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  1. Behind the Screen : May 2017 The constant change and the barrage of updated releases came to a shuddering halt during May. Once the Easter holiday's were over and done with then the X-Plane world went into a semi-shutdown that left you exhausted from the overwhelming changes that has been so huge since November 2016 and the release of (even in beta form) X-Plane11. For me it was more than welcome as I had for two weeks during the month a soul sapping head cold (Thank you a late Northern Winter), and the strange head feeling and hacking cough didn't help my mood, but thankfully X-Plane wasn't for once to blame. Certainly with such major changes and the sheer thrill of the ride of the X-Plane11 release with the huge amount of updates that was required to switch a lot of the earlier versions to be able to operate in their new surroundings was simply overwhelming, I loved it don't get me wrong, but it was very draining as well. That is not to say that the ride is completely over yet either, there is certainly more updates and releases to come but not in the context of the changeover period. We all want and relish these periods, but sometimes a bit of a slower more sedate period is good as well. The problem with this huge constant change is just that in it does create a certain style of instability and even in areas of chaos in that in one period that nothing was interacting well will another piece of the system to give you a clean running simulator. That is part of the deal of course but at a point where you were running a beta, with a beta and a beta aircraft then your computer is going to throw the wobblies and you are going to get enough CTDs (Crash To Desktops) to make you want to throw the towel in and just go to a nice quiet place to jabba to yourself in a monastery high in Nepal somewhere. Let me put it this way I cursed a lot. So the May slow down was a sheer relief, but more than that as it gave you time for consolidation. The biggest mistake people make in life is that they just want more, and then even more or if you are onto a great thing then stick to it. The problem in life is that you can't just keep having more and more as something somewhere has to give (mostly the money first) but your health can't take it either. In others words "having everything all the time is bad for you" I mean even The Beatles and One Direction had to give it away eventually and poor Elvis fell off his toilet. So the word "consolidation" is an important one. I do X-Plane computer housekeeping about twice a month, but the biggest problem with X-Plane now is just its sheer size. Many Flight Simulator users will of course fall off their chairs laughing at that X-Planers are complaining that their simulator is overloaded, but it can get now seriously very unwieldy very quickly. X-Plane itself has doubled in size in just a few years from around 36.000 items to around the current 82,500 items and that is in less than just TWO YEARS. In reality X-Plane11 has doubled in the size of the simulator. Add in the size of the HD Global scenery, then the monster of your "Custom Scenery" folder and the sheer amount of aircraft now available for the X-Plane platform. There is a lot of choice now, a huge amount of great aircraft and if you have a period of huge simulator version changes like lately then you will have to cull some of them and even lose some real old favorites in the march of forward progress. So just updating and realigning aircraft and scenery can be and is a huge task, it can take days and lately even weeks and you hope your download bandwidth can handle it all. But the final result is hopefully a better more leaner running simulator than the gargantuan monster you had been wrestling with for years. With the X-Plane11 release these tasks are multiplied with some aircraft developers releasing updates almost fortnightly. If one thing I have learned with X-Plane11 is that to have a better simulator is to keep lean and mean, less is more and that statement is important as it is very easy to fall back into nasty old habits and start overloading the simulator with things you will never use or actually need. Seriously will you ever land at CYUB - Tuktoyaktuk if you are not either flying a Canadian wilderness adventure or are a local bush flyer, certainly no, but every time you start up X-Plane or fly over the northern pole then X-Plane will load that scenery for your convenience. Then multiply that by the size of your custom scenery folder and you can see the size of the problem. Most certainly if you love bush flying then collect all the great remote Alaskan strips and have your fun, but if your main routes are mostly A320/B737 services around Europe or North America then it is a bit of a waste of a resource. My main aim with X-Plane11 is to produce a pattern of the best of the great scenery that I will use constantly and consistently to get the best return from the simulator, then everything else is just waste. Don't get me wrong in that nobody more than me loves to visit an old friend of a scenery or explore a new one. But it is highly important to keep your networks clean and free of the dreaded pop-up dialog box that notes that "error loading the scenery package" pain that you can't leave your computer screen even for a minute or two without it popping up. Europe seems the worst of this for some reason. Then we get to "plugins". If any area of X-Plane that can give you the most pain it is an overflowing plugin folder. I have always been vigilant with my plugins from the start, but will usually try something new now and again to see if it add another dimension to the simulation experience. Personally I have kept away from lua scripts although I don't doubt their great ideas and features they can bring you. Ditto is scenery enhancement packages as with anything that adjusts or changes the basic internal root X-Plane based items. My reasons are purely that I can't stray too far from the basic X-Plane package so the reviews are realistic and the feedback correct on the what the simulator is reacting to that particular aircraft or scenery. It also became too hard to keep on replacing the internal changed items every time there was an X-Plane version update that replaces these internal items automatically. But overall I found that they didn't really make that much of a difference as Laminar's original concepts were usually right or better in the first place. But some "Plugins" I will defend and have become standard installs. Simcoder's Headshake is great at giving the simulator some movement at crucial times you require it, like takeoff or landing. DiscreteFPS is a gem in showing you your current framerate in the top left of your screen. Marginal's Autogate is of course a basic requirement as is his Sea Traffic. JARDesign's exceptional Ground Handling Deluxe and Tug Master Deluxe are great for giving you a lot of action around the gate, although I will admit that Tug Master is in badly need of an update, it has become very slow and doesn't turn very tight. The two big plugin concepts that I love are WorldTraffic and xEnviro. It is a personal choice on if to use the much upgraded built in X-Plane A.I. system of providing airport traffic and I know that many users love X-Life. But both are very reliant on the X-Plane A.I. system that gives both restrictions in that only twenty aircraft can be assigned (with the corresponding framerate hit) to X-Plane. Many users will note that lite aircraft are available for A.I. in usually 1.5mb sizes so this is not an issue, but you are still restricted. WorldTraffic doesn't have these restrictions, but it also very complex and extremely complicated to set up, but when it works it is sensational. I can get around WorldTraffic's current restrictions because my main airport network is not too large and I can refine each port correctly to work with WT, so in this scenario it works very well, a new totally updated WorldTraffic3 is currently in the works but Greg Hofer's computer has done a meltdown (or cratered) and hence a delay. But early testing rumors note WT3 is sensational and it will be a free update to current users. xEnviro is another huge step forward for X-Plane. Sadly Mac or Linux users still can't currently get access to xEnviro, and I feel your pain, but will note the wait will be worth it. The funny thing for me is that as noted above I don't use plugins like this with X-Plane because I need the sim to be a basic layout for reviews, hence the far few plugins I do use, also as noted I don't like to change the basic rules of X-Plane either, but with xEnviro I break both of my own laws in one go. I won't bother to bore you again in another month with another "wow" or "amazing" but even six months after its release it still totally blows me away with what it creates visually and it totally changes the feel and in the way you use the X-Plane simulator. If I have to turn xEnviro off for some reason I think life is totally boring until I can switch it right back on again (okay I know I am boring you again) but it should be stock standard tool for X-Plane by every user. In saying that the developers haven't exactly redeemed themselves to their customers. There has been no updates since late December 2016 and plugins like this should put current performance before new features. A single performance update and a plugin for the Mac (I don't know if Linux will be able to run xEnviro) and that should have been top of the work list more than any nice new 3d clouds or Rayleigh scattering, but I will note that the long X-Plane11 beta run and Xenviro's own local disconnected internet connection caused a few issues, but this plugin is an important release for both X-Plane and the developers in question, if the plugin wasn't so good or really buggy then that approach could have had bigger ramifications. But to date we are still waiting. Which brings us to to that X-Plane11beta run. Yes X-Plane11 has gone global, and yes we are still getting betas as well. "Enough you may cry", but the end of the road is finally in sight (oh thank god for all that). Laminar is finally doing Performance Optimizations for X-Plane11 and the results are in. X-Plane's 11.02 release is sensational, and so now is X-Plane11. Finally the "light at the end of the dark tunnel". All the pain of the above last few months is finally clearing to what we really have now in the X-Plane simulator in X-Plane11 form. So the results of months of beta pain are in and the point of this article. Running X-Plane11.02 with the updated JARDesign 3.1r2 (with the new excellent BSS v4 soundpack) and Xenviro v1.06 and with WorldTraffic 2.1.3. it was time to see something for all the changes. Flight was from MAN (Manchester) to OSL (Oslo) and it was a wonder to behold. no crashes (CTD) framerate touching even 100fr over the North Sea, beautiful fluffy clouds and great scenery at both ends. To top out the feel the flying was perfect, pure routine, hit every number in speed and altitude perfectly, could simulation get any better? For the moment no, but X-Plane will still move forward. So was all the pain worth it, yes definitely, and to top it all off I just reloaded the aircraft with more fuel and passengers and went straight back to Manchester... bliss. A few notes in that in May helicopters came to X-Plane11 with both the Bell 407 from Dreamfoil and the S-92 from DMO and it was great to fly both again in the new simulator version. Sceneries have also been highlighted this year as X-Plane now feels it is starting to fill in. Oslo by Aerosoft I really liked as with JustSim's ELLX - Luxembourg that I covered in April. Another note is that the FlightSimCon is coming around again soon on June 10-11 at the Sheraton Hotel at Bradley Airport, Windsor Locks, CT, USA. Last year X-Plane's Laminar Research released the details for X-Plane11, so this year they will be going back with the fully tested and refined version. I think personally there will be a few surprises for the users that have ignored X-Plane in the past and a few developers will note that they maybe also wondering if they are also missing out on the future and where the real money is going to be made in what they once they sniggered as a so called "hobbyist sim". I hope Laminar run a lot of large screens showing off their latest baby, and usually they always pull something new out of the magicians hat for us... it will be an interesting few days. So till next month... Sayonara Stephen Dutton 1st June 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
  2. Behind the Screen : February 2017 "It was the best of times and the worst of times" lamented Charles Dickens in his novel the "A Tale of Two Cities". And February in X-Plane certainly lived up to that quote. As the X-Plane11 beta quest kept on grinding on, you had it, then lost it, then got it back and then... totally lost it. But will possibly get it back again working soon. It is of course just the building process but this one has been very... well grinding. It reminds me in a way of the move to 64bit a few years ago, because it goes directly to the heart of the simulator, in very deep changes that completely messes it up. X-Plane11 As a reviewer your job is too probably just ignore all the mess and just stick to items released for X-Plane10 and that is a fair comment. But that is also putting your hands over your eyes and saying" I can't hear you!" because looking straight at you and towering over you is just that... X-Plane11. Once X-Plane11 goes to v1.0 release you will want it, use it and believe me you will really absolutely love it! As already going back to X-Plane10 is like going back to the middle-ages of simulation as it is boring and flat, just as X-Plane10® was the quantum leap over X-Plane9® then is X-Plane11 over its predesessor, and yes there are a few (okay a lot) of fine tuning still to be done, but the grit and basics built in here are astounding when it all comes together. There is however one item that lifts and work along side with X-Plane11 that is in my eyes essential in getting this quantum leap and that is also running as part of the deal is the xEnviro environment engine. That is tough at the moment because only windows users can access xEnviro and in parts it is also buggy, but the effects with the environmental engine working together with Laminar's new version are simply out of this world. No doubt in the last month I have had simulation highs I could only dream of a few years ago, and the lowest frustration when aircraft just don't work, hence the title sentence. But that is also the process of progress. As we will see as the situation settles down is that X-Plane11's new features do amazing things to our already great aircraft, and the effects on scenery will be just as pronounced but they will take longer to thread into the simulator as updates are not as forthcoming or as regular as with aircraft. But as you will get a lot of new high's there are few items in X-Plane11 that will cause a few heartaches. Ben Supnic is on a massive crusade with X-Plane11 to make it as good, lean and as efficient as possible. We have already seen that he took away our twiddling tools, a few users have cheated and put them back with Lua scripts? But the biggest change is that there will be very little backward compatibility with earlier parameters with earlier aircraft, and that means a lot of aircraft you have savoured and loved over the years are going to the great hard drive in the sky. In other words there is another big clean out is on the horizon like we did with the 64bit transfer, and this one will be worse, and it is going to hurt folks. And that brings us to the pain, or developers pain. You wouldn't want to be a developer lately as it hasn't been much fun. And I am a part of their pain. I want their products to be what I call "Flyable" or "Usable" in X-Plane11, because of the great differences that X-Plane11 brings to them and to fly them in their new exciting world, so I want something that is just in something usable, and so does almost everyone else that is running the X-Plane11beta version. But X-Plane11 is just a beta and with that comes constant changes and most developers don't want to over work and keep on constantly changing their work to fit a beta. A lot of the top notch machines are now extremely complex and require a lot of very task full set of algorithms to do the calculations to recreate an authentic engine representation for that particular aircraft. You don't want to mess with that too often as it may send you down a road you may not get back from, or requires a restart or complete blank page scenario. But with X-Plane11 Austin Meyer has this time decided to go a little, or okay a lot deeper in the way that turbine or jet engines operate on a more realistic model, you could call it his sort of "Blade-element theory" for engines. And for a more realistic simulation of engine power and thrust outputs that is certainly great from a users point of view, but it also changes a few parameters that was the deal before X-Plane11 into a wide set of parameters to addressed now in the new simulator, and worse it goes right to the core (no pun intended) of the basis of engine operation. The developers job is now to interpret those huge amount of changes on their products and create the realistic operation and thrust outputs for their aircraft... so you see the problems. A lot of the changes were introduced in the earlier beta's, but as the beta numbers got higher they came more and more comprehensive, until beta 12 were they came with a really big set of changes, and killed virtually every aircraft that used the old system, there will be a step back of course as there was a few bugs in the system and came with the beta13 update. But one thing that is very clear is that their is no compromise on the parameters to cover older aircraft in older X-Plane versions. A small compromises will be made of course, but Ben Supnic and Austin Meyer have made it clear it is only this way or no way in the future. So those aircraft that can be updated and adjusted to the new parameters will be, but the rest are quite now really... history. Unless you run them in your older X-Plane10 version. This doesn't mean that every single aircraft will be compromised, but a lot will... all in the name of progress. But get an even "usable" running aircraft in X-Plane11 and you will be glad to embrace the future. As I said for the few that did claw their way into the air it was a great experience, and hence my wanting more of these aircraft available so users can enjoy their impressive delights, as the point is X-Plane10 is now almost dead, and long live X-Plane11. But you do need a lot of patience in the process of making the aircraft X-Plane11 ready, and it is not the big in your face changes but the hidden easter egg ones, that are buried in a hidden closet. Take brakes as an example. They were once very simple in 50% regular (braking action) or 100% full (locked brakes) but now that is all changed and you have to adjust your aircraft to the changes, and that is just one single item. For most developers it is just a wait and see, a few have gone half way and given us usable aircraft in X-Plane11, but there is still a way to go before we will be fully X-Plane11 compliant... and it may be awhile before we finally get there. But one big thing is that the beta12 changes maybe the final parameters or a final lock down of the engine thrust changes, and so that a forward momentum may be finally available from now on, if not then expect a few developers to take up another occupation altogether. Framerate inanity Another factor during this beta phase that got really annoying this month was the constant notes on the forums in "My framerate is up!" or "my framerate is stuffed!" or "Running in single digits!". Every beta release brought loads of these comments and I know they have been coming out since the start of the new millennium. Most experienced users usually ignore such inanity, but I really feel for the newer and more inexperienced users to the X-Plane simulator in thinking it is a normal process, it is not. Unless Laminar make a real stuff up as they did with beta12 they will note it, and quickly correct it like they have in beta13, and yes there are common major changes that will effect your simulator through the beta process. But major framerate changes are usually not one of them. Most framerate fluctuation causes are usually your X-Plane preferences, as the new (beta) update is still interpreting the older settings on the new changes, which makes perfect sense. So first rebuild your main X-Plane preferences. Secondly is that where you start up in X-Plane and what aircraft you start up in can have a big impact on your framerate as does your weather settings. I always use KLAL - Lakeland Linder Regional as my base setting. It is an interesting position because it has a lot of autogen on one side and just countryside on the other and that allows you to gauge the framerate impact on both areas, of course the weather is set to CAVOK (Ceiling and Visibility OK) and you use the same aircraft on loading. In most cases Laminar Research don't touch or fiddle with framerates until the RC (Release Candidate) or Alpha or a final tuning of the completed version that is then ready for release, only then will you usually see an improvement with the overall simulator as well as the framerates. So noting constant framerate fluctuations during a beta run just shows your cluelessness and gives out the wrong impressions and worse on the fact of where we actually are in the beta process (which is usually to the very good and not the very bad). But the high's over February were very high. I certainly had my most memorable (if sometimes frustrating) flying in X-Plane that I can ever remember. The simulator is moving into another golden era of almost a pure realistic simulation of flying aircraft, not perfect as X-Plane still does have a few limitations, but certainly a completely new level of experience of flying aircraft on a computer. It is a very exciting future that is coming soon. To reflect the coming of X-Plane11, we here at X-PlaneReviews have done a little twiddling of the site. The masthead menu now has an "X-Plane11" forum for X-Plane11 related articles, and that will be filling up soon, we also took the chance to add in a direct menu connection to the "News" forum and added in a place for these "Behind The Screen" posts as there are now quite a few of them and a resource of what is going on in X-Plane away from the direct review aspect of content and the mast image which is a little bigger because it looks very nice. We would also like to note the X-PlaneReview site is laid out and has full functionality on your smartphone and iPad, for mobile access on the move. Thank You See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st March 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
  3. Behind the Screen : January 2017 Well, rested and a head full of ideas, you are ready to take on another year of X-Plane madness and an exciting one at that with X-Plane11 now becoming uber reality… well once all the bugs are finally worked out. But just days into 2017 and most of your enthusiasm has already been burnt and your are rolling your eyes around your head in pain and despair and by the end of the month you can’t believe how hard a month could have been and all that new energy is now already long exhausted. It wasn’t a bad month per se. In fact it was totally contradictory to the statement above, but it was certainly trialing and energy busting… ... so welcome to 2017. I hit the boards and came back to the computer days early with the release of beti-x’s sublime Bella Coola scenery in Canada. It was just to good a scenery to not tell you about it, my feeling is that the best scenery of the year gong has already gone and in the very start of 2017 at that right now and not at the end of it, it is so brilliantly good and at that price a real bargain as well. But my best intentions was that I wanted to start out with X-Plane11 with a totally new and clear slate. With X-Plane10 it had to a point became very unwieldy and totally messy system and that was not without trying to keep some sort of organisation about the whole package. But just too much over the years had been just thrown into the “Custom Scenery” folder and there was plugins galore and a read of my log.txt then you would have banished me to a place just south of the North Pole for complete years of isolation on being able to do any messing up of anything ever again. So X-Plane11 was to become a clean sheet, a new start and a lighter log.txt of beautiful efficiency and professionalism… well that is the general idea and to a point I have already kept to that mantra and to the time of refining my main X-Plane organisation layouts (meaning folders) to the best and clearest definition of a purest of systematic structures… in other words “keeping it all very simple”. X-Plane11 in the folders already looks lovely and organised but how long will it all last, for not for very long is my guess but I will try harder this time as the need for my own efficiency and the loss of time tracing bugs. The updates came quickly and already three weeks in and we at beta 8, and it is all looking quite remarkable. I waited patiently until the New Year before starting to configure and use the new application because there was no point in doing that earlier, and that was a wise thing to do. You do want to look around your new home and settle in but reviews are required and X-Plane10 was the work horse still to get the correct results, but once the later beta’s kicked in I was drawn ever closer to the newer sexier way of flying. xEnviro I noted at the end of 2016 that 2017 was going to a really different look and change for X-Plane, and yes certainly the new X-Plane11 application delivers that look and you feel that in spades but it was a fate situation that at the same time that X-Plane11 came newborn into our world another seismic shift happened as well with the release of a new environmental engine in xEnviro. Let me be clear in that I have never been a great fan of addon environmental aids. I like the default system to be as basic as Austin and Ben’s newborn code. And when running xEnviro for the first time I was not completely taken with it either and almost disregarded it as another maybe also ran and a big cough at that price. But something this time just made me give it a few more tries and then you get the spine tingling feeling that this was going to be something beyond really special and in our X-Plane world it would be life changing. First let us be completely evident on somethings about xEnviro. It is in a way a backward step, in that the system is 2d and not 3d (there are 3d objects in there, but not the main cloud formations). It is still buggy as it caused a lot of stress over the last month, and restrictive in ways when you create reviews with only the current local weather available. It crashed a lot early on as well with JARDesign plugins causing havoc (I updated the wrong ones or simply put the same unadjusted ones straight back in again). It crashes badly if your internet is not connected or if xEnviro goes off line (I live in Australia so update midnight time in Europe is midday working time for me), and this last one brings up the question of what if xEnviro does go off line or they simply close down, we would need a backup just in case or even a connection to the current X-Plane weather data to keep it running. You also have to set the settings panel to work for you and not against you, winds need to be adjusted and so does the cloud darkness and a lot more twiddling. But the advantages with running xEnviro and the effect it has on X-Plane and when certainly paired with X-Plane11 is simply remarkable. Personally I think Laminar Research should buy the lot and make it the standard weather engine in X-Plane and simply be done with it. And I really feel for the Mac users that can’t access it’s charms yet, I hope that situation changes soon. Once used xEnviro; it is very, very hard to go back to the basic X-Plane default clouds and weather engine even with the X-Plane11 misty soft focus look. It all feels bland and basic after the wonderful formations you have now adjusted used to, and in a bonus it turns X-Plane10 into soft focus X-Plane11 and X-Plane11 with that soft focus already in there is just another world again. Then there is the biggest salvation… framerate as the plugin is completely separate from the X-Plane engine and there is no effect on framerate, okay a little in high-density periods but nothing that crucifies and fries your GPU until it begs for mercy like the current default cloud system does. Although the so called “mist” look of X-Plane11 made us divide into two camps, it soon became very apparent it was a very realistic look, and this effect combined with X-Enviro really lifts the look and feel to a whole new level of involvement and realism and that is the aim of the game. So yes within a very short time our X-Plane view of the world has changed quite significantly, xEnviro brings real world weather to your flying and you are also expected to to up your game in matching real weather situation, either with bad crosswind runway approaches/departures, fog (fog is really good) and changing enroute weather patterns. Because the weather is this close to real you do need another feature built in to the plugin to give you weather details for departure and arrivals. You are a bit blind of the weather conditions and can be caught out as you don’t know what those conditions are until you are faced with them. Winter Textures But for atmospheric flying and views then January was simply overwhelming in it’s delivery. I added in with XP10 my winter textures as well and that just added in more to the ride. Winter textures are great but there is a hole in a few sceneries that need fixing. In most payware sceneries the ground ortho textures are part of the scenery, so with Winter Textures activated you get a green patch in the middle of the whiteness. I do wish more scenery developers would provide winter textures with the scenery as an option, but they don’t so you find a fix. I created a batch action in photoshop to process the hundreds of texture files, you have to convert to png from dds, to use it in photoshop, but can’t convert it back again to dds. You can with Laminar’s Xgrinder tool, but you can’t automate it to cover the hundreds of files but only with a one on one process which takes too long (even the batch auto takes 20 minutes) but the results are worth it. Putting the adjusted winter files up on the X-Plane.Org is also a no go as it contravenes the developers copyright. I started this process last year, but this year reorganised the file structure and in the way the MOD (JSGME) tool does the replacement work of the files, and fine tuned the process to create the winter style files efficiently. It works very well but it is restricted to only the ground textures and not the buildings, but it looks and works very well. Another slight with Winter Textures is that the ground textures for the default autogen is still in full spring bloom, so you get patterns of green in the background white. In time of course X-Plane will intergrate the seasons better into the simulator with X-Plane11, but the developers will still have to provide the extra winter textures to make it work. When done like with beti-x’s remarkable Bella Coola which has replacement textures it is a winter wonderland spectacular. So it works when done well. X-Plane11 But back to X-Plane11… Like I mentioned my adoption of X-Plane11 was rather slow and you would think doing what I do that I would be the very first one in there to pull it apart. But the world today is a very different place than in my youth as with software the first out version is never completed, I rarely now buy any new Apple iPhone on release but a year behind as then it is all sorted and fine tuned and that most certainly is the case with X-Plane except with sceneries, and that is absolutely certainly the case with X-Plane11. This is highlighted even more because getting in first would be giving out the wrong information and the least everyone needs right now is well the latest buzzword in “Fake News”. But some impressions are worth noting. First X-Plane11 is good, and to the point of being very good. You are seeing a sort of professionalism now coming into the simulator. X-Plane was always early on a clubhouse enthusiastic experimental sort of occupation and the idea that anyone can come and build and then fly their own aircraft. And certainly don’t get me wrong as that is still the foundation and heart of the simulator as it’s name reflects that vision. But this aspect can also create a problem in that these clubby people don’t really like things to change and although they highly welcome new people you still have to conform to their old fashioned out of date ideas. Tradition is to be respected but mostly in any area of life or business is that if you have that out of date mentality you will wither and die. As a human race we hate change, we like things the way they are “thank you, very much”, and I am one of the worst one for that. But we live in a world of change and if not our world will die or in this case the one thing we love the most is in our own simulator. Could you really live with Flight Simulator or an X-Plane that stopped evolving now ten years ago, yes the fringes of FS are still very vibrant but the core is static and very, very old. Many users see X-Plane11 as the dumb down of the simulator. A flashy intro with wizz-bang graphics to select our aircraft and sceneries, and the real horror of taking away our detailed settings that kept us twiddlers happy and contented for hours. But use the new simulator and those early disquiets quickly disappear. In reality the old x-plane set up panel was a mess or just plain pre-millennium basic. In X-Plane11 you really now have a lot of choices and the quick drill down for more of the more detailed choices in the interface to quickly and speedily do the set up of what you want. The really annoying thing with the older version was that you mostly had to start the simulator to make the changes and then reset everything for what you actually wanted, were as the X-Plane11 version is a one stop shop, go then fly. There is no doubt a lot of time, money and research into how to make the very best interface for X-Plane has been done by Laminar Research and beyond those flashy graphics it is a solid system. My horror like most to the dumbing down of the graphics page menus was to simply want it all back. But again use it. My twiddling was usually to the negative and not to the positive in most cases, in other words my efficiency went backwards and not to the better with my constant to and throwing of the settings, and in most cases I kept a preference copy to get me back to the default point I should not of changed in the first place. But the totally overall point of both areas changed above is the sheer change in the speed of not only the loading and starting of X-Plane, but the efficiency of how it runs. As Ben Supnic notes, just to have one setting of the very inconsequential settings like traffic and trees is that they can be really be made to be more focused and aligned for ultimate processing and in other words better processing with your computer and that results in a far better framerate. Speed is the key here and not the dumbing down of the simulator. Speed to start up and select what you want and to get you flying more quickly and the efficiency of the simulator working for you and not fighting you is what X-Plane11 is all about. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st January 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
  4. Behind the Screen : The Year in Review 2016 How do you gauge if there has been a significant moment in a year. Even with large events like Brexit and the U.S. election of Donald Trump for President in that the consequences of the dramatic change won’t be felt for years or even for a decade. But you know things have changed and for significant reasons. And that the world we lived in before 2016, is not going to be the same place that we will leave as we move into 2017. The same feeling is there with X-Plane. Yes I won’t even try to compare a simulator to important international events on the effects of our lives, but in a way it is smaller things that are closer to us, closer to us personally that we feel the changes more. Yes going into 2017 is very different in X-Plane than when we moved into 2016 just under twelve months ago and of course that is related to the release of X-Plane11. Certainly it is an exciting time to be in X-Plane, I noted last year that we may be in a “Golden Period” that highlight’s the changes and quality that is notable in the simulator, if you think I have “rose-tinted” glasses on then you are wrong, as just a recap of all the extensive features, ideas and speed of the changes that we have lived through the last few years highlights the current position of how far we have come and no doubt this new coming year we will cover even more ground and have more of the realism that we only really dreamed about only half a decade ago. From Laminar Research’s point of view, 2016 was about only one thing. That was tying up all the loose ends of X-Plane10 while at the same time building the future in X-Plane11. The release of v10.50 back in the Q2 of 2016 didn’t help the nerves because the first three beta’s where very buggy, but the version soon was sorted and settled down. So from Laminar Research’s point of view it was a huge and a very hard year of mostly keeping your head down and getting through the huge amount of work to be done, but right now and certainly from Laminar Research’s perspective X-Plane10 is done, finished… completed. At the time of writing this article X-Plane11was still in beta, but I expect it to be in release final by New Year. To a point it hasn’t shown yet on how good it really is going to be. Certainly all the building blocks and features are built in there, but with so little converted aircraft and the huge amount of “Global Scenery” to download, it will take time. If not a few months before it becomes our default application up from X-Plane10. There is so much area to cover, not only in the change of aircraft features, but checking out custom scenery and most of all getting the plugins to work with the new simulator. Bugs aside then Laminar will also have its books full getting the efficiency of the simulator running well (or better) and generally making the simulator as good or as stable as it has to be. My early thought’s are in keeping with the current situation and that to be honest with not a lot of flying in X-Plane11 until it is more sorted and stable, and with a load of reviews on the table to cover in X-Plane10 before Christmas I don’t have the time anyway. But that will change over the Christmas Holiday, going into 2017 then certainly X-Plane11 will come to the fore. Aside from the X-Plane v10.50 update it was the fringe items more than the core simulator that made the biggest changes in 2017. Yes aircraft got more complex and more clever features were added in, but the biggest movers and shakers were in sound and weather. BSS or BlueSkyStar Simulation’s sound packages were a revelation, with first the JARDesign A320neo and then their A330, but you really saw the power of the package when it lifted the ancient JRollon CRJ-200 up to heights that it didn’t really deserve. But the differences were on another planet and shows that great sound is now a major element of flying in X-Plane that has been left out far too long from our flying environment. Laminar Research has also got into the audio act with the addition of FMOD Sound into X-Plane11, or the tools to create great sound, so no doubt you will start to see the results of this new audio era in 2017 but if it is anything like the BSS impact then it will transform even the most basic of aircraft to a new level and that includes 5.1 surround sound. The year is closing with another element to X-Plane that is changing big time… weather. If you want to note one of the less favoured headline features that didn’t make the grade in X-Plane10 it was the weather system. Yes Laminar Research wrestled with it and got some sort of efficiency out of the engine over the years, but they spent so much time allocated to that then not much was done in actually improving the weather system to the sort of level it really should be at by now. So it is down to the 3rd parties to fill in the gap and do something about the problem. A lot of people had a throw at the problem, but in most cases it just made it worse and messed up your root X-Plane files in the process. A breakthrough came with Sundog's Sky-Maxx Pro series and it was that in being finally a breakthrough in creating a decent weather engine. But it was dogged in the early days by poor framerate problems that were sorted, and the plugin did become a standard for better weather in X-Plane and is now in v4.0. But a newcomer developer to X-Plane in Commercial Simulation Systems could really change the weather game with their product called xEnviro. I have to date only used it for a few weeks, but it has totally changed my X-Plane flying environment. I am very excited about this plugin going into 2017, updates have been coming thick and fast (already v1.05) but it creates a world around you that has to be used to believe. Yes it is expensive, but I would note you will very quickly forget about that investment once you use it (make sure you give it time to settle in)… certainly a new era and with no large framerate hit, that is a Christmas present worth having. In aircraft the year started out with a lot of heavy debate for a few months about Rotate’s MD-88, and most of it was nasty, and it made me quite angry. A first time developer created a great product, not perfect, but great. But most users stripped strips off the product and most of it was totally unnecessary, then as now I really love the aircraft and have flown it consistently all throughout 2016, it was updated frequently and new features were added so what is your problem, but the outpouring of vile was not needed and could (or still might) cause the developer any other wanting to give X-Plane and it’s community a miss, and I wouldn’t blame them either. As I noted too many times within the year is that any purchase in the simulator is an investment, so buy wisely. And that investment is over years and not just the first few minutes of downloading it into the simulator, a few well used good investments is far better than loads of product you will never use. Aircraft Late March and early April is now the really busy period for new product for X-Plane, and now not actually at Christmas. It was chocker this year, with Colimata’s F/A 18F “Rhino” Hornet, then MLADG’s Messerschmidtt Bf 109-G2 and also Khamsin and he finally released his magnificent North American P-51D Mustang and while we had a great year for fighters then don’t forget X-Trident’s very good Tornado and RW Design’s Spitfire. Aerobask had a big year as well with his Viperjet, Epic Victory and Epic 1000 all with that new “Skyview” interface. The Piper Cherokee PA28 from vFlyteAir was a little gem. Carenado was quiet early in the year, but then released the Cirrus SR22, TBM 850, PA31 Navajo (which I really loved) and the excellent AeroCommander “Shrike” 500s straight after Butnaru’s AeroCommander. Both were good, but I do prefer the Carenado version. There was a lot of REP (Reality Expansion Pack) packages this year for a few Carenado’s and they are very well received. Helicopters... what helicopters, only one release with the Schweizer S300CBi Helicopter from Dreamfoil Creations, but at least it was a good one. The personal Jet got a boost with RW Design’s and the Hawker 4000 and it was great to see Dan Klaue back with the enigmatic but very clever Quest Kodiak. Two long term projects finally came to light with EADT’s Boeing 737-800 v5, which brought you that amazing virtual cockpit and it was free. IXEG finally also got their Boeing 737 Classic out of the door with glowing reviews, but it was still missing a lot of features that should have been as part of the expensive deal, for me over AUD$100+ was a money stretch too far after spending all my life savings on a new computer. Felis Planes put out his excellent TU-154M, but with no English manuals to fly it, it stayed grounded, a lesson there. PMDG released their DC-6 Cloudmaster mid-northern summer, and surprise, surprise it was very good, if not excellent, no word on if PMDG will release another product in X-Plane, but the DC-6 was so very niche it certainly didn’t give them the sort of feedback that was really worthy of the simulator. Both X-Craft’s and SSG put out v2 aircraft of their E175/170 designs, both were very good especially the SSG E170, but both were let down by fatal flaws. One serious favourite was Wilson’s Aircraft DC-8, I simply love the aircraft besides it’s obvious flaws, just brilliant to fly and it looks excellent, the Boeing 707 is getting the same treatment, so roll on more of the sixties. And then there was another aircraft trend in 2016, the Version 2! FlyJsim updated the Boeing 727 Series to v2 with the “Study”, Both X-Craft’s and SSG brought out v2 versions, and at the end of year FlightFactor/VMAX realigned the excellent Boeing 757 to v2 status (carbon copy of the Boeing 767) and all aircraft were new purchases with discounts for earlier buyers… it will be interesting to watch this trend continuing into 2017. Scenery JustSim was the most prolific developers this year of scenery. LOWL-Linz, LEGE - Girona Costa Brava, LOWK - Klagenfurt, LOWI - Innsbruck, LBWN - Varna, LOWS - Salzberg, LFMN - Nice and LEBL - Barcelona and you needed a diary to keep up with them all… all are excellent for their prices, and are really good scenery fillers, but LFMN Nice was a favourite. So was Aerosoft’s excellent update to LSZH - Zurich that finally made the scenery usable again to another v2 title. Aerosoft’s earlier in the year release for KRSW - Southwest Florida was also excellent, and has seen a lot regular visits for reviews because I really like the scenery and its position. As it was an Olympic year and in Rio and there was a focus on the scenery there. SBRJ - Santos Dumont Rio de Janeiro by Richard G Nunes & Nielsen Scenery was the great release and compliments their excellent Galeão Rio de Janeiro Intl, but be warned you need a lot of computer power to use them… Pilot+Plus had a change of direction in size this year with LSGG - Geneva, EGKK - Gatwick and the smaller LEIB - Ibiza, but you missed the more intimate and detail of their original work. Drzewiecki Design released a great Baku and an excellent Moscow City. One area that X-Plane still really suffers is in is city skylines, Moscow City proves it can be done and my wish is that scenery developers or the community will start to put these skylines on high their agendas in 2017, nothing fancy, but anything is better than the nothing we have now. Plugins I loved and totally used JARdesigns excellent “Ground Handling Deluxe” all year, a favourite and X-Life Deluxe was an interesting package to make airports alive. It is brilliant, but I don’t like the reliance on X-Plane’s limited A.I. System in aircraft and framerate and a second issue is another reliance on X-Plane’s built in ATC ground-routes. Granted Laminar Research is putting a lot of resources into both items, certainly the ground routes, so that might finally make them reliable. But I still use Classic Jet Simulation's, World Traffic. It is still slightly awkward and time intensive to use, but once you get the idea it works very well and like xEnviro it is easy to switch off by being totally separate from X-Plane. CJS in 2016 abandoned the rest of WT v2.0 development and has moved directly on to v3.0, but time is catching up with WT as Laminar Research is putting a lot of effort into the same area, so it looks like 2017 will be a year to breakout or sink for WT, I hope v3.0 soars as it is a great plugin. I made the Sundog's Sky-Maxx Pro series weather plugin the best of the year in 2015, but I think it has competition for the title this year. The biggest success for me was just completing the “Behind the Scenes” article each month in 2016 and I hope they give you a sort of commentary of the things we don’t mention in the reviews and what goes on behind the scenes in X-Plane. We are also always looking for reviewers for our site, and it is a great way to get involved closer to X-Plane and contribute more to the simulator. 2017 is obviously going to be even bigger and far better than last year as X-Plane settles into its new version with X-Plane11, and one of the great things about X-Plane is that sometimes you have absolutely no idea what may drop into your download box next, and mostly it is something really great and exciting. Again this Review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting product to fly and use, as I mentioned earlier X-Plane has come a long way in the last few years. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with service and updates, a really big thanks. We will finish off with X-PlaneReviews best of the year awards… So I will now list my Best of the Year 2016: Best Aircraft : FlightFactor/VMAX : Boeing 757 v2.0 Yes they win again, but it was a excellent upgrade Honorable Mention : IXEG Boeing 737 Classic It is a great aircraft, but not complete for the money. Best Classic Aircraft : DC-6 Cloudmaster by PMDG Just completely different, and a very interesting aircraft to use and fly. Honorable Mention : Boeing 727 - 200 Study Series v2 - FlyJSim Just great, a significant upgrade to a great aircraft Shouldn't totally love but do : DC-8 by Wilson's Aircraft Best General Aviation Aircraft : Piper Cherokee PA 28 140C/O by VFlyteAir For basic GA flying at it's very best you just can't go past it. Honorable Mention : AirfoilLab's 172SP It is brilliant, clever but the feel is slightly quirky. Best Helicopter : Schweizer S300CBi by Dreamfoil Creations Easy, the only one released for the year, but still very good. Best Scenery : SBRJ - Santos Dumont Rio de Janeiro by Richard G Nunes & Nielsen Scenery So detailed and very realistic, but it costs you a lot in framerate. Honorable Mention : LSZH Airport Zurich v2.0 by Aerosoft Finally as good as it should have been in the first release. Person's of the Year : Austin Meyer and Ben Supnic They delivered both the 10.50 update while building X-Plane11, and taking X-Plane to a totally new level, it breaks you just thinking about it. Honorable Mention : JARDesign JARDesign really delivered a lot this year with frequent A320neo and A330 upgrades, brilliant clever plugins from the Ground Services to X-Life Deluxe it was a bumper year. Best Plugin : xEnviro by Commercial Simulation Systems The Environment Engine plugin is brand new and just kills it... Brilliant! Honorable Mention : Sound Packages by BlueSkyStar Simulation Lifts the ordinary aircraft into the extraordinary, gives you the aural detail that was missing. Best Moments of the year 2016 : Getting off an A380 freezing at Heathrow at 3.40am in the morning, oh and the xEnviro kicking it with all its glory... .... X-Plane11, and don't forget that. Worst Moment of the Year 2016 : Ugly diatribe on the forums that was unwarranted against developers that didn't deserve it. Biggest distraction of 2016 : Users jumping on the forums without checking out the details. Personal Favorites of 2016 : The CRJ-200 with BSS, 1900D Carenado King Air, MD-88, Boeing 727 Study, Boeing 757, JARDesign A320neo with BSS, DC-8, PA31 Navajo and AeroCommander "Shrike". That is X-PlaneReviews for 2016, and we will be back after a very much needed break and rest on the 9th January 2017. We of course wouldn’t exist either without you the users and your contribution to both the simulator and to reading this site and your comments, so thanks and tune in again in 2017 for more in-depth analysis, great detail, inside and future product news as X-PlaneReviews heads into its 4th year. So Merry Christmas and a great New Year 2017 Stephen Dutton 22nd December 2016 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2016
  5. Behind the Screen : November 2016 X-Plane11 Release It happened and yes the world around you did actually change! Right on cue X-Plane11 debuted on the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday as predicted and it was also as noted a “beta” version, that is not the full release version folks but a beta and that gets Laminar Research out of the “well it is not finished yet… but it is coming” excuse, which in other words means yes it is not finished, and secondly we can now see how many bugs we really have to sort out before it actually is. But it was always going to be a beta anyway… As with X-Plane10 the visual feel is totally different as was the feel back to X-Plane9 was different again, but considering the size of the project and the wide variety of versions required the first beta (quickly followed by 11.01b) was actually quite good and stable, but wait for the next version to get a really good base to work from as most of the outstanding bugs would have been addressed. You can download the X-Plane11 demo for free… at 6.90gb for the full download and that gets you the full X-Plane11 application, the default Seattle (tile) area and 15min flying time. To get the full “Global” version it will cost you US$59.95 and you get a key that accesses both X-Plane11 and the older X-Plane10 versions. But there is more to consider? Once you have that full version installed, you then have to redownload all the areas in the world at around 60+gb, and like me that is going to a hard one as I am only limited to 50gb downloads a month and a pipe so small that even a mouse can’t crawl through it, so the only answer may be only load a small area and to then wait till the DVD’s come out? I am testing the theory of using the XP10 tiles as a stop gap, but you won’t get the updated data in the new tiles until you fully update the new XP11 package. My first impression was the very light gamma and how many of the adjustments have been taken away on the “Graphics” page, this new X-Plane version is none adjustable in lighting, so you have to adjust your monitor to the lighting and not the usual X-Plane to your monitor, but that adjustment then makes my monitor to dark too work from? Laminar Research have noted the lighting is not yet locked in and that may change, hopefully yes, but when users are changing the basic datarefs to make it darker then obviously it is too light. On the “Graphic” page adjustments the horror of losing control of the “twiddlers” or as I call it “refining” like me is going to be hard, but there is a good light to this idea. Ben Supnic is try to make this version the best yet with a really good efficient processing as the end game, and that is just not possible with so many different areas conflicting with each other. So many areas are going locked off at their best (most efficient) settings and then refining the rest to that engine, and the first running of the simulator seems to confirm that that is the best way to go, although I will miss that fine tuning to my system it will allow more users to find that optimum setting far more quickly and easier. So the power has been taken away from the power users for the sake of efficiency and a more ease of use for new users and those that don’t have the in depth skill at running X-Plane. So is that dumbing down the simulator? No not really as if you still end up with the best running simulator in the end no matter the interface then it doesn’t matter, and it may also take away some of the frustration in trying to adjust to get the very last frame out of your processing with a situation that if it runs well here then you will have a better benchmark on how your computer is actually running at the definitive settings and not with the constant adjustment of robbing peter to run paul, and then have to readjust to get peter back or what you had in the first place… It will be interesting once X-Plane11 is sorted and how good it really can be, my first impressions are that it is going to be very good indeed. Visibility has become the number one topic on X-Plane11, or the distance mist effect. My first thoughts were that it is a little too over wrought, yes you need mist in the distance but with no real clear air directly below and closer to the aircraft looked a little unrealistic, but fly in it and it is very realistic, again just a fine adjustment to this mist area with the gamma would make it close to perfect. Yes I like the X-Plane11 look with the excellent effects with the "Physically Based Rendering" or "PBR" now working, again PBR needs a little refining but the idea is very good, and the aircraft look brilliant. I also really love as the sharp light cuts across the panel as you turn onto the runway or bank away from the sun, very realistic and make you even more immersed into the simulator. The default aircraft are also excellent, certainly the Boeing 737NG is a huge addition to the simulator, the older Boeing 744 has scrubbed up nicely as well, but all aircraft are not what you would call in depth in systems and adjustments as you expected, but they are far better than anything Laminar have included in with the simulator the past. The Cessna Citation is currently a no show, so it is obviously not finished, but everything else from the B737, B744, MD-80 and the Sikorsky S-76 are great additions. Many add-on aircraft don’t transfer over to X-Plane11 as easy as we thought they would, most if not all will need tweaking in some area or another, but give a thought to Carenado and the amount of aircraft that have to be adjusted, don’t expect them all soon or even in early 2017… it is going to be months more like it. Last note on X-Plane11 is the new interface, and yes I really love it, huge advancement from the older original version in ease of use and more in the speed and smoothness of the operation. A lot of items look like they have been dropped, but are in fact in there if you look for them, like the replay mode that puts all the Situations, Replays, Flight Data and Xavion all on one panel and ease of use. So an early impression of X-Plane11 is very impressive, by Christmas a few updates will get you closer to a stable version, but out of the box (bright gamma aside) it is going to be a great 2017 for flying in the simulator, exciting yes. I was in two minds about going away for three weeks to the UK (from Australia) in early November. Obviously X-Plane11 was coming out and November is always a very busy month with new releases and changes coming up to the holiday season. But in some ways it help close the gap from the X-Plane11 announcement and it’s actual release on thanksgiving day, so there was no sitting around for weeks fretting over what we will get and how good it it will be. There is simply no quiet time in X-Plane anymore to plan times to have a break and in fact the most busiest time this year in 2016 was in March and before and after Easter, overall after all the big releases in early November it was unusually quiet, or was that just the coming X-Plane11 effect? Flying the routes… for real So a bit of reality flying and nine hours in one seat and then follow that with thirteen hours in a smaller seat that can give you plenty to think about, but one thing is true… Flying in X-Plane compared to the real world is a far, far better deal and not as time wasting? For instance there is no… - Dragging yourself to the airport with luggage (mostly by rail) and walking three miles from the rail station to the check-in (multiply that four times over the trip) and that takes half an hour plus an hour to recover per sector. - Checking in and in Australia they make you do that twice, once electronically and again for the baggage, why I don’t know as you don’t get your boarding pass until you get to second check-in? Two hours per sector in queues to complete this process. - Immigration! They take your photo, and match it with your current photo, but I have aged eight years since my passport has been issued, loss of half an hour verifying I am the same person in both photos? - Security! I didn’t know that bottled water and small can of shaving cream (below the required 100ml) was as dangerous as a fully loaded weapon and enough plastic explosive that can bring an airliner down, obviously they are, two strip searches (and some very intimate) and the upending of all your contents that are deemed a total threat to the aviation industry will take you two to three hours to queue and clear and you will feel far less safe when cleared through than when you started. - Customs, yes another check of all the nasty things in your bags, but declare that you are insane and you will walk straight though, but older the generations of 70 years plus are deemed a real threat for terrorism or carrying fruit, an hour lost through here is fast, but Hong Kong customs is amazingly fast as they have order and if not then they create order out of chaos. - Finally getting onto the aircraft… but another security check and god help you if the person in front of you has left their passport in a coat that is buried in their luggage and can’t find it, loss of another fifteen minutes…. All of this drama and years off your life also costs you an arm and a leg and you are left with just mince pies for Christmas and no presents. Now add all that up and in X-Plane all you have to do is turn on the computer, select your aircraft, livery, place and time of day and your ready to fly… oh and you can look out of the front windows as well. Another small benefit with X-Plane is that you don’t have queue then on the taxiways for half an hour to get your turn to take off or be put in a holding pattern for an hour to land at an overcrowded Chep Lok Airport in Hong Kong, twice! And landing at Heathrow at 3.45 am in the morning will mean a breeze (and not to mention the -2º cold either) through as you end up on the Piccadilly Line straight to your hotel to find it closed till 7.30 am. Certainly X-Plane beats the real thing… You just fly! X-PlaneReviews would like to wish you all and for all your great support in 2016, a Very Merry Christmas and a sensational New Year 2017. Stephen Dutton 5th December 2016 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2016
  6. Behind the Screen : October 2016 The overriding event of October has to be the announcement of X-Plane11 at RAF Cosford in the United Kingdom on the 8th of October. These major version changes only come around every four years or so, but they are of course very significant to the future of the simulator. X-Plane10 was without doubt a very successful version of X-Plane. It visually changed the look of X-Plane and there was the time that we could have expected it to maybe run even longer than most versions because there was a lot of ground to cover and a lot of features to refine, but that didn’t happen of course and X-Plane11 is now coming. The other reason is simply economics as any new version is payday for Laminar Research, because every update or changes during a version run is free. So How would you like to be paid only four years or so? I was there on the threshold between X-Plane9 and X-Plane10, and still very green. Problem was my machine struggled with the new simulator because it needed a nuclear powerplant running by the side of the computer to push through all those numbers. I upgraded as did everyone else over time and that is the expensive side of this hobby, but even over the run of X-Plane10 I was still marginal on framerate and finally only this year and a move to windows and I finally have X-Plane10 running at full throttle. For those of you who are still sitting on the fence it is a beautiful thing, but thankfully X-Plane11 won’t require you this time to mortgage the house or find a part time job to run it efficiently. I went through the details in my review, but it is as usual the understated areas that you will come to love the most. Yes that fancy new interface looks excellent, but the real advancement is the way you will actually use it and not what it looks like. I doubt that through the many conferences and meetings that Laminar Research went through and with the sheer amount of hours in planning and code writing in that they really thought this one through, right through because it is very clever and it it is a lot harder to play all these different areas and match them all up to work seamlessly. And it was that, this new way you move from one area to the next and how you will set up and operate X-Plane on a new and wholey totally different level that is the biggest step forward in your simulator lives. The main reason of this X-Plane11 feature is actually not us the X-Plane users, but it is to be still to be aimed at the usual crowd, those ExFlight Simulator users that are still waiting for their Jesus moment that the simulator will rise again phoenix like to fly the routes again with a modern simulator. I am not going to get into the augment of which simulator is the best, but X-Plane is very much alive and moving forward and that is certainly a big benefit in the name of a dynamic simulator. But the biggest gripe from the FS crowd was that old fashioned drop down menu system, they sorta suffered the rest of X-Plane because it was so good, but funnily enough an old windows style interface sent them all into such a bother. Bother no more with X-Plane11, it will be good… Amen. But the reveals on October 6th that really excited me was the ones as usual you didn’t expect. Really good aircraft, top notch machines with an FMS system that is the best in the business. A brilliant Boeing 737NG, MD-82, Citation Jet and the original X-Plane10 show pony has also had a makeover in the Boeing 747-400. A nice S-72 is not going to go to waste either, and just this collection is worth double the entrance fee that X-Plane11 will cost you, so you could say that Laminar Research are throwing their wizz bang flashy new interface in for free. And like I said in the review roundup. It is not the banner features or the ones that come with the new box that will have the biggest impact. It is also the features that come along during the X-Plane11 run that will change the way we use the simulator more that what we will download later this year. For X-Plane10 it was the move to 64bit and the brilliant Garmin GNS430/530 that made the bigger impacts than any of the announced release features and in X-Plane11 there will be some great and good surprises coming in there as well, but not in the first year or so. So it is now time to do something nice for your partners and families, they won’t be seeing much of you over the Christmas holidays, and I wonder why… As October moved on then X-Plane went into an early hibination period, it went quiet and empty. In most cases you are running at an hundred miles an hour and always behind the ball, but when you are patching up and fixing scenery to pass the time you know it is far too quiet. I think part of the reason was actually X-Plane11, in that developers didn't want to spend time doing to many changes before the new era, and then to do them all again after the release. So you will certainly get a real rush of upgraded aircraft early into 2017, as they get to grips with the changes. but that is not say there won,t be some great new releases before Christmas to put under the tree, because there is and sorry I can,t yet say what they are, but to note there is some surprises in there. And there is few good upgrades coming as well like JARDesigns excellent A320neo that is actually now going to be a real NEO and it looks amazing. And SSG has done a great update to their E-175 Evolution to bring that aircraft up to spec and make it one of the best regional aircraft in X-Plane. So why a bit of a future tense when noting all of these releases and events. Well for three weeks I won't be near a computer, in fact I will be a very long way from any of my X-Plane aircraft and the simulator as I will be in the UK. It was a last minute decision to go, in fact I had three hours to do the numbers and book a load of real world flights. But the chance to be with family and very old friends for my 60th birthday (yes they are holding a surprise party) and other personal reasons was a moment of "aw what the hell, let's just do it" which is about as far as my boring routine based life can get... I will be back right on the cusp of the release of X-Plane11 on Nov 24th, and there is a few excellent exciting reviews set up for releases while I am away, so have fun, do a lot of flying and I'll let the professional's do the piloting for a while, while I'll sit in the back and put my feet up... Because there is no doubt that this Christmas it will be me again doing a lot of flying myself, and I just can't wait for that.... See you all soon. Stephen Dutton 2nd November 2016 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2016
  7. Behind the Screen : September 2016 Like August, September seemed to go on forever and ever. The releases after the Northern Summer trickled to down to a few as well. Like Hollywood movies the pair of E-Jet's from SSG and X-Crafts had been released within weeks of each other so it was from one E-Jet directly to another (I also did some beta testing before the X-Crafts release), both are very good, but both don't quite hit the very marks high they should have done and each was for basically for only one or a few reasons. In the SSG it was that average FMC and poor menus (location) but otherwise it was a brilliant update, but the these two items were enough to keep them out of that extremely level we expect now with quality (and expensive) payware. I have always been a big fan of X-Crafts E-Jets, but the panel (displays) and mostly that really old red line in the nav/map was another small detail that made the design look and feel older than it really is, and took away the advancement of the brilliant FMS by Steve Wilson. That same Textron FMS is also installed in the now announced coming Hawker 4000 so it will be interesting how the same FMS system is incorporated into a different design. The benefit of another great Biz jet will only help to keep us happy in the last quarter of 2016. As of writing this BtS it is only a few days to the RAF Museum Cosford 8th October 2016 "FlightSim 2016" event. Laminar Research have announced a big announcement for X-Plane at the show and there will be two presentations at 11:00 until 12.30 & 14:30 until 16:00 and noted is that Austin Meyers is first and Ben Supnic in doing the second presentation, and they will be in the and guess where the.... Cold War Room! Ultimately the overall feeling about September was about finishing up and tying up loose ends. X-Plane 10.50 was now final and then at the end of the month WED 1.5 went final as well. Although the X-Plane WED (WorldEDitor) app on the surface looks very much the same, it is now really a full blown editor and airport scenery building program in one, it is powerful but it is still 2d layout does make it hard to create 3d objects and placing them is awkward, but the 2d interface does make it very quick as well, and you will always have the Overlay Editor for that job which I still prefer to use anyway. But WED 1.5 does have a huge amount of new tools to use like the excellent new airport sign builder, and after my comments for X-Plane 10.50 Laminar have tightened up the taxiway requirements to get that area of confusion in to a more working model, you now can not release an airport unless the taxiway routes are correct, and so it should have been earlier. But it is the feeling of closing the door on X-Plane 10.xx. There will be no doubt in the history of the X-Plane simulator that this version was the subliminal version that changed the simulator from being a niche product to one of the best simulators you can buy. There is the question that if Flight Simulator itself had continued its progress and updates of which would have been the better overall sim, most would have still noted FS, but it is X-Plane's underlying creativity and versatility that makes it as good as it really is today. As to value I have already reflected that there are not many products you buy that can deliver not only what was promised on the package (even if it did take four years to get there) but give you outstanding extra value and twice or more as many features that you had originally paid for, with that are the highlights are 64bit processing and the excellent Garmin GNS 430/530 gps system, which means that Laminar Research are willing to change in the moment to insert great ideas and not just tick items off a bucket list, and that deep down is what makes this simulator really great. Yes I have been reflecting the journey from my start in X-Plane from around X-Plane 9.50 to the current 10.50, that is just 7 steps of releases to get to where we are now (final X-Plane9 was 9.70), but there was a lot of smaller updates in between. I was excited about my entrance into X-Plane, but to compared to my current experiences to what I flew then is just overwhelming in the fact that thank god I have a great imagination, because you really needed it to create a believable world around you, and to a point you don't need that now, with Heathrow looking like Heathrow and hopefully the future is full of more great city scenery like Drzewiecki Design's excellent "Moscow City" to fill in the only realistic scenery gaps that the simulator requires. We are finally getting there and closer than ever to that realistic simulation nirvana that seemed so impossible back in X-Plane9, yes there are still many areas to be addressed, but overall the progress throughout X-Plane10 has been outstanding. Aircraft as well have come a very long way since X-Plane9.50. Then there was just one really good virtual cockpit Boeing 757, now we rarely look at any new aircraft unless it has a 3d virtual cockpit and more as standard. In systems and functionality you only have to use the Boeing 767 from FlightFactor to see how close we are to real world simulation, and as I just flew a local B737 simulator (iFly Flying Experience!) it was simply very outdated in it's graphics and only a real world set of physical controls made it better than the the simulator I use every day. In most cases I missed the functionality of X-Plane and the versatility of the simulator and it costs far, far less to purchase and gives more satisfaction on a dollar to dollar basis. As one door closes then another will open. Very soon at RAF Museum Cosford we will see the next step in our simulator evolutionary future. One thing will be evident is that X-Plane11 will nothing like X-Plane10 in it's goals and features, as that job is now completed. X-Plane11 will go in another direction from X-Plane10 and what you will get also is another very different feel as X-Plane 10 was from X-Plane9 and X-Plane8 before that, but that is an exciting future as well... _____________________________________________________________________________________ Stephen Dutton 8th October 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  8. Behind the Screen : August 2016 August felt like an eternity, it went on and on, but a lot of flying and good flying can be done waiting for eternity to end. After my average earlier forays into X-Plane beta 10.50, it was time to see if it was as good as it should be. The result was a full review of the updated version in X-Plane Version 10.50: What is new and the results were surprising in the end in that how refined it all felt. The most significant thing that came out of the review was in how much extra value you got from Laminar Research in more than they had originally promised at the release of the 10.00 version. Value you certainly got from the simulator, and a lot of refinement in the process. In saying that though, you have to make a significant investment in hardware to unleash all that power, yes X-Plane will run on a machine even now a few years old, but to get the full effects you have to have a pretty big graphic card (4gb minimum) and high chip processing power to feel the great and the very good. The requirements in the end in the jump from X-Plane9 to X-Plane10 were very high and in that many still swear by X-Plane9 being still the best as to convince themselves that their 2007 era computer is still at the forefront of computer technology, no offence and nobody more than me understands the costs involved in upgrading the hardware to meet the requirements that modern simulators demand, now X-Plane11 is just around the corner and do you want to miss out on those great new features as well, it will be like running X-Plane8 expecting it to be like X-Plane10. One thing I think will be helpful though (and no I don't have any sort of X-Plane11 beta version) is that the upgrade gap won't be the chasm that it was between XP9 and XP10 to X-Plane11. All those updated scenery features and processor gobbling clouds won't be coming this time, and the new startup and menu layouts will actually be more efficient and better than the system we have now. Ditto the new "Physically Based Rendering" or "PBR" which again was noted as very efficient by Laminar, so if you do have a pretty reasonable running system now, then you should be fine with X-Plane11. But August was really all about the flying. And it started straight out of the blocks with Mike's Aircraft huge DC-8 release. This is where the gap between the professional and the personal feelings show in simulation. In the review you have to be very clear headed and note the short comings of the aircraft, that is where you (the customer) can make a clear well informed decision if you want to own the aircraft, and any review has a second objective as well and that is directed at the developer of the areas they can improve their hard work to advance not only their aircraft or sceneries to a higher level. Criticism is not throwing the knives at you but wanting the product to be as good as it really can be for everyone to share in what is a great aircraft or scenery. The DC-8 really fell into that category, it is by and large a redeveloped earlier X-Plane aircraft from the start anyway. But the really exciting thing about these redeveloped aircraft is the fact that these aircraft that won't have the full developer team treatment and high price factors thrown at them, can also be available with also great features and quality and a very good price. But in simulation, strange aircraft and even incomplete ones can be your favorite for flying as much as the huge complex JARDesign's and Flightfactor's that are pushing the boundaries of brilliant simulation frontiers in your flying life. Sometimes it is nice not to have all that huge amount of setting up and flying parameters that certainly do reward you with amazing experiences, but to just fly simply for the sake of enjoying what simulation does offer in simple flying pleasures. In other words I love these aircraft, for all their imperfections (not like the DC-8 is not great because it is) but for the sheer reward they deliver. So the quirky can fly alongside the great, and in my top ten list many of these aircraft do provide as much of my flying time as the expected top of any list in X-Plane can do as well. We also have our personal preferences, a list which is interesting is also really nothing like I would have expected it to be when I entered X-Plane, so there is a big surprise there. The real test is that the aircraft on anyone's top ten list is that it is a stayer, it is there years after it is acquired and so you are not flashed by the next best thing. Then I finally got around to reviewing the latest Carenado twin in the PA-31 Navajo. If there is love at first flight then I believe in it. It was the most perfect Carenado yet, but I did find the VOR-NDB pointer instrument hard to use on the other side of the panel. In small increments Carenado keep on bringing the quality bar a little higher and and all round it was a total class act. But strangely I find the small things that should be a common past features missing in the rain effects and baggage, these are scratch your head moments, small things yes, but noticeable here... But overall the Navajo will certainly now coming into my Top Ten list and will get some serious flying hours under it's new role. With that I have decided to do a full "Top Ten" list of the aircraft I use and why they are in that list. And no doubt I could open that out to a "Top Thirty" list of aircraft and still want more to be included, but the "Top Ten" are the ones that usually fill either a role in reviewing of most just for the pleasure of flying. Most important point to make is the list is not a reflection of the quality of the aircraft but by the sheer pleasure and reward that they give in return. X-PlaneReviews "Top Ten" 1. Carenado F33A Bonanza The crazy thing about my relationship with the F33A was that I bought it for my birthday and never flew it much for two years? Then it clicked, and it became an totally invaluable tool for learning VOR - NDB based flights, then with the honing of the basics of flying in circuits, landings and general flying training. Never ever fails in how it brings out the best in X-Plane for me, but those really excellent navigation instruments and their layout makes the aircraft a technical flyer the best there is. To switch off with a "flight to somewhere" on a Sunday afternoon the Bonanza is always my perfect aircraft of choice, flying back to base or an early morning start always brings out the best of this great little gem of a GA. 2. Carenado B200 KingAir A powerful big Twin is always desirable, but this B200 is the best of them all. It can cover huge distances (Living in Australia that helps a lot) but it is also the practical side of learning how to fly a big twin really well, the practise of single engine failures and landings can really hone your skills, but it is it is the B200's multi-airport runway hopping abilities will have me scouring the outback for small towns with baked runways. Overall my preferred Twin. 3. Carenado Caravan C208B Another Carenado!.. Yes I love my Caravan, it is a commuter machine par excellence. Island hopping of just getting the customers from a lonely airstrip to the larger regional airport, nothing comes close to the Caravan. It sounds glorious! with that higher-powered PT6A-114A engine, gives you goosebumps. But this a great aircraft to fly no matter what the weather and the optional cargo version gives you a great variation on the same routes. 4. Flightfactor/VMAX Boeing 777 Extended No aircraft clocks up more nautical mileage on my computer than the FF Boeing 777 Cargo. I follow the Formula One circus around the world and the B777F is my cargo-hauler of choice. Flying the aircraft a lot will get you almost intimate with every nook and cranny of its flying abilities and the aircraft always delivers in pure satisfaction return from block to block. 5. Rotate MD-88 Challenging but extremely rewarding is the MD-88. I watched hundreds of YouTube of MD Series video's and I wanted to fly the "MadDog". No doubt Rotate's MD-88 had a difficult birth in X-Plane, but it still delivered one really great aircraft to use and fly. Now very sorted the MD-88 is my regional hub and spoke hopper of choice. Oh and it looks absolutely amazing as well. 6. Carenado Beech 1900D The big Beech demanded a powerful computer or just did not agree with the way my iMac processed it. But I loved it and now with the powerful Windows giving the 1900D a big tailwind, it really came into its own. A great short regional flyer par excellence. 7. FlyJSim Boeing 737 Series "Retro Rules Ok" The B727 was my entrance into continental VOR flying and lots of maps and notes to go from the east to west coast airports. The B727 is a total drama queen and it is quite hard to fly, but highly rewarding when you get it totally right. This bird really delivers, and recent upgrade to "Study" made the Tri-Jet even better but I really miss a cabin view and opening doors, if they don't come soon it may fall out of this list. 8. JRollon CRJ200 The JRollon CRJ200 was another birthday present that sat undisturbed for years until it became active. This classic X-Plane aircraft is a very hard aircraft to fly really good, and I couldn't fly it very well at all. Over the years and (lots of) practise have brought us together as my flying abilities caught up to the aircraft's quirks and now we make sweet love together. The recently released excellent BSS sound package transformed the aircraft yet again... old! never, still really great and the best regional. 9. JARDesign Airbus A320neo I fly on JQ A320's more than any other aircraft around Australia, so familiarity with the aircraft is very high. JARDesign's version is very good, very immersive as a simulation, but two external factors lifted it higher this year. One JARDesign's excellent Ground Handling Deluxe add an extra dimension on the ground, and another the BSS Sound package lifted the A320 beyond great in the air. So why isn't the A320 higher in this list. Mostly it takes a lot of time between turnaround times to reprogramme the aircraft for the next sector, no route saving just loses you too much time and overall the aircraft needs a freshen update. 10. The Avroliner Project Avro RJ100 More of an national cause than just an aircraft. The Avroliner project keeps on going on, but the Avro is a great aircraft to fly right. There is a lot of love here and it goes both way from the developer and myself. Quirky, and endearing, you get great flights out of flying around the country, another one for that lazy Sunday afternoon when you just want to fly somewhere. And yes it is still available on the X-Plane.OrgStore in the RJ 85 variant. _________________________________________________________ There is a pattern to these aircraft and that they are mostly regional in their abilities. No doubt the FlightFactor B757/767/A350 and also the JARDesign A330 are brilliant and yes I fly them a lot, but I don't have the time that is required to set them up and fly them on a more constant basis. I came into X-Plane for long-haul flying, but as the list shows I don't do as much of that anymore or as much as I would like to do. As noted it is more of a time thing than a "I have moved on from that" feeling, but to not help in the cause are two aircraft that were very high on the top ten list that have fallen badly from grace. One is the default X-Plane Boeing 747-400. This is an aircraft flew a lot as I came into X-Plane to fly the Jumbo Jet. I love 747's but this aircraft is now without any update for years and it is now just crappy really in today's quality environment. A recent flight from London To New York confirmed the worse and I was bitterly disappointed that the 10.50 update didn't include the aircraft. Second Is Peter Hagers A380. The huge A380 is a magnificent beast, and challenging to fly really well because of the sheer weight and size of the aircraft. I really love the A380, but years of neglect means the aircraft is now feeling very, very tired, my versions are hopelessly out of date. A another recent troubled flight to Rio De Janerio will mean it will be hangared until it has a new airworthy certificate... sad. Another aircraft that just doesn't just make the list that was a firm favorite is the EADT x737. Nothing wrong with the brilliant v5 update, but the FMC is a tale of woe and the framerate required is high, don't think I don't fly or use the x737 as it is magnificent and I fly it a lot. Last but not least the top ten list shows the latest is not the best. Most if not all are quite old and have been released for quite some time. But great updates and revisions have kept them relevant, and this list can change at anytime with the Navajo and DC-8 now firmly getting more flying time. In tribute to... Joseph Frederick "Joe" Sutter (March 21, 1921 – August 30, 2016) One of the Immortals _____________________________________________________________________________________ Stephen Dutton 7th September 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  9. Behind the Screen : July 2016 July carried on of where June left off, fixing scenery. As a recap I spent too much time one weekend looking for a errant object buried in the scenery that kept bringing up alert boxes and this was a payware airport. A great tip on finding these nasties came from a friendly user, thanks for that. But here I was back again at square one with another annoying scenery issue. I wanted to use a long forgotten but a good scenery of Washington National or KDCA for a review, but when opening up the scenery I found there was two control towers, overlapping static aircraft and gates sticking out of buildings of where there should be none. Easily fixed? Not on your brother it wasn't... Pulling out all my KDCA and Washington objects out of the Custom Scenery folder left the culprit bare, it was an old 2003 era KDCA alright, but with all my KDCA's and all my Washington objects removed then why was it still visible? After an hour or so of twisting folders in and out it of X-Plane it steadfastly refused to go away, all checks with X-Planes default "Scenery Gateway"didn't result in any conflicts either... So how to find the culprit? Here you have to go Sherlock and use a lot of creative thinking. But the only way really was to home in on the tile it is placed on. This was +38-078.dsf and bringing up a search of +38-078.dsf brought back a still a huge number of choices. But I had eliminated already most of the obvious and went through the rest, slowly, file by file. Annoying is the fact this KDCA or DCA scenery was not made with DCA in the file title, so a search of that region didn't work the magic either, but I finally found the offending objects and they were buried in a side addition of a Baltimore scenery, you had to go way two tiles over in the OverlayEditor just to finally find them? A quick grab of all the objects and a "delete" and "save" and the buggers were finally gone, so was another three hours of my life and that goes on the list to St Peter for when I want the time lost in this life in that I want the time back or added on to my set lifetime for wasting time on things that you shouldn't or didn't want to do in the first place, but at least KDCA is now fully workable and back in my route network, who says this X-Plane world building caper is easy. July was by and large a bumper month in releases. You had a little bit of everything from a very nice helicopter in the Schweizer 300CBi from Dreamfoil Creations, and a note that Dreamfoil's next aircraft is the Hughes 500D of Magnum P.I. "Island Hoppers" fame. The MD-88 by Rotate is maturing nicely now as more and more features and bugs are refined in the version 1.20 Update. I note that these aircraft are an investment, and certainly the aircraft was wanting more at it's initial release. But when a developer is new to the game and certainly at this level, you have to cut them some slack, which certainly didn't happen in this case. But if the developer doesn't deliver you have every right to go apeshit and demand your moneyback, but the sign of a good and even great developer is just too deliver and learn from the experience. Even JARDesign with his early A320neo was another case of learning a vertical learning curve, but the work since has been prodigious. So as a critic we have to sum up the parts and balance the raw from the truth, as noted an aircraft and scenery is a long term investment and you have to review it that way even though the current events are saying the opposite of the fact... Our family motto is "Keep the faith" and that is sometimes the best thing to do. The annoying developers are the ones that don't learn and repeat the same mistakes ad nauseam, poring out the same small issues over and over again and wonder why they are quickly discounting to sell all their hard work, you can only play that game for so long before your reputation starts to go south. There is no point in adding in feature after feature if the basics don't work, the basic operations are what in reality simulation flying is all about. I was very surprised on how really good the FlightFactor A350XWB was now. Like I noted in the upgrade review Airbus A350 XWB Advanced v1.3 by FlightFactor. There was far more in here than adding a gloss shine to the hull in this upgrade, and I admit the missing FMC or in Airbus speak the FMGS does certainly not put the aircraft at the level of FF's Boeing products, but there is no doubt the basics are more than ready for that next step to "professional" status, overall it was a very nice aircraft to use and fly. In many of my scenery reviews I tend to note the airport's services and routes as much as its usually very good quality and infrastructure. Mostly other reviews usually only focus on the actual scenery and features. My point is that, you could have the very best scenery ever produced, but if it isn't being used it is a total waste of money. I have mentioned this before in "Behind The Screen" but it is a worthwhile point to make again. The trick on using X-Plane to it's full value is to create a strong network of destinations and the great use of certain areas. Laminar Research's data noted that most user flights are under or around two hours or mostly between dinner and going to bed or for an afternoon's flying. And that is fair enough as "Games of Thrones" is also wanting to share your personal downtime. X-Plane to a point is not a shared experience unless to get the odd "Will you turn that bl...dy sound down!" from the family or the neighbour's. On a funny side note to that, my very patient neighbour's couldn't understand why they kept on hearing a fully blown Boeing 737 at the very late hours in their bedroom and miles away from the nearest airport, they are Japanese as well to add into the confusion... I now wear headphones after 9pm. But back to valuable scenery and networks. I found to get the very best experience out of the simulator is to build up a strong if small network. All destinations are high quality scenery, routes can be refined and set for various approaches and saved for instant use. I use WorldTraffic (but X-Life is fine) and that system is refined to use the same network and again refined to get the most optimum services and aircraft. Ditto with JARDesign's Service plugin for ground services for departure and arrival, they can also be refined with the correct airport logo's or airline services. Yes you can have many of these tight but excellent networks of which you keep building and refining and even cross between them if you want to (i.e. UK-European network to the US network or US network to your Australian network and so on). This is why I wanted a better LFMN - NICE because it was in a valuable position in my UK - Italy - Spain network and the Aerosoft version was crap, and so a big hole was filled and the scenery can now be used effectively. The point is that all the sceneries within the networks are used and used very often, so they no matter how much they cost they have a lot of value, and any scenery added to the network is not going to a wasted purchase or a waste of your money, and that should be your main consideration of any scenery purchase... the amount of use you can get from that purchase. So links or routes to the scenery are important, even if it is not a major port. Effectively you can purchase a scenery just for that one position and not for a network, providing it gives you a return for your investment. That is say for local GA flying or by say a feature area like the Grand Canyon, again the main factor is how much you can use that investment in return of your purchase. Aircraft are again the same thing, don't buy something you can't use... but buy something you will use a lot and return time and time again to that cockpit, it is no use having the largest Air Force in the world if you only fly a few of it's aircraft. I do like also to add variety to my flying life in replicating a real life event. As noted I follow the Formula One Racing Car circus around the world with the flyaway races (European Races are done with trucks). I have followed F1 since the middle 70's and so it has been a big part of my life, but this flying to the race destinations creates a lot of work in preparation in routes, liveries and making sure the correct scenery is in place for arrival (and departure). You are also moving every two weeks to another destination, and gives your flying a reason to go somewhere you would never usually fly normally, and Baku of Azerbaijan was a new one this year to emphasise a destination that is not only different but highly challenging to fly to. Another flight in the same vein was to replicate the "TeamGB" flight from London (Heathrow) to Rio (Galeão) which was my first flight from Europe to South America, different, challenging and quite involving in preparation and then 11 hour flight itself. So as July went, it was a very busy month in X-Plane, very busy. Stephen Dutton 4th August 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  10. Behind the Screen : June 2016 June started and ended with aircraft. But for a change not the virtual versions but actual real aircraft. I had a quick break at the start of June to go to Tasmania, which is the forgotten apple isle at the bottom end of the Australian continent. Beautiful beyond belief, but freezing wet and cold in winter and that makes the airfares very cheap when the weather is rock bottom, that my brother also lives there was the actual reason for the visit. The bonus of the ride to Melbourne was the chance to take a ride on Jetstar's Boeing 787 Dreamliner, con (36227) and rego VH-VKA. In the strange world of Qantas's route economics the B787 was going 2000nm in the opposite direction of its final destination at Narita in Japan, and the aircraft was barely occupied by only about 30 passengers. You had to check-in as an international flight and then go through arrival customs in Melbourne without actually leaving the country as this was classed as an international flight. Qantas does this route gymnastics quite often as when I went to Hong Kong I went from Brisbane to Sydney before flying back over the same airport four hours later that I had departed from earlier? and Qantas wonder why they are losing money with their shares going south. But a very lightly loaded new generation Boeing was going to be interesting. The pilots decided to have some fun before doing the hard yards to Japan. So it was a +3000fpm climb to a final altitude of 42,000ft, straight up and almost close to space. Up there it was more like being in the Gemini capsule in that the aircraft was static and the world now moved around under you and not the other way around. I could have balanced a pen upright and it would not have fallen over as was so smooth the Dreamliner, the landing was also one of the most slowest I have done in an aircraft of this size and well under 150knts, amazing stuff. The return trip was by bumpy bucket class A320 via Sydney. The block end of June was fun as well with an "Open Cockpit" day at the Queensland Air Museum (QAM) at Caloundra. Here they open up the aircraft so you can crawl all over the aircraft and make buzzing noises in the pilot's seat. But there was a serious side to getting up close to some really interesting aircraft. A KingAir 200B (VH-FII), Fokker F27 (VH-FNQ) and a rare Beech 2000A Starship (N786BP) and for myself to compare the real deal with the virtual versions. The main things to stand out is that the real aircraft inside are very small and tight, but huge outside in context to the actual space you work in. Vision is surprisingly limited, yokes are beyond small and tiny, levers and controls are heavyweights and very clunky to use or move and getting into and out of cockpit seats requires a circus diploma in acrobatics. Overall it gave a vital comparison to the computer versions and I will fly all very differently with the new perspectives. The Starship was an amazing aircraft that usually flew at a ceiling of 35,000ft, but sitting in that passenger and later the pilot's seat, I don't know if I would like to be that high up in it, it is very tube like and tight inside with just a small window look out on to those vast sweptback wings, the panel and instruments were quite standard early glass-era Beech. A final interesting aircraft that was in poor condition was the Cessna 336 Skymaster VH-CMY C/N 336-0005 with another very tight lovefest of your fellow pilot cabin, but those huge twin boom tails were very impressive. X-Plane 10.50 Release X-Plane beta 10.50 crashed and banged into our lives that 10.50b1 soon became 10.50b5 and now 10.50b6. But thankfully all is well with our X-Plane world now. Although the upgrade list is large, I haven't found the total complete love yet, in that I can't see any new autogen in density and it is all restricted just to the US doesn't bode well for the rest of the world where we really need it. My early framerate was shocking as well but settled down to a reasonable level, so I decided to let the waters smooth down a bit before making any major assumptions, but overall it is still too jerky and frustrating when flying even with a frame rate running high (50fr) and perfectly fine for my tastes. Like most new X-Plane versions released lately they seem to be getting shorter but are also much more stable and that is reflected in the now (slightly) larger team at Laminar Research and it shows. That said I was seriously impressed by the new features including an all new X-Plane menu and interface shown at Flightsimcon 2016 watch the video and see your new brave world coming soon, X-Plane will be seriously (insanely) good when we get to that release with it maybe even noted as X-Plane 11. Officially X-Plane11 doesn't still yet exist, but 10.50 is looking very much like the final complete 10 version run. Laminar can't hold X-Plane11 back for ever either, as it makes them huge instantaneous money or a load of new income by a new version release that goes a long way into paying the bills and wages. FlyJSim Boeing 727 Study v2 I had a strange issue with the the FlyJSIm aircraft when I moved over to the Window's killer thriller. Both the B727 or B732 would not work (the Boeing 732 still doesn't) so it took nearly a week of pain and problems to finally get the new v2 version to finally fly on the computer. Something with the sound files and the dreamengine, just wouldn't let the full loading of the files happen. So I missed the release date because of the issues, but what annoyed me more was the issues could have been cleared up months before when I first reported it, as noted the Boeing 732 is still in some sort of intergalactic machine limbo and I have just given up on flying it in Windows? I have spent over the years a fair few hours in the Boeing 727 and it certainly is right up there with the best of the best in X-Plane aircraft, the v2 update puts it even higher in quality and with the 60's style flying experience, but for all the brilliance, I just want to look out of the cabin windows at my takeoffs and landings in the replays? Is that too hard a request with an aircraft in this price range. As when all the hard work is done you can sit back and revel in your supreme handiwork and replay the whole flight and convince yourself you now really brilliantly good at this flying caper, well not still in the B727 you can't and I am now going to believe that I will go to my grave and not do so. PMDG and the whole damn fine thing Precision Manuals Development Group have a huge reputation in the Microsoft Flight Simulation (FS) world. But that doesn't say the same model works in X-Plane as many other FS developers have found out. The clever ones bridge the gap by using top X-Plane developer specialists and really circumnavigated the obvious issues, and in the process they have done very well in X-Plane. PMDG's approach is unique and clever in the fact that to just create from the ground up an aircraft just for X-Plane, and not try to bend the FS product to run on X-Plane's rules. It is certainly a brave and costly approach. But with this approach the return information on the inner workings of the X-Plane environment will pay out dividends when you really understand how the simulator deep down really ticks. You feel this newly acquired knowledge in the product and how far PMDG are willing to go to understand the platform and this approach has to be seriously applauded. So the released DC-6 Cloudmaster is quite a different but very interesting aircraft to fly and use in X-Plane. PMDG's willingness to create different but clever new features does really standout as well and mostly in the areas of usability that actual aircraft features, very clever and certainly made the flying and the use of the aircraft far more enjoyable than I ever expected. It is not totally perfect, but it is very good... ... So yes I was very surprised and very impressed by what PMDG have achieved. But as a caution to note that this release is not the best style or type of aircraft to make final surmise of the X-Plane platform for future releases as the aircraft is too much a niche product. If PMDG were to release one of their mainstream aircraft and there is a lot to choose from in the MD-11, Boeing 747-400 and 737NG series, then with the current detailing of what is included with the DC-6 then PMDG would do very well in X-Plane and certainly create a devoted following of their products like Carenado have done. My choice would be their Boeing 747-400 series and that aircraft would certainly be a notable seller on the X-Plane platform, overall I was seriously impressed by PMDG and their X-Plane approach. The paradox This of course brings us to the paradox that PMDG and Aerosoft and their like are caught up in. Can they afford to ignore X-Plane and it's small user base in terms of sales. Still the FS world is a huge but it is now a seriously aging simulator, 32bit and all as is Prepar3d. Dovetail have bought the FS rights and are claiming to reinvent and upgrade the simulator to a more modern platform, but my personal view it is just a repackaging exercise to keep the platform at least viable and Dovetail's first average training release seems to confirm that view. The problem for PMDG and Aerosoft et all, is just that elephant in the big room... 64bit? Laminar Research bit the bullet and did the switch a few years ago, but our base plugin aircraft back then were few and not the huge range we have today, but now consider Flight Simulation's huge mammoth user base and even X-Plane would struggle to cover all the aircraft that would now have needed to be converted over. Ben Supnik was right and it would hurt and it took three months to clear and fix all the plugins, but could FS do the same? or lose such a huge amount of unusable aircraft as success and market domination can at times turnaround and kill you. And then consider that X-Plane year on year well past the cut off date of FS as it has been updating and beta-ring away with very detailed new X-Plane versions of a very current simulator and soon as noted above X-Plane will be going into another new version cycle with X-Plane11, like it or not X-Plane cannot be ignored, and how many of the adopted ones that have come over to X-Plane have noted they would simply love to go back there, and the only reason they do is for the likes of PMDG et all, but most if not all love their new X-Plane environment. So still on the X-Plane.Org forums we get the cry of "why don't we still get the big names of Flight Simulation in X-Plane". Well if you look around you a lot are already here. But it does come down to fear or even survival in simulation. The ones I can't understand are scenery developers are like FlyTampa, as most airports are mostly the same objects and textures on an X-Plane base then why don't they develop for X-Plane, it is a market easy transferred as aircraft are harder to translate with X-Plane's basic "blade theory" and the way the aircraft interacts with the simulator makes it a completely different build than with FS, but in strangely weird way we get more FS aircraft than scenery? But there has to be the point of the seesaw moving the other way, as pure survival will make the difference as to change or die, can you see FS in another four or five years time as X-Plane swings into X-Plane12 (unless Austin Meyer kills himself in his driverless Tesla car). Four years is not a long way off and yes even I would admit anything can change in that period. Will X-Plane11 finally be the circumstances of change and mass migration from FS to X-Plane? The main issues in change is one the X-Plane interface as FS users hate it and won't use it, but that issue is being fixed in X-Plane11 with a whole new visual interface. The other huge barrier is the actual developers themselves... ... the biggest issue is the the huge investments that have been made in FS in aircraft and scenery, reverse the situation in that would I go to FS with all the investments I have made in X-Plane and the answer is no. So why can't the developers drop the barriers and let their clients transfer their already paid investments over to X-Plane, or ask a nominal fee to do so as it is in their own interests to do so. If you are not going to lose your favorite aircraft or scenery then the choice to change is not going to be hurt by the fact that you have to pay the same amount again to get the same thing in another simulator. Once the migration starts then all the other scenery, plugin developers and effects houses will quickly move over as well. My favorite words are "critical mass", once it generates its own power it will continue to do so, and it just takes a small amount of energy to start the process... But when will X-Plane hit that "Critical Mass" point. Like everything else in life and even for Apple Computer with the iPhone, it will be an interesting few years ahead for the X-Plane simulator. Stephen Dutton 11th July 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  11. Behind the Screen : May 2016 How far should you go before you go too far? When is the line of obsession passed and you are in the position of complete neurosis in the fact that it could even be a serious addiction. I think I went very close to that line on a Saturday afternoon when I did actually have some spare time after a long week. Any normal person (are X-Plane users normal?) would have done something to make life fun and enjoyable, in going shopping, eating out, playing golf, watching a movie, reading or spending a nice time with the wife or girlfriend… fun things. Me no, I spent two and a half hours looking for a misguided lost object. Not a thing object like shoes, phone, hat or something made from physical atoms but a .obj in a scenery. No, as a sensible person would just yank the problem scenery out of their custom folder and fix the issue of it ruining the flight by constantly bringing up the bad scenery alert box. But this scenery is Aerosoft’s LSZR - St. Gallen–Altenrhein Airport and the problem with LSZR is that it’s position at the foot of the Swiss Alp’s would mean that the scenery was a major annoyance in that if you flew north-south over the alps, west - east from France to Austria or was flying anywhere in southern Germany, northern Italy, most parts of eastern France and any part of Switzerland then the painful annoying LSZR would ruin your flight. In the last few months I have reviewed Joe’s excellent LSGG-Geneva and Aerosoft’s excellent updated LSZH - Zurich and this damn LSZR scenery was always causing me to tear my hair out… It is in the wrong place or the right place if you like Swiss scenery. So I had to fix it. Why not just throw it away? Well it is great scenery, brilliant in fact and if you are flying over this area of which I do very regularly, then the scenery is very good there visually, certainly if you are flying VFR in a nice general aviation aircraft. There was a few terrain files but they were easily found and deleted. The main culprit however was a small .obj file called XP_LSZR_Ter_005.OBJ. I tried just deleting it, and that didn’t work, pull it out of the files and no that didn’t work either. Opening LSZR - St. Gallen–Altenrhein in WED just crashed it, and so the last resort was the venerable overlay editor. But finding a small .obj spot in a terminal building was like looking for an ant in a woolly carpet. I looked everywhere and restarted X-Plane maybe 20 or 30 times to get the still same annoying alert box… aggggh. I crawled the scenery almost pixel by pixel till I saw the tell-tale stripes of the offending .obj sitting by the entrance of the terminal. It was hard to see as the awning of the terminal hide the .obj from the direct above position, only with a slight angle and crawling bit by bit over the scenery did I finally see it, a delete, a restart and finally no alert box and all was right with my Swiss X-Plane world. But I lost a good two and a half hours of my life I won’t get back… do I need help yet? The point of all this is that you can’t cheat in fixing wayward things like this because I tried every single trick in the book, and in the end it really all came down to one thing… finding the offending .obj and then deleting it is the absolutely only way to fix it, I hope there is a lesson in there somewhere. I like things to surprise me and I got a few this month. VflyteAir’s excellent Piper Cherokee PA 28 140 was a real big one. I will be honest and when I opened the aircraft up for the first time I admit I was not very impressed, it looked average to be honest. But this amazing aircraft peeled itself back like layers of an onion and just kept on giving, and totally proves that first impressions are not always the right ones. X-Plane aircraft like that sometimes, as you are at first looking at something that you feel is quite average. But the PA28 140 is anything but average and I take my hat off the the developers in getting the aircraft so right and making it a really great aircraft to fly. You must sometimes dig deep and use some aircraft to understand how really great they are, in doing reviews you are lucky in a way because unlike just a purchaser you have to keep on going and keep on flying the machine to find out every last bit and item that makes up the package. Some are not great, they do happen… but some are amazing, and the more you dig, the more you fly you create a relationship with an aircraft that goes beyond just enjoying a product, they become part of you, when you fly, when you enjoy being high at night above your X-Plane world and just bouncing along and hoping the flight or this feeling won’t end…. You just want to fly forever (well till the fuel runs out). An aircraft doesn’t have to be the best, or the most featured or even the most expensive to find a way in to your X-Plane soul. The Avro Project is one constant that has continued for as long as I have been in X-Plane. The heart is in this aircraft, certainly it is a constant always being upgraded project that will never ever really be finished, a lot of things don’t actually work either and it is far from perfect, but a lot does work as well. But the point is that it doesn’t matter as this aircraft has soul, and it is fun to fly and it just keeps having to come back for more and more flights, and really is that what X-Plane is all about… I think so. For really never ending projects the CRJ-200 was back into my radar again with Blue Sky Star Simulations latest sound package, and wow that was that an ear opener. JRollon’s CRJ-200 and myself have a bit of a history going back over the years. I bought it years ago when the aircraft had just been released, but our relationship was… let us say rocky. It spent a lot of the last few years just sitting in the hangar and too a point I could have spent my money at the time on something more usable. I just could not get my head around the aircraft’s slow speed flying, I found it complex and confusing. I would pull it out and usually put it away again, but in my defence I never gave up on it. It was in the end the X-Plane learning curve. Learning how to program a FMS system correctly, knowing how to use the correct speeds for landing (and taking off), knowing how the aircraft’s complex systems work and on and on the learning goes. But at a point it did all come together to allow me to find myself suddenly flying the CRJ-200 well, really well and finally I could understand the accolades that the aircraft had gathered over the years. Then you add in those amazing sounds from Blue Sky Star Simulations and you can’t believe how good simulation is today, yes I admit the CRJ-200 would benefit from a little bit of updating and love from Javier, but this is still an outstanding aircraft and it dominated my flying month this past May, and I enjoyed every last minute. If you have the CRJ-200 then go and get the BSS sound package, you would be crazy not to. There is no doubt the impact that Blue Sky Star Simulations has made with these outstanding sound packages. Every aircraft these packages are released for is then amazingly transformed into a completely higher orbital level of simulation. I was not a big believer in great sound, but I have now been totally converted to the amazing aspects that these sound packages can deliver, they are not cheap, but they are certainly the best thing to have come to X-Plane in a long time. Crazy is a word sometimes on what you have to fly next in reviewing. One moment you are skimming the sky above Dallas Fort-Worth (Uncle Tom’s great DFW scenery) in Rotate’s MD-88. The next you are with wind in the hair and going full speed at 100mph in a World War One Tri-Plane! It was such a disjointing of the senses flying the Fokker dr.1, but I can’t say it wasn’t fun because it was, and a very different flying experience, and all in a day's X-Plane flying. Didn’t end there either because then next I had to then take the controls of Felis’s outstanding Tupolev Tu-154M. A great aircraft but very hard to understand in the Russian systems approach and the flying aspects as well. It will take time to learn this one and I doubt I will really be able to understanding at a realistic deep level for a few months either, but I am looking forward to the challenge as the aircraft is another great outstanding simulation for X-Plane. An observation to note… If you look at the lower left of the portal window of the X-Plane.Org you will see that the .Org now has (to last count) 385627 members, When did we just only pass the 300,000 mark, well it was just the middle of last year and that means we are now closing in on the 400,000 mark of users signed up to the simulator, granted not all are active, some even for years. But a gain of 85,000 members in not only a year means we are growing still very rapidly, and who says Simulation is dead… long live X-Plane. With this post it will be quiet around X-PlaneReviews for a week. I am taking a break and going to Tasmania, that Apple shaped island at the bottom of Australia. Flying for the first time on the B787 Dreamliner is something I am very excited about, and hey let someone else do the driving for a change, but if they need any help then ask the guy in seat 33A. I'll be back on the X-Plane ride on the 9th June. Stephen Dutton 2nd June 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  12. Behind the Screen : April 2016 Some months you breeze through, and some months you cover most of what X-Plane can throw at you with a smile and a lot of flying. But April 2016 was nothing like that, in fact it was the total opposite. With the purchase and setting up of the new Windows power monster I went into the month behind anyway, three weeks behind and it just went downhill from there. Easter was a blockbuster of releases, you would think that X-Plane would be slowing down as it got comfortable and running into 2016 and settling down nicely into a smatter of releases. Wrong. Fighters were falling out of the sky. Bam, bam, bam and there was three in as many days with first Colimata’s F/A 18-F Super “Rhino” Hornet. I like Colimata’s aircraft and the F18 was no exception, just a few more weeks of development would have made it more functional, and it fell just slightly short that way, but X-Plane now finally has an exceptional F18 which was badly needed. If you look at the images of the review It was amazing in the twilight, a really beautiful aircraft. The new Windows multi-core processors have done great things here on bringing up the quality of the details at close inspections, but it also shows and highlights poor detailing (joins, gaps & textures) as well so the reviews will get even more critical. Overall as you can see the very high quality you get with current designs in X-Plane today, most are exceptional. Second release was MLADG’s Messerschmidtt Bf 109-G2, One aircraft that stuns the senses and at US$18 a real bargain to boot. Third aircraft was another X-Plane stalwart in Khamsin and he finally released his magnificent North American P-51D Mustang. Oh the “power” of the thing… it is amazing to fly low and fast with no armament and a light fuel load, I wished there was more liveries and was quite disappointed in the fact I couldn’t fly the aircraft in a more modern sense, but overall this gem was another great aircraft from the master. While still bombarded with all these fighters another one then came back into view with X-Trident’s Tornado. The project was originally put on hold to deliver their excellent AB-412 Huey helicopter, which is a masterwork, but then late last year the project was then reborn and I got a taste of an early beta. Still a fair way to go, but this is a fighter going to be worth your flight commander stripes. Amazing machine and it is really great in quality and design. So watch out for details of a release of the Tornado, with my guess is going to be around mid-year. Still the releases kept coming with next Aerobask with a sort of hybrid of the Epic 1000 and the internals of the Epic Victory in their version of the Dynon Avionics Skyview system. Once G1000 systems were as rare as a drive-in movie theatre in Casablanca. But they are now everywhere in X-Plane lately these days, Still not sure that I like these G1000’s as much as I should do, its all those menus to branch and root through. I like the good old dial and lever sort of flying. Hop in and go and twiddle the knobs to find your way there as you hold the yoke in one hand and a map in the other and then hone into the nearest VOR radio waypoint. The lovely Carenado F33 Bonanza is still my absolute favourite to get away from the real world and potter across a country to… well nowhere and then just come back again. Scenery was also dropping into the custom scenery folder with scary regularity as well. To be honest I had fell behind and paused on all sceneries in March so I could use the immense power of the Windows to create a better environment around the packages, as the iMac’s power just couldn’t deliver the correct views that the work deserved. The wait was certainly worth it, as the sceneries could now be used to their full advantage and the sheer quality of the work was heightened to the ninth degree. In other words it looked incredible, and shows how really good the X-Plane simulator is now, if you can run the settings at there almost full whack. The promise of Laminar Research’s next v10.50 beta release and the fix and development of the default autogen (tall buildings) has me in euphoric anticipation of the sheer wanting of it all. The stalled scenery reviews got back into the swing with Joe’s Pilot+Plus LSGG Geneva. It is lovely place to visit and I know the area well around Lake Geneva. A new scenery developer in JustSim really surprised me in the quality of their work, it is exceptional and I am now a huge fan, however there is a need of a bit of life in the scenery, as this emptiness takes away the sheer good work everywhere else. I liked LOWL - Linz better than LEGE Girona, but at these prices you should be gobbling them up and using them, they in the quality to value ratio are great deals… more to come and visit there for me on JustSim. Rio… There is something in the water down there in that Southern Continent. Passion no doubt, but those Brazilians are a do or die lot. The problem is there is too much passion, in fact too much of everything. The great SBGL - Galeão from Richard G Nunes had so much in there that my iMac had a coronary and simply rolled over, now there is another level of added heavy scenery with SBRJ - Santos Dupont going into the same area and the detail is so overwhelming you can want to buy an ice cream in there to look over it all. It is brilliant work and now we do have a Rio to match X-Plane’s quality… but you need a power machine to run it all…. A bit like the Brazilians. Tom Curtis released his huge KDFW - Dallas Fort-Worth. That for me came out of nowhere. DFW is an airport I fly through a lot and enjoy its position in the X-Plane world, and Florida to DFW and then onto the American West coast is a favourite route that I do east or west bound. It is one of the few remaining Qantas (QF) ports as well, but I strangely even after all these years in X-Plane I have still not flown directly from Australia across the pacific, it is on my long to do list. I covered a lot of ground (excuse the pun) in April but there a few sceneries still to catch up, I hope to cover them through May. Two projects far apart in design and even that one was freeware and one is payware, but both have a commonality of being Boeing 737’s. Both after five and six years of development they were also released only a week apart, so if there is something in astrology and planetary cycles then this one bares it out. The IXEG B737 Classic and the EADT B737-800 are worlds apart in many ways, but are both filling a hole needed in our X-Plane universe as this is one of the most successful range of aircraft ever produced. I was in the beta team on the EADT B738 and there is nothing so frustrating in flying and testing an aircraft and not shout in this site “This is totally brilliant” and want you all to share in the EADT dream. Month after month the aircraft grew and just got better and better and I had to keep my trap shut. To stop wayward copying and pirating EADT created login serial numbers that were ingeniously clever and not even Apple Computer (even under a government order) could crack them open. But the final result is a landmark for freeware in X-Plane… and I can now shout my love for it all as well, and throw some donation money to the talent at EADT... it was well earned. So for X-Plane April was a huge month and now we soon will be going into a new beta cycle with v10.50. There are a lot of goodies coming, with that new autogen, ATC fixes, New Manipulators, apt.dat changes to sort static aircraft out around airports and the default KingAir and Baron having had upgrades. But it is not the candy store aspect that is good about X-Plane betas, it is the constant refinement of the underlying code that makes the simulator as powerful and efficient as it is. Only area that needs urgent attention is the cloud system, brilliant as it is, it is not very efficient and needs a refinement to make come more into line with the other features. Will the clouds be updated (refined) in v10.50? Well you don’t know until Laminar Research open up their box of tricks, but I hope so. There was the sad announcement that Aerosoft is closing their ASN review site, but Angelique is vowing to go it on alone, and good luck to her in that. ASN had been part of my growth and in a way allowed me to create X-PlaneReviews as my experience grew. So when something significant goes that touched your life, it is always going to be a moment of reflection. Stephen Dutton 6th May 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  13. Behind the Screen : March 2016 As I sailed into the beginning of March 2016 I was totally unaware that I was going into one of the most significant periods of my life in X-Plane. Change? A big change. At the other end of the (very, very long) month my world had changed beyond every aspect of the way I interacted with the simulator, it was a good change, but also one well overdue. Overall the changes around you with X-Plane happen at a small snails pace, but it is relentless in moving forward, changing and using more and more of your resources and it is bit like climate change in that suddenly you find yourself knee deep in water were as not very long ago there was plenty of the higher ground between yourself and drowning... In X-Plane terms this climate change is called... headroom. When I was a simple novice and X-Plane9® was all the rage then my humble but then powerful iMac "27" could fly with abandon, headroom was a laughable 60frames of carefree living... and then came X-Plane10®. At first X-Plane10 was a shock to the system with its gorging puffy clouds and framerate wrecking deeply layered data tiles and not to mention the high killing HDR lighting engine. But overall with a lot of fine-tuning (autogen low) and keeping the cloud count down with rarely running the HDR the iMac was in reality very quickly back into the green zone. And over the years it has performed very well at that level. But the tide was very quietly and slowly coming in on me. Not to mention the above X-Plane10 features, it was the subtle effects that hurt the most. Those data tiles went even more heavier and then to the maximum in HD (High - Definition) and finally they were extended to over double the visual distance and that was not just a lapping of the water but a small wave coming in. Then the scenery started to get serious. Addon payware scenery was once very, very light was now getting very, very heavy and complex with hundreds and thousands of objects, great textures and loads of brilliant animations. Then the third aspect of the triangle in that the aircraft went from being really cardboard thin to airline complexity and then the inclusion with small recreations of real world systems that became seriously complex and the development of complete 3D virtual cockpits that had you working just as hard as the real jockeys do in the real world (There is the two of them remember to your one here). Put the three together and that is over the last few years a big movement of change. To be fair developers have done wonders to keep their work framerate light, but complexity is still more complexity and if you want realism it has to be done and adding in more and more to the thickening mixture and yes don't forget those 4K livery textures... But it is the scenery that usually breaks the dam. Late 2014 I burnt out my 512mb graphic chip trying to grind out images of extremely heavy scenery. It was replaced and upgraded to 2gb of graphic power and a 512gb SSD drive that did wonders for my machine. I had some headroom back. But the problem was in there I still had those old 2009 i3 processors to do the grunt work, so it was like funneling the lake through a small tunnel and in time those generators are not going to spin enough to clear the overwhelming flow. First signs that they were in real trouble was when Carenado created their own data set for their G1000 gps system. It is a huge thing of data and stored in your X-Plane root folder. It worked but you could see the numbers were getting line ball. By this time most of my significant scenery packages like Aerosoft's Heathrow, New York's JFK, Dubai, Sydney and the worst in Aerosoft's EHAM Schiphol which always brought my iMac to its grinding knees anyway were mostly left unused and had been for long time. Lots of autogen and objects... in your dreams. Very quickly in early march two occasions showed that finally the game was up and I would soon be needing scuba gear to keep my head above the waterline, or below it. One was the release of Carenado's Sirrus SR22 and again it was a G1000 data glut that did it. To be fair and using very low light scenery and being mostly overwater. The iMac did do a great job in processing it and the review was not compromised, But you could note it wasn't happy with the sheer weight of the work it had to deal with. Another aspect was Richard E Nunes excellent Galeo International Airport SBGL. And for some reason my iMac just simply hated the scenery, it was a horrible torrid time to process that scenery (over two weeks?) and the worst scenery review I have done (not in content but effort), so when Richard released his latest work in Santos Dumont airport SBRJ I found myself again trouble, to be fair both sceneries are what I reviewed and SBJR airport is quite framerate light (The city buildings behind are not) but the overwhelming factor is that to continue to review these ever heavier and more complex sceneries then a line had been crossed. Almost everything else was totally scaled back to get these sceneries just to run, and the point here is it was me and my equipment that was the issue here and not the scenery (or aircraft). To be fair to the reviews and give a more accurate description of the full effects with X-Plane running at higher settings then the iMac just simply couldn't cut the mustard anymore and it was showing with the very early signs it was pushing my graphics card too hard and it could fail again. A lot of discussion and a straight point was made by a developer friend that the game was up. Apple Mac's that have been my life, income and soul for decades were off the table because of simple mathematics, they are simply too expensive at that level of performance in Australia, but the aspect of updating them is even a worse problem and you just can't fit a huge graphic engine into Jonny Ive's sleek curved masterpieces. There was also a major factor that many developers of X-Plane product who will only develop in Windows (all product should be multi-platform), so a lot of product that needs to be reviewed or mentioned can't be done on the review site, and this was one of the main reasons I had to go windows. So a crash course on the wonders of windows was required. It is far more difficult than you can imagine because of not just simply changing to a new system platform was required, because that is quite easy as most computer OS's and mostly structured the same with just different titles for different things and different inputs to get the same results, so that part is easy. The hard part is constructing a machine (dubbed early on as Frankenstein) that can do the work that needs to be processed and more importantly can have the power to survive anything that X-Plane, developers and the world of simulation can throw at it for a few years at least (headroom), but my view is that with all the huge change that simulation has gone through the last few years I think we are in a sort of slightly more level period of change and the needs of ever more huge amounts of chip processing and graphic power, but virtual reality headsets could prove me very wrong there. So it comes down to the classic Einstein equation... The maximum power you can get = The least amount of cash I can actually afford You know it will end badly, and I am also lucky as I can live on baked beans and toast for months to recover. Both came true... The biggest problem is that you just can't with X-Plane be... well compromised. You need what you need and this will mean taking a serious crash course in the thousands of different system options to get that one system that will deliver the goods at that right affordable price. You need the newest fastest chips? and an i7, the biggest most powerful graphic engine you can shove under the bonnet and an SSD drive. The SSD drive I installed last year in the iMac has made me a total convert, and I needed a 512gb minimum as my current X-Plane needs 300gb and more just to be installed so a 256gb is just too small. Like an Olympic sport once your off you are off and the race is on to get the right deal. Fully built systems on the web are very price competitive, made for gamers and are packed with power. One stop shop. But they don't actually deliver (In Australia) because you can't specify certain items or are paying for features and items you don't need, so in most cases you overbuy to get the specifications you want and are stuck with the rest, underbuy (to your cost) and you have to severely make compromise on items you do want in say the chip power (i3) or an average graphic engine. The only option is to have the machine ( Frankenstein) built up locally of the many diverse parts that your require. You can at least control the price that way, as in this case of either broke or bailiffs. In most cases you would recycle your old machine to support the purchase of the upgraded one. But I still need my iMac as it is still my preferred machine for editing and building the reviews and has a decade of applications that are just too valuable to lose. This will make the windows just a X-Plane dedicated workhorse and nothing else going in there in time to dilute the simulator application. So the huge choices start. Chips or processors was quite easy as a powerful i7 was the go until they had to be changed as we will see in a moment. The graphic card is of course the major component of running X-Plane and you have a lot of choice. All GTX 900 series cards are good, but would an early GTX-960 be already to old? GTX-970? I wanted the GTX-980 then there was the choice of the GTX-980Ti. A first quote sent my jaw to the ground and jail suddenly seemed a good option. The problem with the Ti is that it does give you a whopping 20% more power, but comes with a 40% more cost? I settled for the GTX-980, now I also wanted to over clock, and that adds the K to the GTX-980K graphic engine specs. Then the chip is required to go K as well and then your calculator burns up as with just adding in that one single letter as it sends your costs spiraling skywards. The guy at the computer stores starts shaking his head in an expensive pattern and starts rolling his eyes in an "oh dear" moment. Upping to the "K" means a far bigger chip, a more expensive GTX graphic card, a more far larger power supply to keep the monster running and then the extra component of a water cooling system to keep the machine from not blowing its innards up like a Vietnam movie and cool enough to not make your room look like a Ridley Scott set... in other words expensive. The word "dedication" comes into the story here, dedication to the review site and dedication to the X-Plane simulator. Frankenstein's final specs are: Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz /64bit - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD for the major components and a 700w power source and a water cooling system that could run the Queen Mary 2. Victor the computer creator looks me in the eye and says "What the hell are you going to run on this thing... It is a monster!" and it is. But for the "The maximum power you can get = The least amount of cash I can actually afford" equation it is not a bad price under the AUS$3000 mark. "dedication" that word again... So a small apology in the amount of reviews that were quite slow during March, but there was a huge amount of running around and a lot of extra fixtures to buy and more time getting the machine hooked up and running X-Plane in a basic form. It is slow work and none more so just resetting X-Plane to run on a different platform. Getting the Apple and the Windows to say hello to each other was a nightmare just in itself, it is still a face-off in the fact that one machine's firewall will not get through the other machine's firewall and so everything still at the moment has to shifted via an ExFAT drive. 1 million 600 thousand! X-Plane files had to be transferred twice on in first to the drive and then secondly into the SSD over a full day and a half, yes that is progress, but X-Plane and little X-Planes in the folders are hundreds and thousands of little small files that all takes a slow time to move. All, yes all payware and plugins aircraft had to be re-registered with keys that some serials have not been used for years or forgotten. Many still are not running. Another of the window features is the required "Microsoft C++ Redistributable 2013 64bit" for the SASL plugin, easy yes... well no. There are more than one C++ components to be installed. In fact you need the C++ 2012, C++ 2013, C++2014 and C++2015 components in there is you want to make your aircraft fly again. Finally there is the Python application and CustomSBDatarefs to be installed and finally X-Plane will work? Well no... because you can't just move your Mac X-Plane app to WIN and it will work? A trick from Ben Supnik is to create a double X-Plane root folder (name it "X-Plane 10.45 WIN") then run the latest X-Plane installer app, select the new X-Plane root folder and in the "Options" section you can change the basic X-Plane app from Mac - Windows - Linux as you require. Then you can move it over to the Windows machine and then rebuild up your X-Plane root folder with all the major working components of Global scenery, Custom scenery, Resources, Aircraft and other two thousand and more items that makes X-Plane work. And you wonder why I was sleeping and collapsed at my desk... And finally it all works and I am now flying X-Plane. No time yet to fine tune the systems or X-Plane and I will cover that and performance in this forthcoming April edition. Early signs are good. Take a look at the early release preview post of Pilot+Plus's Geneva News! - Airport Release! - LSGG Geneva from Pilot+Plus with the review windows version: Scenery Review : LSGG - Geneva Airport by Pilot+Plus And you will see the difference some powerful computer power can make, and a word to the developers in that a slow computer and low resolutions can also hide a lot of flaws, so even very small texture mistakes and not aligned objects now really stand out. The point to all this is there is a line to performance and dedication to X-Plane. You can still try and keep the flame lit and still use X-Plane9® before upgrading to X-Plane10® and I certainly understand as you can see above in getting a machine to be competitive with the simulator is very costly and most don't have these sums available or want a loan round your neck to achieve it. Most give simulation away because of the cost and I can understand the sad fact of that. No doubt Laminar Research try their best to make X-Plane as efficient as possible and in fact it is in its basic form, but it is everything else that is blowing that ever decreasing headroom into the teens of framerate stutter hell. My position is slightly different, as I review on this site and beta test aircraft and scenery. It is only fair to not only yourself and the developers to see and understand the aircraft, scenery and thousands of different aspects that go to make up the X-Plane simulator in its correct context. Sadly my beloved iMac can't do that anymore and it is only fair that I do deliver the right points and images that are required for running a review site. I don't think at any point in the past I did under-serve in a review or test the correct aspects of what was require for the correct judgement, but I am wise enough to know when the line has been passed over and was willing to change for that. These changes have to be the benefit of this review site and X-Plane as a moving forward simulator. X-Plane11® still maybe a twinkle in Laminar's eye. But it is coming and when it does then what extra power will you need to process it, my guess (and it is still a only a guess) is that 2017 will be the year. So if you are looking forward and in one of the earlier considerations of this windows computer upgrade was now would be the right time to start saving. ______________________________________________________________________ So very little actual flying got done in March and I am slightly behind with reviews, most were put on hold as they were sceneries and I thought that the benefits of waiting now to do better justice visually for the hard work that developers do was worth the wait. Long distance flying is one thing I been restricted from doing for a few years because it closes down the computer for a full day. I try to minimise that a lot by flying overnight while I am sleeping on tried and trusted routes that I know I won't get nasty scenery crashes, it is flying high mostly in the dark or over water anyway so you are not missing anything visually. Now with the windows extra machinery that can change things a little bit in that I can fly on one and edit and do the site on another computer and so I am now more productive than ever. As many of you know I follow the Formula One circus around the world with shipping the cargo (and cars) from race to race or port to port. So it was time to dust off the old B777 and put it to work. I found it earlier to be slightly old, but a current update v1.8.3 (available now from your account at the X-Plane.OrgStore) has breathed new life into the old girl. First race was in Australia, so the haul from London (Heathrow) to Melbourne via Singapore is a dozy of huge nautical numbers to cover and takes two full days (In this case nights) flying. Second lift was from Avalon (YMAV) by Melbourne to (OBBI) Bahrain was a crushing 14 hours flying time to where the race is this weekend (2-3rd April), then on to Shanghai in China in two weeks. Huge distances to cover in a short time, twice now on the iMac and next on the Windows to China will be a great comparison. One thing that really stretches X-Plane is long haul, It is good to run the simulator over long distances and you really learn on how the simulator is really performing in these runs, I will note the results next month. So March became a watershed month in change for me and this X-PlaneReviews site. The benefits of this computer upgrade when fine tuned will be to the benefit to all in the developers and you the users in that we all want the best and deliver the best in great editorial and great visual images and of course the best information on the X-Plane simulator. But March kept on delivering right to the very end and died not quietly but with a great sadness... We lost David Marshall (dkm) as one of the great contributors to our X-Plane community. It is an extremely sad loss as a friend as these sites and reviews are built on their work and their opinions and their experience that was very much always appreciated though our correspondence. Our final notes were not of aircraft or scenery but banjo's, because that was another of David's great talents and what a way of remembering him... Thanks David and god bless you. Stephen Dutton 2nd April 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  14. Behind the Screen : February 2016 For being the shortest month of the year. Then February feels the most longest in terms of being the busiest, packed, squeezed, no time, full on month of the X-Plane calendar. As January 2016 was almost an empty oasis of nothing, then the short February calendar certainly made up for it all. The Rotate MD-88 dominated almost the whole month as I wanted to dig down into this aircraft to find the truth in why it made 10% of users to throw tantums. Not just flying the aircraft to almost destruction in (and I counted) 43 takeoffs and landings, there was a lot of discussion and feedback through the beta channels with constant updates to the aircraft and working through the bugs. Most of the major bugs had however already been addressed so it was down in the fine tuning you found with the devil in the detail. Never be a beta tester, it is a long hard slog of repeatable fights to get down to the problems, and the aircraft are undoubtably... well buggy. But it is your job to weed out the real from the false. Going up blind alleys is a constant source of pain. But you have to give major awards to the developers behind the scenes. You know them by name, but not personally. They are shadows really moving around the background, but their skills and pure professionalism is what delivers those amazing experiences on your desktop. It is an horrific job of complexity to get everything right and working as it should, as they disappear for years to cover all the hundreds and thousands items of code and modeling to produce the best machine they can. Changes are usually swift, but developers are not perfect, but we expect them to be. Complexity means spending hours with your head in manuals, real and produced by the developer. Hours of watching real cockpit video's and making notes on every task, action or changes the pilots do in flying the real aircraft. Then it all has to be translated to the virtual version and getting your flying profiles honed down to almost perfection (which in the MD-88 case meant it was in getting absolutely no alarms). The thing that made really hot under the collar with the MD-88 was that as I have repeated ad nauseam through out these reviews is that these complex aircraft cannot be judged on just a few hours or even a few days of flying. But to squeal that it is a hopelessly bad design and not well put together is going to hurt developers in thinking "what have I got myself into" and the sales to go south just as quick. In this MD-88's case a very loud minority (10%) did a lot of damage, but when they scream and squeal like this when their own incompetence is mostly the base problem is to show their own ignorance of their own skills and the professionals they are not. Myself I did not judge too early to make a clear statement on the aircraft, yes it had issues, but 90% of users were certainly more professional in their evaluation towards the aircraft and the released v1.1 update shows they were correct in that evaluation. You would think I wouldn't even want in any form position myself again in front of the MD-88 yoke for awhile. But nothing can be further from the truth as this complex and demanding aircraft is always a challenge, but so rewarding to fly, and is still easily the top of my list every time when I want to hit on X-Plane again. No doubt Rotate's MD-88 is addictive, complex and I love it. On developers, one is again creating a masterpiece. Ddenn created the sublime Challenger 300 Personal jet of which is certainly the best personal jet in X-Plane and has been for years. There was a feeling that Ddenn's Challenger 300 would become his only masterpiece as his output dried up except for the odd yearly Challenger update. But last year Ddenn announced his next project in another personal or really large executive jet in the Bombardier Global 6000 (earlier called Global Express). Your dream was for the aircraft to match the quality of the Challenger 300, but again the grand master is producing... well a masterpiece. Go checkout this internal cabin video and be ready to be totally amazed in the quality of this work. I hate the expression "Awesome" but it fits here as the interior work is above anything I have yet seen in X-Plane. Who says that X-Plane does not deliver in quality aircraft. Noted is the Global 6000 will also have a fully functional FMC as well and no doubt this will be an amazing machine once it is released, I was simply astounded. There is speculation that JARDesign's next project is the Airbus A340 to match up with his excellent A332. Some images on facebook and a few rumors abound, so watch this space. However I feel the A320neo needs a bit more loving care before a new release, it feels old now compared to the higher quality A332, but I have had notes the update is coming later in the year. The lovely Victory VLJ (Very Light Jet) by Aerobask was a shock on how good it was. Aerobask turns out very complete aircraft these days and the Victory was very complete. To note some developers tend to hold their releases until they are very polished and Aerobask is one of them. Aerobask was very proud of their work on the Dynon Avionics Skyview feature, and I was impressed on the way it was so functional. I'm not a big fan of menu driven panels, and I am still not converted to the cause, but it was very well done. Another developer that impressed me was also new to X-Plane. Under the Aerosoft banner was Omar Masroor that created the excellent KRSW - Florida Southwest. The release version had a few areas that needed attention, but some points were my own fault in not setting up X-Plane to cover for them in the "Anisotropic Filtering" setting. I don't use the setting high as it is really heavy framerate filter killer, and I just don't have the headroom for that much of a loss. But clever ideas to adjust the amount of objects (using WED) is thinking out of the box and allows for scenery to be tailored for your capacity of use. I was very impressed on Omar's professional dialog and the way they responded to the issues, I had to amend the review three times to cover the changes, and it is now a high quality scenery that you should have in your custom scenery folder. A lot of noise was around releases that were announced as coming "Very soon" and failed to appear. IXEG B737 Classic is still very non-existent, and I was disappointed on how many features on that extensive published list were missing after the aircraft has been in development for almost over half a decade... could that be a reason for the continuing delay? The EADT x737 v5 (Virtual Cockpit) is still also a missing fixture, but I have a very good source the aircraft now well down the road in completion and it was real world distractions that have been the cause of the delay, certainly a release will be in the next yearly quarter Q2. PMDG, for X-Plane... god knows? The upgrade to JARDesign's excellent "Ground Handling Deluxe" plugin gave me lots of pleasure and spurred me into action to create some liveries for my own use. You can download my handywork for Qantas, British Airways, Emirates, Delta, Alitalia and United, and thank you for your kind comments. The van is almost impossible to recolour as the images are taken from a real vehicle, white is a "just get away with that" but I spent hours trying to recolour the thing, I doubt I could get say a yellow or harder colour. There is a paintkit (no van in there) and it is a big help, but you really do bring your ramp activity alive with this extraordinary plugin, great price and certainly a must have if you do spend a lot of time around the ramps and gates of X-Plane. I will try to do some airport sets, but time is time and finishing repeatably late at 2am in the morning is reflected on the bad flying skills the next day. I flew FlightFactor's Boeing 777 Worldliner from Dubai to London in a fit of finally having a few hours to fly long-haul. It was nice to spend time with the big twin Boeing and to cover some serious distance that is becoming harder to do with all the time constraints. Overall the experience was overwhelmingly great, but the extended X-Plane scenery seeded to heavily see-saw between brilliant 50fr-60fr to marginal 20fr-19fr depending on the amount of visual terrain on the ground. I never had this before as once to cleared 30,000ft as I usually sat in the 50fr to 60fr range until descending into using a heavy airport scenery and a lot of autogen on landing. Worrying is that the FlightFactor B777W is very efficient on framerate, so I need to redo another long-haul to see if that is common now. The Boeing felt a little tired as well and in need of an update, but usually FF are very good in keeping their aircraft up to date, and it notes how very quickly something in X-Plane can now feel a little dated, I hope an update is due for 2016. Another note is when I updated to the latest X-Plane v10.45 the simulator started to throw out errors of custom scenery at an alarming rate. Scenery that has been part and parcel of my X-Plane world don't work anymore (KFMY - Page Field is one) and open them up in WED and they look a mess of faults, worse in KFMY's case the developer has long gone. I am hoping this is a bad X-Plane version glitch because if it is not you could have a serious loss of great scenery that is instantly thrown out as the simulator just crashes to the desktop. X-PlaneReviews are always looking for new reviewers to give their views and points on X-Plane. We have not issued any invitations before now as the changes in versions to the newer IP.Board v4 was complete. It has a vastly improved editor which vastly helps in the time required to create your reviews or comments, if you are interested then send me a message by the messages (envelope icon at top of the page) and leave your email address. High Flying Stephen Dutton
  15. Behind the Screen : January 2016 I'm going to try in 2016 to do a Behind the Screen as a monthly column, as I like the idea of reporting of what goes on behind our website and what is happening in X-Plane as much as the reviews we do. You can give out a different perspective on what is highlighted or what is not by having a more non-ridged way of talking about X-Plane which is hard with such a structured Review post. Top of the month was that I installed the BlueSkyStar Simulation sound package on JARDesign's A320neo. Oh wow, stand back people. I called it "Extraordinary" in our heading and extraordinary it is, amazing, can't believe this... and so on. These sounds have totally absolutely changed my perception of how sound relates to the aircraft's simulation and to your overall experience, and still weeks after the installation I am running the A320neo every moment I can to just rerun over and over again that feeling of a A320 on my desktop. No one, I mean no one who owns or buys the JARDesign A320neo should be without this BSS sound package installed. I found out later that the FlightFactor B767 has the same BSS sound sets and if you read the B767-300ER review I noted I really loved the sounds in there as well, those sound sets just stand out so well. The BlueSkyStar A330 sound set is originally a basic set that is reflected in the price, but a more full comprehensive set is noted as coming, so is a set for the JRollon CRJ-200. No matter, and any sound set from BSS in the future in my books is a certain must have... start your wish list here. A lot of forum noise was made on the JRollon CRJ-200. Most noted the aircraft was out of date now, and be prepared to see it sent out to Victorville for storage. Myself I still think their is still a lot of life left in the old girl, I certainly don't want it sitting out there in the desert with weeds climbing up into the wheel-wells. The coming BSS sound set will maybe be the aircraft's savior, but JRollon will have to give the aircraft a magic wand wipe over to convert it to the current X-Plane v10.45 conditions. The BIG question is he willing to do that, no word or hints yet if he will. So maybe we should start a "Save the CRJ-200" campaign! .... crowd-fund? The start of the year had another source of confusion in the updated SASL 2.4 plugin and X-Plane v10.42 or 43 or 44 or 45, now in beta 45b1. But confusion reigns that even I myself have lost all total proportion on what I have in my aircraft folder is legal and current. The SASL 2.4 update is an important one that is the fix for all those crashes in Mac El Captain 10.11 OS. Myself I am still on 10.10 Mavericks OS because I am still waiting for the 10.11 OS to become stable and now the problems are worse as I have no idea what SASL changes in aircraft have actually been done and what has not, there is no guide unless you go to the X-Plane.OrgStore and check the version number and update. Then Laminar Research noted to developers to fix the " torque bug fix" in planemaker (you can do it yourself by re-saving the aircraft in Planemaker v10.42 or higher) and the developers have had to do it all over again and resubmit their aircraft with the upgrade. No doubt a few developers where not happy to say the least, and total compliance confusion reigns. I have simply no idea what aircraft in my folder is compliant and what is not and is faced with at least months of downloads to correct it all. My current feeling is leave everything as it is, as it is all thankfully at the moment all running smoothly and that I doubt I will be able to install El Capitan at all and just move straight on to the next Mac OS in September 2016. Laminar Research in X-Plane v10.50 has finally seen the light. I love the "Global Airport" idea but it hopelessly didn't work for me. Almost every airport I landed at had two airports merged together in some sort of of drug fueled hallucination. I got to the insane point when I just threw out the Global Airport folder to reinstall it again only for X-Plane updates. Laminar's Ben Supnik expected all developers to fix their exclusion zones, but I thought that was a never, never land expectancy because many airport developers are long gone, most can't be actually bothered and the rest did have a half-hearted go at fixing the zones. I foresaw this issue well before the Global Airport feature was installed and noted forthwise. The solution is as simple as it is easy, If the ICAO code is noted on the installed scenery then the Global copy will ignore it... beautiful and it works and only a global perspective could have fixed the issue. There are a few poor set out custom sceneries without ICAO's , but you can't cover every bad developer can you. Now my "Global Airport" folder stays right there in its rightful place and I can thankfully use its extra wonderful selection of fill airports. Six weeks on and the hairs on my neck still get angry with the comments on the Rotate MD-88 that was released in early December 2015. Still users are complaining that the aircraft is not sorted and you would think the aircraft is some sort of lopsided disaster. It goes beyond belief that this ranting is still going on and mostly because it is not warranted. I myself will admit that the aircraft is not absolutely totally not perfect, but hail Mary's it is not that bad either. I find it (and so do many, many) other users a great experience and a far better aircraft than any aircraft that was released to acclaim only a few years ago. But let us get some perception here of what the situation is. First Rotate is a first time release developer (He has been part of a team on other projects) so his learning curve is stratospheric. It is a very small team (Not even close to the mega team FlightFactor uses as one scribe commented) and any product today in this scale in X-Plane needs many updates after its release to bring it up to cover all the different aspects of running on different computers to different specifications. Rotate has already listed a long list of updates on his v1.1 notes and I will confirm the beta is very good. Finally I will repeat the point also that a purchase today of a payware aircraft is not just limited to the release download, but included in the cost is also years of updates and extra features. You are not buying an aircraft but a large investment that a developer has to maintain at no extra cost for years, and that is where a large percentage of your money goes... support. JARDesign gave us another significant update to his excellent "Ground Handling Deluxe" plugin and I am really loving it with the changeable livery feature. I did over the weekend a few "liveries" for Alitalia, Qantas and British Airways, and you can see the huge potential in the idea. I am debating of if airline colours or airport logo's are the best sets, but for the moment I am leaning to airline colours, because they can be spread and used over more than one airport like all around the airports in Australia. More ideas are flowing in this area. Sitting the JARDesign A320neo at Heathrow and spending the time setting the aircraft up. I found I was quite busy in calling all the action around the aircraft as much as getting the A320 ready to fly. With Greg Hofers WorldTraffic running solidly at full throttle and the Aerosoft EGLL airport's vehicle animations you are not short of action on the ground. Yes I was contented and happy little bunny with my little X-Plane world and all the action turned on again at my arrival at LIRF (Rome). How far we have come in a few years in this area were as I would have landed and parked up and just sighed.... and then turned off the computer. Now after landing you just leave the X-Plane world running on and on, hey you now have a plane to unload... contented is the word. Over a month I usually get to cover and fly a wide section of aircraft, but this month was for one cut short in half by a nasty cold, with two weeks off the computer and 13 days without leaving my home and I was crawling up the walls. "sick as" as the Queenslanders state, this was not "Manflu" but a full on head and chest killer in 40º heat (yes it is hot here in Australia at the moment). I survived to fly another day, but it did restrict my flying exploits. But JARDesign's switch that resets X-Plane's "Cold and Dark" setting would mean that 90% of the months overall flying was from "cold" and a lot of setting up before each flight. But I was willing to practise hard these constant routines over and over. You get very good at it and understand the aircraft better every time you totally redo the same sequences. One thing that has been my biggest learning lesson in X-Plane was that good flying is created by good practice, discipline is paramount to get the very best out of yourself and the aircraft. I was never ever a practise to refine person, I wanted everything and usually wanted it right now. I have learnt to learn and take slow steps and my discipline has been rewarded by my self-esteem on how really good I have got at something I love to do. So Practise does make perfect and in aviation it is paramount to fly at the very best you can achieve. I also spent a lot of time just flying between just three ports in KATL, KDFW and KRSW. Refining the way to do the same routes with different aircraft, and you do notice the differences between the different A320, A330, x737, E175 and MD-88 machines doing exactly the same route. It was more fun than I expected as I did expect a sort of monotonous repeatable sort of flying experience, but it proved overwhelmingly not to be the case. Which brings me to another interesting fact that in X-Plane less is certainly more, keep your flying and routes simple and refine those ideals better. ' Ciao! Stephen Dutton