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Behind the Screen : August 2016

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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"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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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Stephen Dutton
7th September 2016
Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
 

 

 

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