Review by: Daniel Faas
The Cessna 172 is ubiquitous to both real-world civil aviation and the flight simulation community. Since its introduction in 1956 the Cessna company has produced over 44,000 C172’s in various configurations, the most recent being the C172SP introduced in 1998 which is still in production.
The Cessna 172 has become one of the most common trainer aircraft for flight schools and has been in nearly every modern flight simulator including FS2004, FSX, Prepar3d, and X-Plane. As a result, there are few pilots who are not aware of this classic general aviation aircraft. The team over at SimCoders has decided to give the default X-Plane Cessna 172 a bit of an overhaul to bring the realism and immersion up to the level of a complex add-on aircraft.
Download and Installation:
SimCoders have done their best to make the process of modifying the original C172 fairly straight forward and all that is required is a few copy/paste edits and some zip drive extracts. All told, those who are familiar with creating add-ons to X-Plane will have no issue, and the included instructions are fairly clear on the process.
The aircraft itself does not get much of a facelift as the model used is essentially the same as the default but it does look fantastic visually. One area where the visuals have been changed is the addition of chocks and tie-downs. These can be toggled either with the interactive walk-around feature or by using the plug-in menu on the top menu of X-Plane.
The same story from the exterior is true of the interior. All of the requisite gauges, dials, and avionics from the default stay, as they are all function both in the default and in the Reality Expansion. One addition would be the interactive menu/check-lists which can be accessed through an on-screen menu on the left of the screen, or through the kneeboard function included in X-Plane. SimCoders have also included a load/balance manager into their menu as well.
The documentation for the SimCoders aircraft is fairly complete but I would have liked to see a bit more. Included is a manual for the reality expansion pack which goes over all of the added features such as the maintenance panel, setting the condition of the aircraft, and the economy features. Also included is a checklist document but there is no complete Cessna 172 manual which would have been a nice addition.
The lighting in this aircraft remains unchanged from the default and as such is good but not great.
The systems simulation is where the SimCoders Reality Expansion shines, as it is designed to do. All of the behaviors of the systems of the C172 are simulated, as well as the consequences of not operating those systems correctly. Spark plugs can foul, gas can be contaminated, and oil can get old. The engine needs to be warmed properly and ran up correctly to ensure a proper flight and to keep the engine from aging prematurely. All of the gauges will need to be calibrated from time to time to ensure that you are able to monitor your engine or navigate properly.
Another area where this aircraft stands out is realistically responding to how you fly the aircraft. There are a few aircraft that can have failures such as popped tires or engine fire, although most do not, but the SimCoders Expansion pack takes things one step further. The option to include an economy system exists, whereby you are charged for the maintenance on your aircraft. This system can even be linked to the online flight economy FSeconomy where your game-world account can be debited for charges from the SimCoders Expansion. I will include a list below of all of the included systems simulations.
Electrical & Avionics System
- Realistic Battery behavior
- The battery can be disconnected if the airplane is not used for some time
- The avionics are damaged if on when the engine starts/shuts down
Realistic IO-360-L2A Engine Logic
- Realistic propeller animations as never seen before on X-Plane
- Correct fuel consumption
- Oil System:
- Realistic oil viscosity
- Interchangeable oil type
- Oil pump failures
- Realistic oil filter
- Injection Fuel System
- Realistic fuel pump behavior
- Realistic fuel filter
- Realistic startup procedure
- Automatic startup procedure available to help newbies
- Realistic engine temperatures
- Fuel Flooding simulation
- The engine parts are damaged if not managed correctly
Engine Preheater and Winterization Kit
- The engine may be warmed up upon start with the provided electrical heater
- Once activated, the electrical heater runs even when you close the simulator
- Cockpit checks
- Lights checks
- Aileron, rudder, elevator, and flaps check
- Tire check and chocks removal
- Tie-down removal
- Pitot tube check
- Engine cowl check
Flight Dynamics and Test Flight:
To be honest, I have never flown a Cessna 172 (although if you are wanting to fund my pilot training I’ll send you my address), so I can only go by previous experience with simulated Cessna 172 aircraft such as the A2A series for FSX/P3d. SimCoders have also overhauled all of the ground and flight dynamics for the default aircraft including:
Ultra Realistic Cessna Flight & Ground Dynamics
- Realistic stall speeds & behavior
- Realistic climb speeds
- Realistic cruise speeds
- Realistic Weight & Balance
- Realistic taxi behavior
- Push, pull and steer using the joystick
- Towbar simulation
One thing I will say is the towbar simulation is a great add. Once activated you are given a view facing the front of the aircraft as if you are pulling the aircraft yourself using a towbar. SimCoders even went so far as to make the difficulty of towing the aircraft vary by the surface you are on so that if you tow onto grass you may no longer be able to “pull” the aircraft with the towbar.
My test flight was a short hop from LGIR Heraklion airport to LGSA Chania airport, both on the island of Crete, all told it was about a 60nm flight, for a total flight time of just over half an hour. I started out by taxiing out to the active after towing out of the gate, the wind at the airport did have an effect on the taxiing and some rudder was required to hold a straight line on the taxiway. The aircraft lifted off right around 60kts just as noted in the manual and best rate of climb was achieved at 79kts according to the manual, we climbed quickly to our cruise at 4000 ft.
Our cruise was brisk, around 110kts with a fuel flow of 9gph, which fits with what I have experienced before on the C172. With a simple aircraft like the C172 there is little to manage once the aircraft is leaned and flying at cruise. The only method of leaning in the SimCoders version is to lean until your RPM begins to dip, which in most cases is no problem. The autopilot works well, and with NAV hold on I had some time to enjoy the view of Northern Crete and the Mediterranean.
The descent down into Chania was uneventful, the aircraft descends fairly easily, the C172 is by no means a very slick aircraft, and as a result, controlling airspeed on your way down isn’t too much of a challenge. The winds were calm so we used the VOR at Chania to set ourselves up on a straight-in approach to runway 29. The aircraft was trimmed out and with the flaps dropped we easily slowed down to an approach speed of 70kts, the manual says to aim for an approach speed of 61kts at 50ft above the threshold so as we crossed the end of the runway I closed the throttle and flared slightly to allow the aircraft to bleed off airspeed until we dropped onto the runway. The brakes brought us to a stop and the flight ended without any real drama.
The Reality Expansion pack really does take the default Cessna 172 to an entirely new level. What SimCoders have done is create a top shelf payware aircraft out of a default plane. Beyond the effects which I have spoken of the value for your money is off the charts. While similar offerings for P3D run in the $60+ range the SimCoders Reality Expansion only costs $19.99. If you are a fan of GA Flying, are a student pilot, or just love in-depth simulations this aircraft is a must-have. You can find the full package here at the X-Plane store.