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Aircraft Review: Polaris AM-FIB by VSKYLABS

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Aircraft Review: Polaris AM-FIB by VSKYLABS

By Stuart McGregor

When is a boat not a boat? Well, one answer is when it is the Polaris AM-FIB, or to give it its full name, the Amphibious Flying Inflatable Boat.

It has been quite some time since I have written a review for the org, and in that time, I have been pretty much immersed in flying the much larger passenger cousins of the Polaris. So, to have the opportunity to try it out was a welcome break from the high-tech and frantic world of tube liners. To be honest, I had forgotten just how much fun you can get out of the simpler things in life, and please don’t get me wrong, simple doesn’t mean dull and boring, as I found out.

The aircraft being reviewed here is based on the Italian 'Polaris FIB' ("Flying Inflatable Boat"), which is an ultralight trike, designed and produced by 'Polaris Motor' in the mid-1980s. It was then further developed in the 2000s and went on to become the Polaris AM-FIB, an Amphibious ultralight trike. I found it interesting to read about the collaboration between the real-life aircraft manufacturer (Polaris Motor) and the simulator developer (VSKYLABS). To see sim developers going to such lengths to bring us the best simulation products possible is pretty commendable, in my opinion.



X-Plane Model
The Polaris was initially released for X-Plane 12 in 2022, and since then, it has undergone several updates. The most recent, version 4, was released in June this year. The developers have described this as a major update, introducing new features such as upgraded flight dynamics to fully leverage what X-Plane has to offer, improved graphics with PBR adjustments, and enhanced FMOD 2.0 sounds, including better engine, prop, and wind sounds.

It's great to see the Polaris continually refined and improved over the years. I believe this is a sign of developers who truly care about their users. It would be easy to develop a product, release it, and then move on; however, witnessing new features and refinements added over time is very much appreciated and helps keep each model vibrant and engaging.

Installation Procedure
Installing the Polaris couldn't be easier. Once you've purchased your copy, there's no need for installers or digital security codes. Simply download, unzip, and you’re ready to go, dead simple! As the file is not particularly large, only about 150 MB, it only takes a few minutes to download with a fast internet connection. It’s worth mentioning that there is also an option to download a version for X-Plane 11 if you’re still using that version of the platform.

When you download from the org, you'll also receive a copy of the manual and the VSKYLABS brochure, which you can peruse at your leisure. I'll discuss the manual a bit later. Another feature worth highlighting is the use of the SkunkCrafts updater. While not new for those who already have the Polaris (it was introduced back in 2022), it’s a nice touch if you’re considering purchasing for the first time.




The download includes several documents, some of which I've mentioned earlier. Within the download, you'll find a couple of folders containing everything you'll need. The contents of the "HOW TO INSTALL" folder are self-explanatory, and similarly, no surprises await in the "INSTRUCTIONS-MANUAL-POH" folder where the main manual is located.

It's highly recommended to read through the manual cover to cover. Although it's only ten pages, it's packed with useful reference information, tips, and tricks to help you get the most out of your purchase. The manual is well-organized and easy to read. I particularly enjoyed the mix of text and photographs, with annotated images that are especially helpful for understanding the main features and aircraft controls. The manual does an excellent job of covering all the important features, and it's a credit to the developers for making it simple, informative, and well-laid-out.



Although not a large aircraft, the Polaris is beautifully modelled. The textures are exquisite, from the wood grain details on the prop and the well-worn surfaces of the wings to the intricate details on the engine, fuel tank, and battery. The inflatable hull sponsons and the two passengers are also meticulously rendered. One particularly charming feature is the ability to add or remove the pilot and passenger via click spots on the seats, allowing for configurations with both, one, or neither. It’s amusing to note that the female passenger goes flying in her high heels, a curious choice for getting in and out of the Polaris! 


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The aircraft includes a set of wheels that can be raised and lowered by clicking on the right sponson. Similarly, the brakes and sea anchor are operated from the left sponson. While the wheels look fantastic, I found it challenging to get real control whilst on land, perhaps missing something in the process. However, when on water, the boat rudder ensures easy manoeuvring, especially when using a set of rudder pedals.


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When you sit in the pilot's seat of the Polaris, the view is exceptional, especially if you're flying in VR. The animations of the pilot’s arms and feet are impressively synchronized with the control movements. In VR, the alignment of the pilot’s virtual legs with your own can be quite uncanny. Looking down and seeing your virtual feet moving is a superb, albeit a little unnerving, experience.


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The throttle control is located just above your head, and a small mobile phone is positioned right in front of you. This setup allows you to manipulate the brakes and monitor your airspeed, altitude, as well as wind speed and direction, a crucial feature for aligning yourself with the wind during landings. The artificial horizon is also useful for flying, although, as noted in the manual, real pilots often rely more on their senses than on instrumentation. The increased sound of the wind as you turn into it is a fantastic example of how you can "feel" your way around the skies with the Polaris.


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Getting used to the control bar in your view might take some time, but the instrument panel is still quite visible. Here, you’ll find gauges for engine temperature, RPM, EGT, HOBSS, and fuel, along with a few switches for the battery, igniters, and a prominent starter button. Starting the Polaris takes only a couple of seconds, but when the engine kicks in, the aircraft truly comes to life. The FMOD sounds enrich the experience, bringing a real depth to the auditory environment.


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Flight Dynamics
Due to the lightweight nature of the Polaris, the developers recommend setting the flight models per frame to at least five to counteract any odd ‘jumping’ behaviour during takeoff. Following this advice, I encountered no noticeable issues. While I struggled with land-based takeoffs, taking off from water proved to be incredibly enjoyable. The wind direction indicator is essential for aligning the nose into the wind, which significantly smooths the takeoff process.


The water textures and lighting effects in X-Plane 12 enhance the overall immersion, making skimming along the water surface a novel experience for me. You could almost feel the water spray on your face. It’s worth noting that the sea anchor performs admirably when stationary, keeping everything steady as you prepare for takeoff.


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Once airborne, the Polaris is exhilarating to fly, quite a departure from the complex airliners I've been piloting recently. Its simplicity greatly contributes to the enjoyment, truly embodying the concept of "flying by feel". Although it climbs slowly due to its modest airspeed, this offers a perfect chance to relax and take in the scenery. However, the Polaris requires gentle handling in the air; abrupt or sharp inputs can make it feel like you’re on a roller coaster. Flying in VR adds an extra layer of magic, especially the sensation of rising from the water with the wind whistling past your ears. Skimming low across the water or ducking under bridges is simply magical.


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Once I mastered a few basic manoeuvres, the Polaris was delightful to fly. Given that it's essentially a boat with wings, exploring the myriad waterways that X-Plane offers adds a whole new dimension to the sim. The perspective is very different when you’re looking up rather than down. Perhaps VSKYLABS might consider adding a variant without wings, just the boat section. How much fun would that be!


Landing posed its own challenges and required several attempts to perfect. It’s crucial not to reduce power too abruptly to avoid a bumpy landing, or worse. Mastering power management is key to handling the Polaris effectively.


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The no-frills simplicity of the Polaris's design ensures that frame rates are consistently high. Even when flying over densely populated cities at low altitudes, the frames per second (fps) typically remain in the 50-plus range, rising to around 70 or 80 over waterways. Throughout my flights, I experienced no complaints in this department and observed no noticeable impact on the sim’s performance.


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Overall, my time in the Polaris was thoroughly enjoyable, and it's certainly worth considering if you're in search of something a bit different. The enhancements in X-Plane 12, particularly in terms of aircraft performance on water, coupled with the new lighting and texturing techniques, make spending a few hours in the Polaris a truly unique experience.


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If you're looking for a lot of bells and whistles or high-tech features, the Polaris might not meet your expectations. However, if you're in the mood for some straightforward, seat-of-the-pants fun on and over water, this flying boat is definitely worth considering. Priced at $24.00, it's a bargain. You might even find it on sale, which would be an added bonus.






Polaris AM-FIB by VSKYLABS is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:



Priced at $24.00



Project Main Features:

  • VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Project: designed for use with X-Plane cutting edge flight model environment, features superb flight dynamics with authentic performance and flight handling characteristics.
  • VSKYLABS development for X-Plane approved by 'New Polaris FIB' company (however, it is an independent VSKYLABS project, not affiliated with 'New Polaris FIB').
  • Real-Physics, incorporating weight shifting and wing simulation of a hang-glider trike. Unique trike flying aspects are being simulated: stalls, slips, spins and tumbling.
  • Designed with the focus on control and handling characteristics, excellent for basic and advanced hang glider trike training / conversion from fixed wing aircraft.
  • Additional passenger which can be removed, to simulate light vs heavy trike operations.
  • Amphibian aircraft - operation in water/land and snow/ice.
  • Built for VR: development was tailored specifically for VR, and optimized for 2D usage.
  • Autoupdater based on the SkunkCrafts autoupdater (XP12 only) - all updates are being pushed smoothly without the need to re-download the entire base package (base package will be updated every once in a while to minimize the gap).
  • Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums: VSKYLABS is offering continuous professional support from aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support.


X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac, or Linux
8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Current Version: 4.0 (June 7th 2024)


Review System Specifications

Windows 10 64 Bit, CPU Intel i9-9900k, 64GB RAM, Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, Oculus Rift S


Aircraft Review Stuart McGregor

5th July 2024

Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews


(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copying of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions).




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