Cessna 172 Flight Tutorial

Aerofly FS can simulate full takeoff procedures from cold and dark for the aircraft, including all commercial airliners and the popular Cessna 172 trainer. The cold and dark configuration is an aircraft state with all engines shut down and cooled down (cold) and all systems turned off, lights off (dark). This is the aircraft state that would be found after the aircraft has been parked for a while or over night and the aircraft is now prepared for the first flight of the day.

Note - We recommend reading the Cessna 172 Cockpit Introduction first if you are a complete beginner.


Please don’t apply the information that you learned in the tutorial in the real world directly without taking real world flying lessons with a certified flight instructor. This tutorial is applicable to simulator flying only.

Recommended Tutorials



Navigation Route


This route can be selected from the missions menu. Select the Cessna 172 in the aircraft menu, then go to the Missions menu, Aircraft list, select the C172 preview image and then locate the “Tutorial Flight Cessna 172” mission. When you see the mission preview select “Fly now” to set the navigation route automatically.

Weather Conditions

The preset conditions are

  • Visibility 20km
  • Clear Sky
  • Light wind from East, 090°, 5kt
  • Low turbulence
  • Time 20:00 UTC

Select Cold and Dark

To select the cold and dark setting first select the aircraft in the aircraft menu and then select a parking position using the location menu. After selecting a parking position you will see options for “ready for taxi”, “before engine start” and “cold and dark”. Select the latter to start with all engines and systems off.

For our cold and dark tutorial we’re using the southern park position at Santa Barbara Muni (KSBA).

Power On And Engine Start


When you change to the cockpit view you can see the instrument panel of the Cessna 172 in front of you. The panel features the typical six-pack instrument configuration with the following instruments from top left to bottom right

  • Airspeed indicator
  • Attitude indicator a.k.a. artificial horizon
  • Altimeter
  • Turn indicator and balance ball, slip indicator
  • Directional gyro, heading indicator
  • Vertical speed indicator

You can hide the yoke to see the switches behind it

  • Click on the base of the yoke to hide it

Fuel Selector and Cut Off

The Cessna 172 has two fuel tanks, one in each wing. With the fuel selector you can control which fuel tank is used in order to balance the fuel level in both tanks throughout the flight. To prevent the fuel flowing from one side to the other when the aircraft is parked the fuel selector is set to only one side.

  • Rotate the fuel selector to BOTH
  • Move the fuel cut off lever forward to allow fuel flow to the engine

Electric Power

In this aircraft we have a 24V battery. It is used to drive the electric starter, just like in your car and after engine start it is charged by the engine generator. In case the engine fails some of the instruments remain powered for a while to allow for a safe emergency landing. To avoid the battery being drained it is turned off when the aircraft is parked.

  • Set on the battery master and alternator master by clicking on the red MASTER BATT switch in the lower left of the panel
  • Set the beacon light (BCN) on
  • At night or in instrument mandatory weather conditions turn the NAV light on
  • Set the fuel pump to on

Engine Ignition and Start

  • Make sure the parking brake is set, which is a lever between the knees of the pilot under the panel. It should already be set if you selected the cold and dark configuration
  • Move the red mixture lever forward to the full rich position
  • Move the throttle slightly forward (about 10%)
  • Rotate the magneto key to START and hold it there. This may require continuous input because the key springs back to BOTH after it’s released

When the engine started successfully

  • Reduce the throttle to maintain an engine speed of 1000 RPM
  • Lean the mixture slightly by pulling the red mixture lever back a bit
  • Turn fuel pump off

Avionics On

With the engine running the LOW VOLTS and other warnings should have gone away. Check the ampermeter to see if the battery is indeed charging now.

  • Turn on the white avionics master switches
  • Turn on all the radios in the radio stack by rotating their volume knobs to the right
  • Turn on the DME and set the transponder (XPDR) to standby
  • Adjust the altimeter pressure setting if needed, the altimeter should now indicate field elevation
  • Check that the attitude indicator
  • Verify the directional gyro heading indicator is showing the correct heading
  • Adjust the selected heading bug for the takeoff runway direction or ATC assigned heading
  • Set the NAV1 selected course with the OBS1 knob to the runway direction or as needed

Flight Control Check

  • Move the ailerons through their full range of travel, from full left to full right and back. Look at the wings and verify that when you rotate the yoke to the left that the left aileron is going up and that the right one is going down. Verify that when you rotate the yoke to the right that the right aileron is going up and the left one is going down.
  • Move the elevator from to full up, then full down. Look back over your shoulder to verify the direction of movement.
  • Move the rudder full left and full right and check that through the rear window as well.
  • Set the pitch-trim for takeoff by rotating the pitch trim wheel in the center console (and all other trims to zero but the Cessna 172 only has pitch trim)


We can now start taxiing to the runway but we have to do a run-up still. We’ll make a stop in the run-up area next to the runway.

  • Turn on the taxi light if required
  • Release the parking brake by clicking the black lever below the front instrument panel
  • Adjust throttle to change engine power and taxi speed
  • Test the wheel brakes
  • Use rudder to steer the aircraft on the ground
  • Stop at the hold short lines and check for traffic before crossing any active runways

Run-Up Area

Taxi to the run-up area near the departure runway. This is an free area where we can test our engine without causing damage to nearby buildings or other aircraft. We’re doing this test to check if all engine parameters are normal and if both ignition magnetos are working.

  • Point the nose into the wind and stop the aircraft with the brakes
  • Set the parking brake and turn the taxi light off

Engine Run-Up

  • Set mixture full rich
  • Increase throttle to set an engine rotation speed of 1700 RPM
  • Check engine oil temperature and pressures are in the green arc
  • Check suction pressure and check for positive ampermeter indication
  • Check engine EGT and fuel flow
  • Check fuel level

Magneto Check

Let’s test the two ignition circuits of the engine now.

  • Set the engine magneto switch from BOTH to the LEFT position. The rotation speed should only drop slightly by a maximum of 150 RPM. The engine should continue to run smoothly. Otherwise the left magneto has a problem and we should fix this issue on the ground
  • Set the engine magneto switch back to BOTH and let the RPM stabilize at 1700 RPM again
  • Set the magneto switch to RIGHT. Check the RPM drop is within limits again.
  • Set the magneto switch to BOTH
  • Reduce engine RPM

Idle Test

Now we’re testing the engine idle.

  • Reduce throttle to full idle
  • Check that the engine keeps running and doesn’t stall

Run-up check complete

  • Set 1000 RPM again
  • We’re planning to takeoff very soon so we keep the mixture at full rich for takeoff
  • Turn the taxi light back on and release the parking brake once you are ready to continue the taxi


Before Takeoff

Continue on the taxiway and taxi to the yellow hold short line in front of the runway.

  • Set the tower frequency in the COM1, which is 119.7 for Santa Barbara
  • Set the fuel pump to ON
  • Set red mixture lever to full rich
  • Verify that flaps are at the desired takeoff position. We keep flaps up for this takeoff


Always check for traffic even if ATC has cleared you onto the runway. Check both left and right. Once you cross the hold short line:

  • Turn on the landing lights
  • Turn on the strobe lights
  • Set the transponder to ALT by rotating the transponder mode knob

Heading Check

  • Set runway heading with the heading knob
  • Verify that the heading indicator shows the same heading as the magnetic compass
  • Check that the runway you are has the correct identifier and that the runway heading matches your indication on the heading indicator


  • Add full power and hold slight right rudder to compensate for the propwash
  • Maintain the runway centerline with rudder
  • If there is a crosswind hold aileron into the wind
  • At 50 knots add slight nose up input

The aircraft should lift off between 50 and 60 knots

Initial Climb

After lift off

  • Slowly increase pitch and maintain about 10 degrees nose up
  • Reduce back pressure and accelerate while climbing
  • Pitch for 75 knots after lift off
  • Maintain runway heading

After Takeoff

  • Set the flaps to up, which they already should be.
  • Turn the landing lights off
  • Turn the taxi light off
  • Turn the fuel pump off
  • Set the fuel selector to the fullest tank. We’re going to keep it at BOTH in our tutorial


Autopilot On

Once we’re above a safe altitude we can engage the autopilot.

  • Push the AP button to engage the autopilot. It should show ROL and PIT on the autopilot, indicating that the autopilot maintains the current roll and pitch attitude.
  • You can let go of the yoke.
  • Engage the heading mode on the autopilot by pushing the HDG push-button.
  • The autopilot will steer towards our selected heading on the heading indicator.
  • Set an altitude of 5000ft in the autopilot pre-selector.


We’ll continue our climb at 75 knots.

  • Turn right to a heading of 255°, which is a 180° right turn. Use the heading bug on the heading indicator and rotate it clockwise. The autopilot turns the plane right.
  • Adjust the pitch attitude by pushing the UP and DOWN buttons on the autopilot panel if needed.


The autopilot levels the plane at our pre-selected 5000 feet altitude. The plane will reduce the pitch attitude which means we will gain speed. We’re in control of the airspeed and have to adjust throttle throughout the entire flight.

  • Reduce throttle to set a rotation speed of 2400 RPM.

Leaning the Mixture

As we climb higher the air is getting thinner. But the engine is still injecting the same amount of fuel which means the ratio of fuel to air is getting too rich. During a descent we have to remember to increase the mixture again to avoid starving the engine.

Let’s adjust the mixture to get the most economical fuel burn.

  • Rotate the knob on the Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) gauge to adjust the orange needle. Set it to the same position as the white actual EGT needle.
  • Now pull out the mixture gently. The EGT needle should rise above our set marker.
  • Pull out the mixture more until the EGT reaches a maximum and starts decreasing again. Then increase mixture to find the maximum EGT.
  • Set your EGT marker to that maximum EGT needle position.
  • Then increase the mixture slightly to fly rich of peak.

The EGT won’t be as hot as the maximum EGT that can be reach which gives us a slight margin for error.

Instrument Navigation

Navigation Capabilities

Let us demonstrate the instrument capabilities of the Aerofly FS Cessna 172 SP.

We’ll show you how to fly: From VOR to VOR, an ILS approach. But the Cessna 172 is also equipped with a DME and ADF so you can also fly VOR/DME approaches and NDB approaches

What is a VOR?

A very high frequency omni-directional range (VOR) is a radio navigation station on the ground that sends out signals in all directions at two different radio waves. Simplified drastically: One frequency is emitted constantly and the other travels around the station in circles. Measuring the time delay between the signals tells you the direction to the navigation station.

The frequencies for these VOR stations can be obtained from the navigation menu of Aerofly FS. Simply click on a station on the map and it tells you the frequency on the right.

VOR Navigation

We’re starting this VOR navigation tutorial after reaching the cruise phase at 5000 feet.

  • Turn right to a heading of 090°. This will bring us right above the Santa Barbara airport again, at 5000 feet.
  • You can of course also teleport above the KSBA airport to 5000 feet, heading east, using the location menu. Just make sure to select heading 090° and engage the autopilot in HDG mode and capture the 5000 feet altitude.

Tuning a VOR Frequency

We’re going to use the San Marcus VOR north-east of Santa Barbara (KSBA) which has the identifier RZS and the frequency 114.90 MHz.

  • On the COM/NAV 1 panel set the standby frequency to 114.90 with the knobs on the right
  • Push the swap arrow (↔) to activate the frequency

Direct to VOR

The needle on the course deviation indicator (CDI) should now show a needle deflection. The VOR does not provide a glide slope signal, so the glide slope needle is at zero and a red “GS” flag is visible as expected.

  • Turn the OBS1 knob and see how the needle moves.

At some point the needle moves through the center, this depends on your position relative to the station. Observe the white arrow at the bottom of the instrument as well. It either shows an up arrow or a down arrow.

With the needle centered at zero and with the white arrow pointing up the instrument tells you which course you have to fly to get to the VOR station. Read the course on the instrument at the top marker of the compass rose.

  • Set your heading bug on the heading indicator to that course and turn on the autopilot.
  • Push the autopilot AP button to turn the autopilot on.
  • Then push the HDG button to fly to the selected heading
  • You can also push the NAV button, then the autopilot will fly track the needle deviations and fly you to the station and keep flying in the same direction once you have passed the station.

This is a crude way to fly to a station but helps you to fly around. But we can do even better than that. If you know from which direction you want to fly to the VOR station, e.g. along a valley and not through the mountains on the side you can set the desired course on the instrument and then follow the needle signals to stay on the selected radial.

Radial To VOR

  • Fly east at 5000 feet starting from above the Santa Barbara (KSBA) airport again.
  • Turn on the autopilot with the AP push-button and select a heading of 090° with the heading bug and push the HDG push-button on the autopilot. Hold 5000 ft.
  • Make sure that the active frequency for NAV1 is set to 114.90 MHz.
  • Turn the OBS1 knob to set a course of 360°.
  • Observe how the needle first shows a full right deflection. Then it moves towards the middle.
  • Push the NAV button to let the autopilot capture the VOR radial and to turn towards the selected course.

Over the VOR Station

When you are above the hills you should eventually fly above the San Marcus VOR station. This hill is around 4000ft so we should pass right over it. Look for the white arrow at the bottom of the instrument. Once you fly over the station it flips from pointing up to pointing down. This indicates that you have passed the station and are now flying away from it.


  • Set a course of 261° with the OBS1 knob

The autopilot will turn the plane left to 261° and steers us back to the outbound radial of the San Marcus (RZS) VOR. This direction will bring us directly to the next VOR, the Gaviota VOR (GVO).

  • Use the COM/NAV 2 panel this time and set the standby frequency of the Gaviota VOR (GVO), which is 113.80 MHz.
  • Turn the OBS2 knob to set a course of 261° for the NAV2 receiver.

The autopilot is always following the NAV1 signals and is still flying away from

  • Enter the GVO frequency, 113.80 MHz into the standby field of the NAV1 receiver now.
  • Activate the frequency by pushing the swap arrow (↔).
  • Since the desired radial is the same, we can keep the course at 261°.


We’ll keep flying on this radial for a while. Before reaching GVO we’re starting our descent. Look at the DME display. When it’s showing about 3 NM to GVO we’ll initiate the descent.

  • Rotate the altitude knobs on the autopilot panel to select 3500 feet.
  • Push the vertical speed button to engage vertical speed mode.
  • Push the DOWN button on the autopilot panel to set the vertical speed. Select -1000 feet per minute as the descent rate.

Mixture Rich

As we descent perform the descent adjust the throttle and enrichen the mixture.

  • Adjust throttle to stay at round 90-110 knots.
  • Set mixture to full rich.
  • Check the altimeter pressure setting

ILS Approach

What is an ILS?

The instrument landing system (ILS) is a navigation systems that is used to fly an aircraft to the runway. The system has two antennae on the ground. One is placed at the far end of the runway and provides lateral (left/right) information. This localizer signal helps you to stay aligned on the runway centerline during the approach. The second antenna is placed next to the touch down zone and guides the aircraft vertically (up/down), typically on a final descent 3° angle. This is called the glide slope.

The selection of the ILS station is achieved by tuning the correct ILS frequency and setting the approach course. The aircraft is flown towards the signal from the runway and the pilots follow the beam down to the runway. Some aircraft like the Airbus A320 or Boeing 747 can even fly the ILS down to touchdown on autopilot. But our Cessna 172 cannot.

For this example we are going to use ILS 07 at Santa Barbara (KSBA), the frequency is 110.3 MHz and the course is 075°.

You can find these frequencies in the Aerofly FS navigation menu, when you select a runway or the approach for the runway as your destination runway.

ILS Intercept

We’re now breaking off from the radial to GVO and fly an intercept heading for our base leg.

  • Select a heading of 180°.
  • Push the HDG button on the autopilot
  • Once the new altitude of 3500 feet is reached increase power again to keep airspeed high.

Arm the ILS Approach

You should be above 3500ft and flying on a heading of 180° at this time.

  • Set the ILS frequency for the ILS 07 at Santa Barbara (KSBA), which is 110.30 MHz, in the NAV1 frequency.
  • Set the approach course of 075° with the OBS1 knob.
  • Push the APPR button to arm the localizer and glide slope capture.

Localizer Capture

Once the needle starts moving to the middle the autopilot starts to capture the localizer. The autopilot mode changes to APPR. The glide slope engages shortly after.

Glide-Slope Capture

Once the glide slope captures the autopilot will nose down to stay on glide slope. We’re now fully established on the ILS and the autopilot would continue to fly and crash us right into the runway touch down zone. So we always have to perform the last bit of the landing manually in this airplane.

Final Approach

  • Adjust the throttle to keep a speed of 90 knots.
  • Monitor the deflection of the localizer and glide slope needles. They should be centered.
  • Turn the landing and taxi lights on.
  • Turn the fuel pump on.

When you reach the coast line you can start to slow down to the final approach speed of 65 knots.

  • Extend flaps to 10° after checking that the speed is below 110 knots.
  • Adjust throttle to slow down to about 70 knots.
  • Then set flaps to full
  • Set mixture to full (if not already).

The flaps cause additional lift and drag which can throw off the autopilot a bit. Let it stabilize on the glide slope again.


  • Turn the autopilot off and use the yoke and rudder pedals fly to the touch down zone. Aim slightly before the actual touch down zone.
  • Adjust the throttle to stay at 65 knots.
  • Make small adjustments with aileron and rudder to stay on the centerline.

The Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) will guide you vertically. When you see two red lights and two white lights you are on the correct path. When you are too low you will see more red lights than white lights. And if you are too high you can see more white lights than red lights.


At about 15 ft above the runway reduce the throttle to idle, then gently increase back pressure on the yoke to raise the nose and to arrest the descent rate. Look out and towards the end of the runway. The white runway edge lines move up due to the change in perspective.

  • Reduce throttle to idle.
  • Pull up gently to raise the nose of the plane.

The distance between the nose of the plane and the horizon should decrease over time. The screenshot on the right shows the exact moment of touch down, this is the attitude that you should aim for.

After Landing

We’ve arrived at Santa Barbara. Please vacate the runway to the right at the earliest possible taxiway. Once you have taxied off the runway and you are behind the hold short lines and out of the runway area you can stop and hold the parking brake to do the after landing checklist and to look at the taxi route.

Let’s perform the after landing checks first.

  • Set the landing lights off.
  • Set the strobe lights off.
  • Make sure the taxi light is on.
  • Turn the fuel pump switch off.
  • Set the flaps to up.
  • Lean the mixture slightly.
  • Set the transponder to standby (SBY)
  • Set the standby COM1 frequency to 121.700 and push the swap arrow (↔) to activate the Santa Barbara Ground frequency.

You can take the same route we came from and cross the two runways at the end of the taxiway.

Make sure that before entering a runway that you hold short and look in both directions for any potential traffic about to takeoff or on final approach.

Shut Down


Once you have found a free parking spot

  • Set the parking brake.
  • Turn off the taxi light.
  • Pull the mixture out completely to turn off the engine.
  • When the engine has stopped turn the magneto switch to OFF.

Electrics Off

  • Turn the beacon light OFF.
  • Stop the elapsed timer.
  • Turn the pitot heat switch OFF.
  • Turn all avionics off by rotating their volume knob to the off position.
  • Turn the avionics master switches OFF.
  • Set the master battery switch to OFF.

Open Door

You can now open the door and leave the aircraft.

  • Click the black door handle to unlock the door.
  • Push the door open.

Final Words

Thank you for taking the time to read this tutorial. We hope that it answered a lot of questions and that you landed safely.

Fly safe!

  • Jan