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  1. Aircraft Review: Van's RV-8 /8A Duo by AOA Simulations By Peter Allnutt Founded in 1973 in the USA by Richard Van Grunsven, Van’s Aircraft has, for the last fifty years, produced a series of highly successful low-wing monoplane kit aircraft. One of those kits is the RV-8, a two-seat aerobatic model featuring a bubble canopy providing good all-around visibility. It first flew in 1995 and as of late 2022, over 1500 have been built. Like the RV-4, the RV-8 variant has two seats, one behind the other and is generally larger overall. The two-seat RVs are designed to use Lycoming-style engines developing between 118 and 200 horsepower, although a higher performance derivative was also produced, the Harmon Rocket. This had clipped wings and utilised a Lycoming IO-540 engine with 300 horsepower. There are two variants of the RV-8 kits available from the manufacturer, one with a traditional taildragger configuration and the RV-8A, which uses a tricycle undercarriage instead. Purchase & Installation Three different packages of the RV-8 are available to purchase via the X-Plane.org store: taildragger, tricycle or a package including both. The individual aircraft are priced at $24, with the Duo Pack (being reviewed here) costing $32. With your purchase completed, you are provided with a link in which to download the required 150MB ZIP file. When done, it’s just a simple case of extracting the file and then copying it over to your X-Plane “Aircraft” folder (no activation keys required). Included in the download, is a rather nice X-Plane user guide and a brochure from Van’s Aircraft, introducing you to their range of models. There is also a document for Apple users detailing the required security setting. The user guide is twenty pages in length and is well worth a read as it explains how to lean the engine and perform aerobatics, along with a suggested button guide for joysticks and other helpful tips. Note: At the time of writing the RV-8 package is for X-Plane 11 only, but the developer has stated that an X-Plane 12 version is in development (will be a free update to existing customers) and will be released when the new simulator is deemed ready. Exterior Model The RV-8 has a relatively simple shape, something I assume aids with its kit construction. It is well-modelled and judging by images I have seen of the real thing, is accurately proportioned. I didn’t spot any real visual differences in the engine cowlings, but the RV-8 is modelled with 180HP, whilst the RV8A gets the increased 200HP powerplant. As with most AOA models, there are some nice touches included, such as the “Remove Before Flight” ribbons if you start from cold and dark. AOA’s RV-8’s control surfaces are nicely animated, as is the cockpit canopy, which automatically closes when the aircraft reaches 10MPH and above (perfect for those who tend to forget such things). The wheel covers and rear suspension are also nicely modelled, as are the light clusters in the wingtips. There is also a little cubbyhole just in front of the cockpit which contains a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, plus room for a few small personal items. There are a few liveries included with the model, as well as a paint kit should you wish to create your own. As well as those already supplied, AOA Simulations have also made available several livery packs for download, the link for which, can be found in the user guide. Additional liveries from the developer can also be found at the Org. Cockpit & Functionality Moving on to the interior of the RV-8 and I found that whilst good, the modelling wasn’t quite up to the same standard as the exterior, the footwell being one example, which looked slightly odd in my opinion. Also, the prop and mixture handles seemed a bit on the small side, but then again, perhaps I just have big hands! Texturing was, for the most part, very nicely done, although it did seem a bit too clean. Whilst I appreciate the fact that this is a kit aircraft, it would be nice to see a degree of weathering applied (not all aircraft will be new). Both variants in the package sport the same glass cockpit configuration, two G1000 displays, a Garmin 430 GPS, a Garmin 245A Audio Panel and a Garmin GFC500, so you’re not left wanting by any means. The engine start checklist is displayed on the Garmin 430’s display when the battery switch is set to on, and this updates as the steps are completed. When you’re ready to operate the starter, you get a nice audio call of “Clear Prop”, which I thought was a nice touch! AOA Simulations also provide a plug-in which enables you to toggle the “Extras” option on and off. When selected, you will find that it adds additional information to the two GF1000 displays. On either side of the pilot, there are two side pockets which can be activated. The one on the left brings up the default X-Plane map, whilst the one on the right brings up AviTab (if installed). AOA’s RV8/RV8-A also comes equipped with a rather neat smoke system (red and blue available) which is activated by switches on the right-side panel, along with oxygen controls. Handling In terms of handling, I think it’s important to point out, that I am not a real-world pilot and as such, I can’t really comment on the authenticity of the flight model. However, in saying that, I was extremely impressed by how the model performed in the air, and I can only put that down to AOA’s exceptional modelling talents and the fact that this X-Plane model was developed with the help of the Van’s Aircraft Company. This is an aircraft that can be calm and docile one minute, and then totally exhilarating the next…wonderful! Taxiing in the tail dragger variant of the RV-8 is slightly more challenging than the tricycle version (RV-8A) due to the slightly upward view and the tailwheel. When throttling forward during takeoff, it’s immediately noticeable that there is plenty of power at hand, and when airborne, the little RV-8 will climb at 2000fpm, which is quite impressive for such a small aircraft. During the cruise phase (around 170 KTS), both variants were easy to trim out, but if you’re feeling lazy, then there is the autopilot to help you out should you wish. As mentioned earlier, the RV-8 is reasonably aerobatic, and as such, I managed to perform quite a few aerobatic manoeuvres during my testing, all without too much difficulty. Okay, they weren’t particularly textbook, and I wouldn’t have won any awards, but it goes to show you what the aircraft is capable of. The controls are quite sensitive, so it’s fairly easy early on to overdo some of the inputs, but you know what they say… practice makes perfect! Landing either of the models was straightforward, with touchdown being at around 60-70 KTS. The RV-8 only has two stages of flaps, one for takeoff, and the other for landing. This means that during the approach phase, you’ll notice additional drag caused by the flaps, so you’ll have to adjust power and trim as required. AOA Simulations have also included an excellent “Brake With Stick” (BWS) feature via their plug-in. This is particularly useful for those simmers who don’t have rudder pedals with toe brakes (and there are many), as it means that upon touchdown, all that is required to activate the brakes is to push the stick forward…very imaginative and extremely useful. Sounds The RV-8’s included sounds are well-sampled and of good quality, with the engine sounding particularly nice. There was no audible looping present, and at no time did the soundset become monotonous or intrusive. The numerous “click” points in the cockpit were present, but I was disappointed I couldn’t hear the difference between a switch-on and a switch-off action and the canopy closing didn’t give a reassuring clunk when fully shut. However, I did notice that the engine was nicely muffled when the canopy was closed, so that was another nice touch. Performance During my testing of AOA’s RV-8, I experienced no performance issues whatsoever. Framerates remained high and there were no noticeable lags or spikes. For reference, my X-Plane setup is as follows: Intel i9 10900K – 32GB RAM - NVIDIA MSI RTX 3090 Suprim X – Windows 10 Home 64 Bit, so as you can see, quite a capable system. Conclusion Summing up, I have to say that AOA’s RV-8 is a wonderfully enjoyable and fun little plane to fly. Not only is it a capable tourer thanks to its good cruise performance, but it’s equally happy when performing the odd aerobatic manoeuvre. The modelling, both inside and out, is done well, and apart from a few issues with the sounds, I can’t really think of any reason why you shouldn’t add this little flyer to your hangar. Overall, the AOA RV-8, is a terrific addition to the GA family of aircraft available for X-Plane, and I hope the updated version for X-Plane 12 won’t be too long in the making. ________________________ The Van's RV-8 /8A Duo by AOA Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Van's RV-8 /8A Duo Priced at US$32.00 Features Accurate flight model Detailed cockpit and exterior with animations, manipulators and PBR textures VR-Ready Custom particles emitters Customized Garmin G1000 PFD and MFD FMOD Sounds Ground equipment Animated pilot Dynamic pilot POV camera options (non VR mode) Automatic AI plane tracking pilot POV camera capability (non VR mode) Garmin GFC 500 Included in the package 5 HD liveries + more than 30 liveries available at www.x-plane.org Comprehensive User Guide Photoshop Paintkit Requirements X-Plane 11 - X-Plane 12 when available (in progress) Windows, Mac, or Linux 4GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: 1.5 (October 6th, 2022) Review System Specifications Intel i9 10900K – 32GB RAM - NVidia MSI RTX 3090 Suprim X – Windows 10 Home 64 Bit __________________________________ Aircraft Review by Peter Allnutt 31st January 2023 Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions.
  2. Scenery Review: KSEZ - Sedona Airport by X-Codr By Joshua Moore Introduction Sedona Airport is located two miles southwest of Sedona, Arizona, on top of a mesa that overlooks the city. Dubbed the tabletop runway for its appearance, it offers some unique challenges for pilots making a trip to the airport. Sedona Airport began life in 1955 as a 3,700-foot dirt runway and was paved in 1957. Today, Sedona is considered the United States’ most scenic airport and features a nearly 5,200-foot long/100-foot-wide runway. X-Codr’s rendition of Sedona for X-Plane 12 is an update to their existing scenery for X-Plane 11, so it will be interesting to see how it looks and performs in Laminar’s latest offering. First Impressions The installation process of the scenery is mostly standard, consisting of three zip files, with the unzipped contents totaling 8.7 GB across four folders. The manual is six pages long and includes basic installation instructions for installing the scenery, as well as a few notable highlights of the package. Upon loading into the airport, I was greeted with a copious amount of red rock and a rather nice-looking airport environment. The overall scope of the product is well-sized, with a good portion of the area surrounding the airport having been modeled with custom orthos, autogen, landmarks, and the famous red rocks. From my initial observations, I was very pleased with what I saw, as the attention to detail, especially the airport, was very well done. Exploring the Airport Again, and this is something I like to do with all my reviews, I began by viewing the airport from above in which to get an idea of its layout. The overall scenery looks fantastic, with most details being visible, even those in the distance. The city of Sedona looks great from above, and the surroundings feel wonderfully natural and come across as well-textured, with the added bonus of merging perfectly with the supplied ortho. Mesh also feels enhanced and helps bring the airport alive, though there are a couple of areas which I felt could be improved on, such as the road leading up to the airport, which could do with some smoothing out. The airport environment is quite frankly one of the best I have seen in X-Plane 12 as it feels so alive, especially with the animations, vehicles, and people; the whole atmosphere is simply fantastic. The custom 3D vegetation sways with the wind, and as such, really helps add another level of immersion to the overall ambience. The exteriors of the main terminal and the Mesa Grill diner are well-modelled, with some nicely done texturing to go along with them, they even feature seating areas outside. Two other airport buildings which featured interiors were the Helicopter Tours hut and the Helicopter Airplane Tours shop. Whilst not as detailed as the other two buildings mentioned, they were a nice addition to the package. Both the terminal and diner include highly detailed interiors, and these are done well for the most part. However, I did find them to be a little too shiny for my taste, with both the chairs and floors feeling overly polished and unnatural. Another area which I felt could be improved upon, was the ramp area which had a slightly dead appearance, as there were simply no aircraft anywhere to be found, and while I’m not a huge fan of static aircraft, having the option to add some here and there, would have been nice in this case. Both the taxiways and runway felt realistic in their appearance, and the grass, albeit a bit scraggly and pixelated, really helped sell the idea that I was looking at an authentic, small, GA airport. During my testing of Sedona, I would see animated vehicles drive up to the airport gate, and then for the gate to open, which I thought was another nice touch! There were also animated people playing games in the garden, and having drinks, plus wind chimes spinning in the breeze. It’s these wonderfully thought-out details such as these, which help bring the airport to life and is something I really appreciate. The surrounding red rock formations found in the scenery deserve their own special paragraph, as they have been created entirely in 3D. The texturing of these formations is excellent, and the models themselves look detailed even from a distance. However, if you get too close, the illusion, unfortunately, starts to fall apart, but from an aircraft window, at a reasonable distance, they look incredible and are far superior to using base-only orthos. Textures When it comes to Sedona’s textures, I think it’s safe to say that this particular scenery is one of the better X-Plane sceneries that X-Codr has created. Most of the textures, when viewed from a relatively short distance, looked sharp and only started to lose clarity when viewed up close. The taxiway signage was a bit low-res for my tastes, but that was also the case for Mammoth Yosemite, which I reviewed only recently. The interiors of the various airport buildings were slightly blurrier than other more visible parts of the scenery but were just fine if your intended purpose was to simply stroll around the airport, just remember to not get too close. Winter Sedona, due to its climate, doesn't receive much in the way of snow, and when it does, it usually melts quickly. However, as I had seen some photographs of Sedona during winter, I was keen to see what it looked like with the new weather engine in X-Plane 12. I was glad I did because the results, as you can see, are simply stunning. The underlying ortho used for the surrounding scenery looks great as well, save for the various “off” colors you’ll see if you look too closely. If you use any ortho scenery for this part of the world (something I highly recommend you do), then you’ll find that the package, due to the quality of the supplied ortho, works very well, especially with something like VStates. Performance When it came to performance, I was again pleased with the results, as I experienced hardly any framerate issues. In fact, the only thing I noticed about running the scenery was my increased VRAM usage, which wasn’t surprising really, especially when you consider the sheer number of textures being used by Sedona. With X-Plane 12 not yet fully optimized and suffering from blurry textures, I would advise caution, and to check your GPU’s VRAM specs plus the package’s minimum memory requirements before purchasing the scenery. Night Lighting Sedona’s night lighting consists, for the most part, of X-Plane standard lighting effects. That’s not to say it looks bad, it’s just that nothing really stands out. There are a few areas where the lighting doesn’t quite work, such as parts of the terminal and restaurant, which look a bit odd at night, as if they don’t share the same lighting engine, but everywhere else exhibits the usual X-Plane lighting. Conclusion As with Mammoth which I tested at the same time, Sedona is another high-quality GA airport that I really enjoyed exploring. For VFR flyers, it’s a dream come true with its stunning red rock formations, but it’s equally appealing for those who enjoy flying something larger, like business jets. With challenging approaches, a wonderfully modelled airport environment, plus again, that incredible landscape, Sedona is one of those airports that I can wholeheartedly recommend. ________________________ KSEZ - Sedona by X-Codr is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: KSEZ - Sedona by X-Codr Priced at US$19.95 Features Ultra-detailed rendition of KSEZ - Sedona Buildings are detailed down to door handles and gutters Most "feature buildings" have full 3d interiors, including food on the restaurant table High quality normal maps utilize X-Plane 12's gorgeous photometric PBR rendering engine High quality realistic ground textures Hand crafted detail textures and detail normals add unparalleled detail with virtually indistinguishable tiling Hand painted, subtle grunge overlays for the whole airport make the airport feel life like and natural. Up to date layout as of 2021 including significant changes to the center-north ramp Living Airport Cars will randomly wander the airport roads, and occasionally drive up to the gate, open it, and drive to a spot on the apron. 3D animated people 3D animated trees using X-Plane 12's new forest system 3D animated grass and shrubs Custom surroundings Generic, regionally appropriate autogen for the surrounding valley Stunning hand crafted rock formations for most of the Sedona Valley Low poly landmarks (schools, old stadium, etc) Custom Ortho4XP Mesh Custom UHD Mesh V4 overlays (courtesy AlpilotX, used with his permission) Optimizer for excellent performance. VR ready, constant 60 fps with near max settings on high end systems. Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4Gb VRAM Minimum. 8Gb+ VRAM Recommended Download size: 5 Gb X-Codr Designs Library 1.6+ (available on the download page, redownload if you downloaded before 10/26/2022) Living Scenery Technology 1.05+ (available free on x-plane.org, https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/82876-living-scenery-technology/) Current version: 2.0 (October 26th 2022) Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM __________________________________ Scenery Review by Joshua Moore 29th January 2023 Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions.
  3. Scenery Review: KMMH - Mammoth Yosemite Airport by X-Codr By Joshua Moore Introduction Mammoth Yosemite Airport is located approximately seven miles from the town of Mammoth Lakes California and is one of the premier GA airports serving the local area. Built as an auxiliary landing strip by the US Army Air Corps in WWII, it has seen multiple expansions and runway improvement projects over the years in which to increase its commercial viability. As of today, the runway is seven thousand feet long by one hundred feet wide with one parallel taxiway spanning the length of the runway. X-Codr’s rendition of Mammoth Yosemite is an update to an existing product available for X-Plane 11 and features native support for all the enhancements and features the latest version of X-Plane offers, including surface water, snow, icing, new texture support, lighting, and much more. The surrounding scenery includes 120 square miles of custom ortho imagery and an enhanced rendition of Mammoth and the ski resort. NOTE: The airport does feature custom 3D grass and vegetation, however, due to an update to X-Plane 12, the rendering of such vegetation has turned all the grass invisible. My many bug reports and emails over the last month to Laminar regarding this issue have (so far) unfortunately fallen on deaf ears, which is disappointing. I’m unsure whether this issue is unique to my setup as I have yet to find any mention of it anywhere else or even being acknowledged by Laminar themselves. This issue affects not only KMMH being reviewed here but almost every other scenery that includes 3D vegetation. As such, please keep this in mind when viewing the screenshots, and if you can, shoot the team at Laminar an email regarding this issue so it can be properly dealt with. Enjoy! First Impressions The installation process for this package is a little bit more involved than some users might be used to. I mention this because once purchased, you are greeted by a download page containing three zip files. All three are required for the installation and include the airport, the mesh file, and the library X-Codr uses for all their sceneries. Once installed, you’ll find a total of four folders added to your X-Plane Custom Scenery folder totalling 5.36GB. The included PDF manual is four pages in length and whilst relatively short, includes all the basic installation instructions for installing the scenery. Exploring the Airport Starting from a large overhead view and it was clear to see that the textures included were rather good, with the ortho not appearing too out of place and the airport blending in well with its surroundings. Moving slightly closer, the overall layout of the general ramp area and buildings are done quite well, and I have no complaints in that department. Many of the hangars and maintenance buildings leading up to the terminal are not only accurately placed (as far as I could tell from Google Maps) but are well-modelled and exhibit many finer details which could have easily been overlooked by less savvy developers. In terms of 3D modelling, the main terminal is, without a doubt, the highlight of the scenery and as such, is well done, especially the exterior details. Texturing is also of a high standard (more on that later) and when combined with the modelling, really helps add a degree of authenticity and realism. My only gripe with the terminal and this goes for the FBO as well, is the lack of interior modelling. Due to Yosemite being a relatively small airport, I think X-Plane 12 could easily handle an interior due to its low VRAM requirements and would help to make the airport feel more…alive! When winter weather sets in, the airport looks extremely atmospheric, especially with its snow-covered buildings. However, I did notice that with severe winter weather, both the runway and taxiways were particularly difficult to navigate, which I thought was strange, especially as the numerous YouTube videos I had watched previously, show these areas clear of any snow. I don’t know if this is a bug with X-Plane or with the scenery, but the end result is that the airport is pretty much off-limits when a snowstorm rolls through. Mammoth Ski Resort A nice bonus to the scenery was the inclusion of the nearby Mammoth Ski Resort. Whilst simple in terms of modelling compared to the main airport, it was nevertheless highly welcomed. The ski lifts unfortunately weren't animated, but even though they are described as generic by the developer, I still enjoyed seeing them. Textures When it comes to the textures used in the package, they are certainly up to today’s modern standards, although I did notice some of the smaller items were a bit lacking, mainly the taxiway signs. As mentioned previously, the terminal looks great and the use of PBR texturing on the corrugated metal surface looks outstanding. The ground textures are done extremely well, with the pavement having noticeable defects, such as bumps, wear and tear and other things you’d expect an airport surface to have. The smaller vehicles and details situated around the scenery also seemed up to the job and didn’t seem to lose too much quality in the texture department. The one area which I did think wasn’t quite up to the same standard was the large photographic ortho for the scenery. The reason being, it had been sampled at ZL16, which if you’re flying at 36,000ft in an airliner, would be totally acceptable. However, this is a scenery designed for VFR exploration, and as such, a higher Zoom Level (for example ZL18) would have been very much preferred. Night Lighting Much like the real airport, night lighting isn’t the scenery’s biggest selling point, so although it doesn’t look particularly impressive, it’s pretty much how the airport is in real life. The main terminal is adequately lit and the other small maintenance buildings surrounding it, all exhibit the usual “X-Plane” glow. So, whilst nothing really made me go “wow!” regarding the lighting, I wasn’t particularly disappointed with what I saw either. Performance During my testing, I noticed no slowdowns or spikes whilst exploring the scenery, everything was as smooth as butter. This could have been due to the relatively low VRAM requirements set by the scenery or the fact that the 3D grass was on holiday. Either way, I was happy with the way the package performed as there’s nothing worse than having a scenery which is a stutter fest! Conclusion I really enjoyed my time at Yosemite, especially whilst flying in and out in the Phenom 300; the RNAV 27 approach is a wonderful way to arrive at the airport. For someone who enjoys VFR flying, both real and simulated, I found the scenery to be an excellent starting point in which to explore the greater wider area. This is probably one of the scenery’s biggest selling points, as there are so many places within easy reach of the airport, such as Yosemite National Park, the Sierra National Forest, and if you’re brave, Death Valley National Park! So, if you’re looking for a small airport in which to explore some of America’s incredible and diverse scenery, Yosemite Mammoth Airport is certainly well worth considering. ________________________ KMMH - Mammoth Yosemite Airport by X-Codr is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: KMMH - Mammoth Yosemite Airport by X-Codr Priced at US$19.95 Features Detailed rendition of KMMH All buildings feature ultra-high resolution textures (most 4 pixels per inch). All buildings feature advanced PBR normal maps for realistic reflections and bump mapping. All buildings are highly detailed, down to even door handles. All buildings feature "lite" interiors to give windows more depth. Detailed ground textures with large scale realistic wear. All ground textures feature realistic normal maps. Realistic X-Plane 12 3d vegetation for the entire airport. Living scenery Integration with X-Plane 12’s weather effects system Ground equipment automatically serves your aircraft upon request. Other Features All models optimized for maximum performance. Generic custom rendition of Mammoth. Generic custom rendition of Mammoth Ski Resort. Realistic surroundings including custom forests. Custom 10-meter mesh with color-corrected ZL16 ortho. (Thanks to Oscar Pilote for creating the amazing tool Ortho4xp) Custom overlay scenery based on Alpilotx’s HD Mesh V4 scenery (used with his permission) Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac, or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB VRAM Recommended Download Size: 3.6Gb Current version: XP12 - September 6th, 2022 XP11 - 1.01 (December 13th, 2020) Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM __________________________________ Scenery Review by Joshua Moore 27th January 2023 Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions.
  4. Scenery Review: KAST - Astoria Regional Airport, Oregon Introduction Welcome to beautiful Astoria, Oregon USA, recreated for your X-Plane adventures by developers, Skyline Simulations. Founded in 1811, Astoria is the oldest city in the state of Oregon and was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Astoria is located on the south shore of the Columbia River, where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. The city is named for John Jacob Astor, an investor and entrepreneur from New York City, whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site and established a monopoly in the fur trade in the early nineteenth century. Astoria Regional Airport, much like the city, is again located on the south shore of the Columbia River. This General Aviation airport sits directly at the border of two US states - to the north is Washington and south lies Oregon - divided by the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s not a particularly busy airport for commercial traffic - it’s not presently served by a scheduled commercial airline - but it’s certainly dynamic and active. KAST is home to a US Coast Guard service station - Coast Guard Air Station Astoria - that serves the Oregon and Washington coasts. Also of note, portions of the popular classic adventure movie The Goonies was filmed in the town of Astoria. Download & Installation I purchased and downloaded my copy of Astoria through the X-Plane.Org Store (other outlets available). The 3.3GB file size (unzipped) is what I consider to be substantial, but others may see it as the norm these days. Upon expansion, you will have one folder that contains two subfolders and the PDF manual, with the total file size rising to 5.03GB. Installation instructions are nothing out of the ordinary; move(cut-paste) the folders into your Custom Scenery folder. Launch X-Plane and go to the Graphics settings tab, adjust the Number of World Objects to Maximum. Since the art assets of the scenery package are high-definition and utilize PBR materials, it’s also important to make sure you have Visual Effects slider set to at least High (HDR). The Airport The largest structures at the airport are the two large hangars which date back to World War II. Both the 3D modelling and texture work is of a high standard, and when viewed up close, you really get a sense of their size. Situated nearby are numerous smaller buildings, such as the FBO terminal and T-hangars. Runway 26, the longest of the runways measured at 5773 x 100 feet, is served by an ILS (modelled by default in X-Plane) and RNAV(GPS) approach for when the wet West coast weather closes in. The other runways lack precision approaches but are served by PAPI & VASI visual approach aids as well as non-precision RNAV(GPS) and VOR approaches. The Skyline team has used a large number of decals and textured polygons to give tons of detail to the airport environment, such as cracks in the asphalt and concrete surfaces, stains from oil and dirt, tire skids, water puddles, and grass in the infield and surrounding areas. Everything is very high fidelity, crisp and clearly textured. The downside to all this detail is that users with low to middle-end systems might possibly experience slowdowns at certain parts of the scenery. Even though the scenery demands higher spec’d computer hardware, the details of specific elements of the airport area impressed me, such as the gateway and hangar of the Coast Guard station, the general aviation hangars with high-resolution signage, plus other nicely detailed exterior features such as wooden staircases. There appears to be a driving school that uses one of the decommissioned runways as a training area, and there is liberal usage of 3D grass objects that help to add a lot of character to this airport scenery. Surrounding Area Away from the airport, you can find landmarks specifically modelled by Skyline, such as the Astoria Column and the Astoria-Megler bridge which are nicely detailed. There is mention of a lighthouse, but I haven’t found it yet, which gives me one more reason to keep on exploring this scenery! PBR & Night Lighting During the evening and late-night hours, the scenery really comes alive with the vehicle traffic lights moving through the airport's various areas. Around the hangars, I noticed a few parked vehicles with their lights on which was a nice touch and helped create a sense of realism. The airport environment is well lit with some especially nice areas, but I found the interior lighting from the general aviation hangars unfortunately shines through their roofs and creates a floodlight effect that doesn’t strike me as particularly realistic. However, the custom-made landmarks, such as the Astoria-Megler bridge, shine beautifully across the river, and when the Astoria Column is lit, the lights are really well done, as they are omnidirectional and not simply focused spotlights on the column. Performance During my testing, I have to say that I have spent more time than I wished working on finding an optimal balance with my existing scenery collection and Skyline’s KAST package. If you haven’t already done it by now, you can safely use the HD/UHD scenery meshes created by Alpilotx. Also, if you have the HDD space, I recommend installing the orthophoto overlays created by Forkboy or generating your own using Ortho4XP. There are many small GA airstrips nearby to KAST that can be enhanced by other available free third-party scenery packages. If you haven’t yet discovered simHeaven, they create freely available add-ons that can enhance the surrounding area nicely, but I’ve found there are some object conflicts and anomalies when combined with this scenery package. When compared with their other offerings, I’ve found Skyline’s KAST scenery detail isn’t quite as deep, i.e., the omission of building interiors and human figures, but then again, the size of this package is considerably smaller than the others. A couple of words of caution for prospective customers; the installation requirements stated in the enclosed support documents mention you need to set the X-Plane object density to Maximum. I was able to do this, but due to my system being on the low end, really strained by computer systems. However, I found that I could use medium density, but it did detract from the overall look of the geographical area, i.e., fewer trees in the forests and a smaller amount of building objects in the populated areas. If you have the Orbx Washington SD/HD orthophoto scenery package installed, you will see object conflicts and anomalies. If you want to fly around this specific area with orthophoto overlays, I recommend those created by Forkboy. Conclusion One of the reasons why Astoria Regional Airport has such a pull, is due to its beautiful location in the Pacific Northwest. There are just so many amazing places to explore, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the east and the Olympic National Park to the north. And if you’re a Goonies fan, then there’s a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure! Even with the issues I encountered with my system, I have to say the developers have done an excellent job at recreating this airport for the enjoyment of X-Plane pilots. It really did bring a smile to my face as I explored the airport grounds and surrounding areas. Keeping in mind my concerns about this scenery offering (do your homework), I really do think you'll enjoy exploring KAST Astoria Regional Airport by Skyline Simulations. _______________________________ Astoria Regional Airport by Skyline Simulations is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Astoria Regional Airport Priced at US$20.00 Features Designed with the latest airport updates UHD Realistic Custom Textures Detailed HD Ground with PBR and decals Landmarks. Bridge, Column, Super Detailed 3D modeling PBR Materials on every building Thousands of 3D custom static objects Amazing and detailed night textures FSEco-subsystem Accurate City using original OSM data Ground Traffic Requirements X-Plane 11 - X-Plane 12 (when available) Windows , Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum. 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download size: 3.3 GB Current version: 1.0 (May 16th 2022) Review by Sean McLeod 8th Sept 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications Windows 10, i7-2600K @ 3.9Ghz, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Gigabyte GTX1070 G1 8GB RAM, SATA HDD. (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
  5. Scenery Review: KAST - Astoria Regional Airport, Oregon Introduction Welcome to beautiful Astoria, Oregon USA, recreated for your X-Plane adventures by developers, Skyline Simulations. Founded in 1811, Astoria is the oldest city in the state of Oregon and was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Astoria is located on the south shore of the Columbia River, where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. The city is named for John Jacob Astor, an investor and entrepreneur from New York City, whose American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria at the site and established a monopoly in the fur trade in the early nineteenth century. Astoria Regional Airport, much like the city, is again located on the south shore of the Columbia River. This General Aviation airport sits directly at the border of two US states - to the north is Washington and south lies Oregon - divided by the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s not a particularly busy airport for commercial traffic - it’s not presently served by a scheduled commercial airline - but it’s certainly dynamic and active. KAST is home to a US Coast Guard service station - Coast Guard Air Station Astoria - that serves the Oregon and Washington coasts. Also of note, portions of the popular classic adventure movie The Goonies was filmed in the town of Astoria. Download & Installation I purchased and downloaded my copy of Astoria through the X-Plane.Org Store (other outlets available). The 3.3GB file size (unzipped) is what I consider to be substantial, but others may see it as the norm these days. Upon expansion, you will have one folder that contains two subfolders and the PDF manual, with the total file size rising to 5.03GB. Installation instructions are nothing out of the ordinary; move(cut-paste) the folders into your Custom Scenery folder. Launch X-Plane and go to the Graphics settings tab, adjust the Number of World Objects to Maximum. Since the art assets of the scenery package are high-definition and utilize PBR materials, it’s also important to make sure you have Visual Effects slider set to at least High (HDR). The Airport The largest structures at the airport are the two large hangars which date back to World War II. Both the 3D modelling and texture work is of a high standard, and when viewed up close, you really get a sense of their size. Situated nearby are numerous smaller buildings, such as the FBO terminal and T-hangars. Runway 26, the longest of the runways measured at 5773 x 100 feet, is served by an ILS (modelled by default in X-Plane) and RNAV(GPS) approach for when the wet West coast weather closes in. The other runways lack precision approaches but are served by PAPI & VASI visual approach aids as well as non-precision RNAV(GPS) and VOR approaches. The Skyline team has used a large number of decals and textured polygons to give tons of detail to the airport environment, such as cracks in the asphalt and concrete surfaces, stains from oil and dirt, tire skids, water puddles, and grass in the infield and surrounding areas. Everything is very high fidelity, crisp and clearly textured. The downside to all this detail is that users with low to middle-end systems might possibly experience slowdowns at certain parts of the scenery. Even though the scenery demands higher spec’d computer hardware, the details of specific elements of the airport area impressed me, such as the gateway and hangar of the Coast Guard station, the general aviation hangars with high-resolution signage, plus other nicely detailed exterior features such as wooden staircases. There appears to be a driving school that uses one of the decommissioned runways as a training area, and there is liberal usage of 3D grass objects that help to add a lot of character to this airport scenery. Surrounding Area Away from the airport, you can find landmarks specifically modelled by Skyline, such as the Astoria Column and the Astoria-Megler bridge which are nicely detailed. There is mention of a lighthouse, but I haven’t found it yet, which gives me one more reason to keep on exploring this scenery! PBR & Night Lighting During the evening and late-night hours, the scenery really comes alive with the vehicle traffic lights moving through the airport's various areas. Around the hangars, I noticed a few parked vehicles with their lights on which was a nice touch and helped create a sense of realism. The airport environment is well lit with some especially nice areas, but I found the interior lighting from the general aviation hangars unfortunately shines through their roofs and creates a floodlight effect that doesn’t strike me as particularly realistic. However, the custom-made landmarks, such as the Astoria-Megler bridge, shine beautifully across the river, and when the Astoria Column is lit, the lights are really well done, as they are omnidirectional and not simply focused spotlights on the column. Performance During my testing, I have to say that I have spent more time than I wished working on finding an optimal balance with my existing scenery collection and Skyline’s KAST package. If you haven’t already done it by now, you can safely use the HD/UHD scenery meshes created by Alpilotx. Also, if you have the HDD space, I recommend installing the orthophoto overlays created by Forkboy or generating your own using Ortho4XP. There are many small GA airstrips nearby to KAST that can be enhanced by other available free third-party scenery packages. If you haven’t yet discovered simHeaven, they create freely available add-ons that can enhance the surrounding area nicely, but I’ve found there are some object conflicts and anomalies when combined with this scenery package. When compared with their other offerings, I’ve found Skyline’s KAST scenery detail isn’t quite as deep, i.e., the omission of building interiors and human figures, but then again, the size of this package is considerably smaller than the others. A couple of words of caution for prospective customers; the installation requirements stated in the enclosed support documents mention you need to set the X-Plane object density to Maximum. I was able to do this, but due to my system being on the low end, really strained by computer systems. However, I found that I could use medium density, but it did detract from the overall look of the geographical area, i.e., fewer trees in the forests and a smaller amount of building objects in the populated areas. If you have the Orbx Washington SD/HD orthophoto scenery package installed, you will see object conflicts and anomalies. If you want to fly around this specific area with orthophoto overlays, I recommend those created by Forkboy. Conclusion One of the reasons why Astoria Regional Airport has such a pull, is due to its beautiful location in the Pacific Northwest. There are just so many amazing places to explore, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the east and the Olympic National Park to the north. And if you’re a Goonies fan, then there’s a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure! Even with the issues I encountered with my system, I have to say the developers have done an excellent job at recreating this airport for the enjoyment of X-Plane pilots. It really did bring a smile to my face as I explored the airport grounds and surrounding areas. Keeping in mind my concerns about this scenery offering (do your homework), I really do think you'll enjoy exploring KAST Astoria Regional Airport by Skyline Simulations. _______________________________ Astoria Regional Airport by Skyline Simulations is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Astoria Regional Airport Priced at US$20.00 Features Designed with the latest airport updates UHD Realistic Custom Textures Detailed HD Ground with PBR and decals Landmarks. Bridge, Column, Super Detailed 3D modeling PBR Materials on every building Thousands of 3D custom static objects Amazing and detailed night textures FSEco-subsystem Accurate City using original OSM data Ground Traffic Requirements X-Plane 11 - X-Plane 12 (when available) Windows , Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum. 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download size: 3.3 GB Current version: 1.0 (May 16th 2022) Review by Sean McLeod 8th Sept 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications Windows 10, i7-2600K @ 3.9Ghz, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Gigabyte GTX1070 G1 8GB RAM, SATA HDD. (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved View full article
  6. Thanks Anthony, I'm glad you liked the review. Michael certainly had fun with the 747 🙂 Cheers Dominic
  7. Hi Dave, I believe Stuart got them here (same as myself). Hope this helps 🙂 Dominic
  8. Scenery Review: Alps UHD XP12 By Stuart McGregor If you love mountains and valleys, and specifically those in Europe, I am sure you are going to love this scenery! Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini have brought their creative talents to X-Plane 12, with the recent release of their Alps UHD scenery. Covering a staggering 8,000 square kilometres, this scenery is massive in every sense. It currently retails for just under $US 60, which to be honest at first glance seems a little bit expensive for a scenery package in my experience, however, when you consider you are getting five airports, fifteen airfields and forty-six heliports across three countries, France, Italy and Switzerland, and if mountain flying is your thing, then this is well worth considering and perhaps not a bad deal after all. Megève Airport in the Alps If you are a fan of this type of scenery, you will no doubt be familiar with the work of Frank and Fabio as they have already created several similar 3D Mountain Park sceneries for X-Plane 11, and this release for X-Plane 12, is a further extension of their prolific work in this area. However, if you’re an X-Plane 11 user and have yet to experience Frank and Fabio’s mountain scenery packs, then I highly recommend you check out Stephen’s excellent reviews of their previous versions: Scenery Review: Matterhorn Park 3D by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini Scenery Review: Eiger Park 3D by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini Scenery Review: Mont Blanc Group by Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini If you are already a customer and have purchased individual X-Plane 11 sceneries previously (specifically Aosta & Matterhorn, Mont Blanc & Eiger) they are currently offering a whopping 40% discount at the time of writing, which is a nice way to acknowledge the patronage and loyalty of existing customers. The human disposition typically wants more for less, and something for nothing, however, for me at least, I believe it is not unreasonable for this to be a paid ‘upgrade’, considering the developer’s statement that this is not a simple like for like overhaul of existing sceneries. What the actual price is and what is a fair price, I am sure we all have our own views based on what we are typically willing to pay, but either way, the offered discount is a nice touch. Courmayeur Alpine Resort in Northwest Italy, at the Foot of Mont Blanc In their latest release, there are four main packages provided, and these cover the Eiger Park, Matterhorn Park, Aosta & Mont Blanc, and the main peaks of the Alps, and within these, there are quite literally thousands of hand-placed objects and dozens of fascinating places to visit. This is no mean feat, believe me! Wengen in the Bernese Oberland Region of Central Switzerland From the outset, you can’t help being impressed by the splendour and natural beauty of this part of the world, from the majestic and rugged snow-capped mountains stretching to the sky, to the beautiful and tranquil lush valleys peppered with crystal clear waterways and lakes. If you close your eyes for a moment, you can almost taste and smell the clean, cold and crisp fresh air. As I have a VR headset, I was also able to experience this scenery in the truly different manner that VR brings, and if you have never tried it, you really should. Being able to stand at the base of one of the famous peaks and crane your neck upwards or perch yourself on the very edge of a cliffside and look down on the valley below, is an experience I will never forget. This was largely because of the scale of what is laid out in front of you, but also because of the improvements to the way many of the structures and mesh have been remodelled to reflect the real thing. Now some naysayers will undoubtedly shout, but this is a flight simulator, who cares about the ground experience, and for some, that may very well be true, however, my own view is that X-Plane is more than just the flying experience and offers an authentic (all be it virtual) opportunity to see parts of the world I may never get the chance to visit in real life. Breuil-Cervinia Located in the Alps Based on images and descriptions I have read on the internet, the stock X-Plane 12 scenery makes a reasonable job of representing this part of the world, however, the Alps UHD scenery enhances the vanilla state and takes this to an altogether different level. Many of the improvements are quite subtle, for example, tree placement and shape of lakes etc, and even the improved definition and appearance of the key peaks are quite subtle if you just glance quickly. However, it is this level of detail that really makes this scenery pack stand out. If you’re just a casual flyer or typically spend life at 35,000ft in a 747 and are not really bothered by this level of detail, then perhaps a scenery like this is not going to do much for you, however, if your passion is to get as close to the real thing as possible in a VFR sense, then in my opinion, this scenery is a big step in the right direction. For VFR pilots specifically, and those that like to fly helicopters, microlites and GA aircraft generally, you really can spend hours and hours exploring the breathtaking scenery whilst trying to take it all in. There are so many peaks and valleys to explore, not to mention the towns, villages and features that are strewn across the landscape. The Town of Thun and Lake Thun in Switzerland As I am sure most of us know, X-Plane 12 is still very much in its infancy, however, there are clearly new features that blend effortlessly well and complement sceneries of this type. For example, the winter textures that are now included in X-Plane 12, turn what is a beautiful green lush garden in the spring and summer months, into the harsh but beautiful reality of what winter weather brings, freezing temperatures, snow and ice! During my testing, I was quite amazed at just how real all of this felt (particularly in VR) when I set the temperature to sub-zero with deteriorating weather. Watching the new X-Plane 12 volumetric clouds come rolling in across one of the valleys and the snow and ice start to form on the ground was just stunning. Yes, there are clearly some issues and bugs still to be worked out in X-Plane 12 for sure, however, the initial signs are very promising when it comes to creating an immersive experience in sceneries of this type. The Gnifetti Hut in the Aosta Valley, Italy The scenery is large at just a little over 3GB, and when you download the scenery, you will find inside the main folder a whole raft of sub-folders. Although installation is just a case of drag and drop, there are more than thirty new folders that will appear in your Custom Scenery folder. Unfortunately, from what I understand, not all of this will be compatible with other third-party mesh upgrades, however, I am not able to speak for this as I don’t have any for this part of the world, but something worth considering if you already have these installed and can’t live without them. By comparison, what is spelt out very clearly by the developers, is that the package is only meant for X-Plane 12, and therefore is not compatible with earlier versions of the X-Plane sim. The Kleine Scheidegg Mountain Pass Once you have installed it and have checked your scenery.ini folder for any conflicts, (I always do this with new scenery just to be sure the load order is right), off you go… but hold your horses!! Where do you start? Fortunately, the scenery comes with a nice manual, plus a guide and map to show where everything is in relation to each other. As well as the included documentation, there is also an excellent support forum over at the Org, with the developers being highly supportive when answering questions: (Frank Dainese Mountain Scenery - X-Plane.Org Forum). Detailed Map of the Scenery So, where do you start? With more than sixty-five possible starting points, there is a massive choice of locations, and I must admit, I didn’t investigate all of them, however, I did make my way around all the main airports and a considerable number of the airfields and heliports. So, what awaits you? Well, assuming you visit outside the winter months, one of the first things you will notice is the massive difference in appearance that the photo-realistic textures bring to the ground. In X-Plane 12, the default ground textures, compared to some of its peers, is still an area where the sim lags behind, however, the addition of sceneries of this type, really makes a massive difference. The other thing that is very noticeable is the inclusion of additional and bespoke objects to those solely present in the default scenery, with many of these being based on photo textures and therefore in keeping with the feel and look of the region. Sallanches, Located Near the Mont Blanc Massif in France Now, whilst it’s true that some of the textures are perhaps not as sharp as they could be, compared to the default objects, I was able to look past that, and just marvel at the sheer number of objects, time and effort that must have been put into creating this scenery package and everything in it. Traffic Global was adding traffic to at least a couple of the airports, as I did see several GA aircraft going about their business while I was exploring the scenery, but you can’t help but be drawn to those majestic mountains above and marvel at how fabulous they really look. Moving away from the larger airfields and up into the mountains is even more pronounced. Meribel Airport in the French Alps As you progress higher, there are numerous alpine-styled houses and buildings dotted all over the sloping hillsides, and many of these were very nicely done. There is also a great deal of other smaller objects situated around the scenery and some of these include, signs, tables and chairs, flags, fences, traffic and marker cones, assorted vehicles, radio masts, lights, etc, and one of my favourite features, the chair lifts, which enable you to have a direct route to and from the various peaks. When you include the default animated trees from X-Plane 12, it all fits together nicely, and again, I can’t even imagine how many hours of work went into creating all of this. Sadly, I didn’t see any animation of the chairlifts which would be the ultimate cherry on a very fine cake, but nevertheless, just having these inserted into the scenery is very nice indeed. I should mention that although there are numerous objects, I wouldn’t say the airfields and heliports are crammed full, however, they are probably more than sufficient for most tastes. I guess the question to ask is, when is enough, enough? And in a scenery pack of this magnitude, what is presented is honestly quite impressive. Oh, I also forgot to mention that there are a few people dotted about the place, which is a feature I always look for when trying out new scenery. Without them, sceneries just don’t feel real to me, so seeing a few hardy souls present made me smile. Several of the remote helipads found in the scenery are literally on the edge of a mountain, a real ‘Eagles Nest’, and when you visit these, the photographic textures, the improved mesh, and the animated trees, all help to create a feeling of being in the wilderness. As I also mentioned earlier, having the VR experience in this scenery was also special, as when you add in the winter textures from X-Plane 12, the sounds of the wind and rain, you really do get an enhanced sense of being in the mountains. Plateau-Rosa Situated Near the Matterhorn Looking up from, or even down onto the majestic Skyway cable car at the Courmayeur helipad (LICYH) is a fitting example of one of the keynote features that are provided in this scenery pack. When combined with the new features X-Plane 12 has to offer, this scenery is a truly wonderful experience, and in my opinion, exploring it via helicopter is the best way to get the most out of every nook and cranny. Being able to drop in on one of the cliff edge helipads or follow one of the many ski lifts from top to bottom, really allows you to explore this massive scenery. You just won’t get that at 35,000 ft as you watch the latest movie and enjoy your chicken and rice (vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available on request…)!! The Skyway Panoramic Cable Car in Action As far as performance goes, with my trusty 1080TI and 9th gen CPU, I didn’t have too many issues, and my FPS were generally OK (30 to 50+), even in VR with my Rift S. However, this is in all fairness, not a particularly good test right now, as there are still several areas which I believe X-Plane 12 will improve on, particularly around VR performance and general texture appearance. Courchevel Airport in the French Alps Based on my observations whilst reviewing this scenery, there is no doubt in my mind that the developers have worked tirelessly on making this scenery pack as realistic as possible, and in my opinion, they have succeeded in recreating the experience in X-Plane. Yes, there is perhaps some opportunity for improvement; for example, I noticed that some of the windsocks and flags are a little out of sync, and if one wanted to be picky, some of the texturing could be improved on a few of the buildings and objects. Additional features like a rescue scenario here and there would be a nice extra touch too, however, that doesn’t take away from the fact that if you are interested in mountain-styled scenery, this pack should offer you a very enjoyable experience as it stands. If you liked what the developers brought to X-Plane 11, I am sure you will love what is offered here! __________________________________ Alps UHD XP12 by Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Alps UHD XP12 Price at time of writing US$59.95 Customers who own of of this previous mountain package can get this new Scenery for 40% off. Please find your coupon code in the original invoice. Eligible packages: AOSTA+Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and Eiger for XP11 Features: Includes the degrees +45 +007, +46+007, +45+006, areas of Italy, France, and Switzerland Mountain scenery including 3D models of the Mont Blanc massif, Matterhorn and Eiger Five main airports, fifteen airfields, and forty-six Heliports Faithfully reproduced towns and villages with appropriate types of buildings using customized textures and modelling. Photographic polygons/textures covering the mountain ranges and surrounding areas Polygons/textures 4K - covering an area of 8000 km Requirements: X-Plane 12 (not compatible with X-Plane 11) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM - 8 GB+ VRAM Highly Recommended Download Size: 3.3 GB Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit CPU Intel i9-9900k 64GB RAM Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Oculus Rift S Scenery Review by Stuart McGregor 19th January 2023 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
  9. Aircraft Update: B 747-8 Series Anniversary Edition X-Plane 12 Since its first flight on February 9, 1969, the Boeing 747 family of aircraft has become an icon of the skies. Dubbed "The Queen of the Skies", it has served for well over 50 years since its first iteration of -100 in 1969 with four generations following subsequently. A legend in aviation, it adores the hearts and minds of passengers and crew that have flown it. The -8 is the latest and final variant of the Boeing 747 which at the time of writing this review, has only one more delivery to be fulfilled in early 2023, meaning sadly we find ourselves right at the very end of its production lifespan, but certainly, with a few decades more to go for it to fly under commercial and freight operation. I was fortunate enough to have flown on the -8 myself back in September, traveling with Lufthansa from Frankfurt to New York. I always said that my first visit to America would be on a Boeing 747, so as soon as they took their aircraft out of storage and back on the pecking order, I just knew I had to take it on the first opportunity I got! Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG) are a well-respected developer within X-Plane and has recently updated their aircraft to include all the features and extras available to them for X-Plane 12. In this review, we take an in-depth look at the Boeing 747-8 and see how it stands as a fully-fledged simulation of one of the most iconic aircraft to ever grace the skies. Aircraft Specification ● Crew: 2 ● Length: 250ft 2in (76.25m) ● Wingspan: 224ft 7in (68.5m) ● Height: 63ft 6in (19.4m) ● Empty Weight: 485,300lb (220,128kg) ● Maximum Takeoff Weight: 975,000lbs (442,253kg) ● Powerplant: 4xGEnx-2B67 Aircraft Performance ● Range: 7,730nmi (14,320km) ● Service Ceiling: 43,100ft (13,137m) ● Max Cruising Speed: Mach 0.86 (504kn, 933km/h) Download & Install After purchase of the SSG B748, you are given a download page with two versions of the aircraft, one for X-Plane 11 and another for X-Plane 12. Select your chosen version (in this case we opted for XP12), download the file and extract it into your X-Plane “Aircraft” folder. On the first launch of the aircraft, you are asked to input your Serial Number. This can be copied and pasted from the download page to the pop-up. Then, after an aircraft reload, you are good to go. The SSG B748 comes with two PDF files and several text documents. These include a 238-page in-depth analysis and operations manual for the aircraft, a 45-page step-by-step quick start guide for the aircraft illustrated with pictures and screenshots as well as several change logs and license agreements. The Operations Manual I found rather special as while it marks each page as not for use in real-world flying, you can see that SSG took the time to analyse the real-world operators' handbook for the Boeing 747-8 and translate this into simulator terms, bridging the gap between their product and reality. The two guides are certainly worth a read as these go into great detail about the operation of this aircraft as well as tips and tricks on how to get the best performance out of it. When it came to start-up and procedures, I found these guides more than helpful in pushing for the best out of the 747. Exterior Model SSG have included both the -8i passenger and -8F freighter variants of the Boeing 747-8 family. The biggest difference between the two is the upper deck which has been stretched for the passenger variant to include seats, while the freighter sticks to the original length (this also slightly lowers the weight of the aircraft as there are no seating requirements). The -8F also features a nose opening for cargo, but apart from that, everything else from the wings back is nearly identical. From the get-go, I have to say the models look fantastic, as within the X-Plane 12 environment, you really do get a sense of the scale of this incredible aircraft. The Boeing 747 is the second largest commercial aircraft in the world, and as such, when you stand up close to it, you certainly get a feeling of its immense size, something I can attest to, having stood next to the real thing only a few months ago! Detailing on the SSG 747 includes 4K resolution textures across the body, allowing for warning labels and text to be both clear and visible. There is also bump mapping across the fuselage where panel gaps and bolts will sit in place, as well as several animations across the aircraft - this also includes the freighter variant of the 747-8. As per real-world operation, cargo is loaded through the front nose of the aircraft. To allow for this, Boeing made the entire front portion of the aircraft in front of the cockpit raise up, thus providing ground crews unparalleled access to the cargo bay of the aircraft. This is quite some spectacle to see in real life and is well recreated within X-Plane 12. Looking up close at the engines, the GEnx units used by the Boeing 747, share the same diameter as the entire body of the 737! These are extremely well-detailed, with the ability to see inside the engine through the fan blades and vents that appear when the reverse thrust is active. When combined with the wing and flex when in the air (remember, the Boeing 747 uses tungsten bricks in the wings to counteract flutter when airborne!) you can appreciate the size and weight of the aircraft as it flies. Cockpit and Interior The Boeing 747-8 gets its designation from the 787, with many displays and systems crossing over from Boeing’s newest jet to their longest in production. This means several digital displays as well as several backup EICAS units. Having once required three pilots to operate, there is now a lot of space behind the pilots where the flight engineer once was, giving you a lot of room to move around. The 747 is also the only Boeing aircraft of this generation to use the brown cockpit colours, as opposed to the grey they now use within their jetliners. Boeing used brown as it was light and pleasing to the eye of the pilots and SSG has certainly replicated this within their own rendition of the aircraft. Textures are done at 4k resolution, with text, panels, and gauges all clear and easy to read. The overhead panel can appear cramped at first, especially with all the systems in which to manage and maintain the four engines, but I found myself having no issues whatsoever when it came to reading and manipulating the various systems of the aircraft. The 747-8 is also surprisingly well-optimised for what it is too. A lot is going on both inside and out, so it was pleasing to see that everything performed smoothly when it came to framerates. You also have a different interior for both the passenger and cargo variants of the aircraft, and as such, the 747-8i includes a full passenger cabin interior for you to explore. This is both the upper and lower deck modelled in a tri-class configuration, textured and detailed to the same level as you would find inside the cockpit. I decided to position one of X-Plane’s custom camera points on the seat I had occupied when flying on this type myself. When up at cruise altitude, I was taken aback by how the cabin looked and felt - it was almost as if I was back onboard the 747 I had used just a few months previously! The detailing on offer, combined with the sound (something we will cover later in this article), really helps bring this aircraft to life and is something I have really appreciated. The 747-8F features the entire lower deck with cargo box mountains and trails for the movement of containers. This once again looks superb within the simulator environment and fits with the scale of the aircraft. The space is indeed massive, with a number of containers modeled into the aircraft, sitting two-by-two towards the centre of the cabin where the centre of gravity would be. You can decide on the number of containers and load factor and adjust this in the EFB tablet. The upper deck has also been modeled into a small crew rest area, making use of the small hump behind the cockpit. This includes a toilet, beds, galley, and seats for the crew – somewhere to enjoy a bit of shut-eye when flying ultra-long haul. Buttons, Gauges & Functionality For an aircraft of this size and complexity, I think it’s fair to say that a lot is going on within the SSG Boeing 747-8. Your core panel features your main Primary Flight Display, Navigation Display and EICAS screens as you would expect, but with several buttons and switches surrounding it that control your lights, displays and other features within the cockpit. The glare shield is also massively used with all of your autopilot systems sitting ready to take over once your aircraft is airborne and en route. This will be familiar to you if you fly Boeing (and even Airbus) jets often, but it’s the overhead panel that really takes time to learn. The overhead is littered with switches and buttons that maintain each aspect of your flight. Here you will find your lights, anti-icing and engine systems to keep all four power plants alive and burning. With the development of the previous 747-400 which removed the need for a flight engineer, the overhead panel became a lot busier with extra engine management systems included. This was carried over to the -8 and SSG has utilised this well. Everything is laid out in order of use, with most checklists on the aircraft starting in the top-left and slowly working their way down section by section. The Flight Management Computer is also custom-made and developed for the 747-8. This includes all of the route inputs and calculations that the pilot would make on the real aircraft as well as system management and planning that helps you in guiding the aircraft through each stage of flight. This has been well-developed and shows in operation when planning your different phases, allowing for each detail of your flight plan to be tweaked and perfected before you depart. Getting to grips with the 747-8 took a few moments to get going but having spent a lot of time in virtual Boeing jetliners, as well as having flown the -8 that comes packaged with Microsoft Flight Simulator, I didn’t find myself too out of depth. Familiarity with the aircraft is key, especially when planning to take it long-haul, which can take up most of your day. I would certainly advise spending time just looking around the cockpit and gaining an understanding of where different systems are located so that when it comes to flying, you know exactly where to look and know what you are expecting to see and do. As with any aircraft, the more practice you put into it, the better and easier you will eventually find the operation to be. SSG has also included an EFB tablet within the cockpit which serves as the loadmaster of the aircraft, allowing you to input your fuel and payload as well as interact with ground services and calculate your departure speeds. It also allows you to control the doors and exits on the aircraft which in the case of the freighter, includes the nose rising to allow for cargo to enter via the front. As more developers include these within their add-ons, I find them incredibly useful to procure my Flight Management Computer with the numbers it needs to programme a perfect departure and landing. Sound To put it simply, the SSG 747-8 sounds fantastic! There’s no other way of putting it, you can sense that a lot of time was spent recording audio samples from both within and outside of the aircraft, with fine-tuning in which to replicate the actual environment of the real aircraft. The spool-up of the engines sounds great when making that take-off run or listening to the rumble behind you as you start to pull back on the yoke and take the aircraft to the sky. The whir of the engines during start-up is also really well-defined, especially when you focus on all four engines being activated during the pushback procedure of the aircraft. One thing I have always enjoyed and appreciated about X-Plane is its fly-by-camera view. Not only is it visually appealing, but it also enables you to hear the sound variations from around the aircraft as well as the Doppler effect that is applied. Listening to the engines purr as the aircraft glides past your camera is great and a real testament to the time that SSG has put into getting that effect right for their aircraft. The immersion doesn’t just end within the cockpit. Moving my camera over to the passenger cabin and sitting myself down on one of the seats, I found the audio to be rather immersive; I was back in the seat of that Lufthansa 747 flying to New York! Flight Dynamics The SSG 747-8, as expected, feels very heavy when in the air. I find myself putting a lot of input on the yoke to bank and make turns. I haven’t had the pleasure of flying the real-life aircraft myself, but you can certainly (as a passenger) get a feeling for how the aircraft behaves, especially since using far more nimble jets and props in X-Plane in the past. As the 747 grew with each generation, and despite advancements in fly-by-wire technology to make control easier, I can still imagine it takes a lot of input from the pilot to tame the aircraft. The aircraft has a strong rate of climb too, more than you would perhaps expect for its sheer scale and mass. The GEnx-2B67 is a powerful engine and having four of these, helps propel the 747 into the sky. Descent too is quite something as the 747 can drop like a brick, especially with flaps and spoilers to help slow you down. When trying it out on a hop from Frankfurt to New York following the same flight plan as my trip in real life, I had one or two late descents which I could easily manage by dumping the spoilers and watching the altitude go without much movement from the pitch. During cruise, the aircraft is a joy to fly. With the autopilot on and FMS navigation in control, it will glide through the sky getting you to your destination with ease. This especially comes into play when performing a landing with crosswinds involved. You need to make a lot of small corrections to keep the aircraft on course, but the moment those rear wheels touch down and you find yourself gliding down the runway to come to a halt, you can certainly feel the sense of accomplishment of having performed an expert landing. Taxiing the 747-8 is also worth commenting on. It’s the longest commercial aircraft in the world (beating the Airbus A380 by 3 meters) and you’re looking out from the upper deck. This means you have very little coverage of the ground below you, with little sense as to where your nose gear is. Airbus achieved the ground control of the A380 by placing the cockpit on the lower deck, but with Boeing, and using 1960s technology, combined with the need for the cargo variant to load through the nose, this was never going to be the case for the “Queen of the Skies”. The more you practise ground movement the better you will get at positioning the aircraft, as well as learning to fine-tune and steer the aircraft with the throttles, adding power towards the direction you want to go. It’s certainly a beast in that regard! Liveries SSG has also included several liveries for the Boeing 747-8, both freighter and passenger variants, while there are also several more available on the org ready to download. The sets included are as follows: Intercontinental • Air China • BBJ • Boeing Family • Boeing Sunrise • Korean Air • Lufthansa Freighter • Atlas Air • Boeing Family • Boeing Light • Cargolux • Cathay Pacific • Silkway Cargo They are a nice selection of liveries, but all are new. Again there has been a change to the file structure, and so the sets of older liveries don't work anymore, they have to be v2.5+ or higher to work with the X-Plane 12. There are six Internationals liveries and six cargo liveries included. Opinion & Closing Remarks Overall, I have had an absolute blast flying the SSG 747-8 within X-Plane 12. The aircraft is a joy to fly and while it does take some practice getting used to, especially when performing banking turns once airborne, I have enjoyed virtually every minute since adding it to my virtual hangar. With an extremely well-defined model, cockpit, cabin, and audio, what SSG have is a complete package for one of the world’s most popular aircraft, with their passion for this project showing in every detail they have included. A great deal of time and effort has been put into getting the best they possibly could out of the X-Plane platform, and it certainly shows. The Boeing 747 has been around for well over 50 years now, and whilst not necessarily a ‘rare’ aircraft type to fly on (especially between popular destinations), I just knew I had to fly on it. Being able to recreate my two real-world flights within X-Plane 12 has been a wonderful experience and I am very impressed by the end product that SSG have managed to create. The aircraft is also very much in active development, meaning we will likely see updates and improvements for it for some time to come. SSG’s 747-8 is a product that I would be more than happy to recommend to anyone looking to fly the Boeing 747 within X-Plane 12. ______________________________________  Yes! the Boeing 747-8 Inter Anniversary Edition X-Plane 12 By Supercritical Simulations Group is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here B 747-8 Series Anniversary Edition Price is US$69.00 (currently on SALE for US$54.90)  Features: Officially licensed by the Boeing Corporation. The entire external 3D model for v2 has been redone, including the following: All new fuselage closely modeled on the real one with added details Each door can be opened individually and is more detailed dded animations and details (almost all parts that can open/move on the aircraft are modeled). New external details such as a satellite antenna and tail camera New cut passenger windows instead of textures New vertical and horizontal stabilizers with added details New nacelles and engines with more details and new animations Reworked and more detailed landing gear/gear doors with additional animation Improved and more detailed leading and trailing edge flaps and added flap mechanisms Upper deck interior with seats/galleys and stairs to lower deck New wing flex and nacelle animations The textures for the entire aircraft have been redone to match the new model, along with decals for certain detailed areas, right down to most of the external placards, working closely with our technical advisors to ensure all the main details are present and that we have gotten them right. COCKPIT The entire cockpit 3D model has been largely redone and completely retextured. New overhead panel and buttons/switches New forward panel and buttons/switches New pedestal and buttons/switches/handles New miscellaneous panel and buttons/switches Side panels and window frames completely redone New cockpit seats Various added details SYSTEMS/FMC Almost all switches function properly and independently IRS alignment process implemented More realistic fuel system with different pumps and tanks along with FUEL TANK / ENG logic Realistic AUTOSTART and RUNNING indicators on secondary engine displays Improved and more realistic air conditioning system and logic Better track representation on ND Clock and chronometer on ND working like on the real aircraft More realistic baro pressure logic (STD, preselected, transition altitude) Captain and First Officer FMCs are now independent FMC FIX page added FMC Route 2 function added FMC Diversion function added Librain rain effects (currently not working on Macs) Skuncraft Updater Now with Skunkcraft updater. No need to download anything for updates, the plane will automatically be updated Requirements: X-Plane 11 or X-Plane 12 Windows , Mac and Linux 4 GB MB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version : XP12: 2.6b4 (December 21st 2022) XP11: 2.5.1 (June 7th 2022) NOTE: Framerate requires a decent graphic card, minimum of 8gb is RECOMMENDED, so I would also recommend a power machine as standard.  Installation : Download is 1.17gb which is unzipped and is inserted in your Heavy Aircraft folder as: 1.80gb  Key authorisation is required.   Documentation : includes  SG 747-8 V2 FCOM.pdf SSG 747-8 V2 Quick Start Guide.pdf SSG License Agreement.txt SSGCUSTOMLIST.TXT  ______________________________________________________________________  Aircraft Review by Michael Hayward  13th January 2023 Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews   (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)   The Technical Bit Review PC Spec • Windows 10 Professional • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Processor • 32GB RAM • Palit GeForce RTX™ 3080 GamingPro
  10. Glad you liked the review, although I must point out, it was Stuart who wrote the article, so all credit goes to him.
  11. Scenery Review: VerticalSim KSYR - Syracuse Hancock International By Joshua Moore Introduction Syracuse International Airport is situated in upstate New York, USA. The site on which it was built was first developed into an airport by Charles Hanna, the Mayor, and former WWI pilot. Upon the United States entrance of WWII, the US Army Air Corps built 3 runways and renamed the airfield Mattydale Bomber Base. It was used as a training and staging base for B-17 and B-24 bombers. In 1946 the airport was leased back to the city, with it being reopened as a commercial airport in 1948. It gained international airport status in 1970 and today serves twenty-eight destinations over eight airlines. Syracuse has two asphalt runways: 10/28 is 9,003 by 150 feet (2,744 × 46 m) and 15/33 is 7,500 by 150 feet (2,286 × 46 m). Prior to developing this X-Plane 12 version, VerticalSim had previously released Syracuse International Airport for X-Plane 11 and MSFS. Having enjoyed both, I was intrigued to see what Syracuse would look like in Laminar Research’s latest sim. So, without further ado, let's see how this rendition stacks up... Download & Install The installation process follows the tried and tested method many X-Plane users are familiar with. Once the 1.6GB file has been downloaded and unzipped (extracted size is 3.1GB), it’s a simple case of dragging and dropping the airport into your X-Plane’s Custom Scenery folder. Located in the airport’s scenery folder is a single eight-page PDF document which covers the installation process, features, and contact details for the developer. It’s simple and to the point, but it would have been nice to have seen some charts of the airport included. First Impressions Like many scenery developers, Verticalsim has used a photographic overlay as the main airport ground texture, and it certainly looks the part, especially with the ground objects all being correctly placed. When viewed from above, it makes X-Plane’s default ground textures stand out, but if you use photographic tiles of the surrounding area, it fits together seamlessly. However, one thing I did notice that was missing from the previous X-Plane 11 version, was the copious amounts of 3D grass. When I contacted the developer about this, I was told it had been temporarily removed, with the reason being, and I quote: “I removed it because they changed the way .for (forest files) are working, and I was getting weird shading issues with it. So, I just removed it for now till I had time to figure it out “ Other than the 3D grass, the rest looked quite familiar, which was a positive sign. Exploring the Airport Starting off with the main terminal building and I have to say that Verticalsim has done an excellent job at modelling the exterior, with all the major details being covered. It looks good, especially the smaller details that could have easily been left out. Unfortunately, some of the texturing didn’t quite meet the high standards set by the modelling, as I thought the entrance of the terminal looked a bit bland by comparison, especially with its repetitive textures. In saying that, this was when viewed close up and not something you would normally see from an aeroplane, so in this respect, the texturing is sufficient. The same is also true for the textures used for the roads, which I found to be slightly blurry but again adequate. As well as the main terminal, there is also the Million Air building located close by and again, this has been modelled to a high standard. The texturing was also good and upon checking with numerous sources on the web, found it to be a remarkable likeness of the real building. Further afield and you'll find the FedEx building plus other smaller maintenance facilities and hangars, along with the airport's own fire station. Airside and there’s plenty of detail to be observed. Multiple baggage carts, containers, pushback trucks, and other typical details can all be seen, with each being modelled to an acceptable level. Many of these are animated too, which really helps bring the airport to life. The cargo ramp contains plenty of ground clutter, and if you enjoy cargo operations as I do, this airport sees daily flights from UPS and FedEx, so there are plenty of chances to visit the apron from your choice of aircraft, be it an A300, 757, 767, etc. The Air National Guard side looks quite typical for a guard base, as it includes a lot of brick and steel buildings, all built to typical DOD standards. The one thing missing is the guard shack at the entrance of the airport, as in the scenery it’s represented by a single US flag. One area of the scenery which I hope will see an update in the near future is the addition of a 3D interior to the main terminal building. While I am certainly no fan of memory-hogging lavish interiors, such as those seen in certain sceneries in MSFS, I do think this add-on would benefit from one, even if it were basic. Being able to see chairs, counters, or even people inside the terminal, would add some additional life to the airport. As it is, it just seems to feel slightly empty. The developers at Verticalsim have always managed to get their apron ground textures to look authentic and Syracuse is no exception, as there is plenty of weathering on offer, such as scuffs, rubber marks, oil stains, etc. If only every airport employed this kind of detail…unlike the clinical feeling you get from some I have experienced in the past. The included jetways, and I observed three types, on the whole look good, with some variants looking more realistic than others, mainly due to the texturing. Both taxiway and runway texturing have been used to good effect and unlike some airport sceneries I have used, they do not look repetitive or blurry. Both the numbering and lettering for the majority of the scenery is very good, but I did notice that one of the runways was labelled sixteen instead of fifteen as it should be. Apart from that one error, the results were quite pleasing. Lighting Night lighting overall was good, especially the volumetric effects used around the ramps, terminal, and other buildings, but there were a few areas which I felt were lacking, the lit windows on the terminal being the main culprit. Here the textures consisted of a baked, flat 2D lit texture and didn’t do the building any favours whatsoever. This was a shame because the terminal itself (as mentioned previously) looks good and is another reason why a 3D interior would be beneficial. When it came to navigating around the airport, I found the lighting to be more than adequate, with both taxiways, runways and signage being well lit. Performance While testing Syracuse, I observed no noticeable slowdowns or stutters. Framerates always remained high which wasn’t a total surprise, as the airport isn’t overly detailed, plus it was missing the 3D grass, which can, on some systems, occasionally play havoc with framerates. Conclusion I have always been a huge fan of Verticalsim’s work as many of their sceneries exhibit higher than average framerates, decent quality texturing and modelling, plus interesting locations to fly in and out of, and Syracuse doesn’t break with that tradition. Yes, it does currently have a few issues, namely the lack of any 3D grass and a 3D interior of the main terminal. However, even with those faults, I still found this to be a scenery I enjoyed flying in and out of. So, is it worth the asking price? Well, if you enjoy flying airliners and visiting large hubs as I do, then this is a scenery I think you would really enjoy. When you also factor in the developer’s track record for updating and improving their sceneries, then I think this add-on becomes even more compelling. ________________________ Syracuse Hancock International Airport by VerticalSim is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Syracuse Hancock International Airport by VerticalSim Priced at US$19.99 Features X-Plane 12 version now available 4K PBR texturing Circa 2022 airport layout SAM jetway support Animated vehicle traffic HDR night lighting Taxi routes for use with AI traffic addons Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 1.7 GB Version XP12 - September 21st 2022 Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM __________________________________ Scenery Review by Joshua Moore 8th December 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions.
  12. Aircraft Review: AOASimulations-T6A Texan II By Stuart McGregor Introduction Now, I'm not sure about you, but does the X-Plane world feel like it’s in a bit of a twilight zone or no man’s land at the moment? The ground-breaking advancements achieved with X-Plane 11, are essentially at the end of their commercial run, and the eagerly awaited X-Plane 12, still has some way to go until it is in its final release state. For us armchair pilots this can be a little frustrating in our 365, 24/7 on-the-go world, where patience isn’t a commodity you see a lot of these days, so I can only imagine the dilemma this gives commercial developers. Do you wait until all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed in X-Plane 12, or do you continue creating and releasing in X-Plane 11, knowing the platform has been superseded by its younger brother? Well, the good news is that the folks over at AOA Simulations have decided not to wait to bring us their ‘Texan’, the T-6ATexan II. This aircraft has recently been released for X-Plane 11, with a commitment of a free upgrade to X-Plane 12 for existing users when the simulator is in its final state of release. In real life, the Texan is described as a single-engine turboprop aircraft and has been around since the late 1990s. It has been used as a training aircraft by several military organisations around the globe and more than 850 have been built to date. From what I have read, it is still very much the mainstay of the United States Air force and Navy when it comes to pilot training. It has a low wing cantilever design with the majestic Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68 1100 hp engine, tandem seating arrangement with elector seats to allow the flight instructor and trainee to live every moment together, all topped off with a hefty four-blade constant speed, variable pitch prop. The Texan also has a retractable tricycle landing gear assembly, with many of the features being based on the original development aircraft, the Pilatus PC-9. However, don’t be fooled, because the Texan is indeed a very different aircraft in many ways. To explain this in greater detail, the AOA Simulations folks have included a very nice reference document in the manuals section of their package that describes the Texan’s development journey. This is well worth a read to see just how much it has changed from the original Hawker Beechcraft development PC-9. I personally always like additional features like this because in my opinion they bring a greater level of depth to the user experience and allow a more immersive environment when you know a bit about the aircraft, its history and how it came into being. Documentation I will be honest and say that military jets and combat aircraft are not an area I typically venture into very often, so when I had the opportunity to try out what looked a bit like a fighter jet with a prop on its nose, I was intrigued to find out more. My GA side was screaming, “Oh yes please!” The package in review comes in a 360MB download with the aircraft itself and a couple of liveries, as well as a few added extras in terms of documents. In the Manuals folder, you will find an alternative abbreviated checklist (X-Checklist plugin is required) to the one provided by default, a paper kneeboard checklist you can print, emergency procedures, a training flight tutorial with charts (KNGP to KRND), pictorial overviews of flight instruments, and if you are a MAC user, there is an explanation of a workaround if you experience issues when you first load the model. There is also a highly detailed 38-page User Guide to take you through every inch of the aircraft and that is a must-read if you really want to get the most out of the Texan. The developer has also included some contact details and links of where to request help if you get stuck. Sadly, I can’t offer any comment on how successful the MAC workaround is, as I use a PC, however it looks like the developer has put some serious thought into the issue which is good to see. The Aircraft The developers quote that their Texan has been in development since early 2020 and clearly a huge amount of work has gone into the aircraft. You get a real sense of the details and the hours of work by just reading the manual alone, so I believe it is fair to say that the Texan really does come fully loaded. I loved the fact that both the front and rear cockpits are fully functional, thus providing a unique flying experience from each seat, and it was nice to be able to have the choice. The internal details in both cockpits are well presented and bristle with features. The texturing is of high resolution and high quality, and I found reading the various dials and panels to be of no issue, even in VR, when using my Rift S. The developers even quote that the Texan has been optimised to maximise performance in VR, and I would have to admit, that when using my system, I had no issues and enjoyed a very smooth experience. When you first step into either cockpit, it is a bit daunting if you’re not used to military-style aircraft, however, the automated tutorial-level Checklist provided is very useful when navigating around the various systems. In my tests, I probably only scratched the surface of the instrument capabilities of the Texan, and you literally could spend hours and hours just working through your flows and testing out every feature, switch, lever, knob, button, panel, and fuse. As far as I could tell, everything shown works or is at least animated. If you are used to flying fast jets, I am sure the layout will come very naturally to you, however, I must admit it did take me a little time to work my way around. By the way…the ejection seat does work, so be careful with that handle!!! The unobstructed view that the glass canopy offers, is truly excellent, particularly in VR, and you really get a sense of just how compact and well-fitted everything is around you. The feeling of being in the cockpit was something I really enjoyed, and as I mentioned previously, just moving a few feet back to sit in the rear seat, adds a totally different dimension to the experience. The Texan comes with specially created FMOD sounds and the cockpit interaction sounds were nicely done, from the very subtle fuse click actions to the more distinct canopy locking mechanism. From the X-Plane main menu bar, you can access the dust lock removal option, as when in cold and dark, there are several covers protecting sensitive parts of the aircraft. Even these covers are well modelled, as they sway gently in the wind, a very nice touch and great attention to detail. From the outside when the canopy is open in cold and dark, there are no pilots visible, however, they both appear when closing the cockpit and removing the dust covers. The characteristic turbine whine as the engine starts up is very nice, and you really do have the sense of that mighty Pratt and Whitney engine roaring into life right beside or in front of you. As you move around the exterior of the aircraft, the engine tone changes as you would expect, and this is particularly noticeable when you throttle forward and set the Texan into action. The sense of power from the 1100hp engine and prop thrashing through the air as you accelerate down the runway is something you must experience to really appreciate it. The exterior details of the Texan are superb in my opinion and incorporate very high-quality textures, such as the hydraulic lines in the landing gear, through to the multitude of rivets across the shiny aircraft skin. During prefight, it is worth just taking a few minutes to walk around the aircraft and take in the quality of the modelling, and this is particularly impressive if you can do this in VR. You can literally walk up to the various parts and take a good look, reach out and almost touch the surfaces. The developers really have done a wonderful job both inside and out, and in my opinion, the Texan is one of the best in terms of overall appearance, although I do still think it is a little bit of an oddball with the fighter-style canopy, dual seating arrangement, and that big old prop at the front. It does take a little bit of getting used to at first. Now, if you’re anything like me, when you get a new toy, the first thing you want to do is to try it out, so the thought of working through a full set of start-up procedures may not be top of your list. The good news is that very early on, the developers thought of us “impatient types”, and kindly provided a very nice simple 11-step process on page 5 of the User Guide to get up and flying, and this is very helpful. Now don’t get me wrong, at times there is a real sense of satisfaction about going through every step of your flow and eventually seeing the ground disappear below, however, at times I just want to start up and off I go. I like the fact that in the Texan you can do both and I did, although I must admit that just firing up and heading down the runway was my preference. This is perhaps a suitable time to mention that I am using a VKBSIM joystick and pedal set as my control inputs, and I found these to work very well both on the ground and in the air. As there are no toe-brakes with these pedals, I did use a small script to give me brakes and this worked well, although there is a stick forward option that you can use within the aircraft if you prefer. I had no complaints about the handling of the Texan, although care with the throttle is highly advised both when taxiing and when taking off. There is a mighty amount of power at your fingertips, so my advice is to use it wisely. As they say, ‘with great power comes great responsibility…’ and never a truer word was said in the Texan’s case. Remember this thing can do more than 300 knots when flat out!! The glass canopy really does give an amazing view, particularly in VR, however, if you are using flat screens the developers have included a couple of highly novel add-on features to enhance your views in the cockpit. The manual goes into quite some detail to explain what you can expect; however, the best way is just to try them out. These are actioned via buttons on the glare shield and using dedicated buttons on your controller, and the ‘Roll to See’ feature allows you to pan around while taxiing, as well as some interesting effects when doing aerobatics. The Target Track feature allows you to lock on to AI aircraft if you are flying in formation (a key skill by all accounts) and if you are familiar with other aircraft from AOA Simulations, you are likely to be at home with this feature already. As I do most of my flying in VR, these features are disabled so I didn’t spend a huge amount of time testing them out, however from what I did see, this is quite unique and adds another and different layer of immersion to the Texan. One final system feature I would like to highlight is the Flight Assistance system which allows various assistance features to be turned on and off. The button is a bit fiddly to find (highlighted in the manual on page 11) however there are eleven different features such as AOA indexer and brake cues, airspeed indication of gear and flap speed bands, wind direction and speed, through to braking using the control stick and many more. The basic idea is to make life as easy as possible for any newbie pilot or as realistic as possible by switching this off for those who would like more of a challenge. When you are new to an aircraft, this sort of thing really does help, as there is nothing worse than getting frustrated and giving up before you have even started. As I mentioned earlier, the Texan is fully loaded with so many great details and features, and although this type of aircraft is not necessarily my “go-to” happy place in the sky, the more I flew it the more I came to appreciate just how good an offering this is from AOA Simulations, both in terms of the basic aircraft but also just how enjoyable the overall flying experience can be. If you also like lots of technical details, procedures and everything that goes with that side of things, then again, I believe the Texan has something to offer you. Final Thoughts The T-6A Texan II from AOA Simulations, under normal circumstances, is an aircraft I wouldn’t typically be flying, however, I am glad I had the opportunity, as it’s always good to try something new. When you factor in the excellent internal and external textures, the 3D modelling, the control and integration of features, the sounds, and of course the flying experience, I think it’s fair to say that the AOA team really has put out an excellent product. Although it is currently only available for X-Plane 11, I am sure as X-Plane 12 creeps ever nearer to having a final release version, all the new features in the sim in combination with the Texan’s feature set, will be something quite special. A real synergistic masterpiece… So, should you splash out $40 on the Texan? Well as always that is down to you, your budget and what you are looking for. However, I truly believe that the Texan is well worth thinking about, especially if you have considered the fast jet challenge but have not been sure where to start. If it’s good enough for real-world pilots, then it certainly works for me! __________________________________ The T-6A Texan II by AOA Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: T-6A Texan II Price at time of writing US$40.00 Features: This model was developed using the official USAF 1T-6A-1 Flight Manual and SNFO (Student Naval Flight Officer) P-880 Aircraft Systems explanatory guide. Two default liveries, USAF and U.S. Navy TAW-5. 17 additional liveries will be available on the X-Plane.org freeware download manager. This is the T-6A model with federated (many small units combined into one system) glass display panels. The project has been in development since February 23, 2020 and is our most detailed model to date. The Model High quality 3D model with high-resolution, 4K PBR textures. Fully functional virtual front and rear 3D cockpits with more than 380 control manipulators. Everything works, fly from either cockpit. Both pilot and instructor models visible in cockpit views. Optimized to save FPS in VR. Ground equipment The Flight model Fully aerobatic, high performance dynamic flight model tested and approved by several former T-6A pilots. Single “Power Lever” control of engine and propeller enables "jet like" simplicity. Unique T-6 Trim Aid Device (TAD) is accurately modeled. This compensates for most engine torque effect with automatic rudder trim. Sounds Professional FMOD sound package by SimAccoustics Documentation Detailed 38 page User Guide and detailed avionics illustrated guide sheets available HERE ON OUR SUPPORT PAGE prior to purchase. Several checklists options to choose from including detailed checklist powered by Xchecklist freeware plug-in. Tutorial checklist and example Training Flight to get you up to speed with the aircraft. More details All panel displays are accurately modeled and powered by SASL plugin / lua code Complete electrical systems model. Every circuit breaker on both the battery and generator bus panels is functional. Individual systems can be isolated, failed and restored via its cockpit circuit breaker. Optional "AOA Extras" for student pilots or those who want to know a little more about what's going on with while the fly. Save load feature allows you to save some options once and they are the same on your next flight in the model. Default Laminar G1000 available to use with a custom database in the panel mounted GPS unit. Future developments This model is for X-Plane 11 only. It is not compatible with X-Plane 12. When X-Plane 12 is stable then a new version will be released as a free upgrade for existing users. Requirements: X-Plane 11 This model is for X-Plane 11 only. It is not compatible with X-Plane 12. When X-Plane 12 is stable then a new version will be released as a free upgrade for existing users. 4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 360 MB Current version: v1.0 (November 1st 2022) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit CPU Intel i9-9900k 64GB RAM Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Oculus Rift S Aircraft Review by Stuart McGregor 30th November 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
  13. Aircraft Update: Aeroprakt A22-LS Project XP12 by VSKYLABS By LPNils Introduction VSKYLABS has modelled the A22-LS version, tailored for the American market as a Light Sport aircraft, which means a max gross take-off weight of 1320lbs (600kg) for land planes and 1430lbs (650kg) for seaplanes. It also means the aircraft cannot stall at speeds higher than 45 knots. Other limitations are a fixed pitch or ground adjustable prop, two seats maximum, one engine, fixed gear, unpressurized and a maximum speed in level flight that does not exceed 120 knots. Fear not though, as this plane certainly won’t get near those numbers! Purchase and installation The VSKYLABS A22, like the developer’s other work, is available at the X-Plane.org store, for a very reasonable price ($27.50 at the time of writing). The pack has download links for both an XP11 and 12 version of the aircraft, but for the purpose of this review, I tested the XP12 model (even though 12 is still in Beta!). Reassuringly, the developer Huss has committed to keeping the pack up to date with changes still happening to the X-Plane Beta. He always tends to stay on top of updating models, so no worries in that regard. The download size for the A22 is just under 200MB. Installation is very straightforward, just drag the A22 aircraft folder into your X-Plane Aircraft directory as instructed by the manual found in the download. Documentation Inside the aircraft folder, you will find an installation manual, which is very clear and to the point. The most important piece of documentation is the Instructions Manual / POH. Huss compiled the manual as some sort of Pilot Operating Handbook Supplement. In it, he is very clear about what this Aeroprakt add-on does and doesn’t do, how it compares to the real-life aircraft and the limitations of X-Plane and how he worked with or around those. In all, it’s extremely clear and transparent, which is superb! If you would like to configure your hardware to the A22, Huss has written a detailed list of what control assignments are required for specific interactions with the aircraft. In this list, he again mentions some of the X-Plane limitations and how you should work with those. VR users will be able to find all interaction zones described in the manual, with visual representations. Huss also goes on to explain the Experimental or LSA Autopilot included in the X-Plane model. The “POH Supplement” ends by referring to the real-life Pilot Operating Handbook and you can download this POH for real-life operating instructions and performance. Exterior The VSKYLABS A22 is well-modelled and really does mirror its real-life counterpart. There’s plenty of detail on the external model, but not so much that it’s overly excessive. I love the triangular windows on the aft sides of the cabin. An Aeroprakt A32 regularly visits the airfield I work at, and it does have a cool look to it (also it’s entirely black) …except for the extended range fuel tank covers, which do slightly odd. It’s a lot less odd looking in this A22 model though and flying this VSKYLABS rendition sort of made me get used to them. The real A22 has these bigger fuel tanks as an option (57L each instead of the standard 45L) and I am glad Huss went for the larger tanks. Another feature that stood out to me was the design of the wings (TsAGI wing profile, Soviet equivalent of NACA). These are slightly swept forward which after talking to a local aviation buff (CFI, examiner, airport manager) was told is sometimes done to add more flexibility to weight and balance. The empennage of the A22 is equipped with some sort of ventral fin with a small wheel to protect the stabilizer. I doubt it can take excessive forces of incompetency, but it is incredibly nice to have, especially since it has an elevator with plenty of authority, although, in backcountry operations, or rougher strips, I wouldn’t advise getting the tail feathers down that low (protect them from debris). Speaking of the backcountry… it also comes with decent size wheels and mudflaps, which are great options to have on STOL planes. The mudflaps probably won’t stop all the muck from slinging onto the aircraft (wings in particular), but anything’s better than nothing, plus it looks cool. The flight control surfaces of the A22 are huge, and this is well represented in the metallic & orange livery. It also doesn’t come with separate ailerons and flaps, it comes with flaperons. A wing has only a limited span to add ailerons and flaps, so why not combine both so you get a decent lift increase from the flaps and good roll authority at low speeds? It’s also simpler to implement than let’s say drooping ailerons and flaps, and again, it looks cool! It’s interesting to see what the flap settings do to roll deflections and in particular to deflection limits. The A22 comes with five liveries in total, with the standard livery being fully yellow. In addition, there’s a blue version with yellow door/window frames, a metallic grey body variant with orange frames, flight controls and cowl (black on top to block reflections), a red and black body version with white frames and number 22 (air rally look?), and lastly, a blue frame with yellow wings and stabilizers (reminds me of old USAAF basic trainers). Personally, I really like the metallic and orange livery. Interior & Functionality The first feature of the Aeroprakt A22-LS that catches the eye is the optional yoke! The standard control is a Y-shaped stick mounted in the centre console. This can appear an odd configuration at first, but on an earlier flight in a Zenith STOL, I learned that it feels nice, and on longer flights, you can lean your forearm on the Y and chill out a bit. I like it, as it suits my Honeycomb Alpha yoke very well. Upon a cold-and-dark start, the gust lock pin will be installed, which can be removed by clicking on the tag. Also, the yokes can be hidden by clicking where the rod enters the panel. Another huge plus of this model is the Garmin GNS430. It’s getting old for a Garmin GPS/NAV/COM, but for its size, it’s a very suitable instrument for this cockpit. I imagine in this modern age; one may be looking for a newer setup if you have funds to spare and that’s where the tablet comes in. I do not have the AviTab plugin, so I cannot elaborate too much on it, but I think it’s a welcome feature to this pack. Tablets are what most modern pilots use to fly with nowadays, using apps like Foreflight or SkyDemon. One oddity is the location of the (battery) master switch! It’s under the left-hand seat and is a plastic key that with a quarter turn switches on power to the battery (12V DC). Then there’s another master switch on the panel, with a regular key, which also acts as a starter switch. The ignition switches are two separate toggles on the panel, rather than included in the master/starter switch. You may see them mentioned as mag switches (magnetos), but the Rotax 912 uses two electrical ignition boxes (of Ducati make) instead of antique magnetos. This brings me to another thing that is a little off or confusing depending on how old the aircraft/engine is. If you click on the checklist at the top of the panel, it will come up for you to read. When looking, you’ll see that it mentions Coolant Temperature but if you look at your engine instrumentation you will only find a Tecnam brand CHT gauge (Cylinder Head Temperature). However, the Rotax 912 has air-cooled cylinder bases and liquid-cooled heads. Older Rotax 912s had the temperature probe on the bottom of the #2 or #3 cylinder and picked up Cylinder Head Temperature, whereas more modern cylinders have the probe on top of the cylinders, dipping into the coolant. So Rotax, in 2015, published Mandatory Service Bulletins (SB-912-066 & SB-912-068). This requires owners or operators to change the temperature limit numbers in the documentation and get rid of the potentially confusing usage of both terms “CHT and CT”. With a newer engine (or cylinders) you just go with Coolant Temperature. Along with that, a CT gauge gets installed instead of the CHT gauge (in consultation with the aircraft manufacturer). I also notice that the engine instruments stay live even with the master is off, so this is a slight bug at the time of writing. Another cool feature of this VSKYLABS model is the clickable airspeed indicator as this can change units between a joint MPH/Kts (BK-3) or KPH (BK-240) backplate. Rotax-powered aircraft can have different RPM gauges and since the Rotax 912 is a geared engine, the engine RPM and Prop RPM differ (this rendition in X-Plane has the engine RPM indication). The gearing is included in the engine to maintain enough torque on the prop while the engine itself has rather tiny pistons (compared to a Lycoming O-320 for example). As mentioned in Huss’ aircraft manual, the choke doesn’t work quite the way the real one works. You see, Rotax engines don’t have a mixture control. In a legacy engine, you would use a full-rich mixture to start the engine, after which you can lean pretty aggressively. Rotax requires you to add more fuel to the mix upon starting and has Bing carburettors with membranes to maintain a proper mixture after that. So, it’s not even a real choke (which chokes the air to enrich the mixture), it just injects a little more fuel. To start a cold Rotax, you use full choke and close the throttle. After it fires up, remove the choke and increase the throttle to a minimum smooth RPM (1900-2100ish). A recurring mistake is that pilots want to add a little throttle while using the choke. Of course, it won’t start that way, you’re just draining the battery. I noticed some other small details where it differs from the real deal: if you leave the choke on, RPM will not drop below 2400 engine RPM. For reference, I have had plenty of students and renters come back complaining that the engine idles too high, and this nearly always means that they have forgotten to take the choke out after starting. If you try and add choke quickly while it’s already running, the engine starts to shake and tells you it is not happy with what you’ve just done. Also, adding carb heat should induce a very slight RPM drop, not as much as a legacy carbureted O-320, but just slightly. But hey, for a sim this will do just fine. The flap(eron)s are actuated manually and the handle is located on the ceiling. It comes with three positions: up, 10 degrees and 20 degrees. Manual flaps are great for this type of STOL aircraft as you can use them to push it off the runway by using ground effect for minimum take-off roll. If you search YouTube, you’ll see this used in STOL competitions. Being a modern light aircraft, it comes with a BRS (ballistic rescue system) recovery chute, and you’ll be pleased to know, it works in XP! Make sure you pull the locking pin before you fly (as per the checklist). The sound of the BRS activating in the sim is slightly underwhelming as I’ve experienced a real deployment up close, and boy does it grab your attention with that rocket being fired! But then again, I’m amazed this model even comes with a working chute. Apart from the autopilot, which is displayed by clicking the compass, the VSKYLABS A22 doesn’t come with many other features. It’s a very basic aircraft, but what I can say is that what’s included is done to a very high standard. Another attribute of the A22 is that its visibility is very good, being a high-wing aircraft. I very much appreciate being able to look down and forward, so I can still sort of see where I’m going while on final approach. Handling Now on to the real fun! Before I begin though, I have to say that I have noticed the model tends to fall on its tail when parked slightly nose-high, which can be an issue in the backcountry. However, I have a feeling this may be the same for its real-life counterpart, as some are very light on the nose. When treating the brake system like the real thing, I felt it sometimes lacked some nose wheel steering authority (I added some toe-brakes to help it turn). Nose wheel steering is effective enough to make relatively tight turns with no help from brakes needed, though for sim use I don’t feel this is a large issue. During takeoff, it’s highly apparent that the elevator has plenty of authority. I say this because it’s easy to over-pitch, leading you to potential tail dragging, which risks damaging the stabilizers and adding drag on your roll. Be very gentle when applying back pressure and once you have a feeling for it, it’s easy to do a soft field departure with the nose wheel just slightly off the ground. The A22 will fly off rather quickly after a very short run as it’s very light, and with a ~100 horse Rotax 912ULS, you have plenty of power for a decent climb. At low speeds, the aircraft feels mushy, and it really does depend on those huge control surfaces to make its way around turns, but they do work, which is incredible, especially when you realize just how slow the air is moving over them. During the cruise phase, the controls are very light and direct, with plenty of airflow over them. Stalls are relatively docile. You can make the plane descend in a stall by keeping the yoke pulled and then power right out of it. Letting the nose drop also ends the situation. It can however snap on you, dropping a wing if you wrestle it just too much. On landing, it depends on the weather, location and other variables as to what technique you want to use. You can drag it in with some power to do spot landings without obstacles, or you can drop it in from high and use all the drag you can get from the flaperons and maybe even some forward slip. Again, the roll control feels sort of mushy, so you need large deflections sometimes, but this means it’s easier to make small corrections. During my testing, I can’t say I’ve got the landings nailed quite yet but it sure is fun getting to know the character of this low-and-slow fun machine. Sounds The sound pack is OK as it sounds like a Rotax 912. The starter sound is there, and you can hear the gearbox slapping on shutdown, which always hurts my “mechanic feelings” a bit. In real life, I close the throttle and while spooling down, I cut the ignition. Tough to nail, but oh it’s so nice not to hear the gears rattle, so yeah, it does sound and feel like it should! The sound does change when you open or close the doors, which makes for a nice and loud experience when flying with the doors open. There are sounds for the buttons and switches, but it appears to be rather generic. Overall, the sound is fine for what it is and does a good job of mimicking the Rotax engine experience. I suspect the price of the pack would go up if a high-detail FMOD soundset was included (I’ve seen the process of how SimAcoustics records those, quite professional and has lots of expensive-looking microphones). Those are nice but aren’t a must-have. Conclusion Well after my testing, I must conclude that this is a highly enjoyable model from VSKYLABS, especially for the price and what Huss is trying to do with his VSKYLABS range. I say this because Huss uses the default X-Plane flight modelling instead of resorting to all sorts of plugins and ‘dirty’ tricks often employed by others. This means there are some compromises made when it comes to specific systems and handling. In saying that though, the A22 is right there in the ballpark, where it should be. The documentation is very clear and transparent about it, which is a trademark of VSKYLABS. To sum up, the A22 looks great, includes some good quality liveries, sounds realistic enough and is interesting and enjoyable to fly. Sure, if you want to go somewhere in a rush, it might disappoint, but if like me you enjoy the magical world of low-and-slow flight, then the Aeroprakt A22-LS makes for the perfect companion. _______________________________ The VSKYLABS- Aeroprakt A22-LS Project for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: VSKYLABS- Aeroprakt A22-LS Project Priced at US$27.50 Project's Main Features: VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Project: designed for use with X-Plane's cutting edge Experimental flight model environment, featuring superb flight dynamics with authentic performance and flight handling characteristics. Built for VR: development was tailored specifically for VR, and optimized for 2D usage. Engineered and designed as a default X-Plane aircraft (Like all VSKYLABS projects). The VSKYLABS projects are practically show-casing X-Plane, as they are stretching X-Plane default features, systems and flight model to its limits without any dependencies on complementary plugins or software...delivering a very robust simulation model, having maximum compatibility with the ever evolving X-Plane flight simulator. Perfect fit for beginner and expert pilots: The VSL A22-LS is featuring the standard, basic analog cockpit suitable for VFR + night flying. The simple and clear analog gauges layout is perfect for beginner pilots. It is also featuring an optional experimental LSA-grade autopilot. Built-in Avitab Plugin Compatibility (AviTab plugin is not included). STMA Auto Updater plugin is included - 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 and professional support: VSKYLABS is offering continuous professional support from aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support. The project is under constant maintenance and development. Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: XP12 - September 5th 2022 1.0 (April 29th 2021, XP11) Review by LPNils 17th Nov 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Ryzen 7 3800X - 32GB RAM - Gigabyte RTX 2070 2X 8G - Windows 10 64Bit (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
  14. Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12 By Alan Ashforth This is a review of the new VSKYLABS F-19, which along with X-Plane 12, is rapidly receiving updates. As such, this article will offer a snapshot of the F-19 in its current state (version 1.5 at the time of writing), and X-Plane 12 Beta 9, as of 29th October 2022. Introduction The actual F-19 story can be traced back to the 1980s when numerous news articles began circulating about a supposedly secret stealth aircraft called the “F-19”. At the time, the USAF had taken delivery of the F-117 Stealth Fighter, and when one of these highly secretive aircraft crashed in California in 1986, it only helped stir the media interest. To this date, the F-19 has never been officially acknowledged, but this fact has done nothing to deter the public’s interest. In fact, quite the opposite has happened, as the F-19 has been referenced numerous times over the years, most notably in the highly popular computer game, “F-19 Stealth Fighter” by Microprose, released in 1989. The F-19 model represented here by VSKYLABS, continues this trend of “what might be”, as much of what this model is based on is pure speculation. However, that is where a lot of the excitement comes into play…so let’s have a look at some of the F-19’s statistics. Performance figures provided by VSKYLABS are of an aircraft that can reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.2, an altitude of 53,000ft and a range of 1,400 miles. Not too shabby in the slightest! The aircraft carries internal missiles which include two AIM-9X air-to-air (AA), and AGM-158A air-to-ground cruise missiles. Download & Installation Once purchased and downloaded from the store, the VSKYLABS F-19 (unzipped) weighs in at 341MB. Contained within the folder, you will find a concise 14-page manual, which according to the developer, will be updated into a comprehensive manual. There is also an install guide complete with a warning that the model just purchased is an “Early Access Aircraft”, due in part to X-Plane 12’s rapid beta progression. Exterior There’s no denying it, VSKYLAB’s F-19 is a remarkable-looking fighter aircraft, with obvious stealth attributes on offer. From its pointed nose, angled front cockpit, concealed engines (from frontal radar returns) four-engine cooling ducts on the fuselage top (to reduce heat signature), rounded wings and inward tilted twin ruder/ vertical stabilizers (complete with built-in speed brakes), this is a design modelled entirely to go unnoticed by enemy radar. Other notable features of the aircraft include the in-flight refuelling (IFR) cover on the top centre of the fuselage (not yet implemented in X-Plane 12), tailhook, brake chute and the fully internal missile weapons bay. Interior VSKYLABS has modelled the interior of the F-19 to be quite snug, but in a way that fully embraces a design from the 1980s. It is equipped with mostly steam gauges, plus a few additions from the nineties, those being a Garmin G530 and a few EFIS units. Looking around, it is clear to see that the developer has put a lot of time and effort into making the interior as authentic as possible. Everything is modelled to an extremely high standard, including a nicely detailed seat and canopy surround, a nice feature of which, are the numerous marks and scratches on the glass. A feature I especially enjoyed (which is due in part to how X-Plane 12 works), was the wonderful rain effects on the cockpit glass, incredibly atmospheric and great fun to boot! Due to the layout of the F-19’s cockpit, learning where everything is located, is relatively simple. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but that’s half the charm of flying an aircraft such as this type. However, once done, everything falls into place and the experience is highly enjoyable. Flying & Operation When starting the F-19 from cold and dark, the battery is only used to test the fire warning and annunciators. Set your L/R engine shutoffs to the SET (UP position) and then turn on the APU switch; a green light will appear within 30 seconds. Hold down the right engine starter until 30% is achieved and the engine should then self-idle up to 65% RPM. To start the left engine, you simply follow the same procedure. If you happen to have AviTab installed, you can read the Normal Procedures list for engine startup. With our GPS, radios and other equipment checked, we can now progress to the takeoff phase. The advice given by VSKYLABS in the manual, recommends rotating at 130kts, with takeoff being achieved at between 150-170kts, depending on aircraft weight. At full throttle, afterburners (AB) will be activated, so if flying below 250kts, these can be switched off. For CAT launches, the procedure is almost the same, but with slightly more emphasis on having your afterburners ready, and don’t forget the launch bar switch on the lower front left panel. One of the first things you’ll notice about the F-19 when in the air, is just how stable an aircraft it is. This is particularly evident in the FCS Dogfight mode, as you’ll be able to undertake some rather impressive manoeuvres without even a hint of complaint. Of course, if you want to add some additional challenge to your flying, you can always turn off the artificial stabilizers, which has the effect of making the aircraft a lot more sensitive. It’s fun, just be prepared for the odd…shock! The F-19, whilst not as fast as the likes of the non-stealthy F-15/16/18, climbs very well and achieves its desired altitude in almost no time at all. All the weapons carried by the F-19 are stored internally in which to maintain the aircraft’s stealth properties. These include the two sidewinders stowed in the left and right fuselage bays and the larger air-to-ground missiles (AGM), located in the central fuselage compartment. Whilst X-Plane isn’t labelled as a combat flight simulator as such, it’s still possible to have a great deal of fun in it, especially with an aircraft like the VSKYLABS F-19. To operate the weapons, you first turn on the Master arm switch and then choose either AA or AG (your chosen selection will then be lit up). In this mode, all relevant weapon bays will be opened, and the radar will show any “enemy” aircraft in range. For this example, I set up an AI MiG 27 as the enemy aircraft, and by using the keyboard command “Next Target”, I was able to select the MiG on the radar (turns red). As well as displaying the target, the radar also provides information regarding the speed and altitude of the enemy, in relation to your position. With the MiG locked and within around ten miles, I released a single sidewinder at the target. It looks like someone is going to have a long walk home! Unfortunately, when it comes to using the air-to-ground missiles in X-Plane 12, there is no means currently of being able to lock them onto either a ship or ground target. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them; you just can’t watch them hit anything. You can however observe a test flight of the AGM-158A during its launch phase, which to be honest, looks great, especially when the wings unfold, and the rocket motor kicks in! As well as selecting the desired ordinance, there is also a button for both chaff and flare countermeasures, but sadly during my testing, I couldn’t get the chaffs to work (this will no doubt be fixed in later updates). When navigating, cruising, or using the autopilot in the VSKYLABS F-19, it is recommended to use the Tactical mode of the FCS. This provides a smoother ride with less angle of attack (AOA), thus making the aircraft safer to fly when at low altitudes. However, one thing to remember, is that the autopilot will switch off if your speed drops below 170kts, so be aware of this, especially during landings. When flying at night, the F-19 looks fantastic, as not only are you presented with an easy-to-read cockpit panel, but you are also provided with some exceptionally bright landing lights. When combined with the new NAV and APR autopilot settings, night flights and carrier landings are a lot more enjoyable and safer. Due to the F-19’s poor forward visibility, both takeoffs and landings can be quite challenging at times, so you’ll have to move around the cockpit to get an idea of where you’re situated in relation to the airport or carrier. If you’re still having difficulty, then I recommend controlling the aircraft from (dare I say it), the external view. Whilst this isn’t as realistic, it does help with the frustration. Navigating in the F-19 works well during all phases of flight, as you can use either the sat-nav/autopilot or VOR/heading modes to complete objectives. When you factor in the new ILS making runway landings easier, plus the option of having either air-to-air combat or missile tests, the whole experience is just incredibly fun. Sounds No aircraft add-on is complete without a decent soundset, so you’ll be glad to know that the F-19 is well-catered for in this department. Not only are you provided with some truly incredible engine effects (FMOD), but this must be the first aircraft where I could hear myself breathing through the oxygen mask. There are also sounds for the closing and opening of the canopy, plus many other audio alerts, which when added all together, make for an audiophile’s dream. Conclusion As many of you will know, I have a fondness for military aircraft and as such, the VSKYLABS F-19 ticks many boxes in this regard. It’s an aircraft which is exceptionally well-modelled both inside and out (even in this early access stage). When you consider that fact, I think it’s safe to say that the model reviewed here will only get better, which is high praise indeed. The flight characteristics are both forgiving and challenging at the same time, plus the sound is to die for (wait till you listen to those flypasts). VSKYLABS are renowned for their modelling skills and the F-19 is no exception to the rule. One must also mention the model’s cost, which for an aircraft of this type, I think is more than acceptable. So, if like me you enjoy fast military jets, modelled to an exceedingly high standard, then VSKYLABS F-19 should definitely be on your radar! _______________________________ The VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter Priced at US$34.95 Project's Main Features: Project Highlights (Early Access Version): Early access version! A new aircraft for X-Plane v12.00 beta. Advanced concept aircraft simulation, including detailed, fully functional 3-d cockpit environment with realistic, working systems. Extensive, professional real-world experience and knowledge of jet-fighters design, systems, performance, handling and operation were involved in the making of the VSKYLABS F-19. Designed for X-Plane 12 cutting-edge flight model environment and presents superb flight dynamics with presumably authentic performance and flight handling characteristics for the hypothetical F-19 aircraft. Developed for VR: Development was tailored specifically for VR and optimized for 2D usage. Engineered and designed as a genuine, default X-Plane 12 aircraft. The VSKYLABS projects are practically show-casing X-Plane, as they are stretching X-Plane default features, systems and flight model to its limits without any dependencies on complementary plugins or software...delivering a very robust simulation model, having maximum compatibility with the ever-evolving X-Plane flight simulator. Comprehensive FMOD sounds for 'As Real As It Gets' experience! Perfect challenge for beginner and expert pilots: Provides a very wide flight envelope with comfortable control from ~140 knots to Mach 1.1. Autoupdater based on the SkunkCrafts autoupdater - 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 offers continuous professional support, from all aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support. The project is under constant maintenance and development. Requirements X-Plane 12 - Not compatible with X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac, or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: 1.0 (October 21st, 2022) Review by Alan Ashforth 3rd Oct 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 11, Intel i7 10,700 Processor, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD, GeForce RTX™ 2070 (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
  15. Scenery Review: PACV - Merle K Smith - Cordova, Alaska XP12 By Paul Mort Introduction Hello, and welcome to my third review here at X-PlaneReviews. This time around, we’re heading off to Alaska, or more to the point, Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport. If you enjoy remote airports, with a slight chilly factor thrown in (we’re talking about the weather, not the food) then you’re going to enjoy this X-Plane 12 scenery. With vast mountain ranges and glaciers to the north, and islands and the Gulf of Alaska to the east and south, there is plenty to see for the budding pilot. However, the weather can change in an instant, so if you do go exploring…make sure you plan ahead. The airport itself is named after Merle K. Smith, also known as "Mudhole" who was a bush pilot and who later became president of Cordova Airlines, which used the airport as a hub between 1934 and 1968. Situated relatively close to the Gulf of Alaska and eleven miles from the city of Cordova, Merle K. Smith Airport has an elevation of fifty-four feet or sixteen meters. There are two runways on offer: 9/27 is 7,500 by 150 feet (2,286 x 46 m) with an asphalt surface and 16/34, which is 1,899 by 30 feet (579 x 9 m) and has a gravel surface. Alaskan Airlines is the only carrier at the airport, and due to the lack of road access, the airport represents the only means of connecting Cordova with the outside world (apart from the ferry). Installation The downloaded file from the X-Plane.org store weighed in at just under 270MB, which is relatively small for an airport scenery but once extracted, increased to a more respectable 633MB. There was no online registration or EXE file to run (something I always find tedious), it was just a case of copying the folder to my Custom Scenery directory in X-Plane 12. Being an airport scenery with no additional folders to add, there was no need to edit my scenery_packs.ini file. There was no documentation of any kind to be found in the package, which was something I was slightly disappointed by, even at this price point. Default Scenery Prior to installing this scenery add-on, I was intrigued to see what the default airport looked like in X-Plane 12, and whilst it was passable in terms of general layout (taxiways, runways etc), it was missing many important buildings, not to mention, clutter and people. Walkabout With the add-on package installed from DC Scenery, things were improved greatly. When viewed from above, instead of the generic default textures we have become accustomed to, we are greeted with an ortho tile which covers the whole airport area. Compared to the default textures, the detail is night and day, which makes the supplied ortho stand out somewhat. It would have been great if the ortho covered a larger area and then was slowly blended into the default textures, but sadly this wasn’t the case. However, if you’re using your own ortho scenery of Alaska, then the ortho supplied with the package, should (in effect), blend in seamlessly with the one supplied. Moving to ground level, and the scenery maintains both its quality and clarity, with the runway textures employing some useful weathering effects, such as cracks and rubber marks. Quite often, runway textures can become repetitive if done badly, but this wasn’t the case here. Whilst there wasn’t a lot of variation in terms of textures used, what there was, worked well. Progressing onwards, and there was an abundance of flora on offer, namely 3D bushes. I did notice a slight framerate drop here and there but considering my X-Plane system is on the low end, it’s to be expected. For those users with more capable systems, I don’t see this part of the scenery to be an issue. Just over 46% of Merle K. Smith Airport’s traffic is GA, and this is well represented by the large general aviation parking area as we head towards the main airport. The aircraft on display are generic static models, and whilst they do the job, it would have been nice to have seen aircraft which actually frequent the airport. The main airport area is made up of numerous small buildings and hangars, including what can only be described as the main airport terminal. These are all well-modelled with some genuinely nice texturing included and really help set the scene. The Alaskan Airlines and the Cordova Auto Rentals hut both deserve special mention, as they both look just like their real-life counterparts (weathering included). There is an abundance of airport clutter, such as pallets, cones, barrels etc, and something I was especially pleased to see…people! I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes. Over the years I have reviewed numerous sceneries which have been excellent apart from one mitigating factor…the absence of people. Well, I'm glad to say that DC Scenery hasn’t fallen into that trap, so hats off to them for including these models. Just outside of the airport there is what seems to be an industrial area, complete with silos and a few trucks. It’s not particularly well-modelled, and after viewing the same area in Google Maps, it seems to be more of a quarry/pit. Night Lighting X-Plane has always ruled supreme when it comes to night lighting, and Merle K. Smith Airport is no exception. The developers have carefully and thoughtfully added lighting effects to different areas of the airport, and it works exceptionally well…the runway lights reflecting off the runway are a prime example. Winter World With X-Plane 12, we now get (by default), the ability to experience winter textures, and oh boy, do they make a difference, especially for an Alaskan airport such as the one being reviewed here. Due to its location, the airport is quite often covered in snow, and whereas before we would have been stuck with summer textures (unless using a third-party mod), we are now able to set the scene in a far more realistic manner. The whole area is transformed, and to be honest, the scenery looks completely different, but not in a negative way. Now the airport really does feel remote and cut off from the real world…this is the difference winter textures can make. Performance As mentioned earlier on in the review, the only part of the scenery which caused a noticeable slowdown on my computer system was the copious amounts of 3D grass lining the parameter of the runway. Away from there, performance was more than adequate, and that’s saying something considering the age of my PC. Conclusion Having spent a good deal of time exploring both Merle K. Smith Airport and the surrounding area, I must admit the experience was (on both counts), highly enjoyable. Yes, there were a few areas where I felt the airport scenery could have been improved, like the blending in of the ortho and adding some form of documentation, but overall, I think the developers have done an excellent job at recreating the scenery. With the introduction of X-Plane 12, sceneries such as Merle K. Smith Airport can now make use of the superb weather effects on offer, and this is where the flying experience truly shines. Thanks to the excellent design work by DC Scenery and the creative minds at Laminar Research, we get to experience what an Alaskan winter is like, and how an airport as remote as Merle K. Smith really feels, especially when the weather closes in. __________________________________ Merle K Smith Airport by DC Scenery is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Merle K Smith Airport Priced at US$12.00 Scenery features: X-Plane 12 ground effects X-Plane 12 3D vegetation Features a highly accurate recreation of Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport Highly detailed models and textures of airport terminal, hangars, buildings and other objects High Detailed ground textures PBR on all objects Custom lights Accurate taxiway, runway and apron High level of airport detail Compatible with Orthophotos Requirements: X-Plane 12 (not compatible with XP11) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 282 MB Current version: 1.0 September 24th 2022) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit Intel Core i5-3350p CPU @ 3.10 GHz 16GB RAM NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti Scenery Review by Paul Mort 27th October 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
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