The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is one of the most successful general aviation aircraft ever built, beloved by everyone for the family transport, flight schools, trainers, or just a damn good GA and the C172 aircraft still holds the world record for flight endurance that was set back in1958... so how do you follow a legend.
Cessna had that problem in 1966, and solved it with the only negative the C172 had, the wing support. To support the high wing the C172 had a support strut, and it sort of got in the way, even when trying to get into and out of the aircraft. But the real issue with the support strut was that it was an obstruction if in a bank, or any turn that required a visual reference... the strut had to go.
The result was the C177 Cardinal (originally the C172J) with the engineers resolving this problem by placing the pilot forward of the wing's leading edge, but that led to a too-far-forward center of gravity, The problem was partially counteracted by the decision to use the significantly lighter Lycoming O-320 180 hp (135 kW) four-cylinder engine in place of the six-cylinder O-300 Continental used on the 172. The forward CG situation still existed even with the lighter engine, so a stabilator was chosen, to provide sufficient elevator control authority at low airspeeds. The aircraft also had newer technology such as a cantilever wing lacking the lift struts of previous models, and a new laminar flow airfoil. A later model the C177RG, had another innovation with retractable undercarriage to complete with the Piper PA-28-200R Cherokee Arrow and Beechcraft Sierra. The nose gear folds rearward; when opened the gear door that then formed a small air brake behind the propeller.
Alabeo, or as I call it (Carenado in wolf's clothing). So what is the difference between them, now virtually none at all as I can see... The original Alabeo Cardinal ll was released back in June 2015 and in the same fixed and retractable landing gear configurations of both the C177B and C177RG aircraft. That aircraft was for X-Plane10, this updated version is for X-Plane11 and it is noted as a new version of the aircraft and is priced accordingly, all updates are however free for the duration of X-Plane11.
C177B Fixed Gear
You change the aircraft type from the C177B to the C177RG by changing the livery. There are five C177B's and three C177RG's but certainly some enterprising users could adjust each livery to suit their own type choice.
In 1970 saw the introduction of the 177B, which had a new wing airfoil, a constant-speed propeller, and other minor improvements. When empty, the 177B weighed 145 lb (66 kg) more than the earlier 177, with its maximum takeoff weight increased from 2,350 lb (1,067 kg) to 2,500 lb (1,135 kg).
Some aircraft don't do well with changes, but the C177B certainly benefited from the better X-Plane11 dynamics and quality, it looks far more realistic and a more complete aircraft than the XP10 version. Better material shines and reflections now give you that full PBR (Physically Based Rendering) effect and it has transformed the aircraft as you can note the lovely shape of the fuselage and infinitely more and better detailing.
You have the options of both having the wheels covered with fairings or not, both views work, with the uncovered option giving the aircraft a more utility look and feel.
To offset the 145 lb (66 kg) increase in empty weight, to which much was from the electrically powered hydraulic gear mechanism, the 177RG had a 200 hp (149 kW) Lycoming IO-360 engine.This also allowed increase of the maximum weight by 300 lbs.
The additional power and cleaner lines of the 177RG resulted in a faster cruise speed of 148 knts (274 km/h), and the RG is 22 knts (41 km/h) faster than the 177B.
Most users would probably choose this wheels up and the more slippery configuration, as the C177 does look far more sleeker and faster.
The main wheels tuck in backwards like a bird's feet in flight, it is really well done here by Alabeo. Glass (below) is now almost an art form with perfect shape and quality reflections... note the excellent panel fit and riveting.
Changes to the different C177B and RG configurations also changes the cabin fittings. With the C177B you get a selection of brown trimmings...
... and with the C177RG you get a selection of blue trimmings.
Both detailing fit-outs are exceptional and hard to choose from, but the blue has a slight edge. Both trimmings include the lower part of the instrument panel and front footwell lower detail.
The instrument panel has that late 1970's look and feel, the molded facia and intergrated right vent look, it all felt very modern and even futuristic at the time... it is really well done here as the PBR lighting brings out all the lovely 70's shapes and detail.
Nice yokes can be hidden with a click... and overall the panel layout is very compact and laid out only for the single pilot, but it is well done.
Standard Six instruments are centred correctly in line of sight of the flying pilot with the Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon and the Attitude Indicator on the top row with a clock left of the lower row with the Turn Coordinator, Heading Dial and Vertical Speed Indicator. Two instruments situated right cover a CDI or Course Deviation Indicator (VOR 1) and a ADF pointer. A small suction dial is far upper left.
Engine instruments are all located on the lower section and are very tightly positioned together... CYL (Cylinder Head Temperature), Left and Right Fuel qualities are top left gauges (50 gal). AMPs, Oil Pressure and Temperature are lower row left gauges. A large RPM dial and large manifold pressure and fuel flow are right. Then far left is a small Fuel pressure gauge and EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) dial.
Far right in front of the co-pilot is a single Artificial Horizon and Carb Temperature gauge above, and with the flap setting lever set below for: UP - 10º - 20º - FULL flap positions.
Electrical switchgear is lower panel with a nice large vertical trim wheel, with the large rudder trim wheel that is situated under the throttle, Propeller and mixture knobs. One big difference is the stubby gear knob that is different between the RG and the B panels.
Avionics are basics, but they are good ones. Standard issue Garmin 347 audio panel is top with the X-Plane Garmin GN530 GPS system (Comm1/VOR1) below. Bendix/King KR87 ADF tuner and Garmin GTX 327 is below...
A very nice Bendix/King Autopilot KFC225 is lower, this is a more modern take on an AP than usual and it works really well with a ALT ARM/HOLD function. Unit pops-out for ease of use, but in reality you don't pop it out as it is as easy to use on the panel itself.
Fuel tank L & R selector switch is positioned on the floor between the seats (US 24.5 per tank).
The Cardinal ll comes with the standard three tab Carenado menu.
The menu tabs are on the left lower screen. A ) is for the lovely KFC225 pop-up Autopilot panel, that can be moved and scaled to size. C ) Is the standard Carenado ten preselected Views, Field of View and Volume panel. And O ) is the Options panel.
Options include Window and Instrument reflections. The Static elements provided here are still very basic with only two cones, wheel chocks (rear only) and flag pitot covers The single highly realistic (and new) animated pilot does disappear when you activate the static elements.
Doors opening include both the main front passenger doors and a separate left rear baggage door with no internal baggage. There is a another option set on the C177B to switch the wheel fairings off/on.
The doors hang down when open, of which it looks like they are not connected correctly, it looks odd, but it is correct, and the different internal cabin materials are highlighted here (above)
Flying the Cardinal ll
A quick flight around Puget Sound, Seattle allowed me to get a feel of the C177. The earlier C172/C175 trainer heritage is still very evident, as you are not going to change something that was perfectly right and profitable in the first place. But the C177 is different, you feel it and fly it in a slightly newer adaptable way. One is speed as the noted cruise speed for both the C172 and C177 are almost the same 123 mph (107 knots, 198 km/h), but performance is higher with a top speed for the 126 mph (110 knots, 204 km/h) for the C172, and the C177 (fixed wheel version) is 136 knots (157 mph, 250 km/h).. so in other words the C172 runs out of puff very quickly.
Rate of Climb is a slow 715 ft/min (3.6 m/s) in the C172, but it is higher at 840 ft/min (4.27m/s) in the C177B, it may be only 125 fpm, but it feels far, far more faster and more powerful going upwards.
Once level and settled you do feel the most significant difference from the C172, in the centre of gravity... more so when you come to trim the aircraft... as it needs a lot, or loads of downward trim. If you like your full yoke view this also creates a visual problem in that the yoke handles cover your vertical trim marker...
The trim wheel turns required (after hiding the yoke) is significant to finally get to the balance, you can cheat of course and let the KFC225 Autopilot do the trim adjustment for you, but that is not what you are about in flying the aircraft correctly and manually to the craft. Worse is resetting the trim after you disconnect the autopilot, as the turns required to the centre neutral setting can take time and requires a lot of trim wheel turns.. a small trick is to adjust your climb rate up to nearly the full rate of climb and the AP will adjust the trim more central, then disengage the AP... not the most natural thing to do but in certain circumstances it works.
So obviously the C177 is a nice little step up from the basic trainer aircraft, you have to work a little more in the cockpit to adjust the aircraft and it is slightly faster and the C177 feels a bit bigger as well, otherwise the Cessna is a pretty easy aircraft to fly, I wouldn't say simple, but easy enough to allow you to do another type of aircraft that is not a basic, basic flying machine.
The objective of the C177 is obvious as well with a better view out, it doesn't feel as closed in or upright cramped as the C172 and other basic trainers, even you could say "sports" like with those lovely rear teardrop shaped windows, however from the pilot's perspective the top of the door frame, in the left view is more down than straight out, unless you adjust your view line.
Internal lighting is a bit basic, but it is still very effective. The panel has adjustable back-lighting and the instruments are nice and clear...
... overhead lighting on a separate knob lights a red forward facing and rear white cabin lamp, you can't separate the red or white lighting, but the adjustment can be used to allow the outline of the instrument panel to be seen, which works very well.
Externally there are a landing and taxi light in the nose, the usual navigation and halogen strobe lights and a beacon on the tail.
The points are that this C177 is still a spec trainer, and so low speed capability is required, and under full flap (known as dirty) 46 knts is the boundary, the instruments tend to misguide you in that the green band stops at 60 knts, so you think that is the noted stall line, when in fact if you look closer it is the white band that goes all the way down to 50 knts and that is your actual stall marker... but then you would need to watch your sink rate.
With those numbers in mind, I approach S50 Auburn Municipal RWY 16 I found the 60 knts speed the best approach speed... note the off line to the runway approach...
... as there is a power pylon right on your centreline, so I found the slow approach speed handy to navigate this object, once above the power lines I could reduce the power and reduce the speed to 50 knts and allow the aircraft to sink nicely towards the runway, and it is a fair drop of 650 ft in a small tight distance that is required to achieve the objective.
Down now to around 50 knts and a slight pitch to make a flare, you still require a small but slight burst of power to keep on controlling the sink rate...
... and with a nice small float, and you contact the runway. The point I am making here is that the C177 is nice sweet aircraft to fly, but that low speed if correctly handled can also be put to good use for those tricky approaches.
There is one blank (white C177B livery) and five C177B liveries. The C177RG has three liveries, and maybe they could have been evened up to four each as you feel there are not enough RG liveries, but too many B spec liveries... quality is the usual 4K HD excellent detail finish.
For a high wing single-engined general aviation aircraft my personal favorite has always been the Cessna CT210M Centurion ll and that aircraft is always going to be a totally tough challenge to compete with. But if outright performance is not what you are after and the requirement is to step up a level from the basic trainer category then you would be hard pressed to find a better aircraft that this C177.
It has also the built in feature to switch (via the liveries) from the "B" spec fixed undercarriage to the "RG" electric stowable gear that is very similar to the CT210's undercarriage arrangement, and again you can also hide the wheel fairings on the "B" spec to give you in reality three different variants of the C177. You are not finished there either, as either the "B" spec gives you a very nice brown tones of interior, the "RG" has the blue interior tones to suit your particular tastes.
Alabeo (Carenado) quality is to the usual high standards, but the X-Plane11 dynamics with PBR material shines and reflections lift the aircraft from the X-Plane10 drab to the X-Plane11 spectacular, this is certainly an aircraft that has benefited immensely from the XP11 conversion. Sounds are custom FMOD and dynamic, in other words very good to excellent. Excellent versatile KFC225 Autopilot is a surprise on an aircraft of this category, but it is however very useful and a nice to have.
The reproduced and tested flight characteristics are again excellent, but you have to be aware of centre of gravity trim dynamics, you soon adapt, but it is slightly different and a step up from the usual trainer dynamics, low speed approaches are nicely controllable and even fun in challenging conditions.
So is this the best aircraft for a trainer. Well yes you can use it as a trainer, certainly with that low-speed performance, but in reality there are far better basic trainers out there like the JF C152 ll. But if you wanted to spread your wings a little more (no pun intended) then this C177 is a far better aircraft to cover more territory with and you get both medium and fast (wheels up) versions to fly further and even do some VOR point to point flying, rather than constant boring circuits. Overall I found I liked this newer XP11 C177 far more than the original XP10 version, certainly it is far better in every dimension and I will certainly give the aircraft far more flying attention in the future, and overall you get two excellent variants in one package deal for an under US$30 price and that is known as outstanding value... with a nice aircaft as part of the deal.
The C177 Cardinal ll XP11 by Alabeo is a new release for X-Plane11 and is available here at the X-Plane.OrgStore
C177 Cardinal ll XP11
Price is US$29.95
This aircraft is noted as a new aircraft for X-Plane11, and not an upgrade from the X-Plane10 C340 ll version, so a full cost for ownership is required.
The aircraft is directly available from Carenado as well.
Two Versions Included
C177B (fixed gear)
C177RG (retractable gear)
Full X-Plane 11 compatible
Custom sounds (FMOD)
RealityXP GTN750 compatible.
Superb material shines and reflections (full PBR).
High quality 3D model and textures.
Blank texture for creating your own designs
Accurately reproduced flight characteristics
End-user configurability (via Manifest.json file)
8 HD liveries + 1 Blank texture
2 models: Fixed gear and Retractable gear
Windows, Mac or Linux
2Gb VRAM Minimum - 4Gb+ VRAM Recommended
Download Size: 360Mb
Current review version: 1.1 (September 13th 2018)
Download for the C177 Cardinal ll XP11 Series is 346.70mb and the unzipped file is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 417.90mb.
Key authorisation and a restart is required.
There is Normal and Emergency procedures (checklists), excellent sets of reference and performance tables. But no full manual. There is a full manual of the KFC225 autopilot.