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Lightman last won the day on August 5

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  1. Aircraft Review: A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended Beta by Flight Factor Special thanks to A320 First Officer Jaydon Shatek for his help and input on systems overviews. Note: All photos showing IAE engines or Sharklets have been modified from the Matavia mod and are not part of the actual aircraft purchased. They can be added on by the user but are not officially supported by Flight Factor. Introduction & History Known to be one of the most complex A320 aircraft simulations ever produced for any simulator, the Flight Factor A320 has held its own for quite a few years in the X-Plane market, and I myself have had many memorable flights with it in X-Plane 11. With X-Plane 12 now out, the Flight Factor A320 is their only product which requires an additional purchase to fly in the new sim, unlike their Extraordinary 757 and 767, my two favorite aircraft for X-Plane and my go-to choice for a casual flight. Well for any previous buyer, the upgrade price is set at $20.00 USD, and for any newcomer to the wonderful world of X-Plane, it is $89.99 USD to get yourself an A320 into your sim. So, with that in mind, before we dive into the addon, I would like to share a few facts about the A320 and its history. The Airbus A320 program was launched in 1984, with the first flight being completed in 1987, and fittingly the first revenue flight was flown by Air France in the spring of 1988. To date, over 4,763 A320 CEOs and 3,900 NEOs have been ordered, with 6,299 airframes having already been delivered. The entire A320 Family, (A318, 319, 320, 321 etc.) have a combined order total of 16,622 with over 10,474 total fleet-wide deliveries. The A320-100, the original variant, had no winglets, with the iconic “wingtip fence” being added to the A320-200 in the late 1980s. Today, the A320 has state-of-the-art Sharklets, and the A320 NEO improves on the A320 lineup and is today one of the most popular options for narrow-body aircraft. With so many options of engine variants, wingtip options, and more, Flight Factor has a lot it can bring to the table to provide a great experience within X-Plane. Documentation & First Impressions Documentation of the A320 included by Flight Factor consists of a 27-page PowerPoint on how to get up and running with the installation of the A320, however, there is no included tutorial flight, so it is up to the end user to find a good set of tutorials or manuals to learn the complex systems of the A320. There is an included link in the PowerPoint to the forums with links to various websites where you can find all the required info to fly the airplane, including a full FCOM if you’re into reading bedtime material, though having a good flip through it is almost a requirement with no previous experience. Once we get the airplane installed and running into the simulator it is a very familiar sight to the version from X-Plane 11, albeit a bit shinier thanks to the spectacular new lighting engine Laminar provides in v12. Getting up and running was quite simple, only requiring you to activate the airplane through the MCDU in a separate menu which pops up automatically upon first loading the airplane. Just remember to connect the GPU in the EFB menu or the MCDU will not power on. First Impressions were quite positive with a few issues that I noticed upon the first flight but will mention later on in the review. Electronic Flight Bag Starting off with what is becoming a must-have feature in any modern Airliner addon is an electronic flight bag from which all the aircraft doors, loading, maintenance, and performance calculations can be handled, with chart support and extra features being a plus. Where does Flight Factor rank in their EFB for the A320? Well, let’s find out. Included in the EFB are 11 different pages, helping you with various tasks on the A320. I’ll touch lightly on each one and add some input on possible improvements that would be a great help to the pilot. Page 1 is the Service page. This allows you quick and easy access to chocks, GPU, and ground air start units. It also includes 3 additional pages to handle fuel loading, passengers, and cargo. Page 2 is the PERF page. Essentially a Form-F, it gives the pilot easy access to CG data, weights, and trim position required to fill out the TO data page in the MCDU. Page 3 is the Checklist page. While quite self-explanatory, it would be nice to have an addition of click spots to keep your place when going through the checklist, as it can be quite easy to lose it. That is a QOL improvement, but overall, it is quite comprehensive and well done. Page 4 is the Browser, though I have yet to get a successful search with it, so it may still have a few bugs left in it that need to be ironed out. Page 5 allows the pilot control of possible failure scenarios which is good for training use if going through the A320 schoolhouse for an airline. Page 6 is the Settings tab, and there’s not a whole lot there in terms of options. I’ll go into a lot of improvements I’d like to see in this page later, mainly exterior and cockpit options. One basic QOL improvement I would love to see is an option to convert the weight units from Kilos to Pounds, as many Yanks like myself on the US side of the pond would love to use the imperial system to fly to all our favorite US destinations. Page 7 allows the pilot to auto-save panel states for the airplane for ease of use. Page 8 is the Map feature which uses a google API key to display your aircraft position in google maps on the EFB. Page 9 is the FAP page, which allows the pilot access to the flight attendant controlled parts of the airplane. Page 10 is the PA with options for auto or manual mode. I left it in manual mode for every flight I took and never heard a peep from it, so there may possibly be a bug there as well. Page 11 is the fun page, where all the magic happens, and where you can go to make things happen that you don’t want to have in a real flight, but it is a great way to practice emergency procedures and a must-have for any high-fidelity aircraft. Overall, is the EFB a little dated? Possibly. I would like to see AviTab implementation out of the box, though for some it’s not a huge deal. I myself use the tablet that I use for my real-world flying but that is not an option for everyone, so having access to charts inside the cockpit is a great feature that I would love to see in the A320. The settings menu is the second area I would like to see some work on. The A320 overall lacks many of the options that have become standard on all airliner addons, including the Flight Factor 757 and 767 fleets, which have plenty of options. These for me include options for cockpit features, window tint/reflections, and exterior visual features. These are small complaints, but the addition would give this airplane some bonus points in my book! Exterior Model & Texturing When I first showed the exterior model to Jaydon, he was quite happy to see many of the features the real A320 has, which should speak for how good the aircraft model has held up in its few years on the market. Starting off with general appearances, Flight Factor has gotten the A320 shaping down to a tee, and it speaks volumes about how the airplane looks. The nose of the A320 is quite distinct, and Jaydon was quite impressed with the details that were captured by the Flight Factor team. One area he really liked was the landing gear, which from his inspection are quite well-modelled replicas and deserving of praise. The main gear connection points, struts, hoses, wires, and shape are really quite spot on, and he did point out the addition of the brake fans included on the model, something which his airline’s A320s do not have. He had no major complaints whatsoever about the exterior model and was quite impressed overall with the quality put out by the flight factor team. However, there were a couple of discrepancies that were found. The CFM engines have a single metal tube in front of the main fans, and though for the life of me I cannot remember what it’s called, it is not in the model of the included CFM engine. The other little issue which we aren’t sure about is the parking brake light on the nose gear strut. When amber, the brake is set, and when green it’s released. Well, the light on the nose gear is always amber, so it may be a texture, or it may be a bug, but that is a tiny detail to even have to mention, so with just those two things, it’s safe to say Flight Factor did an outstanding job with the exterior model. Textures for the A320 are the same as they were in X-Plane 11, and there is a little bit of pixelation up close to the airframe, but a couple of feet back and they look perfectly sharp. A texture resolution boost would always be appreciated, but that is up to Flight Factor and then the repaint community to redo every single livery if that were to happen. All in all, I have no issues with the textures, and they look great overall! One last thing I will mention is the reflections of the fuselage onto the wing. Compared to all other aircraft that I’ve seen in X-Plane 12, the FF A320 has the least amount of reflection onto the wing, almost to the point of not seeing anything at all, so a boost in wing reflections would be an appreciated improvement, especially when looking out towards the wing fence from the passenger cabin. Now for the options. This is the one area where Flight Factor has always lacked with the A320, and sadly it is still the case. The A320 ships with one airplane, and no options to customize it. Flight Factor has not made IAE V2500 engines, Sharklets, or Satcom antenna. While the Matavia mod rectified this issue in X-Plane 11, it is not compatible with the v12 version. I managed to get the sharklets and Satcom working, but please keep in mind it is not officially supported by Flight Factor. As for the engines, I had good success with the Carda CFM-56A/B and IAE V2500 engine models which rectifies the visual aspect of the engines, but the internal avionics remain for the CFM. I would absolutely love it if Flight Factor would add these options to the airplane and allow us to choose the engine model, fences or sharklets, Satcom or no Satcom directly from the options menu in the EFB, much like the 757 or 767. This would add a lot of competitive value to the airplane and make it a more appealing option for potential buyers. Interior Model & Texturing The Interior cockpit of the A320 has been completely revamped for X-Plane 12, with more accurate dimensions and textures compared to the previous generation released for X-Plane 11. Upon first looking through the cockpit, I was satisfied with the model, with the cockpit dimensions feeling a lot more like its real-world counterpart in terms of size. Where I felt the interior was lacking however was the textures. The X-Plane 11 version had some of the best textures shipped with a payware A320, with extra freeware addons such as the Matavia mod making it even better. The new textures supplied by X-Plane 12 are sadly a bit flat, and the expected color variation is not quite there. The color variation normally seen on the autopilot panel is not seen in the updated version, with the same grey color being used uniformly across the entire cockpit. The overhead panel is also the same grey but is extremely dark to the point of being a gunmetal grey color. Flight Factor has acknowledged this issue, so hopefully, within the next few updates, we’ll see some improved cockpit textures. The textures for cockpit text were good, as I couldn’t find many at all, and the only one that I really noticed was on the weather radar, where the lines on the WX Tilt, WX Radar mode selector and WX Tilt were not lining up correctly with the selector. The other small glitch was in the magnetic compass, where some bleed-through of the texture was found causing some glitching. Another is the fact that the window heat vents on the glareshield have been omitted in this version, so hopefully, that can be rectified as well. These are just bugs however and are normal for a beta release. The second issue that Flight Factor has acknowledged is the lighting model not interacting properly with the cockpit, causing some extremely weird colors inside the airplane, almost like the sun is shining directly through the walls and lighting up the entire cockpit regardless of whether it’s coming through the windows or not. Also, when facing the sun, the cockpit becomes extremely dark. This has again been acknowledged by the team and I hope to see some improvements on that front. Both myself and FO Shatek both agreed that the X-Plane 11 version’s cockpit had a more correct color, and no other Flight Factor airliners have any cockpit lighting issue, so it appears to be X-Plane 12’s lighting model not playing nicely with the A320 for some reason. The windows of the A320 have also had a bit of an issue with X-Plane 12, as they seem to be a bit foggy, almost like there is a haze on them. Jaydon mentioned this when he was looking through the airplane, noting that the windows should be practically clear. I assume this is controlled by a texture file, though I was unable to find and edit the correct one to lessen the haze. Perhaps this can be fixed, or an option added to dynamically control this through the EFB, much like the 75/76 fleet. One other item I would like to note is the backlighting and flood light color. The real A320s have a warmer tone to their panel flood lighting, and this was correctly seen in X-Plane 11. In v12 it has taken on a more yellow tone, with the backlighting sharing the same fate. A small correction to this would vastly improve the cockpit as well. I am completely confident that the cockpit will see improvements, as their other aircraft like the 757 and 767 series look absolutely stunning in v12, with the rich brown color really making them stand out. Avionics Options & Systems The Avionics and systems depth is where the A320 really starts to shine. With more than 10,000 simulated sensors, units, buses, relays and more each with their own logic, it is truly a breathing airplane. Each of the systems, including Fuel, Pneumatic, Hydraulic, and Electric have been modeled in their entirety giving you a completely accurate simulation on all fronts. So, what does this all mean? Well, it meant that Jaydon spent a couple of hours on video calls running through every system trying to find anything incorrect or misrepresented with the airplane, and the list of errors that resulted is quite small, and I’ll run through them here. Starting off with the MCDU, we ran through every page and only found three things that were worth a mention. Firstly, the MCDU AIRAC is from February of 2017, so a navigraph subscription will be a requirement to get it up to date. I would love to see Flight Factor ship it with a new AIRAC for the new sim. Second, the TO PERF page gives the option for FLEX temp as it should, however, there is no included program in the airplane to calculate a FLEX temperature, so I would love to see a page in the EFB added for Takeoff and Landing performance to include a FLEX temp calculator. Thirdly, the last issue I saw with the MCDU was the scratchpad at the bottom had all the text being slightly cut off by the 3D model, so hopefully, that can be adjusted. Running through all the aircraft tests, full preflight and moving into a short flight, Jaydon only unearthed a couple of minor issues, quite possibly bugs that will be sorted out. The first one we noticed were the touch points being slightly off, though I’ve reported this, and the issue is being resolved. In terms of systems, the APU avail light would not illuminate for us even when in use, though on my next flight it worked fine, and the following flight it didn’t again, so there is some interference somewhere. Side stick priority has not been modeled so the “Priority Left or right” commands have not been implemented. The last thing we found was the Autobrake Decel light did not come on after touchdown, but for the rest of the flight, everything was exactly as it is in real life. Flight Characteristics The Flight Factor A320 flight dynamics have been perfected over the years, and the latest version for X-Plane 12 now includes Alternate Law logic which allows more in-depth failure scenarios in the case of degradation from Normal Law. While I won’t dive fully into the Normal and Alternate Law, I’ll give a brief run-through to explain what exactly Alternate Law brings to the Flight Factor A320. Normal Law includes three modes, these being Ground Mode, Flight Mode, and Flare Mode. Ground mode turns off autotrim and the Horizontal stab is set to 4 degrees up automatically, though this can be overridden by the CG setting. Ground Mode transitions to Flight Mode as soon as the wheels leave the ground. Flight Mode includes 5 types of protections, these being pitch attitude, load factor limits, high speed, high AOA, and bank angle. Low-speed protection is also available in certain phases of flight and when reaching a stall, Alpha floor engages which automatically engages TOGA to capture the descent and protect the airplane. Flight Factor modeled this correctly and it worked like a charm every time. Flight Mode stays engaged from takeoff till the airplane is 100ft above the ground. Flare Mode automatically engages when the RA detects 100ft above the ground and provides a direct sidestick to elevator relationship for landing. At 50ft the aircraft trims the nose slightly nose down requiring you to progressively pull on the sidestick rearward to add conventional input for landing. This also means that in the Flight Factor, if you let go of the sidestick or move too close to center again for too long, the nose will drop causing a less than smooth landing for your passengers. Alternate Law engages and indicates on the ECAM when degradation of normal law has been exceeded. This is correctly simulated by the Flight Factor A320. There are two slightly different categories of Alternate Law, with ALT1 combining Normal Law lateral mode with Alternate Law pitch modes, meaning the Alpha-floor slow speed auto stall recovery is no longer available requiring the pilot to manually recover the airplane. ALT2 is where Normal Law Lat Mode is replaced by Roll Direct Law and Yaw Alternate Law. Pitch mode also switches to Alternate Law. In ALT2, all protections lost in ALT1 are carried over, with additional protections being lost as well, including bank angle protection, and in some cases, high AOA and high-speed protections. ALT2 engages when both engines flame out, with faults in two inertial or air data reference units, with faults to all spoilers, certain aileron faults or with pedal transducers faults. Direct Law is all degradation as previously found in ALT2, however automatic pitch trim is lost, and all protections are lost. In this mode, the control surfaces directly correspond to sidestick movement. DIR is entered if all three IRUs or primary flight computers fail. The Flight Factor A320 has modeled all this, and from what tests I ran, it worked great, with proper degradation of control passing correctly through failures or issues, a great testament to the work put into the avionics and systems depth. In normal modes of flight, the Flight Factor feels quite solid and robust. Landings are a breeze and it’s a real joy to hand fly the airplane. It does have the slight lag found in the sidestick like its real-world counterpart, but all in all, it works exceptionally well, and it flies wonderfully. Sound The sounds that ship with the A320 are by no means bad, and in pretty much every regard, are perfectly acceptable. I found no issues with them, and they represent the A320 sound quite well. For customers of the BSS soundpacks, they work mostly fine without issues. There were a couple of error messages that popped up, but I flew a few flights with the soundpacks installed and everything worked as advertised. Conclusion I see the Flight Factor A320 as a work in progress, after all, it is a beta. In its current state, it has all the components needed to be a great X-Plane 12 model, and over the beta period, I'm sure it will only improve. Yes, it needs some IAE engines and sharklets included in the base product to remain competitive, but that will be on Flight Factor to do. For the $20.00 upgrade, I think it’s a good price, especially when you factor in all the new features you are getting, and for $89.99 for initial buyers, you get the already fantastic model that I enjoyed so much in X-Plane 11. The Flight Factor A320 is still the best A320 simulation on the market for X-Plane, though it needs a bit of updating on the visual side of things. I would definitely keep an eye on this airplane over the next few months, as I am sure it will only get better. _______________________________ The A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended beta is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended beta Price at time of writing US$89.95 Requirements X-Plane 12 (or X-Plane 11) OS: Windows (64 bit) or Mac 10.14 (or higher) Processor (x86-64 Intel or AMD): 4-cores Intel Core I5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 2500X, Apple M1 not supported Video Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 580 with 4 GB VRAM (8 GB recommended) RAM: 8 GB (16 GB highly recommended) Disk Space: 2 GB Last version: 1.5.0beta (6.09.2022) Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM __________________________________ Aircraft Review by Joshua Moore 29th September 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.
  2. Brilliant article Stephen, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. If X-Plane 12 sticks to what it's always done best (forget about MSFS), then we'll be in for a real treat down the road. After all, the journey is half the fun. Thanks again! Dom
  3. 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
  4. Scenery Review: Davao International Airport by Airwil Sceneries Introduction Davao International Airport is one of three airports in the Philippines being offered by AirWil Sceneries, the others being RPVE Boracay and RPSP Bohol Panglao, and it retails on the X-Plane Org Store for $11.99. The download is 5GB in size, so you will need plenty of space to store it, and as you read on, I am sure you will see why. In the download, there are three folders including the airport details, the overlay and the ortho tiles, all pretty easy to install. The real-life airport is on the island of Mindanao in the Southern part of the Philippines, some 800 miles (1300km) from the country’s capital Manilla, and the airport is known locally as Francisco Bangoy International Airport. It is the third busiest in the Philippines, and from the information provided, I read this to be the hometown airport of the developers. Today, Davao International carries more than half a million passengers annually to destinations within the Philippines, as well as internationally to Singapore, however, pre-pandemic this number was significantly higher with almost 4.5 million passenger movements recorded in 2019. That is a serious number of suitcases for both Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific who use Davao as a regional hub. The airport has a single asphalt and concrete runway of approximately 3000m in length and the developer has modeled the ongoing construction of a new parallel taxiway, so we should expect updates in the future as the new taxiway is completed in the real airport. At present, turning pads are provided at each end of the runway to allow aircraft to turn, however, having a parallel taxiway will certainly make life much easier for the pilots operating out of there. The developers have also included the original terminal building as it was in operation prior to the new terminal being opened in 2003. Both terminals are worth checking out as they have a very distinctive design, very common for the region. The scenery is described as having more than 250 bespoke objects, as well as numerous features such as interior modelling of the terminals and control tower, many local liveried ground vehicles, compatibility with SAM Jetways and ALES Ground Textures (the wet appearance is fabulous), not to mention many objects quintessentially Filipino, such as Jeepneys, Filipino styled houses and many Davao local landmarks. I couldn’t resist taking a sneak peek at what lies behind the scenes using Laminar’s World Editor (WED), and wow, there are an insane number of individual objects in the scenery, hence the 5GB. A huge number of buildings are included, including local houses, warehouses, fast food outlets, car garages, convenience stores and fuel stations, the list goes on and on, not to mention placing all of these by hand, now that is impressive! Hats off to the developers, as this must have taken hours and hours of work and dedication to complete. They even have a Jollibee, and anyone who has been to that corner of the world will know what I am talking about, if not, go Google it. You got to try it…. I loved the use of Laminar’s massive X-Plane neon sign across from the main terminal, and the way the developers have combined it with a local add board is clever. I did enjoy watching it illuminate and change colour at night, a very nice touch. The night lighting is generally very well done inside and out, and it feels very realistic, particularly as the various retail outlets light up nicely after dark. I highly recommend exploring a little on foot after dark to get the most out of both the airport and the local town. Based on what I observed as I went for a walk around, the developers really have put some effort into this, and this is a side of flight simulation that I have always enjoyed. Being able to move around and get a feel for a place, particularly if you are in the VR world is truly special. There really is way more to X-Plane than just flying, and if you have never tried it, just hit that ‘C’ button on your keyboard and get those arrow keys working. I should also mention that the scenery comes with its own ortho tile which again adds a little more authenticity to the pack, and teaser photos available at the org store give you a flavour of what to expect if you are thinking of purchasing the scenery. From what I have experienced, it certainly has the feel of a Southeast Asian regional airport, so if you are looking for your next purchase in this part of the world, then this may be the one for you. The Airport & Surroundings So, what was it like inside the boundary fence? Well in simple terms, it is a very nice rendition of the actual airport from available photos I found on the internet. The buildings are well presented, and I loved the fact that the internals of the main buildings are also modelled. I appreciate that for some, this type of detail may not be top of your priority list when deciding on which scenery to purchase, however, I really enjoy features like this as it is nice just to take some time to explore more than just the apron, taxiways and runway. You really do get a sense of what it must be like to visit this part of the world, from parking, to checking in, through to sitting in departures enjoying a coffee whilst waiting for your flight. The interior details are very nice, and the quality of the textures are well done; from the TV display screens in the departure hall, to the various airline signs and advertisements. This level of detail gives the terminal a genuine feel, and again shows that the developer is committed to creating a great product. As in real life, the outside ramp areas are also packed out with lots of objects such as baggage containers, and in addition, you will find numerous animated ground vehicles going about their business. The developer has also taken the time to model the new taxiway that is currently being constructed, so as you taxi past you will see the work in progress. Outside of the fence, the general locality is very well modelled with lots of local houses and features in the nearby town, including stilt houses and boats around the water village. You will also find a few naval ships loitering near the shoreline and again the developers really have done a marvelous job of capturing the spirit of this part of the world with the bespoke local buildings and vegetation. I very much like the fact that the developers have gone beyond the airport boundary, and I guess being the developer’s hometown gives them a unique insight and access to all the local details. Back inside the airport, the SAM Jet ways worked well from the ones I tried, and Traffic Global which I used for AI traffic, peppered the apron with loads of regional aircraft, filling the stands and taxiways. The ALES ground textures add an extra layer of richness to the overall look and feel of the airfield, particularly the wet tarmac, and I can genuinely imagine the humidity and the puddles after a thunderstorm crashes on by. You will also find lots of grass and vegetation around the taxiways and within the airfield and this creates a softer overall look and feel to airside which I always enjoy. Sceneries in my experience can range from basic runways and a few simple features, all the way through to bespoke layouts and masses of detail, and I would say that Davao on offer here is very much on the right side of that mental model. Having dabbled a little myself in the world of scenery creation, there clearly has been lots of love, attention to detail and not forgetting sheer hard work gone into creating Davao International, and I am totally respectful of the craft of others as I can appreciate what is involved. However, I am sorry to say, there is one thing that just takes the shine off what is otherwise a very nice airport scenery. There is a distinct lack of people! There I’ve said it….it’s out… The airport just feels empty and has a little bit of an eerie feel to it which is odd in my opinion, although to be fair to the developer, they are not alone in this, as many sceneries I have come across are devoid of human life. Is this perhaps because there is just a lack of good quality objects out there, or some other reason, who knows, however, if this can be fixed, this would be very much appreciated. It is not so much the cherry on the cake is missing, it is more like the eggs are missing from the mix. People are a very important part of any scenery in my opinion, particularly now that X-Plane 11 has come so far, and X-Plane 12 is just around the corner, and I really hope the developers can find a way to fill in the blanks. Other than that, they have done a very nice job and their scenery is well worth checking out. Performance As far as performance goes, no issues to report on my system (RTX2080Ti, i9), as I was able to move around the airport and surroundings with framerates in the plus 50s and often up in the 80s, even when up close to the numerous ground objects or vegetation. Final Thoughts The Airwil Sceneries team have developed a very nice addition to the X-Plane world in Davao International and have really brought one of the main airports in the Philippines to life. It is great to see another new developer joining the growing number of teams that are creating great content for us all to enjoy. Airwil’s attention to detail is superb, and clearly, lots of care and craft has gone into creating this airport, which bodes well for the future of our hobby. The more developers that get involved and the more parts of the world that get attention the better, and I do hope this review provides insight into some of the scenery features as you browse the org store for your next purchase. Whether you decide to buy or not, is as always, a personal choice based on what you are looking for, however, I have totally enjoyed my time in the Philippines, and if the developers can just find out where all the people went, I am sure I will be back for more… _______________________________ Davao International Airport by Airwil Sceneries is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Davao International Airport Priced at US$11.99 Features More than 250 custom modelled 3D objects Old Davao Airport Terminal (with interior modelling) New Davao Airport Terminal (with interior modelling) Davao Control Tower Cab (with interior modelling) SAM Jetways (Authorized by Stairport Sceneries) ALES Ground Textures (Licensed by Pyreegue Dev Co.) Moving ground vehicles at the ramp area Moving ground vehicles at the terminal parking area Highly detailed terminal parking area Work in progress RPMD parallel taxiway Popular Davao City Landmarks (Gaisano, Grand Regal Hotel, SM Lanang, etc2 just to name a few) Filipino Houses Filipino Jeepneys Maligaya Taxi Davao Metro Shuttle Bus Mindanao Star Bus Highly detailed vicinity surrounding the airport to capture that Davao City feel Color corrected orthophoto And many many many more! We hope you enjoy the most detailed airport from Airwil Sceneries to date. Requirements X-Plane 11 - X-Plane 12 (when available) Windows, Mac or Linux 4GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 5GB Review by Stuart McGregor 1st Sept 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 11, a Phanteks Evolve X ATX Case, ASUS Z390 ROG Maximus XI Formula Motherboard, Intel i9 9900K 3.6Ghz CPU, RTX2080Ti 11GB GPU, 64GB DDR4 Kingston RAM, 1TB Samsung SSD, 2TB WD HHD, Thermal Take Ring RGB 360 TT Cooler, Honeycomb Alpha Yoke, Thrustmaster Pendulum Pedals, SAITEK TPM and an Oculus Rift S. (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. Aircraft Review: Piper PA-28-235 Charger / Cherokee 235 by AeroSphere The Piper PA-28 Cherokee is a family of two-seat or four-seat light aircraft built by Piper Aircraft and designed for flight training, air taxi and personal use. The PA-28 series competes with the high-winged Cessna 172 and the similarly low-winged Grumman American AA-5 series and Beechcraft Musketeer designs. The first Cherokees produced were the Cherokee 150 and Cherokee which began production in 1961. In 1963, Piper introduced the even more powerful Cherokee 235 (PA-28-235), which competed with the Cessna 182 Skylane. The Cherokee 235 featured a Lycoming O-540 engine, albeit with lower power output (235 horsepower) and a longer wing. It also included tip tanks of 17 gallons each, bringing the total fuel capacity of the Cherokee 235 to 84 gallons. In 1973, the aircraft’s name was changed from "235" to "Charger". AeroSphere has developed several popular Piper aircraft for X-Plane in the past, with the Charger being their latest release. Known for their true-to-life representations, in this review we take a closer look at this aircraft and see just how good it really is. Download & Install Purchasing the product off the X-Plane.org store, and then adding the aircraft to your virtual hangar is a simple and straightforward task, as all you need to do is download the files from your account, extract the zip, and then add the model to your Aircraft folder. There is no activation key required, meaning you are ready to fly from the get-go. The aircraft also comes with a three-page readme document which goes through the history of the Charger, features included with the model and copyright information. Exterior Model The Piper Charger has the classic Cherokee shape with a slightly extended nose to sit the engine, and the AeroSphere version follows this trait with a highly authentic and well-modelled look. Finer details such as rivets and panel gaps have been bump mapped into the fuselage and further increase the realism, making the Charger an aesthetically pleasing aircraft to look at. Six different liveries are included with the aircraft. These are different colours and trims, typical for what you would see on this type of aircraft. Each has its own style and is pleasing to the eye in the virtual skies of X-Plane. All textures are created in 4k resolution, allowing for smaller details such as decals and warning labels to be clear and easy to read. The Charger also includes all the lights you would expect to find on the aircraft. The strobe and landing lights are very bright and can certainly illuminate your surroundings, especially when flown at night! This makes it easy for airfield hopping in the later hours of the day where perhaps a grass strip or unlit runway may not always be easy to spot! Cockpit & Functionality The Charger’s dashboard is a mix of cream and red panelling and is your classic 70s look, which suits the cockpit well. This has been modelled to a fair degree, helped by the indentation of the gauges. While it could perhaps do with a bit of weathering to add age to the Charger, it certainly fits the part and looks good no matter where you are sitting within the aircraft. All gauges are 3D and modelled into the aircraft dashboard. The dials and textures are taken directly from images of the real aircraft and placed into their correct positions. By utilizing actual photos, the developers have managed to combine authenticity and a small part of the real aircraft directly into their X-Plane model. Moving to the back of the cockpit, you have two seats and a small cargo bay to occupy your needs, and just like the view upfront, this too is well modelled. I have a custom camera key set in one of the rear seats which allows me to look outside to the ground below! The cockpit also includes both the Garmin 530 and 430 GPS units. These allow for ease of use for navigation while keeping to the core of this predominantly steam-gauge aircraft. Both are based on the well-established default X-Plane systems which have always been well maintained by Laminar. Animations within the aircraft also include all doors within the aircraft for people and cargo, as well as an animated storm window which can be opened and viewed out of. It’s a small extra detail but one that adds to the ambient life of the aircraft. The only thing I feel is missing is perhaps needle vibrations based on the engine’s output. It’s something I know has been done to good effect in X-Plane, including default aircraft, and can make the whole thing feel a little less ‘static’. Other than that, flying from the cockpit has been a real joy! Sound AeroSphere have recorded sounds from the real aircraft and incorporated this within the add-on. Throwing the throttle up to full power sounds good, with a good headset it really puts you in the seat of the cockpit. External sounds are also well mixed and take me back to spotting Cherokee aircraft at Denham and Elstree. The Charger has a distinct high-pitch buzz which this add-on portrays perfectly. FMOD really helps bring this aircraft to life too, as it allows for the sound to change as you alternate between views and where you are positioned in relation to the aircraft. This allows for a far more lifelike distribution of audio, rather than the usual static ‘plane noise’ we often experience. When testing aircraft, I always keep an ear open for poor audio cutting and noise loops, but on this occasion, I haven’t been able to notice anything in the Charger, which means a lot of time and care went into making this model sound the best it could. Flight Dynamics The Charger feels good to fly, as it’s nimble on the yoke and can manoeuvre with ease, but with enough trim adjustment, is super smooth in cruise, and I also found the prop drift easy to manage too. There is a small movement to the left which you can certainly feel on the ground, less so whilst airborne, but it only requires a little movement on the yoke to keep it steady and flying level. Landing the Charger is also a breeze, due in part to the powerful engine up front, which requires only fine throttle adjustments to keep the aircraft going, before pulling back for a held-off landing. I must say, I really enjoy flying this aircraft as it brings back happy memories of flying lessons I took a couple of years back. The fact that AeroSphere have managed to replicate the flight dynamics so well, is only further testament to their modelling credentials. Opinion & Closing Remarks Overall, I’ve really enjoyed taking the Charger out for a spin. AeroSphere have done a fantastic job putting this aircraft together, and this shows in the amount of care and detail they have added to make this model as true to life as possible. Like any Cherokee, it’s a simple aircraft, but a lot of fun to fly. The aircraft model certainly looks good and with a few little tweaks, such as adding weathering to the gauges (as mentioned earlier), I’m certain it would be up there with the very best of what X-Plane can offer in the GA department. When you factor in the high-quality audio samples (not to mention FMOD), plus an enjoyable flight model, you know you're on to a winning formula. At $29, the model is also competitively priced, so if you’re looking for an opportunity to fly the PA-28-235 or are looking for an older Piper Cherokee with a beefier engine up front, then AeroSphere’s Charger is a great place to start! _______________________________ The Piper PA-28-235 Charger/Cherokee 235 by AeroSphere is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Piper PA-28-235 Charger/Cherokee 235 Price is $29.00 Requirements X-Plane 11 Support for XP12 when available Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 198 MB Current Version : 1.0 (June 20th 2022) Review by Michael Hayward 26th August 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 10 Professional, AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Processor, 32GB RAM, Palit GeForce RTX™ 3080 GamingPro (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
  6. Scenery Review: PATK Talkeetna Airport, Alaska by NorthernSky Studio Introduction Hello and welcome to my review of Northern Sky Studio’s Talkeeta Airport. Talkeeta Airport, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is situated in a beautiful area of Alaska, about 100 miles north of Anchorage. Located near Denali State Park, a popular tourist destination, it’s an airport that usually gets incredibly busy during the holiday season. As may be slowly becoming apparent, especially if you read my last review, I prefer flying from the smaller, quaint airports when firing up X-Plane, and Talkeeta is no exception. The airport itself only covers 624 acres, which, by airport standards is pretty compact. Its single asphalt runway measures 3500 ft by 75 ft (1067 m by 23 m), and its single gravel helipad (designated H1) measures 480 ft by 85 ft (146 m by 28 m). Having been categorized as a general aviation airport in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, its passenger turnover figure was numbered at 1500, as per the Federal Aviation Administration records. It is currently home to seven air taxi operations including Sheldon Air Service, Talkeetna Aero Services, K2 Aviation, and Talkeetna Air Taxi. Download & Installation After completing my purchase at the X-Plane.Org Store, I was presented with a download link for the scenery. This weighs in at just over 500MB, but once extracted, increases to 1.3GB. When done, it’s just a simple case of copying the folder into your X-Plane’s Custom Scenery directory. In terms of documentation, there wasn’t a lot, just a single text document going over the installation process. Walkabout The airport, due to its location, is surrounded almost entirely by forest, such is the landscape of Alaska. To the west of the airport, the Susitna River snakes past, and if you follow it south, will eventually lead you down to the city of Anchorage. If city life doesn’t take your fancy, then perhaps try upstream and visit the Denali State Park. Don’t fancy either one (you are picky)? Well, whether you fly east or west, the mountainous scenery surrounding the airport is bound to give you cause for adventure…just watch out for the weather which can be unpredictable to say the least! As mentioned previously, Talkeerna Airport offers a single lit asphalt runway for your pleasures and one helipad for the more adventurous types out there. The textures used for the runway are of high quality and feature a reasonable amount of weathering, such as cracks and a few rubber marks. To increase the realism and look of the scenery even further, the developers have used a photographic overlay for the entire airport, and whilst it only goes out a short distance, works incredibly well. In fact, if you use ortho scenery files like I do, then you’ll find that the airport’s overlay will almost seamlessly blend in. In terms of airport vegetation, you’ll find an abundant amount of grass as you head on up toward the airport proper, which whilst nice to look at, may cause issues for those X-Plane users with lower end graphics cards, such as myself. There are also quite a number of GA aircraft present, and whilst not particularly detailed, help bring the airport to life. Having first checked out the layout of the airport on Google Maps, I was pleased to see that the developers had pretty much got everything spot on in terms of placement. There is no main terminal building to speak of, rather the airport is made up of several air taxi operations. These include Sheldon Air Service, Talkeetna Aero Services, K2 Aviation, and Talkeetna Air Taxi. The buildings for each of these are nicely modelled and reasonably well textured, and whilst not of photographic quality, are more than adequate for the price (more on that later). The airport’s main entrance includes signposts to each one of these operators, along with some nice artwork. From above, you get a clear view of the airport’s name painted onto the tarmac, and this was something I really enjoyed seeing. Call me old fashioned, but I think it just adds to the airport’s personality. Airport ground clutter consists of storage boxes, cones, bins, plus a few picnic tables, but sadly no people. This is a real shame, because due to the number of static aircraft and facilities on offer, having a few figures (animated or not), would really help bring the airport to life. PBR & Night Lighting PBR and night lighting is reasonably good at this price point, and whilst not up there with the best I have seen, it’s certainly not bad. There is a degree of dynamic lighting coming from a few of the buildings, but not all of them, which seems slightly strange. The main runway and taxiways are sufficiently lit, but I would have liked to have seen a little bit more lighting. However, there are some quite good uses of dynamic lighting on show, such as the maintenance hangar and the airport’s main entrance, as seen below. Performance Compared to some of you reading this, my setup isn’t the latest flashiest machine out there. It consists of an AMD Ryzen 5 2600 and a 4GB Nvidia GTX 1650, and for the most part, runs X-Plane 11 well…as long as I am sensible with my settings, and this is true for Talkeetna Airport. The only issue I ran into was a slight framerate drop when viewing the 3D grass from above. Apart from this one issue, the airport performed flawlessly and was silky smooth. Conclusion So, having spent the last few days exploring Talkeeta Airport, what did I think of it? Well, I have to say I really did enjoy my time there. It’s one of those little airports which has plenty of character without having too much on show if you know what I mean. Yes, it’s not perfect, as there are a few areas which could be improved on, namely, the inclusion of human lifeforms, better night lighting, and the ability to perhaps choose the level of grass detail for those on lower end systems. However, when you factor in the low price of the scenery (just under ten US dollars), then I think it deserves a bit of slack. Hopefully Northern Sky Studio’s will offer updates to the scenery, perhaps even implementing fixes to some of the issues I have mentioned in this review. As it stands though, due to its location, aesthetics, and general appeal, this is a scenery I think you will greatly enjoy. Happy flying, safe living! _______________________________ Talkeetna Airport, Alaska by Northern Sky Studio is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Talkeetna Airport Price is US$9.75 Requirements X-Plane 11 - X-Plane 12 (when available) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 530 MB Current version : 1.0 (May 23rd 2021) Review by Felicity Smith 18th August 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 10, AMD Ryzen 5 2600 (overclocked to 4.1GHz), 1650 4Gb, 32GB RAM, 256 M.2 SSD, 2TB HD (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
  7. Aircraft Update Review: Magknight 787 v1.8 Introduction & History The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is perhaps one of the more well-known aircraft of the 21st century. Designed from the ground up as a replacement for the existing 767 line, its goal was to be the dream plane for pilots, operators, and passengers alike. With its streamlined flight deck, large screen displays, and perhaps the nicest feature, the brand new HGS displays for both the Captain and FO, a first in commercial airliners. For the passenger experience, the large windows, sweeping wings, and state-of-the-art pressurization system, it was certainly a welcomed improvement over its older 767 predecessor. For the airlines, the Dreamliner opened the doors to point to point flights, plus new direct flights to airports previously only reached by connecting flights, and with a range of 7,300 and 7,560nm for the 787-8 and -9, it has opened the doors to direct point to point flights. The Magknight 787 has been in continuous development since 2018, and it has certainly shaped into a real promising representation of the 787, however, there are still major issues which haven’t been redone yet, but we will go over these in the review. Let’s get started! Documentation & First Impressions The download and installation of the Magknight 787 is standard to that of almost any aircraft for X-Plane 11, with the aircraft being self-contained in a single folder. Version 1.8 brings the addition of the shorter 787-8, and upon first loading the flight I am greeted with the very familiar cockpit of the 787 with its unmistakable features, including that HGS, which I was quite excited to use as the only other HGS equipped airliner in the sim is the 737 by Zibo or Levelup and it is sadly not the most usable. My hopes were immediately dashed however as it turns out the HGS isn’t modelled in X-Plane 11 and will only be added for X-Plane 12, so the waiting game to use it begins, and I can only hope it gets the collimated treatment that it so deserves. Upon first inspection, the cockpit looks fantastic, and the exterior even better, so I’ve got no complaints there! Electronic Flight Bag The 787 like all new generation Boeing wide bodies is equipped with an EFB to the left knee of the pilot, and I was eager to check it out to compare with the Boeing EFB I know from the PMDG 747 and 777. Powering it on I was greeted with a somewhat decent representation and at first, it looked great, however, I quickly realized it was missing some features. It did still have the TO and LDG performance calculator which I could use to pull the data to plug into the FMC which is the main feature I use. Exterior Model & Texturing The exterior model of the 787 is for me one of the highlights of the aircraft. It looks really well done, with a well-detailed bump map, the details of the composite fuselage really stand out, and the wings look fantastic. The shaping of the nose has much improved over previous versions, and the overall look of the airplane has come up to a new level for Magknight. The overall shape of the airplane is really really well done and I appreciate the work that has gone into the airplane’s overall shape. The details are where it degrades in quality however, and the landing gear is especially lacking in detail compared with its realworld counterpart. The main struts and bogeys were simplified, and it sadly shows, but with a revamp of the gear that can be resolved. The other issue with the shaping I noticed was the jagged edges of the fuselage and engine shaping. I haven’t noticed it on other aircraft as much as on the Magknight, but it’s only visible when you’re looking for it. Overall, they did a good job with the exterior model. Interior Model & Texturing The Interior model and texture which was redone in v1.6 looks far better than its predecessor and I’m happy to say it still looks fantastic. I really like the look of the real 787 cockpit, and this modeled version does it justice. The modeling of the switches, levers and other small items is done to a payware quality. The overall cockpit geometry is quite accurate though I don’t have a way to measure it, sorry. The best part that makes the cockpit stand out is the texture work; it looks simply awesome, and really brings the already good cockpit model to life, but sadly it gets let down by the next section. Avionics Options & Systems While still being continuously updated, the Magknight 787 is in the end a work in progress payware and the avionics and systems depth really solidifies that, even with the beautiful looking exterior and interior model. First the positives. The displays look crisp, and the main systems are modeled allowing you to make a full flight, however too far outside the limits of a simple flight and the issues start showing. The aircraft is improving, however it still uses the default X-Plane FMC, and that really limits its functionality, and it is quite evident in the FMC’s abilities. When inputting the flight data, the FMC works fine and like I’d expect it to. The PERF page isn’t really modeled that well, the Thrust LIM page isn’t modeled at all, and the TO page isn’t either. This really threw me through a loop as coming from the Qualitywings 787 it was quite a different experience. The Vspeeds are inputted through the EFB rather than the FMC, which is incorrect but oh well, hopefully, it will be corrected in the future. The next issue was the ND. While it looks good, the ND’s are limited in functionality. The well-known large screen map display in the 787 hasn’t been added yet, and it is impossible to pull it up, leaving you only the half display map option. Plan view isn’t yet implemented either which makes it a bit of a guessing game when planning your flight to find a waypoint if you need to. The options for displaying info on the ND is also quite limited and your options are not great. The last major issue I found with the ND is the path drawing on your flightplan. With the Magknight, only the line to your next waypoint is in magenta, with all following lines being white which is incorrect. These are the large issues I found on my flights with the 787 in terms of displays and systems, but the autopilot has issues from time to time, though not often, and on my flight from KSFO to EDDF, it didn’t have any problems. I hope these issues will be corrected with time and I fully believe they will, but they are for the time being still large issues that hinder the experience. Flight Characteristics & Sounds The flight model is quite interesting for me. On one hand, it feels quite solid, and yet on the other, it feels very mushy and hard to control. At slow speeds, namely on approach, it likes to wander and twist when adding aileron input, so keep that in mind on your approaches. In most other areas of flight, it feels quite good but still different from the Qualitywings 787 I came from. That is a different bag however and it’s not completely fair to compare the two. I do think it has a few issues with the aileron control but all in all, it’s not half bad and is easily flyable which is a good plus, especially if you like to hand fly your approaches. Conclusion The Magknight 787 is going to be difficult to sum up for me. It has a great model, and beautiful VC, yet the systems let it down so much. The overall experience could be so much better if Magknight put their resources into improving the avionics and flight deck of the 787, and that’s what this addon deserves. I will certainly continue following this aircraft, but I can only wonder what Magknight has planned to improve this aircraft and keep it competitive for X-Plane 12, especially with the 787 in development from Flight Factor. So, the big question is, is this aircraft worth the $44.95 price tag? That I will leave up to you the consumer to decide. I really think it’s quite a good looking aircraft, but if that is all it is right now, then it sadly falls into a category many developers have slumped into with MSFS, eye candy with bad systems simulation. The shortcoming of the Magknight 787 is its reliance on default X-Plane 11 systems, and if they free themselves from that, I see this airplane becoming way better than it currently is. I would treat this as an investment, much in the same way as the SSG 747-8. You’re buying a work in progress addon, one that is flyable, but not to the quality of Flight Factor, or Toliss, etc. I want to be honest in my reviews, and I really hope Magknight can upgrade their avionics, and add that HGS so that it does justice to the amazing model they built for it. _______________________________ The Magknight 787: Aviator's Edition v1.8.0 is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Magknight 787: Aviator's Edition Price at time of writing US$44.95 Requirements X-Plane 11 Free update to X-Plane 12 - when available Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM recommended Download Size: 1 GB Current version : 1.8 (May 23rd 2022) Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM Changelog v1.8.0 Changelog v1.8.txt Full changelog details are here __________________________________ Aircraft Review by Joshua Moore 11th August 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.
  8. Aircraft Review: Handley Page Hampden by Virtavia Introduction The 1930s was a great period for military aircraft development. At Handley Page one of their best examples during this time was the Heyford bomber, which went into service with the Royal Air Force in 1934. The Heyford was a biplane with an open cockpit and gun positions, had a fixed undercarriage and used a mixed construction of metal and fabric. The Heyford was the last biplane heavy bomber operated by the RAF. When you compare the Heyford to the Hampden, the differences between them were huge, especially when you consider there were only four years between them. History has a great way of recounting how good or bad an aircraft performed during its lifetime, with some even being regarded as a bit of a joke or totally abysmal. Unfortunately, the Handley Page Hampden could fall into that category. A certain Charles G Grey, the founder of the magazine “The Aeroplane”, described the Hampden (without considering some of its ground-breaking assets) as a flying suitcase! Sadly, this is the nickname that stuck with the aircraft during its whole service career. The Hampden was designed and conceived by Gustav Lacmann, Chief Designer at Handley Page in a response to a request from the British Air Ministry for a new twin-engined medium bomber under the Air Ministry specification B9/32. The specification set by the ministry was quite demanding, which specified among many other requirements that it should have higher performance than any preceding bomber aircraft. The first HP2 prototype flew for the first time on 21st June 1936, and shortly thereafter the Air Ministry placed an initial order for 180 Mk.1 Hampdens. The first production aircraft took to the sky on 24th May 1938. The Hampden was quite a modern aircraft for its time as it utilised a stressed metal skin. Fitted with the most advanced wing available at the time, the Hampden had a remarkably low landing speed of just 73 mph, quite impressive for an Aircraft of its size. The Hampden was powered by a pair of 980 hp air-cooled Bristol Pegasus 9-cylinder Radial engines. These engines, along with the aircraft’s slim design, resulted in the Hampden achieving a top speed of 265 mph, as well as an impressive climb rate. Armament on the Hampden was abysmal as it only featured a fixed Vickers K machine gun on the nose, plus two in each of the rear dorsal & ventral positions. The aircraft featured an internal bomb bay capable of carrying 4,000 lbs of bombs, mines, or a single 18-inch torpedo. The crew of four consisted of a pilot, navigator/bomb aimer, radio operator/dorsal gunner, ventral gunner. Due to its design, the crew were crammed into a tight fuselage with almost no room to move and were typically cold and extremely uncomfortable during long missions. Aircrews soon referred to the Hampden by various nicknames, such as the flying Panhandle, and Flying Tadpole. The Hampden entered service with RAF No.49 Squadron between September and November 1938. While based at RAF Scampton, they were allocated the hazardous task of low-level minelaying and attacking ships during the outbreak of World War Two. Purchase and installation For this review, I am running the latest version of X-Plane 11, along with a shadow tweak to make the shadow lines in the game appear much sharper. My chosen graphics API is Vulcan, not OpenGL. The Intel I7 4790K CPU is overclocked to 5Ghz complete with liquid cooling. I have 32GB RAM, with my GPU being an Asus Cerberus 1070ti. The sounds are provided through a Creative Titanium HD audiophile card, all of which is sat on an Asus Motherboard. At the time of writing, the Hampden from Virtavia is available from the Org Store for $21.95, and upon completion of your purchase, 44 reward points will be allocated to your store account. The stated system requirements are Windows, Mac or Linux and the model requires a minimum of 4 GB VRAM but recommends 8 GB or greater. The model currently sits at version: 1.0 (December 6th, 2021) and is for use in X Plane 11 only. Virtavia indicates that the model is fully VR-ready, however, I am not able to confirm this as I do not possess a VR headset. Once purchased, you simply download the compressed files to your chosen location on your PC. No automatic installation exe is included with the product, but installation is quite straightforward, as you simply extract the compressed files to your Aircraft folder. Once extracted, the size comes to 64.8MB. Documentation The model includes a comprehensive 19-page PDF full-colour manual which is split into several sections. It contains a procedures list and makes extensive use of screen captures which feature annotations to the relevant controls being demonstrated. Another feature that impressed me was the use of instructional videos as a reference relating to various procedures such as a cold and dark start. By double clicking on the AVI symbol, a copy of the instruction video will be downloaded to your pc where you can view them as and when required. First Impressions The original model of this Handley Page Hampden stems from an FSX/P3D variant. Whilst the aircraft systems and handling in this X-Plane version are significantly better than those found in the earlier FSX version, the Hampden is still not a particularly complex aircraft, which suits casual flight simmers such as myself. The package features two variants, these being the Hampden B. Mk1 and the TB. Mk1. 1. The Hampden B. Mk1 ships with four liveries and are as follows: 185 Sqn. at RAF Cottesmore from 1939 and 144 Sqn. stationed at North Luffenham during 1942. Whilst the other two liveries feature aircraft from No. 1404 (Meteorological) Flight RAF at St. Eval during 1942 and the Torpedo Development Unit of 1939 The Hampden TB. Mk1. ships with three liveries and are as follows: 415 Sqn. Royal Canadian Air Force during 1943, 489 Sqn. of the Royal NZ Air Force of 1944 and finally, the TB. Mk.1. of the Swedish Air Force. Exterior The exterior detailing faithfully captures the quirky lines synonymous with the Hampden’s airframe. From the narrow deep-seated fuselage to the thin tapering rear leading to the twin tail, Virtavia have faithfully captured these features. With the extensive use of PBR textures throughout both the exterior and the cockpit, the whole model shines (in all the right places) thanks to X-Plane’s superior global lighting. The surface of the model also features nicely rendered panel lines and subtle weathering. The flying controls and surfaces are fully animated and work very smoothly, including the forward wing slats which are automatically operated. The cooling grills (cowl flaps) can be opened and closed by clicking the relevant control in the cockpit. The model also features a reasonably detailed undercarriage as well as two different exhaust types that were fitted to the different variants of the aircraft. Overall, the exterior model is almost worth the price by itself. However, despite all the gloss of PBR and the improvements across the model, I did feel there was something still slightly lacking with the exterior model. In short, the Handley Page Hampden was amongst the first mono-winged aircraft to feature a flush-rivetted stressed metal skin, reinforced with a mixture of bent and extruded sections in an all-metal design. Whilst the panel lines are faithfully represented in this model, the detail relating to the flush riveting and stressed skin effects are missing. It doesn’t affect the functionality of the model in the slightest, but if you know your aircraft history, you’ll notice it. A feature I particularly liked was the ability to have the crew visible or not. The crew can be toggled on or off by pressing Shift-F5 as seen below. You can select to have the upper rear gunners’ canopy open or closed, and this is achieved by pressing Shift-F2. Both gunners’ positions (dorsal and ventral) included representations of the 303 Vickers K machine gun which are adequately detailed but are not operable. The crew access hatch can be toggled open or closed by pressing Shift-F3. Another nice feature of the model is the bomb bay which features operable bay doors which can be toggled open or closed by pressing shift-F4. Alternatively, there is a switch for this on the right side of the cockpit. The internal detail of the bomb bay is rather weak but acceptable, however, there is no ordinance within the bay and no loadout options are provided with the model. It would have been a nice touch if the developer had included such an option. Perhaps in a later update? Interior Moving onto the interior and it’s clear to see that this is where Virtavia pulled out all the stops. When sitting in the cockpit, you are presented with a rich and diverse environment. It’s a complete click fest of the highest order, all laced with lush PBR textures and clear annotations to both instruments and dials. Aside from the normal functioning controls, there are numerous features available to you in the cockpit, so many in fact that it would take too long to describe in this short article. However, all I can say is that if you do decide to go out and purchase the Hampden, you won’t be disappointed with how the cockpit looks, it’s simply exquisite. Handling Like many of you reading this, I am just a desktop pilot and a casual simmer at heart, so I am not particularly well qualified to say if the flight model is accurate or not. The task becomes even harder when you consider there are no airworthy Hampdens left anywhere in the world. However, that said, in X-Plane, the Handley Page Hampden being a tail dragger, has all the usual traits associated with this type of aircraft, and as such can be quite a handful on the ground. In other words, don’t open the throttles too quickly as the aircraft will run away with you, and your flight (what there was of it), will end in tears! Once in the air and all trimmed out, the aircraft is quite responsive and is in no way sluggish. The developers appear to have replicated the response rate of the engines quite well, in that there is no instant change in tone when you reduce or increase the throttle, instead it slowly changes tone which is far more realistic. The Handley Page Hampden was one (if not the first) medium bomber to feature forward wing slats. These reduced the aircraft’s landing speed to just 73mph. The forward wing slats are operated automatically, and I found landing the aircraft in my X-Plane world, a considerably more relaxed experience than taking off. Sounds When X-Plane allowed for the introduction of FMOD sound packages for aircraft models, the sound environment changed for the better. The included FMOD sound samples in this package are simply outstanding, and in my opinion, faithfully capture the dynamic sounds of a pair of 980 hp air-cooled Bristol Pegasus 9-cylinder radial engines. This starts with the slow, rattling, popping, spitting and stuttering of the engines during a cold and dark start-up. As you slowly increase power, the engine note changes, and you can really feel the deep rumbling gentle growl as the engines come to life. When you open and close the cockpit canopy (again sampled), the sounds of the engine are subtly subdued, but still audible through the canopy. In all, the included soundset of this model is simply music to your ears! Conclusion As you can no doubt tell from this review, flying this aircraft has been a great deal of fun for me, with some of its highlights being: The massive 3D modelling improvements and increased functionality in the cockpit over its earlier FSX/P3D variant. The cockpit environment is enriched by the extensive application of PBR textures, which really makes it shine, especially when you factor in the price point. The introduction of an impressive FMOD sound pack. The inclusion of a comprehensive PDF manual, which employs links to a series of downloadable instructional videos. Looking at areas for possible improvement, it would have been nice if Virtavia had included the flush riveting and stressed panel details on the exterior model. I would also have liked to have seen various loadout options for the bomb bay, but as I mentioned, maybe these can be added in future updates. I was just a little disappointed that some of the other notable characteristics were not given the same attention to detail as they lavished in the cockpit environment. In summing up, I have to say the Handley Page Hampden by Virtavia is a quirky, yet remarkable aircraft, and in my view will deliver a lot of nostalgic fun for not much money. So, why not be like me, and pack yourself into a flying suitcase and relive a bit of history! ___________________ The Handley-Page Hampden package by Virtavia is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Virtavia Handley-Page Hampden Price at time of writing US$21.95 Requirements: X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: 1.0 (December 6th 2021) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit Intel I7 4790K 32GB RAM NVIDIA GTX 1070Ti Aircraft Review by Nick Garlick 4th August 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)
  9. Aircraft Review: Magni M-16 and M-22 Gyrocopters Introduction Hello, and welcome to my second review here at X-PlaneReviews. This time around, and quite a departure from my previous scenery review, I will be sharing my thoughts on an autogyro which I have been testing out for the last couple of weeks. The package in question includes the Magni M-16 and M-22 by 3Dreal. The M-16 Tandem and M-22 Voyager are two single-engine two-seat gyroplanes equipped with a fixed front tricycle landing gear which can transport two crew members in a semi-fairing fuselage. As I’m a huge fan of low and slow aircraft, I was eager to see what this package offered, so with my order placed, I was ready to rock and roll… Purchase & Installation Once purchased from the Org store, it was just a simple case of downloading the provided zip file. This weighed in at just under 250MB, so not a bad size considering two models are being offered. With the file extracted, the package comes to 1.5GB, so quite a considerable increase, but…don’t forget, this also includes two additional sceneries. Yes, you heard correctly, if having two autogyros wasn’t enough, the developer has also provided sceneries of Chatelair airfield and Cortina d’Ampezzo airport, both situated in the Alps. Adding both the models and the included sceneries was a doddle, as according to the documentation, all I had to do was copy the two autogyros into X-Plane’s Aircraft folder, and the sceneries into…you guessed it, my Custom Scenery folder (making sure they were placed in the right order in my scenery_packs.ini). With these tasks done, I was ready to start X-Plane… First Impressions Having loaded up X-Plane, I decided that it would be only fitting to use one of the included two sceneries to begin this review, this being the larger Cortina d’Ampezzo airport. Due to its location, the airfield makes for an ideal starting point in which to explore this beautiful mountain region of Europe. The airport itself is nicely done and includes several custom buildings. There are numerous people situated around the airport, along with varying degrees of clutter. When used with simHeaven’s X-Europe and decent ortho imagery, the result is quite pleasing to the eye. M-16 Tandem Trainer & M-22 Voyager Note: For this review, I will be concentrating on the M-16 Tandem Trainer. The included M-22 is a touring variant with baggage space and increased endurance, but apart from that, it is basically the same as the M-16, as you can see from the images below. Moving on to the M-16 Tandem Trainer, and it’s clear to see that this is where the developer spent most of their time on, and rightly so. The exterior 3D modelling of the autogyro is some of the best I have seen in X-Plane. Considering its size and relatively simple shape, the detailing is impressive, especially where the engine is concerned. The power unit is composed of a piston engine (turbocharged) 115hp Rotax 914UL, and it looks fantastic, with even the smallest details being modelled. The high level of detailing continues to the main fuselage section, with all control surfaces, rotors, winglets, etc also being modelled. As with the 3D engine, the detailing of the rotor also includes the rotor head, rods, gear, speed sensor, and looks highly impressive, even when viewed close up. Notable animations, away from the obvious, include the opening and closing of the baggage compartments, and this is done via handles on the hatch. M-16 Tandem Trainer Interior The interior of the M-16 Tandem Trainer is again nicely laid out, with the main instrument display being its standout feature. You may be thinking (just as I did) that due to its relative simplicity, the M-16 would have a rather basic instrument cluster, and to a degree, you’d be right, but it’s not as simple as you might have first imagined. As well as your usual standard set of instruments and dials, you also get a FLYdat (monitors the Rotax engine via sensors), plus on the M-22, a rather handy Garmin 530. Altogether, for such a small aircraft, there are plenty of levers, switches, and buttons to keep you occupied during your flight! On the left and to the side of the cockpit, you’ll find an animated throttle lever, brake lever, rotor trim switch, pre-rotation lever, pitch and roll stick, mixture lever, and a rotor brake lever. These all have varying levels of animation included and are relatively easy to access. Texturing is done to a reasonably high standard and whilst certainly not the best I have seen, is perfectly adequate for this type of aircraft. Metallic, plastic and fibreglass components are all distinguishable from each other, with my only real complaint being that they are slightly low in resolution. Overall, sitting in the cockpit of the M-16 is a highly enjoyable and authentic experience. Flight Model I’ve never actually flown in an autogyro before, so I have no idea what their real-world flight characteristics are like, but if their performance is anything like the M-16, then it’s no wonder people enjoy flying them! I must say, it did take quite a few attempts to learn how to control the model, but once I got a rough idea of how things worked, I found the aircraft remarkably stable in the air and easy to fly. Taking off in the autogyro is probably the most difficult phase of flight to master, as is landing, but with practice, I can see it becoming almost second nature. I would advise against using the mouse and keyboard for your control inputs as it will only cause frustration. In my opinion, a dedicated flight controller makes the most sense, as it allows you to control more things at once. So yes, whilst the M-16 looks simplistic, be prepared to spend some time learning how to control the model. Sounds Only a few sound samples are included in the package, but what there are, worked well. I observed no engine looping and at no time did the drone of the engine get in the way of my enjoyment. Documentation Contained within the package are three high-quality PDF documents, the first of which covers the model in X-Plane, whilst the other two are related to the real M-16. I found all three to be very helpful as they guided me through the initial stages of operating the autogyro. Again, considering the relatively simplistic nature of the model, I was pleasantly surprised by their overall quality. Conclusion This was an interesting package to review as I was unfamiliar with both the autogyros and the airports contained within. However, having now had time to try out both thoroughly, I now feel I am reasonably qualified to provide an accurate summing up of each. Starting with the M-16 Tandem Trainer and I must say I was impressed with how this model both looked and performed. Initially, I was unsure of how I would get on with the model, especially considering my lack of knowledge or flight experience regarding autogyros. However, after only a few flights, my doubts and fears disappeared, as I found the M-16 incredibly enjoyable. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a learning curve involved, but you know what they say…the best things come to those who wait. So, what about the two included sceneries in the package? Well, Cortina d’Ampezzo airport is certainly the most impressive of the two, not only by looks but also by its location. In fact, most of my flights in the M-16 Tandem Trainer were from this airport, so this should give you some idea. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this package as it offered something quite different to what I am used to. In many ways I found this to be quite refreshing, as it provided a challenge that other larger aircraft would perhaps fail to meet. As a result, if like me you fancy trying and exploring something different, then I highly recommend this little addition by 3Dreal. ___________________ The Magni M-16 and M-22 Gyrocopters package by 3DReal is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Magni M-16 and M-22 Gyrocopters Price at time of writing US$21.00 Requirements: X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 250 MB Current Version: 1.0 (August 11th 2021) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit Intel Core i5-3350p CPU @ 3.10 GHz 16GB RAM NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti Aircraft Review by Paul Mort 28th July 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)
  10. Scenery Review: PHNY - Lanai Airport, Hawaii Hello, and welcome to my review of Northern Sky Studio's Lanai Airport for X-Plane 11. Located in Maui County, Hawaii, Lanai Airport (or Kahua Mokulele o Lāna‘i, as it is sometimes known) is a mere 3.4 miles (6 km) southwest of the central business district of Lanai City. Having begun regular operations in 1930, to date it is the only airport serving the beautiful island of Lanai. I for one would love nothing more - especially after the last few tough years we’ve had as a global population – than to go and visit this airport for…erm…’research’ purposes. Who knows, someone might even be able to convince me, with some ease I should probably add, to blend in with all the other tourists ‘researching’ everything Lanai has to offer. It would be a hard job, but I think I’d be up for the challenge! Unfortunately, this review is not about Lanai as a whole, just the little airport with a big heart, so let’s get on with it. The download itself was relatively large for such a small airport, just over 800MB, and even larger when you include the optional photographic scenery mentioned in the documentation. This is an additional 1.3GB, but one I highly recommend downloading as it adds a lot to the surrounding area. Installation of the main airport is automated, with only a serial number to enter. When done, it’s just a simple case of starting X-Plane and you’re good to go! Lanai Airport’s layout is thus: On approach, there is a passenger car park to the front. Here you will find a spattering of cars; enough of a variety to not feel like a ‘cut and paste’ effort. Directly behind the car park is the main terminal building, and to the right of that, a larger employee car park. Sitting in front of this car park are four hangars. Starting from the far right, we have the ARFF station. Beside that are the cargo bays and some handy public toilets. Then you will find the maintenance hangar, and lastly, closest to the main terminal, you will find the office building in which you will find a conference room, TSA, Security, Bradley, FedEx, USDA, Air Service, and finally, Operations. Ok, now here come the geographical statistics for those of you who may be interested. Sitting on the southwestern side of the island of Lanai, it has an elevation of 1308 ft/399 m above mean sea level, and the airport itself covers an area of 505 acres. It has just one asphalt runway (designated 3/21) which measures 5,001 by 150 ft (1524 by 46 m). Once serving as a base for 6,326 aircraft operations, as of April 2022, it no longer serves as a base for any aircraft operations, and indeed, Mokulele Airlines are the only commercial airline that actually operates a small number of aircraft into Lanai. Unsurprisingly, this cessation of base status has sadly led to a dramatic fall in passenger numbers, but happily it is still surrounded by the same mesmerizing beauty. So, what does this airport, re-created for X-Plane by Northern Sky Studio, have to offer? Well, the first thing to say is that it is polar opposites to any large, or even medium-sized airport. Instead of the shoulder-shoving hustle and bustle of modern life barging its way through the doors, there is a small, gentle meandering. Of course, everyone has a place they need to be, places to go, but this airport suggests a refusal of admittance to the hardcore ‘must dash, no time to waste, I’m late, I’m late!’ feel. No need for shoulder shoving here! In fact, as one drives up to the airport towards the car park, it doesn’t have the coldness of many larger airports. Instead, it seems to say, ‘Come my friend, let me take you to where you want to go.’ I suspect if it had hands, it would probably carry your luggage for you too! They even have a pleasing frontage to ticketing and check-in. And have you seen those queues? No, neither have I! Just look at that remarkably short queue to ‘the other side.’ If you are like me, and you hate feeling like a sardine squashed into a box with too many others, this airport will be for you. I suppose if I was to be critical of anything here, it is the fact that although it is meant to be a small airport, it somehow feels too empty. However, what you do have is nice texturing and lighting, and the modelling of both objects and people is to a good standard. If we turn our attention to the exterior, enviro-savvy passengers will immediately be happy to see the number of solar panels draped down the side of many of the roof sides. Then you have the other various shades and textures of different materials on the roof, from glass to wood to solar panelling. Whilst easily overlooked or minimised by some, the importance of such accurate re-modelling to detail has not been so by Northern Sky Studio. That attention to detail extends to a number of other ‘icing-on-the-cake’ objects such as well-modelled trees, trailers, signage, hangars and terminals. However, the one thing I would have liked to have seen, but is sadly lacking, is people. Without a population, it just feels rather…lonely. Focusing on the exterior textures, the runway and surrounding paving areas are done well. There is enough shading and texture in the asphalt to indicate accurate wear and tear for an airport of this size, and the paving slabs that act as parking areas for the aircraft are suitably weather-worn. The grass is one area that I personally would like to see improved though, as it has a very flat, ‘rolled-out’ look to it. Better shading and texture would greatly enhance the grass, because at the moment it just feels a little flat. When darkness sets in, you'll be glad to know that the airport provides varying degrees of lighting techniques to set the scene, both externally and internally and the results are most pleasing to the eye. Conclusion Now we come to it; would I recommend Northern Sky Studio’s Lanai Airport to you? Well, at a fairly priced US$12.00, it is certainly one you should give serious consideration to if you like the smaller airport. Not only is it a lovely airport to explore, but the surrounding scenery is also beautiful, and Northern Sky Studio have created a wonderful little package with an equally matching price tag. What about value for money? With everyone being affected by the cost of living crisis, price is definitely a consideration for a great many people, and this foresight has not been overlooked by Northern Sky Studio. Given the quality of the package you get with Lanai Airport, it is certainly value for money. As such, it pays dividends in the quite moments of R&R that so few of us get enough of these days. In short, weighing up all the pros and cons of this airport, yes, I would recommend purchasing this quaint little airport nestled in the islands of Hawaii. Happy flying, safe living! _______________________________ Lanai Airport by Northern Sky Studio is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Lanai Airport Price is US$12.00 Requirements X-Plane 11 (or X-Plane 12 when available) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 563 MB Current version : 1.0 (June 21st 2022) Review by Felicity Smith 21st July 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 10, AMD Ryzen 5 2600 (overclocked to 4.1GHz), 1650 4Gb, 32GB RAM, 256 M.2 SSD, 2TB HD (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
  11. Aircraft Review - AMD Alarus CH2000 by SimSolutions Introduction The AMD Alarus CH2000 is not an aircraft I had heard of up until SimSolutions released their model for X-Plane 11, so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to try it out. The aircraft itself is a single engine general aviation aircraft, with two seats, fixed tricycle landing gear, and was designed by the Aircraft Manufacturing and Design Co based in Georgia USA. It was in production from 1995 to 2011 and came in two variants. The civilian one being reviewed here, and interestingly, a military option, complete with state-of-the-art communications systems and an infrared multi sensor. For the civilian market, the aircraft was designed primarily as a low wing trainer, so if you are looking for an alternative to the more common trainers available today, this is well worth a look. The X-Plane 11 version of the CH2000 retails for $23.95 and is available via the X-Plane.org Store. It can be used on Windows, Mac and Linux, although as I am a Windows only user I can’t vouch for its performance in the other platforms. It is extremely easy to install, just download the 332MB zip file, unzip and drag into your Aircraft folder, and that’s it. No activation codes, no fuss, no hassle. In the download you will find a small pdf manual that accompanies the CH2000, and in here you will find all sorts of interesting information about the aircraft and some of the key features. There are brief descriptions of the navigation systems, such as the Garmin GNS430, the Bendix KR87ADF and the Garmin GTX327 Transponder. The very straightforward engine start procedure is also outlined, as well as other instruments and controls, such as the clock and the outside air temperature gauge, and there is also information on how to adjust the flaps using the switch in the center panel. In my opinion, it is well worth taking some time to read through the manual if you do decide to purchase the aircraft, as there are a few novel characteristics about this aircraft that may not be that obvious at first glance. One rather unusual feature is the lack of a parking brake in real life, so the developer has included animated and removable chocks and tie downs. The chocks can be easily removed by clicking on each of them manually, or by assigning a button to park brake which removes them all in one go. For the tie downs in Vulkan you still need to click on them individually or assign keyboard keys (External, Show/Hide ground object 1, 2, 3….) to do this. There is a slight difference here if you run in OpenGL compared to Vulkan, as when in OpenGL, both the chocks and tie downs are removed together when the park brake button is assigned. I believe the developer is aware of this as this is mentioned in the forum support page SimSolutions - X-Plane.Org Forum. I observed several recent posts responding to comments and observations since the aircraft was released in May 2022, and I also had cause to contact him directly as I found that the toe brakes were not functioning in the version 1.01. The tow brake issue has now been fixed I see as of version 1.03. It was nice to see a responsive payware developer actively working to improve their product. The CH2000 comes with six liveries, including the default white texture, and a mixture of USA (3), Canada (1) and the Dominican Republic (1), and I am sure having a white blank texture will allow any avid painters to use their creative juices to dream up all sorts of designs. Thoughts and Observations on the Ground My initial impressions were of a well-proportioned and well modeled sim aircraft. As it is a trainer, there is not a huge amount of detail to be seen if I am being entirely honest, however, what is there is well presented in my opinion. From the rivets on the aircraft skin, to the door handles on the gullwing cabin doors, to the landing gear, landing lights and through to the prop and radio antennae, they are all very crisp and clean in their textures. The same goes for the decals on the aircraft fuselage and wings. Both cockpit doors open by clicking on the door handles from the outside, or by assigning to a controller, and in my case, I used a couple of the switches on my Saitek TPM (this worked a treat). The aircraft surfaces have a nice but subtle shine to them, and the pilot is very well modelled and realistic. So overall, once I had the chance to view the CH2000 from the outside, I was quite taken with it. One thing to note is that if you are using your mouse to remove the tie downs, you do have to be very specific and click on the fastening on the aircraft, otherwise nothing happens. Once I moved inside, the cabin is very small as in real life I assume. However, it appears well-proportioned from what I observed from photos on the internet. The good news is that the instruments are large and easy to read, with the standard six panel dead ahead, as well as the RPM indicator and air suction gauge. The control yoke I really liked, as its design is a little different to that in other trainers I have used, and as with most aircraft, it can easily be removed if you would like an unobstructed view of the instrument panel. If you do decide to remove it, it is worth noting that this will remove the AVI Tab which nestles neatly on the control yoke. When you look around the cabin you will come across the navigation equipment to your right as well as the clock which shows sim time, and several gauges providing info on fuel, oil temp and pressure, battery amps and volts. There are two switches on the clock that allow you to change the sim time forward or back if you so choose. That can be handy and being able to do this from inside the aircraft rather than the sim menu is a nice touch. The gauges are all nicely textured and I found them easy to read. Moving down to the center console you will come across the flap switch, just a simple up down switch, and the trim wheel. Nothing fancy, but they both do what they need to. From there, if you firstly look to the floor, you will find the fuel selector switch. If you then look up, you will find the outside air temperature gauge above your head and the whiskey compass at the top middle of the windscreen. Located above and behind the cabin seats are two adjustable red night lights that will illuminate the cabin once dark, and the angle of these can be adjusted, which I thought was a nice touch. There is also a plethora of switches along the bottom of the instrument panel, and all are functional, although I had mixed success with my Saitek panels. It appears that a script will be required to get everything to align and sync, as although the Saitek switches did switch on an off the various external features like lights, the switches in the cabin did not all move. What was nice is for those with a Honeycomb Bravo throttle unit; the action of the flaps switch works very nicely with animation in the aircraft. The remainder of the cabin textures are well done, have the feel of a well-used aircraft with many hours of use. As far as the sounds were concerned, I would say there were just about OK, but not the best I have heard to be honest. The subtle click of the cabin switches was nice; however, it would have been nice to have sound associated with the cabin doors opening and closing. The engine start-up was abrupt and a bit on/off in my opinion, and from inside the cabin, there was no noticeable difference in engine volume when the doors were opened and closed. The volume did go up considerably when you moved outside the aircraft, however there was the same repeating noise within the engine sound, and this was most noticeable when the engine is at idle. I did like the actual engine sound and how it changed with changes in the throttle, however I just felt the overall sound package could do with a bit of improvement to bring it up to the quality of the rest of the aircraft. Thoughts and Observations in the Air With the engine running, I found the CH2000 very easy to taxi when using my Thrustmaster pedals, the toe brakes worked just fine, and I was able to move around the airfield with no issues (all very smooth). Getting airborne was very easy, in fact the CH2000 pretty much lifted off without much input from me, as all I had to do was keep it straight as I sped down the runway. Again though, the repeating engine tone when inside the cabin was a bit off-putting, and I feel this would really stop me from taking any kind of longer flight. From the outside it was less noticeable, however as I do spend most of my time in the cockpit, this was a little bit of a concern. In contrast, flying the CH2000 I found very enjoyable, and the aircraft responded well to my controls. Turns and level changes were smooth, and I particularly enjoyed the largely unobstructed view from the cabin. The wide curved windows provide a great way to do some VFR flying as you do get a good all-round view from either seat. If on the other hand IFR is more your thing, then the suite of navigation instruments can help you there. I liked the multiple functions built into the Garmin GTX327 Transponder, as in addition to just setting your transponder code, there are up and down count timers, as well as pressure altitude display and a Zulu time indicator. It is probably a good time to mention that although there is no mention of being VR ready in the supporting documents, I now pretty much fly all the time in VR with my Oculus Rift S, and I really enjoyed my time in the CH2000. With the relatively large windows to the right and left, as well as the curved windscreen, you get an all-round view from the pilot’s seat. The dials were all very easy to read, and I had a real sense of being onboard, and just how small the cabin is in an aircraft like this. You don’t get this feeling in 2 dimensions. The exterior also comes into its own in VR as you can get up close and check out all the details. At first glance, the CH2000 is understated, however once you dig a bit deeper there is a lot more to meet the eye. In VR I was able to manipulate all the various switches that I tried, and it worked well with my hardware, which consists of a Honeycomb Alpha yoke, a Saitek TPM and as I mentioned earlier my Thrustmaster pendulum pedals. I have been doing a bit of rationalization and simplification of my hardware now that I have moved to VR, and I am thoroughly enjoying the overall experience. It does take a while to get used to it, and long flights of more than an hour are still a bit of a challenge, however for aircraft like the CH2000 and short hops around the countryside, it really adds a whole new dimension to my flight sim experience. The feeling of the ground falling away below you as you head down the runway is something that I never get tired of. Overall The CH2000 from SimSolutions is just a little bit different to the multitude of trainers I have tried over the years and in my opinion is worth considering if you do want to try a different trainer experience. It is well built, looks and flies great and has several nice touches and features. If I am honest though, the only thing that detracts a little is the soundset, and in my opinion could do with a little further improvement just to add a cherry to a very fine cake. The team from SimSolutions have indeed done a pretty good job of bringing the CH2000 to life in X-Plane 11 and they already have a solid model there, and with the developer continuously upgrading and improving the aircraft, all bodes well for the future. Is it worth buying? As always this is a personal choice, and with so many fine aircraft available these days it is not easy to decide where to put your hard-earned cash, however if you are wanting to try out a trainer that is a little different to the many Cessnas and Pipers out there, then hopefully this review has been helpful. _______________________________ The AMD Alarus CH2000 by SimSolutions is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: AMD Alarus CH2000 Price is US$23.95 Requirements X-Plane 11 Free Updates to X-Plane 12 (when available) Windows, Mac and Linux 4 GB+ VRAM minimum Download Size: 335 MB Current version: 1.0.3 (July 10th 2022) Review by Stuart McGregor 14th July 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 11, a Phanteks Evolve X ATX Case, ASUS Z390 ROG Maximus XI Formula Motherboard, Intel i9 9900K 3.6Ghz CPU, RTX2080Ti 11GB GPU, 64GB DDR4 Kingston RAM, 1TB Samsung SSD, 2TB WD HHD, Thermal Take Ring RGB 360 TT Cooler, Honeycomb Alpha Yoke, Thrustmaster Pendulum Pedals, SAITEK TPM and an Oculus Rift S. (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
  12. Aircraft Review/Tutorial: Lockheed Martin F22A Raptor Version 1.3 by AOA Simulations Hello and welcome to my flight review/tutorial of the AOA F-22A Version 1.3 for X-Plane 11.55. For an overall view and first look of the F-22A, please check out Stephen Dutton’s excellent write-up found here. In this article, I will be looking at the model from a general user perspective, covering both start options, from engines running and from “cold and dark”. The F-22 Raptor entered service with the USAF in December 2005 as the F-22A, with the program producing 187 operational production aircraft, the last F-22 being delivered in 2012. The current X-Plane 11 model by AOA of the F-22A at the time of writing, is version 1.3. Three versions of the Raptor are available, and these are as follows: A2A (air to air) equipped with 6 AMRAAM’s, and two Sidewinders. A2G (air to ground) equipped with 6 JDAM’s (1000lb bombs) 2 AMRAAM’s and 2 Sidewinders. EFT (external fuel tanks) equipped with 2x 4000lb drop tanks, 6 AMRAAM’s and 2 sidewinders. The installed file size is 405MB and comes with an excellent 93-page manual and the 1.3 update notes. Only the default livery comes in the download, which reduces its size, but a further thirteen are available on the X-Plane.org forum. External & Internal Appearance The external body is very realistic, and really does justice to this fantastic stealth fighter, and has many small details for you to enjoy, for instance in cold and dark, the external red covers with streamers that blow in the wind (a lovely touch), the engine covers front and rear, the ladder, the small Luneburg lens that appears below the fuselage when IFF is set to on, the two APU cooling doors which open and close, even the pilot’s name is faintly visible on the front wheel door. Just like the real aircraft, the canopy is coloured in a cool reflective gold and looks great. In addition, there is the IFR (refuelling) port at the top centre of the fuselage, the gun port on the top right, plus the two fuselage side doors, which open to release the chaff and flares countermeasures. Internally, the modelling of the F22 follows a similar vein in terms of visual fidelity. Looking around the cockpit you’ll find the pilot’s seat complete with rippled textures, along with the associated safety harness, vents, fire extinguisher etc, plus light weathering on the side panels. All the switches and screens are clear to see and use from the pilot’s position, and from the very first moment you lay eyes on it, you can tell it’s a premium product. Engines Running Start Many of you will probably want to try out this Jet fighter straight away, and only later begin studying the manual in which to learn its systems, and to fly it properly as AOA intended. So, let’s start with engines running, (I’ll assume you know how to set this up in X-Plane). To begin with, you’ll find all the assists are “On” by default, these being auto flaps, auto gear, ground collision protection, auto air brakes and auto afterburner, and here we need to turn them all off! Why? Because they will trip you up until you know exactly what they do. Also, located in the centre of the dash, the upfront control panel, turn off R2C (Roll to See) as this will control where you look (very useful later on when you want to see where the enemy or tanker is), and switch off the stick braking because it will keep turning off your normal brakes. Its best use is below 50kts and is very useful for gently taxying from the stand to the runway. Now that the aircraft is completely in your hands, you’ll get a far better understanding and feeling of its flight characteristics. Tip: To fill the fuel tanks, apply the parking brake, next to the eject seat handle in front of you, (move forward to see), then throw the IFR switch on the right panel. You’ll find the F22 has Mach 2 performance, an approach speed of 200/250kts and a landing speed of about 160kts with full flaps. When flying under 250kts, be gentle on the stick, as the aircraft can lack directional stability. However, this can be corrected with a little rudder input. The F22’s flaps are infinitely adjustable, so simply hold your default flaps key down. No cockpit handle is present to adjust the flaps, as the real aircraft adjusts these automatically. Hopefully, if you’ve flown modern fighters before, you’ll be able to understand the basics of the HUD, plus operate the autopilot, radios, and Sat-Nav. For now, simply enjoy the incredible performance and flight dynamics of the F-22. For example, try putting the model into a slow flat spin, then with the massive rudder authority on offer, come out of it in full control, with opposite rudder and increase thrust. As you do, just listen, and take in the wonderful FMOD sound samples as the mighty Pratt & Whitney F119 engines propel you up to 70,000+ feet. Cold & Dark Start Having enjoyed the F-22 in a fun, yet basic way, now let’s start to enjoy all the features that AOA have implemented in Version 1.3. Start the F-22 with engines off. On the upfront control panel is the CHK LST button, press and use its arrow keys to move to each new page. As you do, you’ll notice the words are both written and spoken, with their volume being adjusted in X-Plane’s sound/radio slider, along with the pilot’s breathing and grunting when pulling more than 4G’s. Tip: The F-22’s parking brake is hard to spot, so move your view forward and look left of the eject seat pull. Right, let’s talk about fuel (and not the price of it). Generally speaking, you should fill the tanks to the 18,500lb maximum, but with EFT’s you get an extra 8,000lb, for a total of 26,500lb of fuel. The F-22 has a normal all-up weight of 64,000lb for takeoff, but you want a landing weight of 50,000 to 55,000lb, and so if needed, a fuel dump button will slowly reduce fuel to 4,000lb, which is released from under the left wing (try not to drop flares at this point!). AOA, to their credit, have gone to great lengths and provided three different methods in which to fill up with fuel. They have even supplied an adjustable starting fuel LUA script (found in F-22/plugins/ F-22/ data/ modules/custom module/start fuel). It would have been handy to have a shortcut for this, but it’s a simple task to make one yourself. There’s also a FOV script there too, which allows you to change the field of view of each camera. The first fuelling method is when stationary on the ground, and with the parking brake on, just throw the IFR switch (which opens the refuelling hatch on top of the fuselage), and your tanks start to fill. The second method is inflight, called the virtual method, because no tanker is actually used. Here it’s just a simple case of flying level at either 20,000ft or 30,000ft and at 300kts, throw open the IFF, and you’ll take on fuel. The third method is the most realistic and can use any aircraft as a tanker, (I use a modded KC-10 tanker to reduce height, speed and vortex, available here. Set it as the first AI aircraft and make it non-combatant (the manual wrongly states to make it friendly, but it won’t work if you do). When done and the sim is loaded, attempt to fly between 150 and 400ft to its rear. Doing this is not easy, so don’t be surprised if you happen to need a bit of practice. Open the IFR and set radar mode to TRG TRK. This will provide you with an accurate distance reading which is just what you need. These three pictures show each of these methods in action. There are many fuel gauges in the cockpit, but the main one is on the top right MFD, which is a blue bar until you’re down to 4,000lb of fuel, at which point it turns yellow, and then red when it goes down to 2,000lb. The APU start dial, like almost all the dials in the cockpit, can be turned with the mouse wheel. The APU will start with a howl, and the fuselage vents will open, letting out shafts of hot air, which is a really cool effect. Wait for it to spool up to 100% speed before switching on its generator. With the battery charging up, engine one can be started as long as the battery power is more than 95%. Hold the starter down until N2 on the lower central MFD is showing at least 54%. Next, put engine one generator on (this switches the APU gen off) and switch on fuel two. Start engine two in the same way and switch its generator on. Only now can you turn off the APU, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to start engine two. Continue following the CHK LST, and then load your destination into the Sat-Nav centre G1000 unit. This is easy to do as it can pop out, or perhaps even simpler, download the freeware GpsFPLInput plug-in (Windows only) found at the Org by Gtagentleman. This allows you to just type in the airport code, enter it into the GPS, and bingo, it’s now your destination. If you’re taking off and landing at the same airbase, still load it into the Sat-Nav, because it will show on the HUD, with distance and direction on the tadpole. By doing this, you’ll know where your home base is at all times. Also, when flying with an ILS loaded in Nav1, you might get an IM/MM or OM warning as you fly over the runway markers, they stand for inner, middle, and outer markers, and most runways just have one or two. These pictures show some of the additional info on the HUD. If taxiing to the runway from a stand, use the stick brake option, it works great below 50kts and allows for fine control. I would however turn it off for landings as I find that if you leave it on and use the B or C commands (default brake and max brakes), they keep getting turned off, and if you use the stick break over 50kts, the aircraft will nosedive. Takeoff with full thrust, rotate above 120kts and let the auto gear and auto flaps do their thing. If you read the manual, it has a couple of extra things for you to try. One is the in-flight engine shutdown and restart, which has its own checklist when it detects an engine has stopped, and the other is the Auto GCAS flight test. The Ground Collision Avoidance System is just one of the many highlights of the systems offered by AOA. In this case, two arrows merge from left and right to warn you that an impact is near and that GCAS will have to take control of the aircraft. When the two arrows meet in the middle, the AP is activated and levels the aircraft, as well as maintaining the heading shown on the bug (as long as the descent is less than 18,000ft per minute). This happened to me during one of my first ever flights with the F-22, as I was fighting the AP which kept turning the heading bug, and again shows why you must read and learn from the supplied manual. Weapons & Combat I’m pleased to say the AA radar and missiles work fantastically well, combined with the R2C (which turns your head to look at the target) and the 2D panel switch (default XP ALT+W), which brings your view forward to the panel/HUD. To test this, I had my tanker KC-10 in AI Aircraft slot one, and an enemy MiG-23 in slot three. The MiG will detect you as soon as you takeoff and turn towards you, there’s no stealth yet in X-Plane 11. I changed the target (keyboard command) to highlight the MiG, and changed the radar from Nav, down to gun, and down again to track the target which provided me with his altitude and closing speed. Finally, I changed radar down once more, to the A2A setting, and once the target was within 50 miles, launched an AMRAAM, and then another for good measure. The first missile hit and sent the MiG down in flames, fun virtual combat. For the next test, I set up a flight with the F22-A2G, armed with 6 JDAM bombs. These 1,000lb bombs will take you out if dropped below about 1,500 to 2,000ft. The JDAM is a satellite-guided bomb, and totally stealthy, but the limited combat in X-Plane 11 means it’s really just an unguided bomb to drop on large static ground targets. Still fun though and looks pretty cool. Final Thoughts So, there you have it, a short guide on how to get the best out of the AOA F-22. In all, I have found the model to be a wonderful addition to my hangar as it has everything I enjoy in a modern fighter jet; high performance, manoeuvrability with its vectoring nozzles, and some very innovative ideas from the AOA team, which altogether, provides a thrilling and full experience of an F-22 in X-Plane. With its many systems, it is a complicated aircraft to learn, so give yourself time, and learn at your own pace, as reading the 93-page manual is vital for you to get the most enjoyment from this aircraft. My verdict? Absolutely wonderful! _______________________________ The Lockheed Martin F22A Raptor by AOA is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Lockheed Martin F22A Raptor Price is $40.00 Requirements X-Plane 11 4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 350 MB Current version: v1.3 (May 22nd 2022) Review by Alan Ashforth 7th July 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 11, Intel i7 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
  13. Aircraft Review ASSP Airbus A300B2 Airbus entered the aviation scene in October 1972 with the first flight of their all-new A300 jetliner, and the first two-engine wide body to ever take to the skies. Formed as a conglomerate of UK, French and German aviation manufacturers, the A300 was built to compete with the rising US competition from Douglas (DC-10) and Lockheed Martin (L-1011 Tristar). ASSP are a new developer on the X-Plane scene with the A300 being their first aircraft for the platform. As is the case with any new developer, the first release is usually the most important as it sets the bar for future product releases. Let’s take a closer look… Aircraft Specification ● Crew: 3 (Captain, First Officer & Flight Engineer) ● Length: 53.61m (175.9ft) ● Wingspan: 44.84m (147.1ft) ● Height: 16.72m (54.9ft) ● Empty Weight: 88,505kg (195,120lbs) ● Maximum Takeoff Weight: 165,000kg (363,763lbs) ● Powerplant: General Electric CF6-50C/CF6-50C2R Aircraft Performance ● Range: 2,900nmi (5,375km) ● Service Ceiling: 40,000ft ● Max Cruising Speed: Mach 0.78 (450kts) Download & Install Installation of the ASSP A300B2 was an extremely simple affair. After purchasing it from the X-Plane.org store, you are provided with a download link and an unlock key for the product. Just drag and drop the A300 into your aircraft folder (I have created a separate ‘Addons’ folder alongside the ‘Laminar Research’ and ‘Extra Aircraft’ folder for neatness) and the aircraft is available in your virtual hangar. On first loading, you are asked to paste in your unlock key. This will activate the aircraft systems and upon reloading the sim, you are ready to fly. The A300 comes with a 9-page document that outlines the airframe limitations of the aircraft. This is handy to refer to, especially when navigating the aircraft and ensuring that you are not pushing the airframe over any defined limitations it may have. Rather than a manual, ASSP has put together a series of tutorial videos which you can find on YouTube. These videos walk you through the different stages of flight, and whilst this may not be the most popular way of doing things, I found it refreshing as video tutorials are by far the most visual way to display things. As a content creator myself, I find they show users exactly where to look and face when starting up, so kudos to them! Exterior Model The A300 features a standard wide-body base with two engines mounted, one on each wing. In the 1970s this was revolutionary as at the time three was considered the magic number when it came to wide bodies going long haul. The reasoning behind this was that if one engine was to fail, then you had the third as a failsafe. The ASSP model is a faithful recreation of the real aircraft, with key details including the enlarged side windows in the cockpit and additional vents and vanes found on the wing, common with the Hawker Siddeley design ethos at the time. Animations on the aircraft exterior are also really well reproduced, with the landing gear struts raising and dropping at a relatively steady pace, while all flight surfaces follow the pilots' input. Smaller details have also been added to the aircraft, such as the sensors and pitot tubes on the nose. The A300 comes with ten liveries. You have an ASSP ‘house’ livery and the following real-world airlines: - Airbus House - Air France - Alitalia - Iran Air - Lufthansa - Mahan Air - Onur Air - Olympic - Singapore Airlines Cockpit & Interior The ASSP A300 features a fully modelled cockpit which is very pleasing to look at. It’s a dark, grey cabin with two yokes (this was the time before baby blue and fly-by-wire) with a mix of both glass and steam gauges. Only the A300 and A310 from Airbus featured yokes, as come the release of the Airbus A320, everything moved over to sidesticks with electrical signals controlling the aircraft axis from smaller inputs. The A300’s gauges, buttons, and switches are clear to read, and simple to understand, making them invaluable during flight. Text and labels are also of good clarity, including those situated in the overhead panel. Textures are done to a 4k resolution, which means that even when viewed close up, they still remain crisp and clear. The aircraft is well optimised too, running at a solid 60fps in overpopulated areas on my 4k resolution monitor. I am yet to come across any lag spikes or major drops, making this an excellent choice for simmers on modest hardware The A300 also features a fully modeled passenger cabin, allowing you to walk through the aircraft and take a seat with your passengers. This is modeled to quite a high level of detail, with each livery featuring a custom cabin based on that particular airline. Buttons, Gauges & Functionality The aircraft features a fully functional cockpit with an engineer's bay included. You can manipulate and control everything from the pilot flying console, while I find the engineer’s bay to have 50% functionality. For a mid-level plane, this is enough to get you flying while following realistic checklists and good enough for those looking to fly something with a reasonable amount of detail. You can manage the aircraft's hydraulics, electrical and pressurisation systems, as well as a functioning fuel jettison feature, which may come in handy alongside the custom failures menu that you can play around with. You can also select and ‘age’ the aircraft which will affect how it performs in relation to speed and fuel burn. ASSP has also included an EFB tablet which gives you access to AviTab, several speed calculators, a loading manager and ground operations, as well as a settings page that lets you customise the aircraft and cockpit state. It does miss out on an ‘engines on ready to depart’ quick start mode, but you can toggle from cold and dark to a turnaround state. I would however like to see one added at some point in the future as I don’t always want to go through the startup process; just spawn in and take flight on a joyride. The HSI can be toggled from wide to bearing modes, or new to the older instruments. The A300 uses X-Plane’s Universal FMC which allows it to fully integrate with the default navigation database and systems. I have always found it easy to use and so seeing it within the A300 is a welcomed addition. This also works well with the custom autopilot unit fitted to the aircraft, allowing you to fly from either unit or switch between Navigation and FMS modes onboard. That’s not to say I don’t have an issue with a few aspects of functionality. For example, you cannot use the mouse wheel to scroll the gauges and dials within the cockpit. This means setting altitudes and speeds on your autopilot requires you to manually click and hold the numbers to reach your desired setting. This can be a drawn-out process, especially in descent where you want to quickly manage your speed reduction and descent. It can be tedious, but it’s something you can get used to, especially those that came from X-Plane 10 and previous editions of the platform where this was not a feature available. The aircraft also insists that you start with the engines off. This means you cannot spawn in on an approach to an airport as they will always power down, regardless of how you have the ‘Start with engines running’ checkbox. Overall, cockpit simulation is to a satisfactory level, but don’t expect it to revolutionise the way you fly within the simulator. Sound Sounds are one of the strong points of this product as ASSP has incorporated FMOD to the A300, and it sounds great from both within the cockpit and externally. The General Electric CF6 engines give a soft whine when powered and this has been faithfully recreated within the simulator using sound samples from the real thing. I often find myself sitting back in the cabin looking down at my ORBX TrueEarth scenery while listening to the engines whisper mid-way through my cruise. Spooling the engines up and down also changes the pitch and wave of the whine, giving you the feeling of power when you’re on your takeoff run. Within the cockpit, ASSP has included sound samples from the original Airbus GPWS which is a welcomed addition. When on final approach, you’ll hear the real Airbus voice counting you down as you approach the runway, as well as any errors you may encounter, such as overspeed and stall alarms. Flight Dynamics The ASSP A300 is smooth to fly and very stable once in the air. This makes it extremely easy to manage during takeoffs and landings, before sending it over to autopilot to take you on your way. With the lack of fly-by-wire on the A300, this means you need to start your flare a lot closer to the ground, and don’t expect a ‘Retard’ callout on the way in either. You certainly have to add a lot more control input when compared to newer Airbus aircraft to fly it on the route you want, but that’s something you’ll learn the feel of after your first few test flights. You do need to get used to the feeling of landing, but after a few circuits and approaches, it’s something that you can easily manage. I flew with my TCA Boeing Yoke from Thrustmaster (sorry Airbus sidestick, this one is not for you!) and found its handling to be very even. In a nutshell, the A300 is a steady beast to fly and one I have really enjoyed. Opinion & Closing Remarks ASSP's version of the Airbus A300 may not be study level, but then they never claimed it would be. What we have is a good, simplistic recreation of Airbus’ first jetliner and one that is a joy to fly. Strong points are certainly the audio and model design, the A300 looks and sounds great. You also have enough systems functioning to take you on a realistic flight from A to B, following checklists and managing your aircraft systems along the way. It’s definitely IVAO & VATSIM capable, giving you another aircraft to enjoy alongside your ATC. In the numerous short flights I’ve made with this model, I’ve come to appreciate the functionality and use of the plane, with many good landings along the way. While it may not be the most advanced A300 on the market, it’s a great base for those that want to look at the older generation of jetliners and see how they function with the flight engineer also in position. ASSP’s first release is a truly good start. I would certainly like to see more added to it in the future as well as an option to have engines on from start. With that said, what we have so far is a decent A300 that will certainly provide a smile to the average flight simmer looking to try something different. _______________________________ The Airbus A300 Classic B2-200 by ASSP is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Airbus A300 Classic B2-200 Price is $49.99 Requirements X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 760 MB Current version: 1.6 (March 17th 2022) Review by Michael Hayward 30th June 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 10 Professional, AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Processor, 32GB RAM, Palit GeForce RTX™ 3080 GamingPro (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. Scenery Review : OMDB – Dubai International Airport by FeelThere Introduction Feelthere have been active in the world of flight simulation for quite some time now, with my introduction to them being the E-Jet series for FS2004, which I greatly enjoyed. Unfortunately, a few of their products hit below the bar, so when I saw their rendition of Dubai Airport for X-Plane 11, I was intrigued to see how it would fare. Dubai International Airport is the primary international airport serving Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is the world's busiest airport by international passenger traffic, with eighty-eight million passengers in 2017. Spread over an area of 7,200 acres of land, Terminal 3 is the second-largest building in the world by floor space and the largest airport terminal in the world. The Emirates hub is the largest airline hub in the Middle East as it handles 51% of all passenger traffic and accounts for approximately 42% of all aircraft movements at the airport. If you're a fan of the mighty A380, then this is the airport to visit. First Impressions Upon first loading the airport, I was greeted with a beautiful-looking runway, however, I immediately noticed some lack of textures, specifically a ground base texture. I will discuss this in a later section, as well as a fix, plus other enhancements. The airport itself is a bit more up to date, featuring the new gates on the north side, and an updated airport layout. Exploring The Scenery Starting off with the main terminals, the design is quite basic, yet Feelthere have modeled the exterior to an acceptable quality, albeit without any interior details, which are (of late) becoming a standard in today’s airport environments. The tower seems accurate enough when compared to photos of its real-life counterpart, and overall, if one is happy enough just looking at the exterior, then the modelling here is perfectly sufficient. Moving towards the clutter around the airport, there is plenty of it to be found, with lots of crates, carts, and other airport objects scattered throughout the airport. This comes at a cost however, and for my system, which can handle X-Plane 11 in almost any scenario above 30FPS, (save for DD Design Chicago Airports) this particular scenery did take its toll, dropping the framerate to the high twenties and low thirties in OpenGL, with all my settings cranked up, minus the AA which is set at a conservative two times. When switching over to the Vulkan API, I saw a slight increase into the thirties, but it rarely went into the forties. This would be something to think about when you are looking to purchase this scenery, as it is a hard hitter even on a powerful PC. Textures Going back to something I mentioned at the start of the review, and I must say that when it came to the texture work, I found the textures themselves to be quite repetitive. This was later confirmed when I happened to view the airport’s scenery files. Feelthere shipped Dubai with a total of 132 textures for the entire airport, of which fifty-two of them are Normal files for PBR, eighteen are LIT files for the night lighting of the terminal textures, twenty-seven files for stains, dirt, and runway markings/textures, and just thirty-five files that are used to texture the vast majority of the models. This means that there is a sad lack of variation in the airport 3D model textures, and it really shows. The runway and taxiways look great, and credit where credit is due, Feelthere impressed me with the runway, with the skid marks reflecting the light perfectly and giving it the rubbery appearance it should have. This sadly is one of the highlights of the texture work, and it leads me into part two of the textures. Feelthere Dubai has no ground poly for a texture. It instead sits upon the default X-Plane 11 airport texture, leaving the entire airport looking very out of place and flat. I noticed this on the first load and immediately exited the simulator to correct this. Using Ortho4XP, I created tiles for the entire peninsula of Dubai, with the immediate vicinity of OMDB being created in zoom level 19. This gave the airport its much-deserved ground texture and allowed the runways and taxiways to shine in their new background. I also installed the X-Asia freeware enhancement pack so as to bring the entire city to life, and this included new buildings, autogen, and custom landmarks. These two changes helped the airport look much more in place and I would highly recommend using them together. Lighting The lighting at OMDB was nothing overly special but it does make use of X-Plane’s impressive global lighting effects by default. I’ll leave the photos to show how it looks as there was nothing of note that stood out. The terminal's interior lighting is very basic and consists of textures that “glow” at night, and though the effect isn’t overly convincing, it does the job. Conclusion Dubai airport by Feelthere is one of those airports that came out late, but which is a little cheaper than other offerings. Sadly, it does not stand up to the quality of other versions of Dubai, as it is hard on performance, only covers the airport and nothing else, and sadly lacks detail and texture work. For $19.99, it needs some updates to become a better representation and make it worth the money. If you’re looking at adding Dubai Airport to your collection, I would highly recommend first looking at other options at the Org before going for this rendition. In saying that, with a bit of work from Feelthere, I do believe it could be pushed up a notch, but as it stands in its current form, I would have to say, think carefully before purchasing. __________________________________ OMDB – Dubai International Airport by FeelThere is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: OMDB – Dubai International Airport Price at time of writing US$19.99 Features: SAM animated jetways (SAM 3 is required-free) Custom terrain mesh Custom lighting Custom ground textures with specular reflections Custom ground lines, runway markings, and detail textures. High quality PBR building textures with night lighting Requirements: X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Download Size: 1.1 GB Current version : 1.0 (April 6th 2022) __________________________________ Scenery Review by Joshua Moore 16th May 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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