In addition to taking a look at Alabeo’s latest Xp11 upgrade, we’ll head down to Santiago, Chile to take a second look around the area, then we’ll look at a tweak you might want to get onboard for flying over that storied city.
Okay, let’s get to it!
Cessna C177 II RG by Alabeo
Alabeo released their Cessna Cardinal RG for Xp10 some time ago, but recently released a new version for Xp11 and, as we didn’t have the older version on hand, we were curious. How does this littlest retractable geared Cessna stack up against the likes of the default Skyhawk, or even Carenado’s C210 Turbo Centurion, Cessna’s big retractable geared single. And, why these other two? Well, is this new Alabeo interesting enough to entice someone new to flight sims in general to break away from using default aircraft like the 172 Slyhawk II? And if so, is it deep enough to keep someone interested for more than a few weeks? Is the 210 a better option for a “student” pilot moving up to something more complex?
Well, let’s take a look, and we’ll start off the day down in sunny Key West, Florida, at Icarus Simulations KEYW (available from X-Aviation, link here). After a rough afternoon at Sloppy Joe’s, we’ll bunk out and get an early morning start and head up to Naples, Florida for a nice, hour long test-flight.
Ready? Let’s start out on the ramps and take a walk around our newest aircraft…
Alabeo has become fondly known as a developer something akin to Carenado’s kid brother, and once upon a time that might have been the case. Not anymore. Alabeo’s latest aircraft files are every bit as good as the newest generation of Carenado, and the evidence is clear as soon as you open the file and take a look around (as always, we’re using the latest version of Xp (11.26) with all rendering options set at MAX). Still, beauty has to be more than skin deep…everything has got to look great AND work flawlessly to really be the equal of Carenado, but once again, this newest Alabeo earns a Carenado Class award from us…she flies great, handles well in multiple flight regimes, and presents few surprises. Details, like opening doors and menu items, are pure Carenado, too.
So, we’re trying to get off by 0530 and get out to the aircraft around 0500; preflight done by 0515 and buckled in a few minutes later. Nothing to starting a Cessna, so get her going and watch the gauges for a minute, then cut the brakes and let’s go…
Taxiing in this little Cessna is straight-forward with no surprises. Torque on applying power was a little more than expected, and as a rule when you run into this it’s best to apply power slowly. Direction control was excellent, even so. If this is your first experience in a retractable gear aircraft, the rule of thumb is simple enough: as soon as you register a Positive Rate of Climb for a few seconds (enough to register about +2-300 FPM) you’re good to retract the landing gear. We set the AP to a 500 FPM climb on a heading of 005º, using the Garmin 530 to set our baseline course for Naples Municipal. The VOR at Naples is too distant to pick-up in the Keys.
Some details stick out on this model. Watch the gear retraction sequence (or on the 210 Centurion, for that matter), as this sequence is unique. Also note, no wing support struts, the fuel tank selector knob on the floor – with the cowl flaps control just above. The last image in the set below is approaching Marco Island, about 30 miles south of Naples.
Below, approaching KAPF Naples Municipal – Runway 5 – about an hour later. Alabeo’s panel is set up for VFR to light IFR duties, while the Garmin 530 handles all NavCOMM frequency tuning. There is a basic AP, a simple AHI and DG (no HSI), i.e., about all that’s really needed for simple VFR flying, with just enough to deal with unexpected (and infrequent) instrument conditions. As such, this is not really an ideal IFR trainer, rather a VFR cruiser.
I only experienced two issues during this “flight”: 1) the AP cut off and lost altitude/heading for about 15 seconds, then turned back on and all was well; and, 2) there was a little bit more ‘Cessna float’ than I was expecting on landing at Naples.
I started a gentle flare once below 60KIAS, expecting speed to drop quickly and the last few feet to trickle away, but the aircraft resolutely refused to sink until speed dropped well into the 40s, and somehow I doubt this is representative of real world performance. Could be, but I was expecting more sink rate. Other than these two minor issues, this was a Carenado Class ride. Or maybe we should say an Alabeo Class ride?
As usual, there are a bunch of liveries to choose from, including this great looking French registration for the RG model:
NAPS makes many great airports in Florida for X-plane, including the KAPF Naples Municipal used today, and it can be found right here: https://naps.blog/naples/ It’s a freeware file, BTW.
The Cessna C177 II RG file is available at all the usual outlets, including the Org Store, the aeroSoft Store, and, of course, at the Carenado/Alabeo stores. Do note there is a non-retractable geared model included in this purchase/download, but I mean…really? Why bother?
Now, as to the question posed at the beginning of this post, let’s address our would-be pilot new to flight, though perhaps she’s been using Xp for a few weeks and is comfortable with the default Cessna 172. She’s been thinking it’s time to move on up to a faster single…perhaps because her first few tries in the Baron were not so enjoyable. So…would this Cardinal RG be the way to go?
Assuming our hypothetical pilot likes the whole Cessna gestalt (high-wing, good visibility, etc.) what would be the next step up from the Skyhawk? This little Cardinal gives a modest increase in speed and just a little increase in complexity, so it’s an easy move. The 210 Turbo Centurion? In the real world I’d never recommend such an aircraft to someone with so little flight time, but in Xp the move isn’t as audacious as it sounds. You gain near twin-engined speed, but at the expense of both more mechanical complexity and engine management skills. You pick up more IFR capability, too, so in the end I think it all comes down to confidence level and need.
If our pilot has real world ambitions that include a higher performance IFR equipped aircraft in her future then, by all means…go for the 210 and see how that feels. On the other hand, if flying at 120KIAS in a modestly equipped single is all this pilot aspires to, then why bother with the complexity if, in the end, our pilot won’t need the additional speed and capability. And sure, there are other models by Piper and Beechcraft (and more) to consider as our pilot builds time, but that’s for another day. This little Cardinal makes for an anxiety free transition up from the Skyhawk, so maybe this is the best choice for many just getting into X-plane and now confident enough to move up to a payware aircraft file. This Cardinal just might open up a whole other world possibilities, and lead our new pilot to a life up in the clouds.
VirtualDesign3D has been putting out extremely detailed airport files for quite a while, and not long ago they published SCEL Santiago, Chile under the aeroSoft label. The file is a classic, too, and a Must Have for anyone who likes to tinker with long-haul heavy-metal flying. Their other file in the same city, SCTB Tobalaba, includes a seriously detailed city file for Santiago, making these two files complimentary, almost vitally so. With both on board, you end up with something that looks like this:
Oh, that’s the latest v1.52 MagKnight 789 (released a couple of days ago), and it’s a nice upgrade with very well done wing flex and a cockpit makeover featuring a gray texture that looks great (and seen in the next set of images).
Now…what I wanted to pass on is a simple addition you can add to the Santiago area. The complete, hi-res ortho set seen just below adds another dimension to flights over the city, and the file is – free. Take a look:
And where can you get this file?
Yup, you guessed it…at VirtualDesign3D’s website, under the freeware section. It’s great to find another team that’s willing to keep making freeware assets available – even as they make great payware products (TruScenery in Finland is another). Their SCEL and SCTB are available at the Org Store, and, of course, from the aeroSoft Store.
And…I hear that fat lady singing again, so it might just be time to quit for the night. We’ll seeya next time, and Happy Trails –