Modified Cessna 172 model for X-Plane

UPDATE 2012-01-06: The aircraft panel was updated to include an autopilot power switch, by popular request.

UPDATE 2011-02-18: I’ve continued to tweak the aircraft. It now very accurately models the real-life late-1990s 172SP “N9522S”. There have been numerous cosmetic and graphical updates, the throttle responds very realistically now, and the KAP-140 autopilot is very closely modeled. I submit that this is the nicest-flying freeware 172 available for X-Plane. Read on for the original post, and download the aircraft below.

During my instrument training I quickly discovered that X-Plane 9’s default Cessna 172SP aircraft model behaved fairly unrealistically. Notwithstanding X-Plane’s blade element theory and real-time flight physics, my initial impressions were “twitchy” and “kite-like.” The stock model was hypersensitive and simply too difficult to fly, even using a hacked and improved yoke and rudder setup.

Furthermore the panel of X-Plane’s stock 172 did not closely resemble the panels of my FBO’s rental fleet — a different attitude indicator, different VOR equipment, different radios, etc. I wanted my sim training to translate well into the real world.

Last, it modeled an SP variant of the 172…and I was doing the bulk of my training in less-powerful R models. (Note: later in my training I switched to full-time SP flying, but I didn’t anticipate this when I modified the aircraft model. Oh well.)

X-Plane 9 comes with an aircraft editor and it’s a fine feature. I spent some time hacking the model in order to make it more closely attain the ‘feel’ of a real 172R. Some of the changes I made:

  • Elevator oversensitivity seemed to be the biggest offender in the stock model; I substantially reduced the area of the modeled control surface to make it feel ‘heavier’.
  • I altered the power and weight figures to match an R model instead of the more powerful SP model.
  • I rearranged the panel significantly to closely match the FBO’s fleet. X-Plane 9’s aircraft editor provides a rich set of instruments to accomplish this.
IFR panel

This closely resembles the panel in the real N863CP, a late-model 172R.

I have no mathematical basis for my flight model changes — I confess that the tweaks came about through iterative seat-of-the-pants feel. Was I completely successful? I think that my changes make the simulated 172R approximate the real aircraft behavior pretty darned closely — certainly much more closely than the stock X-Plane model. Granted there are real-world items that you can’t get in the sim, such as the common KLN-94 GPS. (You’re stuck with the poorly-executed Garmin 430 that really leaves much to be desired.) Nonetheless if you’re looking for 172R model for X-Plane that flies with a relatively decent feel, I invite you to try mine.

I provide them here in formats friendly to Linux, Mac and Windows users.  Choose the file that is best for your system, and decompress it into your “X-Plane 9/Aircraft/General Aviation” directory:

Current and maintained file (recommended):

Skyhawk N9522S

If you have ideas for improving these further I’d love to hear from you.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the strangely out-of-place extra magnetic compass just to the right of the altitude indicator is used when simulating “under the hood.”



37 thoughts on “Modified Cessna 172 model for X-Plane

  1. X-Plane 9.21 rc2 running Mac OS 10.6.6

    I downloaded the folder containing “Skyhawk N9522S” and placed it in the correct directory. When I try to open the Cessna_172SP.acf file in X-Plane, it does not open, and I get the following generic error message…”Tried to open the file but smacks of a corrupt file or a file that is not really an airplane file…bla, bla, bla”.

    Any ideas WHY I cannot open this aircraft or how to resolve this problem? The one in x-plane is not at all accurate, is way too twitchy, ect.


    • I’m glad to help however I can.

      I downloaded my own archive and loaded up the plane to make sure I hadn’t put up a corrupted zip. But the plane loaded just fine. I wonder if there might be an X-Plane incompatibility; I run 9.67 (also on OS X 10.6.6) and you mention that you’re on 9.21rc2. That’s about the only thing I can think of. Are you willing to update to the most recent version to see if that makes a difference?

      • Chris, first of all, thank you so much for all your hard work in building this version. I too find the stock 172 to be very UNrealistic in its handling characteristics. Secondly, I encountered the same error message after trying to load your 172 and was running version 9.31. After updated to version 9.70 the plane loaded without a problem. Good work!

  2. Thank you for your work, your tuned plane behaves really nice. But I have just one question. How can I achieve the same panel view as on the picture in your post?
    What FOV angle do you use? For me it seems that the panel in VC is just too close, not the same as yours. And ‘-‘ key seems to do nothing, so I’m unable to get far from the panel.

    Thank you.

    • Hi, Roman. You have to be in 3D Cockpit Mode to have it look like the screenshot; I usually fly this plane like that for the realism value. You’ll find that the view controls give you much more latitude when in 3D mode.

  3. By the way, in your original post, you mentioned you tuned the stock cessna to emulate and R version but in the update you mentioned you tweaked the plane to feel like an SP. So in the latest version of this file an SP version, not R?

      • OK thanks.
        I just used it. I gota say that I am glad that someone finially tweaked the engine response time. It is much more responsive now, just like the real world.
        One more question. The engine sounds a lil more high pitch that what I am used to, Is there a way to tune the engine noise down without affecting performance? If so, could you show me how to do it?


  4. Karim,
    In PlaneMaker, Standard> Engine Specs> SFC/Sound tabs, Lower left of page, rpm that the propeller was recorded at, and rpm that the engine was recorded at = Raise these numbers by 500 to 1000 increments till it suits you. Higher numbers Lower the tone; Lower numbers raise the tone. This isn’t “Custom sounds”; but, it helps.


  5. Thanks for all the work you put into this and for making it available to others. I switched to your version of the 172 several moths ago and have been very pleased with it. I recently upgraded to X-P 10 and (since then) have been having problems with the spot-light (landing light) direction control. It behaved erratically with the original DVD version of the SIM (10.02) but somewhere along new Beta updates it stopped working altogether. Just wonder if you have experienced any issues with it. Before I submit a bug to X-P would like to know if there’s anything that I could do under the hood to correct the problem, or where to look. The debug tools that come with the SIM do not include status reporting of landing light status. It appears that the problem also exists with the standard 172 that comes with the SIM. I wonder if X-P turned off that feature. The only thing that works now is the spot-light on/off, but not the directional control.


    • OK, So Based on the above comments, it looks like this custom Cessna works with X-plane 10? I am about to upgrade soon however I want to make sure This Cessna Model will fly the same as in Xplane 9. But It looks like there will not be any major problems doing so.
      Thanks Chris !

  6. Pingback: X-Plane 10 – Training for PPL | Aaron Ryan's Gadgets and Hobbies

  7. I bought X-plane 10 in February and have struggled with the stock Cessna 172. I learned to fly in one of those and if my plane had behaved like the original172, I doubt I’d still be around.
    I found your version tonight, downloaded it and had it working in minutes. Quick test trip from Heathrow to Luton and your version is so much more like the real thing. The throttle and elevator trim is so much more realistic. Well done, great work.

  8. I like this panel with VS button.
    But, in the display AP, the ALT never changes after Yellow to Green, but ALT is correcly confirmed. I have allways the same ALT in this display.
    Something understound? I d’nt know!

  9. This plane is so diff from the stock version. I loved it and use it everyday. I had the same problem with a new version of X PLANE I just received but the upgrade did it. You must have put a lot of time into it. Thanks.

  10. Hi Chris, great job. I am RW pilot and only question i have is the ailerons on mine are twitchy/jerky. Is there a setting i can adjust?
    thanks for all the work. love your radio stack.

  11. sorry, i should have been bit more descriptive. i have a ch yoke and rudders. when i roll the plane gets out ahead of me at the slightest movement of the yoke. will try and adjust settings in x-plane to see if it makes difference. downloaded your 177rg. your radio/nav panel work and overall cockpit clarity is just outstanding.
    thanks so much for sharing
    ksdl flyer

  12. Hi,
    Thanks for your great work here!! This kind of saved my day; just got XP10, hated stock Cessna, loaded this one and loved it.

    I wish you clear skies!

  13. Love this plane…. Works Great with 10.30b3. I have a commercial-instrument and fly a 172 and this has great feel. Much more realistic than x-planes default 172. I would love it if someone could update the G430 to the new version that came with 10.30 so you could do GPS approaches with it. I use EADTs KLN 90B with data updates from Navigraph for full GPS approach capability. Most of the 172s I rent use a KLN type GPS (89, 94, etc.)

      • Thanks, one last question, and this seems to be a problem with the default 172.
        If You take off with the AutoPilot totally off you can use the Saitek trim wheel to trim the plane normally. If you turn the AutoPilot on in Course Mode (Hdr,Nav,GPS) and Altitude Hold and then at some point turn the Altitude Hold off to start an approach decent, the autopilot appears to still give feed back to the trim as seen by the planes trim wheel constantly moving. This prevents you from trimming the plane with the Saitek trim wheel as you normally would. Is there a way to use the autopilot for course direction and have altitude hold mode completely shut off. Appreciate all your time and effort in our behalf to create such a realistic model. Roy

  14. Roy i have the same issue. I cannot seem to stop AP from adjusting trim even when it is switched off. This makes it very hard to land!! I will be downloading this new Cessna 172 SP tongiht and see what improvements it has over the default model. I am looking forward to it!

  15. Chris, is there a way to click on the Garmin 430 and have it pop up in a separate large “hovering” window like in the default 172P? Love everything about this plane except having to zoom in to use the navigation.

  16. Hi, thanks for the better 172, you must a little fan club by now! I am revising for my IMC renewal in the UK and it is great to have an ordinary DME as in real life. However I was frustrated to find that I could not get DME readings from the Lydd (EGMD) facility although I could from the nearby VOR (LYD) and this obviously makes practice approaches unrealistic. I suspect it is not a problem with your aircraft sim but more that the airfield data has not been updated in X-Plane 10, is that a possible reason?

    • Every now and then you’ll encounter an error in the sim’s built-in nav database, such as a wrong freq or a missing DME. I think that you might have just found one.

      • Thanks, that would explain it, I have also left a message with Randy of X-Plane who has said they will check this out. This would also mean probably that any other aircraft sim with a DME fitted would probably have the same problem, so no point wasting time downloading other planes to try?

  17. I just found this last night after realizing that the carenado 182T doesn’t properly support RNAV approaches in its G1000. Imagine my suprise when I saw the tail number of ole 9522S, the same plane I did most of my recent PPL in at S43. 🙂

  18. I am so glad I found this site. I brought X-Plane 9 (not sure which version) a few weeks ago because it is the latest X-Plane that will work with the VR headset I am buying. I have been trying to get the 172 to work for a couple of weeks now with no success. I will download this plane tonight. Thank you for identifying this problem and providing a solution.

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