance 3.95 HRS AVG1
    Cruising Speed 105 MPH
    Stall Speed 45 KIAS
    Maximum Speed 120 MPH
    1. Calculated from other data

    At 1499 pounds gross weight, the Cessna 120 was a bit heavier than the Piper Cub (1220 lbs) and lighter than the Cessna 172 (1665 lbs), both of which most flight simmers are familiar with.


    This aircraft's sounds use a gauge file activated when the simulator starts. The developer explained that all Flysimware aircraft use this sound module that enables up to 200 custom sounds hard coded into the model. That explains why there is no sound folder with "wav" files like other MSFS aircraft. Some sounds are definitely unique, such as the creaking parking brake and the squealing wheel brakes.

    The Documents

    Three documents accompany this aircraft:

    • Checklists: The kneeboard checklists lay out necessary steps for all flight phases from preflight to shutdown.

    • Reference Sheet: The kneeboard reference sheet provides V-speed data.

    • Manual: This 10-page document explains the use of Flysimware's Cessna 120 with text and annotated images. Topics include Installation, Description, Animation, and Tooltips. It's in a file named "1947 Cessna 120 3D.rtf."



    Reference Sheet


    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    Technical Matters

    Flysimware's Cessna 120 is for Microsoft Flight Simulator X with SP2 and Acceleration. The manual says the aircraft was tested with FSX, SP2, and Acceleration, and it says SP2 and Acceleration are required.

    The installation program gives users an option to install on Windows XP/Vista or Windows 7. The installation program says 198 megabytes of disk space are required.

    When FSX starts, a window appears asking if the user wants to run "MT_XMLSound.gau." This is the unique sound set. To hear these unique sounds, users should click "Run" then answer "Yes" to the subsequent question.

    After installation is completed, the installation program gives users a link to view the instruction file, which is in rich text format (RTF).

    In the Aircraft Selection menu, the C-120 is listed under "Flysimware" instead of under "Cessna."

    Frame rates are good. My computer (12 gigabytes of memory, 1,500 gigabytes of hard drive space, and Windows 7) is much faster and more powerful than my old XP computer, and it might be more so than the average flight simmer is using. But I didn't see anything about this aircraft that would cause poor frame rates for anyone.

    An uninstall program can be used for removing the product if desired.

    Technical support is through a form on the developer's website.

    Readers with technical questions not answered in this review should ask the developer, who is in the best position to answer such questions. Using the links below, go to the Pilot Shop page where the product is listed and described, then click on "Manufacturer Tech Support" in the right column.


    MSFS Version


    Instant download from the Pilot Shop


    Installation program


    License key required


    Copyright acknowledgment required


    Frame Rates


    Manual included


    Uninstall program included



    $17.99 US

    Special Features

    A paint kit is included with the package. It's in the product's archive file, but it is not installed with the other aircraft files. To use it, the archive file must be opened again.

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    More Information

    Detailed information about the real-world Cessna 120 is available from Wikipedia.

    The Developer

    Flysimware describes itself as "a community place for everyone" that offers "High quality FS Freeware and Payware Addons," according to its website. Its products and services are for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and Microsoft Flight 2011. It also uses other services like Acars & Vatsim. Communication is broadcasted over Team Speak 3 for Virtual Airlines, Air Traffic Control, Developing and pilot lounges. The Cessna 120 was chosen for development because of its unique yet simple panel, the developer said. "I develop all aspects of my project by myself," Mark Taylor explained, "and so I only make light aircraft at the moment." Flysimware's other products include:


    Flysimware's Cessna 120 is a nifty little aircraft that brings us back to the early days of general aviation. It's realistic inside and outside, with the addition of a modern GPS unit. Handling seems appropriate for an aircraft of its size and type, and it's very easy to fly. The unique sound set enhances the experience. The manual, checklists, and reference sheet are helpful toward flying this aircraft realistically.

    Bill Stack
    [email protected]

    Learn more about the Cessna 120 3D by Flysimware

    Bill Stack is author of several books about flight simulation, a regular author in flight-sim magazines, and a contributor to Flight Sim Com. His website is www.topskills.com

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