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Behind the Screen : May 2023

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Behind the Screen : May 2023


Not many review sites expose their inner workings. But I believe (as I have since my first reviews), that to go forward in any concept (in this case an Aircraft Simulator) that it is a learning process. To see how we do and deal with day to day involvement with the simulator, you can then make choices with your interaction with your own simulator. Yes I spend a lot of time per week doing X-Plane simulation...  interaction means accessing new product, keeping the simulator in a good working order (filing and updates), which oddly can be quite time consuming, learning new concepts relating to the simulator, and also learning the details of the aircraft that are being simulated. I went through that review process last month. But on average I am using X-Plane around seven hours a day for six days a week in one capacity or another, which adds up to 42 hours a week, that is a lot of time to be in a simulator, but weirdly I don't yet find it boring or uninteresting, in fact quite the opposite.


So yes the point here with BtheS and most importantly in the reviews is that as a user you can take away information we have learnt and passed on to you, again I believe that yes you want to know the latest information on a new or updated/upgrade releases. But more importantly you take away details that can short cut the learning curve, to getting to the core of the flying or interacting more quickly with the simulator, and most importantly the aircraft.


Yes I admit I do tutorials as part of the review process, I call them "Short Cuts", or the way that you can follow the process to learn how it works in an edited form. For example the release of the FlyJSim Q4XP (Dash Q400) had a brand new style of FMS (Flight Management System) called UNS-1Ew Flight Management System. The concept of the FMS (or user layout) is quite different (in using numbered lines) to program the FMS with Flight (Route) details and Performance elements, plus the added elements that are important like X-FILL or Crossfill between the left and right FMS consoles. It is quite deep in interaction information.

But here X-PlaneReviews we showed you how to programme the UNS-1 in an edited version. Obviously you can download the official Universal UNS-1 manual and go down in deeper into the "nic nacks" of the UNS-1 system, but to get you airborne and flying the Q4XP as soon as possible, then that tutorial is right there for you to digest. Yes I admit the tutorial adds on a fair bit of length to the review, should the tutorial section even be in a review, and not be set out as a separate tutorial?


I will answer that aspect in that putting the tutorial within the review ACTUALLY it keeps it in context with that aircraft. And in most cases I refer to an older review with inserted tutorials if required from another review. As it also keeps the timeline correct of when in X-Plane that new technology or feature was released for the Simulator. I myself will go back to usually the original release review, to reflect the way to trigger my skills. These are again as mentioned last month my "Oh yes" I remember that aspect now, so it is also a stored information bank to access anytime I want to do an update/upgrade review and get my head back into that particular aircraft's cockpit and idiosyncratic natures.


So it can take time to not only review (assess) a new aircraft, but to context it's new features and even it's impact on the X-Plane Simulator. Yes some releases are extremely exciting, as they do push the boundaries forward, introduce new ideas and features in to the simulator. These elements have to be analyzed and then explained to yourselves of why they are important, and the relevancy to X-Plane and the Simulator as a whole. These aspects are even more important when you have a generational change, like the period we are in now in X-Plane moving from the older (but mature) X-Plane 11 to the more dynamic X-Plane 12.


Time is your biggest factor. Yes it would be wonderful to spend loads of time "Deep Diving" into aircraft systems and performance, but you simply don't have that precious time, as there is always a deadline to adhere to. Another point is that with reviews you can't cover absolutely everything in every aircraft, every single time in each review. We cover or focus mainly on the changes and features of the release, but as some aircraft are totally and noticeable highly detailed, so how do you cover all those elements without getting boring. Worse is that "feature escalation", means a lot of new features and details to cover. Go back only five years, and then look at the releases today to notice the compounding differences between aircraft releases. Reviews were mostly three day affairs, but today a week or even two is required to cover all the detailed points on a high quality, feature rich release.


Which brings us to May...   On average in X-Plane you can expect a major release (meaning completely new) about every two months, or about seven major releases a year, the rest are updates and upgrades to currently released aircraft. (at this point in time there are an abundunce of X-Plane 12 conversions).

So you might get two in one month, then nothing for three (Usually around the Northern Summer period), then multiple releases one after the other in a few weeks in the Northern Fall period. Obviously this is the nature of the X-Plane beast.


The big release for May 2023 was the E-Jets Family from X-Crafts. This was a significant release because in the state of play, this was in reality the first new release for X-Plane 12. Your going to shake your head there...  as yes, as there already has been loads of committed official X-Plane 12 only configured aircraft released in the months prior. But in reality most had been developed in X-Plane 11 ready for an X-Plane 12 release, the X-Craft's E-Jet is totally an X-Plane 12 creature, it feels that way and the aircraft flies that way as well, so it was a significant release, an important one as it lays down the groundwork of what most major future X-Plane 12 releases will respond to.


I was lucky to get into the "beta" development before release, the bugs were there, but nothing in relation to anything that would affect the review (hardware compatibilities), overall it was a masterful Simulation from some gifted developers.


The X-Crafts E-Jet family has a huge list of features, the Intricate detail was noted as well, and to top it all off the aircraft had a brand new FMS system that needed explaining, and "yes" it would need a tutorial on how to use it. It was to be a big, if huge review with a lot of areas to cover. But that was okay, as I had one thing on my side...  time, or about 10 days.


I did the early flight tests when also working out the new FMS, then started the review, three days in and I was at the tutorial point of explaining the FMS system. This area needs a clear head and focus, ultimate focus, but I still had tons of time (a week to the release date).


Then I got a tickle in my throat, then it turned slightly raw, the next day I had a full blown Flu...  I had worked carefully through all the covid pandemic, but out of simply nowhere I was suddenly really sick, bleary eyed in bed sick... one day, two days, three days...  four days?


Suddenly my world was collapsing, I had the most intricate part of the review to do and I couldn't even focus on my iPhone....  hell? On the fifth day I went to the desk, I worked through the tutorial, I felt totally awful, but I got it done. Now I was faced with only two days until the release and with only half the review ready? I still felt awful but worked on, time had now been squeezed down to nothing, still tons to do and cover to create the review, but you work on, I missed the release date "damn", but got the review completed late the next day, and then collapsed. (Sorry it was late). Aircraft Review : E-Jets Family by X-Crafts


The above timeline shows your life can go from complete perfection to hell in only a day, the most important release of the year and I was completely down and out for the count, yes I was annoyed then, still get annoyed even now, but it's life and there are simply some things you just can't control.


A week later I took a reluctant week off the review desk to have a complete break and recover, it's a bad Flu, around here it is everywhere, but that damn Flu completely dominated (ruined) my month of May... and yes I am finally feeling normal again.


"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry", Robert Burns


Coming up in June is the FlightSimExpo from Houston June 23rd-25th 2023. Laminar Research will hold a booth at the Expo, but no Seminar is currently booked. There will be no Expo analysis, but X-PlaneReviews will be doing an overview of X-Plane 12 from it's early beta release to it's present situation as displayed at the Expo, so look out for that.


X-Plane is also currently very buzzy, and coming into the Northern Summer season that is a really good thing. Mostly we are having a lot of X-Plane 12 conversions released, but unusually also lot of new aircraft being released from developers as well. Notable also is the now huge selection of aircraft already X-Plane 12 configured, so there is a lot of choices already of what to fly in the new simulator version...   happy times!


See you all next month


Stephen Dutton

1st June 2023

Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews


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