Alabeo C177 CARDINAL II B/RG
P3Dv2.2: Out with the old, in with the new.
I remember back during the first 2 years after the release of FSX and seeing so many people eager to drop FS9 and move on. Whereas FSX had many enhanced features and visuals, it was the lack of 3rd party addons that primarily held me back. Couple that with the limited personal computer technology of the time and was very easy to see why so many stuck with the old FS9 platform. At least, these were the two main reasons for me.
And if we look at the current complaints from many modern day simpilots between FSX and P3D, it's easy to see not much has changed. Since the release of FSX, never before had the flight simulation community seen such a division in i's differences. Think about it. Whenever Microsoft released a new platform, we all just headed off to our local computer or electronics store, bought a copy, headed home, completed the installation process, and bam, back in the air again. Time after time.
But with FS9, things were really different. Sure, we had addons for the previous platforms proceeding FS9. Mostly freeware, a few good payware but nothing too much. With FS9 however, this became the evolution of 3rd party based products. For the first time in history, we had a platform in which a user could literally purchase thousands upon thousands worth of addons. We saw many new developers arrive on the scene as well. Geroender (Now the guys are with Orbx) Lago (became Cloud9, now FSDT) FlyTampa, PMDG, the list goes on and on. There was just something about the technology and visuals over the previous platforms that really showed the potential of what kind of products we could enjoy with flight simulation and developers continued to push the envelope. FS9's true potential was not realized until after the release of FSX.
In fact, 3rd party flight simulation product development in and of itself begin to become big business with new ventures popping up all over the place. The rise of companies like Aerosoft are proof of this concept. Entire businesses were founded with the sole purpose of supporting flight simulation for home use. Thus, needless to say, when Microsoft felt it was time for a new platform, one of which would not accept the thousands of addons you already spend your money on with FS9, a great many choose to stay behind. And many still do.
The point of all this? Well one of the few aircraft responsible for my journey into VFR flying for flight simulation and out of the tube liners was the legendary Flight1 Dreamfleet Cessna Cardnal RG.
[Note: For format purposes, some images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
There was just something so appealing to me about this aircraft that I just could not put it down. In comparison to FS9's default C172, which was a deterrent for VFR flying, (I had not yet discovered Carenado) the differences between the two were immaculate. And not just on a quality scale. Sure the flight dynamics and visual ascetics were second to none for its day. But it's the design of the Cardinal that grabbed my attention. Unlike the 172, the RG had a sleekness to it. Almost a sexiness in its appearance. Couple that with the retractable gear and the smooth surfaces the Cardinal displayed a true visual glory in my eyes. The performance was much better as well. For a single engine prop aircraft, this was truly the holy grail for me.
Needless to say, it was one of those aircraft I refused to leave behind with a transition to FSX.
Now granted, at some point, Flight1 did return with a native Cessna 177B Cardinal II native model for FSX. But when you compare it on a quality standard to similar aircraft developed by Carenado at the time, it was easy to see its shortcomings. I decidedly choose to pass on the new Flight1 release mostly because the RG was not included in the package. A total deal breaker.
And about that. Interestingly enough, as it relates to the Cardinal, I find that I was never really attracted to the tricycle gear variant. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps this is because I just prefer retractable gear. And no doubt, in cruise, the RG just looks better.
Or at least, that is what I always thought.
But it seems, with the Alabeo's attempt at the legendary aircraft, my feelings are rapidly changing. When the first development previews surfaced, there was no notion or mention that the RG would be developed. I had the thought that they might release it at some point in the future for an upgrade cost or something. Similar to what Carenado did with the C208. I began a whining campaign in all the preview articles I wrote on the upcoming Alabeo Cardinal hoping they would include the RG and whamo! About 2 months later, they announce her with gear nicely tucked away.
With my already vast experience with Alabeo aircraft, it was a no brainier: this is the Cardinal I had been waiting for. And like with all Alabeo and Carenado aircraft, they are so beautifully handcrafted and packed with visual eye candy features. It seems, even the tricycle is an appealing damsel for sore eyes. These Alabeo blokes really have developed a knack for making me want aircraft I never thought I would...
So here we are, in P3Dv2, you, me, B, and RG. Let's dive in and see exactly what Alabeo has done here shall we?
To set the mood here, I have included some music that I feel best set the ambiance of the aircraft and scenery I have chosen for this review. If nothing else, you get the mood I was in at the time I flew the aircraft and wrote this review. This is a laid back Saturday for flying a sexy aircraft. Press play.
Four liveries to boot!
If the Cessna 172 Skyhawk is the Alpha male, then the C177 is without a doubt the female. Putting the two together, it's easy to see which of the two is the sexy doll and which is the workhorse. But there is a reason why the C177 is so much sleeker than the C172. In essence, it was supposed to be a more futuristic variant of the C172 incorporating newer technology and cantilever wing with a laminar flow airfoil making her the only high-wing single-engine Cessna since the Cessna 190 & 195 series to have both a fixed landing gear and a cantilever wing without strut bracing. This was one of the first things that drew me to her. Well that and a much better unobstructed view along with those steeper raked fore and aft windshields.
With the Cessna 172, when making turns, the wings tend to block pilot's view. Especially when turning downwind to final in short proximity approach maneuvers. As I am no doubt certain many of you have dealt with at some point or another. The special thing about the C177 is the seating arrangement being pushed further forward ahead of the wings thus eliminating the view obstruction.
This of course lead to to another issue: offsetting the center of gravity. This was corrected by use of a lighter lower HP rated Lycoming engine and implementation of a stabilator in lieu of a typical horizontal stabilizer as used with the C172. This also offered better elevator control authority at lower airspeed.
Sadly, the C172 being the worlds most legendary mass produced aircraft in history, the C177 failed to be an adequate replacement for the C172 and after just 10 years in production, Cessna halted the Cardinal line. Total bummer.
Lets take a look at the interior.
Now initially, I thought to compare this with the Flight1 version similarly as I did with the Carenado vs the FSD Skymasters. But honestly, the differences in quality are so incredibly far apart, there is just no point. It would be the equivalent of comparing the Pagani Huyra to a pair of socks. Well... except for one area. Lack of ability for RealityXP gauge implementation. There is no autopilot which means you better be ready to hand fly this baby and mind that trim wheel. Hitting thermals along your route? Even more so! Honestly, I would have preferred a more modern avionics option. But no worries. This will do just fine.
Damn Alabeo has a way of making these babies look so real! I can almost feel the fabric of the seats on my hands. You couple this with the lovely shadow and lighting effects of P3Dv2 and it's easy to see where FSX starts to fall short. I am also pleased with the stability of the latest P3Dv2.2 update.
In the above shot, we see one of the most notable features of the Cardinal and that's her wide doors and aft-positioned leading edge as mentioned above that offers great in-flight visibility. She looks so damn roomy too! Definitely not a shoulder bumper. Track-IR is a must have piece of hardware to use with this baby too.
I am not taking any luggage or golf clubs with me today but I am amazed at just how big the cargo area is. Plenty of space for junk for up to four people.
I really love the above shot with the sun penetrating through the shadows with a streak on light on the gauges. It adds yet another visual feature along with the gauges reflections and window scratches that only appear when the sun's rays reflects off glass from the right angles.
Okay let's get her started.
A quick run through the checklists as provided in the installation aircraft folder provided by Alabeo and we are taxiing to the active. I always like the slight stutter animation as the Lycoming starts to rumble to life. The sounds are quite good as well. Taxiing is not at all an issue and has great responsiveness. A nod to you Mr. Stolle.
Today's flight will take us north off runway 34 out of 2W3 where we will climb straight out to 3,500 and head west a few miles before turning south to California with a step climb up to 13,500 where we will level out. I would prefer a much lower cruise alt but we have terrain to clear. The destination airfield is O85 in Benton just outside Redding which is approximately 430 miles. A perfect length for this beauty.
Personally, I am amazed that I choose to fly the "B" first. I went after this aircraft for the RG. But once I loaded the "B" up here, I found myself falling in love with her. Those wheel pods really look beautiful and complement her gracefully. The Dreamfleet version just didn't grab my attention the way Alabeo has here. She is also a great pair with Orbx' Swanson too! Can't you tell?
Okay let's spin her around and complete the checklist.
Ready to go. As it's just me and no other added weight, I elected for the maximum performance takeoff. I gradually push the throttle up to 7200RPM and release the parking brake. She is airborne in mere seconds and climbing at an initial rate of 70kts I then retract the flaps and she scoots on up to 90. Steady she goes.
Much like the Carenado Skyhawk and Skylane, I find the pitch control forces are quite light. I think back to my review of the Traumashock, now that is an aircraft wrestle with. I do wish she were a bit more powerful though.
A few moments through the step and we are well above 100kts. The scenery through this forward seating position looks great. I can get used to this. My head is on a swivel.
We reach our cruising altitude. I trim her forward a bit as lateral as possible and work on keeping the fuel balanced. Now I can settle in for a nice comfy cruise. Hows the Music btw?
California. Way out west...
One thing you can expect from me is a huge presence in California over the next year or so. As Orbx continues their pursuit into my homeland, the more I will pursue the new destinations. As you can already see, California's Central valley is a huge difference texture wise from the green pastures and sierras of Oregon. It's so great to see the landscape gradually change like this. FS is looking better than ever!
I'm really enjoying the view of the valley on my way into Benton. What a lovely sunset. Looking down the approach, I consider a stall landing similar to my operations with the 172 and Cherokee but decided to flair her down smooth instead. IDK, I feel like I want to treat her like a lady and not beat the shit out of her like I do with some other aircraft.
I roll her over to the FBO and set her up for the night. Tomorrow we get a look at the RG. I can't wait. Time for a $100 burger.
The following morning, I find the "B" gone and after some searching, I find Alabeo has delivered the RG on the opposite end of the hangar. Today, we make haste down to Monterey where I will be having lunch with Jarrad Marshall. I see the weather has caught up with me overnight. Now unlike the "B" The RG has only 3 liveries included.
Note the P3Dv2 shadow reflection on the hangar door. I just love that!
A half hour through the jibberjabber and we are airborne again. Damn this is one beautiful aircraft. A bit faster and quite a bit lighter as well over the "B" model. But the downside here is in the baggage compartment with a huge obstructing pod. Hey, those wheels have to go somewhere...
A different interior color option as well. I feel as if I'm stepping back into the 70's...
I was asking myself why I call my aircraft reviews "The ADX Shots!" and I was quickly reminded. Because I do indeed take a lot of screenshots. I tend to get a bit carried away. These are indeed The ADX Shots!
What a beautiful destination! I am totally digging this airport. Cali has some truly great places to offer.
The "H" is missing. Shadowplay kidnapped my H key... Still refining the technique for these reels.
What more can I possibly say? I had been holding out hoping that someday Carenado would deliver a proper Cardinal and I could not have imagined Alabeo would be the outfit to deliver. They have no doubt played on my emotions and special place in my heart for this magnificent yet short lived production aircraft. She fell short of the C172 and yet, in my eyes, she is much better. In fact, I would even go so far as to say she is the best looking single engine Cessna ever built.
She has great flight dynamics and terrific visual features. Although the night lighting left something to be desired and again, it would have been great to use my RXP gauges here... not that they would likely work in P3D anyway. Overall, both versions were a joy to fly and I am confident Cardinal fans will enjoy her as well.
You can grab a copy from Alabeo here: http://www.alabeo.com/index.php?accion=product&correl=104
This review also featured 3 sceneries from Orbx which I highly recommend:
2W3 Swanson: https://www.fullterrain.com/product_us2W3.html
O85 Benton: https://www.fullterrain.com/product_uskrdd.html
KMRY Monterey: https://www.fullterrain.com/product_uskmry.html
Flight simulation is becoming more and more immersed and I give a great deal of credit to the developers who continue to deliver on such amazing products. I did my part, now go do yours and buy, buy, buy, and support this amazing hobby of ours.