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.
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):
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.”