I started writing this review of the Carenado Cessna C170B back in August of 2021. I’d only spent a few days with the tail dragging Cessna when Sim Update 5 came out and thus began a long and difficult journey of trying to fix my MSFS install. Fast forward to March of 2022 and the latest update, Sim Update 8, is now out and with it and my new PC, I’ve been able to access the aircraft again. Now that it’s available to me, I can properly review it.
A bit of history
The Cessna 170 is the predecessor to the immensely popular and successful Cessna 172. Produced between 1948 and 1956, over 5,000 of these aircraft were produced for the growing general aviation aircraft market in the post WWII period. This was a four seat version of the C140 and it featured a metal fuselage, V strut support for the wings, and it was powered by a Continental C145-2 providing 145 hp that took the aircraft up to a maximum speed of 120 knots.
Carenado has done created two versions of the C170 in the package. Both are essentially the same but a bush plane variant features larger tires and more “off road” capabilities as a result. The two are otherwise the same and come with a nice selection of authentic liveries.
Hopping into the cockpit and you’ll notice that this is an aircraft that belongs to its time period. The cockpit is actually a beautiful design with swooping shapes on the yoke and the various controls are all controlled by pulling nicely shaped handles with 1950’s style aesthetic. The transponder? On a rotary dial that rotates the numbers, tumbler style.
For maximum options, all of this retro styling can optionally be paired with a modern GPS that gives you navigational options including synthetic vision. If you find that to be an anathema to this very retro aircraft, it can be easily hidden via toggle in the cockpit or using Carenado’s tablet which is hidden away in the side pocket. That’s a newer feature that wasn’t available on the aircraft when I first started flying it in August and it looks like Carenado have added this more immersive control system to all of their aircraft. Or at least the ones that I own.
The tablet gives you easy access to open and close doors, add and remove static elements and external power unit, and it lets you set the aircraft state from cold and dark to ready to taxi to ready to take off.
My only complaints with the systems modelling on this aircraft are that the Cylinder and Carb Temperature dials never seem to change or fluctuate. If they have, I haven’t seen it. So far as I can tell, these features are either not modelled or the data is not hooked up to the instruments.
The Cessna 170 handles…. like a Cessna. As the iconic general aviation aircraft, the Cessna 170 definitely has a lot in common with its modern successor. Flying the Cessna 172 and 170 back to back do give you some different feelings but you can also see how remarkably similar the design is. That’s a testament to just how on the mark Cessna was with their earlier designs.
There are certainly some differences. The first thing I’d note is the roll rate and roll response which is sluggish and requires a little bit of rudder to get going. A bit like a WWI aircraft from my experiences with Flying Circus in the IL-2 series actually. Elevators are generally effective at all operating speeds.
Stalls are gentle but if you kick the rudder too hard you can get yourself into a brief spin. It’s easy to recover from and that seems to match what I’ve read about the Cessna 170. It’s a gentle airplane for a wide variety of pilots.
The aircraft does like to balloon upwards a bit with flap deployment so that’s something to watch particularly if you’re on a landing approach and you’re trying to kill off some speed. Doubly so if you’re doing a landing at a rough field somewhere off the beaten path.
Taildraggers in Microsoft Flight Simulator have generally been a tricky thing to get right. SDK updates and prior experience with the Carenado WYMF-5 seem to have paid off here and handling is generally good. You do need to work harder with a taildragger and takeoff runs require a bit more rudder work to keep straight although nothing like the high powered warbirds that I’m used to. Taxing is also a bit more challenging although the rudder seems to produce a strong motion almost immediately which suggests to me that the tailwheel modeling is still a bit of a kludge in the sim. That will irk some but the experience on the whole is good enough for many MSFS pilots.
Visual feast… as usual
Carenado are well known for producing some of the best looking aircraft in whatever flight sim they are developing for and the C170 is no exception. Inside and out, Carenado’s artists have gone all out giving the aircraft the appropriate look and feel. Reflections on the polished metal sections are stunning, the fine details around the wheels, navigation lights, and control surfaces hold up under the closest of scrutiny.
The inside of the cockpit is equally stunning. Everything from lighting to the sharpness of the instrumentation to the dirt around the edges of the windshield are exceptionally well realized. Carenado have leaned towards a clean appearance and indeed their C170 looks like it’s been maintained with the utmost care but it still manages to show off a suitable amount of wear and tear as well. It’s a remarkably tasteful job.
Of course the retro design is going to appeal to the historical aircraft crowd and I absolutely love the unique flavour of the controls in the 170. The GPS does break the theme up a bit but it is, as I mentioned, an optional feature. For those that do want it, the GPS is of course very useful.
The only thing I don’t like are the pilot models. Carenado uses their own custom pilot models and they all seem to feature a very serious looking older gentleman and a younger teenager in the second seat. Carenado would be better off using the MSFS pilots so people can put whomever they want to in there. Passengers would be a nice option too.
The audio experience
The audio with the C170 is a bit of a mixed experience. In the cockpit, sounds are generally good. The engine sound is acceptable and is, according to the official feature-list, recorded from a real one. Other cockpit noises such as the knobs and controls, flaps, and the rattle and squeaks from the airframe when pulling into turns and rolls are all very immersive.
Exterior sounds are less impressive and the aircraft engine exhibits an annoying drone with an obvious audio repeat. More work here could make it into a better experience from the outside. It’s a miss for those of you who spend any amount of time outside the aircraft (I certainly do while taking screenshots) but if you spend nearly all of your time in the cockpit the experience is generally very good.
Carenado’s Cessna 170 is a solid option for Microsoft Flight Simulator fans looking for a general aviation aircraft that takes you back a few decades to a simpler time in aviation. The stunning art design and generally good flying characteristics make it good fun to fly. The tundra tires option adds usefulness to the type as well giving it added flexibility.
Tailwheel handling, poor exterior sounds, and the engine temperature readouts seemingly not working are my only real marks against it. It is also a product of what it is and so the 170 is not an ideal long range tourer as it does not have an autopilot. It also doesn’t go very fast so you aren’t going to get very far anyways.
I should mention too that it’s clear that Carenado have continued to provide support for and updates to their aircraft over time. The 170 hasn’t evolved all that much but core features have been added over time which I appreciate quite a lot.
The elephant in the room is that this is an aircraft that has given me some crash to desktop problems on two PC’s and over several versions of the sim. I can only speak to my experience as my scans of the support forums have generally not found a huge number of people complaining about the same problem. That Sim Update 7 still had the problem on an entirely new PC was disappointing but I was pleasantly surprised that Sim Update 8 appeared to have fixed it. Take it with a grain of salt as they say.
If you like historical general aviation aircraft with fantastic art design, a good flight model, and a decent number of features, I’d say that you should give the Cessna 170 a look. It’s a high quality aircraft with very few issues and in the pantheon of MSFS aircraft sits somewhere in the upper echelons of well but not exceptionally modelled aircraft. Carenado has typically offered a consistent quality and that’s on display here.
Enjoy these screenshots of the Cessna 170B by Carenado for Microsoft Flight Simulator.