• Review: Carenado C172SP Skyhawk X-Plane 11

    Review: Carenado C172SP Skyhawk X-Plane 11

    Reviewed by Shawn Weigelt

    Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk N33QM


    "Just what X-Plane needs, another Cessna 172," I sarcastically thought as I read Carenado's December 4th Facebook announcement that they were working on a Cessna 172. What can I say...I like variety in the flight simulation industry and learning that Carenado was only adding to the seemingly saturated Cessna 172 market was a bit of a turnoff to me. Currently, X-Plane 11 sim pilots are blessed with an abundance of excellent 172's to include the well received "study level" offering from developer Airfoillabs. The default, Laminar 172SP is a visually excellent rendition of the ubiquitous Skyhawk with a decent flight model to boot. For sim pilots desiring an extra amount of realism, there is an available Reality Expansion Pack by the Simcoders development team as an enhancement for the Laminar model.

    The cynical side of me obviously questioned the logic of Carenado adding yet another 172 to the already crowded stable. My initial impressions of the visual fidelity of the model were positive, but that should come as no surprise considering that Carenado, for years, has led the flight simulation industry in the production of visually stunning aircraft. Still, with an airplane as well known as the Cessna 172, and with so many X-Plane users familiar with the flight characteristics of the real thing, I was doubtful the flight model of the Carenado 172SP would live up to expectations.

    Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk     Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk

    Social media comments following the development of the model varied greatly, with some individuals sharing my sentiments in their lamentations of yet another 172. Others were supportive of Carenado's decision to release a 172, while yet others only made requests for their own personal favorite airplane to be developed next. Trying desperately not to allow the opinions (and complaints) of others sway my own impressions, I followed the development of the aircraft closely, with interest and an open mind. There was no doubt it looked amazing (can a 172 look amazing?), and I tried my very best to be optimistic about the flight model. The implementation of Laminar's native G1000 avionics suite, rather than Carenado's own version, was particularly intriguing to me and made me all the more excited to get my hands on it.

    Having extensively tested the newly released Carenado C172SP, I feel prepared to give the X-Plane 11 community and our FlightSim.Com readership my opinions and advice surrounding this arguably controversial file. Is this newcomer simply "eye candy" that is doomed for failure amid a crowded 172 marketplace, or is this the next great Cessna Skyhawk ready to supplant all the others within your own virtual hangar? Let's find out!

    Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk     Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk

    Exterior Model

    As is typical of my airplane reviews, let's start with the exterior of the aircraft. Once the file was installed within X-Plane 11.30, I began my 360-degree "walk around" of the Carenado Cessna 172SP. To say that I was "wowed" with the visual fidelity of the airplane would be a gross understatement. Everything looked spot on accurate when compared with photos of its real world counterpart. Carenado included static objects around the airplane when it is loaded into the sim under "cold and dark" conditions. These objects include cones near the wingtips, remove before flight flags, engine cowl plugs, and a beautifully modeled tug affixed to the nose wheel. These are instantly removed with a simple mouse toggle found within the super handy tabbed "O" (options) menu that Carenado and Alabeo fans have come to appreciate.

    The bump mapping and PBR texture work on the exterior of the 172SP are some of the best I've ever seen from a Carenado model (or any flight simulation model, for that matter). Every ridge and rivet seem to visually "pop" lending a tremendous amount of immersion to the file. This looks just like a real airplane made of steel and aluminum, an illusion that not every development team is able to do very well.

    Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk     Carenado - C172SP Skyhawk

    Included with the Carenado C172SP are five high quality liveries - all of which possess American N-number registrations. As an American myself, I don't really mind this. However, customers in other locales may find themselves feeling left out. All of the liveries have been skillfully applied and look very authentic. Some of them may not exactly match the model year window that this C172SP appears to be portrayed as, (and as the GFC 700 autopilot equipped instrument panel suggests) but that's not a huge deal to me and, I assume, most sim pilots. My personal favorite livery is N33QM, an accurate representation of a 2008 model year aircraft with maroon and gold striping.

    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Many thanks for the in-depth review Shawn; it really does look like a fantastic example of the Cessna 172.


    1. tbissett's Avatar
      tbissett -
      I fly a 172 G1000 in the "real world," and I think your words "plausible facsimile," are pretty accurate. The basics of the Laminar version would make you feel right at home looking at the real G1000 unit, but the real G1000 has many more options and functions behind the scenes that aren't replicated in the Laminar version. All the basics are there, though.
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