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Behind the Screen : September 2019

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Behind the Screen : September 2019

 

First of all the September edition of "Behind the Screen" is quite short, mainly because my personal interaction with X-Plane in September has been quite minimal. Real life sort of got in the way of my online life in that I had to secure a new home, but that aspect, plus the packing to move has now been completed. The actual move in the middle of October is still to be completed, so again the site will be quiet again for another week or so in that period.

 

Certainly we are sorry in the lack of output from the site, but it is what it is.

 

I was (on and off) able to review JustFlight's lovely PA-38 Tomahawk. And it did get me thinking in what was the main aspect of the review, in that what is the best aircraft for an introduction to simulation.

 

For myself originally it was to fly a Boeing 747, which was really in hindsight is the worst type of aircraft to try to fly, or to learn to fly in... it is called a "Heavy" for a reason. To my benefit X-Plane9 and the evolution of the aircraft presented in that era in a way allowed me to sort of grasp the basics, but to confront say the same situation now in the current "Study" grade environment, I certainly would have been totally overwhelmed, or even try to factor in of where to start. You can and mostly do muddle through, but looking back after 10 years of simulation flying, there are so many different and complex factors now to learn and study.

 

So unless you are a current flying pilot, I doubt you could could reach a high professional grade within two years, most will scoff at that statement, but I mean the total depth of every aspect of flying an aircraft, and there is the actual simulator running skills to learn as well. Flying aircraft is highly complex, but achieve a credible level of skill and you will have achieved a great goal in your life.

 

One aspect was that I never even remotely considered early was in flying was a GA or General Aviation aircraft and to most of you punters that may seem to be quite a bizarre point of view, but I admit it was a mistake in trying to learn the basics of flying in a reverse order, and one aircraft in particular thankfully saved me.

 

Before moving on I will recount one quite funny story that highlights your inability to understand the early details and the learning of flying a (heavy) aircraft, I was flying the XPFP (X-Plane Freeware Project) Boeing 747 from Singapore to London, I took off and did the whole procedure to get the B747 to 34.000ft and made sure it was following it's route, all done I settled in for the 11 hour flight to Heathrow...  so obviously your not going to sit in the chair for the eleven or so hours, so I went and got something to eat. I checked the aircraft two hours later off the northern east coast of India, and noticed the B747 was actually flying around in long wide circles and was way off it's intended route...  it was just lazily flying around and had been for about 20 minutes or so, so I noticed the autopilot had disconnected itself as that was the reason the aircraft was doing it's strange antics...  so what caused the autopilot to disconnect?

 

I couldn't at first actually work it out? but the cause was the simple change of the speed from IAS to .Mach, I had not done this, so when the aircraft went higher it went faster and then over it's maximum IAS speed and disconnected the autopilot...  you learn, you get better, and as you would gather I was quite late arriving in London with very minimal fuel and irate passengers.

 

But the core essential point is that I was putting my cart before the horse, in reality I should have learnt the very basics earlier and in a basic aircraft before putting myself through a lot of torture of things not going correctly.... at a certain point I had to stop and then return to do this critical aspect.

 

I had always liked Carenado's F33A Bonanza and even it's very early form it was thankfully a fully rounded aircraft and the very first aircraft I prided myself in buying. I had to a point got here very lucky in the quality, dynamics but more so in the excellent avionics package that was set up for not only VFR flying but also for IFR (VOR) instrumentation... so I went back to the very basics.

 

I started flying circuits, touch and goes, basic flying and handling techniques and then learning how to trim the aircraft correctly. Then I moved on to point to point flying, setting up a route and flying that route to the destination, then added in VOR to VOR navigation while learning how to follow maps and navigation... on and on, but the biggest interesting thing I did was to fly in learning only the F33A, and I flew that F33A week after week until I knew pretty well everything about that particular aircraft... I simply logged hours and hours on it, in all weathers, all airports and was building up skills that would last me years. When Carenado updated the F33A to X-Plane11 I was very critical on some of the aspects that had been changed, they were fixed, but the point there is how well I knew the aircraft to notice even the slight aspects of changes that had been done. I adjusted to the better X-Plane dynamics and still even now when wanting a base line not only to measure my own skills, or to update my flying skills then that F33A is still the benchmark that I work too.

 

So everyone has their own particular or favorite aircraft they want to fly, but a high quality one here is important and not just a basic machine, as if the dynamics are off on your chosen machine then it can seriously mess and sometimes even damage badly with your basic skill base, and that is the word here...  base. Because when I flew the Tomahawk, the first thing I did was to fly the F33A on the same (long) circuit for one to get me into the right headspace and then to translate to feel out the balance of the dynamics of the PA-38... that F33A is also my constant benchmark for any changes in X-Plane itself and always that F33A is my first flight to see the different changes and how they affect the simulator. And sometimes I fly that little damn machine for just total absolute fun.

 

So I was very aware of promoting any aircraft to be a learners first, and obviously the F33A Bonanza is my absolute favorite, but there are a few out there that are simply excellent... VFlyteAir's PA-140C is excellent, as is the Cessna 172SP SkyHawk XP11 by Carenado (Glass) and the JustFlight's C152 and PA28R Piper Turbo Arrow III/lV (not the non-turbo Arrow as it is dog slow), and the one most will nominated will be the Cessna 172SP Skyhawk by AirfoilLabs which I acknowledge is extremely well liked and a very well completed aircraft, it's extensive features however would not make for a great if basic learning tool, it would just be a little too hard for a complete novice to learn on and master the aircraft with too many distractions.

 

Strangely unlike the real world, X-Plane users have access to pretty much any aircraft they desire, were as in the real aviation most pilot's unless they have unusual jobs (like a ferry pilot) are mostly restricted to only a few models or ownership. So our skill base has to be quite wide to cover the huge range accessible to us, but I have found (reviews aside) that mostly I now fly only certain aircraft, but that still ranges from a heavy to a general aviation aircraft, the difference is I know them intimately.

 

This aspect for me is important in the factor of what I called flying professionally, in the fact that in flying these few I do the full complete procedures that they require, and again they reflect a baseline to other aircraft (and reviews) for my judgements. Overall I have come a very long way in mastering my skills, you never ever stop learning, but that learning has also taken 10 years to master. My biggest yardstick is that in reality I have learnt more in the last three years than all of the seven years before, that is a combination of the changes and the ongoing depth of the simulator and also the sheer depth of the aircraft we now get to access, but overall it still comes simply down to doing the basics, in circuits and trimming the aircraft correctly as it is in the real world of aviation.

 

See you all next month

 

Stephen Dutton

1st October 2019

Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews

 

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