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Lightman

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  1. Aircraft Review: AOASimulations-T6A Texan II Introduction Now, I'm not sure about you, but does the X-Plane world feel like it’s in a bit of a twilight zone or no man’s land at the moment? The ground-breaking advancements achieved with X-Plane 11, are essentially at the end of their commercial run, and the eagerly awaited X-Plane 12, still has some way to go until it is in its final release state. For us armchair pilots this can be a little frustrating in our 365, 24/7 on-the-go world, where patience isn’t a commodity you see a lot of these days, so I can only imagine the dilemma this gives commercial developers. Do you wait until all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed in X-Plane 12, or do you continue creating and releasing in X-Plane 11, knowing the platform has been superseded by its younger brother? Well, the good news is that the folks over at AOA Simulations have decided not to wait to bring us their ‘Texan’, the T-6ATexan II. This aircraft has recently been released for X-Plane 11, with a commitment of a free upgrade to X-Plane 12 for existing users when the simulator is in its final state of release. In real life, the Texan is described as a single-engine turboprop aircraft and has been around since the late 1990s. It has been used as a training aircraft by several military organisations around the globe and more than 850 have been built to date. From what I have read, it is still very much the mainstay of the United States Air force and Navy when it comes to pilot training. It has a low wing cantilever design with the majestic Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68 1100 hp engine, tandem seating arrangement with elector seats to allow the flight instructor and trainee to live every moment together, all topped off with a hefty four-blade constant speed, variable pitch prop. The Texan also has a retractable tricycle landing gear assembly, with many of the features being based on the original development aircraft, the Pilatus PC-9. However, don’t be fooled, because the Texan is indeed a very different aircraft in many ways. To explain this in greater detail, the AOA Simulations folks have included a very nice reference document in the manuals section of their package that describes the Texan’s development journey. This is well worth a read to see just how much it has changed from the original Hawker Beechcraft development PC-9. I personally always like additional features like this because in my opinion they bring a greater level of depth to the user experience and allow a more immersive environment when you know a bit about the aircraft, its history and how it came into being. Documentation I will be honest and say that military jets and combat aircraft are not an area I typically venture into very often, so when I had the opportunity to try out what looked a bit like a fighter jet with a prop on its nose, I was intrigued to find out more. My GA side was screaming, “Oh yes please!” The package in review comes in a 360MB download with the aircraft itself and a couple of liveries, as well as a few added extras in terms of documents. In the Manuals folder, you will find an alternative abbreviated checklist (X-Checklist plugin is required) to the one provided by default, a paper kneeboard checklist you can print, emergency procedures, a training flight tutorial with charts (KNGP to KRND), pictorial overviews of flight instruments, and if you are a MAC user, there is an explanation of a workaround if you experience issues when you first load the model. There is also a highly detailed 38-page User Guide to take you through every inch of the aircraft and that is a must-read if you really want to get the most out of the Texan. The developer has also included some contact details and links of where to request help if you get stuck. Sadly, I can’t offer any comment on how successful the MAC workaround is, as I use a PC, however it looks like the developer has put some serious thought into the issue which is good to see. The Aircraft The developers quote that their Texan has been in development since early 2020 and clearly a huge amount of work has gone into the aircraft. You get a real sense of the details and the hours of work by just reading the manual alone, so I believe it is fair to say that the Texan really does come fully loaded. I loved the fact that both the front and rear cockpits are fully functional, thus providing a unique flying experience from each seat, and it was nice to be able to have the choice. The internal details in both cockpits are well presented and bristle with features. The texturing is of high resolution and high quality, and I found reading the various dials and panels to be of no issue, even in VR, when using my Rift S. The developers even quote that the Texan has been optimised to maximise performance in VR, and I would have to admit, that when using my system, I had no issues and enjoyed a very smooth experience. When you first step into either cockpit, it is a bit daunting if you’re not used to military-style aircraft, however, the automated tutorial-level Checklist provided is very useful when navigating around the various systems. In my tests, I probably only scratched the surface of the instrument capabilities of the Texan, and you literally could spend hours and hours just working through your flows and testing out every feature, switch, lever, knob, button, panel, and fuse. As far as I could tell, everything shown works or is at least animated. If you are used to flying fast jets, I am sure the layout will come very naturally to you, however, I must admit it did take me a little time to work my way around. By the way…the ejection seat does work, so be careful with that handle!!! The unobstructed view that the glass canopy offers, is truly excellent, particularly in VR, and you really get a sense of just how compact and well-fitted everything is around you. The feeling of being in the cockpit was something I really enjoyed, and as I mentioned previously, just moving a few feet back to sit in the rear seat, adds a totally different dimension to the experience. The Texan comes with specially created FMOD sounds and the cockpit interaction sounds were nicely done, from the very subtle fuse click actions to the more distinct canopy locking mechanism. From the X-Plane main menu bar, you can access the dust lock removal option, as when in cold and dark, there are several covers protecting sensitive parts of the aircraft. Even these covers are well modelled, as they sway gently in the wind, a very nice touch and great attention to detail. From the outside when the canopy is open in cold and dark, there are no pilots visible, however, they both appear when closing the cockpit and removing the dust covers. The characteristic turbine whine as the engine starts up is very nice, and you really do have the sense of that mighty Pratt and Whitney engine roaring into life right beside or in front of you. As you move around the exterior of the aircraft, the engine tone changes as you would expect, and this is particularly noticeable when you throttle forward and set the Texan into action. The sense of power from the 1100hp engine and prop thrashing through the air as you accelerate down the runway is something you must experience to really appreciate it. The exterior details of the Texan are superb in my opinion and incorporate very high-quality textures, such as the hydraulic lines in the landing gear, through to the multitude of rivets across the shiny aircraft skin. During prefight, it is worth just taking a few minutes to walk around the aircraft and take in the quality of the modelling, and this is particularly impressive if you can do this in VR. You can literally walk up to the various parts and take a good look, reach out and almost touch the surfaces. The developers really have done a wonderful job both inside and out, and in my opinion, the Texan is one of the best in terms of overall appearance, although I do still think it is a little bit of an oddball with the fighter-style canopy, dual seating arrangement, and that big old prop at the front. It does take a little bit of getting used to at first. Now, if you’re anything like me, when you get a new toy, the first thing you want to do is to try it out, so the thought of working through a full set of start-up procedures may not be top of your list. The good news is that very early on, the developers thought of us “impatient types”, and kindly provided a very nice simple 11-step process on page 5 of the User Guide to get up and flying, and this is very helpful. Now don’t get me wrong, at times there is a real sense of satisfaction about going through every step of your flow and eventually seeing the ground disappear below, however, at times I just want to start up and off I go. I like the fact that in the Texan you can do both and I did, although I must admit that just firing up and heading down the runway was my preference. This is perhaps a suitable time to mention that I am using a VKBSIM joystick and pedal set as my control inputs, and I found these to work very well both on the ground and in the air. As there are no toe-brakes with these pedals, I did use a small script to give me brakes and this worked well, although there is a stick forward option that you can use within the aircraft if you prefer. I had no complaints about the handling of the Texan, although care with the throttle is highly advised both when taxiing and when taking off. There is a mighty amount of power at your fingertips, so my advice is to use it wisely. As they say, ‘with great power comes great responsibility…’ and never a truer word was said in the Texan’s case. Remember this thing can do more than 300 knots when flat out!! The glass canopy really does give an amazing view, particularly in VR, however, if you are using flat screens the developers have included a couple of highly novel add-on features to enhance your views in the cockpit. The manual goes into quite some detail to explain what you can expect; however, the best way is just to try them out. These are actioned via buttons on the glare shield and using dedicated buttons on your controller, and the ‘Roll to See’ feature allows you to pan around while taxiing, as well as some interesting effects when doing aerobatics. The Target Track feature allows you to lock on to AI aircraft if you are flying in formation (a key skill by all accounts) and if you are familiar with other aircraft from AOA Simulations, you are likely to be at home with this feature already. As I do most of my flying in VR, these features are disabled so I didn’t spend a huge amount of time testing them out, however from what I did see, this is quite unique and adds another and different layer of immersion to the Texan. One final system feature I would like to highlight is the Flight Assistance system which allows various assistance features to be turned on and off. The button is a bit fiddly to find (highlighted in the manual on page 11) however there are eleven different features such as AOA indexer and brake cues, airspeed indication of gear and flap speed bands, wind direction and speed, through to braking using the control stick and many more. The basic idea is to make life as easy as possible for any newbie pilot or as realistic as possible by switching this off for those who would like more of a challenge. When you are new to an aircraft, this sort of thing really does help, as there is nothing worse than getting frustrated and giving up before you have even started. As I mentioned earlier, the Texan is fully loaded with so many great details and features, and although this type of aircraft is not necessarily my “go-to” happy place in the sky, the more I flew it the more I came to appreciate just how good an offering this is from AOA Simulations, both in terms of the basic aircraft but also just how enjoyable the overall flying experience can be. If you also like lots of technical details, procedures and everything that goes with that side of things, then again, I believe the Texan has something to offer you. Final Thoughts The T-6A Texan II from AOA Simulations, under normal circumstances, is an aircraft I wouldn’t typically be flying, however, I am glad I had the opportunity, as it’s always good to try something new. When you factor in the excellent internal and external textures, the 3D modelling, the control and integration of features, the sounds, and of course the flying experience, I think it’s fair to say that the AOA team really has put out an excellent product. Although it is currently only available for X-Plane 11, I am sure as X-Plane 12 creeps ever nearer to having a final release version, all the new features in the sim in combination with the Texan’s feature set, will be something quite special. A real synergistic masterpiece… So, should you splash out $40 on the Texan? Well as always that is down to you, your budget and what you are looking for. However, I truly believe that the Texan is well worth thinking about, especially if you have considered the fast jet challenge but have not been sure where to start. If it’s good enough for real-world pilots, then it certainly works for me! __________________________________ The T-6A Texan II by AOA Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: T-6A Texan II Price at time of writing US$40.00 Features: This model was developed using the official USAF 1T-6A-1 Flight Manual and SNFO (Student Naval Flight Officer) P-880 Aircraft Systems explanatory guide. Two default liveries, USAF and U.S. Navy TAW-5. 17 additional liveries will be available on the X-Plane.org freeware download manager. This is the T-6A model with federated (many small units combined into one system) glass display panels. The project has been in development since February 23, 2020 and is our most detailed model to date. The Model High quality 3D model with high-resolution, 4K PBR textures. Fully functional virtual front and rear 3D cockpits with more than 380 control manipulators. Everything works, fly from either cockpit. Both pilot and instructor models visible in cockpit views. Optimized to save FPS in VR. Ground equipment The Flight model Fully aerobatic, high performance dynamic flight model tested and approved by several former T-6A pilots. Single “Power Lever” control of engine and propeller enables "jet like" simplicity. Unique T-6 Trim Aid Device (TAD) is accurately modeled. This compensates for most engine torque effect with automatic rudder trim. Sounds Professional FMOD sound package by SimAccoustics Documentation Detailed 38 page User Guide and detailed avionics illustrated guide sheets available HERE ON OUR SUPPORT PAGE prior to purchase. Several checklists options to choose from including detailed checklist powered by Xchecklist freeware plug-in. Tutorial checklist and example Training Flight to get you up to speed with the aircraft. More details All panel displays are accurately modeled and powered by SASL plugin / lua code Complete electrical systems model. Every circuit breaker on both the battery and generator bus panels is functional. Individual systems can be isolated, failed and restored via its cockpit circuit breaker. Optional "AOA Extras" for student pilots or those who want to know a little more about what's going on with while the fly. Save load feature allows you to save some options once and they are the same on your next flight in the model. Default Laminar G1000 available to use with a custom database in the panel mounted GPS unit. Future developments This model is for X-Plane 11 only. It is not compatible with X-Plane 12. When X-Plane 12 is stable then a new version will be released as a free upgrade for existing users. Requirements: X-Plane 11 This model is for X-Plane 11 only. It is not compatible with X-Plane 12. When X-Plane 12 is stable then a new version will be released as a free upgrade for existing users. 4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 360 MB Current version: v1.0 (November 1st 2022) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit CPU Intel i9-9900k 64GB RAM Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Oculus Rift S Aircraft Review by Stuart McGregor 30th November 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
  2. Scenery Review: Global Forests v2 for XP12 by Geo-Reality Designs By Nick Garlick Introduction The team over at X-Plane.org headquarters, knowing that I have a sweet tooth for eye candy, asked if I would share my thoughts and opinions on a new global tree product for X-Plane 12. Being the willing type…how could I possibly say no? The product in question is Global Forests V2.0 from Geo-Reality Designs. GFv2.0 draws on the same ethos as their original product for X Plane 11, in that it provides a unique combination of tree-type variation with density and height all derived from real-world data. Only this time around, it’s set in the new world of X-Plane 12, and as such, takes full advantage of the sim’s ability to create seasons. Now, unlike the original X-Plane 11 product, this updated version covers all the previous three regions, those being, Europe, North America, plus Asia and Oceania, in one sole product. This is a major plus over the original product, especially when you consider the entire world can be purchased for just $15. However, with X-Plane 12 already populated with 3D trees, you’re probably thinking, why "wood" I need a third-party tree add-on?" Good question! Please allow me to "X–Plane"… There’s no question that the new treescapes with X-Plane 12 represent a vast overhaul over the default treescapes we previously observed in X-Plane 10 and 11. Stretching from the pines of Norway and Canada to the palm trees of the tropics, to the silver birches and ancient oaks of old England, the X-Plane world has been greatly improved. However, for all their improvement in X-Plane 12, I found the trees to be a little splintered in places, and as such, they have left me wanting just that little bit more, or in some cases, just a little bit less as we shall see. Geo-Reality Designs were very quick out of the chocks with this package, which, is for X-Plane 12 only (it will not work with X-Plane 11). For that, you will need to purchase their original Global Forest packs. Now, I am not going to re-blurb the detail from the press release or the product pages, as you will have no doubt seen and read that a hundred times over. However, what I do have are some screenshots and a few words so you can see for yourselves how it all fits together in X-Plane 12. Product Download The GFv2 package requires a minimum of 4GB of VRAM, though ideally, I would recommend 8GB or above as the norm. GFv2 is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Once purchased from the X-Plane.org store, you will find on your account page the product links for each of the respective volumes. You will then need to download each of the following zip files - Global Forests v2_vol1 Europe.zip @ 4.3GB in size Global Forests v2_vol2 NorthAmerica.zip @10.4GB in size Global Forests v2_vol3 Asia_Oceania.zip @ 18.5GB in size Having successfully downloaded each volume, you will then need to use the relevant license key for each respective volume. Once extracted and installed, GFv2 will plant around thirty acres, sorry, use…30GB of your hard drive space. Installation Once installed, for Global Forest V2 to display correctly in X-Plane 12, you must ensure that the Global Forests V2 entry is placed within the correct area of your Scenery_Packs.ini file. In other words, it must be located above any scenery mesh, ortho photo tiles or overlays, but it must be below any airports. Ensuring GFv2 is placed correctly within your Scenery_Packs.ini file, will guarantee that it is prioritized over any other vegetation data, except foliage from addon airport sceneries. First Impressions As we all know, pictures can speak a thousand words, so I will let these do most of the talking for me. When composing the comparison screenshots, I adopted the following method. They were all taken at the same time of day, this being noon on the 15th of November with manually set weather. The following set of comparison screenshots illustrates how the woodland scene is changed with the addition of the GFv2 product. One of the improvements offered is that it will place trees in a far more believable fashion. For example, there aren’t that many trees around Leeds Bradford airport, so GFv2 trims back the default foliage to a level which is more prototypical to the area GFv2 also replicates and makes use of the new seasons feature found in X-Plane 12, as can be seen in the following set of screenshots. From top left to bottom right: summer, autumn, late autumn and winter. A Hybrid in the Mix Another feature of GFv2 is that it can be used to work alongside orthophotos. I do not have any dedicated orthophoto tiles (ortho for XP etc), however, what I do have is Orbx True Earth GB. Having tried GFv2 in a default install of X Plane 12, I decided to try GFV2 in an install which featured Orbx True Earth GB, and this is where I found the product to really enhanced my X Plane world. Thinking that it would replace all the trees leaving sparse areas, I was quite surprised by the result, as GFv2 did not replace the default trees, it actually added to them. It filled out the sparse gaps within the default tree placement and I found it complimented those found within Orbx True Earth. However, it should be noted that the default trees within True Earth will not change with the seasons. The following two screenshots illustrate how the trees fit in with True Earth GB Framerates It’s important to remember that framerates are subjective as we all have our bespoke rigs and setups. For reference, I have a PC that I feel is now quite old (specs mentioned at the end of the article), but it can still hold its own. Provided I can maintain between 30 and 50 fps, I find X Plane will deliver a stable and enjoyable experience. Overall, I found that GFv2 did not cause any significant impact on framerates, and the very few areas where it did, were so negligible to the extent that they are not worth mentioning. Here is what I observed on my system (framerate top left of second picture). Technical Support During the initial stages of the download and setup, I required some support from the developers. The issues I had were not the fault of the developers but of other quarters outside their direct control. I found the level of technical support from Geo - Reality Designs to be excellent, with the support being delivered professionally, courteously, and very swiftly. Areas for Improvement The original Global Forest product for X-Plane 11 featured a setup file to allow for the automatic installation of the product into X-Plane, but unfortunately, this wasn’t included in the X-Plane 12 version. Hopefully, one will be included in a future update, as it would prove advantageous, especially for those unfamiliar with how the file structure works within X-Plane. It has also been reported that in some areas, there was a distinct lack of tree coverage, with parts of New Zealand being cited as an example. However, upon checking Milford Sound (one of my favourite locations), I found the results to be quite well-represented. The first two images show Milford Sound in a default install of X Plane 12, whilst the bottom two show the same location with GFv2 installed. As can be clearly seen, the tree coverage is not quite as prolific as the default install, and as such, I feel that the install with GFv2 delivers a slightly better rendition and represents a more plausible scenario. The team at Geo - Reality are aware of certain issues, predominantly the lack of representative tree coverage in some small areas, and as such, are hard at work rectifying these shortcomings. They are also improving their product in response to feedback from their customer base. All going well, the team hope to release an update to the product by Christmas this year or possibly earlier. Conclusion A phrase which comes to mind when thinking about GFv2 is "When you change a little you can change a lot", and in most places, this product achieves its goal. A good example are these two comparison screenshots of Hamar Stafsburg Airport (ENHA). Default foliage is on the left and GFv2 is on the right. Summing up, Global Forests V2 is not perfect, but what I found, was that it delivered a delicate blend of trees and treescapes that enhanced the global woodlands and forest environments within X-Plane 12. By boosting the plausibility of the X-Plane world, it enables you to unwind and discover a true forest of delight, and as mentioned earlier, this was especially true when using GFv2 in conjunction with your own ortho imagery. At the time of writing, GFv2 is available for purchase from the Org store for only $15, which makes it excellent value! If you would like to try before you buy, Geo - Reality Designs also provides a "Demo" version. However, it’s important to note that the installation does require a licenced version of X-Plane 12 as it will not work in the demo version. You can get access to the demo here. Well, that about wraps it up, so please let me know your thoughts. Until next time, it's Tally-ho, pip-pip! _______________________________ Global Forests v2 for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Global Forests v2 for X-Plane 12 Priced at US$15.00 Features: Accurate representation of the Global forest footprint in XPlane12, according to global data More than 400 .for files, with unique combination of tree type, variation, density, and height, based on real-world data Tree type and classifications according to global data Tree height information has been analysed from global maps and infused into Global Forests Seamless integration with Ortho4XP, or any other package that includes satellite images Seamless integration with default X-Plane12 terrain Requirements X-Plane 12 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 30 GB Review by Nick Garlick 24th Nov 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 10, Intel 4790K liquid-cooled, overclock to 5GHz, 32GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM, Nvidia GTX 1070ti, Titanium HD Audio Card. (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
  3. Aircraft Update: Aeroprakt A22-LS Project XP12 by VSKYLABS By LPNils Introduction VSKYLABS has modelled the A22-LS version, tailored for the American market as a Light Sport aircraft, which means a max gross take-off weight of 1320lbs (600kg) for land planes and 1430lbs (650kg) for seaplanes. It also means the aircraft cannot stall at speeds higher than 45 knots. Other limitations are a fixed pitch or ground adjustable prop, two seats maximum, one engine, fixed gear, unpressurized and a maximum speed in level flight that does not exceed 120 knots. Fear not though, as this plane certainly won’t get near those numbers! Purchase and installation The VSKYLABS A22, like the developer’s other work, is available at the X-Plane.org store, for a very reasonable price ($27.50 at the time of writing). The pack has download links for both an XP11 and 12 version of the aircraft, but for the purpose of this review, I tested the XP12 model (even though 12 is still in Beta!). Reassuringly, the developer Huss has committed to keeping the pack up to date with changes still happening to the X-Plane Beta. He always tends to stay on top of updating models, so no worries in that regard. The download size for the A22 is just under 200MB. Installation is very straightforward, just drag the A22 aircraft folder into your X-Plane Aircraft directory as instructed by the manual found in the download. Documentation Inside the aircraft folder, you will find an installation manual, which is very clear and to the point. The most important piece of documentation is the Instructions Manual / POH. Huss compiled the manual as some sort of Pilot Operating Handbook Supplement. In it, he is very clear about what this Aeroprakt add-on does and doesn’t do, how it compares to the real-life aircraft and the limitations of X-Plane and how he worked with or around those. In all, it’s extremely clear and transparent, which is superb! If you would like to configure your hardware to the A22, Huss has written a detailed list of what control assignments are required for specific interactions with the aircraft. In this list, he again mentions some of the X-Plane limitations and how you should work with those. VR users will be able to find all interaction zones described in the manual, with visual representations. Huss also goes on to explain the Experimental or LSA Autopilot included in the X-Plane model. The “POH Supplement” ends by referring to the real-life Pilot Operating Handbook and you can download this POH for real-life operating instructions and performance. Exterior The VSKYLABS A22 is well-modelled and really does mirror its real-life counterpart. There’s plenty of detail on the external model, but not so much that it’s overly excessive. I love the triangular windows on the aft sides of the cabin. An Aeroprakt A32 regularly visits the airfield I work at, and it does have a cool look to it (also it’s entirely black) …except for the extended range fuel tank covers, which do slightly odd. It’s a lot less odd looking in this A22 model though and flying this VSKYLABS rendition sort of made me get used to them. The real A22 has these bigger fuel tanks as an option (57L each instead of the standard 45L) and I am glad Huss went for the larger tanks. Another feature that stood out to me was the design of the wings (TsAGI wing profile, Soviet equivalent of NACA). These are slightly swept forward which after talking to a local aviation buff (CFI, examiner, airport manager) was told is sometimes done to add more flexibility to weight and balance. The empennage of the A22 is equipped with some sort of ventral fin with a small wheel to protect the stabilizer. I doubt it can take excessive forces of incompetency, but it is incredibly nice to have, especially since it has an elevator with plenty of authority, although, in backcountry operations, or rougher strips, I wouldn’t advise getting the tail feathers down that low (protect them from debris). Speaking of the backcountry… it also comes with decent size wheels and mudflaps, which are great options to have on STOL planes. The mudflaps probably won’t stop all the muck from slinging onto the aircraft (wings in particular), but anything’s better than nothing, plus it looks cool. The flight control surfaces of the A22 are huge, and this is well represented in the metallic & orange livery. It also doesn’t come with separate ailerons and flaps, it comes with flaperons. A wing has only a limited span to add ailerons and flaps, so why not combine both so you get a decent lift increase from the flaps and good roll authority at low speeds? It’s also simpler to implement than let’s say drooping ailerons and flaps, and again, it looks cool! It’s interesting to see what the flap settings do to roll deflections and in particular to deflection limits. The A22 comes with five liveries in total, with the standard livery being fully yellow. In addition, there’s a blue version with yellow door/window frames, a metallic grey body variant with orange frames, flight controls and cowl (black on top to block reflections), a red and black body version with white frames and number 22 (air rally look?), and lastly, a blue frame with yellow wings and stabilizers (reminds me of old USAAF basic trainers). Personally, I really like the metallic and orange livery. Interior & Functionality The first feature of the Aeroprakt A22-LS that catches the eye is the optional yoke! The standard control is a Y-shaped stick mounted in the centre console. This can appear an odd configuration at first, but on an earlier flight in a Zenith STOL, I learned that it feels nice, and on longer flights, you can lean your forearm on the Y and chill out a bit. I like it, as it suits my Honeycomb Alpha yoke very well. Upon a cold-and-dark start, the gust lock pin will be installed, which can be removed by clicking on the tag. Also, the yokes can be hidden by clicking where the rod enters the panel. Another huge plus of this model is the Garmin GNS430. It’s getting old for a Garmin GPS/NAV/COM, but for its size, it’s a very suitable instrument for this cockpit. I imagine in this modern age; one may be looking for a newer setup if you have funds to spare and that’s where the tablet comes in. I do not have the AviTab plugin, so I cannot elaborate too much on it, but I think it’s a welcome feature to this pack. Tablets are what most modern pilots use to fly with nowadays, using apps like Foreflight or SkyDemon. One oddity is the location of the (battery) master switch! It’s under the left-hand seat and is a plastic key that with a quarter turn switches on power to the battery (12V DC). Then there’s another master switch on the panel, with a regular key, which also acts as a starter switch. The ignition switches are two separate toggles on the panel, rather than included in the master/starter switch. You may see them mentioned as mag switches (magnetos), but the Rotax 912 uses two electrical ignition boxes (of Ducati make) instead of antique magnetos. This brings me to another thing that is a little off or confusing depending on how old the aircraft/engine is. If you click on the checklist at the top of the panel, it will come up for you to read. When looking, you’ll see that it mentions Coolant Temperature but if you look at your engine instrumentation you will only find a Tecnam brand CHT gauge (Cylinder Head Temperature). However, the Rotax 912 has air-cooled cylinder bases and liquid-cooled heads. Older Rotax 912s had the temperature probe on the bottom of the #2 or #3 cylinder and picked up Cylinder Head Temperature, whereas more modern cylinders have the probe on top of the cylinders, dipping into the coolant. So Rotax, in 2015, published Mandatory Service Bulletins (SB-912-066 & SB-912-068). This requires owners or operators to change the temperature limit numbers in the documentation and get rid of the potentially confusing usage of both terms “CHT and CT”. With a newer engine (or cylinders) you just go with Coolant Temperature. Along with that, a CT gauge gets installed instead of the CHT gauge (in consultation with the aircraft manufacturer). I also notice that the engine instruments stay live even with the master is off, so this is a slight bug at the time of writing. Another cool feature of this VSKYLABS model is the clickable airspeed indicator as this can change units between a joint MPH/Kts (BK-3) or KPH (BK-240) backplate. Rotax-powered aircraft can have different RPM gauges and since the Rotax 912 is a geared engine, the engine RPM and Prop RPM differ (this rendition in X-Plane has the engine RPM indication). The gearing is included in the engine to maintain enough torque on the prop while the engine itself has rather tiny pistons (compared to a Lycoming O-320 for example). As mentioned in Huss’ aircraft manual, the choke doesn’t work quite the way the real one works. You see, Rotax engines don’t have a mixture control. In a legacy engine, you would use a full-rich mixture to start the engine, after which you can lean pretty aggressively. Rotax requires you to add more fuel to the mix upon starting and has Bing carburettors with membranes to maintain a proper mixture after that. So, it’s not even a real choke (which chokes the air to enrich the mixture), it just injects a little more fuel. To start a cold Rotax, you use full choke and close the throttle. After it fires up, remove the choke and increase the throttle to a minimum smooth RPM (1900-2100ish). A recurring mistake is that pilots want to add a little throttle while using the choke. Of course, it won’t start that way, you’re just draining the battery. I noticed some other small details where it differs from the real deal: if you leave the choke on, RPM will not drop below 2400 engine RPM. For reference, I have had plenty of students and renters come back complaining that the engine idles too high, and this nearly always means that they have forgotten to take the choke out after starting. If you try and add choke quickly while it’s already running, the engine starts to shake and tells you it is not happy with what you’ve just done. Also, adding carb heat should induce a very slight RPM drop, not as much as a legacy carbureted O-320, but just slightly. But hey, for a sim this will do just fine. The flap(eron)s are actuated manually and the handle is located on the ceiling. It comes with three positions: up, 10 degrees and 20 degrees. Manual flaps are great for this type of STOL aircraft as you can use them to push it off the runway by using ground effect for minimum take-off roll. If you search YouTube, you’ll see this used in STOL competitions. Being a modern light aircraft, it comes with a BRS (ballistic rescue system) recovery chute, and you’ll be pleased to know, it works in XP! Make sure you pull the locking pin before you fly (as per the checklist). The sound of the BRS activating in the sim is slightly underwhelming as I’ve experienced a real deployment up close, and boy does it grab your attention with that rocket being fired! But then again, I’m amazed this model even comes with a working chute. Apart from the autopilot, which is displayed by clicking the compass, the VSKYLABS A22 doesn’t come with many other features. It’s a very basic aircraft, but what I can say is that what’s included is done to a very high standard. Another attribute of the A22 is that its visibility is very good, being a high-wing aircraft. I very much appreciate being able to look down and forward, so I can still sort of see where I’m going while on final approach. Handling Now on to the real fun! Before I begin though, I have to say that I have noticed the model tends to fall on its tail when parked slightly nose-high, which can be an issue in the backcountry. However, I have a feeling this may be the same for its real-life counterpart, as some are very light on the nose. When treating the brake system like the real thing, I felt it sometimes lacked some nose wheel steering authority (I added some toe-brakes to help it turn). Nose wheel steering is effective enough to make relatively tight turns with no help from brakes needed, though for sim use I don’t feel this is a large issue. During takeoff, it’s highly apparent that the elevator has plenty of authority. I say this because it’s easy to over-pitch, leading you to potential tail dragging, which risks damaging the stabilizers and adding drag on your roll. Be very gentle when applying back pressure and once you have a feeling for it, it’s easy to do a soft field departure with the nose wheel just slightly off the ground. The A22 will fly off rather quickly after a very short run as it’s very light, and with a ~100 horse Rotax 912ULS, you have plenty of power for a decent climb. At low speeds, the aircraft feels mushy, and it really does depend on those huge control surfaces to make its way around turns, but they do work, which is incredible, especially when you realize just how slow the air is moving over them. During the cruise phase, the controls are very light and direct, with plenty of airflow over them. Stalls are relatively docile. You can make the plane descend in a stall by keeping the yoke pulled and then power right out of it. Letting the nose drop also ends the situation. It can however snap on you, dropping a wing if you wrestle it just too much. On landing, it depends on the weather, location and other variables as to what technique you want to use. You can drag it in with some power to do spot landings without obstacles, or you can drop it in from high and use all the drag you can get from the flaperons and maybe even some forward slip. Again, the roll control feels sort of mushy, so you need large deflections sometimes, but this means it’s easier to make small corrections. During my testing, I can’t say I’ve got the landings nailed quite yet but it sure is fun getting to know the character of this low-and-slow fun machine. Sounds The sound pack is OK as it sounds like a Rotax 912. The starter sound is there, and you can hear the gearbox slapping on shutdown, which always hurts my “mechanic feelings” a bit. In real life, I close the throttle and while spooling down, I cut the ignition. Tough to nail, but oh it’s so nice not to hear the gears rattle, so yeah, it does sound and feel like it should! The sound does change when you open or close the doors, which makes for a nice and loud experience when flying with the doors open. There are sounds for the buttons and switches, but it appears to be rather generic. Overall, the sound is fine for what it is and does a good job of mimicking the Rotax engine experience. I suspect the price of the pack would go up if a high-detail FMOD soundset was included (I’ve seen the process of how SimAcoustics records those, quite professional and has lots of expensive-looking microphones). Those are nice but aren’t a must-have. Conclusion Well after my testing, I must conclude that this is a highly enjoyable model from VSKYLABS, especially for the price and what Huss is trying to do with his VSKYLABS range. I say this because Huss uses the default X-Plane flight modelling instead of resorting to all sorts of plugins and ‘dirty’ tricks often employed by others. This means there are some compromises made when it comes to specific systems and handling. In saying that though, the A22 is right there in the ballpark, where it should be. The documentation is very clear and transparent about it, which is a trademark of VSKYLABS. To sum up, the A22 looks great, includes some good quality liveries, sounds realistic enough and is interesting and enjoyable to fly. Sure, if you want to go somewhere in a rush, it might disappoint, but if like me you enjoy the magical world of low-and-slow flight, then the Aeroprakt A22-LS makes for the perfect companion. _______________________________ The VSKYLABS- Aeroprakt A22-LS Project for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: VSKYLABS- Aeroprakt A22-LS Project Priced at US$27.50 Project's Main Features: VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Project: designed for use with X-Plane's cutting edge Experimental flight model environment, featuring superb flight dynamics with authentic performance and flight handling characteristics. Built for VR: development was tailored specifically for VR, and optimized for 2D usage. Engineered and designed as a default X-Plane aircraft (Like all VSKYLABS projects). The VSKYLABS projects are practically show-casing X-Plane, as they are stretching X-Plane default features, systems and flight model to its limits without any dependencies on complementary plugins or software...delivering a very robust simulation model, having maximum compatibility with the ever evolving X-Plane flight simulator. Perfect fit for beginner and expert pilots: The VSL A22-LS is featuring the standard, basic analog cockpit suitable for VFR + night flying. The simple and clear analog gauges layout is perfect for beginner pilots. It is also featuring an optional experimental LSA-grade autopilot. Built-in Avitab Plugin Compatibility (AviTab plugin is not included). STMA Auto Updater plugin is included - all updates are being pushed smoothly without the need to re-download the entire base package (base package will be updated every once in a while to minimize the gap). Highly responsive and professional support: VSKYLABS is offering continuous professional support from aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support. The project is under constant maintenance and development. Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: XP12 - September 5th 2022 1.0 (April 29th 2021, XP11) Review by LPNils 17th Nov 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Ryzen 7 3800X - 32GB RAM - Gigabyte RTX 2070 2X 8G - Windows 10 64Bit (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
  4. Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12 By Alan Ashforth This is a review of the new VSKYLABS F-19, which along with X-Plane 12, is rapidly receiving updates. As such, this article will offer a snapshot of the F-19 in its current state (version 1.5 at the time of writing), and X-Plane 12 Beta 9, as of 29th October 2022. Introduction The actual F-19 story can be traced back to the 1980s when numerous news articles began circulating about a supposedly secret stealth aircraft called the “F-19”. At the time, the USAF had taken delivery of the F-117 Stealth Fighter, and when one of these highly secretive aircraft crashed in California in 1986, it only helped stir the media interest. To this date, the F-19 has never been officially acknowledged, but this fact has done nothing to deter the public’s interest. In fact, quite the opposite has happened, as the F-19 has been referenced numerous times over the years, most notably in the highly popular computer game, “F-19 Stealth Fighter” by Microprose, released in 1989. The F-19 model represented here by VSKYLABS, continues this trend of “what might be”, as much of what this model is based on is pure speculation. However, that is where a lot of the excitement comes into play…so let’s have a look at some of the F-19’s statistics. Performance figures provided by VSKYLABS are of an aircraft that can reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.2, an altitude of 53,000ft and a range of 1,400 miles. Not too shabby in the slightest! The aircraft carries internal missiles which include two AIM-9X air-to-air (AA), and AGM-158A air-to-ground cruise missiles. Download & Installation Once purchased and downloaded from the store, the VSKYLABS F-19 (unzipped) weighs in at 341MB. Contained within the folder, you will find a concise 14-page manual, which according to the developer, will be updated into a comprehensive manual. There is also an install guide complete with a warning that the model just purchased is an “Early Access Aircraft”, due in part to X-Plane 12’s rapid beta progression. Exterior There’s no denying it, VSKYLAB’s F-19 is a remarkable-looking fighter aircraft, with obvious stealth attributes on offer. From its pointed nose, angled front cockpit, concealed engines (from frontal radar returns) four-engine cooling ducts on the fuselage top (to reduce heat signature), rounded wings and inward tilted twin ruder/ vertical stabilizers (complete with built-in speed brakes), this is a design modelled entirely to go unnoticed by enemy radar. Other notable features of the aircraft include the in-flight refuelling (IFR) cover on the top centre of the fuselage (not yet implemented in X-Plane 12), tailhook, brake chute and the fully internal missile weapons bay. Interior VSKYLABS has modelled the interior of the F-19 to be quite snug, but in a way that fully embraces a design from the 1980s. It is equipped with mostly steam gauges, plus a few additions from the nineties, those being a Garmin G530 and a few EFIS units. Looking around, it is clear to see that the developer has put a lot of time and effort into making the interior as authentic as possible. Everything is modelled to an extremely high standard, including a nicely detailed seat and canopy surround, a nice feature of which, are the numerous marks and scratches on the glass. A feature I especially enjoyed (which is due in part to how X-Plane 12 works), was the wonderful rain effects on the cockpit glass, incredibly atmospheric and great fun to boot! Due to the layout of the F-19’s cockpit, learning where everything is located, is relatively simple. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but that’s half the charm of flying an aircraft such as this type. However, once done, everything falls into place and the experience is highly enjoyable. Flying & Operation When starting the F-19 from cold and dark, the battery is only used to test the fire warning and annunciators. Set your L/R engine shutoffs to the SET (UP position) and then turn on the APU switch; a green light will appear within 30 seconds. Hold down the right engine starter until 30% is achieved and the engine should then self-idle up to 65% RPM. To start the left engine, you simply follow the same procedure. If you happen to have AviTab installed, you can read the Normal Procedures list for engine startup. With our GPS, radios and other equipment checked, we can now progress to the takeoff phase. The advice given by VSKYLABS in the manual, recommends rotating at 130kts, with takeoff being achieved at between 150-170kts, depending on aircraft weight. At full throttle, afterburners (AB) will be activated, so if flying below 250kts, these can be switched off. For CAT launches, the procedure is almost the same, but with slightly more emphasis on having your afterburners ready, and don’t forget the launch bar switch on the lower front left panel. One of the first things you’ll notice about the F-19 when in the air, is just how stable an aircraft it is. This is particularly evident in the FCS Dogfight mode, as you’ll be able to undertake some rather impressive manoeuvres without even a hint of complaint. Of course, if you want to add some additional challenge to your flying, you can always turn off the artificial stabilizers, which has the effect of making the aircraft a lot more sensitive. It’s fun, just be prepared for the odd…shock! The F-19, whilst not as fast as the likes of the non-stealthy F-15/16/18, climbs very well and achieves its desired altitude in almost no time at all. All the weapons carried by the F-19 are stored internally in which to maintain the aircraft’s stealth properties. These include the two sidewinders stowed in the left and right fuselage bays and the larger air-to-ground missiles (AGM), located in the central fuselage compartment. Whilst X-Plane isn’t labelled as a combat flight simulator as such, it’s still possible to have a great deal of fun in it, especially with an aircraft like the VSKYLABS F-19. To operate the weapons, you first turn on the Master arm switch and then choose either AA or AG (your chosen selection will then be lit up). In this mode, all relevant weapon bays will be opened, and the radar will show any “enemy” aircraft in range. For this example, I set up an AI MiG 27 as the enemy aircraft, and by using the keyboard command “Next Target”, I was able to select the MiG on the radar (turns red). As well as displaying the target, the radar also provides information regarding the speed and altitude of the enemy, in relation to your position. With the MiG locked and within around ten miles, I released a single sidewinder at the target. It looks like someone is going to have a long walk home! Unfortunately, when it comes to using the air-to-ground missiles in X-Plane 12, there is no means currently of being able to lock them onto either a ship or ground target. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them; you just can’t watch them hit anything. You can however observe a test flight of the AGM-158A during its launch phase, which to be honest, looks great, especially when the wings unfold, and the rocket motor kicks in! As well as selecting the desired ordinance, there is also a button for both chaff and flare countermeasures, but sadly during my testing, I couldn’t get the chaffs to work (this will no doubt be fixed in later updates). When navigating, cruising, or using the autopilot in the VSKYLABS F-19, it is recommended to use the Tactical mode of the FCS. This provides a smoother ride with less angle of attack (AOA), thus making the aircraft safer to fly when at low altitudes. However, one thing to remember, is that the autopilot will switch off if your speed drops below 170kts, so be aware of this, especially during landings. When flying at night, the F-19 looks fantastic, as not only are you presented with an easy-to-read cockpit panel, but you are also provided with some exceptionally bright landing lights. When combined with the new NAV and APR autopilot settings, night flights and carrier landings are a lot more enjoyable and safer. Due to the F-19’s poor forward visibility, both takeoffs and landings can be quite challenging at times, so you’ll have to move around the cockpit to get an idea of where you’re situated in relation to the airport or carrier. If you’re still having difficulty, then I recommend controlling the aircraft from (dare I say it), the external view. Whilst this isn’t as realistic, it does help with the frustration. Navigating in the F-19 works well during all phases of flight, as you can use either the sat-nav/autopilot or VOR/heading modes to complete objectives. When you factor in the new ILS making runway landings easier, plus the option of having either air-to-air combat or missile tests, the whole experience is just incredibly fun. Sounds No aircraft add-on is complete without a decent soundset, so you’ll be glad to know that the F-19 is well-catered for in this department. Not only are you provided with some truly incredible engine effects (FMOD), but this must be the first aircraft where I could hear myself breathing through the oxygen mask. There are also sounds for the closing and opening of the canopy, plus many other audio alerts, which when added all together, make for an audiophile’s dream. Conclusion As many of you will know, I have a fondness for military aircraft and as such, the VSKYLABS F-19 ticks many boxes in this regard. It’s an aircraft which is exceptionally well-modelled both inside and out (even in this early access stage). When you consider that fact, I think it’s safe to say that the model reviewed here will only get better, which is high praise indeed. The flight characteristics are both forgiving and challenging at the same time, plus the sound is to die for (wait till you listen to those flypasts). VSKYLABS are renowned for their modelling skills and the F-19 is no exception to the rule. One must also mention the model’s cost, which for an aircraft of this type, I think is more than acceptable. So, if like me you enjoy fast military jets, modelled to an exceedingly high standard, then VSKYLABS F-19 should definitely be on your radar! _______________________________ The VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter Priced at US$34.95 Project's Main Features: Project Highlights (Early Access Version): Early access version! A new aircraft for X-Plane v12.00 beta. Advanced concept aircraft simulation, including detailed, fully functional 3-d cockpit environment with realistic, working systems. Extensive, professional real-world experience and knowledge of jet-fighters design, systems, performance, handling and operation were involved in the making of the VSKYLABS F-19. Designed for X-Plane 12 cutting-edge flight model environment and presents superb flight dynamics with presumably authentic performance and flight handling characteristics for the hypothetical F-19 aircraft. Developed for VR: Development was tailored specifically for VR and optimized for 2D usage. Engineered and designed as a genuine, default X-Plane 12 aircraft. The VSKYLABS projects are practically show-casing X-Plane, as they are stretching X-Plane default features, systems and flight model to its limits without any dependencies on complementary plugins or software...delivering a very robust simulation model, having maximum compatibility with the ever-evolving X-Plane flight simulator. Comprehensive FMOD sounds for 'As Real As It Gets' experience! Perfect challenge for beginner and expert pilots: Provides a very wide flight envelope with comfortable control from ~140 knots to Mach 1.1. Autoupdater based on the SkunkCrafts autoupdater - all updates are being pushed smoothly without the need to re-download the entire base package (base package will be updated every once in a while, to minimize the gap). Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums: VSKYLABS offers continuous professional support, from all aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support. The project is under constant maintenance and development. Requirements X-Plane 12 - Not compatible with X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac, or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: 1.0 (October 21st, 2022) Review by Alan Ashforth 3rd Oct 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 11, Intel i7 10,700 Processor, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD, GeForce RTX™ 2070 (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
  5. Scenery Review: PACV - Merle K Smith - Cordova, Alaska XP12 By Paul Mort Introduction Hello, and welcome to my third review here at X-PlaneReviews. This time around, we’re heading off to Alaska, or more to the point, Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport. If you enjoy remote airports, with a slight chilly factor thrown in (we’re talking about the weather, not the food) then you’re going to enjoy this X-Plane 12 scenery. With vast mountain ranges and glaciers to the north, and islands and the Gulf of Alaska to the east and south, there is plenty to see for the budding pilot. However, the weather can change in an instant, so if you do go exploring…make sure you plan ahead. The airport itself is named after Merle K. Smith, also known as "Mudhole" who was a bush pilot and who later became president of Cordova Airlines, which used the airport as a hub between 1934 and 1968. Situated relatively close to the Gulf of Alaska and eleven miles from the city of Cordova, Merle K. Smith Airport has an elevation of fifty-four feet or sixteen meters. There are two runways on offer: 9/27 is 7,500 by 150 feet (2,286 x 46 m) with an asphalt surface and 16/34, which is 1,899 by 30 feet (579 x 9 m) and has a gravel surface. Alaskan Airlines is the only carrier at the airport, and due to the lack of road access, the airport represents the only means of connecting Cordova with the outside world (apart from the ferry). Installation The downloaded file from the X-Plane.org store weighed in at just under 270MB, which is relatively small for an airport scenery but once extracted, increased to a more respectable 633MB. There was no online registration or EXE file to run (something I always find tedious), it was just a case of copying the folder to my Custom Scenery directory in X-Plane 12. Being an airport scenery with no additional folders to add, there was no need to edit my scenery_packs.ini file. There was no documentation of any kind to be found in the package, which was something I was slightly disappointed by, even at this price point. Default Scenery Prior to installing this scenery add-on, I was intrigued to see what the default airport looked like in X-Plane 12, and whilst it was passable in terms of general layout (taxiways, runways etc), it was missing many important buildings, not to mention, clutter and people. Walkabout With the add-on package installed from DC Scenery, things were improved greatly. When viewed from above, instead of the generic default textures we have become accustomed to, we are greeted with an ortho tile which covers the whole airport area. Compared to the default textures, the detail is night and day, which makes the supplied ortho stand out somewhat. It would have been great if the ortho covered a larger area and then was slowly blended into the default textures, but sadly this wasn’t the case. However, if you’re using your own ortho scenery of Alaska, then the ortho supplied with the package, should (in effect), blend in seamlessly with the one supplied. Moving to ground level, and the scenery maintains both its quality and clarity, with the runway textures employing some useful weathering effects, such as cracks and rubber marks. Quite often, runway textures can become repetitive if done badly, but this wasn’t the case here. Whilst there wasn’t a lot of variation in terms of textures used, what there was, worked well. Progressing onwards, and there was an abundance of flora on offer, namely 3D bushes. I did notice a slight framerate drop here and there but considering my X-Plane system is on the low end, it’s to be expected. For those users with more capable systems, I don’t see this part of the scenery to be an issue. Just over 46% of Merle K. Smith Airport’s traffic is GA, and this is well represented by the large general aviation parking area as we head towards the main airport. The aircraft on display are generic static models, and whilst they do the job, it would have been nice to have seen aircraft which actually frequent the airport. The main airport area is made up of numerous small buildings and hangars, including what can only be described as the main airport terminal. These are all well-modelled with some genuinely nice texturing included and really help set the scene. The Alaskan Airlines and the Cordova Auto Rentals hut both deserve special mention, as they both look just like their real-life counterparts (weathering included). There is an abundance of airport clutter, such as pallets, cones, barrels etc, and something I was especially pleased to see…people! I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes. Over the years I have reviewed numerous sceneries which have been excellent apart from one mitigating factor…the absence of people. Well, I'm glad to say that DC Scenery hasn’t fallen into that trap, so hats off to them for including these models. Just outside of the airport there is what seems to be an industrial area, complete with silos and a few trucks. It’s not particularly well-modelled, and after viewing the same area in Google Maps, it seems to be more of a quarry/pit. Night Lighting X-Plane has always ruled supreme when it comes to night lighting, and Merle K. Smith Airport is no exception. The developers have carefully and thoughtfully added lighting effects to different areas of the airport, and it works exceptionally well…the runway lights reflecting off the runway are a prime example. Winter World With X-Plane 12, we now get (by default), the ability to experience winter textures, and oh boy, do they make a difference, especially for an Alaskan airport such as the one being reviewed here. Due to its location, the airport is quite often covered in snow, and whereas before we would have been stuck with summer textures (unless using a third-party mod), we are now able to set the scene in a far more realistic manner. The whole area is transformed, and to be honest, the scenery looks completely different, but not in a negative way. Now the airport really does feel remote and cut off from the real world…this is the difference winter textures can make. Performance As mentioned earlier on in the review, the only part of the scenery which caused a noticeable slowdown on my computer system was the copious amounts of 3D grass lining the parameter of the runway. Away from there, performance was more than adequate, and that’s saying something considering the age of my PC. Conclusion Having spent a good deal of time exploring both Merle K. Smith Airport and the surrounding area, I must admit the experience was (on both counts), highly enjoyable. Yes, there were a few areas where I felt the airport scenery could have been improved, like the blending in of the ortho and adding some form of documentation, but overall, I think the developers have done an excellent job at recreating the scenery. With the introduction of X-Plane 12, sceneries such as Merle K. Smith Airport can now make use of the superb weather effects on offer, and this is where the flying experience truly shines. Thanks to the excellent design work by DC Scenery and the creative minds at Laminar Research, we get to experience what an Alaskan winter is like, and how an airport as remote as Merle K. Smith really feels, especially when the weather closes in. __________________________________ Merle K Smith Airport by DC Scenery is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Merle K Smith Airport Priced at US$12.00 Scenery features: X-Plane 12 ground effects X-Plane 12 3D vegetation Features a highly accurate recreation of Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport Highly detailed models and textures of airport terminal, hangars, buildings and other objects High Detailed ground textures PBR on all objects Custom lights Accurate taxiway, runway and apron High level of airport detail Compatible with Orthophotos Requirements: X-Plane 12 (not compatible with XP11) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 282 MB Current version: 1.0 September 24th 2022) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit Intel Core i5-3350p CPU @ 3.10 GHz 16GB RAM NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti Scenery Review by Paul Mort 27th October 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
  6. Aircraft Update: Airbus A321-231 XP12 by ToLiss By Joshua Moore Introduction & History The A321 from ToLiss is well known to be a high-fidelity, highly detailed, and well-loved model within X-Plane. I’ve flown it many times in X-Plane 11 and was quite excited to see it migrate over to X-Plane 12, where the newly enhanced environment allows it to take full advantage of the new lighting and reflection models provided by the new simulator. To complement the base model, I purchased the A321 Neo Add-on in which to increase the aircraft's range - perfect for extended flights. Note: In December of last year, Stephen published a detailed and extensive review of the ToLiss A321 (V1.31) in X-Plane 11, so I highly recommend checking out his review first before reading this X-Plane 12 update. The Airbus A321 program was launched in 1988 with the first flight being completed in 1993 with an IAE V2500 equipped airframe, and the second flight with the CFM equipped airframe following shortly after. The A321 entered service with Lufthansa in 1993 and has become a highly successful competitor to the 737-900 and 757. Today, the A321 Neo continues on the successful lineup of the A320 family, with the A321 XLR conducting flight testing to try and compete with the arguably more suited but aging 757 fleets. Documentation & First Impressions Documentation of the A321 from ToLiss includes a 57-page manual on the systems, a tutorial flight, and some product info. A full FCOM or in-depth systems description is not provided by ToLiss but can be found quite easily online in PDF format. Having flown the A321 in X-Plane 11, I know it to be a solid airplane, both in looks and systems. I have quite high expectations for it in X-Plane 12, and I am quite happy to see that it has had no issues maintaining my expectations on the new platform, with it easily accomplishing 6hr flights with no FPS degradation, no autopilot issues, and most importantly, none of those pesky CTDs. The texturing is slowly showing its age, but the systems are top-notch, and the cockpit looks far more accurate in terms of color compared to some of its counterparts. Electronic Flight Bag The ToLiss A321 has one weakness for me, and this has to be the EFB. Its main feature is the inclusion of AviTab, but other than that one feature and the ability to control certain loading functions through the tablet, it is more of a visual addition to the cockpit compared to a functional device I use on my flights. There are takeoff and landing performance tabs, however, they are not yet functional and serve no purpose other than being a “provisions for” screen. For those that use AviTab for major functions, it works as advertised in my limited testing with it, though I tend to stick to my iPad which has all my real-world applications installed and is a bit easier to pull from than an on-screen tablet. I would love to see ToLiss revamp the tablets in all three of their airliners, as the enhanced experience would greatly improve the overall quality feel expected of the price we pay for these add-ons. Exterior Model &Texturing The Exterior model of the A321 is one of the highlights of this addon. Gone are the flat textures with a static “PBR” reflection that adorned not only the A321 but every airplane in X-Plane 11. This has been replaced with the new X-Plane 12 model, and ToLiss has done an incredible job implementing the new reflection model onto the A321, as it looks incredible. The shine and reflections give the model a more lively appearance. The landing gear is modeled to a highly accurate extent, with grease, dirt, and grime sticking to the struts and various components. The engine models provided by ToLiss in the A321 are one of the model’s weak points. The IAE model is the worst offender, with the engine having incorrect shaping. The CFM isn’t as bad, but there are still issues. The Neo’s engines look a little better, however, on closer inspection they too suffer issues, namely the fan blades and aft cowling. For this review, I added the Carda engine mod for both the IAE and CFM engines. With these being freeware, I highly recommend these engine mods as being a must-have upgrade to improve the overall look of the engines of the ToLiss A321. These engine mods remedy the issues with the modeling and are quite easy to install. I would love to see ToLiss rebuild their CFM/IAE engines on their A321 or try to work with Carda to make his mods the default standard for their aircraft, they improve the overall look that much. I also tested the Carda Leap and PW mod for the Neo, however, they are currently incompatible due to some texture issues with the fan blades that affect the Ceo as well, so the Neo engines are the default for this review, however, I would say the same for the Neo engine mods. ToLiss could try to work with Carda to implement his engines into their models. The textures provided with the A321 are well done, albeit a bit on the lower resolution side. They have an acceptable amount of wear and tear that isn’t over the top but does not give the airplane a perfectly clean and unused appearance, which I really like. I would love to see the textures improved in terms of their resolution to allow for a bit more detail on the fuselage, but if you back away a couple of feet, the pixelation disappears and the textures look nice and sharp. The aircraft options that ToLiss provides for the exterior are quite extensive, allowing you to choose between wing fences and sharklets, Satcom versus no Satcom, door configuration, and engine type. I appreciate having the ability to edit all the options straight from inside the simulator which saves time and effort from manually editing files outside the sim to change these options. This is and has been the standard for years, and it’s nice to have it on the ToLiss A321. Interior Model & Texturing The cockpit appears to have changed little from X-Plane 11, though the new lighting model of X-Plane 12 appears to give it more depth and texture. The texture quality is amazing, the text is clear and easy to read, and the overall color of the cockpit compares extremely well to photos my friend sent me from the real aircraft at different times of the day. Rain effects have been included with the ToLiss 321 and look acceptable, though a little on the light side. I am unsure if it’s a Laminar or a ToLiss issue, but the photos below of the rain were with max precipitation set, and I could see out the windows just fine without wipers on approach. All the videos I’ve seen of airliners flying into heavy rain present a very different picture, with the wipers fighting to keep up with the amount of rain slamming into the windscreen. I can’t confirm that myself as I don’t dare fly the Bonanza into a heavy rainstorm, but it seems like there should be more rain on the windshield with extreme precipitation set in the X-Plane weather tab. We must keep in mind it is a beta, so maybe this will be tweaked and changed. Avionics Options & Systems ToLiss is well known for properly simulating the systems of the Airbus series, and it has proven itself in X-Plane 11, so with the port to X-Plane 12, it stands safe to say I didn’t find a single glaring issue in any of the tests or flights I did. FO Shatek and I did the same thorough walk-through we did with the Flight Factor A320 and only found minor issues, one of which turned out to be a company-specific option with the lighting. Starting with the MCDU, we walked through a full preflight and setup of the box and Shatek had no issues with the system. The “ACARS” pulled the Flightplan from SimBrief allowing for easy implementation of the flightplan, weights, and TO performance. The MCDU menu presented other menus including AOC for free text and weather requests, however nothing there has been implemented yet. I would like to see that implemented into the airplane as it would be a helpful addition to the flight deck. The only large issue which I would love to see resolved is the lack of weather radar. Supposedly this will be added in X-Plane 12 thanks to the new weather system, so I am hopeful to see it come to the A321 at some point. Flight Characteristics I cannot say specifically if the flight dynamics of the A321 are accurate, as I’ve not flown the A320 series in real life. What I can say however is whether or not it feels right, and in this case, it feels quite similar to the flight model in X-Plane 11, perhaps with a bit more fluidity. The flare seems to have changed, with the airplane floating a lot easier compared to X-plane 11, and that caught me off guard on my first flight in the A321 in X-Plane 12, which ended up in two go-arounds due to excessive floating even with the aircraft set right on the Vref. The ToLiss does model Normal, Alternate, and Direct law, which includes control overrides and additional protections being modeled. If you would like to read more into this, check out my review on the Flight Factor A320, where I explain it in more depth. The last area of the A321 I would like to mention is ground handling. It is quite slippery during taxiing and likes to overshoot turns if you are not careful. This could use a little tweaking, as I never remember the X-Plane 11 version sliding so much in a turn, even at 5-10kts. Sound The sounds that ship with the ToLiss A321, both Neo and Ceo, are in my opinion, quite acceptable. They are detailed and cover all the main points of the airplane, but I didn’t find them to have much of a wow factor, save for the PW4000. Commanding thrust from the PW engines provides you with an amazing spool-up sound, something that you almost need to experience for yourself to understand. For the rest of the engine variants, it’s quite a mixed bag. It is an 80-dollar airplane after all, so I would have loved to see the sounds get a bit more love. Are there better sound packs out there? For sure. Will I spend money on them? Well, that will depend on how much I fly the airplane. If you are a frequent visitor of the long bus then I believe a sound upgrade is worth the cost, though with four engine variants it may get a touch pricey. Conclusion Overall, I really enjoy flying the ToLiss A321. It’s a great bird for long hauls when you have other work to do, but don’t want to fly a heavy. With the Neo expansion, it will easily cross the pond and connect your favorite eastern seaboard destinations with Europe, but it can easily turn around and fly short haul quick turns on high-density routes. It’s a fantastic addition to my X-Plane 12 hangar and I look forward to many enjoyable years flying it as I did with the X-Plane 11 model. ________________________ The Airbus A321 XP12 by Toliss is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Airbus A321 XP12 by Toliss Priced at US$89.99 Officially licensed Airbus product Major new features: XP12 adaptations Custom engine model for more realistic thrust and fuel flow values and new engine failure modes Circuit breakers with accurate system response (Current over 100 circuit breaker available) ACARS functionality for direct download of Simbrief plans into the active or the secondary flight plan ACARS functionality to retrieve TO data for various runways of the departure airport ACARS functionality to retrieve wind data from SimBrief flight plan and enter them in the flight plan. New ACP interactive screen to request ground services, change fuel or passengers without the ISCS. EFB on captain on copilot side. (Currently featuring AviTab and weight and balance computer) FMGS plan editing overhaul, enabling temporary flight plans also for the alternate plan Database holds are now available (besides Pilot and computed holds previously available) Offset function now available Addition of new failure modes for a total of 210+ different failure modes, these include now recoverable computer failures More than 70 new ECAM messages Animated push buttons in the cockpit Moving pilot seats and armrests Minor new features: VLS increases with speed brake deflection Added (ETP) circle on ND to display the Equitime point Option to control internal and external volume levels via x-plane sliders or custom ISCS sliders Added Filtering and rate limiting for FMGS position for more realistic ND behaviour on ADIRU init completion Open pax doors now have an effect on the temperature in the adjacent zone Added option to always have the display brightness rotaries starting at the 80% position, even for cold and dark start Functional on-ground deicing via the new ACP interactive screen to avoid nasty surprises during take-offs in icing conditions Improved pushback truck Added fuel truck animations for slow refuelling via IACP. Added Radio Navigation and transponder failures, including associated ECAM caution messages and PFD/ND flags Reworked EMER ELEC ECAM, ELEC ESS BUSSES ON BAT, ALL ENGINE FAIL procedure Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 680 MB Version 1.4.1 (September 23rd 2022) Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM __________________________________ Update Aircraft Review by Joshua Moore 26th October 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions.
  7. Aircraft Update: SA 315B Lama by Philip Ubben and Khamsin Studio By Stuart McGregor I recently had the opportunity to try out the SA315B Lama by Philip Ubben and Khasim Studio during the beta run of X-Plane 12, and I am delighted to share my thoughts and experiences in this review. In all honesty, I find the Lama to be an unusual-looking aircraft by today’s standards, with its bulging bubble canopy and open tubular fuselage exposing all its workings, and in a strange way, it reminds me of an insect that has had its wings pulled off. However, don’t be fooled by its rustic appearance, as it has some amazing characteristics and charm. Designed by the French Sud Aviation organisation to be able to cope with extreme conditions in terms of high altitudes and temperatures, the single turbine engine Lama was developed to perform in the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and has held several high-altitude records along the way. It is not the largest of aircraft by any means, only carrying up to 4 passengers or just over a tonne as a slung load, however, the fact it can operate comfortably in extreme altitudes does make it quite unique in many respects. Its main customer base has traditionally been military organisations operating in mountainous regions of the world, such as the Nepalese Army and Indian Air force, and its order book has stretched far and wide from Afghanistan to Peru. When you then consider the Lama’s roots are firmly planted in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it is still very much in use today, this is a real testament to the ingenuity and engineering expertise of the original Sud Aviation designers, and I am really delighted the developers have brought this amazing aircraft to life in both X-Plane 11 and now also X-Plane 12. This review has included a couple of firsts for me, namely, it’s my first real venture into the X-Plane 12 environment since its general release to the public, and secondly, most of the testing I carried out was in VR with my Oculus Rif S. Traditionally my reviews have been carried out in the 2D world, however, this time I thought I would just try something a little different and give VR a try. It is worth noting that this review was using the beta 7 version of X-Plane 12 and there are clearly lots of bugs still to fix, (flickering clouds for example), however, I believe that this didn’t detract too much from the overall experience. In all honesty, even with the bugs, I have very much been enjoying the new features available in X-Plane 12, and I believe this all bodes well for the future of the sim. So back to the Lama. The Lama was originally released for X-Plane 11 in the second half of 2021, and if you opt to purchase the X-Plane 12 model, you also get the previous version as part of the package. For a comprehensive and in-depth review of the Lama, including its many systems, please follow the following link to Stephen Dutton's excellent X-Plane 11 article. I did take a quick look at the version 11 variant just to see what has changed, and although I didn’t spend a lot of time in the older version, there are significant upgrades in the new X-Plane 12 model. One of the most noticeable changes are the upgrades to the pop-out 3D tablet and the addition of the ‘Nightsun’ searchlight, and I will come back to that later. The Lama is currently retailing at x-plane.org for $32.95, and it was released in early September this year with the launch of X-Plane 12. Installation is extremely easy, just a case of downloading and drop into your Aircraft folder, that’s it. Once you have it installed, if you look in the “Documents” folder under “Comprehensive Manuals”, you will find all sorts of helpful documents provided in a mixture of English, German, and French. You will find an Introduction to the Lama that explains a little about the helicopter itself as well as the start-up and shut-down procedures, operational start-up and shut-down checklists explaining what to do and in which order, a visual overview of the main instrument panels and functions, instructions on how to use the ‘Nightsun’ searchlight, an overview of the functionality provided via the 3D-tablet, and a list of FAQs that may answer some of the questions that you initially have. A separate document also describes the Pitch Indicator provided in the Lama and explains what it does and how to use it. In all honesty, I was a little confused by the explanation offered, however, I am sure with some practice it all makes sense. The developers also mentioned that in real life, as the unit is quite hard to read and would be a distraction during flight, most pilots consider any pitch limits throughout their flights prior to taking off. Nevertheless, it is a nice feature to have if you are looking for the best immersion possible and the dials are operational. There is one final document that is worth mentioning and that is the Quick Start Guide. This will give a few other general tips on how to get the best out of the Lama, and all these documents are worth reading to familiarize yourself with the numerous features the Lama has to offer. Now that you have installed the Lama and have read through the various documents, it is time to jump into the cockpit. There are two seats up front and three in the rear, and one of the first things you will notice is just how much of a view you have because of the bubble canopy. In VR especially, this is fabulous. For those who don’t have VR capability, this really is something that adds a totally new dimension to flying, and although it does take a little time to get used to, particularly when flying helicopters, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The sense of depth that you get can’t be matched on any 2D screen, so when looking around the Lama’s cabin, you just want to reach out and grab everything. The instruments in the Lama are quite basic in terms of tech when compared to modern helicopters, however, I really prefer this as there are just fewer things to have to learn and ultimately worry about. Don’t get me wrong, tech is great and will often add in new safety features which is never a bad thing, however, sometimes it is just nice to be faced with some more basic instruments and controls. There is a small overhead panel above your head with lighting dimmer controls, switches to operate various electrical systems and a range of fuses, although the fuses are not functional. I found the central pedestal dials fairly easy to read, although VR in the Rift S does have its limits when looking at small numbers and lettering, however, the textures overall are very nicely done and realistic. If you can crane your head around and look above and behind, you will see the rotor head and rotors, and the attention to detail is excellent, even down to unique part numbers on the rotor blades. When cold and dark it is worth just taking a few moments to try out the cyclic controls and watch the rotorhead assembly parts all moving in perfect unison. Pretty impressive!! To get the Lama started, you can go the fully manual route and follow the provided checklists, however, one of the features I really like was the automated start-up (and shut-down) that can be accessed via the 3D-tablet. The tablet can be opened by clicking on the text label to the right of the central console on the airframe, and this is one of the areas where the XP11 and XP12 variants differ. In the XP12 version, several new features have been added and there is now a complete second page that can be accessed. This allows you to toggle on or off various features such as the doors, snow skids, external mirror, searchlight, and rescue winch; you can also adjust the type of baskets and type of airspeed indicator and altimeter, and from the first page you can also adjust the weight distribution, centre of gravity and the fuel load (see the Quick Start Guide for guidance when rotors are running). In addition, you can also set the auto pitch limit and pitch fail mode and turn the rotors to the front prior to starting. In real life, this is important as it avoids rotor damage caused by the turbine exhaust and is a nice little feature that adds to the immersion. I liked the sound of these changes being made when you click the screen, it really makes you ‘feel’ the changes are taking place rather than just appearing. On page 2 of the tablet, you have options to adjust visual effects such as glass reflections, downwash, vibrations and how lights and strobes show up. On this page, you will also find the automatic checklists for start-up and shutdown, and these have audible speech samples that take you through the process which I really liked. You can also have the view change automatically to show you the relevant section, which is OK in 2D but made me feel a bit sick in 3D, so I just disabled it. The final feature I would like to mention, and to me, an important one is the Augmented Stability controls. This allows you to set the intensity on the Heading, Pitch and Roll stability, and I had this set to 15% for all three. I found that controlling the Lama with these all set to zero was pretty tuff, and this is something you can play around with to find your own sweet spot. As I mentioned, 15% did the trick for me. Before we get the engine fired up and attempt a flight, I just wanted to take some time to mention the exterior features and detailing of the Lama. In X-Plane 12, the Lama is a thing of unusual beauty, it really is, and the developers should be extremely proud of what they have achieved. Sitting on a wet apron with puddles of water, and then walking around the Lama, was a surreal experience. Again, the VR element just gives you a whole new perspective and dimension to explore, and being able to do a walk around and dive into all the nooks and crannies around the fuselage was a magical experience. Details like ropes and rucksacks in the baskets are well done and I have never seen this type of detail before. The quality of the textures are exquisite and really should be enjoyed by getting up close. I even noticed that the engine has a readable nameplate tag which really shows just how much care and attention the developers have taken when creating their Lama. One final feature which I believe is worth a mention is the gentle flex and swaying movement of the rotors in the wind. This really is exceptional, and I even found myself just mesmerized watching this for a few minutes. It still amazes me just how far flight simulation has come in the 10 years I have been a fan, and aircraft like the Lama in combination with modern sims like X-Plane 12, is a testament to the various developer’s skills and imagination. The continuous improvement is remarkable, and the fact we can all enjoy this from the comfort of our living rooms is quite mind-blowing when you think about it. OK, so let’s start up the Lama. As mentioned, I just used the auto-start feature for simplicity, although I am sure it wouldn’t take much to do this manually if you wish. One of the first things you notice when the engine starts to spin up are the sounds of the turbine, this is particularly enhanced if you remove the doors or have them open. Although I have never stood next to a real Lama (animal or helicopter), the turbine sounds very authentic, and the richness of the sounds complements the visual features extremely well. You really get a sense of the power of the turbine as it goes through its various phases, and the tone changes further as the rotors spin up to their full speed. Be careful though with any throttle controls, as I did have a couple of engine fires along the way as I hadn’t closed my throttle. Incidentally, the smoke and flame effects are realistic although I would prefer not to have wrecked the engine as often as I did. Once you start the engine you will also see the pilot from the outside and he is very well-modelled and animated with head movements. Once everything had stabilised, I was able to hover taxi to my take-off point quite smoothly and with only a little effort on my controls. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that I am currently using a VKB Gladiator joystick and pedals and an old MaxFlight Stick collective, and the combination works well. The 3D tablet can be stowed via a click spot on the bottom left of the panel, although the tablet also doubles as the AviTab system, so if you would like to keep the map or other features up you can. In VR, I am using the OVR tool (it seems to still work in X-Plane 12), and I have the Super Sampling set to 1.5 and Asynchronous Spacewarp set to force 30 FPS, ASW enabled. This works well for me and is the best compromise over quality and performance. Out of VR, I was getting around 50+ FPS, and in VR, well it reduces the FPS to 27 in the Rift S. Having such an unobstructed view from the cockpit makes the Lama a joy to be in, so flying low and slow around the countryside and across towns was a fabulous experience. I was able to control the Lama quite easily and I found it very responsive to my inputs during both takeoff and landing. On the latter you do have to be careful you don’t get caught up in your own downwash, as then the ground does come up to meet you a lot faster than you would like. There is no autopilot in the Lama which means manual flying all the way as far as I could tell, but I like this. Helicopters by their very nature are unstable, so having the challenge of being able to keep all the various parts moving safely in the direction you want them to, gives you a real sense of satisfaction when you master it. When in flight after dark, I had a play around with the ‘Nightsun’ searchlight and this is great fun, particularly when you assign the controls to a hat switch. That way you can control the beam of light effortlessly and easily direct it to where you want it. According to the developer, the light start-up procedure is also modelled as in the real thing, so it does take a moment or two to switch on, again another nice piece of realism. At night, the cockpit instrument lighting is also very nicely done, and you can toggle between green and red, whichever takes your fancy. The only thing that I felt was a little disappointing was the rescue winch, and I had to do a little research on the forums to understand if I was missing something. Other than switching on and off a red and white box object attached to the bottom of a thin white line, this was all I could see, and based on the quality of the rest of the helicopter, I thought I must have missed something… but nope… that is it. You can change the object to one of your own, or change the weight of the object to suit, however, this is all done via the X-Plane Weights & Balance menu under the Flight option in the ribbon menu. Here you adjust the details of the slung load, however, I think a few lines in the manual would be helpful, as, without it, I scratched my head for ages trying to work this out. This apart, the SA315B Lama by Philip Ubben and Khasim Studio is a fabulous example of what can be achieved within the X-Plane world, and I can safely say this is one of the best helicopters out there. I have tried most of what is available these days, and the Lama is up there with the best of them in terms of overall quality of build, features, and cost. I normally shy away from advising whether to buy something or not, as it does always come down to personal choice and depends on what you are looking for, however, if you are a helicopter fan, I think in this case I would make an exception. So, whether you are a serious helicopter flyer or someone just starting out, this Lama is well worth considering in my opinion. __________________________________ The SA 315B Lama by Philip Ubben and Khamsin Studio is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: SA 315B Lama XP12 Price at time of writing US$32.95 SA 315B comprehensive features list Support for the entire X-Plane 12 cycle including patches and possible updates Both versions XP12 and XP11 included for the XP11 features please look at the Lama XP11 shop page Quick-start-document in English Comprehensive flight manual documents in EN, FR and DE Completely redesigned flight model to reflect all XP12 changes X-Plane 12 weather effects compatible "Safe-state" system which stores all tablet customizations when changing aircraft or exiting the simulator. Restores them when the Lama is reloaded Lama's own "Artifical Stabilisation" system, which is of course integrated into the "Safe-State" system. Once thoroughly made, stability settings for the three control axes are stored and restored each time the Lama is reloaded Automatic checklist including switchable acoustic speech and also switchable camera guidance to the operated switches for the complete sequence from "Cold and Dark" to "Ready to fly" and back again. Thus, the complete start-up and shut-down process can be marveled at and followed like in a movie theater Full simulation of the SX-16 "Nightsun" searchlight including sound, gimbal assembly, focus adjustment, focus dependent light intensity and realistic on/off behavior Rescue winch that automatically switches the attachment point for the bottom load rope from the load hook to the winch Second selection option for the baskets on the outside of the helicopter Possibility to mount a bubble door on the pilot's side Ability to unhook both doors independently and fly without doors FMOD 2 which, besides minor optimizations, now locally accounts for the opened doors Instrument lighting switchable between red and green color Vibration animations in the cockpit High detail 3D-model and textures by khamsin studio PBR textures Completely animated rotor head and blade flex Including Geforce plugin by Dreamfoil Helicopters (not native APPLE-arm M1/M2 compatible) Very accurate flight model (including Autorotation) up to MTOW of 1950 kg individual user setup friendly: Uses only default joystick axes (throttle, collective, pitch, roll and yaw) All custom commands access able via default X-Plane menu Complete recreation of real power management including: Real startup and shutdown procedures Real centrifugal clutch management Real turbine RPM-limiter Real safety microswitches Real usability of Collins-Pitch-Indicator Hide able 3D-tablet including: Custom weight-and-balance menu Attach or detach external parts Toggle able glass reflections Toggle able custom downwash effect Toggle able cockpit vibrations Ability to choose out of four strobe light variants for addon liveries Avitab integration Toggle able power management helper bug Let the groundcrew turn one blade up front for you Four different strobe light effects for different liveries Livery depending IAS gauge in km/h or KTS Working slungload scale VR compatible Very FPS friendly Requirements: X-Plane 12 - or X-Plane 11(both versions included) Windows, Mac* or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 840 MB Current version: 2.1b4 (September 26th 2022) Review System Specifications: Windows 10 64 Bit CPU Intel i9-9900k 64GB RAM Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Oculus Rift S Helicopter Review by Stuart McGregor 20th October 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
  8. Aircraft Review/Tutorial: VSKYLABS- Rutan Model-158 Project for X-Plane 12 By Alan Ashforth Introduction The VSKYLABS- Rutan Model-158 being reviewed here in X-Plane 12 is closely based on the Pond Racer, designed by Burt Rutan for Bob Pond, and flown at the Reno Air Races back in the early 90s. Only one was ever built and was sadly lost in an accident in 1993, killing the pilot Rick Brickert. What we have here in X-Plane, is a clever, plausible variant, that extends the racing aircraft, into an all-weather, cross-country sports plane, which allows it to be far more adaptable and useful in X-Plane. Its racing heritage is clear to see (there is no mistaking those sleek lines), which makes it very fast but also incredibly challenging to fly properly and safely, especially when landing. The model presented here features twin turboprop engines, with each one delivering about 600shp, which enables the Rutan Model-158 to achieve a top speed (TAS) of about 450mph/380kts, and a cruising range of 500 miles/ or 1.5 flight hours, coupled with a service ceiling of over 30,000ft. Installation The VSKYLABS Rutan Model-158 is available for both X-Plane 11 and 12, with Stephen from X-PlaneReviews offering a highly comprehensive review of the X-Plane 11 model back in March 2021. This review, whilst not as in-depth as Stephen’s, will hopefully give you an idea of how the model performs in X-Plane 12, albeit, in beta form (at the time of writing beta 5). With my purchase completed and downloaded from the X-Plane.Org store (extracted size was 407MB), it was just a straightforward task of placing the model into my X-Plane Aircraft folder. Included with the download is a 50-page, comprehensive, illustrated Pilot Operations Manual, including checklists. Exterior The Rutan Model-158 is quite a distinctive-looking aircraft, especially with its twin booms housing the two PT6A-28 propulsion free-turbine turboprop engines. Being a relatively small aircraft, these design characteristics portray an aircraft that is both highly dramatic and powerful in appearance. Although a taildragger, its stance is shallower than say a WW2 fighter, which has the added benefit of offering a forward view, even if it is somewhat limited. The engine covers of the two PT6A-28 engines can be removed to show the nicely modelled details within. The main gear is also modelled to a high level and even includes the names of all the people who made the original Pond Racer on the covers, a very nice touch, and one which could have easily been left out! The original aircraft was designed in 1991, and as such incorporates a variety of useful features, such as satellite navigation, full safety lights, and interior lighting, which makes night flying entirely possible, not to mention great fun! One feature of the VSKYLABS model which I was highly impressed with, and which is new to the X-Plane 12 model, was the excellent rain effect on the canopy. In terms of liveries, there are three included: No. 2 in white, Marines in grey and finally Storm Chaser in red, all of which have been created to a high standard and really make the Rutan Model-158 stand out. There’s also an included paintkit for those artists among you. Interior The interior of the Rutan, much like the exterior, is finished to the same high standard, with some great texturing on offer, including some excellent weathering effects (scuffs, marks etc), which gives the appearance of the cockpit being suitably authentic. This also has the benefit of making the cockpit a highly enjoyable place to be, particularly when navigating and manoeuvring the aircraft during flight. Both the seat and rudder pedals have excellent detailing, as do all the dials and switches, in fact, everything on offer is a class act. Of course, for an aircraft of this type, complete engine information is included for the pilot in the form of numerous gauges and dials, along with oxygen levels, cockpit pressure, etc. There are also the usual trim levers and autopilot/transponder settings, along with a rather handy cancel button on the stick. However, it’s perhaps the two Garmin 430 satnav units located in the centre panel housing which probably stand out the most, with the option of having the AviTab unit displayed for occasional use (a freeware download that you must acquire separately). Cold & Dark Start Before starting the engines, we need to set the desired fuel and oxygen levels required for the flight (in weights and balances). With that done, set the battery to on (right panel), then engine one igniter, and engine one starter, which will, in turn, slowly start the left engine spinning. Soon after this, you will hear an audible beep, which is the signal to push in the engine one fuel tap. When the engine is idling, turn off the igniter and switch on the generator. Lastly, switch on the engine one inverter, located on the right panel, and turn on the avionics. You then partially repeat the procedure for engine two. We are now ready to close the canopy and enter our flight plan into the first Garmin. This unit has a VOR and CDI to help you navigate and land, unlike the second Garmin which is not configured with a VOR or CDI. However, it is still extremely useful as it can be used to show the distance and range page, whilst the first unit displays the map. When it comes to landing, you can use the autopilot’s APR mode to get lined up properly, but that’s about it, there is no glideslope ability. From here on in, it’s all manual flying, and as the Rutan Model-158 is quite a hot ship, you’re going to have to keep your wits about you. With no flaps or speed brakes fitted in which to manage airspeed, you must rely on adjusting and setting the props correctly, which is an important skill to master. Flying Experience When taxiing from cold and dark, it’s crucial to remember that the props will be in beta (reverse) which can be fun to use if you’re starting on a stand! With that knowledge firmly cemented in your mind, gently slide the levers forward to about halfway, release the brakes, and then control your speed with both brakes and throttle. The minimum prop speed in alpha (forward thrust) is 1,200, while the maximum is 2,200. VSKYLABS recommends full forward props and 80% throttle for takeoff unless you’re at or above max takeoff weight, in which case it’s full throttle, which provides exceptionally swift acceleration. Once you have left terra firma, reduce acceleration (prop and throttle) so as to allow the gear time to retract. This is done below 180kts, as any higher, and the likelihood of damaging your undercarriage increases significantly. With this done, you are now ready to accelerate and continue with the climb out. As you proceed, you’ll notice that the Rutan is highly stable in the roll; not as fast to roll as a single-engine fighter, but at low speeds (below about 250kts) the elevators are highly effective until they tighten up with speed. For this reason (at low speed), I’d make sure you adjust your trim accordingly. The climb performance of the Rutan is exceptional, and as such, reaching our target altitude of 25,000ft is achieved in almost no time at all. According to the documentation, this cruising altitude achieves the best economy (500 miles), which for a cross-country sports aircraft of this type, is not too bad at all. One thing to note when climbing, is that if you’re going past 12,000ft, you’ll have to seal the canopy and adjust pressurisation accordingly, as failing to do this will cause you to blackout. Also, if you only have pressurisation on, and not oxygen (there is a separate oxygen control for your mask), then you will begin to blackout above 25,000 to 28,000ft, so if you’re going above that altitude (maximum ceiling is 33,500ft), you will need to adjust pressure and use oxygen. If there happens to be a fault with the pressure, you’ll need to use oxygen above 12,000ft. The procedure for accomplishing all the above is mentioned in the AviTab tablet, so it’s well worth setting up prior to takeoff. Achieving the desired course/route in the Rutan Model-158 is a relatively simple task, as the supplied Gamin 430 units should be a familiar site to quite a few X-Plane users. However, if they’re not, and you’re new to X-Plane, then I highly recommend downloading and then reading the Garmin 430 PDF manual kindly provided by X-Plane.com As you head towards your target airport, reduce your speed by first pushing props fully forwards (2200rpm) and then throttling back, which provides a steady and controlled reduction of airspeed. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can simply whack the props into full reverse (beta) position and lose altitude at an even greater rate. However, don’t forget to put the props back to alpha to land though! When your airspeed has been reduced to below 180kts, it’s safe to lower the main landing gear, and with your trim adjusted, you can reduce your speed to 150/130kts for landing. Gentle braking is advised, as from my experience, the Rutan has a tendency to flip if applied above 90kts. Landing is perhaps the most challenging aspect of piloting the Rutan, and will no doubt take a few goes to get right, but that’s what makes flying this unique aircraft so special…it’s the replay feature, and the desire to get it right the next time around. Conclusion During my testing, I found the VSKYLABS Rutan Model-158 to be both challenging and fun to fly. It’s well-modelled, especially the cockpit, includes some wonderful engine sounds, and is topped off by having a highly rewarding flight model. Considering X-Plane 12 is still in beta form, I was also impressed with how stable the model was in the sim. Quite often during the initial stages of an X-Plane beta, it’s not unusual for third-party add-ons to either freeze or crash the sim, so that was an additional bonus. For someone like myself who enjoys experiencing the thrills of flying powerful and challenging aircraft, I found the experience to be nothing short of exceptional, and as such would have no hesitation in recommending it to other like-minded X-Plane 12 users. Note: if you’re looking to add a few additional liveries to the Rutan, then there are some excellent and fun repaints available over at the Org by SimSmith and Criminy. _______________________________ The VSKYLABS- Rutan Model-158 Project for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: VSKYLABS- Rutan Model-158 Project Priced at US$28.50 Project's Main Features: VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' project. Highly defined flight dynamics model of the Model-158. Highly defined PT6 turboprop engine simulation (PT6A-28) including its associated peripheral systems. Built around the powerful, native X-Plane's 'Experimental Flight Model' environment. In-depth systems simulation: Fully equipped aircraft with deep systems simulation (electrical, lighting and warning systems, comprehensive fuel system, fire protection, bleed air and pneumatic systems, ice protection systems, pressurization system, landing gears system, flight control, oxygen system, canopy system, auto-feathering and auto-ignition systems and more). VR (Virtual Reality) Ready. Multi-Layer FMOD sound pack. 50-pages, comprehensive, illustrated Pilot Operations Manual, including checklists. STMA Autoupdater is included: Project updates are fast and efficient! Included Paint-Kit. Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums. Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: XP12 - September 5th 20221.0 (March 14th 2021, XP11) Review by Alan Ashforth 13th Oct 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Windows 11, Intel i7 10,700 Processor, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD, GeForce RTX™ 2070 (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
  9. Scenery Review: Helsinki Metropolitan Area v3 by FA Simulations FA Simulations are well-known for their VFR cityscape scenery packs for X-Plane. They recently updated their Helsinki Metropolitan Area to version 3 which includes newly updated orthos from 2020 as well as improved buildings and vegetation. Having visited the city several times over the last few years, I thought I would take a closer look at what FA Simulations have put together and see if it stands up to the real thing. The City of Helsinki Helsinki sits as the capital city of Finland. It hosts the world's most northern metro network and has a population of around 632,000 people. Sitting on the northern coast of the Baltic Sea, Helsinki has a mix of urban, rural and forestland, especially as you head out further into Tikkurila and the Greater Uusimaa region. This add-on aims to cover the entire part of this with Ortho, with special hand-made buildings in the city centre. Installation Installation of Helsinki Metropolitan Area V3 is very easy. After purchasing the product on the X-plane.org store, you download a zip folder which includes all the files you need. Available on the FA Simulations website are some free download expansions for this scenery which include higher resolution orthos for Helsinki as well as parts of neighbouring Espoo. These are well worth a download if you find yourself running with some GPU memory to spare! Up Close and Personal with the Capital Overall, this add-on gives you a pretty good feel for the city of Helsinki. I have had the pleasure of visiting three times so far and have walked the streets on several occasions. Custom buildings are featured throughout the scenery, such as the railway station, Olympic park, harbor and famous cathedral as featured in the Darude - Sandstorm music video. Everything is modeled with a relatively low polygon count so as to save your graphics card from overloading with memory usage, meaning buildings do eventually start to lose their shine when you get too close, but when flying past at a couple of hundred metres, things still look good with high-resolution textures donning each structure. As you leave the city centre and head to the more rural places, the hand-made buildings do eventually stop, but instead, we now see a custom-building database which has been generated and placed over the ortho area, presumably using data from Open Street Map. This is a very good way of doing things, as it allows for accurate looking buildings to populate the real-world locations of shops, apartments, houses and more. This also means you enjoy the feel of a hand-made world while allowing the developers to greatly expand the coverage of the scenery they've created. Ortho imagery for the region has also been carefully worked on. Within the city centre, the satellite imagery is of high resolution and colour corrected to ensure that nothing looks out of place. This has been shaped around the coastline too, with the harbour and canals all visible and matching closely to their real-world locations. As you head north and out into Uusimaa, the resolution does drop slightly to allow for memory optimisations due to the larger area, but the colour correction and coastline adjustments are still very well worked on. The resolution and buildings pick up again as you get closer to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, meaning from the ground when preparing for your flight, you can certainly enjoy the benefits of this add-on. I have noticed a very minor colour and resolution degradation on the border between the super-detailed city centre and the more rural parts of Helsinki, but when flying at a decent altitude, it's not something you're going to notice unless you're specifically looking for it. Overall, I am impressed with both the quality of the city as well as the scale of the add-on, as it reaches out to the Uusimaa region and Espoo. Satellite Imagery & Ortho Overall, the Ortho for Helsinki looks good, having been updated in 2020, and as such, you can enjoy a more up-to-date city when compared to their previous releases which came with the older satellite imagery from 2016. There are additional Ortho and scenery files you can also download from the FA Simulations website. These are made to the same high-resolution texture standard as the payware product and require the libraries and scenery files from Helsinki Metropolitan Area v3 to work. This means you're guaranteed to get the usual FA Simulations quality, without spending any more money! As this scenery was developed for X-Plane 11, there is not much in the way of seasonal effects, but I would certainly love to see an upgrade to this when X-Plane 12 moved into the frame. Nice Additions As well as the main metropolitan area of Helsinki, FA Simulations have included two small airfields. These are simply offerings, but their inclusion is highly welcomed as it means that VFR flyers looking to explore the area at low altitudes are well-catered for. More detailed is the Meilahti hospital helipad, which is very nicely done and allows for additional challanges. Nightlife in the Nordics After sunset and during the winter months when barely any light graces the city, FA Simulations have put a lot of focus on how the cityscape looks at night. Roads look fantastic from the skies, especially the motorways as they snake their way across the region. With the occasional smaller towns and lanes cutting through them, you really get a feel for the peaceful life down below, with vast amounts of dark woodland separating homes and population centres. As you head closer to the capital, suddenly things get a whole lot busier, brighter, and far more congested. Custom buildings within the city centre all have appropriate night lighting to fit with their real-world counterparts. The station, cathedral and Kauppakeskus shopping centre certainly stand out and help add authenticity to the world below. Cars also populate the streets of Helsinki and make good use of X-Plane's default roads and vehicle system. This makes flying over the city at night a joy, especially during the winter months when the southern part of Finland only sees limited light during the day. Opinion & Closing Remarks Overall, I am impressed with what FA Simulations have put together. As a Helsinki regular, it's nice to see somewhere I visit often, modeled well with high-quality Ortho and autogen overlays. Road layouts and buildings are all in their correct locations, and as mentioned the satellite imagery is high-resolution and colour matched. I especially like how well the more rural areas look, and whilst they employ fewer hand-made buildings, they make good use of the custom-building library in which to populate their real-world locations. Performance across the Helsinki Metropolitan Area v3 add-on is also smooth, with minimal loss across the region and capital. I didn’t experience any noticeable drop in framerates, nor have I come across any stutters when flying overhead. Potentially there is a little loss in FPS when flying into Helsinki from a distance, but this is usually very quick and sometimes unnoticeable. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is known in Europe as the gateway to Asia, and if you find yourself passing through here regularly, then it's well worth picking up! _______________________________ Helsinki Metropolitan Area v3 by FA Simulations is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: Helsinki Metropolitan Area v3 by FA Simulations Priced at US$25.00 Features Over 4000 square kilometres (1544 square miles) of detailed scenery 50cm/pixel resolution in the ortho scenery (approx. zoom level 16-17) Includes summer textures (winter textures will come later) Decals added to the whole scenery (will give you detailed terrain all the way to the ground). Hundreds of custom-built objects placed accurately on the orthophoto Extremely detailed forests, over 10 forest files used to accurately represent the forests of the scenery. The forests cover the whole scenery and match closely the underlying orthophoto. Custom-built HDR-night lighting for the whole area. Night/dusk/dawn flying has never been so realistic Two custom-built airfields in the scenery (EFNU and EFMN). Extremely detailed Meilahti hospital helipad (EFHY) Detailed helipad on passenger ship Silja Serenade Detailed helipad on top of Helsinki central fire station You can land a helicopter on all high buildings Custom built OSM-facades for the whole area. Southern Finland has very good OSM-coverage, so the scenery is filled with buildings. Hand-edited shorelines for very realistic coastlines Works with Truscenery airports, also with all other payware airports in the area. Airports must be above all HMS files in your scenery_packs.ini file Extra areas, HEMS missions and high-resolution terrain ortho can be downloaded from our website https://www.fasimulations.com/ Remember to delete all HMS files from the previous versions (1&2) Requirements X-Plane 11 – X-Plane 12 (when available) Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum- 8 GB+ VRAM Video Card Recommended Download size: 7.4 GB Current Version: 3.0 (July 28th 2021) 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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.
  17. 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)
  18. 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)
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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