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Stephen

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  1. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in NEWS! - Nimbus releases New York JFK for X-Plane 12   
    NEWS! - Nimbus releases New York JFK for X-Plane 12
     

     
    Idlewild Airport was named after the Idlewild Beach Golf Course that it displaced in New York's east. KIDL was built to relieve LaGuardia Field, which had already become overcrowded, and the new east based airport was opened in 1948. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the airport was then renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport as a tribute to the 35th President of the United States. Since then it has always been known as "Kennedy". So KJFK needs no introduction to aviation bluffs, it's up there with "Heathrow", "Charles de Gaulle" and Washington's "Dulles". But deep down I still call it Idlewild, the original moniker for the airport.
     
    Dulle's is important here also, as it was the last fully developed airport by Nimbus Simulations, whom have now delivered a companion airport in the mega KJFK - New York - John F. Kennedy International Airport for XP12.
     
    JFK has five active terminals, containing 130 gates in total. The terminals are numbered 1–8 but skipping terminals 2 (demolished in 2023), 3 (demolished in 2013) and 6 (demolished in 2011).
    The terminal buildings, except for the former Tower Air terminal, are arranged in a deformed U-shaped wavy pattern around a central area containing parking, a power plant, and other airport facilities. The terminals are connected by the AirTrain system and access roads. Aviation Week found that JFK ranked second in overall traveller satisfaction among large airports in the United States, behind Harry Reid International Airport, which serves the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Features include...
     
    High-Definition Airport Terminals with 3D interiors and people Lights almost everywhere so very few LIT textures (saves VRAM) 4K textures with PBR materials Night lighting Ground textures with PBR materials High quality vehicles with PBR material 3D Native XP12 trees Parking lots full of cars Ground markings on each gate and runway Animated Airport Native X-Plane ground traffic. Native XP12 jetway system with custom highly detailed jetways. Detailed tarmac textures from up close or far out. High quality vehicles and miscellaneous objects. Water and snow effects. Canarsie approach guidance lights.  

     

     

     
    Recommended with the Nimbus Studio's KJFK, is the Drzewiecki Design New York City XP, for a credible New York skyline.
     
    Please note that the Nimbus JFK is for X-Plane 12 only, and no X-Plane 11 version is available.
     
    Designed by Nimbus Studios
    Images are courtesy of Nimbus Designs
    __________________
     

     
    Yes!...   KJFK - New York - John F. Kennedy International Airport XP12 by Nimbus Design is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    KJFK - New York - John F. Kennedy International Airport XP12
    Price is US$29.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not for XP11) Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 1.3 GB Current version: 1.0 (January 14th 2024) ___________________________
     
    NEWS! by Stephen Dutton
    16th January 2024
    Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  2. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in NEWS! - Mango Studios releases JARDesign A340-500 Sound Pack   
    NEWS! - Mango Studios releases JARDesign A340-500 Sound Pack
     


    Mango Studios has released a Sound Package for the JARDesign A340-500, available here, and currently on sale for US$29.95. Note this package only works with the sounds for the  JAR Design A340-500. It will not work on other A340s (i.e. TolISS). The package is however both compatible with X-Plane 12/11. Features included...
     
    Exterior: Custom Sounds for Exterior Aircraft Systems -APU, Hydraulic Pumps, Fuel Pumps, Packs, etc External Environmental sounds, including light and hard rain Custom Engine Sounds for the Rolls Royce Trent 553 Engines     -Exterior start-up/shut-down sound effects     -Exterior spool-up/spool-down sound effects     -Exterior backblast, surround sound, and flyby sound effects Interior: Custom Sounds for cockpit switches, buttons, covers, knobs, and handles -Overhead Panel, Pedestal Panel, Autopilot Panel, and Eicas Panel all reworked Custom Cockpit System Sounds Including -Higher Quality GPWS Sounds, from 2500ft to 5ft aural warnings. -Higher Quality Embraer Warning Sounds  -Higher quality and realistic Battery, packs, wipers, and avionics generator effects Custom, and ultra-realistic cockpit environmental effects -High-Quality landing gear roll, cockpit rattle effect, gear retraction, gear extension, gear drag, and cockpit wind. New cabin effects include     -New Air conditioning effect, Fuel pump, Hydraulic Pump, Flaps, Slats Custom Interior sounds for the  Rolls Royce Trent 553 Engines, which include:     -New custom, interior startup/shutdown sound effects     -New custom, interior spool-up/spool-down sound effects     -New custom, interior backblast, surround sound, and flyby sound effects It brings installation instructions to make your installation more manageable, and a manual to bring you up to speed on how to customize your volume in the volume menu. __________________
     

     
    Yes!...   JARDesign A340-500 Sound Pack by Mango Studios is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    Mango Studios JARDesign A340-500 Sound Pack
    Price is US$12.99
     
    Requirements
    This is a Sound pack. The JAR Design A340-500. Will not work on other A340s.
    X-Plane12 & 11
    Current version 1.0 (January 15th 2024) ___________________________
     
    NEWS! by Stephen Dutton
    16th January 2024
    Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

  3. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Cami De Bellis in NEWS! - Scenery Released : LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island, Italy by Cami de Bellis   
    NEWS! - Scenery Released : LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island, Italy by Cami de Bellis
     

     
    Where is it? It's an Italian Island, but in reality it is nowhere near the Southern Italian coastline, more adjacent to Tunisia, Africa than Europe. Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
     
    The Pelagie Islands from the Greek pélagos meaning "open sea", are the three small islands of Lampedusa, Lampione, and Linosa, located in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Tunisia, south of Sicily. To the northwest lie the island of Pantelleria and the Strait of Sicily. All three islands are part of the commune of Lampedusa. Geologically, part of the archipelago (Lampedusa and Lampione) belongs to the African continent; politically and administratively the islands fall within the Sicilian province of Agrigento and represent the southernmost part of Italy.
     
    Despite pockets of agriculture, the islands are unnaturally barren due to wanton deforestation and the disappearance of the native olive groves, juniper and carob plantations. Fifty years ago much of the landscape was farmland bounded by dry stone walls, but today, the local economy is based on sponge fishing and canning, supplemented by tourism in Lampedusa.
     
    Here is another detailed Cami de Bellis scenery with the addition of complete terrain mesh for the entire islands of Lampedusa and Linosa by Maps2XPlane, yes the same Maps2XPlane that did the excellent islands coverage of Faroe and Savlbard. So obviously you have a great combination of skills and quality scenery here.
     
    Features  Highly accurate scenery for LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island with all   buildings modeled.  Over 160 custom objects all with Ambient Occlusion  Custom Terrain Mesh for the entire island of Lampedusa and Linosa by Maps2XPlane  Custom Overlay/Autogen Scenery based on CDB assets by Maps2XPlane"  Photo real textures on buildings, vehicles, trees…  Photorealistic ground textures based on a satellite image 50 cm.  Detailed airport objects and GSE vehicles   Custom textured taxiways, runways, and apron   Custom surrounding buildings   Custom airport lights HD  Custom Overlay    High-resolution building textures – all in 2K and 4K   Excellent night effects   World Traffic 3 compatible  Native characters and vehicles created specially   Ground traffic   The terrain mesh is complemented with custom overlays: dense vegetation  and country-typical autogen, as well as custom road networks with dynamic traffic.  Two heliports, for those fans of helicopters. One at the beautiful  Linosa Island, and the other on the US Loran Station Base.   

     

     

     
    This LICD scenery is X-Plane 12 only
     
    Images of LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island are courtesy of Cami de Bellis
    ________________
     

     
    Yes!  LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island by Cami de Bellis is Available now from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island
    Price Is US$18.90
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not for XP 11)
    Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.7 GB Current version 1.0 (January 11th 2024) ________________
     
    NEWS! by Stephen Dutton
    12th January 2024
    Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  4. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in NEWS! - Scenery Released : LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island, Italy by Cami de Bellis   
    NEWS! - Scenery Released : LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island, Italy by Cami de Bellis
     

     
    Where is it? It's an Italian Island, but in reality it is nowhere near the Southern Italian coastline, more adjacent to Tunisia, Africa than Europe. Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
     
    The Pelagie Islands from the Greek pélagos meaning "open sea", are the three small islands of Lampedusa, Lampione, and Linosa, located in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Tunisia, south of Sicily. To the northwest lie the island of Pantelleria and the Strait of Sicily. All three islands are part of the commune of Lampedusa. Geologically, part of the archipelago (Lampedusa and Lampione) belongs to the African continent; politically and administratively the islands fall within the Sicilian province of Agrigento and represent the southernmost part of Italy.
     
    Despite pockets of agriculture, the islands are unnaturally barren due to wanton deforestation and the disappearance of the native olive groves, juniper and carob plantations. Fifty years ago much of the landscape was farmland bounded by dry stone walls, but today, the local economy is based on sponge fishing and canning, supplemented by tourism in Lampedusa.
     
    Here is another detailed Cami de Bellis scenery with the addition of complete terrain mesh for the entire islands of Lampedusa and Linosa by Maps2XPlane, yes the same Maps2XPlane that did the excellent islands coverage of Faroe and Savlbard. So obviously you have a great combination of skills and quality scenery here.
     
    Features  Highly accurate scenery for LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island with all   buildings modeled.  Over 160 custom objects all with Ambient Occlusion  Custom Terrain Mesh for the entire island of Lampedusa and Linosa by Maps2XPlane  Custom Overlay/Autogen Scenery based on CDB assets by Maps2XPlane"  Photo real textures on buildings, vehicles, trees…  Photorealistic ground textures based on a satellite image 50 cm.  Detailed airport objects and GSE vehicles   Custom textured taxiways, runways, and apron   Custom surrounding buildings   Custom airport lights HD  Custom Overlay    High-resolution building textures – all in 2K and 4K   Excellent night effects   World Traffic 3 compatible  Native characters and vehicles created specially   Ground traffic   The terrain mesh is complemented with custom overlays: dense vegetation  and country-typical autogen, as well as custom road networks with dynamic traffic.  Two heliports, for those fans of helicopters. One at the beautiful  Linosa Island, and the other on the US Loran Station Base.   

     

     

     
    This LICD scenery is X-Plane 12 only
     
    Images of LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island are courtesy of Cami de Bellis
    ________________
     

     
    Yes!  LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island by Cami de Bellis is Available now from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island
    Price Is US$18.90
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not for XP 11)
    Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.7 GB Current version 1.0 (January 11th 2024) ________________
     
    NEWS! by Stephen Dutton
    12th January 2024
    Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  5. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in NEWS! - Scenery Released : LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island, Italy by Cami de Bellis   
    NEWS! - Scenery Released : LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island, Italy by Cami de Bellis
     

     
    Where is it? It's an Italian Island, but in reality it is nowhere near the Southern Italian coastline, more adjacent to Tunisia, Africa than Europe. Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
     
    The Pelagie Islands from the Greek pélagos meaning "open sea", are the three small islands of Lampedusa, Lampione, and Linosa, located in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Tunisia, south of Sicily. To the northwest lie the island of Pantelleria and the Strait of Sicily. All three islands are part of the commune of Lampedusa. Geologically, part of the archipelago (Lampedusa and Lampione) belongs to the African continent; politically and administratively the islands fall within the Sicilian province of Agrigento and represent the southernmost part of Italy.
     
    Despite pockets of agriculture, the islands are unnaturally barren due to wanton deforestation and the disappearance of the native olive groves, juniper and carob plantations. Fifty years ago much of the landscape was farmland bounded by dry stone walls, but today, the local economy is based on sponge fishing and canning, supplemented by tourism in Lampedusa.
     
    Here is another detailed Cami de Bellis scenery with the addition of complete terrain mesh for the entire islands of Lampedusa and Linosa by Maps2XPlane, yes the same Maps2XPlane that did the excellent islands coverage of Faroe and Savlbard. So obviously you have a great combination of skills and quality scenery here.
     
    Features  Highly accurate scenery for LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island with all   buildings modeled.  Over 160 custom objects all with Ambient Occlusion  Custom Terrain Mesh for the entire island of Lampedusa and Linosa by Maps2XPlane  Custom Overlay/Autogen Scenery based on CDB assets by Maps2XPlane"  Photo real textures on buildings, vehicles, trees…  Photorealistic ground textures based on a satellite image 50 cm.  Detailed airport objects and GSE vehicles   Custom textured taxiways, runways, and apron   Custom surrounding buildings   Custom airport lights HD  Custom Overlay    High-resolution building textures – all in 2K and 4K   Excellent night effects   World Traffic 3 compatible  Native characters and vehicles created specially   Ground traffic   The terrain mesh is complemented with custom overlays: dense vegetation  and country-typical autogen, as well as custom road networks with dynamic traffic.  Two heliports, for those fans of helicopters. One at the beautiful  Linosa Island, and the other on the US Loran Station Base.   

     

     

     
    This LICD scenery is X-Plane 12 only
     
    Images of LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island are courtesy of Cami de Bellis
    ________________
     

     
    Yes!  LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island by Cami de Bellis is Available now from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    LICD- Lampedusa Airport and Linosa Island
    Price Is US$18.90
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not for XP 11)
    Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.7 GB Current version 1.0 (January 11th 2024) ________________
     
    NEWS! by Stephen Dutton
    12th January 2024
    Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  6. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Scenery Review - KJAX -Jacksonville International Airport by FS Designs   
    Scenery Review - KJAX -Jacksonville International Airport by FS Designs
     
    Florida...  thoughout my over long decade in the X-Plane Simulator. I have been drawn a lot to this one part of the world that is Florida. Why "God Knows", but Florida produces a lot of interesting flying. Coast to Coast, up and down, oddly there isn't a lot of visual landmarks either, as long as you don't count the Disney Kingdom, but I just like flying here. One of my favorite flights I do on a regular basis is from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), cross the state to pick up the east coast then fly north to KJAX or JAX in the eastern far north of the state. Mostly because I had good scenery for both airports. After a decade, now both ports are feeling a bit tired in X-Plane 12. So I was extremely interested when FS Designs released a brand new X-Plane 12 featured KJAX -Jacksonville International Airport.
     
    FS Designs are developers focused currently on only Florida sceneries, with their earlier FS Design airports that covered KMTH Marathon on the Florida Keys, then later KPNS Pensacola International Airport in Escambia County. So this latest Jacksonville release is their third for the sunshine state.
     
    Jacksonville International Airport is a civil-military public airport 13 miles (21 km) north of Downtown Jacksonville, in Duval County, Florida. It is owned and operated by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
     
    You can't miss Jacksonville Airport from the air. It has twin V shaped runways sited on a brown clearing inset a forest of green, with the tip of the "V" pointing west.
     

     
    Is this aspect correct? the heavy brown field. Well no actually from a Google map point of view. Yes it is a brown field, but the field is also covered in a slight shade of green... or grass. So has the developer let us down? again no. Because get down low and yes there is a lot of lovely 3d green grass that covers the field, just like the real field... so what is the problem? actually it is X-Plane's FOD.
     
    The FOD is so short it is creating lines and mostly hiding the green over-layer of the grass, it stands out quite markedly low to the ground...
     

     
    It is of course an X-Plane trait we have had for years, but please fix it, as it really works against the scenery here....
     
    Jacksonville has two separate areas.  The commercial single terminal airport...
     

     
    ....  and in the southwest quadrant of the airport is the Jacksonville ANGB, which is basically a small air force base, albeit without the military housing, military hospital or other infrastructure of major U.S. Air Force installations. The Air National Guard provides a fully equipped USAF Crash Fire Rescue station to augment the airport's own fire department for both on-airport structural fires and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) purposes.
     

     
    Jacksonville International Airport
    IATA: JAX - ICAO: KJAX - FAA LID: JAX

    08/26 - 10,000ft (3,048m) Concrete
    14/32 - 7,701ft (2,347m) Concrete
    Elevation AMSL30 ft / 9 m
    Terminal
    The terminal at JAX is composed of a baggage claim area on the first floor and a check-in ticketing area on the second floor at the front of the structure landside. Past baggage claim and ticketing is the central mezzanine, where shops, restaurants and the security checkpoint are all located. Beyond the mezzanine are the airport's Concourses A and C, which include 10 gates each (for a total of 20), along with other shops and restaurants. It is all a very nice well thought-out easy flow layout.
     

     
    Concourse detail is excellent here... the shaping and modeling is first rate, curved roofs to perfect glass creates a very realistic exterior.
     

     
    Both Concourses A and C are identical, or mirror, so what is done on one is exactly the same on the other.  Ground clutter is excellent as well, just enough and not too much, but not airport branded... there are no animated service vehicles either, so JAX is a bit lacking in visual movement.
     

     
    All gates are SAM3 active, and the airbridges are nicely authentically styled and again no branding, only oddity is the truck squashed under Gate C5, it's not hard to miss?
     

     
    Only the two ends of the Concourses are modeled internally, good, even basic, but well done with monitor screens.
     

     
    Nice touch is the imprint image on the end of each Concourse, a very nice attention to detail.
     
    Landside arrivals is really nicely done in the modeling, but get in closer and the texture detail is very low-res (resolution), more low-res areas are the photo based ground textures, and then even more in creating a (photo) but surrounding flat ground areas.
     

     
    You can get away with this low-res effect from a distance, as it actually looks very good, but it can't bear close scrutiny and certainly can't be walked around in a realistic sense, note the well done entrance station, and the double carparks are masterfully modeled. All areas here have full 3d carparks, so overall the view is very well done, its you just don't want to look too close and lose the detail.
     

     
    Again there are no animated vehicles, so that makes the landside a bit no-active also. Rear of the Carparks is the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Airport hotel. Modeling is fine, but the low-res textures mean you can't even read the name of the hotel?
     

     
    Interesting is the water. You have a mix of photo and X-Plane water, the problem with the X-Plane water is the very sharp straight boundaries around the lake, however they look more realistic (reflections) than the photo flat based water.
     

     
    The Jacksonville Aviation Authority building and area is well done, but again the join between the photo and X-Plane default textures could have been more professionally executed, again highly noticeable, and this time from the air.
     

     
    Control Tower
    Not only is there a field tower at Jacksonville, but it is also home to "Jacksonville Center". This center is responsible for approximately 160,000 square miles of airspace — airspace that covers parts of five states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina.
     
    Notable is that JAX is an "international" airport because it maintains a federal inspection station and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol service to accommodate international traffic, but it doesn't host international scheduled services, except for charters.
     
    Both facilities are well modeled here, positioned spot center in the field, as is the tall tower. But again the viewing room up top is only photo textures, and not detailed glass windows.
     

     
    Cargo
    South by the threshold of Rwy 32 there are three ramps for cargo...  both FedEx and UPS are big operators here with the FedEx facility being very large. All three ramps are covered in the scenery and the detail cargo ground clutter is very well done.
     

     
    Set behind the FedEx is the Embraer Regional maintenance facility and at the rear is Forward Air Cargo.
     

     
    General Aviation
    To the north of the terminal area is the large General Aviation ramps. There are two, in one called G1 the main GA ramp, and the FBO ramp
     

     
    Most of my flights to JAX were to these ramps, as mostly I flew General Aviation aircraft across Florida. They are good, but just bland images on the Sheltair Aviation JAX building (terminal), and it is nowhere as good as my decade old version? Yes the feeling on the ramp is bland with a wide open apron that needed some detail to break it up, although its need is to cater for those extravagantly large personal jets, say a B727 or "Trumps' B757.  The FBO ramp is dominated by "Signature Aviation", and their terminal is slightly better, as are the row of six Signature Hangars, with another larger one set behind the FBO ramp. Ground photo textures here are very good.
     

     
    Highlight here is the Golf ball top radar, set in the middle of the carpark, it can be seen from everywhere at KJAX. Another final point on the ramps in the terminal and GA areas. Is that FS Designs has placed a few static aircraft, one a UPS cargo on the cargo ramp, and a few GA's on the GA ramps...  there are also a few static airliners set at gates C2/C4 and A3, but these badly interfere with Traffic applications (in my case Traffic Global) so you get double or spawn aircraft on top of each other. There is however both a "Non Static" and "Non Grass" options available with the scenery, so just drag those options and replace.
     
    Jacksonville Air National Guard Base
    Concurrent with the closure of Imeson Airport, the 125th Fighter-Interceptor Group (125 FIG) of the Florida Air National Guard (FANG) relocated to Jacksonville International Airport. Military Construction (MILCON) funds provided for the establishment of Jacksonville Air National Guard Base in the southwest quadrant of the airport and placement of USAF-style emergency arresting gear on the JAX runways. Upgraded from group to wing status and redesignated as the 125th Fighter Wing (125 FW) in the early 1990s, the wing is the host unit for Jacksonville ANGB and operates F-15C and F-15D Eagle aircraft. The 125 FW is operationally-gained by the Air Combat Command (ACC).
     

     
    Positioned right on the threshold of Rwy 14. FANG is well laid out and detailed... again your not going to do a walkabout, but for a visual aspect it is very good...  again low-res textures means there is not a lot of detail, and the signage is all very blurry up close.
     

     
    The separate military radar is set at the entrance to the ANG, plus two McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles guard the same approach. Shame they are not placed on the flight line or in the bunker hangars as well, as those areas are empty of static aircraft.
     

     
    Mid-field is an animated rotating radar, which well done, but let down by the poor low-res textures of the demountable buildings.
     

    ___________
    Textures
    KJAX is an all concrete airport, both the runways and the taxiways, even the ramps are made up of large concrete blocks. The ground textures are excellent, different types of concrete surfaces for the different areas, runways are well rubbered in, and gunge is well done.
     

     
    However there isn't a lot of a stony feel, it's all quite flat. This is an X-Plane 12 airport. With that you get X-Plane 12 weather effects...   but don't expect heavy snow in Florida. But the wet and rain effects here are very good.
     

     
    Lighting
    The night time here at JAX is very disappointing...  runways use the standard X-Plane illumination numbers, so they are okay, but the rest is dull.
     

     
    All the ramps around the terminal and concourses are very dull, or at best just viewable, you can't work down there in this darkness. In fact the whole terminal is in darkness, even the glass areas?
     

     
    Internally it's a little bit better, but its not enough. Oddly the best place to work is under the terminal/concourses... it is all nicely lit under there?
     

     
    Most outside working areas including cargo is very poorly lit, barely worth the effort. GA areas and hotel, are all bland grey none (or feebly) lit areas...
     

     
    ...   only the carparks show any sign of bright life.
     

     
    Navigation signage is fine, a bit low-res, and come with no ground reflections.
     

     
    Summary
    Jacksonville International Airport is a civil-military public airport 13 miles (21 km) north of Downtown Jacksonville, in Duval County, Florida. It is owned and operated by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
     
    JAX is a favorite primary destination of mine as I fly around Florida in the United States a lot. So a good KJAX Jacksonville with X-Plane 12 features is very well received.
     
    In detail and from the air the airport is excellent, there is a lot of objects and features here. The central terminal and two winged Concourses (A&C) are really well modeled and designed with internal areas in both concourses. SAM3 (plugin required) is also active here on the 20 gates available. Landside is excellent with two large storied carparks, Hilton DoubleTree hotel and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority building all represented.
     
    The spread of detail over the wide airport area is very well done, and covers the Jacksonville Air National Guard Base to the southwest  of the field. Concrete ground textures and varied clutter is well done (certainly the carparks), but there is no vehicle animations Airside or Landside. Both "No Grass" and "No Static (aircraft)" options are available
     
    Any deeper interaction however is limited by the poor low-res textures on the buildings outside of the terminal area. The General Aviation areas which are significant to me are generally quite poor, even my decade old JAX X-Plane 10 GA areas were far, far better than this... disappointed, as also is the very poor lighting, the terminal areas really can't be used after dark. A lot of flat photo textures were also used to reflect the ground areas, including water, the idea is fairly successful, but don't look to closely.
     
    A note here is these low-res textures in the scenery, all my graphic sliders are at the "Full" settings, but I got a lot of Low-Res images in X-Plane 12, We are waiting on (late again) for X-Plane 12.06, which is supposed to have better and improved performance and reduce the risk of blurry textures. I'll revisit this scenery when the upgrade is available.
     
    I can recommend JAX Jacksonville a lot, as it is a very really well done scenery. Interaction with the excellent terminal area is well done, but we have to understand is that just don't look too closely, or expect a detailed walkaround experience....  otherwise it is a great JAX scenery
    _____________________________________
     

     
    Yes! - KJAX - Jacksonville International Airport by FS Designs is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    KJAX - Jacksonville International Airport
    Price is US$19.99
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
    Download Size: 1.6 GB Current version: 1.0 (June 5th 2023)   Installation and documents:
    JAX is download of 1.38Gb download. There is only one folder as part of the installation;
     
    FSDesigns KJAX Jacksonville Intl Airport  
    2.08Gb is installed into your Custom Scenery folder.
     
    There are four options with the scenery
    Non-Grass & Non-Static Version Non-Static Version Non-Grass Version X-Plane 11 Version  
    In each option folder there is the "Earth nav data" and "earth.wed" files to change over for the conversion.
     
    SAM Plugin - Scenery Animation Manager - Suite 3.0 or higher is required for this scenery
     
    Documents
    There is a supplied manual;
    ReadMe.pdf InstallationInstructions.pdf Changelog.txt There is a full Installation pdf
    ________________________________________
      Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    -none-
    ___________________________
     
    Review by Stephen Dutton
    26th June 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

  7. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Update : Robinson R44 Raven ll to X-Plane 12 by vSkyLabs   
    Aircraft Update : Robinson R44 Raven ll to X-Plane 12 by vSkyLabs
     
    The Robinson R44 is a four-seat light helicopter produced by Robinson Helicopter Company at Zamperini Field in Torrance, California since 1992. Based on the company's two-seat Robinson R22, the R44 features hydraulically assisted flight controls. It was first flown on 31 March 1990 and received FAA certification in December 1992, with the first R44 delivery in February 1993. The R44 has been the world's best-selling general aviation (GA) helicopter every year since 1999. It is one of the most-produced GA aircraft of the 21st century, with 5,941 deliveries from 2001 to 2020.
     
    "Raven" moniker comes with those hydraulically assisted controls and adjustable floor pedals. Then in July 2002, Robinson introduced the Raven II, featuring a more powerful  Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 6-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston fuel-injected engine, 245 hp (183 kW) and the wider blades, this "ll" variant also allows for a higher gross weight and improved altitude performance.
     
    The R44 from vSkyLabs was first released in late 2020 for X-Plane 11, this is the updated v3.0 X-Plane 12 version, but the original X-Plane 11 version is still available as part of the package. It's an upgrade, so no costs are associated with these XP12 changes.
     
    This being a vSkyLabs aircraft, Then the vSkylab philosophy is that you are purchasing an ongoing project, so any aircraft you purchase is not fully completed or is usually not completed to 100%, that is the deal you sign up for to get access to the aircraft, and all the development is free and ongoing throughout the X-Plane 12 version. These projects are under constant development: the development road-map is including flight model refinements, enhanced systems depth, additional liveries and other improvements. So this aircraft is noted as an "Early Access" project.
     

     
    VSkylab's always do great modeling and detail, and here it is no exception, however there isn't that what you would call ultra-realism feel, if even a more model style bland with no say of the real world wear or tear feel, so the R44 feels pristine factory new. The detailing is however very good, and realistic, and now there is that more of that X-Plane 12 depth and shine, or better PBR than the XP11 version. This is very evident of the metallic look and pearlescent feel to the skin of the aircraft.
     
     
     

     
    All Robinson's are very recognisable by their high tower to rotor hub arrangement, so the control rods are extremely short.
     

     
    The connected twin-aluminum skin blades are 198 inches long and are modeled here to droop very nicely...  the Xp12 update also has Improved rotor blades simulation to the more advanced XP12 dynamics.
     

     
    The rotor hub is fully animated in all control movement, collective, throttle and pitch.
     

     
    Tailrotor Yaw is also nicely animated with clever moving parts and joints...
     

     
    ...   notable is that the tail rotor direction of rotation on the R44 is reversed compared to the R22 for improved yaw control authority. On the R44 the advancing blade is on the bottom.
     
    All vSkyLabs aircraft only use the X-Plane "Hotspot" selection system, so no menus, and only the clickable options are available (for VR users). Click on any small catch externally or the metal loop handle internally for the door to open, or press the front door hinge to hide all the four doors.
     

     
    Glass is very nice, thickish and slightly tinted, but totally clear of marks or dirt.
     
    Somewhere along the updates is the change of the leather seating colour from a tan to the bright red...  the new seat colour certainly helps in bringing out the cabin to the more detail...
     

     
    Power on and you get inserted the fully (arms and legs) animated pilot, add in weight in the X-Plane "Weight & Balance" menu for each of the three other passengers and they appear in their respective seats.
     

     
    ...   all Robinson's use the T-Bar Cyclic, but this one is not a twin grip, but a single grip to the right, HYD switch and red side engine "Starter" button. Notable is the revolving Speed placard on the T-Bar and you can hide the T-Bar via pressing the cover lower.
     

     
    Landing light switch is mid-mounted on the T-Bar, and note the animated centre window pillar "Whiskey" compass (it "shakes")
     
    The main instrument panel "Classic 7" has two rows of dials, top row is (LtoR) Vertical Speed (V/S), Artificial Horizon with Slip Indicator, Speed (knts), and engine readouts RPM %. Lower row is Altimeter, Heading Dial and Engine Manifold Pressure. Very simple but effective. Note the excellent rolling turn bubble and you can adjust the Horizon bar. The instrument detailing is very, very good and of good quality.
     

     
    Left centre pedestal is top a large clock, and a Quartz (Hobbs) meter set below, Right pedestal is all the engine and fuel gauges with an Amp gauge and Oil Pressure top, Aux Fuel Tank (17.0 US GAL/64 Liters) and Oil Temperature centre, Another Main Fuel Tank (29.5 US GAL/112 Litres) and a CYD HD (Cylinder Head) Temperature gauge is bottom. Lower centre pedestal is the electrical panel, with Lighting, Instrument Panel (adjustable) top, Nav Lts and Strobe lighting below. Clutch (Eng/Diseng), ALT (Alternator), Master Battery, and (Pump) Prime switch.
     
    Lower centre console is a basic KX 155 NAV/COMM Radio (NAV 1/COM 1) that can be switched from Com1 to Com2. The knob above turns to open a vent.
     
    Two features are aimed directly at VR (Virtual Reality) users. There is a Handbook down right, but it is only a single page "Checklist" held right under your nose, but it is well done.
     

     
    Second feature is the Avitab (Aviators Tablet) plugin intergration, the iPad is a basic install, but it is here in a good set position, there is no rotation to portrait mode, a feature I grumble about every time, and you can't turn it off either, so you have to just make it disappear if you are not using it (you click the sucker mount).
     

     
    Single Collective is simple (the R44 here is not a dual-control), it has a twist throttle and on the end is the Governor switch (off to start, then on), and the Fuel tank (switch) is on the bulkhead behind...  
     

     
    Internal detail overall is very good, and you have gotta love those hanging headsets and cables when the power is switched off. Note the central (operating) pull down (handle) rotor brake.
     

     
    The internal cabin is the same one as the X-Plane 11 version (except for the red seats), but with the transition to X-Plane 12, it creates a totally different 3D environment than the flat bland X-Plane 11 feel, everything now is so much more highly realistic in view and lighting...  night and day!
     
    Flying the (updated) R44
    Starting the R44 chopper is still a slightly complicated set procedure, and it is wise to understand and read the enclosed R44 manual, but the R44 needs to be mostly started via the extensive pop-up checklist. Several things to know...  clutch has to be disengaged, you PRIME, then switch to BOTH, and the Fuel (Mixture) knob has to set to RICH (or in) there is a animated cover to note to "not to pull it out, or you will fall out of the sky" marker. Governor switch is on the end of the Collective (off to start, then on), and the Fuel tank (switch) is on the rear bulkhead.
     

     
    ...  starting is via the red starter button on the right Cyclic. Throttle is controlled on the Collective, and you move it left or right (left for power which is reflected in the Twin-RPM% dials). When all correct the Heading Compass will shake to the clatter rotor rotation, which has that twin-blade Huey "chop,chop" sound at idle.
     
     
     
    Sounds are highly re-tuned for X-Plane 12, with the move to the FMOD 2+ sound system as well. They were pretty good originally, but better is still better and you feel and hear that here. Also new are the Implemented physics-based blade-slap sounds.
     
    I really like the vSkyLab nose detail with the built in twin-nose (Landing) lights, they are as we shall see are quite powerful.
     

     
    You have to make a decision early on of what sort of flying feel you want with the VSL R44. Last review didn't have the extra (weight) of the optional three passengers, so the R44 was slightly nervy (Not as bad as some sporty choppers), but add in the passenger weight of the three other passengers in this a small machine, and the feel and handling of the Robinson changes quite a lot, actually to the better, as the weight gives you more control.
     
    The bonus is that the extra weight is now set more central, so that gives the R44 a more balanced poise when in the hover, it is far easier to stay static and in not having to fight the machine to stay in one place.
     

     
    Slight touches of the T-Bar cyclic will give you your manoeuvrability, either front, backwards or slightly to either side, but the tail (yaw) needs a lot of focus to keep the nose straight, as you can't just hold a position, but have to constantly have to change your yaw slightly to counter the nose moving around. Obviously it feels rather (or slightly) different from the XP11 version with the X-Plane 12 better dynamics, tuned new in here, so yes it is far better than I remember.
     

     
    Sink the nose (pitch forward) and your quickly moving forward with a gradual lift of the collective. The R44 will gather speed very quickly, even with a full load on board...
     

     
    The R44 has a maximum speed of around 130 kn (150 mph, 240 km/h), but mostly you will cruise around 109 kn (125 mph, 202 km/h), with a range of 300 nmi (350 mi, 560 km) with no reserve.
     
    For a little chopper the R44 is quite smooth, once you get into the groove, and the Robinson does have quite a nice control feel. in 1997, a Robinson R44 was piloted by Jennifer Murray for the first helicopter circumnavigation of the world by a woman, covering a distance of 36,000 miles in 97 days. For me personally I couldn't fly that far manually, but an R44 also holds the piston speed record of 227 km/h. Tricky that, as in the VSL R44 we have no SAS or Stability Augmentation Systems to take over the flying, so it is always a physical manual flight.
     

     
    Untrimmed...  you have the cyclic forward, but also holding the stick slightly to the right to keep the course straight. Wearing after a while with the consistent pressure to hold the said position, but feedback is very good...  let us be honest, this is a basic helicopter to fly, basic all round, but it does deliver a good simulation in the dynamics of which vSkyLabs are renowned for...
     

     
    Notable is that the "Autorotation" has been improved in X-Plane 12, this is when you use the blades with no power and still fly via the automatic lift (like an autogyro), This is a qualification requirement to flying helicopters.
     
    I push down the collective around 70 knts and keep the power in the green band, then you use your nose high pitch to control your descent under just autorotation. Tricky is slowing down as the R44 is so light, I remember this from the earlier XP11 R44, trying to rub off the speed can be very hard, so throwing yourself towards the ground takes a lot of nerve.
     
    Then as you descend you time and return the power via the collective while balancing the yaw, smooth collective action is important. So too much collective pull, and up too quickly will balloon your landing, but get it right and you should go straight into a 5 knt forward hover. The VSL R44 is ideal to practise this manoeuvre, as by here in this video.
     

     
     

     
    But the R44 also has that very light tail, so it needs a fair bit of practise to learn how to control it, as you get closer to the ground, your movement on the pedals have to be varied and also super-smooth.
     

     
    Another change in XP12 is the skids now have more movement (animation), they move out and spring upwards when touching (or leaving the) the ground. Personally I don't like the jerky movements, better solid as this as it does not look very realistic as just some bendy skids.
     

     
    Lighting
    Lighting is okayish and upgraded here for XP12...  Very nice Instrument lighting is only one knob adjustable. The overhead spot light does a fair job for map reading or for general lighting, but lighting overall feels a bit dull.
     

     
    External lighting is average, but far better than the earlier XP11..  I like the twin red and white strobe lights on the long beam tail, and the better navigation lights...   but those twin-nose Landing lights are super-bright...
     

     
    There was originally only two liveries, a Black and a shiny Blue...   but now six more have been added, they are all however of the same scheme of colour and with stripes lower... a bit more creativity in schemes would have been nice. Grey is default.
     

    _____________
    Summary
    The Robinson R44 is a four-seat light helicopter produced by Robinson Helicopter Company, and based on the two-seater R22. This one is the more slightly heavier Robertson R44 Raven ll, a light helicopter that seats a pilot and three passengers with hydraulically assisted controls, it also features the more powerful  Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 6-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston fuel-injected engine, 245 hp (183 kW) and has the wider twin-blades.
     
    Note that you are purchasing an ongoing project with any vSkyLabs aircraft and all the development is ongoing, so this is not a 100% fully developed project.
     
    Overall most vSkyLabs aircraft are all mostly basic, but they are also fully detailed to the extreme. There are also no menus or static objects or extensive features, as the focus is totally on the dynamics and flying performance, updated here to X-Plane 12 dynamics. But the R44 also delivers a very credible flying performance.
    Only interactions are with the few interaction zones that; lock the mixture, move the throttle, change altimeters, open the four doors (you can remove them as well), have a 3d checklist and hide the T-Bar Cyclic control column. AviTab intergration and exceptional VR-Virtual Reality is also available.
     
    X-Plane 12 update includes, Improved rotor blades simulation, Improved throttle governor, Autorotation regime tune-ups. In sounds FMOD v2.0+ and physics-based blade-slap sounds. Better PBR is now matched to the latest X-Plane 12 rendering engine and creates a better metallic look and pearlescent feel to the external, and a more realism effect internally. There are also six new/additional default liveries. Skunkcrafts Updater is also now included.
     
    Although one of the most popular helicopters built, the R44 is a bit of a challenge to fly, so yes some helicopter skills are required here, but when acquainted to the dynamics, it is also highly enjoyable. If you love the VSkyLab's philosophy, then you will love the R44.
     
    So another nice helicopter from VSkyLab's updated to X-Plane 12, you want more of course in features and details, but that is not what VSkyLab's is about...  it is all about the flying pure and simple, and in that area the Robinson R44 Raven ll really delivers...  recommended.
     
    Now available from the X-Plane.OrgStore or directly from vSkyLabs
    ___________________
     

     
    Yes! the Robinson R44 Raven II Project - VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Series is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

    Robinson R44 Raven II Project - VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot'
    On sale: $32.95 US$21.41
     
    Project Main Features:
    Optimized for the latest X-Plane 12 Flight Model Robust and Highly Defined flight dynamics model of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter, built around the powerful, native X-Plane  'Experimental Flight Model' environment Highly detailed model of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter Autorotation capable Comprehensive systems which were designed to follow the real R44 Raven II POH, as authentically as possible within X-Plane 11 flight simulator limitations Fully functional VR (Virtual Reality) Ready: highly interactive cockpit environment including levers, switches, guards, 3D checklist viewer, modular cyclic and more Equipped with Robinson's classic 7 holes analog panel R44 Auxiliary fuel system. Removable doors Fully featured GNS530 Built-in Avitab Compatibility (Avitab plugin not included) Multi-Layer FMOD 2.0  sound pack The project is under constant development: development road-map is including flight model refinements, enhanced systems depth, additional liveries and other improvements Skunkcraft Updater is included: project updates are fast and efficient!  
    Requirements:
    X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11
    Note: latest version is for X-Plane 12 . XP11 version still available Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version: 3.0 (January 5th 2024)   AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft   Note: In order to use and enjoy VR environment in X-Plane, user hardware and system specs should meet the required specifications for OS, CPU, GPU, MB and RAM which are specified both in the given VR hardware websites and at X-Plane.com.   Aircraft download is 265 Mb, and unpacked then installed in your X-Plane  Aircraft folder 413 Mb   Documents How to INSTALL your VSKYLABS aircraft.pdf How to UPDATE your VSKYLABS aircraft.pdf  
    VSKYLABS Robinson R44 POH.pdf VSL R44 Essentials.pdf
    Designed by VSKYLABS Support forum for the Robinson R44 by VSKYLABS _____________________
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.09rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KHAF - Half Moon Bay by Rising Dawn Studios (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.00
    - KJAX - Jacksonville International Airport (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.99
    ___________________________
     
    Update Review by Stephen Dutton
    10th January 2024
    Copyright©2024: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     

  8. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : Rand Robinson KR-2S by NhAdrian   
    Aircraft Review : Rand Robinson KR-2S by NhAdrian
     
    As in the name X-Plane (Simulator), related to the series of X-Plane aircraft created by the Skunk Works, which is an official pseudonym for Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs (ADP). In other words "Experimental", in design and in pushing the boundaries of flight.
     
    So X-Plane is based on that same simple philosophy. Not only can you fly odd, weird but strange designs, but you can create the same in Planemaker, as well as to checkout your theories in practice, or in the simulator. So it goes that the X-Plane Simulator is a very good basis for real world "Experimental" aircraft, in fact they thrive in this Simulation world in that you can relate to their very different types of flight dynamics.
     
    So here from NhAdrian is an interesting "Experimental" aircraft that can be built in "Kit form" from NVAero in Mission Viejo, California/Corona, California, United States. The original Rand Robinson KR-1 is a single-seat, single-engine sport aircraft designed in the United States in the early 1970s and marketed for homebuilding. The two-seat version is marketed as the KR-2, and is the same aircraft as reviewed here.
     
    This is also the 2S, which has a 16-inch-stretched-fuselage version of the KR-2, with 2.5 feet greater wingspan, made with composite sandwich construction, using the supercritical AS5045 airfoil. Standard engines choices include the 85 hp (63 kW) Jabiru 2200, 120 hp (89 kW) Jabiru 3300 and the 76 to 100 hp (57 to 75 kW) Volkswagen air-cooled engine. This particular aircraft uses the 2180 cc, at 80hp ((60kw) VW engine. The model also includes a 3-inch higher canopy and already 100 2S kit aircraft have been completed and flown by 2011.
     
    All aspects of this KR-2S are from a real world aircraft PH-KRS in dimensions, flight controls, instrumentation, flight dynamics and real world sounds. 
     

     
    Modeling is very good, as it always is from NhArdian, but you can see the construction pieces as their whole, the single fuselage, created by a simple wood framework, with foam formers and an over fiberglass outer skin. The removable wings have twin built-up spruce spars and foam ribs, as do the empennage and control surfaces. So basically the construction is very similar in design to a model aircraft, just on a far larger scale.
     

     
    So it's a very, very clean design, with only the nose cowling as a separate section to access the engine... considering the design was originally of the 70's, it feels like a very modern design.
     
    Long smooth one piece wings, with a very nice uptake on the tip. inboard three stage flaps are tiny small, compared to the long main thin ailerons. The wing join mounts are highly visible, and easily not modeled, so that shows the attention to detail here, as are canopy catches.
     
    The KR is with it's controls that are are all cable activated. Push/pull in most cases, but give good control surface feedback. And those cable attachments can be seen popping out of the frame and wings in various places like for the rudder.
     

     
    Undercarriage is a very simple assembly, and every nut/bolt and brake assembly is created here, nice wear and tear as well. Notable is that the nose wheel is a simple loose castoring wheel, and a lot of these kit KR's are also taildraggers, but here it is the tri-cycle single wheel arrangement.
     

     
    There is a single taxi/landing light built into the nosewheel assembly, rough gear detail is very good and realistic.
     
    There is a huge forward bubble canopy, with a small window rear. Nice glass with reflections that highlight the roundness of the glass, all one piece it is well done. Your very aware that a single seater design has been widened to fit two people side by side, the cockpit is almost a rectangle head on, but the KR feels wide and squaty mid-fuselage
     

     
    Flip the canopy lever then raise it via lifting a protruding latch...
     

     
    ...  two tight lay seats and a shelf space is set behind their heads. There are two deep pocket bins in the forward part of the shelf as well.
     
    Seats are basically pads or very slim cushions known as "conformal foam cushions" to fit in the cockpit, note the nice seatbelt webbing...
     

     
    Well done are the instruments, not at the front of the panel, but as seen from the rear as all the components and the wiring is fully on show.
     

     
    It is impressive work. You get the same under the panel as well, the full rudder pedal assembly, including the moving control cables, and note the huge fuel tank set before you to carry 12.6 USgal (48 Lts) of Avgas, the ideas are simplistic, but also very kit building in the detail.
     

     
    Instrument panel
     

     
    The "Panel" is the apt word here, as it's a single panel with all the few instruments and avionics set across it. There are four analog flight instruments... far left Airspeed, Altimeter, V/S Vertical Speed Indicator and upper mid-panel a Compass/Heading. There is also a "Winter" Slip Indicator below the EFIS.
     
    Dynon Avionics EFIS 10A
    Centre is a modern flight instrument in a Dynon Avionics EFIS-10A. This EFIS (Electric Flight Information System) is an innovative design that consolidates all your flight instruments into a sunlight-readable, 4" diagonal, color LCD. Six buttons below the LCD allow pilots to perform flight-related functions. There is a splash start-up screen when you turn the 10A on.
     

     
    The instrument provides; Attitude, Airspeed, Altitude, Turn-rate, Inclinometer, G-Meter, Up/Down Timers, Clock, and a Voltmeter.
     

     
    There are three options available via the buttons; Baro, Bugs and Timer
     

     
    Above the EFIS is a mounted iPhone or as noted "Navigational Phone". It is based on the AviTab (plugin required), with GPS information also supplied at each end of the screen.
     

     
    Avionics consist of four items; EIS (Engine Information System), Radio and Transponder, with a "Flightcom" 403 mc Panel Mount Intercom
     

     
    EIS covers; Engine RPM, Fuel volume in liter/10, Exhaust gas temperature (EGT), Oil temperature/pressure, Fuel pressure and Cylinder head temperature (CHT). The radio is based on the Funke KRT-2 and has the same LCD/button layout. Finally we have the Garrecht VT-01 and it has the same LCD/button layout as the same instrument. Circuit Breakers (Fuses) are all fully active, and work, and note the important central Electric Trim switch and display.
     
    Lower panel is the; Choke, Carburetor heat, Throttle, Fuel valve, Parking brake and Cabin heat. The flap handle is set between the seats in four stages, 0º (up) down to 38º.
     

     
    Passengers and Baggage
    There are two persons in the aircraft, a pilot (male) and a passenger (Female). If you adjust the X-Plane Menu "Weight, Balance & Fuel", to have above 50kgs on either the Pilot or Passenger then they will appear in the aircraft, both are also fully animated with movable heads and arms.
     

     
    Put the passenger weight below 50kgs and two bags will appear in the right seat. And if you select the Headphones connectors rear shelf, they put on a very nice set of headphones on to each person and dulls the overall sound. Finally selecting the seat bases will hide both people.
     

     
    There are no menus or external features (unless you count the AviTab as a feature), just the few hotspots for the Pilots, Audio, and the side air vents that when open can create more wind noise. 
     

    __________________
     
    Flying the Rand Robinson KR-2S
    You start the KR-2S like a car, because basically it is a car engine (Volkswagen), refitted into an aircraft fuselage, note there is even a "choke", I haven't used a choke for years with modern engine management systems and fuel injection.
     
    Switch up the secondary Ignition, turn on the fuel flow, and simply turn the key to start, and that familiar air-cooled VDub sound comes from the front of this actually very tiny aircraft. As headroom and knee room are just adequate for a six-footer. At 37 inches wide, the cockpit is very snug with two men in it, but full control throw is still easy on both of the short control columns, and the stick forces are light. Combined with those relatively big control surfaces and for the airframe’s ultra light weight.
     

     
    It sounds excellent, it should do as well as they all come the developers donor PH-KRS, and the feel aurally here is very, very good with FMOD2. So any adjustment of the throttle gives you the full range of VDub sounds, and in being positioned so close, it is, or can be quite loud.
     
    Let us get to the taxiing...  it's well tricky. On the nose you have a castoring nosewheel, or a sort of reverse taildragger. There are two options in controlling it. Like a taildragger use your toe-brakes, but they are very, very sharp and twist you (quite violently) to either the right or left in their use, even with a soft touch, but you can make them work if you are very proficient in taildraggers. Secondly if you turn off the toe brakes the aircraft will revert to an X-Plane default were you steer with the yaw input. But that is compromised here as well, as the power of the thrust will allow the aircraft to turn (yaw) easily to the right, but harder to the left? If you gain a little speed, it will then turn to the left, but at a low turn speed (say onto a runway), then you have spin right around only to the right to go left on to runway. Yes it is all very authentic, it feels right, but makes the aircraft very difficult to taxi...  there isn't even a wheel-lock to help in going straight with the toe-brakes....  tricky.
     
    One moment the KR will go left, then it won't so you circle right, then finally your facing the right way...  its fun until it isn't.
     

     
    in v1.02, there has been added a "Steering Assistance" option. This is found on the X-Plane Menu KR-2S. Here you can switch to a yaw steering (either joystick or foot pedals) that helps the steering at lower speeds, but you lose the foot toe brakes, however the X-Plane (normal brakes) work fine.
     

     
    Don't get me wrong as the castoring nose wheel is very authentic to the KR-2S aircraft, it's built that way and works in the same way. Real pilots note that it is difficult to taxi cleanly.... it's home built after all.
     
    Oddly once you get onto the runway the KR-S2 will settle down and on power up to go quite straight, it has a lot of power for a small (but very light) aircraft and jumps off the line and moves sprightly forward. Surface aerodynamics kick in very, very quickly, so you soon have some effective rudder control. One thing you shouldn't do is to adjust the throttle, even a slight loss of power causes a "Power Drop", so keep it pulling forward.
     

     
    The very hard undercarriage has no give, so as the speed builds it can get a little blurry in the vision with the vibrations, then around 60 knts you feel the lift coming in and when pushing 70 kts you can rotate into a climb. So all your arms and legs are at work, controlling both the rudder and the stick, it's a busy aircraft to fly.
     

     
    Climb-out or Vertical Speed can be as high as 800 fpm, but your never going to use that with either another body or bags on board, but I will settle for 700 fpm... honestly the power from such a small 80hp (60kw) VDub engine is amazing, without it's heavy Beetle body, it just pulls, and pulls. Trim at takeoff is interesting as it totally depends on the weight...
     

     
    ...  you can then have the odd situation of having a full down set trim or 5 notches down for takeoff, if the aircraft is set very heavy for it's size, it's a balance thing, as any weight reflects on the handling enormously...  I was able to takeoff at a neutral trim setting, but I used a lot of runway to do so, but once in the air you fly up to you required altitude (1,500ft) then trim out to the lowest 5 number....
     

     
    ...  this were it gets interesting. As you have already used up all of your pitch trim, you then have to adjust or trim via the throttle to keep a consistent altitude, even then you need a slight pull (touch) in corrections to the stick.
     

     
    "Experimental" is the game here. Because you can (or need to) experiment on finding the best takeoff trim, then a level flight trim to suit your current conditions, either weight or weather...  it's fun to adjust and find the right balance in the aircraft, not actually so much the trim, but the throttle position, and then you can find that level, even if it takes a few experimental flights to do so ...  in this aspect the KR-S2 can feel very alive. It is all a very hands (and feet) on aircraft or "Stick and rudder", so light it can get very wriggly in the air, your trick is to find that smooth central point in it's balance and trim.
     

     
    You can find it, that cruise and negative pitch point, and just sail along, but you are still making constant corrections to the stick to keep the KR steady. Once you get it sorted, then your in a better place to turn the Rand around through the sky.
     

     
    The Aircraft is noted as "a lively, responsive, point-and-shoot airplane, with nice, crisp controls and a good, fighter-sharp roll rate, but not at all twitchy. Control forces were light in all three axes, and it needed a mere breath on the rudder to coordinate turns. Its handling was generally exemplary", and I agree with that aspect except that you can feel that small size o the controls and movement. A few years ago, one British couple did fly their KR-2 the 12,000 miles all the way from England to Australia, a truly impressive undertaking considering the "hands on" attitude I found with the aircraft and it's minute size.
     
    Performance is Cruise speed: 150–175 mph (241–282 km/h, 130–152 kn), Stall speed: 52–60 mph (84–97 km/h, 45–52 kn) with a Range: 1,300 mi (2,100 km, 1,100 nmi) with 35 U.S. gallons (130 L; 29 imp gal) of fuel, and a Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,600 m), the official Rate of climb is 800 ft/min (4.1 m/s).
     
    The aircraft is only suitable for VMC and day-VFR flights. Aerobatics are not allowed, but operating limitations mentioned among aerobatic maneuvers is only wing-overs, loops and rolls. Spins are recoverable and there are notes on how to do so, but a few pilot's have however died trying the spin manoeuvre.
     
    There is no lighting except for the single nose taxi/landing light, that includes the instruments.
     
    My first shot at landing didn't go very well at all...  Dropping the flaps 38º had virtually no effect, and I continued to fly at 80 knts+, nose up to rub off the speed, and the KR-2S just floats or pitches slightly up with no loss of speed...  actually gains height.
     

     
    So I abort the landing....  try that again.
     

     
    This time I knew I had to work harder, and earlier to contain the speed, as the KR does not react like a normal small GA aircraft. Once I get the speed below that 80 knt barrier I can find a speed and sink rate I like, and a sort of fall towards the runway.
     

     
    Throttle control is critical here, and at points almost full in, but I have better control of the approach...  70 knts!
     

     
    This time I think I have overplayed it too much the other way, once you slip past 60 knts you start to sink more, 55 knts is the landing speed, and I here went too slow...  now going to low.
     

     
    Touch more throttle and I glide at the same 100 ft height, enough to get me to the hard stuff runway....
     


     
    ...  still flowing, then I let in more throttle and slip back to 55 knts in a slight flare and touch!
     

     
    The little KR will track and brake cleanly, until you again reach taxi speed. So again that word comes to mind...  "experimental" and you need to experiment is with all the flight phases, takeoff, cruise and landing to find the right dynamics to suit the current weight and weather (wind) conditions, it is very addictive the Rand because of this so varied performance window. Finding the balance between throttle (power) and speed (even the right perfect pitch) for approaches takes experimenting, finding the yourself, and finding the aircraft, and it's curious behaviour.
     
    So for the "seat of the pants" pilot it is a great aircraft to test out their skills, maybe even learn a few more outside the usual flying envelope, the KR-2S weight and power is distinctly within the Sports Aircraft limitations, but it is a really interesting machine.
     
    Note, included in the manual is the full build history by Marcel Driessen of this KR-2S aircraft, including pictures and diagrams. It's a interesting story and on how long and how dedicated you have to be to build a ground up kit plane.
    __________________
    KR-2S Liveries
    There are one blank and five liveries, Three Dutch and two American. This is a kit aircraft, so your not going to get a professional paint design, that said they are nice if basic designs.
     

    __________________
     
    Summary
    "Experimental" aircraft are the foundation of the core of the X-Plane Simulator, it is a testing bed to try out designs, weird or not, but if they are sound in the way real world aerodynamics work. This aspect can transfer to Kit Aircraft, or home build aircraft like the one here from Rand Robinson, in the twin seater KR-2S, a small, very lightweight single car engined aircraft. The aircraft is a larger version of the original one seat KR-1, built in the 70's and now over the last 50 years has sold over 2,000 KRs that are still flying worldwide.
     
    This particular aircraft replicated here is a real aircraft PH-KRS, built by Marcel Driessen over ten years and now owned by the actual developer Adrián Nagy Hinst, so you do get a perfect replica of the Rand Robinson, in perfect detail, not only the actual aircraft in detail, but its real world (excellent) sounds and near perfect performance.
     
    It also delivers accurate engine and systems modelling, and fully operational circuit breaker system, accurate radio, transponder, Dynon EFIS and EIS instrument simulation including realistic screen content and functionality. And the aircraft is also fully VR (Virtual Reality) ready.
     
    It however does (as does the real aircraft) have a sort of taildragger loose wheel in reverse, or castoring nosewheel, that makes the aircraft difficult to steer on the ground, obviously a taildragger user will love it, but it is tricky to use, and even the developer has provided an artificial help via an menu option. 
     
    Its oddly a deep simulation, because of the relationship to the real world aircraft, and you feel that through this excellent simulation, there are not a lot of options here or features, but that is not the point of the simulation. The point of the aircraft is to "experiment" with it, test your flying skills to match such a interesting aircraft in the way it fly's with very variable weight, balance and weather conditions, for the pilot jockey it is a great and interesting way to enjoy this sort of personal flying.
     
    So the Rand Robinson KR-2S goes deep into the X-Plane foundation of what at the core the X-Plane Simulator delivers, and yet yields a brilliant and interesting simulation in the process.
    ___________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the Rand Robinson KR-2S by NHAdrian is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    Rand Robinson KR-2S
    Price is US$24.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not compatible with XP11) Windows.  Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 736 MB Current Version : 1.02 (July 19th 2023)   Installation and documents:  download for the Rand Robinson KR-2S is 702Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
    Full Installation is 814 MB
    AviTab Plugin is required.
     
    Document supplied is:
    KR2S_1.0.2 There is a huge amount of detail provided here, including installation, specifications, performance, instruments/avionics, but also X-Plane/hardware settings and Checklists. There is also an interesting story of the build of the donor PH-KRS by Marcel Driessen.
     
    Designed by NHAdrian  
    Support forum for the KR-2S
     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.05r1 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KHAF - Half Moon Bay Airport by Rising Dawn Studios (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.90
    ___________________________
     
    Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    20th July 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

  9. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from SteveDe in Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2023   
    Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2023
     
    Optimism, loads of optimism. After the late release of X-Plane 12 in 2022, compiling the last Year in Review 2022, I was in an optimistic frame of mind, the worst had to be behind us after all. At that point X-Plane 12 had finished it's beta run and had gone final 16th December 2022, just clear up the few issues and by Easter we should have a very stable Simulation tool to do our flying in. I was ready for a better year and so was everyone else...  then it all just as quickly fell apart.
     
    Laminar Research
    Within days of the New Year with a new release in v12.01r1 it was not a great start to the New Year, in hindsight, there was even a mention of it in the November Q&A, as Laminar wanted more framerate, a better smoother none dropping frames Simulator. But what we got was massive "Vulcan device loss errors", odder clouds and the high winds which were also more nastier than ever, lighting was now even darker and harder to use as well.
    It all felt like very backwards jump...  a mess really, and costly in my case with the immediate requirement of a new graphics card. It didn't end there. GRIB Files that X-Plane 12 uses for the Simulator for downloading live global weather went wonky, .dds files also started to fail. Admittedly a lot of these spot fires were quickly fixed, but the GRIB took a few days as they were on a American national holiday weekend. So for the first time on a few occasions in the year, my X-Plane Simulator was actually non-working for a few days, the .dds files and the GRIB blackouts (yes there was two blackouts, with another later in the year) causing most of the damage.
     
    Laminar's focus however was somewhere else. It was called Zink. With the change to the Vulkan/Metal API, a lot of the original OpenGL plugins didn't work. So Zink was installed to convert (or to be a bridge) between the old OpenGL and newer Vulkan/Metal API's. I don't use Zink, mainly because I don't have a big library of plugins, but a lot of computers also needed the fix as the AMD users out there got a lot of flickering and CTD (Crash to Desktop).
     
    It was not a very good start to the year, and X-Plane 12 thoughout the next few months was a not a bundle of fun either. First relief came in 12.04b1, late in February. That release fixed a lot of the New Year problems. At the end of March 2023 came v12.05b1, and Laminar finally delivered the update for their A330-300 . Here finally it included in this release was the custom MCDU for the aircraft, which was due on the original release of XP12.
     
    v12.06/7 in Mid-August did live up thankfully to it's game-changer forecast. It fixed the weather (not completely, but far better) and came with Cirrus high level clouds and now none of those hideous pyramid shape clouds, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford class in X-Plane now had a full complement of static aircraft, cranes, tugs and more, on deck and below in the huge deck hangar. ATC also got a huge makeover.
     
    There was another big advancement update in v12.08, this release covered Landing Gear Physics, and made aircraft easier and more realistic to land (takeoff as well). An annoying X-Plane anomaly for years was finally fixed and the flight model got improvements to the way that X-Plane simulates engine performance, projector warping/blending was also totally revised, as was networking and the “totally out of VRAM” crashes.
     
    Biggest announcement with v12.08 was that X-Plane was having an increased price of from the 1st of November 2023 to US$79.95, from US$59.95, the first in a decade, and that a new X-Plane version numbering system would be coming (after v12.08) to v12.1.0, adding in an extra digit for more frequent updates. That aspect will certainly change the way we resolve issues quicker in 2024.
     
    X-PlaneReviews started an annual new roundup review in September called "State of the Union", this was to fully detail the changes of X-Plane 12 from it's public release date, and there is a lot here to browse on the fully detailed on the X-Plane 12 changes to that yearly date.
     
    In reality 2023 ended far, far better than it started for Laminar Research. There was some magic hidden in X-Plane 12.08 that made the Simulator smoother, easier to use...  finally the tool was maturing.
    But with X-Plane 12 already a whole year late, then another year in limbo, the Simulator per se had taken many many hits. This aspect shows below, delaying projects and keeping developers away to consume MSFS 2020, the impacts on the Simulation landscape was all to see. But X-Plane did actually and finally get there, the Simulator feeling now more better and cleaner than ever before, being more benign and thankfully usable. I have had the best six weeks flying for a long time, the relief is in my relaxed view of 2024. It might even tempt those still on X-Plane 11 to come on over?
     
    Microsoft Flight Simulator 2022
    First is "Why is this here in an X-Plane site?". Because it is a reference between the Simulators, and the gap between them grew immensely wide over the year 2023. February kicked off with World Update XII New Zealand, In April Oceania, June France and Texas, July Central Eastern Europe, August Western Europe, November Nordics and Greenland, the Caribbean, and the last of the year is European Cities 1. Development updates were on average two, to three a month. Added aircraft included Antonov An-225 Mriya, Model 307 Stratoliner, Aero Vodochody Ae-45, MU-2, Dornier Do X, Saab B 17A and the Carenado 207...
     
    At the FlightSimExpo in Houston, Laminar Research was there, well sort of with just the PR Guy and Phillipp Ringlar in attendance, and they were competing with Asobo Studios/Microsoft, who arrived to announce the next installment or version of MSFS, called "Flight Simulator 2024". Austin Meyer or head developer Ben Supnic were also notably absent, as Asobo read off a load of X-Plane features including helicopters, SARS, water and fire particles, oil rig scenery and landing pad, crop dusting, wildfires and even animated skydivers... on top of that they also threw in a Ford 4-AT Trimotor for good measure.
     
    But it is the sheer gargantuan absolute volume of releases coming out on to the MS platform in 2023 that was simply gobsmacking, every person and their dog is doing something to cash in on the goldmine, but oddly they are not only mostly middle-regional scenery and odd flier classic aircraft, at really low prices. The worry as a layman with a normal income, was how could you simply buy all this? even picking the low hanging fruit, it would have a serious impact on your bank-balance...  it is a marketplace that is currently creating more questions than it answers? as hundreds of brand new developers are getting in the game, they all can't survive.
     
    Trend of the year
    In most areas over 2023 it was divided significantly into two categories. New products of which there were few, and the main market which was the transition market of products created for X-Plane 11 being reimagined for X-Plane 12, most were upgrades (pay), but a few were also updates (free). These products dominated the year, and currently most of the quality transitioning product is now mostly all transferred to the X-Plane 12 platform. As noted last year, as a lot of product became obsolete, a majority of X-Plane 10 aircraft and even scenery that crossed over to X-Plane 11 now finally succumbed to their fate, so the results are a much more smaller scale of aircraft and scenery available for X-Plane 12, that said these products in X-Plane 12 are of a much higher quality and have far better detail than their earlier counterparts, but your hangers are certainly more than empty than a few years ago.
     
    Aircraft
    As major releases go, then 2023 was very, very quiet. In fact only two major releases covered the whole year, the biggest and best was the X-Crafts Family E-Jets in May. Four different variants (with the Exec still coming) it was a great vision into the X-Plane 12 dream of extreme quality and features, the ERJ Series is also coming from X-Crafts in 2024, another one to look forward to with the same high quality standards.
     
    ToLiSS was extremely busy in 2023, not only releasing an Airbus A320-271N NEO in March, but also introducing not only a new menu interface, ground vehicles, ice clearing features, many, many more circuit breakers, but then spreading the good word over each of the other ToLiSS Airbus products to the same standard. Their flag bearing certainly climbed higher in the year, consistent with brilliant features and products, they are at the top of their game at the moment.
     
    Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG) merged into Flight Procedures Simulation, and released their own version of the E-Jet. Unlike the X-Crafts, this E-195 was not totally new, but a very highly redevelopment of the earlier SSG Embraer E-Jet, it was very good, and at a much more lower price, so it was in reality an E-Jet year if you loved these regional hub-spoke busters. In reality, that was all that was new in airliners this year.
     
    For X-Plane 11 aircraft, that was transitioned to X-Plane 12 it was a bit of a feast. Early Colimata did another excellent update to the Concorde FXB v3, and the SSG Boeing 748 had loads of incremental upgrades all year. The most notable was the Rotate MD-11 with several updates and the revised Rotate MD-88 Pro was also very welcome in May. The Felis Boeing 747-200, also had many an update right throughout the year, and some quite considerable, it is a complicated Simulation but highly rewarding.
     
    The DeltaWing Simulations CRJ 1000/900/700 was always having numerous updates, and the series came to a far more better quality Simulation, as a first ever developer release it was commendable, but there is still far more refining required to be truly great.
     
    INISimulations did hold up their promise to update the A300-600, who would have thought, not a spectacular X-Plane 12 revise, but at least users were happy to see the aircraft actually available. IXEG also finally updated the Boeing 733 to XP12, and it came with a new cabin as well for your US$15, still a great Simulation, if not one of the best.
     
    FlyJSim had a very quiet year, but at the end the Boeing 732 and 727 upgrades still didn't make it into X-Plane 12, both are to be worthy additions to the Simulator, expect early 24 . FlightFactor were also nowhere to be seen in 2023. The Boeing 777 v2 was previewed a few times and a rough cut was shown at the Expo, but the promised release again never happened in Q4, but now a noted certainty for a public beta in March 2024, the still in development FF Boeing 787 Dreamliner also had a few sneak previews as well, but don't expect anything there until late 24. Notable in another release for 2024 is an ATR 72, in fact two with one noted from Deltawing, the regional prop is well overdue for the X-Plane Simulator.
     
    General Aviation
    Generally the trend was the same with General Aviation, a few new aircraft, but the majority were transitioning aircraft from X-Plane 11 to Twelve.
     
    Aerobask started of the the year with the Diamond DA-42 NG, to follow up their Katana DA20 late in 2022, also the Epic Victory G1000, Lancair Legacy RG and the Epic E1000 G1000 Edition all had revisions to X-Plane 12. If you like your Diamonds, the SimSolutions upgraded the DA20-C1 Eclipse and DA40NG. COWS also announced a DA-42, later to be also ported to the MSFS platform, this was August, and yet to see the light of day (a lot of promises). At the end of the year Aerobask also released the Shark UL, a genuine release for X-Plane 12, it was excellent with the custom Skyview Touch Avionics.
     
    There was the cute Van's RV-8 /8A Duo by AOA Simulations, but most of the year in GA belonged to Thranda Design. They started off early with a brand new (XP12 only) Cessna 377F Skymaster, then another new design BN-2A Islander XP12 in June. Then they upgraded in succession the Daher Kodiak 100, then weeks later the 172M Skyhawk to XP12. In October it was the turn of the XP12 upgrade of the classic DH-2 Beaver. There was also another Cessna 337G pressurised version from Skytouch of which I really liked.
     
    AirfoilLabs upgraded both the KingAir 350, and the 172SP, and later the 172SP with an Analog cockpit (again just lately). vFlyteAir only upgraded their Piper Twin Comanche PA30 to X-Plane 12, and again nothing new in 23 from these premier GA developers. Considering their backlog catalogue, JustFlight had a quiet year, the upgrades only covered the Robin DR400, and Piper PA-28-181 Archer TX/LX to X-Plane12, there seems to be a waning interest to continue to support X-Plane from this English developer.
     
    NhAdrian did the excellent cheeky Rand Robinson KR-2S, and X-Hangar updated a lot of their aircraft, mostly from as early as X-Plane 10, and finally we wrapped up the GA segement in 23 with an upgrade to the Aerostar 601P from Avio71, and a nice way to see in Christmas.
     
    Classic Aircraft
    Since dividing into three separate variants the DC-3. vSkylabs updated the C-47 Skytrain and the DC-3 Airliner significantly, though the analog and glass instrument versions moved them even further apart. Late in the year Khamsin and Skunkcrafts updated the P-51 Mustang to X-Plane 12.
     
    Business Aircraft
    This category was very quiet this year with nothing new released. Aerobask surprisingly didn't release the much vaunted Falcon 6X, it was expected, even now well overdue for release, so we will move on again to 2024 for that one. The winner of the 2020 best Bizjet the Citation C-560XL by AirSim3D was upgraded to X-Plane 12 with the serious results, really it was the only significant release of the year. The AKD Studio GulfStream 550, had almost monthly updates throughout the year, and yes the detail and quality are now showing, but it still needs that something extra to give the aircraft the polish it needs, I liked flying it though.
     
    Military
    This Military segment was quite busy this year. Highlight was of course the release of Colimata's supreme F-104 Starfighter, only released for X-Plane 12 later in the year, certainly a landmark release for all the right reasons. Another oddity was the He-162 Project from Vskylabs 'Test-Pilot' series. The rest were transition aircraft from X-Plane 11. MLADG revamped three aircraft for XP12 in the MiG15, Aero 29 Delfin and the Messerschmitt bf109.
     
    AoA (Angle of Attack) had three revision aircraft released, the excellent T6A Texan II, the F22 Raptor and a completely revamped T-7A Red Hawk for X-Plane 12, all great value, AoA are also releasing a V22 Tilt-rotor for 2024! There was FACO's F-15 package, and the Grumman F7F Tigercat was converted to X-Plane 12 by Virtavia.
     
    Helicopters
    After a few very productive years it was a quiet one with no helicopter releases in 2023 for Cowansim, he went to MSFS with his aircraft conversions, and there was no announcements if any more X-Plane 12 aircraft will be released or converted in the future. Back in full flight though was the master himself...  Dreamfoil Creations, with the transition of his Schweizer S300CBi to X-Plane 12. It was a brilliant comeback, and all the rest of the Dreamfoil fleet in the AS350, B407 are all following in succession in 2024. Talking of 407's, then on the brink of Christmas Eve, JRX released their excellent Bell 407 for both X-Plane 12 and 11.
     
    Excellent also was the Eurocopter EC130 B4 for X-Plane 12 by HSF. This modern machine came with loads of options including a Medivac version, HSF also released the Alouette III as a freeware, and it is well worth the download. vSkyLabs released the Hungarocopter HC-02 in October, and it was an interesting mite of a machine. The X-Trident CH47D Chinook had a quiet update to X-Plane 12 in June.
     
    There was a few of oddities this year 23 in machines. One was the Gerry Anderson inspired Vskylab Skyscenders 76, three very different orbital bodies to master, a lot of fun as well. VSkyLabs also released the boatlike ICON A5 as well. NHAdrian produced two very different concepts in the AirCar Project, and yes it is a real flying car...  the highlight though was the amazing LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, an amazing concept to try, and fly like a Lunar Lander.
     
    Scenery
    I have already mentioned the colossal amount of scenery being released for MSFS 2020. It is simply mind-boggling and even overwhelming... overall even a bit silly. How much of this scenery can you actually use? Yes X-Plane scenery will never be on par with Microsoft's Flight Sim, but at least what we have released is actually usable. Sadly the cross-platform (except for a very few) pollinations between the Simulators has not emerged either, but let us see what 2024 delivers before saying the last rites.
     
    The biggest scenery story of the year was AutoOrtho or streaming ortho imagery. Some bright spark wants to recreate the Microsoft ortho steaming system in X-Plane. To a point it is very successful, but a fast internet connection and a powerful computer is required. The trick is downloading the tiles as you need them, not storing the tiles on your computer, but I'm not a fan of flat photo images, or jerky simulations. To add on top, another success this year has been SIM HEAVENS X-World scenery Series. Now far better coordinated and comes with better realism, it does start to deliver the sort of visual requirements X-Plane desperately needs. But ultimately they are both clunky additions to the simulator, requiring a lot of wasted power to work. But the enthusiasts swear by them.
     
    In the Laminar Q&A. Austin Meyer finally acknowledged that after a year or even years of consistent griping. That X-Plane does need a newer and better scenery system, and that Laminar are now evaluating ideas and theories to up the visual content. More highly (data) dense tiles are coming short term, but a complete new system to replace the DSF limitations is also finally on the white board. You would say X-Plane 13 for this, but I don't think that Laminar have that a long wait time in three years to meditate around the problem...  one story to follow in 2024.
     
    There was a few gateway dumps, one in the first quarter, then another later in the year, and both were comprehensive. Suddenly we had Golf Courses everywhere, and then shipping became more realistic, but overall the promised ports and even more autogen buildings failed to materialise in 2023. They noted to be part of v12.1.0.
     
    Again like everything this year there was many conversions to X-Plane 12 from X-Plane 11, but still even quite a few good sceneries were released. Like mentioned there wasn't a lot, but the few we had were very good and highly usable.
     
    X-Codr was very, very busy. He updated his mammoth KDEN with everything you could name, it was complex but a serious statement of what X-Plane can deliver, even moving escalators and people. More importantly it was the sheer quality of the buildings that stood out. Other smaller sceneries from X-Codr also stood out, KMMH-Mammoth Yosemite, KSEZ-Sedona, Grand Canyon West - 1G4, KTEX-Telluride were all excellent.
     
    Maps2XPlane (via Aerosoft) delivered not only an (XP12) update to their sensational Faroe Islands XP, but added the even more extravagant remote Svalbard XP in July (a personal favorite). Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini spent the year updating their earlier sceneries over to X-Plane 12, we started off with the Alps UHD package at the start of the year, Dolomites in March, Banff National Park UHD in August and finally Everest Park-Nepal 3D in late November.
     
    We left 2022 with the Taimodels EGLL-Heathrow, and we had some great experiences with Taimodel's scenery in that year, and in 2023 they didn't disappoint either. It started rather slow with KSMF-Sacramento, then VHHH-Chep Lok in Hong Kong followed in April. Another smaller scale airport with Newport News / Williamsburg, with then another biggie with Oslo Gardermoen Airport in August. Closer to home turf we had YBCS - Cairns International Airport in Australia in November. A pretty impressive output, all great value.
     
    Cami De Bellis was back after a health break to update her particular style of scenery. All projects got the X-Plane 12 treatment with both first La Tontouta Noumea and Dolpa Nepal in June, quickly followed a few weeks later by Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl and Paro Intl Airport, Butan. New from Cami however was the excellent FHSH - St Helena Airport, the place in the South Atlantic were Napoleon ended up.
     
    HSimulators converted his FlightSim pole landscapes to X-Plane 12, with both the Grand Arctic Scenery and lower Antarctica Mega Scenery XP12 adding landmass to the X-Plane Simulator. NorthernSky Studios heavily upgraded PAJN-Juneau International and PAEN-Kenai Municipal Airport, and added in the new PAWG - Wrangell Airport, all in Alaska. His focus is now on both XP and FS Simulators, this showed in the lower release output for the year.
     
    As he broadens the mix, ShortFinals Design only up dated the magnificent EDDM-Munich to full X-Plane 12, but there are a lot of projects coming in 2024 from ShortFinal, including a completely new revolutionary bigger scale autogen system.
     
    There was two new releases from Aerosoft with Airport Marseille XP (Brilliant) and Menorca XP (not so brilliant), and Dortmund XP12 was upgraded later in the year. Sadly considering the considerable amount of Aerosoft scenery for X-Plane, very little, if any are being updated to X-Plane 12? If 2024 doesn't deliver, we could be seeing a lot quality Aerosoft scenery being abandoned in the future.
     
    Orbx did deliver a brilliant YBBN Brisbane and an addon Brisbane city scenery very early in the year...  but nothing else.
     
    Other standouts included the KJAX-Jacksonville International by FS Designs, Montauk Airport by Skytitude, and two airports I used a lot in 2023 with ESGG - Göteborg Landvetter Airport by Chudoba Designs and the great effort of KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim.
     
    So what's the summary of 2023 for scenery? Again the numbers are far better than what you expected, and a far lot of it is seriously quality scenery. X-Plane 11 turnover to X-Plane 12 is say just above the average, I expected more, so again 2024 is going to interesting to watch.
     
    Plugins
    I will state upfront that I am not a huge plugin connoisseur, so I only run what I call essential plugins in my simulator, running the VRAM profiler (Menu/Developer) can give you the horrors of how much these little monstrous tools can gobble up your framerate and their overall efficiency, I take out as many of these laggards as possible.
     
    Again there were a a lot of tools to adjust your skies, but the best was VisualXP Extreme, it is well worth the money. The biggest noise of the year was the new Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client v3.0. Moved from your plugins folder to your desktop, it was an excellent highly fast new tool. There was the Scenery Enhancement tool X-Oil Rigs Vol 1, Vol 2, and X-OilShips Vol 1, that filled up the oceans, and it gave a little more activity to your water views.
     
    Navigraph was again the king of the tools, now they added in Weather Layers to Charts 8, plus later also added Flight Telemetry, ATIS, OFP. The companion SimBrief also had a major layout overhaul, and was present directly now in a lot of the most advanced aircraft simulations.
     
    WebFMC Pro, WorldTraffic 3 and Traffic Global all had updates throughout the year. But I found major conflicts with the JustFlight tool in 2023, with time and replays that went past annoying and creating desktop crashes.
     
    X-PlaneReviews
    X-PlaneReviews as a site in August passed the decade busting 10th Anniversary of providing quality and detailed reviews for the X-Plane Simulator. Yes we have been here for ten and half years and in this year 2023 have delivered even more consistent reviews than any year before.
     
    The team has grown as well...  besides the dynamic Dominic Smith, who also contributes immensely to the X-Plane.Org Weekly Roundups and Developer Interviews, is a major contributor in X-PlaneReviews as well, plus the extra talented reviewers of Alan Ashforth (alpeggio), Peter Allnutt, Dennis Powell, Nick Garlick, Stéphane Tolédo-Paul (Tieman68), David York (datadave), Stuart McGregor (Scottish Wings), DrishalMAC2, Michael Hayward and Joshua Moore, all genuine talented and contributors to not only X-PlaneReviews, but to X-Plane in general.
     
    Passing a major Anniversary always makes you look back, but also forward. Certainly we have met our goals in providing invaluable information and details on the X-Plane Simulator. Again this review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting and incredible product to fly and use, as they and X-Plane has come a long way and created leaps in quality and complexity in the last few years, certainly in the jump to X-Plane 12, and to a point I was very proud of the work they have produced, it is world class if not the very best in simulation product ever produced, and they are all top notch and very clever. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with review products, service and updates, a really big thanks to Nicolas Taureau, as this site just also would not function without that outstanding support.
     
    _________________________
     
    We will finish off with the X-PlaneReviews famous best of the year awards…   So I will now list my Best of the Year 2023🏅
    (note the awards are given to only products I have seen and tested and so the only ones I can vouch for)
     
    Overall Best of the Year : E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts 🏅 🏅🏅
     
    Best Aircraft : E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts.🏅
    A look into the future of X-Plane 12 quality and design, it jumped off the screen at you in the incredible detail.
    Honorable Mention : Any ToLiSS aircraft, just delivers on any level.
     
    Best General Aviation Aircraft : Aerobask Diamond DA-42 NG
    Aerobask were very consistent with quality aircraft and interiors, almost every release was perfection, but the DA-42 NG just nudged above
    Honorable Mentions : All Thranda Design output was excellent with clever ideas, but lately they have become incessantly dark, externally and internally.
     
    Best Classic Aircraft : A tie here, Felis Boeing 747-200 and Colimata Concorde FXB v3
    Both the B742 and Concorde FXB are not new, but seriously improved over the year with X-Plane 12, both seriously complex as well.
    Honorable Mention : P-51 Mustang from Khamsin and Skunkworks, glad to see new fresh blood in the water.
     
    Best Business Aircraft : Cessna Citation 560XL XP12 by AirSim3d
    We said it would be great in X-Plane 12, and it is, but the category overall was below par this year. Aerobask Falcon 6X anyone.
     
    Best Military :  F-104 Starfighter by Colimata 🏅
    Insanely clever and insane to fly, it is X-Plane at it's Skunkworks best.
    Honorable Mention : AoA T-7A Red Hawk, certainly the most improved of the year.
     
    Best Helicopter : Eurocopter EC130 B4 by HSF 🏅
    The talented Frenchmen made a big impact on Helicopters this year with the EC130, and with the freeware Alouette III
    Honorable Mentions : Dreamfoil Creations, with the XP12 transition of his Schweizer S300CBi, the master was back!
     
    Best Landscape Scenery : Svalbard XP by Aerosoft Maps2XPlane🏅
    Sublime and distant, all the Svalbard Islands were covered in detailed landscapes, just make sure to see them in the Summer.
    Honorable Mention : Dainese and Bellini condensed all their packages to make better products, brilliant in X-Plane 12, but nothing new on the shelves.
     
    Best Airport Scenery : KDEN - Denver International by X-Codr 🏅🏅
    Not a new scenery, but KDEN was a totally revamped project that had everything, it was spellbinding in detail and clever animations.
    Honorable Mention : Taimodels delivered the most and detailed sceneries consistently, filling in areas that have been wanting for years.
     
    Best Plugin(s) : Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client 🏅
    A plugin... it was, but still the biggest standout tool of the year, it's so fast!
    Special Mention(s) : Navigraph for their excellent navigation tools, and seriously clever new additions.
     
    Person(s) of the Year : ToLiSS
    The developer that just consistently delivers outstanding authentic ideas and systems, yes my vote goes to person that saves me days by reviving crashed or loading aircraft back to life perfectly, with the SAVE feature
     
    Best Moment of the year 2023 : Nothing really stood out, but the first viewing of X-Crafts E-Jet was mind-blowing.
     
    Worst Moment(s) of the Year 2023 : Not the worst, but the most embarrassing moment was the Asobo Studios/Microsoft reeling off the new features for FS 2024, they were almost gloating. Personally, when my Graphic Card expired because of an overloading X-Plane 12 vulkan device error, it was expensive to replace.

    Biggest distractions of 2023 : ...  It was very dark in there....  pitchblack! 
     
    Biggest overall feeling of 2023 : Tough hard year, but the outlook towards 2024 felt far better towards the end of 2023, X-Plane 12 was finally starting to shine, but it took a long time to get there.
     
    Personal Favorites of 2023 : Any ToLiSS (the save system allows ultimate flexibility) and they got the most hourly flying time, Q4XP (Dash) brilliant, Rotate MD-80 still awesome, MD-11 bigger awesome, Thranda C206G, IXEG 737 Classic returned with a cabin.
     
    Routes...   Copenhagen, Copenhagen and Copenhagen, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona, Roma, Helsinki, Oslo, Munich, Tel Aviv, London Heathrow and Dulles and Sydney. Notable is that with the newer scenery, Brisbane, Amsterdam finally came on-line in 2023.
     
    That is X-PlaneReviews for 2023, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns again early into the New Year on the 3rd January 2024.
     
    So Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2024
     
    Stephen Dutton
    23rd December 2023
    Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2023
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)  

     
     
  10. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from SteveDe in Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack   
    Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack
     
    In March 2024, Angle of Attack Simulations released for the X-Plane 11 Simulator the T-7A Red Hawk. The Boeing/SAAB T-7A Red Hawk is the US Air Force’s newest fast jet training aircraft. It was designed to replace the more than 50 year old Northrup T-38 Talon, and to better prepare new military pilots for the future advanced aircraft they will fly later.
     
    The first T-X aircraft flew on 20 December 2016 via the T-X program. The Boeing-Saab team then submitted their entry after the Air Force opened the T-X program to bids in December 2016. In September 2018, Air Force officials announced that Boeing's design would be its new advanced jet trainer, under an up-to-US$9.2 billion (~$10.6 billion in 2022) program and would purchase 351 aircraft, 46 simulators, maintenance training and support. This contract has options for up to 475 airplanes in total.
     
    The aircraft entered series production in February 2021. In April 2021, Saab Group delivered one aft section of T-7A aircraft to the Boeing St. Louis plant. In July 2021, Saab had delivered the second aft section to the Boeing St. Louis plant. Boeing will splice Saab's aft section with the front section, fins, wings and tail assembly to become a complete test aircraft for use in the EMD's (Engineering and Manufacturing Development ) flight test program. The first production T-7 was rolled out on 28 April 2022, and the first flight of the T-7A production aircraft was conducted from St. Louis Lambert International Airport in June 2023, by Major Bryce Turner, a test pilot with the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Steve Schmidt, Boeing’s chief T-7 test pilot. On 21 September 2023, the first Red Hawk was shipped to the US Air Force.
     
    By November 2023, the USAF was now actively considering the possibility of turning the T-7 into an armed combat aircraft. Conceptually dubbed the F-7, such a jet could provide roughly the same capability as a fourth-generation fighter which could maintain force numbers as F-16s aircraft are retired, and could also replace older Northrop F-5 and Dornier Alpha Jet platforms on the export market. The single production Red Hawk was deployed at Edwards Air Force Base for advanced testing for this role.
     
    X-PlaneReviews covered the release of the AOA T-7A Red Hawk in an X-Plane 11 review: First Impression Review : T-7A Red Hawk by AOA Simulations
     
    It was an interesting review. Remember that the aircraft at the time was still really at it's experimental stage and AOA only had limited information on the aircraft performance and design capabilities, overall it was a very good representation of the new era trainer and it's features.
    Here is the X-Plane 12 upgrade to the aircraft, a new release version, as the number is noted at v1.0, the same as the original X-Plane 11 release version. The T-7A is again released as three versions; TX prototype, T-7A advanced trainer and the T-7N Navy version.
     

     
    The T-7A has a thorough modern design and feel to the aircraft, fully carbon composite in construction, as it looks to the future, and not to the past in aircraft design. The X-Plane look and feel is quite different from the bland X-Plane 11 look, with now more depth and better shadows...  however look closely and the poor resolution skin is still there with very blurry text and logos, a real shame as AOA had a chance to update with X-Plane 12 in these areas to give the aircraft detail more depth, add in 4K, even 8K textures and bring out the quality to a higher standard.
     

     
    That said AOA aircraft (the Raptor) was the same, are brilliant at a distance, but become lo-res in detail at a close up inspection. But the Hawk here is definitely, if a massive improvement over the XP11 version with the X-Plane 12 PBR and lighting effects now active...
     
    The gear and inboard bays are the same as well. Well done but starchy white, yes this is a pre-production aircraft and clean, that said it is really well done in the excellent complex detail and design.
     

     
    Ditto the engine inlets, too modeled, still too noticeably bright (distracting) from the external.
     

     
    The rear exhaust is again well done, better here than with X-Plane 11, even though the textures are the same, same with the twin-vertical rudders, with the same modeled (not textured) joints.
     

     
    Canopy and glass is still as good, very nice with depth and nice curves and reflections, a requirement with a trainer aircraft. So in the transition, in modeling and texture terms the T-7A is in reality the same, but thankfully X-Plane 12 does add in a bit of flare because of it's superior lighting. and dynamics, after three years the X-Plane 12 version is far superior.
     
    The "T" is in "Trainer", so you have a twin-seat aircraft, with the rear for the instructor/observer. Both flight instrument and controls are exactly the same, so you can fly the T-7A from the front or rear (an option here).
     

     
    Compared to say the F-104 Starfighter, it is highly minimalistic in the cockpit, very little switch gear and everything is on the one large and two smaller instrument displays...
     

     
    Left side panel gives you Lights, Engines, Electrical and the chunky throttle. Right side has DOORS (Canopy, IFR, BWS), IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) or Transponder, right is also the Joystick controller. The internal mirrors now can be hidden with a click, not in the usual earlier menu option. Notable is the laptop AviTab, it can be rotated from Portrait to Landscape positions, but not hidden.
     

     
    There are two main instrument panels, the selection "Up-Front" Display (UFD) and the lower wide "Panoramic cockpit" Display. There is a third Engine/Fuel display that is positioned right, with both switchable numbers and percentage displays... 
     

     
    The "Panoramic cockpit" display covers eight different choices,  with three displays with the NAV/MAP central and two switchable screens left and right. But you can use the top 1 2 3 4 pre-set buttons to change the display.
     

     
    Left button options include; Aircraft Configuration, ADI (Attitude Direction Indicator), Flight Controls and RWS (Target mode). Right buttons include; MAP, HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), SYS (Systems) and NAV. The NAV/MAP range is selected by pressing the ZOOM-IN and ZOOM-OUT selections, and the Pop-Out is the XP G1000 panel display.
     

     
    Note on the ground On the ground, aircraft configuration is shown and a start-up checklist is provided in the left column. Once airborne only the applicable information is then displayed. Overall the "Panoramic cockpit" display is the same as the X-Plane 11 version.
     
    The "Up Front" top display is however different in X-Plane 12. In reality the UFD has been simplified, gone is the complex grid layout, to a more easier accessed display...  press the NESW logo to change the UFD to a "Compass" Page.
     

     
    Outer knobs adjust (left); HDG (Heading), SPD (Speed), TST (Test), HUD (on/off). Right knobs include; ALT (Altitude) VVI (Vertical Velocity Indicator) RDR (terrain follow altitude) and screen Brightness. Lower options include NAV tuning and bottom COM tuning.
     
    There are 54 pre-set GPS (VOR 2) options that can be inserted (active) by pressing the D->. You can add in your own GPS frequency, but it is a messy and tricky process with a text editor, it would have been nice to have had an easy way to add in the function.
     

     
    Selecting VOR or GPS selection is oddly via the SRC, not the GPS, so it is hard to find. Also selecting the headphones on the COM, you can go into "Silent" mode on the radio.
     

     
    TST (Test) mode is very good, and TAC/VOR toggle: NAV1 is a combination VOR or TACAN radio.
     

     
    There is a backup ADI (Artificial Horizion), with a barometric pressure set knob. If the HUD power is OFF then airspeed, altitude, and heading are presented in the backup ADI.
     

     
    There is also a click spot “cheat” for the IFR door toggle in the upper right corner of the display. (IFR - In Flight Refueling)
     
    Menu
    The Menu system is the same X-Plane Banner placement, but the menu selection is very different, with now only two selections with; "Ground Equip" (Equipment) and "Options". Previously there were 10 options, but that has been reduced down to only these two.
     

     
    Ground Equipment, (Static Elements), selecting ground equipment will give you flags, pitot cover, large side stairs and engine intake covers... Newly added for XP12 are chocks (finally) and a rear exhaust outlet cover (very nice).
     

     
    Options: For the "Options" there is now a new Pop-Up dialog box with ten selections. First three selections are the "Auto" control of Flaps, Gear and Speed Brake systems, off is Manual control. Then Canopy Reflections on/off and Baro/Temperature switch.
     

     
    Left column has; TX Nose Probe, Navy Version with twin-nose wheels, tailhook and refueling probe...  The External Power doesn't give you a physical GPU externally, just the internal power supply, it also oddly kills the Static Elements? "Quick Start" will set the T-7A ready to fly with the engine running, and the "Back Seat" set you in the rear instructor seat, not the forward seat.
     
    Overall the Ground Equip and Options selection is now far better coordinated and certainly easier to use than in the earlier XP11 layout.
     
    Liveries are the not same three as before with... US Air Force T-7A (Default) and  TX - Prototype still present, but the US Navy Arctic Camo has been dropped to be replaced by the T-7N Navy Hawk. There are also a load of additional liveries available here: T-7 Red Hawk
     

    ______________
    Flying the T-7A XP12
    The Red Hawk is a trainer aircraft in a sequence of levels to acquire a full Jet Fighter certificate under the JPATS or Joint Primary Aircraft Training System. Entry level is Student on the T-6A Texan ll aircraft (propeller), that then moves to the T-1A Jayhawk in SUPT roles, then the T-38C Talon is used in the advanced pilot training role, but the T-5A category (APT T-X Program) is for the advance training to fourth and fifth generation aircraft (i.e. computer based) and multiple system based technology capability.
     
    The first thing you notice in the cockpit of the T-7A is on how so very minimalistic everything is, I will note that a lot of this new technology capability is also built into the pilot's helmet that can not be replicated here in X-Plane (well not yet anyway). AOA do however show you how to set up your joystick with XP commands that does certain actions, and the XP A.I. (AI Aircraft) is also similarly set up for hostility operations and refueling. The GpsFPLInput plugin by Gtagentman is also recommended to be installed as well.
     
    First there are a couple of settings in the T-7A to understand before takeoff. First is the "NWS" or Nosewheel steering, it's a tricky one to get right...
     

     
    I lost a bit of time with this one? First of all if it shows NWS in the HUD, the steering (via Nosewheel Tiller yaw) won't work? to get it to be active you have too have set (keyboard or Joystick button) the command "Nosewheel steer toggle" to activate the steering, it shows by the HUD icon changing to T-7A (or T-7N -Navy), then you can steer the Red Hawk. I will note that I also lost a considerable amount of time because the steering still didn't work with the NWS steering set correctly, even the developer couldn't work it out....  the cause was actually Laminar? I found that when X-Plane 12 loads, it loads with the "Landing gear" lever in the up position? And yes I have complained to Laminar to fix it!  but that was the cause of the non-steering this time...   put the lever in the correct down position and you will have steering.
     
    Second is the BWS or "Brake With Stick", which will use the Joystick to control the braking, pull back slightly to release the brakes, the use of the stick on the takeoff or landing roll, then push forward to brake, a neutral stick then releases the brakes. But it's tricky to use, and you feel initially the aircraft is locked down. To deactivate, then switch it off via the BWS switch far right on the "DOORS" panel. My advice is to turn off all these "Auto" helpers in the BWS, Flaps, Gear and Speed Brakes, and fly the T-7A manually, then turn them back on individually to see how they work, everything turned on together can be confusing to a novice, when the aircraft is doing all the actions for you, they are very good, no doubt, but also control the aircraft in an systematic way.
     

     
    Taxiing is a little tricky if you go too fast, the Hawk will wriggle under the stick, so keep the knots down, otherwise it is a nice ride.
     
    Full Throttle and the "afterburner" igniter kicks in, and you power off down the runway, speed at full thrust is colossal.
     

     
    Rotation was around 250 knts, high, but no flaps here, and the Hawk just powers into the air. Gear retraction is excellent, and very realistic. Note I set the flaps at 4% next time, and that was about perfect for a (shorter) run takeoff.
     

     
    I have to quickly reduce the throttle, if not would break the sound barrier at a low level... the speed numbers are just twirling up so quick.
     

     
    Now in a (fast) cruise I fly by St Louis City...  time to feel out the aircraft. First of all the X-Plane 12 version feels very different than the XP11 release. Yes those fine touchy movements with stick are still required, but the machine feels far, far more refined, as a lot of the earlier feel was very touchy, certainly in the pitch. I'll hold my hand up and say I wasn't in liking the earlier feel, the aircraft I loved, the control I wasn't that fussy about...  but this is now a revelation, this is FANTASTIC.
     

     
    Although a trainer aircraft, it still has to perform to a standard, a high standard if you are going to mirror a fifth generation fighter. And so the Hawk does. Back on the throttle and you climb...  33,500 ft/min (170.2 m/s) or 10, 211 m/min to a ceiling of 50,000ft...  WOW!
     

     
    There is a bit of a trick here, keep increasing the Vertical Speed (V/S) until you match the increasing/decreasing speed and until they both slow and then hold steady together, it is a fabulous ride. Your at an altitude of 30,000ft in no time. Maximum projected speed is Mach 1.05, with a general cruise speed of 526 kn (605 mph, 974 km/h), and a range of around 990 nmi (1,140 mi, 1,830 km).
     

     
    Turning is unusual in the T-7A. The aircraft has no ailerons, as the tail elevator does the all work here. So if you turn into a bank, then the turn is slow and wide... no matter the bank angle? To get the turn tighter you need some rudder control to twist the Hawk into the direction you want to go...
     

     
    ...  a touch of back-stick is also required to stop the nose dipping downwards. So it is a more physical machine to fly than before.
     

     
    Then there is the "Roll 2 See” or R2C feature. This is activated by the left side instrument switch...  and the function is shown in the menu left bar
     

     
    Basically you now move with the aircraft (or roll with it)...  left, right, up or down. At first it can be a bit discerning as you lose your perspective control, but it works well, certainly in following low terrain or deep in a canyon which is highly recommended. Again another to be switched off until you are familiar with the aircraft, and best experienced in flight, unless you are used to using the R2C system.
     

     
    It's the same with "Target Track mode" that is displayed on the icon bar. The Target Track takes command of the pilot point of view
    camera in order to point the camera at a selected AI plane (the target) and then follow it. Then keeping it in view at all times until you change the view to either 2D or the usual 3D. To activate the TRK mode, you need to be in the 3D cockpit view. The R2C rocker switch is switched ON, you have “Weapon select” and “Target select” completed, then  “Weapon select up” once to enter “Track Mode”, then click “Target select up” once or more to your preferred target. Tricky to get right! but clever when it works.
     

     
    Track-IR and VR headsets do work well, but they do require complete control of the pilot POV camera.
     

     
    GCAS
    Ground Collision Avoidance System protects the airplane and the pilot by estimating time to ground impact and restoring level flight using the auto pilot. As the aircraft approaches the ground two converging arrows appear in the HUD along with a time to impact. When the arrow meet in the center then the system will enter a recovery mode (FLY UP) to avoid ground impact....  sounds like fun... not!
     
    Notable is the IFR (In Flight Refueling) the switch is on the DOORS panel, and recesses the IFR panel top of the T-7A.
     

     
    GPS
    As noted you can set any of the 54 pre-set GPS (VOR 2) options or place coordination of say a AFB or City. When selected (GPS) the aircraft will then track to those coordinates, very good it is...  but what if where you want to go is not in that set list (for me St Louis KSTL). Like mentioned it is not easy to add in a new pre-set location, and the ones in there can over-ride the GPS system...  so a system is required by AOA to allow you add in a new GPS coordinate into the system easily is definitely required? I found it frustrating, even useless to use, unless you only fly out of a USA AFB.
     

     
    Lighting
    Because of the dynamic views features, you do find some view tools restricted even in 3D use, so you are sort of locked into the seat, and you can look up, down and side to side, but you can't move around like forwards or backwards...  so the lighting images are restricted here. It is basic anyway, the instrument lighting is good, but locked with no adjustment except for the UFD with a knob on the panel. The only adjustment is the "Overhead Light" on the ELECTRICAL panel, one for front and one for the rear. The canopy reflections are excellent and can also be turned off if to distracting.
     

     
    Externally the Red Hawk is basic, there are no "Formation" lights? or even a red beacon light. The T-7A's landing lights are on the undercarriage, so they only work when the gear is down...  here the lighting has been tuned to XP12, and very nice it looks.
     

     
    As mentioned, I wasn't that in liking the T-7A earlier, we just didn't gel as a partnership. Maybe it was the total automation of the aircraft? This time around for X-Plane 12 I have turned most of the automation off, odd yes, but I found the aircraft came alive in my hands when it did, maybe it was because I felt I was in control, and not the aircraft. It is an interesting point.
     

     
    I only left the "Speedbrake" Auto switched on, but found you still could not drop the flaps (manually) until you had dropped the gear down.
     
    Approach is around 175 knts with full flap 56%. The flaps marker will flash, then only go solid when you are at the full flap position.
     

     
    This time around I found the Red Hawk so much more docile on the approach, rather than with those earlier wild erratic movements. I could sit there elevated in my position and fine tune the approach with ease, its a trainer aircraft, this is what it should be like for the novice airman.
     

     
    Throttle control is very nice, and you can easily adjust your height approach by slight forward and rear movements of the lever, just a smudge below 150 knts and you have the perfect slight nose up angle finals.
     

     
    More nose up going into a high flare, reduces the speed to 130 knts, you feel like an Eagle feathering the tips of your wings ready to land.
     

     
    Touch was around 128 knts, it felt faster, as the auto Speedbrakes kicked into action.
     

     
    Lovely, nice...  perfect landing, what more do you want. Notable is that I had to reset the NWS to T-7A to get my steering working again before tuning off the runway, otherwise I was very impressed with the XP12 Red Hawk.
     

    __________________
     
    Summary
    In March 2024, Angle of Attack released for the X-Plane 11 Simulator the T-7A Red Hawk. The Boeing/SAAB T-7A Red Hawk is the US Air Force’s newest fast jet training aircraft. It was designed to replace the more than 50 year old Northrup T-38 Talon, and to better prepare new military pilots for the future advanced aircraft they will fly later.
     
    This X-Plane 12 is a totally new release, on the X-Plane 11 version. As in reality it is mostly a complete rework of the aircraft. Admittedly the XP11 version was at the time lacking in any real world data on the aircraft, not even the performance had been published, and those aspects have been now fixed here. This is now a far, far more refined simulation. The T-7A comes in three versions; TX prototype, T-7A advanced trainer and T-7N Navy version.
     
    The modeling is actually very good, but more different at a distance in quality,. The Lo-Res closeup like the XP11 version is still there to a point here, but this time around in X-Plane 12 the PBR and lighting effects really bring out the quality and realism and give the aircraft far more depth in the air.
     
    Features are excellent and very modern, R2C “Roll to See” POV camera, "Target Track" which points, locks and follows AI planes with pilot camera, AGCA - Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, "Virtual" ground and In-Flight Refueling capability and Track-IR and VR compatibility are all great features, notable are the "Auto" tools for Flaps, Gear, brakes and Speedbrakes are advanced features as on the real aircraft. Great Static Elements and probe are also nice menu additions, in that also the menu has been simplified but now more effective. So also changed is the old "Up-Front" Display from the complicated grid display, overall all are great improvements. Instrumentation and weapons are an all military style glass system, clever and well replicated here. There are some compromises with your view movements with the speciality view tools used in the features here, so forward and rear movements are restricted. Restricted GPS auto track is also limited with no edit or add position access.
     
    The biggest maturity with X-Plane 12 however is in the flight dynamics and handing for the T-7A. This is a more benign but more controllable machine, gone are sharp pitches and the sudden jerks of the Autopilot actions. The T-7A is more smooth and now handles like a trainer aircraft should, I wasn't completely convinced on the Red Hawk's earlier dynamics, but this new improved XP12 version is a revelation in this current form, and I really simply love it now, but it still requires time to learn the systems and tune into all the aspects of this aircraft.
     
    You get both the new X-Plane 12 and updated X-Plane 11 version T-7A with the package, currently there are no upgrade deals.
     
    So overall the new X-Plane 12 version of the T-7A Red Hawk is a massive step forward, it looks, feels, and handles far, far better in it's new environment, so the trainer of the future is here now, and it comes with a big YES from me.
    _______________________
     

     
    The  T-7A Red Hawk XP12 by AOA Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store:

    T-7A Red Hawk XP12
    Priced at US$36.00
    Advanced Features SASL 3.16.1 based plug-in system “Roll to See” dynamic pilot POV camera option (non-VR mode) points pilot camera based on pitch, roll and G forces "Target Track" points, locks and follows AI planes with pilot camera Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System Fly from forward or aft cockpits as student or instructor "Virtual" ground and In-Flight Refueling capability Track-IR and VR compatible AviTab tablet integration (Download AviTab plugin separately)  Cockpit based on preliminary assessment of prototype T-X screen shots Head Up Display Up Front 32 points touch screen control and display panel Large format glass panel with embedded G1000 color moving map Multiple sub panel page options Dedicated engine data display  
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11  (both versions included)
    4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 429 MB Current version: XP12 1.0 (September 29th 2023)    This aircraft is noted as a new version, to date there are no upgrade deals from the X-Plane 11 version, but that may change. ________________
     
    Installation and documents:  download for the T-7A Red Hawk is 429Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "Fighters" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 521MBb
     
    AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft
     
    Documents supplied are:
    2019 CRS report T-7A Red Hawk program.pdf Get Me Flying, NOW!.pdf Printable Checklists Red Hawk bases.png Route around Europe.png T-7A User Guide.pdf Training Flights  

     
    Documentation consists of a Quick Look overview, User guide, and the official CRS T-7A report... also provided is a Speed Chart (png), Checklists, and Red Hawk Bases and Route around Europe (png) and a "Get me Flying NOW!" tutorial
     
    Designed by  Fabrice Kauffmann and David Austin of AOA Simulations Support forum for the T-7A _____________________
      Update Review by Stephen Dutton
    21st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KSTL - St. Louis Lambert International Airport by StarSim-KSTL (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$22.00
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  11. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in New Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client v3.0   
    New Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client v3.0
     
    The X-Plane Simulator first got an Updater Client with FlightFactor, and the X-Updater application back in 2018. Based on Java, the application could remotely up date aircraft files directly to the installed folder. First it scanned the current files in the folder, then compared the list with the one on the developers application, the missing files were then uploaded to the users folder, and the older files were then removed. The system allowed the user of not having to download the full aircraft package (say from the X-Plane.OrgStore) every time there was an update. Biggest savings were when the developer want to do a quick, or urgent update or patch. The Updater Client could do the job far quicker and remotely for you.
     
    Personally I didn't use X-Updater in the early years. It had a habit of not downloading and inserting the files "Cleanly", so I was always trying to fly buggy, file damaged aircraft, a few of those and I always then went back to the full complete download from the Store to be safe of a clean download.
     
    Later came the Skunkcrafts Updater by Lionel Zamouth. The Skunkcrafts Updater was slightly different from X-Updater, in that it was created as an X-Plane Plugin Application, so it sat in your Resources/Plugin Folder. It worked, but you had had to switch out of your current loaded aircraft to update it, it was a little slow as well, in processing the ever growing list of aircraft.
     
    So here is a new version of the Skunkcrafts Updater Client v3.0. It is a slightly different version in that it is now a desktop Application and not a Plugin Application. The new updater has been by Lionel Zamouth completely written from scratch in go with the fyne UI library and takes advantage of concurrency, so allowing up to 32 simultaneous downloads (configurable). The Application is available for Windows 10/11 (.exe), MacOS (both Intel and Apple Silicon.app) and GNU/Linux (tested on Ubuntu 22.04) (.lin) and you place the required app file into your main X-Plane root folder...  On MacOS you must authorise the app for it to run through Settings/Security.
     

     
    Clicking on the Updater file will activate it, and then you can save the Icon to the Taskbar (windows) for easy use.
     
    The interface format is the same, if slightly more modern in look and feel, but you use it exactly the same way as before...
     

     
    You can "Rescan all local Configurations" to check for new additions to the aircraft folder (Sceneries and Plugins can also be updated), then "Check all available Updates" to see if any aircraft need updating...  of which the updater will show on the list. Finally "Update or repair all Addons" will go through the list and do the remote updating of the files. You can of course update any single aircraft, by selecting that aircraft and doing the singular "Update or repair all Addons" selection.
     

     
    When all done, everything in the list should be green, and successfully updated.
     

     

     
    There are a few options you can choose from. One is the amount of concurrent downloads you can use (to 32) and the text size of the interface.
     

     
    Several enhancements are very noticeable...  you don't have to close an aircraft now to update it, or mostly you would usually run the v3.0 Skunkcrafts app before you run the X-Plane Application. It is FAST, seriously Skunkcrafts is now far faster than before, and the (confusing) BETA logo is now more prominent and accessible. The Application feels far, far more sturdy as well, it works fast and clean for me. So it is a very good update to the tool.
     
    Overall all Updater Client tools have evolved very well over the last few years from their buggy beginnings. More reliable, and yes even I is using them on a regular basis without now downloading the complete file package. This is a very nice, even welcome update to the Skunkcrafts Client tool.
     
    You can download this updated v3.0 Updater free here;
     
    SkunkCrafts Updater Standalone client
     
    Just press the "Download Link!"
    ________________   Plugin Application by Stephen Dutton
    18th August 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Right Reserved.  
     
  12. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2023   
    Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2023
     
    Optimism, loads of optimism. After the late release of X-Plane 12 in 2022, compiling the last Year in Review 2022, I was in an optimistic frame of mind, the worst had to be behind us after all. At that point X-Plane 12 had finished it's beta run and had gone final 16th December 2022, just clear up the few issues and by Easter we should have a very stable Simulation tool to do our flying in. I was ready for a better year and so was everyone else...  then it all just as quickly fell apart.
     
    Laminar Research
    Within days of the New Year with a new release in v12.01r1 it was not a great start to the New Year, in hindsight, there was even a mention of it in the November Q&A, as Laminar wanted more framerate, a better smoother none dropping frames Simulator. But what we got was massive "Vulcan device loss errors", odder clouds and the high winds which were also more nastier than ever, lighting was now even darker and harder to use as well.
    It all felt like very backwards jump...  a mess really, and costly in my case with the immediate requirement of a new graphics card. It didn't end there. GRIB Files that X-Plane 12 uses for the Simulator for downloading live global weather went wonky, .dds files also started to fail. Admittedly a lot of these spot fires were quickly fixed, but the GRIB took a few days as they were on a American national holiday weekend. So for the first time on a few occasions in the year, my X-Plane Simulator was actually non-working for a few days, the .dds files and the GRIB blackouts (yes there was two blackouts, with another later in the year) causing most of the damage.
     
    Laminar's focus however was somewhere else. It was called Zink. With the change to the Vulkan/Metal API, a lot of the original OpenGL plugins didn't work. So Zink was installed to convert (or to be a bridge) between the old OpenGL and newer Vulkan/Metal API's. I don't use Zink, mainly because I don't have a big library of plugins, but a lot of computers also needed the fix as the AMD users out there got a lot of flickering and CTD (Crash to Desktop).
     
    It was not a very good start to the year, and X-Plane 12 thoughout the next few months was a not a bundle of fun either. First relief came in 12.04b1, late in February. That release fixed a lot of the New Year problems. At the end of March 2023 came v12.05b1, and Laminar finally delivered the update for their A330-300 . Here finally it included in this release was the custom MCDU for the aircraft, which was due on the original release of XP12.
     
    v12.06/7 in Mid-August did live up thankfully to it's game-changer forecast. It fixed the weather (not completely, but far better) and came with Cirrus high level clouds and now none of those hideous pyramid shape clouds, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford class in X-Plane now had a full complement of static aircraft, cranes, tugs and more, on deck and below in the huge deck hangar. ATC also got a huge makeover.
     
    There was another big advancement update in v12.08, this release covered Landing Gear Physics, and made aircraft easier and more realistic to land (takeoff as well). An annoying X-Plane anomaly for years was finally fixed and the flight model got improvements to the way that X-Plane simulates engine performance, projector warping/blending was also totally revised, as was networking and the “totally out of VRAM” crashes.
     
    Biggest announcement with v12.08 was that X-Plane was having an increased price of from the 1st of November 2023 to US$79.95, from US$59.95, the first in a decade, and that a new X-Plane version numbering system would be coming (after v12.08) to v12.1.0, adding in an extra digit for more frequent updates. That aspect will certainly change the way we resolve issues quicker in 2024.
     
    X-PlaneReviews started an annual new roundup review in September called "State of the Union", this was to fully detail the changes of X-Plane 12 from it's public release date, and there is a lot here to browse on the fully detailed on the X-Plane 12 changes to that yearly date.
     
    In reality 2023 ended far, far better than it started for Laminar Research. There was some magic hidden in X-Plane 12.08 that made the Simulator smoother, easier to use...  finally the tool was maturing.
    But with X-Plane 12 already a whole year late, then another year in limbo, the Simulator per se had taken many many hits. This aspect shows below, delaying projects and keeping developers away to consume MSFS 2020, the impacts on the Simulation landscape was all to see. But X-Plane did actually and finally get there, the Simulator feeling now more better and cleaner than ever before, being more benign and thankfully usable. I have had the best six weeks flying for a long time, the relief is in my relaxed view of 2024. It might even tempt those still on X-Plane 11 to come on over?
     
    Microsoft Flight Simulator 2022
    First is "Why is this here in an X-Plane site?". Because it is a reference between the Simulators, and the gap between them grew immensely wide over the year 2023. February kicked off with World Update XII New Zealand, In April Oceania, June France and Texas, July Central Eastern Europe, August Western Europe, November Nordics and Greenland, the Caribbean, and the last of the year is European Cities 1. Development updates were on average two, to three a month. Added aircraft included Antonov An-225 Mriya, Model 307 Stratoliner, Aero Vodochody Ae-45, MU-2, Dornier Do X, Saab B 17A and the Carenado 207...
     
    At the FlightSimExpo in Houston, Laminar Research was there, well sort of with just the PR Guy and Phillipp Ringlar in attendance, and they were competing with Asobo Studios/Microsoft, who arrived to announce the next installment or version of MSFS, called "Flight Simulator 2024". Austin Meyer or head developer Ben Supnic were also notably absent, as Asobo read off a load of X-Plane features including helicopters, SARS, water and fire particles, oil rig scenery and landing pad, crop dusting, wildfires and even animated skydivers... on top of that they also threw in a Ford 4-AT Trimotor for good measure.
     
    But it is the sheer gargantuan absolute volume of releases coming out on to the MS platform in 2023 that was simply gobsmacking, every person and their dog is doing something to cash in on the goldmine, but oddly they are not only mostly middle-regional scenery and odd flier classic aircraft, at really low prices. The worry as a layman with a normal income, was how could you simply buy all this? even picking the low hanging fruit, it would have a serious impact on your bank-balance...  it is a marketplace that is currently creating more questions than it answers? as hundreds of brand new developers are getting in the game, they all can't survive.
     
    Trend of the year
    In most areas over 2023 it was divided significantly into two categories. New products of which there were few, and the main market which was the transition market of products created for X-Plane 11 being reimagined for X-Plane 12, most were upgrades (pay), but a few were also updates (free). These products dominated the year, and currently most of the quality transitioning product is now mostly all transferred to the X-Plane 12 platform. As noted last year, as a lot of product became obsolete, a majority of X-Plane 10 aircraft and even scenery that crossed over to X-Plane 11 now finally succumbed to their fate, so the results are a much more smaller scale of aircraft and scenery available for X-Plane 12, that said these products in X-Plane 12 are of a much higher quality and have far better detail than their earlier counterparts, but your hangers are certainly more than empty than a few years ago.
     
    Aircraft
    As major releases go, then 2023 was very, very quiet. In fact only two major releases covered the whole year, the biggest and best was the X-Crafts Family E-Jets in May. Four different variants (with the Exec still coming) it was a great vision into the X-Plane 12 dream of extreme quality and features, the ERJ Series is also coming from X-Crafts in 2024, another one to look forward to with the same high quality standards.
     
    ToLiSS was extremely busy in 2023, not only releasing an Airbus A320-271N NEO in March, but also introducing not only a new menu interface, ground vehicles, ice clearing features, many, many more circuit breakers, but then spreading the good word over each of the other ToLiSS Airbus products to the same standard. Their flag bearing certainly climbed higher in the year, consistent with brilliant features and products, they are at the top of their game at the moment.
     
    Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG) merged into Flight Procedures Simulation, and released their own version of the E-Jet. Unlike the X-Crafts, this E-195 was not totally new, but a very highly redevelopment of the earlier SSG Embraer E-Jet, it was very good, and at a much more lower price, so it was in reality an E-Jet year if you loved these regional hub-spoke busters. In reality, that was all that was new in airliners this year.
     
    For X-Plane 11 aircraft, that was transitioned to X-Plane 12 it was a bit of a feast. Early Colimata did another excellent update to the Concorde FXB v3, and the SSG Boeing 748 had loads of incremental upgrades all year. The most notable was the Rotate MD-11 with several updates and the revised Rotate MD-88 Pro was also very welcome in May. The Felis Boeing 747-200, also had many an update right throughout the year, and some quite considerable, it is a complicated Simulation but highly rewarding.
     
    The DeltaWing Simulations CRJ 1000/900/700 was always having numerous updates, and the series came to a far more better quality Simulation, as a first ever developer release it was commendable, but there is still far more refining required to be truly great.
     
    INISimulations did hold up their promise to update the A300-600, who would have thought, not a spectacular X-Plane 12 revise, but at least users were happy to see the aircraft actually available. IXEG also finally updated the Boeing 733 to XP12, and it came with a new cabin as well for your US$15, still a great Simulation, if not one of the best.
     
    FlyJSim had a very quiet year, but at the end the Boeing 732 and 727 upgrades still didn't make it into X-Plane 12, both are to be worthy additions to the Simulator, expect early 24 . FlightFactor were also nowhere to be seen in 2023. The Boeing 777 v2 was previewed a few times and a rough cut was shown at the Expo, but the promised release again never happened in Q4, but now a noted certainty for a public beta in March 2024, the still in development FF Boeing 787 Dreamliner also had a few sneak previews as well, but don't expect anything there until late 24. Notable in another release for 2024 is an ATR 72, in fact two with one noted from Deltawing, the regional prop is well overdue for the X-Plane Simulator.
     
    General Aviation
    Generally the trend was the same with General Aviation, a few new aircraft, but the majority were transitioning aircraft from X-Plane 11 to Twelve.
     
    Aerobask started of the the year with the Diamond DA-42 NG, to follow up their Katana DA20 late in 2022, also the Epic Victory G1000, Lancair Legacy RG and the Epic E1000 G1000 Edition all had revisions to X-Plane 12. If you like your Diamonds, the SimSolutions upgraded the DA20-C1 Eclipse and DA40NG. COWS also announced a DA-42, later to be also ported to the MSFS platform, this was August, and yet to see the light of day (a lot of promises). At the end of the year Aerobask also released the Shark UL, a genuine release for X-Plane 12, it was excellent with the custom Skyview Touch Avionics.
     
    There was the cute Van's RV-8 /8A Duo by AOA Simulations, but most of the year in GA belonged to Thranda Design. They started off early with a brand new (XP12 only) Cessna 377F Skymaster, then another new design BN-2A Islander XP12 in June. Then they upgraded in succession the Daher Kodiak 100, then weeks later the 172M Skyhawk to XP12. In October it was the turn of the XP12 upgrade of the classic DH-2 Beaver. There was also another Cessna 337G pressurised version from Skytouch of which I really liked.
     
    AirfoilLabs upgraded both the KingAir 350, and the 172SP, and later the 172SP with an Analog cockpit (again just lately). vFlyteAir only upgraded their Piper Twin Comanche PA30 to X-Plane 12, and again nothing new in 23 from these premier GA developers. Considering their backlog catalogue, JustFlight had a quiet year, the upgrades only covered the Robin DR400, and Piper PA-28-181 Archer TX/LX to X-Plane12, there seems to be a waning interest to continue to support X-Plane from this English developer.
     
    NhAdrian did the excellent cheeky Rand Robinson KR-2S, and X-Hangar updated a lot of their aircraft, mostly from as early as X-Plane 10, and finally we wrapped up the GA segement in 23 with an upgrade to the Aerostar 601P from Avio71, and a nice way to see in Christmas.
     
    Classic Aircraft
    Since dividing into three separate variants the DC-3. vSkylabs updated the C-47 Skytrain and the DC-3 Airliner significantly, though the analog and glass instrument versions moved them even further apart. Late in the year Khamsin and Skunkcrafts updated the P-51 Mustang to X-Plane 12.
     
    Business Aircraft
    This category was very quiet this year with nothing new released. Aerobask surprisingly didn't release the much vaunted Falcon 6X, it was expected, even now well overdue for release, so we will move on again to 2024 for that one. The winner of the 2020 best Bizjet the Citation C-560XL by AirSim3D was upgraded to X-Plane 12 with the serious results, really it was the only significant release of the year. The AKD Studio GulfStream 550, had almost monthly updates throughout the year, and yes the detail and quality are now showing, but it still needs that something extra to give the aircraft the polish it needs, I liked flying it though.
     
    Military
    This Military segment was quite busy this year. Highlight was of course the release of Colimata's supreme F-104 Starfighter, only released for X-Plane 12 later in the year, certainly a landmark release for all the right reasons. Another oddity was the He-162 Project from Vskylabs 'Test-Pilot' series. The rest were transition aircraft from X-Plane 11. MLADG revamped three aircraft for XP12 in the MiG15, Aero 29 Delfin and the Messerschmitt bf109.
     
    AoA (Angle of Attack) had three revision aircraft released, the excellent T6A Texan II, the F22 Raptor and a completely revamped T-7A Red Hawk for X-Plane 12, all great value, AoA are also releasing a V22 Tilt-rotor for 2024! There was FACO's F-15 package, and the Grumman F7F Tigercat was converted to X-Plane 12 by Virtavia.
     
    Helicopters
    After a few very productive years it was a quiet one with no helicopter releases in 2023 for Cowansim, he went to MSFS with his aircraft conversions, and there was no announcements if any more X-Plane 12 aircraft will be released or converted in the future. Back in full flight though was the master himself...  Dreamfoil Creations, with the transition of his Schweizer S300CBi to X-Plane 12. It was a brilliant comeback, and all the rest of the Dreamfoil fleet in the AS350, B407 are all following in succession in 2024. Talking of 407's, then on the brink of Christmas Eve, JRX released their excellent Bell 407 for both X-Plane 12 and 11.
     
    Excellent also was the Eurocopter EC130 B4 for X-Plane 12 by HSF. This modern machine came with loads of options including a Medivac version, HSF also released the Alouette III as a freeware, and it is well worth the download. vSkyLabs released the Hungarocopter HC-02 in October, and it was an interesting mite of a machine. The X-Trident CH47D Chinook had a quiet update to X-Plane 12 in June.
     
    There was a few of oddities this year 23 in machines. One was the Gerry Anderson inspired Vskylab Skyscenders 76, three very different orbital bodies to master, a lot of fun as well. VSkyLabs also released the boatlike ICON A5 as well. NHAdrian produced two very different concepts in the AirCar Project, and yes it is a real flying car...  the highlight though was the amazing LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, an amazing concept to try, and fly like a Lunar Lander.
     
    Scenery
    I have already mentioned the colossal amount of scenery being released for MSFS 2020. It is simply mind-boggling and even overwhelming... overall even a bit silly. How much of this scenery can you actually use? Yes X-Plane scenery will never be on par with Microsoft's Flight Sim, but at least what we have released is actually usable. Sadly the cross-platform (except for a very few) pollinations between the Simulators has not emerged either, but let us see what 2024 delivers before saying the last rites.
     
    The biggest scenery story of the year was AutoOrtho or streaming ortho imagery. Some bright spark wants to recreate the Microsoft ortho steaming system in X-Plane. To a point it is very successful, but a fast internet connection and a powerful computer is required. The trick is downloading the tiles as you need them, not storing the tiles on your computer, but I'm not a fan of flat photo images, or jerky simulations. To add on top, another success this year has been SIM HEAVENS X-World scenery Series. Now far better coordinated and comes with better realism, it does start to deliver the sort of visual requirements X-Plane desperately needs. But ultimately they are both clunky additions to the simulator, requiring a lot of wasted power to work. But the enthusiasts swear by them.
     
    In the Laminar Q&A. Austin Meyer finally acknowledged that after a year or even years of consistent griping. That X-Plane does need a newer and better scenery system, and that Laminar are now evaluating ideas and theories to up the visual content. More highly (data) dense tiles are coming short term, but a complete new system to replace the DSF limitations is also finally on the white board. You would say X-Plane 13 for this, but I don't think that Laminar have that a long wait time in three years to meditate around the problem...  one story to follow in 2024.
     
    There was a few gateway dumps, one in the first quarter, then another later in the year, and both were comprehensive. Suddenly we had Golf Courses everywhere, and then shipping became more realistic, but overall the promised ports and even more autogen buildings failed to materialise in 2023. They noted to be part of v12.1.0.
     
    Again like everything this year there was many conversions to X-Plane 12 from X-Plane 11, but still even quite a few good sceneries were released. Like mentioned there wasn't a lot, but the few we had were very good and highly usable.
     
    X-Codr was very, very busy. He updated his mammoth KDEN with everything you could name, it was complex but a serious statement of what X-Plane can deliver, even moving escalators and people. More importantly it was the sheer quality of the buildings that stood out. Other smaller sceneries from X-Codr also stood out, KMMH-Mammoth Yosemite, KSEZ-Sedona, Grand Canyon West - 1G4, KTEX-Telluride were all excellent.
     
    Maps2XPlane (via Aerosoft) delivered not only an (XP12) update to their sensational Faroe Islands XP, but added the even more extravagant remote Svalbard XP in July (a personal favorite). Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini spent the year updating their earlier sceneries over to X-Plane 12, we started off with the Alps UHD package at the start of the year, Dolomites in March, Banff National Park UHD in August and finally Everest Park-Nepal 3D in late November.
     
    We left 2022 with the Taimodels EGLL-Heathrow, and we had some great experiences with Taimodel's scenery in that year, and in 2023 they didn't disappoint either. It started rather slow with KSMF-Sacramento, then VHHH-Chep Lok in Hong Kong followed in April. Another smaller scale airport with Newport News / Williamsburg, with then another biggie with Oslo Gardermoen Airport in August. Closer to home turf we had YBCS - Cairns International Airport in Australia in November. A pretty impressive output, all great value.
     
    Cami De Bellis was back after a health break to update her particular style of scenery. All projects got the X-Plane 12 treatment with both first La Tontouta Noumea and Dolpa Nepal in June, quickly followed a few weeks later by Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl and Paro Intl Airport, Butan. New from Cami however was the excellent FHSH - St Helena Airport, the place in the South Atlantic were Napoleon ended up.
     
    HSimulators converted his FlightSim pole landscapes to X-Plane 12, with both the Grand Arctic Scenery and lower Antarctica Mega Scenery XP12 adding landmass to the X-Plane Simulator. NorthernSky Studios heavily upgraded PAJN-Juneau International and PAEN-Kenai Municipal Airport, and added in the new PAWG - Wrangell Airport, all in Alaska. His focus is now on both XP and FS Simulators, this showed in the lower release output for the year.
     
    As he broadens the mix, ShortFinals Design only up dated the magnificent EDDM-Munich to full X-Plane 12, but there are a lot of projects coming in 2024 from ShortFinal, including a completely new revolutionary bigger scale autogen system.
     
    There was two new releases from Aerosoft with Airport Marseille XP (Brilliant) and Menorca XP (not so brilliant), and Dortmund XP12 was upgraded later in the year. Sadly considering the considerable amount of Aerosoft scenery for X-Plane, very little, if any are being updated to X-Plane 12? If 2024 doesn't deliver, we could be seeing a lot quality Aerosoft scenery being abandoned in the future.
     
    Orbx did deliver a brilliant YBBN Brisbane and an addon Brisbane city scenery very early in the year...  but nothing else.
     
    Other standouts included the KJAX-Jacksonville International by FS Designs, Montauk Airport by Skytitude, and two airports I used a lot in 2023 with ESGG - Göteborg Landvetter Airport by Chudoba Designs and the great effort of KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim.
     
    So what's the summary of 2023 for scenery? Again the numbers are far better than what you expected, and a far lot of it is seriously quality scenery. X-Plane 11 turnover to X-Plane 12 is say just above the average, I expected more, so again 2024 is going to interesting to watch.
     
    Plugins
    I will state upfront that I am not a huge plugin connoisseur, so I only run what I call essential plugins in my simulator, running the VRAM profiler (Menu/Developer) can give you the horrors of how much these little monstrous tools can gobble up your framerate and their overall efficiency, I take out as many of these laggards as possible.
     
    Again there were a a lot of tools to adjust your skies, but the best was VisualXP Extreme, it is well worth the money. The biggest noise of the year was the new Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client v3.0. Moved from your plugins folder to your desktop, it was an excellent highly fast new tool. There was the Scenery Enhancement tool X-Oil Rigs Vol 1, Vol 2, and X-OilShips Vol 1, that filled up the oceans, and it gave a little more activity to your water views.
     
    Navigraph was again the king of the tools, now they added in Weather Layers to Charts 8, plus later also added Flight Telemetry, ATIS, OFP. The companion SimBrief also had a major layout overhaul, and was present directly now in a lot of the most advanced aircraft simulations.
     
    WebFMC Pro, WorldTraffic 3 and Traffic Global all had updates throughout the year. But I found major conflicts with the JustFlight tool in 2023, with time and replays that went past annoying and creating desktop crashes.
     
    X-PlaneReviews
    X-PlaneReviews as a site in August passed the decade busting 10th Anniversary of providing quality and detailed reviews for the X-Plane Simulator. Yes we have been here for ten and half years and in this year 2023 have delivered even more consistent reviews than any year before.
     
    The team has grown as well...  besides the dynamic Dominic Smith, who also contributes immensely to the X-Plane.Org Weekly Roundups and Developer Interviews, is a major contributor in X-PlaneReviews as well, plus the extra talented reviewers of Alan Ashforth (alpeggio), Peter Allnutt, Dennis Powell, Nick Garlick, Stéphane Tolédo-Paul (Tieman68), David York (datadave), Stuart McGregor (Scottish Wings), DrishalMAC2, Michael Hayward and Joshua Moore, all genuine talented and contributors to not only X-PlaneReviews, but to X-Plane in general.
     
    Passing a major Anniversary always makes you look back, but also forward. Certainly we have met our goals in providing invaluable information and details on the X-Plane Simulator. Again this review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting and incredible product to fly and use, as they and X-Plane has come a long way and created leaps in quality and complexity in the last few years, certainly in the jump to X-Plane 12, and to a point I was very proud of the work they have produced, it is world class if not the very best in simulation product ever produced, and they are all top notch and very clever. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with review products, service and updates, a really big thanks to Nicolas Taureau, as this site just also would not function without that outstanding support.
     
    _________________________
     
    We will finish off with the X-PlaneReviews famous best of the year awards…   So I will now list my Best of the Year 2023🏅
    (note the awards are given to only products I have seen and tested and so the only ones I can vouch for)
     
    Overall Best of the Year : E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts 🏅 🏅🏅
     
    Best Aircraft : E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts.🏅
    A look into the future of X-Plane 12 quality and design, it jumped off the screen at you in the incredible detail.
    Honorable Mention : Any ToLiSS aircraft, just delivers on any level.
     
    Best General Aviation Aircraft : Aerobask Diamond DA-42 NG
    Aerobask were very consistent with quality aircraft and interiors, almost every release was perfection, but the DA-42 NG just nudged above
    Honorable Mentions : All Thranda Design output was excellent with clever ideas, but lately they have become incessantly dark, externally and internally.
     
    Best Classic Aircraft : A tie here, Felis Boeing 747-200 and Colimata Concorde FXB v3
    Both the B742 and Concorde FXB are not new, but seriously improved over the year with X-Plane 12, both seriously complex as well.
    Honorable Mention : P-51 Mustang from Khamsin and Skunkworks, glad to see new fresh blood in the water.
     
    Best Business Aircraft : Cessna Citation 560XL XP12 by AirSim3d
    We said it would be great in X-Plane 12, and it is, but the category overall was below par this year. Aerobask Falcon 6X anyone.
     
    Best Military :  F-104 Starfighter by Colimata 🏅
    Insanely clever and insane to fly, it is X-Plane at it's Skunkworks best.
    Honorable Mention : AoA T-7A Red Hawk, certainly the most improved of the year.
     
    Best Helicopter : Eurocopter EC130 B4 by HSF 🏅
    The talented Frenchmen made a big impact on Helicopters this year with the EC130, and with the freeware Alouette III
    Honorable Mentions : Dreamfoil Creations, with the XP12 transition of his Schweizer S300CBi, the master was back!
     
    Best Landscape Scenery : Svalbard XP by Aerosoft Maps2XPlane🏅
    Sublime and distant, all the Svalbard Islands were covered in detailed landscapes, just make sure to see them in the Summer.
    Honorable Mention : Dainese and Bellini condensed all their packages to make better products, brilliant in X-Plane 12, but nothing new on the shelves.
     
    Best Airport Scenery : KDEN - Denver International by X-Codr 🏅🏅
    Not a new scenery, but KDEN was a totally revamped project that had everything, it was spellbinding in detail and clever animations.
    Honorable Mention : Taimodels delivered the most and detailed sceneries consistently, filling in areas that have been wanting for years.
     
    Best Plugin(s) : Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client 🏅
    A plugin... it was, but still the biggest standout tool of the year, it's so fast!
    Special Mention(s) : Navigraph for their excellent navigation tools, and seriously clever new additions.
     
    Person(s) of the Year : ToLiSS
    The developer that just consistently delivers outstanding authentic ideas and systems, yes my vote goes to person that saves me days by reviving crashed or loading aircraft back to life perfectly, with the SAVE feature
     
    Best Moment of the year 2023 : Nothing really stood out, but the first viewing of X-Crafts E-Jet was mind-blowing.
     
    Worst Moment(s) of the Year 2023 : Not the worst, but the most embarrassing moment was the Asobo Studios/Microsoft reeling off the new features for FS 2024, they were almost gloating. Personally, when my Graphic Card expired because of an overloading X-Plane 12 vulkan device error, it was expensive to replace.

    Biggest distractions of 2023 : ...  It was very dark in there....  pitchblack! 
     
    Biggest overall feeling of 2023 : Tough hard year, but the outlook towards 2024 felt far better towards the end of 2023, X-Plane 12 was finally starting to shine, but it took a long time to get there.
     
    Personal Favorites of 2023 : Any ToLiSS (the save system allows ultimate flexibility) and they got the most hourly flying time, Q4XP (Dash) brilliant, Rotate MD-80 still awesome, MD-11 bigger awesome, Thranda C206G, IXEG 737 Classic returned with a cabin.
     
    Routes...   Copenhagen, Copenhagen and Copenhagen, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona, Roma, Helsinki, Oslo, Munich, Tel Aviv, London Heathrow and Dulles and Sydney. Notable is that with the newer scenery, Brisbane, Amsterdam finally came on-line in 2023.
     
    That is X-PlaneReviews for 2023, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns again early into the New Year on the 3rd January 2024.
     
    So Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2024
     
    Stephen Dutton
    23rd December 2023
    Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2023
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)  

     
     
  13. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack   
    Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack
     
    In March 2024, Angle of Attack Simulations released for the X-Plane 11 Simulator the T-7A Red Hawk. The Boeing/SAAB T-7A Red Hawk is the US Air Force’s newest fast jet training aircraft. It was designed to replace the more than 50 year old Northrup T-38 Talon, and to better prepare new military pilots for the future advanced aircraft they will fly later.
     
    The first T-X aircraft flew on 20 December 2016 via the T-X program. The Boeing-Saab team then submitted their entry after the Air Force opened the T-X program to bids in December 2016. In September 2018, Air Force officials announced that Boeing's design would be its new advanced jet trainer, under an up-to-US$9.2 billion (~$10.6 billion in 2022) program and would purchase 351 aircraft, 46 simulators, maintenance training and support. This contract has options for up to 475 airplanes in total.
     
    The aircraft entered series production in February 2021. In April 2021, Saab Group delivered one aft section of T-7A aircraft to the Boeing St. Louis plant. In July 2021, Saab had delivered the second aft section to the Boeing St. Louis plant. Boeing will splice Saab's aft section with the front section, fins, wings and tail assembly to become a complete test aircraft for use in the EMD's (Engineering and Manufacturing Development ) flight test program. The first production T-7 was rolled out on 28 April 2022, and the first flight of the T-7A production aircraft was conducted from St. Louis Lambert International Airport in June 2023, by Major Bryce Turner, a test pilot with the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Steve Schmidt, Boeing’s chief T-7 test pilot. On 21 September 2023, the first Red Hawk was shipped to the US Air Force.
     
    By November 2023, the USAF was now actively considering the possibility of turning the T-7 into an armed combat aircraft. Conceptually dubbed the F-7, such a jet could provide roughly the same capability as a fourth-generation fighter which could maintain force numbers as F-16s aircraft are retired, and could also replace older Northrop F-5 and Dornier Alpha Jet platforms on the export market. The single production Red Hawk was deployed at Edwards Air Force Base for advanced testing for this role.
     
    X-PlaneReviews covered the release of the AOA T-7A Red Hawk in an X-Plane 11 review: First Impression Review : T-7A Red Hawk by AOA Simulations
     
    It was an interesting review. Remember that the aircraft at the time was still really at it's experimental stage and AOA only had limited information on the aircraft performance and design capabilities, overall it was a very good representation of the new era trainer and it's features.
    Here is the X-Plane 12 upgrade to the aircraft, a new release version, as the number is noted at v1.0, the same as the original X-Plane 11 release version. The T-7A is again released as three versions; TX prototype, T-7A advanced trainer and the T-7N Navy version.
     

     
    The T-7A has a thorough modern design and feel to the aircraft, fully carbon composite in construction, as it looks to the future, and not to the past in aircraft design. The X-Plane look and feel is quite different from the bland X-Plane 11 look, with now more depth and better shadows...  however look closely and the poor resolution skin is still there with very blurry text and logos, a real shame as AOA had a chance to update with X-Plane 12 in these areas to give the aircraft detail more depth, add in 4K, even 8K textures and bring out the quality to a higher standard.
     

     
    That said AOA aircraft (the Raptor) was the same, are brilliant at a distance, but become lo-res in detail at a close up inspection. But the Hawk here is definitely, if a massive improvement over the XP11 version with the X-Plane 12 PBR and lighting effects now active...
     
    The gear and inboard bays are the same as well. Well done but starchy white, yes this is a pre-production aircraft and clean, that said it is really well done in the excellent complex detail and design.
     

     
    Ditto the engine inlets, too modeled, still too noticeably bright (distracting) from the external.
     

     
    The rear exhaust is again well done, better here than with X-Plane 11, even though the textures are the same, same with the twin-vertical rudders, with the same modeled (not textured) joints.
     

     
    Canopy and glass is still as good, very nice with depth and nice curves and reflections, a requirement with a trainer aircraft. So in the transition, in modeling and texture terms the T-7A is in reality the same, but thankfully X-Plane 12 does add in a bit of flare because of it's superior lighting. and dynamics, after three years the X-Plane 12 version is far superior.
     
    The "T" is in "Trainer", so you have a twin-seat aircraft, with the rear for the instructor/observer. Both flight instrument and controls are exactly the same, so you can fly the T-7A from the front or rear (an option here).
     

     
    Compared to say the F-104 Starfighter, it is highly minimalistic in the cockpit, very little switch gear and everything is on the one large and two smaller instrument displays...
     

     
    Left side panel gives you Lights, Engines, Electrical and the chunky throttle. Right side has DOORS (Canopy, IFR, BWS), IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) or Transponder, right is also the Joystick controller. The internal mirrors now can be hidden with a click, not in the usual earlier menu option. Notable is the laptop AviTab, it can be rotated from Portrait to Landscape positions, but not hidden.
     

     
    There are two main instrument panels, the selection "Up-Front" Display (UFD) and the lower wide "Panoramic cockpit" Display. There is a third Engine/Fuel display that is positioned right, with both switchable numbers and percentage displays... 
     

     
    The "Panoramic cockpit" display covers eight different choices,  with three displays with the NAV/MAP central and two switchable screens left and right. But you can use the top 1 2 3 4 pre-set buttons to change the display.
     

     
    Left button options include; Aircraft Configuration, ADI (Attitude Direction Indicator), Flight Controls and RWS (Target mode). Right buttons include; MAP, HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), SYS (Systems) and NAV. The NAV/MAP range is selected by pressing the ZOOM-IN and ZOOM-OUT selections, and the Pop-Out is the XP G1000 panel display.
     

     
    Note on the ground On the ground, aircraft configuration is shown and a start-up checklist is provided in the left column. Once airborne only the applicable information is then displayed. Overall the "Panoramic cockpit" display is the same as the X-Plane 11 version.
     
    The "Up Front" top display is however different in X-Plane 12. In reality the UFD has been simplified, gone is the complex grid layout, to a more easier accessed display...  press the NESW logo to change the UFD to a "Compass" Page.
     

     
    Outer knobs adjust (left); HDG (Heading), SPD (Speed), TST (Test), HUD (on/off). Right knobs include; ALT (Altitude) VVI (Vertical Velocity Indicator) RDR (terrain follow altitude) and screen Brightness. Lower options include NAV tuning and bottom COM tuning.
     
    There are 54 pre-set GPS (VOR 2) options that can be inserted (active) by pressing the D->. You can add in your own GPS frequency, but it is a messy and tricky process with a text editor, it would have been nice to have had an easy way to add in the function.
     

     
    Selecting VOR or GPS selection is oddly via the SRC, not the GPS, so it is hard to find. Also selecting the headphones on the COM, you can go into "Silent" mode on the radio.
     

     
    TST (Test) mode is very good, and TAC/VOR toggle: NAV1 is a combination VOR or TACAN radio.
     

     
    There is a backup ADI (Artificial Horizion), with a barometric pressure set knob. If the HUD power is OFF then airspeed, altitude, and heading are presented in the backup ADI.
     

     
    There is also a click spot “cheat” for the IFR door toggle in the upper right corner of the display. (IFR - In Flight Refueling)
     
    Menu
    The Menu system is the same X-Plane Banner placement, but the menu selection is very different, with now only two selections with; "Ground Equip" (Equipment) and "Options". Previously there were 10 options, but that has been reduced down to only these two.
     

     
    Ground Equipment, (Static Elements), selecting ground equipment will give you flags, pitot cover, large side stairs and engine intake covers... Newly added for XP12 are chocks (finally) and a rear exhaust outlet cover (very nice).
     

     
    Options: For the "Options" there is now a new Pop-Up dialog box with ten selections. First three selections are the "Auto" control of Flaps, Gear and Speed Brake systems, off is Manual control. Then Canopy Reflections on/off and Baro/Temperature switch.
     

     
    Left column has; TX Nose Probe, Navy Version with twin-nose wheels, tailhook and refueling probe...  The External Power doesn't give you a physical GPU externally, just the internal power supply, it also oddly kills the Static Elements? "Quick Start" will set the T-7A ready to fly with the engine running, and the "Back Seat" set you in the rear instructor seat, not the forward seat.
     
    Overall the Ground Equip and Options selection is now far better coordinated and certainly easier to use than in the earlier XP11 layout.
     
    Liveries are the not same three as before with... US Air Force T-7A (Default) and  TX - Prototype still present, but the US Navy Arctic Camo has been dropped to be replaced by the T-7N Navy Hawk. There are also a load of additional liveries available here: T-7 Red Hawk
     

    ______________
    Flying the T-7A XP12
    The Red Hawk is a trainer aircraft in a sequence of levels to acquire a full Jet Fighter certificate under the JPATS or Joint Primary Aircraft Training System. Entry level is Student on the T-6A Texan ll aircraft (propeller), that then moves to the T-1A Jayhawk in SUPT roles, then the T-38C Talon is used in the advanced pilot training role, but the T-5A category (APT T-X Program) is for the advance training to fourth and fifth generation aircraft (i.e. computer based) and multiple system based technology capability.
     
    The first thing you notice in the cockpit of the T-7A is on how so very minimalistic everything is, I will note that a lot of this new technology capability is also built into the pilot's helmet that can not be replicated here in X-Plane (well not yet anyway). AOA do however show you how to set up your joystick with XP commands that does certain actions, and the XP A.I. (AI Aircraft) is also similarly set up for hostility operations and refueling. The GpsFPLInput plugin by Gtagentman is also recommended to be installed as well.
     
    First there are a couple of settings in the T-7A to understand before takeoff. First is the "NWS" or Nosewheel steering, it's a tricky one to get right...
     

     
    I lost a bit of time with this one? First of all if it shows NWS in the HUD, the steering (via Nosewheel Tiller yaw) won't work? to get it to be active you have too have set (keyboard or Joystick button) the command "Nosewheel steer toggle" to activate the steering, it shows by the HUD icon changing to T-7A (or T-7N -Navy), then you can steer the Red Hawk. I will note that I also lost a considerable amount of time because the steering still didn't work with the NWS steering set correctly, even the developer couldn't work it out....  the cause was actually Laminar? I found that when X-Plane 12 loads, it loads with the "Landing gear" lever in the up position? And yes I have complained to Laminar to fix it!  but that was the cause of the non-steering this time...   put the lever in the correct down position and you will have steering.
     
    Second is the BWS or "Brake With Stick", which will use the Joystick to control the braking, pull back slightly to release the brakes, the use of the stick on the takeoff or landing roll, then push forward to brake, a neutral stick then releases the brakes. But it's tricky to use, and you feel initially the aircraft is locked down. To deactivate, then switch it off via the BWS switch far right on the "DOORS" panel. My advice is to turn off all these "Auto" helpers in the BWS, Flaps, Gear and Speed Brakes, and fly the T-7A manually, then turn them back on individually to see how they work, everything turned on together can be confusing to a novice, when the aircraft is doing all the actions for you, they are very good, no doubt, but also control the aircraft in an systematic way.
     

     
    Taxiing is a little tricky if you go too fast, the Hawk will wriggle under the stick, so keep the knots down, otherwise it is a nice ride.
     
    Full Throttle and the "afterburner" igniter kicks in, and you power off down the runway, speed at full thrust is colossal.
     

     
    Rotation was around 250 knts, high, but no flaps here, and the Hawk just powers into the air. Gear retraction is excellent, and very realistic. Note I set the flaps at 4% next time, and that was about perfect for a (shorter) run takeoff.
     

     
    I have to quickly reduce the throttle, if not would break the sound barrier at a low level... the speed numbers are just twirling up so quick.
     

     
    Now in a (fast) cruise I fly by St Louis City...  time to feel out the aircraft. First of all the X-Plane 12 version feels very different than the XP11 release. Yes those fine touchy movements with stick are still required, but the machine feels far, far more refined, as a lot of the earlier feel was very touchy, certainly in the pitch. I'll hold my hand up and say I wasn't in liking the earlier feel, the aircraft I loved, the control I wasn't that fussy about...  but this is now a revelation, this is FANTASTIC.
     

     
    Although a trainer aircraft, it still has to perform to a standard, a high standard if you are going to mirror a fifth generation fighter. And so the Hawk does. Back on the throttle and you climb...  33,500 ft/min (170.2 m/s) or 10, 211 m/min to a ceiling of 50,000ft...  WOW!
     

     
    There is a bit of a trick here, keep increasing the Vertical Speed (V/S) until you match the increasing/decreasing speed and until they both slow and then hold steady together, it is a fabulous ride. Your at an altitude of 30,000ft in no time. Maximum projected speed is Mach 1.05, with a general cruise speed of 526 kn (605 mph, 974 km/h), and a range of around 990 nmi (1,140 mi, 1,830 km).
     

     
    Turning is unusual in the T-7A. The aircraft has no ailerons, as the tail elevator does the all work here. So if you turn into a bank, then the turn is slow and wide... no matter the bank angle? To get the turn tighter you need some rudder control to twist the Hawk into the direction you want to go...
     

     
    ...  a touch of back-stick is also required to stop the nose dipping downwards. So it is a more physical machine to fly than before.
     

     
    Then there is the "Roll 2 See” or R2C feature. This is activated by the left side instrument switch...  and the function is shown in the menu left bar
     

     
    Basically you now move with the aircraft (or roll with it)...  left, right, up or down. At first it can be a bit discerning as you lose your perspective control, but it works well, certainly in following low terrain or deep in a canyon which is highly recommended. Again another to be switched off until you are familiar with the aircraft, and best experienced in flight, unless you are used to using the R2C system.
     

     
    It's the same with "Target Track mode" that is displayed on the icon bar. The Target Track takes command of the pilot point of view
    camera in order to point the camera at a selected AI plane (the target) and then follow it. Then keeping it in view at all times until you change the view to either 2D or the usual 3D. To activate the TRK mode, you need to be in the 3D cockpit view. The R2C rocker switch is switched ON, you have “Weapon select” and “Target select” completed, then  “Weapon select up” once to enter “Track Mode”, then click “Target select up” once or more to your preferred target. Tricky to get right! but clever when it works.
     

     
    Track-IR and VR headsets do work well, but they do require complete control of the pilot POV camera.
     

     
    GCAS
    Ground Collision Avoidance System protects the airplane and the pilot by estimating time to ground impact and restoring level flight using the auto pilot. As the aircraft approaches the ground two converging arrows appear in the HUD along with a time to impact. When the arrow meet in the center then the system will enter a recovery mode (FLY UP) to avoid ground impact....  sounds like fun... not!
     
    Notable is the IFR (In Flight Refueling) the switch is on the DOORS panel, and recesses the IFR panel top of the T-7A.
     

     
    GPS
    As noted you can set any of the 54 pre-set GPS (VOR 2) options or place coordination of say a AFB or City. When selected (GPS) the aircraft will then track to those coordinates, very good it is...  but what if where you want to go is not in that set list (for me St Louis KSTL). Like mentioned it is not easy to add in a new pre-set location, and the ones in there can over-ride the GPS system...  so a system is required by AOA to allow you add in a new GPS coordinate into the system easily is definitely required? I found it frustrating, even useless to use, unless you only fly out of a USA AFB.
     

     
    Lighting
    Because of the dynamic views features, you do find some view tools restricted even in 3D use, so you are sort of locked into the seat, and you can look up, down and side to side, but you can't move around like forwards or backwards...  so the lighting images are restricted here. It is basic anyway, the instrument lighting is good, but locked with no adjustment except for the UFD with a knob on the panel. The only adjustment is the "Overhead Light" on the ELECTRICAL panel, one for front and one for the rear. The canopy reflections are excellent and can also be turned off if to distracting.
     

     
    Externally the Red Hawk is basic, there are no "Formation" lights? or even a red beacon light. The T-7A's landing lights are on the undercarriage, so they only work when the gear is down...  here the lighting has been tuned to XP12, and very nice it looks.
     

     
    As mentioned, I wasn't that in liking the T-7A earlier, we just didn't gel as a partnership. Maybe it was the total automation of the aircraft? This time around for X-Plane 12 I have turned most of the automation off, odd yes, but I found the aircraft came alive in my hands when it did, maybe it was because I felt I was in control, and not the aircraft. It is an interesting point.
     

     
    I only left the "Speedbrake" Auto switched on, but found you still could not drop the flaps (manually) until you had dropped the gear down.
     
    Approach is around 175 knts with full flap 56%. The flaps marker will flash, then only go solid when you are at the full flap position.
     

     
    This time around I found the Red Hawk so much more docile on the approach, rather than with those earlier wild erratic movements. I could sit there elevated in my position and fine tune the approach with ease, its a trainer aircraft, this is what it should be like for the novice airman.
     

     
    Throttle control is very nice, and you can easily adjust your height approach by slight forward and rear movements of the lever, just a smudge below 150 knts and you have the perfect slight nose up angle finals.
     

     
    More nose up going into a high flare, reduces the speed to 130 knts, you feel like an Eagle feathering the tips of your wings ready to land.
     

     
    Touch was around 128 knts, it felt faster, as the auto Speedbrakes kicked into action.
     

     
    Lovely, nice...  perfect landing, what more do you want. Notable is that I had to reset the NWS to T-7A to get my steering working again before tuning off the runway, otherwise I was very impressed with the XP12 Red Hawk.
     

    __________________
     
    Summary
    In March 2024, Angle of Attack released for the X-Plane 11 Simulator the T-7A Red Hawk. The Boeing/SAAB T-7A Red Hawk is the US Air Force’s newest fast jet training aircraft. It was designed to replace the more than 50 year old Northrup T-38 Talon, and to better prepare new military pilots for the future advanced aircraft they will fly later.
     
    This X-Plane 12 is a totally new release, on the X-Plane 11 version. As in reality it is mostly a complete rework of the aircraft. Admittedly the XP11 version was at the time lacking in any real world data on the aircraft, not even the performance had been published, and those aspects have been now fixed here. This is now a far, far more refined simulation. The T-7A comes in three versions; TX prototype, T-7A advanced trainer and T-7N Navy version.
     
    The modeling is actually very good, but more different at a distance in quality,. The Lo-Res closeup like the XP11 version is still there to a point here, but this time around in X-Plane 12 the PBR and lighting effects really bring out the quality and realism and give the aircraft far more depth in the air.
     
    Features are excellent and very modern, R2C “Roll to See” POV camera, "Target Track" which points, locks and follows AI planes with pilot camera, AGCA - Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, "Virtual" ground and In-Flight Refueling capability and Track-IR and VR compatibility are all great features, notable are the "Auto" tools for Flaps, Gear, brakes and Speedbrakes are advanced features as on the real aircraft. Great Static Elements and probe are also nice menu additions, in that also the menu has been simplified but now more effective. So also changed is the old "Up-Front" Display from the complicated grid display, overall all are great improvements. Instrumentation and weapons are an all military style glass system, clever and well replicated here. There are some compromises with your view movements with the speciality view tools used in the features here, so forward and rear movements are restricted. Restricted GPS auto track is also limited with no edit or add position access.
     
    The biggest maturity with X-Plane 12 however is in the flight dynamics and handing for the T-7A. This is a more benign but more controllable machine, gone are sharp pitches and the sudden jerks of the Autopilot actions. The T-7A is more smooth and now handles like a trainer aircraft should, I wasn't completely convinced on the Red Hawk's earlier dynamics, but this new improved XP12 version is a revelation in this current form, and I really simply love it now, but it still requires time to learn the systems and tune into all the aspects of this aircraft.
     
    You get both the new X-Plane 12 and updated X-Plane 11 version T-7A with the package, currently there are no upgrade deals.
     
    So overall the new X-Plane 12 version of the T-7A Red Hawk is a massive step forward, it looks, feels, and handles far, far better in it's new environment, so the trainer of the future is here now, and it comes with a big YES from me.
    _______________________
     

     
    The  T-7A Red Hawk XP12 by AOA Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store:

    T-7A Red Hawk XP12
    Priced at US$36.00
    Advanced Features SASL 3.16.1 based plug-in system “Roll to See” dynamic pilot POV camera option (non-VR mode) points pilot camera based on pitch, roll and G forces "Target Track" points, locks and follows AI planes with pilot camera Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System Fly from forward or aft cockpits as student or instructor "Virtual" ground and In-Flight Refueling capability Track-IR and VR compatible AviTab tablet integration (Download AviTab plugin separately)  Cockpit based on preliminary assessment of prototype T-X screen shots Head Up Display Up Front 32 points touch screen control and display panel Large format glass panel with embedded G1000 color moving map Multiple sub panel page options Dedicated engine data display  
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11  (both versions included)
    4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 429 MB Current version: XP12 1.0 (September 29th 2023)    This aircraft is noted as a new version, to date there are no upgrade deals from the X-Plane 11 version, but that may change. ________________
     
    Installation and documents:  download for the T-7A Red Hawk is 429Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "Fighters" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 521MBb
     
    AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft
     
    Documents supplied are:
    2019 CRS report T-7A Red Hawk program.pdf Get Me Flying, NOW!.pdf Printable Checklists Red Hawk bases.png Route around Europe.png T-7A User Guide.pdf Training Flights  

     
    Documentation consists of a Quick Look overview, User guide, and the official CRS T-7A report... also provided is a Speed Chart (png), Checklists, and Red Hawk Bases and Route around Europe (png) and a "Get me Flying NOW!" tutorial
     
    Designed by  Fabrice Kauffmann and David Austin of AOA Simulations Support forum for the T-7A _____________________
      Update Review by Stephen Dutton
    21st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KSTL - St. Louis Lambert International Airport by StarSim-KSTL (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$22.00
     
    (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. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Upgrade Review : Piper Aerostar 601P X-Plane 12 by Avia71   
    Aircraft Upgrade Review : Piper Aerostar 601P X-Plane 12 by Avia71
     
    Aerostar held the speed record for fastest twin piston general aviation aircraft. It is capable of cruise speeds from 220 kn (408 km/h) for the earliest 600 models to 261 kn (483 km/h) for the later 700 models. Light construction, low drag and high powered engines also contribute to fast climb rates...   The Aerostar is a goer, fast, famously fast as it did drug running and created a movie with Tom Cruise in it called "American Made".
     
    Piper Aerostar (formerly Ted Smith Aerostar) is an American twin-engined propeller-driven executive or light transport aircraft. It was designed by the famous Ted R. Smith. It was originally built by Ted Smith Aircraft Company, which after 1978 became part of the Piper Aircraft Corporation. It also has shades of the Aero Commander in the design (another Ted Smith design), but with an almost jet trainer tail section, wings are almost swept forward. But the cabin size is huge at 1.17 m (3 ft 10 in) in width and 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in) in length. The Aerostar is the sports car of the air to the utility truck like Commander.
     

     
    The Aerostar 601P was released in X-Plane 11 by Avia 71, in July 2018, the "P' version denotes it is the Pressurised version of the 601, it comes with an increased gross weight and 492 were built.
     
    The Avia71 601P aircraft has collected a few updates in the intervening years, and now with this the transition upgrade to X-Plane 12. Yes it is a pay upgrade, but original purchasers of the X-Plane 11 version can upgrade to the X-Plane 12 version for 50% off.
     
    X-PlaneReviews did a full XP11 release version review here...  Aircraft Review : Piper Aerostar 601P by Avia71
     
    In the review I loved the aircraft, better was the 601P update v1.4 in January 2019 that added in VR (Virtual Reality) and X-Plane's final 11.30 compatibility. So here is the X-Plane 12 conversion, if any aircraft would certainly benefit to be available in X-Plane 12 it is the Aerostar.
     
    Externally the X-Plane 12 version is very much the same, but now seriously benefits from the XP12 more better lighting effects. The XP11 version felt a bit bland in that earlier period, but that is not the case here, as the effects bring out the shape, shadows and generates the 601P of being more alive.
     
    The 601P is nicely modeled, but to understand that in this price range you are not going to get ultra realism, not in the Thranda aspect certainly...  that said the details are well done and as noted seriously benefit from the XP12 lighting and PBR. Power is still provided
    by two Avco Lycoming TIO-540-U2A flat six counter-rotating piston engines, rated at 350 hp (261 kW) each.
     

     
    There are no new features with the XP12 upgrade, but a few areas have been refined, improved and updated. The lighting provides more far more depth to the instruments. Before they had a more flat(ish) feel, but the instrument panel looks far better here in the XP12 601P.
     

     
    The instruments do provide that earlier era feel to the aircraft, and the developer has aimed at recreating the mid-sixties design authenticity.
     
    The cabin is as noted 3ft 10ins across, as it may be, but it looks bigger inside than say almost four 12 inch rulers put end to end? Brown vinyl outer with the nice straw like matting inserts gives you the right feel, seating is for pilot+five passengers or three children across the rear bench.
     

     
    The famous wooden slat blinds are excellent here, really realistic.
     

     
    Both yokes can be hidden independently, and there is a ADF pointer dial and bottom far right is a Garmin NAV2 alignment dial. Lower panel is a Bendix/King KR 87 ADF receiver and a Bendix/King GTX 320A Transponder (don't forget to turn both ON). Avionic equipment includes a Collins AMR 350 radio top, then the X-Plane native Garmin 530 GPS unit. An early Garmin NAV2 Radio is next and this is connected to a Bendix/King N1/N2/ADF readout panel for NM, Speed (kts) and Min. Lower stack is a very authentic NARCO KWK 66 weather display, with the highlight of the ST3400, which is inspired by the SANDEL ST3400 that shows TERRAIN or TOPO and Wind direction top right..
     
    Menus
    The menu tab "71" (left middle screen) is gone for X-Plane 12. Now the menu selection is positioned in the X-Plane banner menu
     

     
    The menu also now called "Tweaks & Stuff", consists of five tabs that cover: Checklist, Weights&Balances, Cabin Altitude (Calculator), Data&Maintenance and Magics. A welcome page pops up when you first start the aircraft. The menus are now also scalable for size, and still can be moved around the screen.
     
    Checklists is a fifteen page checklist (a hard copy is provided as well) and it is important to get the right sequence of setup of the oxygen/pressurization system (it's complicated). Clever is the use of dots lower menu, to navigate the checklist.
     

     
    Weights&Balances menu is a excellent...    You can select five extra 3d passengers that are shown externally in the aircraft, and can also choose to hide each person at will via the red spots. You can't adjust their actual weight's but the averages are fine in lbs/kgs, Fuel is left and right wing tanks 372lbs (62 US GAL) per tank maximum and a centre (fuselage) tank 249 lbs (41.5 US GAL) maximum. There is a payload (baggage) selection to 2336 lbs/1060 kg and then you are noted as "Overloaded".
     

     
    Cabin Altitude Calculator is a helper to compute your cabin altitude setting and the differential pressure. Just press the required altitude to show the computation.
     

     
    Data&Maintenance gives you your time of board (and on ground percentage %), Engines Operating time (hours) and time to your next service. Tire health and your two battery health percentages are also shown. You can fix the Batteries, Change the tires and fix your engines via the buttons.
     

     
    Magics, replaces the old "Option" title. This tab has four options (Magics!) to choose from. "Spanner" is Mechanical Management, that allows you to state to keep your previous mechanical state or repair all parts at the start of each flight. "Fuel" states allows you to either keep the last fuel level recorded or set an average fuel state for each flight.
     

     
    The "Cone" tab can set static elements like cones and wheel chocks...  the final option is a "Pill"? This will either forget all your current data (on the Data page) from previous flights or keep all your current data active for this flight, in other words you keep all the data or just the data from this current flight. New is the option to hide the passengers all internally, but not externally, which is a bit odd?
     
    Documents holder
    Down to the pilot's left (arrowed) is a clipboard that acts like a pop-up documents holder. The original XP11 Doc Holder was not very good and very hard to read. That has been revamped here for X-Plane 12, with now a scalable pop-up that is far more usable.
     

     
    Navigation is via the banner tools, BACK, DOWN, UP and SELECT...  it's simple and works well.
     

     
    You can add in your own documents via a .png 1150X1733px 72dpi image that is placed in the aircraft's/CUSTOM DOCS/CHARTS folder. Note the title uses the Aerobask system for navigation...  so the document titles have to be correct. Tricky to do, but not impossible and it is explained in the Manual. Here I inserted charts for KDAB or Daytona Beach. A needed function missing though is "Rotate" to rotate the charts from Portrait to Landscape?
     

     
    Other Document options include; "Cheklists" (Checklists) and "Miscellaneous".
     

     
    There is the Split main door which is well done, but quite a step up without still the lower step? It is opened either internally, and now externally as well. Note the nice feature of the Propeller feathering, it is also well done and looks authentic.
     

     
    I will note the internal boundries. I didn't like them at all this time around, as they don't give you a lot of movement in the cabin, and you always seem to bouncing off the walls and sitting slightly centre. I don't remember the boundries being this over-constricting before?
    _______________
     
    In the air the quirks of the 601P soon again become apparent. First is the loud (twin) alerts for the engines RPM, when over the 25 RPM red marker, then you will get a warning light for each engine and a lot of noise...  but setting the throttle below this speed makes the aircraft fly really slow, at around 170kts...  So there is a bit of Merlin magic required...
     

     
    ...  you set the Prop (Propeller) levers oddly to nearly mid-gate, same adjustment with the Mixture levers in a leaner lower setting, then the reverse happens as the Aerostar builds up speed like a Saturn 5 Second Stage ll and up goes your speed...
     

     
    ...   get the levers postioning right and the 601P just flies along (yes, pun intended).
     
    Then there is the complicated pressurisation system. There was the pressure calculator you require on the menu tab, then you must seal the door (that switch) and make sure all the panel indicators are on and green, then set the cabin altitude, and the cabin rate to full increase. Once climbing you then have to move the cabin rate to full decrease, then reset the cabin altitude to the desired altitude and then adjust the rate of climb until you reach your altitude... once there you have to keep your eye on the DIFF PRESS as It should never exceed 4.25 PSI. and if exceeded, then an alarm knob warns you (yes another loud alarm) on the right panel. Then just do the reverse procedures to go down.
     

     
    If you do the pressurisation procedure correct, then you can climb, fast...  or around 1,840 ft/min (9.4 m/s), to a ceiling of 25,000 ft (7,620 m), so the Aerostar is an interesting aircraft, and the details or features if you want to call them that, are really well done by Avia71, and the feel and use is as note very era authentic as well.
     

     
    While flying (nicely) along at 200 knts, I looked at the instrument panel...  it was different, almost black? I remember a cream lighter style panel on the X-Plane 11 version?
     
    There were originally seven liveries, including the "American Made" N164HH. In this XP12 version you now get eleven liveries...
     

     
    ...   plus four different panel colours (Cream, light Green/Blue, Dark grey and Black, depending on the choice of livery.
     

     
    Sounds earlier in X-Plane 11 were already FMOD, but here updated to FMOD2, and are glorious, great thrumming under load, well coordinated to the sublime cabin noise, I really love them, except when the alerts make you jump out of your skin! They are VERY loud.
     
    Lighting has also had the X-Plane 12 treatment, looks lovely inside, and the panel really shines. There are two forward overhead spotlights, and four spots in the rear cabin, all switchable and they all look very nice.
     

     
    External lighting is quite basic, Navigation, Strobe and Taxi/Landing in the nose...
     

     
    Another 601P quirk is the flaps...  flip the lever down for a change of flap at UP-10º-20º-30º-FULL and it flips up again till you press it again for another drop position and you do the same flipping operation upwards to retract, it's easy but tricky at the same time, as it is hard to see what flap selection position you are in and even counting noises doesn't really work. so it is mostly a feel and guess on what speed and flap position your are actually in... and in time you will certainly get used to it, but it is not easy at the start. My steps were 130knts (guessing) for 10º, 100 knts for 20º and a nice approach speed, 30º at 90knts and then a final drop to FULL at 85knts...  77 knots (143 km/h; 89 mph) is your stall speed.
     

     
    Now we are low(ish) to ground, we can also look at the undercarriage, which is very nice and well detailed in wear and is worn visually.
     

     
    Handling is really great, the control in your hands is perfect, as the 601P responds very nicely to any inputs. My only concern is the Aerostar flies very nose (or pitch) down, at high altitude at full power, but it is also very noticeable when in the approach phase, you can adjust for it obviously, but it doesn't feel natural. As you go into the final descent, this aspect becomes far more pronounced, no matter the speed or flap position, and I couldn't dial it out, go too slow to lift the nose and you just lose height?
     

     
    Avio71 has overall certainly done more work on the flight model this time, took their time and got it right. The earlier original release also had a few bugs, but everything this time around felt more tighter and smoother in X-Plane 12.
     

     
    Over the fence at a 100 kts, I found it hard in the flare, yes to get the nose to rise, it did a little, but the landing was a bit on the three gear points together. Maybe one to practise?
     

     
    Yes I totally love flying the Aerostar 601P, it is a fast all-rounder, certainly far more matured in X-Plane 12, this is a really nice and well conceived transition to the upgraded X-Plane Simulator.
     

     
    Summary
    In the areas of value and features you get a lot of aircraft for your money, and a very iconic aircraft at that as well, with this Aerostar 601P from Avia71. And many of the features provided here are all very clever, very authentic to the Mid-Sixties era, to the aircraft and it's operations. Now the Aerostar 601P is upgraded and available in X-Plane 12
     
    Features include the complex pressurisation system, active circuit breaker panel, fuel system including X-FEED, Flap system, Century X Autopilot and authentic NARCO KWK 66 Weather display and SANDEL ST3400. Systems save parameters between flights in data and maintenance or can be set for just one flight and excellent menus with checklists, weight management, cabin altitude calculator, maintenance, stats and options. Sounds have been updated to FMOD2, and overall are better and more consistent.
     
    The original modeling is more conspicuous, as there is now more depth and better PBR, so those earlier white liveries don't wash out the finer details anymore, but the animated roof blinds and the very realistic weathered undercarriage are still standouts. Feels far better in the flight dynamics as well, although the nose pitch in flight and approach is a bit worrying. Any comments are with the passengers, I feel they need a bit more work, certainly less saturation, and the internal cabin boundaries are too restrictive. 
     
    A few review aircraft that X-PlaneReviews fly, become far more interesting with the more time you spend with them, and certainly the Aerostar falls well into that category, it sort of goes deeper and deeper with the complex but interesting systems and the overwhelming great ideas that are at play here. And the more I fly and tune into the aircraft, then the more you really, really like it, so interesting to very interesting is the words to sum the aircraft up.
    Better is this refined X-Plane 12 version, time has been taken to get it right, and In this price range then it is excellent value and it is quite different in a flying machine and in the way that you even interact with it, but then again the 601P is a Ted R Smith aircraft as well and he certainly made very different and interesting aircraft, so in that aspect the Avia71 Aerostar 601P certainly honors the legend of it's creator. Overall highly recommended.
    ______________________
     
    
     
    Yes! the Piper Aerostar 601P XP12 by Avia71 is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

    Aerostar 601P XP12
    Price is US$29.95! 
      
    Features
    Ultra High Definition Model 4K Textures throughout Full PBR High quality 3D model FMOD custom sounds Fully VR compatible Reality-XP's GTN 750 integrated  Features Fully functional 3D cockpit Custom menu containing checklists, weight management, cabin altitude calculator, maintenance, stats, options Custom instruments Custom pressurization system Custom animations Disengageable system for saving parameters between flights Customizable documents holder (read your charts, checklists... in flight) Custom fuel feeding system Complete set of original checklists 7 liveries + paintkit Auto-Updater Keep your aircraft up-to-date with SkunkCrafts auto-updater Easy to use Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (not for XP11)
    Windows, Mac, or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 490 MB Current version : XP12  (December 17th 2023)   Customers who own the Aerostar 601 for XP11 can get this new XP12 version for 50% off. Coupon code can be found in your original Aerostar Invoice ________________
     
    Installation and documents:  download for the Aerostar is 488Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 657MBb
    Authorisation is required, and a restart. Updates are via Skunkcraft Updater.
     
    AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft
     
    Documents supplied are:
    Avia71_AEROSTAR_601P_Checklists.pdf Avia71_AEROSTAR_601P_Manual.pdf  

     
    There is good Documentation provided here, not only for the 601P including: performance charts, reference guides, avionics and a printable checklist.
     
    All updates are via the new Skunkcrafts 3.0 Updater
     
    Designed by Avia71
    Support forum for the Aerostar 601P _____________________
      Aircraft Upgrade Review by Stephen Dutton
    19th December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KRSW - Southwest Florida International Airport by Aerosoft  (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$24.95
    - KDAB - Daytona Beach by Aerosoft / Stairport Sceneries (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$28.99
     
    (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. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : Shark UL XP12 by Aerobask   
    Aircraft Review : Shark UL XP12 by Aerobask
     
    It is a versatile nimble aircraft, fast as well!    this is the "The Shark" or Aero Shark, which is a conventionally laid out, single engine, low wing ultralight aircraft, light-sport aircraft which seats two in tandem. It was first flown on 19 August 2009 and it is built in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic by Shark.Aero. It has optionally fixed or retractable landing gear.
     

     
    You gotta have to love that tail...
     

     
    The fuselage of the Shark is formed with integral fin seat backs, floors and instrument panel. The fin, set forward so the rudder's trailing edge is above the elevator hinge line, is shaped like sharks dorsal fin, high and strongly swept with a curved leading edge. There is also a small ventral fin. From the fin forward the upper fuselage line rises rapidly to merge into the side hinged, single piece canopy. There is baggage space behind the cockpit. Both of the tandem seats have flight controls.
     

     
    Structurally, it is a mixture of carbon-fibre and a small amount of glass fibre composites, with PVC foam filled aramid honeycomb structures sandwiched between the panels. The wing main spar is a dismountable two-piece carbon fibre beam which joins under the front seat; an auxiliary spar carries the aileron and flap mountings. In plan, the leading edge is elliptical, and there is slight taper on the outer trailing edge where the ailerons are mounted. Single slotted, electrically-operated flaps occupy the rest of the trailing edge. Like the wings, the slightly swept tailplanes are also easily detached for storage or transport.
     

     
    You can see where the wings detach, plus the exposed gear in the bays. "UL" represents the retractable undercarriage and the variable-pitch propeller variant as delivered here. Power is by a Rotax 912ULS flat-four, air and liquid cooled engine of 73.5 kW (98.6 hp), connected to a 3-bladed Duc Hélices variable pitch composite propeller.
     

     
    Go into the roll and the Shark responds nicely, climb, then twist and dive, and the aircraft feels SO well balanced and super-smooth to your inputs, in the States the Shark is known as a light-sport aircraft (LSA) (as yet not yet registered) but has certainly all the correct dynamics and the feel for that "Sport" moniker.
     

     
    As noted the Shark is Fast...   Maximum speed is 300 km/h (190 mph, 160 kn) with a cruise speed of 250 km/h (160 mph, 130 kn) economical...  it will climb at a 7.4 m/s (1,460 ft/min) max, to a ceiling of 4,100 m (13,500 ft). G-limits are also high at +4/-2
     

     
    Sounds are quite extensive, even excellent here with a full FMOD environment by sound pro Daniela Rodriguez Careri. It comes with accurate doppler effects, distance attenuation and flyby effects. The headset is simulated as well.
     
    The Shark also comes with the "Dynon Skyview" Avionics package. A G1000 sized display that has a lot of Garmin G1000 features but comes here with more functionality in depth. Here are a few images of the display working in the air, we will go through the Skyview details and functions later.
     

     
    From the rear you have basic instruments. Artificial Horizon and Speed/Altitude Tapes. The undercarriage indicator (selector) is also present, fuel selector, throttle and joystick, but no rudder pedals?
     

     
    I know you want to check out the goodies in the Shark, so I head back to Half Moon (KHAF)...   correct altitude and speed, I approach RWY 12, but the flaps won't extend...  "what the?".
     
    I have been warned about this odd foible on the Shark, so I pull up the nose to rub off the speed...
     

     
    Even well low in the white flap line at 72 knts, I still get no reaction from the flaps...   it is noted that the flaps won't activate above 65 knts for the first extension, 60 for the second and 55 for the full flap position, so you have to run off a LOT of speed before the flaps become active?
     

     
    So it is a bit of a skill or game to get the speed and flaps in position and ready for landing, it takes time, you go slower, then even slower to rub the speed off....  the gear also has a "Pressure Switch", so it won't retract or extend until you reach or are below a certain speed (62 KIAS (115 km/h)...   right finally both are done!
     

     
    You can twist this very agile aircraft on a dime to tightly turn the Shark back to the runway, the handling is so docile, so controlled, you can put the aircraft pretty well anywhere you want to, very easy to trim.
     

     
    Approach is interesting...  the Shark is not a throttle feel aircraft, so adjusting the throttle will certainly have an effect on your altitude or descent speed, it is not everything, as you will also need some nose (pitch) angle to help you out as well. This was more apparent in descending from an altitude, say 5,000 ft to 2,000 ft, as you required a lot of down forward pitch, which was required to lose the height no matter the throttle position.
     

     
    Approach speed with full flap is a super-slow 45 knts, your just hanging up there, taking your time to line up the runway perfectly, again the handling here is superb....  love it!
     

     
    Your approach is so low, so slow...  you can even do some lawnmowing at the same time, easy peasy.
     

     
    Super-handling...  X-Plane's v12.08 new landing wheel inertia, it works wonderfully here, as you are finally in total control of the aircraft and in the landing, you want as you touch around 42 kts (ish), slight nose flare!
     

     
    ...   and your down stall speed is a super-low 35 kts. Love it, yes I totally love it.
     
    This is the first all new aircraft from Aerobask for quite awhile, and is only for X-Plane 12 (X-Plane v12.08 is required). After spending most of the year upgrading the Aerobask fleet for X-Plane 12....  So it is nice to have something totally new and different to look at and fly. Notably the Aerobask and their quality have already a very high prestige, that upper echelon of that X-Plane users will buy on the name alone, no matter the aircraft they deliver.
     
    Aerobask also specialise in composite modern aircraft, and the Shark is a current production aircraft since 2019. So the Shark UL fits the brief perfectly.
     
    On the ground the Aerobask quality is certainly very evident. Detail is composite super-smooth, but all done to perfection. Love the Shark gills cooling.
     

     
    Landing gear is perfect in design and genuine detail, trailing link, but with enough give (movement) to make it totally realistic. That fin tail and fine wing are both again super-smooth and really well done, so overall there is absolutely nothing in the exterior or the modeling scale that demands attention of any criticism, the standard today in these aircraft are extremely high, so you sort of expect it at this level.... but it is still nice to admire the skilled work.
     

     
    Bubble canopy is also perfection, lovely glass and reflections, you can almost want to open it with your own hand, it opens sideways to the right, almost glider like.
     

     
    Twin-seat cockpit is tight, almost like a two-man bobsleigh, certainly tight in the rear... 
     

     
    Frame with slim cushion seats are excellent, highlighted by the bright red seatbelts...  you sorta slip into the aircraft and not get into it, as is so tight...  comfy?  notable is the rear (few) instruments mounted on the canopy, not the fuselage. There are controls both front and rear, if very basic in the back of throttle, joystick (but no rudder pedals)
     
    That very high quality Aerobask interior design and materials are in abundance here. Carbon-fibre weave is highly realistic and in different combinations to match the interior design, seat frames are also Carbon-fibre, molded perfectly to realism. There is a soft vinyl lower/floor material, everything is glorious to the eye and completely authentic.
     

     
    For an Ultra light sport aircraft, the instrumentation is quite considerable. The Dynon SkyView HDX System is the headliner here, and starts with the display being available in both 10” or 7" sizes, in the Aerobask Shark we have the larger 10" version, and it dominates the forward view.
     
    The "Skyview Touch" is the main feature of the Aerobask aircraft, the first fully mostly authentic reproduction of this popular Avionic suite for the X-Plane Simulator. Even the "Pop-Up" is set in the Dynon Avionics bezel.
     

     
    The pop-up can be scaled from extremely small, to excessive large, and can moved to any part of your screen.
     

     
    The Skyview Touch is quite complex in functionality, you will need to study the system (on the ground, and don't try to wing it!) as you can easily get lost in the myriad of menus, it took even me a fair while to work it all out, in areas they are the same as the G1000 layout, but a lot of the Dynon system is quite different in selections.
     
    The PFD is the usual wide Artificial Horizon, with the standard Speed and Altitude/VS Tapes, Roll, Bank and Pitch markers, lower is a Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) with NAV 1/GPS BRG (Backgrounds), Speeds, Baro, Altitude, Wind, HDG (Heading) and CRS (Course) are all shown. First option is that you can switch from a HSI to a G-Meter, which you can reset.
     

     
    There is the CONFIG selection. PITCH allows you to set the climb angle you want, in 10º, 20º, 30º and 45º. SYNVIS will revert the Artificial Horizon to a colour background. SIX-PACK puts just the "Standard Six" instruments on the display, plus you can also have a neutral grey background.
     

     
    It is all exceptionally well done by Aerobask, and very authentic to the real Dynon.
     
    Layout options are quite a few. First you have the EMS or Engine Monitoring System, this can be shown in three positions in; left, right and centre. All engine outputs, temperatures and pressures are all shown, HOBBS and electrical outputs are also available.
     

     
    There is the standard Skyview PFD background as well as the wide MAP, or both together, and you can even switch them around. In the CONFIG, the "POPUP" selection is here as well.
     

     
    Other MAP options include; GREEN, SLATE, TOPO and TERRAIN...  you can also orientate the map HDG or NORTH UP.
     


     
    Flightplan input to the Skyview is via the Garmin GNS 430, this includes saved flightplans, building flightplans and procedures, it basically mirrors the GNS.
     

     
    Another big feature is the use of Navigraph charts in the Skyview. Obviously you need a Navigraph account, and to register the account before use (each time you fly actually?).
     
    In MAP, you then select the airport you want to access, this will give you the basic (X-Plane) airport data...
     

     
    ...  then in pressing CHARTS, you will then access the Navigraph database for airport charts, then selecting the chart you need. When you have selected a chart, the system goes looking, then loads in the chart you want.
     

     
    CHARTS are available in day or night options (night darker is far easier to read)...
     

     
    ...  and charts can be FILL, FIT, ZOOM (in or out) or just scroll (or moved) around the screen for the size you want.
     

     
    Hardware Dynon control panels are also provided. This is the  "Rotary Controls" for HDG/TRK, ALT & BARO (top-left), and the secondary "Knob Control Panel" (top-right). These two panels are set above the Skyview Touch. The AP (Autopilot) can also accessed directly in the Skyview Touch, also available are FD (Flight Director), ROLL, PITCH and LEVEL selections.
     

     
    The Dynon Skyview Touch is all so very, very good, and a totally though system to use. There is a video made by Aerobask listing the features of the Skyview Touch avionics system...  well worth looking through, and getting the general idea of all the functions.
     

     
    Other digital instruments include; Flybox PR1-P Propeller Regulator, Blaze EMS-2 3 1/8” universal engine monitor color display and a Flybox Oblò backup instrument.
     

     
    A ATR833-II 80mm radio (COM) produced by f.u.n.k.e. (manual provided) and an Aerospace Logic Chrono CO200 OAI (manual provided) are set lower, and note the row of Circuit Breakers (fuses). In the Shark the circuit breakers act also as the switches for the EFIS, Fuel Pump, Pitot Heat, and the three external lighting of Position (Nav), Strobe and nose Landing lights.
     
    Side panels are basic, Fuel Tank switch and Throttle left, and Joystick and a PS Engineering PMA4000 Audio Panel right.
     

     
    Notable in the cockpit is the detail, like the excellent canopy window, beautifully methodically createdl, it opens (slides) as well!
     

     
    Menu
    The Shark Menu is accessed via the banner "Plugins" menu "Shark UL Options Show/Hide". Secondary selections are via a "Hotspot" above the Shark Logo top right of the instrument panel, the Menus is also accessible via the "AviTab" tablet on the right side of the canopy.
     


     
    The Menu is the standard Aerobask menu layout, with four tabs; Ground, Options, Sounds and About.
     
    Ground: the first tab "Ground" gives you your FOB (Fuel on Board), and you can select kgs/Lbs and Gal in either of the two tanks, there is the option to "Balance" the fuel in both tanks, lower is your Livery selection. Right panel covers a few basic static elements (pitot cover and a single cone) and the operation of the rear pilot in; Always Visible, Installed Outside only or Not Installed.
     

     
    There are two very nicely modeled (meaning realistic) Female pilots, but there are no other options to swap positions or a choice of a Male pilot.
     
    Options: Covers the MAIN, in Instrument Pop-ups, Reflections, Navigraph Charts (subscription and switching to either Day or Night charts) and Breaker Reliability.
     

     
    All main instruments options are covered, for the SKYVIEW, CO200K, MD302, PR1P, EMS2 and ATR883
     

     
    Almost all options cover the instruments PopUp options, and temperature/pressure options.
     
    Sounds: This tab covers all your sound options in eight sliders, Internal, External, Pilots, Radios Environ and User Interface. There is the global options to Enable Sounds and Enable Speech.
     

     
    About: Last tab is the "Credits" for the Aerobask Developer team, the aircraft version No.# is shown in the banner.
     
    The AviTab Tablet as we have shown is also available (plugin required), it is the standard AviTab layout and tools, plus the built in Menu. Just press the right side button to hide.
     

     
    Lighting
    Lighting is pretty basic. Just the instrument lights (no adjustment) in the cockpit, and external Position (Nav), strobe and a single landing light in the nose.
     

     
    At night the instrument reflections are very strong, stronger when darker, very authentic though.
     

     
    Liveries
    There are twelve liveries, all very colourful and several are shark themed including "Jaws". There is a base white for the painters.
     

    ____________________
    Summary
    This is an all new aircraft release from Aerobask...  "The Shark" or Aero Shark, which is a conventionally laid out, single engine, low wing ultralight aircraft, light-sport aircraft which seats two in tandem, and is built in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic by Shark.Aero.
     
    A typical Aerobask modern composite design, the Shark is a beautifully handling aircraft with the authentic first representation of the Dynon "Skyview Touch" avionics package, a sort of mega Garmin G1000 styled display. Other represented instruments are the Flybox PR1-P Propeller Regulator, Blaze EMS-2 3 1/8”, ATR833-II 80mm radio, Aerospace Logic Chrono CO200 OAI and a very nice Flybox Oblò backup instrument .
     
    Focus here is on that "Skyview Touch", this is a comprehensive version with full authentic details that replicates the real Dynon package, there is also built in Navigraph charts, full hard point Dynon switchgear (two), and the side canopy AviTab with built in menus, the four tab menu is also available via clickpoints. Exterior modeling is to perfection, and the Interior is perfectly designed with full carbon-composites and materials.
     
    It looks like a Shark and flies swimmingly with purpose (pun intended), it's a seriously nice aircraft, easy to fly and you will soon find your love to the great handling and the ease of use, tricky to note is the authentic use of the landing gear and flaps. The Shark is also X-Plane 12 only and requires the latest v12.08 X-Plane version to fly.
     
    Overall a seriously nice package that Aerobask do so well, and yes a great quality and value investment for hours of enjoyable flying with all the mod-cons....  brilliant!
    __________________  

     
    Yes! the Shark UL XP12 by Aerobask is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here : 
     
    Shark UL XP12 by Aerobask
    Price is US$29.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 (XP12.08 minimum - will not work with 12.07 or earlier. Not for XP11) Windows, Mac (even native M1, M2 Macs) or Linux  8 GB+ VRAM recommended Current version:  12.01r1  (December 12th 2023) ________________
     
    Installation and documents:  download for the Shark UL is 529Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.
     
    Full Installation is 1.36Gb
    Authorisation is required, and a restart. Updates are via Skunkcraft Updater.
     
    AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft
     
    Documents supplied are:
    Quick-Doc ATR833.pdf Quick-Doc CO200.pdf README - XP12 aircraft installation.pdf Shark UL - Checklist Normal.pdf Shark UL Flight Manual.pdf  

     
    There are a huge amount of Documentation provided here, not only for the Shark UL including: performance charts, reference guides, avionics and a printable checklist.
     
    All updates are via the new Skunkcrafts 3.0 Updater
     
    Designed by Aerobask
    Support forum for the Shark UL _____________________
      Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    15th December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    Review System Specifications: 
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KHAF - Half Moon Bay by Rising Dawn Studios (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.00
     
    (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. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in NEWS! - Aircraft Released : SR-71-'Test-Bed" Project by VSKYLABS   
    NEWS! - Aircraft Released : SR-71-'Test-Bed' Project by VSKYLABS
     
     

     
    The Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" is a retired long-range, high-altitude, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed and manufactured by the American aerospace company Lockheed Corporation. The SR-71 has several nicknames, including "Blackbird" and "Habu"
     
    This is not the first "Blackbird" project for the X-Plane Simulator, as there was a default "Blackbird" for X-Plane 10/11, but discontinued in X-Plane 12. Some elements of the vSkyLabs aircraft do come from the actual SR-71 default aircraft, but obviously a lot, as absolutely this SR-71 is built from the ground up. This is a far more in depth version than that original but definitive version. Note this is an X-Plane 12 only aircraft.
     
    Fully VR compatible / comprehensive FMOD sounds / Free future updates to existing customers / Highly responsive support and knowledge base for the SR-71 aircraft.
    VSKYLABS SR-71 Flight Dynamic Model: Highly detailed, comprehensive SR-71 performance and handling characteristics. The simulation follows the SR-71A performance charts and climbing/cruise charts with high accuracy (speeds, power settings, time-of-climb, distance and a LOT more!). Project version v1.0 includes flight model version 'VSL-SR-71-Block-1'. This will keep on updated and tuned side by side with flight testings and X-Plane 12 future evolution. 'BLOCK-2' is expected to be released about a week after project version v1.0 will be released. To know which update block you are flying, see the included update log. Authentic SR-71 flight and handling characteristics are being simulated: Chines and delta wings lift, CG movement through flight and fuel loading, high AOA tendencies of the SR-71, takeoff and landing handling and performance and more. Authentic climb schedule. Supersonic drag profiles. Engines and Afterburner: Advanced Engines flight dynamics simulation ('VSL-SR-71-Block-1' in project version v1.0). Ram-Jet aspects of the SR-71 propulsion system are being simulated: comes into practice at high supersonic speeds and power settings (thrust, fuel consumption and so forth). Throttles: simulated 'cutoff' and 'burner' regimes, to allow 'conventional' operation where fully aft is 'cut off'. Chemical Ignition (TEB) System: Simulated authentically, including TEB counters when the throttles are advanced from 'cutoff' to 'idle' and from full dry to afterburner regime. Afterburner ignition is not possible when the TEB counter hits 'zero'. Same for ground startup. TEB ignition visualization (the green flash): simulated. Exhaust Nozzle & Ejector: Variable-are iris-type afterburner nozzles are visualized, including ENP (Exhaust Nozzle Position) indicators. External Starters: Two AG-330 starter units are simulated, visualized. Air Inlet System: Spikes: Spikes algorithm is simulated, authentically, for both automatic and manual modes (spikes ratio due mach, altitude etc..). Spikes animation included. Spikes restart switches are functioning. Engine unstart: Infrastructure for future implementation exists. Due to the 'unexpected' triggering of real engine unstart in real-life conditions (such as spikes failure and other reasons), this feature is currently partially disabled. You can unstart the engines when manually positioning the spikes in the wrong position during high-supersonic flight. But it will not occur spontaneously. This is still a WIP element.   Aft Bypass: Aft bypass doors are animated according to the actual conditions. Fuel system: Authentic Fuel-tanks system layout: simulated authentically, including realistic shift in CG due fuel consumption in the various phases of flight. Fuel feeding and sequencing: In current version, all fuel management is done automatically (automatic transfer to maintain CG within limits while it shifts). Manual, full capacity fuel system simulation is scheduled to be implemented in the future. Air Refueling System: simulated, including tanker visualization and authentic SR-71 air-refueling radio recording (contributed by Mr. BC Thomas, high Time SR-71 Pilot with 1,217 hrs and 18 min). Nitrogen tanks pressurization: Simulated authentically. Fuel fumes will exceed flash-point and will be ignited in the tanks unless the inert-gas-pressurization cycle was established (by completing an air refueling session up to full-tanks). Electrical system: Version v1.0 includes an authentic yet simplified electrical system. This is scheduled to grow in the future. Hydraulic system: Version v1.0 includes an authentic yet simplified hydraulic system. This is scheduled to grow in the future. Landing Gear System: Comprehensive landing gear system. Manual Gear Release Handle: currently not functional in v1.0. Might change until release of v1.0. Will be implemented in the future. Landing gears position lights, handle, warning light and Audible warning: Simulated authentically. Nose-wheel Steering System: Simulated authentically, including engagement lights. Works as in the real SR-71, with a toggle push button located on the stick. 1st push engages the system, 2nd push disconnects it. Require authentic taxi and takeoff nose-wheel steering practices. Wheel Brake System: Simulated authentically with ANTI-SKID/Wet-Dry switch. In Wet mode, brake anti-skid sensitivity is increased. Drag Chute System: Simulated and physically-accurate, including lights etc.. (version v1.0 includes default drag chute visualization. This will be replaced in the future with an authentic one). Primary Flight Controls: Control stick throws: Simulated authentically (both visually and physically). Elevon Control System: Simulated authentically (inboard, outboard, mixer). Rudder Control System: Simulated, authentically. Surface Limiter System: Simulated authentically. Including the SURF-LIMITER T-handle operations and indication light. Authentic throws and conditions (speed dependent). Lateral (roll) control stick travel and rudder displacement are restricted by the surface limiter system. Pitch, Roll and Yaw trim: Simulated authentically, including operation and indication. SAS Control: Simulated authentically, with high accuracy in all flight regimes. Autopilot: Simulated, not the authentic SR-71 interface and modes. It includes APP/NAV/HDG/ATL/VVI modes. Automatic High Angle of Attack Warning Systems - APW shaker and pusher:  Simulated authentically via the various conditions of operations and flight envelope regimes. Two separate modes are simulated authentically: Shaker and Shaker+Pusher. Aural AOA indication and warning system: Did not exist in the real SR-71, however, it was implemented in the VSKYLABS SR-71-TB aircraft, to allow better AOA monitoring during flight (which is needed when flying without 'sensing' then real aircraft and real control stick forces..g forces and so forth). Flight & Navigation Instruments: Fully functional LR CDU 739 along with a fully functional EFIS/MAP display: covering 2*com, 2*nav, 2*adf, transponder. Windshield: Deicing System: Simulated. Lighting Equipment: Exterior lighting: Simulated. Interior lighting: Simulated. Environmental Control Systems: Pressurization schedules: Current version this is simulated but with automatic mode only. Manual control will be implemented in the future. Life Support Systems: Oxygen System: Current version this is simulated but with automatic mode only. Manual control will be implemented in the future. Pressure suite support systems: Not simulated. Listed for future implementation. Emergency Warning Equipment: Master Warning System: All active-systems warning, caution and condition lights indications are operational. Indicators and warning lights test button: Simulated.  
    This being a vSkyLabs aircraft, Then the vSkylab philosophy is that you are purchasing an ongoing project, so any aircraft you purchase is not fully completed or is usually not completed to 100%, that is the deal you sign up for to get access to the aircraft, and all the development is free and ongoing throughout the X-Plane 12 version. These projects are under constant development: the development road-map is including flight model refinements, enhanced systems depth, additional liveries and other improvements. So this aircraft is noted as an "Early Access" project.
     

     

     

     

     
    The SR-71 was designed for flight at over Mach 3 with a flight crew of two in tandem cockpits, with the pilot in the forward cockpit and the reconnaissance systems officer operating the surveillance systems and equipment from the rear cockpit, and directing navigation on the mission flight path. The SR-71 was designed to minimize its radar cross-section, an early attempt at stealth design. Finished aircraft were painted a dark blue, almost black, to increase the emission of internal heat and to act as camouflage against the night sky. The dark color led to the aircraft's nickname "Blackbird".
     
    Images are courtesy of vSkyLabs (X-Plane 12 version)
    Design by VSKYLABS
    Support forum for the SR-71 TB
    ___________________________
     

     
    The SR-71-TB by VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    SR-71-TB Project by VSKYLABS
    Your Price: US$37.00
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12   (not for XP11) Windows, Mac or Linux 8GB VRAM Minimum Download Size: 424 MB  Current Version : 1.0 (December 8th  2023) ___________________________
     
    News by Stephen Dutton'
    9th December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  17. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Medellinexpat in Behind the Screen : November 2023   
    That is why I protested getting in more coders, X-Plane has grown beyond itself and a small intimate group, like bringing in Jim Keir on the ATC, it made a huge difference because it brought new resources and fresh thinking to the Simulator, the transition problems of Vulkan/Metal were huge, and it cost Laminar a lot of time in fixing it, then everything else got shifted along and X-Plane 12 suffered, so we suffered, a year okay, but an important year in maintaining users to the Simulator.
  18. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Medellinexpat in Behind the Screen : November 2023   
    Behind the Screen : November 2023
     
    Looking back through the "Behind the Screen" edition of 2023. One repeatable thing came up, I was always rallying against Laminar Research. Angry is not the right word, neither is enraged...   frustrated maybe, but you can't really get antagonistic to a body of people that just has it's own course to run. I suppose that if Laminar Research did react to all the naysayers moaning including mine, that nothing would actually get done.
     
    But a frustrating year it has been (and it's not over yet). Looking back I will agree that Laminar got through a load of major issues, the timetable when followed, does actually cover most of the biggest issues at hand. There was also a few major turning points of the year, 12.04b1, late in February and certainly the 12.06 release in August. But in my over the decade with X-Plane, it was one of the hardest years I could remember, yes generally life has been hard in 2023, but along the way X-Plane 12 became a grind.
     
    Don't get me wrong here. X-Plane 12 is levels above X-Plane 11, going back there it feels flat and boring. So no doubt the sheer vibrancy of the upgraded Simulator is a something of a marvel. But why is it so hard to use?
     
    Having progressed in a timeline from X-Plane 9 to X-Plane 11, it was a nice progression of new features and overall a better simulator. Yes there was those bumps in the road, but it is nothing at all like X-Plane 12.
     
    The new version numbering system will probably bring in a reset of X-Plane 12, in v12.1.0, due on the anniversary of the release of the X-Plane 12 Simulator 17th December 2022. This version release should be the final roundup of the outstanding issues, those Minecraft square clouds, real weather improvements, bloom effects, cloud shadows, Contrast Adaptive Sharpening (CAS), Anti-Aliasing improvements, but looking at that list a full year on, it is actually quite long?
     
    After that going into 2024, certainly the Simulator will be finally in a stable form, with further actions in more of new (if small features) and upgraded avionics. So are we there finally, a stable and mature platform to do our flying on. Maybe, or I hope so. But for me in many ways it has been a wasted year has 2023, a long waiting period for things to get better, and more waiting until it did, but even at this late December date, X-Plane 12 is not quite, even a itsy bitsy still not quite there is it. Yes again we are again waiting for v12.1.0 to get the Simulator into a proper form and shape, a year on from it's release.
     
    We are always aware the X-Plane is always a work in progress, I accept that as part of the journey of being in Simulation or on any computer based game, but there is a difference between progress, and the basics not actually not working, and at the core of my rants, this has been the problem or my quandary with a certain Laminar Research.
     
    For years I couldn't land an aircraft, yes I am a Simulation content reviewer and I can't land aircraft? I practised, and I got very close, but over the years it all just felt just wrong? In X-Plane 12 I found the landings had just got even worse, in fact it was like landing on ice (it felt like taking off on ice as well). The complex conclusion was that maybe, just maybe I was "Shit" at it...  honestly I have never flown a real aircraft in my life, but then again, that is why I jumped at this Simulation lark, to have a go, and hopefully to get good at it.
     
    After a decade or more of practising I though I was actually good at it, but too many of my landings were still laughable, with screaming tyres and weaving all over the runway...  the real pilots don't do that (a few in training do), but overall they usually make a really good fist of the landing. Yes I blamed myself, thought that my skills were actually not good enough.
     
    Then something happened. Messers Austin Meyer, grand poobah of X-Plane was having a conversation with Jan, an airline pilot, who flies for Lufthansa, and noted that in X-Plane the aircraft when landing would slam the nose down...  now anyone that has flown X-Plane as long as yours truly, I have witnessed what I call the "Extreme Gravity Yank", when at a certain height (no matter how light you are on the approach and in the flare), the "Hand of X-Plane God" would grab your aircraft and drag it quickly down and bang it into the runway, crashing it down, leaving you to control a wayward aircraft. It's not realistic, and have rallied against it for years and years, also it is "Bl**dy Obvious, to every one except Austin Meyer's and anyone at Laminar that it did this abnormal behaviour. Anyways he has fixed it, fixed the inertia of the landings.
     
    I put myself in a very nice little GA, did a clean takeoff, and went into a landing pattern, then came around to do a perfect landing, PERFECT, a totally sweet landing, on the centreline with clean braking...  and have done so in flights ever since v12.08 was released.
     
    The point is, this is a basic action in aviation, in fact the most important action at the point of a landing, and Laminar has "only" just fixed it, JUST FIXED IT. You get my point, for years and years I have been thinking my landings (and takeoffs) were "totally Shit", and it wasn't me. And this comes back to the point of the X-Plane 12 release. The basics should have been resolved first, the focus should have been on the minute, not the big ticket items, and the shit weather and lighting should have been top of the list in being fixed.
     
    It has been a total roller-coaster year, admittedly the second half was far better than the first, but it has cost X-Plane a lot of momentum, mostly in delaying developer projects and transitions to the new X-Plane 12 platform. Am I happy with X-Plane 12?
     
    In some parts it is absolutely brilliant, but in others I'm not. The aircraft feel is not the same, but fine line jiggly in areas, and I am consistently messing around with my settings in trying to get a decent baseline. Go back to X-Plane 11 and that baseline is easily there, so it is not me, it is X-Plane 12.
    Lighting has been my major bugbear all year, with extremely dark cockpit screenshots, even external images sometimes need a very healthy 20% to 30% brightness. My job is to show you how things have changed or the details of the systems and instrumentation. But in many cases this year, the images coming out of X-Plane 12 are just not at all workable. And Laminar have taken away all our earlier lighting sliders that could make a difference, in fact you basically have no control of your graphics at all in X-Plane today, it's a sort of Supnic (slap) to keep your hands off. Yes there are 3rd party tools that you can use to change X-Plane, but the premise is that it should be in there anyway. Please don't tell me to change the Nvida settings, because it doesn't work, makes your monitor brighter or more colourful, but not the screenshots coming out of the simulator. Playing with X-Plane's lighting is a load of tricks to get the required images, and I'm very good at it, but I can only twist the lighting so far. Hopefully that the v12.1.0 release will finally give us more options with the lighting. Don't mention the rain, and I loved the mention of not making it look like a Star Wars "Hyperspace Jump"...  that one had me rolling on the floor.
     
    Annoyingly looking at the images coming out of X-Plane 12 as they are all quite sensational, so real world realistic, they in many cases have taken my breath away... the flipside of X-Plane 12's brilliance.
     
    Laminar has also finally admitted that the DSF scenery is now almost 20 years old? twenty years, that is 2003, two years after the Twin Towers fell, and they have replaced them with another one since then. First they are going to fix the bugs in DSF and what can we do but put then put more stuff into DSF? but those DSFs are still decades old, its like piling shit on top of shit to make it look better.
    But Laminar have finally admitted that also looking at what comes after DSF, and finally reckoned they have reached a point where they have ideas of stuff we'd like to do that goes beyond the current scenery system, well "yay Bl**dy hey".
     
    Like the transition from OpenGL to Vulkan/Metal, changing the DSF's it's a(nother) big core change to the Simulator, so it is not going to happen soon, but at least it is finally up there on the "to-do" list, but is it high enough on the list that says "priority", again this is Laminar Research and they have a tendency to not focus on the fundamentals, they also admitted to spending more time in chasing the Professional Training Market, getting rid of stutters and giving you the required smooth Simulation. So will that mean that again the more important issues will go on the backburner while trying to satisfy a very minority market. Yes the Pro market does have great accolades in selling a Flight Simulator, a sort of "Stamp of Approval" on the certification of the software, but it's also a bit of a double-standard when the weather is not at all realistic and when you couldn't land a plane realistically, you see the point, without the basics right (which to be honest was always Laminar's forte), you are never going to catch the attention of the big boys.
     
    The problem is with Laminar Research is they mean well, they really do, and have always punched well above their weight. But sometimes a bit more focus on the basics would help not only themselves, but for us the users as well. I never wanted to berate them, not every month on month, certainly when like most they are "really trying their level best" to deliver a sensational Simulator, one that everyone can afford and use.
    But their priorities need to be more focused, not so widely scatterbrained, I mean am I really interested in Austin's N844X, or a replacement propeller for his Lancair Evolution. Someone noted I should lighten up on this, go with the flow more, but after this 2023 and all the painful struggles throughout the year, I'm not laughing at all. Sadly it comes out here in my thoughts on each month and that became the tone of the year.
     
    So could 2024 become a reset for X-Plane 12. If the v12.1.0 does deliver it does have the potential to create a new starting point, and that totally depends on Laminar getting the weather elements finally right, not just the clouds. It's certainly come a long way in six months, but the wind elements are still there, snow with the Northern Winter is now important as well.
     
    For me I am going to take this attitude over the (short) break. I usually service the computers, and do my annual year file and backup...  but more so this year, as I'm going to totally clean out X-Plane, throw away the current version, and reload in a totally fresh copy, even dumping my years old keyboard and joystick prefs, a hard one as they are time-consuming to reset. But I want a totally vanilla clean setup to start 2024, totally fresh, get rid of all the junk and hubris that build up in the files, you would be surprised on how much waste you accumulate over a year, then sing at the top of my voice "Auld Lang Syne" and let 2023 be long forgotten.
     
    As usual there will be no December "Behind the Screen" 2023 issue, but our full yearly round up of the year 2023 review is to be published on 22nd December 2023, so watch out for that.
     
    Stephen Dutton
    5th December 2023
    Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews
     

     
  19. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in Aircraft Review : F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata   
    Aircraft Review : F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata
     
    This is the first operational fighter aircraft to fly a sustained twice the speed of sound. It is of course the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter", or otherwise known as a "Missile with a man in it".
     
    The F-104 is a pure machine built for pure speed, it looks fast... Supersonic fast, just a long pointy fuselage, with those small straight, mid-mounted, trapezoidal wings, and a high stabilator (fully moving horizontal stabilizer) which was mounted atop the fin to reduce inertia coupling, it was the ultimate interceptor aircraft. Of course NASA loved it, the USAF not so much.
     
    But an iconic aircraft it still was. The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War. Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the "Century Series" of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF), it was developed into an all-weather multi-role aircraft in the early 1960s and was produced by several other nations, seeing widespread service outside the United States than within.
     
    Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, vice president of engineering and research at Lockheed's Skunk Works, visited USAF air bases across South Korea in November 1951 to speak with fighter pilots about what they wanted and needed in a fighter aircraft. At the time, the American pilots were confronting the MiG-15 with North American F-86 Sabres, and many felt that the MiGs were superior to the larger and more complex American fighters.
    The pilots requested a small and simple aircraft with excellent performance, especially high-speed and high-altitude capabilities.[4] Johnson started the design of such an aircraft upon his return to the United States. In March 1952, his team was assembled; they studied over 100 aircraft configurations, ranging from small designs at just 8,000 lb (3,600 kg), to large ones up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg).
    To achieve the desired performance, Lockheed chose a small and simple aircraft, weighing in at 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) with a single powerful engine. The engine chosen was the new General Electric J79 turbojet, an engine of dramatically improved performance in comparison with contemporary designs.
     
    Colimata is a well known X-Plane developer of considerable skills. His main claim to fame has been the extraordinary Concorde FXP project, complex but truly original to the most famous airliner ever built. Colimata is not immune to fast military jets either, as his earlier projects were the FA18-F Super Hornet and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This F-104 however is all new, and available only for X-Plane 12.
     

     
    First the F-104 Starfighter by Colimata comes in three different variants, the FXP G, the FXP S and the FXP 21C (21st century). You can see what variant you are flying by the menu notice in the X-Plane Banner.
     
    ‘G’   F-104G was the most-produced version of the F-104 family, a multi-role fighter-bomber with a total of 1,127 aircraft built. They were manufactured by Lockheed, as well as under license by Canadair and a consortium of European companies that included Messerschmitt/MBB, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA. The type featured a strengthened fuselage, wing, and empennage structures; the larger vertical fin with fully powered rudder as used on the two-seat versions; fully powered brakes, a new anti-skid system, and larger tires; revised flaps for improved combat maneuvering; and a larger braking chute. Upgraded avionics included the Autonetics NASARR F15A-41B radar with air-to-air, ground-mapping, contour-mapping, and terrain-avoidance modes, as well as the Litton LN-3 inertial navigation system (the first on a production fighter). Here the "G" is the most authentic and the base version of the F-104 package.
     

     
    "S" F-104S was upgraded for the interception role, adding the NASARR R-21G/H radar with moving-target indicator and continuous-wave illuminator for semi-active radar homing missiles (initially the AIM-7 Sparrow), two additional wing and two underbelly hardpoints (increasing the total to nine), the more powerful J79-GE-19 engine, and added were two additional ventral fins to increase stability. The M61 cannon was sacrificed to make room for the missile avionics in the interceptor version, but was retained for the fighter-bomber variant. Typically two Sparrow and two (and sometimes four or six) Sidewinder missiles were carried on all the hardpoints except the central (underbelly), or up to seven 750 lb (340 kg) bombs (normally two to four 500–750 lb [230–340 kg] bombs). The F-104S was cleared for a higher maximum takeoff weight, allowing it to carry up to 7,500 lb (3,400 kg) of stores; other Starfighters had a maximum external load of 4,000 lb (1,800 kg). Its combat radius was up to 775 mi (1,247 km) with four external fuel tanks
     

     
    "21C" or 21st Century. It is the most modern variant which can be seen immediately from the cockpit instruments with the digital displays. It doesn't exist obviously, as there is no real "21C" but F-104's do come with digital instruments as shown in the video. Debatable here is there should be a YF-104A variant, this is the NASA No.818, and this aircraft was flown for 19 years as a flying test bed and a chase plane.
     

     
    The Colimata F-104 comes in that original skin metal only livery. The airframe was all-metal, primarily duralumin with some stainless steel and titanium as part of the structure. The fuselage was approximately two and a half times as long as the airplane's wingspan. The wings were centered on the horizontal reference plane, or along the longitudinal centerline of the fuselage, and were located substantially farther aft on the fuselage than most contemporary designs. The aft fuselage was elevated from the horizontal reference plane, resulting a "lifted" tail, and the nose was "drooped". This caused the aircraft to fly nose up, helping to minimize drag. As a result, the pitot tube, air inlet scoops, and engine thrust line were all canted slightly from centerline of the fuselage.
     

     
    The Colimata F-104 is beautifully done, it glows in the X-Plane 12 sunshine, the light bouncing off the metal realistic skin. You can feel the "Skunk Works" talent here, in the way they created and crafted these formidable machines, metallurgy at it's finest.
     

     
    The panels and rivet patterns are beautifully crafted, and of course those razor sharp wings...  notable this is the "S" variant.
     
    The wing design was extremely thin, with a thickness-to-chord ratio of only 3.36% and an aspect ratio of 2.45. The wing's leading edges were so thin (.016 in; 0.41 mm) that they were a hazard to ground crews. Hence, protective guards were installed on them during maintenance. The thinness of the wings required the fuel tanks and landing gear to be placed within the fuselage, and the hydraulic cylinders driving the ailerons were limited to 1-inch (25 mm) thickness to fit.
     
    You can see the different types of metal here to absorb the engine output heat, and the built in fuselage Speedbrake doors
     

     
    Flaps are "Barn Door" deep, and note the extremely large aileron for supersonic control and manoeuvrability. Notable is the Boundary Layer Control System (BLCS) at the rear side of the wings right above the flaps. Compressed air is taken from the compressor of the engine and injected in the airflow right above the flaps. This improves lift by reducing the probability of turbulent airflow above the flaps. This way reasonable landing speeds were achieved.
     

     
    Because the vertical fin was only slightly shorter than the length of each wing and nearly as aerodynamically effective, it could act as a wing-on-rudder application, rolling the aircraft in the opposite direction of rudder input. To offset this effect, the wings were canted downward at a 10° negative-dihedral (anhedral) angle. This downward canting also improved roll control during high-G maneuvers, common in air-to-air combat.
     
    Under the fuselage are both the central ventral fin, and this being the "S", the twin empennage structures.
     

     
    The maw of the jetpipe exhaust is excellent, not only externally, but deep internally as well in finite detail.
     

     
    The stabilator is also razor thin, and has a very wide tilt angle, all set in a T-Tail configuration.
     

     
    The undercarriage is a simple three wheel setup, basically very basic in a system to fold up into the tight fuselage. Extremely well executed here by Colimata with metal hydraulic piping the highlight, and all of the internal bay detail is a feast for the eyes, links and joints are also perfectly created, and note the taxiway lights mounted internally on the outer bay doors.
     

     
    Single nose wheel is again simple, with the single landing light on the front strut, again the internal bay detail is excellent, notice with the way the twin doors frame and clamp the strut when closed.
     

     
    Glass is excellent as well...  a deep dark green tint, shows off the thickness of the glass, and reflections are perfect. The canopy opens to the left side, and you can see the mottled glass detail...  the frame is extraordinary in it's perfect detailing.
     

     
    Externally there is a well developed "Cold War" style pilot, he is not animated, but looks authentic.
     

     
    Cockpit
    This is the ultimate "Cold War" warrior, the next generation up from the Second World War fighters. The detail is very black, but worn, highly realistic and authentic. Colimata has done a really great workmanship in getting the details right, right down to the worn text, that needs a second glance to read it.
     

     
    Bit of trivia...   the original F-104 had a Stanley C-1 Ejection Seat, and this seat ejected downwards through the floor at 500ft, this was to clear the high T-Tail for a safe ejection from the aircraft...  later F-104s used the Martin Baker Q7 seat, this seat was now powerful enough to clear that troublesome tail. Here it is the later Q7. The ejector seat works! so don't pull the hoop unless you want to vacate the aircraft, oh and get rid of the canopy first as well..
     
    The simple stick has no operational buttons or switches, but can be hidden via "hotspot" on the base.
     

     
    The three different G, S and 21C instrument panels are all quite different with their layouts. It is best to study them all and then select the one you like, as each have a very different role. I'm going to stay with the original "G" layout.
     

     
    It is a complicated panel layout, and you would need a little study before serious use. The manual provided "Quickstart", is in my mind a little bit too under detailed for the complexity here, you need the areas to be broken down and explained, this is only a "Quickstart" so a better manual as noted might follow, it is needed.
     

     
    Dials and gauges are beautifully created and reflective, very realistic. Centre seven dials cover (anti-clockwise) AirSpeed, Angle of Attack, Vertical Speed (V/S), Artificial Ball Horizon, Turn and Bank rate, a Position & Homing Indicator (sort of Heading Indicator) and Altitude.
     
    Left is a G-Meter, Radio Altimeter, and right are the engine RPM, Temperature, Oil Pressure, Fuel Flow and Nozzle Position, the Whisky Compass is upper left glareshield...  sticking out far right is a intricate clock/chronometer.
     
    Lower panel is the Engine Start and Landing/Taxi lights far left, then the Weapons panel, landing gear switch is here as well. Central is the huge RADAR system, that covers both AIR to AIR mode and AIR to GROUND mode.
     

     
    Right lower panel is the Cabin Pressure, and internal and external fuel gauges. Oxygen is far right.
     
    Side panels are again quite different between the variants. On the "G" the layout is smaller and less detailed, highlight is the lovely white stubby throttle lever, the Flap position indicator is set behind, but you can also hide the throttle if you want to. Left side has radio, fuel switches, Radar position lever (nice) and Stability Control.
     

     
    Right side has Oxygen Regulator, IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), IN Inertial/flightplan (note here, this panel tends to move around, on the 21C it is lower left Instrument panel) and ECM. There are various types of displays between the G and S/21C. Here there is no flightplan screen on the G, but on the other variants. The G has a "Range Timer", the S the fully interactive flightplan panel.
     

     
    The autopilot is very basic, in a set the aircraft and "HOLD" the situation in Altitude and Mach, you can TURN left or right via the lower switch. 
     
    But it is in the extreme detailing that you get here, something simple like opening the canopy is a marvel to watch, the catches are all animated and reassuring that the canopy will be safely locked down at Mach 2, they click and clank as well...  it's all beautifully done, and more importantly VR (Virtual Reality) ready, with the goggles on, you will be immersed in a Cold War environment like no other.
     

     
    Menu
    The menu GUI is accessed on the X-Plane banner Menu under the aircraft title, the CHECKLIST window is here as well.
     

     
    There are Eight tabs to select on the menu; MAIN, SETTINGS, ROUTE LOADING, EQUIPMENT, WEAPONS, FUEL, DOORS & GROUND and STATUS. If you have Colimata;s Concorde they are all quite familiar in design and use. MAIN tab is a welcome screen.
     

     
    SETTINGS: Covers PRO Mode. This mode changes the aircraft from simple (aerodynamics and systems) to the PRO mode, where you get access to everything, but be aware the already difficult F-104 is far more harder to fly and use. SOUND, Includes Engine Volume internal and external, cockpit fans, G-Suit sounds and Oxygen mask sounds, RADAR, HD Resolution and Simple mode or heavy shadows, MORE includes, Simple Air-refueling, Cockpit lamp glow and Intake doors... here you can have the optional variable (moving) intake doors on the "S" and "21C" variants.
     
    Before we go any further. You will find that most systems here on the Colimata F-104 are very X-Plane default based, so if you know how X-Plane systems work, then you will easily understand how to set up and use the F-104.
     
       
     
    ROUTE LOADING: Here is a Flightplan Loading tool. flightplans are stored in the X-Plane "Output/FMS plans" folder and can be accessed and loaded via this tab. Obviously they have to saved in the .fms format.
     

     
    EQUIPMENT: There are four options on the "Equipment" tab...  Selecting the Air Re-Fuel Probe, Radar Warn Receiver..  which is located top right instrument panel, Chaff Flare Dispensers...  which are both located on each side of the rear exhaust pipe, and the Rocket Motor!
     

     

     
    WEAPONS: Weapons are selected via the X-Plane "Flight/Weight&Balance/Weapons menu, standard X-Plane default settings. The list is huge at a mix of 22 armaments and fuel tanks for the 10 stations on the aircraft. Overload and you get a RED weight indication "Caution Very Heavy Aircraft".
     

     

     
    FUEL: If you add on Fuel tanks in the "Weapons" menu. Then the tank(s) selected will appear in the Flight/Weight,Balance & Fuel Menu to add in more fuel onto the aircraft, again watch the weight as the F-104 is very easily overloaded. A point to make is that if you "Drop" the both wing-tip tanks then you get the "Stubby" wing version of the F-104
     

     
    Lower menu the page notes your RANGE, in High altitude flight, Mix Altitude flight and Low Altitude flight...  Also if your route is loaded, it will note the distance available in NM (Nautical Miles). Also noted if your AIR REFUEL is switched on or not.
     

     
    DOORS & GROUND: This menu gives you options on the ground. You can reveal the RCA AN/ASG-14T1 ranging radar. Put a very nice ladder on the right side of the aircraft, Open/Close the Canopy. There are also four bays you can access...  lower right Electronics bay, the left lower Cannon Bay of which is the 20 mm (0.79 in) M61 Vulcan auto-cannon, Top forward is the Avionics bay, and behind it is the Ammunition bay...  lower left rear is the RAT (Ram Air Turbine).
     

     
    Centre selections include, a load of flags, pins covers and chocks. There are far too many to even count! Note the lovely wing edge covers and authentic engine inlet covers.
     

     
    Lower D&S menu covers two static items in vehicles. A military Heavy Duty Tanker and GPU (Ground Power Unit)
     

     

     
    STATUS: The final menu tab is the "Status" of the aircraft. This is a one look view of the total status of the F-104. Included is Fuel and your current Range, System status in Oxygen, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Fuel (system), Landing Gear, Elevator (Trim Position), Aircraft Weight and required Approach, Final and Touchdown speeds.
     
    CHECKLIST
    As noted also on the menu bar is the F-104 Checklist tool
     

     
    The first page is a "walkaround" diagram, it's not animated by set views, but just a guide around the aircraft. The menu window is moveable and scaleable around your screen.
     

     
    There are thirteen checklists from Pre-Flight to (engine) Shutdown. Then four "Emergency" pages and five "Custom Content" pages for your own use. Navigation is via the two PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons.
     

     
    Altogether it is a very comprehensive and detailed menu, certainly very well done by Colimata... Easy to use and has loads of current required data avalable.
    _____________________
     
    Flying the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
     

     
    The Startup sequence will not find a battery switch inside the cockpit. Electric energy is only available as soon as the GPU is connected
    externally. Complete the cockpit checks, then make sure that the Fuel Shutoff switch is in the ON position.
     


    Engage a starter switch. Switch 1 on uneven days, Switch 2 on even days. The engine will start spooling up. Now click on the lower right side of the throttle to bring it from OFF to IDLE position. With this the engine will continue its spool up and the dials start to revolve. This is a very "Ground Crew" aircraft start, you almost want to stick your hand up out of the cockpit and twirl your hand.
     

     
    Engine start up sounds are seriously "Amazing", first the startup compressor, then that familiar whine out of the J79 turbojet, it fills the air in the cockpit (always have the canopy open), the starter switches will go off automatically, when the engine is above 40%, then engage the Generators GEN1 and GEN2.
     

     
    You don't want to close that canopy yet, but to hear the noise, absorb your surroundings. Let of the brakes and a slight throttle and your rolling..
     

     
    You soak up the feeling, this iconic jet aircraft. Now quickly it is also time to get down to business, and you pull down the canopy...
     

     
    ...  suddenly your immersed in another world, a tightly contained space, a cold-war scenario, and the F-104 feels of what it is, a Skunk Works project to go very fast. You need a very long and wide runway to takeoff, those petit fine wings don't give off much lift, so you need a lot of air around them to make them work.
     

     
    Hold the brakes, then put up the throttle to full thrust, yes you will need everything you have for the initial push...
     

     
    You get a dragons ROAR! out of the rear, and when you let the brakes go, the F-104 bounces with the forces, it moves, but slowly at first then gradually gains speed, you need a lot of runway to get enough to get around 200 knts, there is a marker you can adjust for your rotate moment, tracking needs full concentration in keeping the Starfighter tight and straight to the lift point.
     

     
    Even then the lift is slow, worse you have to have a very steady firm hand to keep the F-104 stiff and clean, if not the nose will bounce...
     

     
    Immediately you clean up the flaps, more clean lift is now required, speed as well, more lift... then your climbing out. Gear up next, and the undercarriage all folds into the fuselage and gives you a very nice shiny clean underside, the gear animations are extremely well done by Colimata, very professional.
     

     
    Shredded of it's earthly bounds, the Starfighter will now seriously climb, so you tone the throttle back a bit, rate of climb here is 48,000 ft/min (240 m/s) Initially... fast, really fast, needed as you can fly as high as 73,000 ft (22,000 m), almost in space, SR71 territory (84,000ft).
     

     
    Some points here. The F-104 bounces around a lot, not wind mind you, but just nervy. The nose jiggle is very disconcerting. You can tone this down a little via the X-Plane settings to dull the controls out a lot, then to perfect the trim and it can really help, problem is? that flying like this even for a short time is very tiring, you are working consistently hard all the time in just flying the aircraft. It does get better with familiarity, but the F-104 is not an easy aircraft to fly. The Autopilot is of only a minor help, or relief, so your workload is high in here.
     
    A trick is to use the AOA ‘Angles Of Attack’ equivalent gauge. It does not show the exact angles, but a scale that informs you about how near to the maximum AoA the aircraft currently is...    the so trick is staying within the boundaries. There is also the APC "Automatic Pitch Control" system which provides additional safety. If AoA value limits are exceeded too far it will even ‘kick’ the stick forward to get back to safe levels, but not when landing gear is down.
     

     
    There was a special version of the F-104 was that ‘NF-104’. It was equipped with a rocket motor in addition to the jet engine. In the 1960s the NF-104 broke many records and it was used in the training for the X-15. The motor can be switched on and off, and the thrust can be set between 50 % and 100 %. The rocket provides thrust for 90 seconds. The rocket panel is only visible if the "Rocket Motor" is selected, situated on the left side.
     

     
    Since air is super thin at high altitudes, the conventional flight controls will loose authority. For this an RCS ‘Reaction Control System’ can be activated. It provides controllability in very thin air. There are both controls for the actual rocket motor, and the RCS system.
     

     
    Re-heat the J79 turbojet, then flick the switch and your head slams back like in the "Right Stuff", and your climbing like.... well "Hell, hang on" actually...   dials are twirling and you really can't make any sense of them, you are just along for the ride!
     

     
    Passing through 65,000ft and that air is now extremely thin, and your controls don't respond as they should...  the F-104 is EXTREMELY hard to fly up here, slight movements you will are all you need, but if you lose it, then there is no coming back...  and you will simply spiral away to your death.
     

     
    It took a few high-altitude flights to get the feel of it all right and to get the use of the RCS system, exhilarating, certainly. Worse is that at these extreme altitudes the jet engine will switch off, and it is required to be restarted during the reentry. If the jet engine nozzle stays open, close it via the emergency engine nozzle handle before the restart attempt.
     
    This is not a Air-superiority fighterjet, an agile, lightly armed aircraft and ready to eliminate any challenge over control of the airspace. Even turning is an effort for the F-104, you bank, but you will still take a very wide circumference to go to your new heading. 
     

     
    The word "Interceptor", says it all, and in reality it is all the F104 can really do, go fast, go high and "Intercept!" First you climb as high as you need. There is a marker on the Artificial Horizon to get the 15º climb angle perfect, then up you go, almost to 4000fpm...
     

     
    ...   now at a high altitude, you can let the F-104 loose, on goes the burner again and your soon pushing a mach, then m.1.5. The aircraft is a handful to keep in a straight bullet line, turning... only for the faint-hearted. I can see and feel why it was called the "Widowmaker".
     

     
    Yes the Starfighter is bullet, but more X-15 than fighter jet. The Autopilot takes ages to settle down on a course and altitude, but in time will hold the aircraft with a "hands off the stick" relief, turning is tricky with the turning knob "left-Right", again it works, but difficult to put the aircraft on a straight heading again, so you readjust with ENGAGE off, then when at a set altitude and heading, then (Re)ENGAGE the Autopilot...  and hopefully it will HOLD either the speed or the altitude, you can't have both.
     

     
    The F-104 ships with a sophisticated RADAR system covering AIR to AIR mode and AIR to GROUND mode, in the AIR to GROUND mode can require quite a few computer system resources. It is therefore possible to switch it from HD ‘High Definition’ to a lower definition. Furthermore the interpretation of the AG ‘Air to Ground’ image can be complex. Therefore the system comes with a "Standard-Simple mode" and a "Complex" mode.
     

     
    In "Complex" mode we see the same landscape from above but with ‘RADAR shadows’. If the RADAR beam is blocked by an obstacle, everything behind is in its ‘RADAR shadow’ and will then be displayed black.
     

     
    In AIR to AIR mode or AA mode, we can track and lock on to other aircraft. The available ranges are 20 nm, 40 nm and 80 nm. The RADAR beam sweeps 45° on both sides in the ‘G’ variant and 60° in the ‘S’ and ‘21C’ variants. To lock an enemy aircraft the target line can be moved left or right. When the target line is aligned with the target aircraft, press the ‘lock’ button or use the custom command. When the aircraft is locked (on target) the symbology on the display changes. We then see a circle that represents the distance to the target. The smaller the circle diameter the closer we are to the target. It shows direction and altitude to the enemy jet relative to our aircraft.
     

     
    The system is very good, but needs time to study and work it all out. To be honest I only had the "Quick" guide for information, and you really need a detailed depth of information to use it.
     
    Nightlighting
    Very night fighter...  that is the feeling inside the "Starfighter" cockpit, there are a lot of instrument adjustments, but the knobs are spread around both sides of the instruments. Three separate knobs covers the instrument lighting; INTERIOR INSTRUMENT, INTERIOR CONSOLE (sides) and INTERIOR FLOOD. The lighting is the instrument backlighting and two spot lights each side of the pilot.
     
    All set at full BRT and it is all a bit overwhelming in the brightness...
     

     
    So the trick is to tone it all down, even below the halfway marker, then it becomes all "Very Nice". Externally you have some very (very) nice rotating beacon's top and lower, and Navigation lights, that can be set to FLASH or STEADY. As noted there are two landing lights on the inner gear doors and a single nose taxi light.
     

     
    Landing is probably one of the trickiest treat of them all. The wings here are relatively small, and therefore they need substantial speed to keep you airborne. The ‘BLC’ Boundary Layer Control’ system above the flaps is of great help and the engine is very powerful in case we need to get out of critical situations. So you need to engage the burner to prevent sinking or even stalling, or for a worst case scenario, for a go-around
     

     
    At the lower speed, the flaps and with the gear lowered the roll rate is also significantly reduced, in other words the stick and rudder responses are dull, laggy. It keeps you on your toes to get the speed right at around 200 knts - 190 kts, that's very fast, with not much control response.
     

     
    If your clean and straight, then all you want to do is plant the aircraft, no groundeffect or lift to help you here, it is a carrier shot in reverse. Touched down should be around 150 knts.
     

     
    Even before the nose hits the ground, you release the "Chute", no reverser thrust here to slow you down, but the "Parachute" is extremely effective, you don't (or even dare) touch the brakes. I recommend to set a key command to deploy or lose the chute, your too busy to look down in the cockpit for the hard to find white "DRAG CHUTE" handle.
     

     
    At taxi speed, you let go of the "chute", then flip the catch and open up the canopy...  now you can "Breath".
     

     
    We have to be very clear here, that the Starfighter F-104 has some very, very unsual flying characteristics, this is not a forgiving aircraft, rewarding yes, but totally unforgiving...  to fly the aircraft well, it would need a lot of commitment and focus, as it is though all its different flight phases, the one aircraft that changes personalities consistently, it is your job to understand each one of them and master the differences, for the novice, not really, even the usual pro's will find it a challenge, but a major repect to those with the "Right Stuff".
     
    In the release I had (early) there was only three liveries; The Metal default, a German Luftwaffe and an Italian Air Force. More liveries will be available for download at no additional cost.
     

    __________________________
     
    Summary
    The first operational fighter aircraft to fly a sustained twice the speed of sound. It is of course the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter", or otherwise known as a "Missile with a man in it". The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War. Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the "Century Series" of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF), later it was also a NASA test aircraft. Loved more by international Airforces than the American ones. It was created by the famous Lockheed "Skunk Works", and in performance and design it has a the same particular traits as the later SR-71, just to go exceedingly fast.
     
    F-104 Starfighter by Colimata comes in three different variants, the FXP G, the FXP S and the FXP 21C (21st century). Known for his excellent Concorde FXP project, Colimata is also not immune to fast military jets either, as his earlier projects were the FA18-F Super Hornet and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This F-104 however is all new, and only available for X-Plane 12.
     
    The F-104 is sensationally designed and developed here, in reality X-Plane, and X-Plane 12 gives this aircraft one of the best positions in Simulation, the top and the best, a very high accolade. It's top notch stuff, the best you can invest in.
     
    The quality and detail is excellent, nothing is missed here, that is from the shiny metal skin to the worn but highly detailed cockpit and instruments, super detailed 4k textures and complex landing gear and brake chute.
     
    Features are as long as your arm, with an extensive menu. With panels that can open up (Electronics bay, gun bay, avionics bay, radar dome and canopy), ladder, full tags, wing covers and chocks, featured GPU and Fuel trucks, and an NF-104 Rocket and Reaction Control System. There are extensive weapons, with highly replicated "Cold War" era weapon and radar systems, the later 21c has modern glass instruments and avionics.
     
    It is extremely tricky to fly, as was the original "Widowmaker", but that is a major part of the attraction to this sort of Simulation, so what you will put in, is what you get out of the aircraft, it is demanding, but highly rewarding as well as it brings out the best of your "Right Stuff", those generation of pilot's that pushed the extreme boundaries of speed and space.
     
    This Starfighter aircraft allows you to experience that era and fly something very unique, an icon, a classic...  the best of it's time.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    F-104 FXP Starfighter
    Price is : US$45.00
     
    Requirements
    -Plane 12 Only Windows, Mac and Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Download Size: 941 MB
    Versions 1.01 - December 1st 2023   Developed by Colimata
    Support forum the F-104 FXP   Installation
    Installation of F-104 FXP Starfighter XP12 is done via a download of 825 Mb...   With a total installation size of 1.17Gb.
     
    There is one basic Manual pdf (45 pages)
     

     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08b3 (This is a Beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KTCM - McChord AFB  - Seattle - Boeing Country 10.5 by Tom Curtis (Sorry not now available)
    ___________________________
     
    Classic Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    1st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  20. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in Experimental Vehicle Review : LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle by NHAdrian   
    Experimental Vehicle Review : LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle by NHAdrian
     
    It was a moment of inertia. A pause in the air that could have changed history as we know it. It is 6th May 1968 at Houston’s Ellington Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas. As the strange web framed vehicle was now suddenly frozen at 200ft above the ground with the sudden loss of helium pressure, that then caused the depletion of the hydrogen peroxide that was used for the reserve attitude thrusters. The pilot only had one option, "to get the hell out of there", he did so by ejecting upwards as the machine twirled downwards into the ground and violently exploded beneath him, he landed safely by parachute with only a few aches to his back and a bit tongue from the intense jerk upwards...   in two hours he was back at his desk at the Houston Space Centre, doing paperwork.
     
    The pilot in question here was Neil Alden Armstrong. The same person that commanded the Apollo 11 mission, during which he became the first man to set foot on the moon (20th July 1969).
     
    That infamous moment was captured on film, observing it closely, you saw the nerves of steel to defeat the jaws of death, just like Armstrong had done a few times before. In Korea, as he was making a low bombing run at 350 mph (560 km/h) when 6 feet (1.8 m) of his wing was torn off after it collided with a cable that was strung across the hills as a booby trap. He planned to eject over the water and await rescue by Navy helicopters, but his parachute was blown back over land. A jeep driven by a roommate from the flight school picked him up.
     
    Then again in a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which was to air-drop a Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. Climbing to 30,000 feet (9 km), the number-four engine stopped and the propeller began windmilling (rotating freely) in the airstream, then the propeller disintegrated. Pieces of it damaged the number-three engine and hit the number-two engine. Butchart and Armstrong were forced to shut down the damaged number-three engine, along also with the number-one engine, due to the torque it created. They then made a slow, circling descent from 30,000 ft (9 km) using only the number-two engine, and landed safely.
     
    Then the most dangerous moment of all in orbit in Gemini 8. While out of contact with the ground, the docked spacecraft began to roll, and Armstrong attempted to correct this with the Gemini's Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS). Following the earlier advice of Mission Control, they undocked, but the roll increased dramatically until they were turning rotations about once per second, indicating a problem with Gemini's attitude control. Armstrong engaged the Reentry Control System (RCS) and turned off the OAMS. Mission rules dictated that once this system was turned on, the spacecraft had to reenter at the next possible opportunity. Armstrong was a cat that had 10 lives, so they sent him to the moon, were he saved the long landing in the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) and made history, which brings us to our weird looking machine in this review.
     
    The Bell Aerosystems Lunar Landing Research Vehicle LLTV (nicknamed the "Flying Bedstead") was a Project Apollo era program to build a simulator for the Moon landings.
     
    But lets clear something up first. There was five of these vehicles built, the first two were the LLRV or "Research Vehicle". Then later three more were commissioned and called LLTV or "Training Vehicle", they are in design almost identical, but the LLTV's were slightly improved and the forward Styrofoam cockpit enclosure (to simulate the LEM's cockpit) had also the roof removed, to stop an excessive yawing force. Secondly they also had a new mode introduced, called "Lunar Simulation Mode"... of which we will see later.
     

     
    Built of aluminum alloy trusses, the LLRVs (and LLTV) were powered by a General Electric CF700-2V turbofan engine with a thrust of 4,200 lbf (19 kN), mounted vertically in a gimbal. The engine lifted the vehicle to the test altitude of 500ft, and was then throttled back to support five-sixths of the vehicle's weight, simulating the reduced gravity of the Moon. Two hydrogen peroxide lift rockets with thrust that could be varied from 100 to 500 lbf (440 to 2,200 N) handled the vehicle's rate of descent and horizontal movement. Sixteen smaller hydrogen peroxide thrusters, mounted in pairs, gave the pilot control in pitch, yaw and roll.
     
    The LLTV is an ungainly insect like machine. Really well designed and produced here by NHAdrian, a developer known for his quirky but very interesting machines, a flying AirCar anybody?
     

     
    The LLRV evolved out of the Bell X-14 (Bell Type 68) experimental VTOL aircraft, but it had problems with ground effects. The X-14 had the reverse effects of helicopters, in that when close to ground, a helicopter needs less power to stay aloft, were as the X-14 needed exactly the opposite in a huge amount of downward thrust. The LLRVs were built by Bell Aerosystems and were used by the FRC (Flight Research Centre) now known as the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, to study these VTOL dynamics.
     
    Helicopters were the obvious choice to simulate Lunar Control Characteristics. And astronauts at the time who were very familiar with helicopters, pushed heavily for them to be used as the LEM training vehicles. But Dick Day the simulations expert at the FRC, pushed heavily for the LLRV to become the better (or correct) vehicle to do the LEM simulations. The person put in charge of the conversion was no other person than Neil Armstrong (the reason he was not on the Apollo 1 fire committee) and was and in the early part of the LLTV "Design Engineering Inspection" that was the selection committee for the program. He quickly deduced that to build a fully modified LEM Trainer, which he called "prohibitively time consuming and expensive" was not the answer, and noted that the characteristics of the LLRV was not at all that different in physical size, and had the same control rocket geometry from the Lunar Lander.
     
    When the earlier VTOL program had been completed, the two LLRV's were shipped to Houston in December (12th) 1966, and three new vehicles in trainers with modifications were ordered by NASA, these were the LLTVs, all five machines were used in Lunar training. The earlier LLRV's were reassigned as LLTV A1 and LLTV A2, the new LLTV's were designated LLTV B1, B2 and B3.
     
    Neil Armstrong's strong views against Helicopters was against the current normal thinking. This was because Armstrong was noted as a "Engineer Pilot", and not a "Training Pilot", so basically Helicopter pilots were flying Lunar Simulations on Earth, were as Neil Armstrong was studying and flying Lunar Simulations on the Moon. It was a critical assignment that produced an Historic moment. He of course later had that vexatious moment in LLTV A1 in the final 100 ft of descent going into land when his controls had suddenly degraded. By a rule Apollo Commanders had twenty-two flights to certify them for the mission, but for backup commanders in the later stages of the program, these numbers of flights were reduced to maybe a dozen.
     
    The LLTV's design is beyond simple, a frame holds the CF700-2V and surrounding it are the four downward facing HP thrusters (earlier LLRV had only two), then the clusters of HP directional thrusters are positioned on the outer frame, it is all a very spacecraft LEM like in design. Tanks hold the Jet-A1 fuel and the twin globes of Hydrogen Peroxide (HP) are outer centre, rear is balance weights and the large equipment/avionics pack.
     

     
    The whole design has been intricately recreated for your flying pleasure, everything is perfectly done here, like noted, very simple, but intricate at the same time to get it all perfectly authentic...  and yes you can spend a lot of time just looking at all of the design and on how it all works, this is one clever aspect of a Simulator, as you have almost the real thing on view for your inspection.
     

     
    Can this be called a cockpit? sort of. The original LLRV just had the pilot hanging out on the front on the frame, in the LLTV version is was boxed in to recreate the feeling of the inside of the LEM. The light metal frame construction and riveting is totally excellent, and note the nice touch of the Apollo mission patches...  but there is an important one missing? An oversight or just a small trivia question by the developer?
     

     
    The cockpit layout is very familiar if you are also familiar with the LEM's controls. The hand controls both sides, and the instrument box right.
     

     
     
    Left side here are two levers, the "Lift Engine Control Lever", and the secondary "Lift Thrusters Control Lever" known as the "T-Stick". Top left panel is the CB Control Panel, with Circuit Breakers (fuses) and system switches. 
     

     
    Note the rear COM Radio with 25khz and 8.33 khz modes and fuel cock lower. The "Main Control Panel" covers Battery A/B and Generator A/B switches, Altitude Controller over-ride, Lunar Simulation wind compensation switch, Helium Isolation valve, Altitude Thrusters operations mode, Inverter A/B switches, Pitch/Roll AHRS source, Artificial Horizon source and Altitude controller rate sensitivity adjustment knobs for; Pitch, Roll and Yaw.
     
    Right side is the "Main Instrument Panel", from top; Engine Fire annunciator and test button, HD quantity indicator, Annunciator Panel, Lateral/Forward velocity indicator, lift rockets chamber pressure, Helium Pressure, analog stop-watch/button cycle, Artificial Horizon, Radio Altimeter and V/S (vertical Speed) indicator, Thrust-to-Weight ratio indicator LSM mode, EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature gauge), Oil Pressure, Analog Altimeter, Analog Variometer, N1 Indicator, Jet fuel quantity and aft Jet fuel quantity.
     

     
    On the right is the actual LEM panel for comparison, and the main flying instruments in layout are almost identical. The Annunciator panel has 4x4 block of warnings and failures. Note the "LUNAR MODE" selection.
     

     
    Bottom right is the "Right Control Panel". It includes; "Attitude Control mode switches", DC Volts and AC Volts, "Source Switch A/B and finally the same famous "Ground Contact" light.
     

     
     
    Right hand joystick is fully animated in forward-back and left/right movements, as is the well done NASA pilot in his arm movements...  let us call him "Neil".
     

     
    You can hide "Neil" by pressing the seat base, but be careful, it is very easy to mix up the hotspot of the "Ejection Seat",  and just disappear. If you move the slider on the pilot's helmet...  it will push down the visor, also then go into "Sunglasses" mode, in dimming the view, honestly I'm not sure about this while flying, as you need as much a clear view as possible, and an option to turn it off, but the idea is very clever.
     

    _____________
     
    Installation and Settings
    In X-Plane, you will find the LLTV in the "VTOL" section at the bottom of the "Flight Configuration" page. There are no liveries (laughs)
     

     
    LLTV Authorization is standard with a key, then a restart is required. Control settings are for all the "Control Response" (Pitch,Roll and Yaw) sliders to be at the minimum setting, and at least "5 Flight Models" per frame, it is highly recommended to have at least a 30 frames or more capacity, if not it will struggle to simulate.
     


     
    The LLTV fuel and weights are setup via the X-Plane "Weight, Balance & Fuel" Page, the HP is top, and the Jet Fuel is set lower, note the correct CoG (Centre of Gravity).
     

     
    If you have (or I recommend) a 3-Axis Joystick...  then move your Yaw axis to the Joystick X-Axis from the rudder pedals for an authentic feel of the machine, the LEM did not have rudder pedals as both pilots stood up side by side together.
     

     
    A final tip is to set the "Lunar Simulation Mode" to a Toggle or "On/Off" switch, I used the hat on my joystick, the custom command is available and as all the usable "Custom Commands" are noted in the manual. This action will reduce the distraction of the switch between the different modes, and keep your hands on the controls.
    ____________________
    Flying the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle
    I found that before every flight you have to set your fuel quantity, it resets back to zero if you don't, in other times also top up the H202 tanks, the LLTV guzzles fuel like nothing else, so this is always your first action.
     

     
    The fuel cock is down under the COM Radio, and this needs to be horizontal for fuel flow, then it is the simple need just to flick up the Ignition switch, then the START ENG switch, the system does the rest of the startup sequence, when done it will settle down around 20% RPM and EGT around 450º
     

     
    The startup whine and thrust from the CF700-2V is very good, then becomes a roar if you add in a bit of throttle, plus there is the puffs and blasts of Hydrogen Peroxide all around the vehicle, and you haven't done anything yet?
     

     
    Increasing the throttle increases the noise and the activity from the thrusters as they intensely fire off (really well done) the HP, and slowly your off the ground...  and your first target is just to hover. Honestly it's not that hard, just like flying a drone in every aspect...  up/down...  hover.
     

     
    Then your just glad to lower the LLTV back onto the ground...  safety.
     

     
    Confidence restored, "Lets try that again". This time I hovered far higher, the limits are 500 ft and 2 minutes of fuel, and the clock is ticking.
     
    Again it was easy to climb and hold, twist the throttle grip and turn easily in the yaw, left or right...  then front or back with a slight dip in each direction...  "easy peasy"
     

     
    Trickier is sideways...   any slip has to be carefully coordinated, and keeping the vehicle almost upright. Push too far in angle or speed and you will easily lose the LLTV, and there is no coming back, except for an explosive crash on the ground. A note that there is an "Ejection" to do an "Armstrong" and get the "hell out of there".
     

     
    There are two modes, the first is really the "Drone" mode were the LLTV flies basically just like a drone. Second flying mode is called "Lunar Simulation Mode" that is activated on the joystick. The difference between them is that with the first (drone) mode the CF700-2V is locked in it's cradle, so the thrust is completely downwards.
     
    In Lunar Simulation Mode (LSM)" the engine is now loose on a Gimbal to still produce the balance thrust, but the vehicle angle can now change, however the engine (thrust) stays relative to the ground to simulate the Moon's gravity (1.625 m/s2, about 16.6% to that on Earth's surface or 0.166 ɡ), to replicate the same propulsion system on the LEM.
    Several other actions also happen when you initiate LSM, first you change levers to the T-Stick, this lever now controls the downward thrusters and in giving you only control over them (disengages the Jet Engine) and lifts the rockets thrust between 20% and 100% power range.
     
    Note...  there has been an update, v1.01 now has the animation working that moves "Neil's" hand from the throttle to the T-Stick, and the T-Stick movements are now animated as well...
     

     
    The LSM system won't work unless you are at 500ft (or slightly more), then you flick the switch to change the modes... 
     

     
    Then the "Luna Mode" light is illuminated to show you are in the active mode. The transition between modes is seemless, initially you can't tell the difference, but adjust the T-Stick and you are quickly aware of the more heavier thrust at your disposal, with both the Jet engine and thrusters now producing lift, actually altitude control is far more easier, you as you have significantly now more control over the machine, but there is more and more lag in reactions the closer you get to the ground.
     

     
    Yaw and slip is still the same, so be careful... but the flying of the "Bedstead" was far easier than I had imagined, you would love to stay here in this controlled environment all day, but your now guzzling fuel at a ferocious rate, so it is time to descend and do a nice controlled landing.
     

     
    The amount of thrust power is excellent, and in reality you do feel what piloting the LEM would actually be like, I was amazing on the amount of power that was available to you, even on the moon!
     
    The trick here of course is to learn an actual moon LEM sequence landing, moving forward and picking your landing spot, controlling the flow of the descent and the angle of approach to a hover position and then a "Contact". It would take a fair bit of practice and familiarity with the LLTV to get that all right, but the adrenalin rush would be worth it, remember the old "Lunar Lander" game, well this is far more better and in 3d, you also have the same limited amount of fuel as well! Armstrong noted on his return from the moon.
     
    "Eagle (the Lunar Module) flew very much like the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle which I had flown more than 30 times at Ellington Air Force Base near the Space Center. I had made from 50 to 60 landings in the trainer, and the final trajectory I flew to the landing was very much like those flown in practice. That, of course, gave me a good deal of confidence  — a comfortable familiarity"
     
    Considering the traumatic events on 6th May 1968, then the LLRV and the later LLTV, were actually very reliable over thousands of test flights. Actually only two crashed, the LLTV A1 (Armstrong) and Test pilot Stuart Present ejected again safely from crashing LLTV-2, 29th January 1971, the surviving rest are listed below
     
    LLRV-2 (LLRV NASA 951) is on display at the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. It was lent to the museum by NASA in 2016.
    LLTV-3 (LLTV NASA 952) is on display at the Johnson Space Center.
    A Replica of NASA 952 is in a partially complete state in the aircraft boneyard at the Yanks Air Museum.
    __________________
    Summary
    So how do you replicate landing on the Moon when you have never actually been there? This was the problem facing NASA in 1966. To build a full trainer of the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, that was the lunar descent vehicle, was considered then be too expensive and even impractical.
     
    Then came the idea to convert two VTOL experimental aircraft at the FRC (Flight Research Centre) now known as the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. These were LLRVs, later renamed LLTVs (A1/A2) and to build three more for training lunar astronauts in the skills of using the lunar lander in B1/B2 and B3.
     
    The LLTV vehicle is reproduced here by NHAdrian, and brilliantly good it is. This is not a helicopter, more drone in skills, but the "LUNAR MODE" is replicated in absolute realism, in allowing you to practise Lunar Landings on Earth, or to practise this significant skill set, and actually get the feel of what flying the LEM was really like.
     
    Sounds and the feel of the machine are simply excellent here (it's very loud), the rocket pulses perfectly synchronised, there are no extras or liveries, but a very well detained machine. The LLTV is also fully VR (Virtual Reality) ready, for an even more authentic immersion. With the update v1.01, the T-Stick in "Lunar Mode" is now also animated as well as the throttle control...
     
    It is all very clever, very X-Plane as well, and the modeling detail and systems recreated here are exceptional, it is also very Lunar Lander, the 1979 video game, you get addicted to it, and try over and over again to achieve your goal...  of landing on the Moon.
     
    Highly recommended, and great authentic fun.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle by NHAdrian is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle
    Price is US$19.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12
    Windows, Mac (using Rosetta)  or Linux 4GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 331 MB
    Current Version : 1.0 (December 1st 2023)   Important note for MAC OS X users: please read this article about enabling Rosetta: https://www.x-plane.com/kb/using-x-plane-11-addons-with-x-plane-12-on-mac-systems/   Designed by NHAdrian - Support forum for the LLTV by NHAdrian
      Installation
    Installation of LLTV is done via a download of 296 Mb...   With a total installation size of 566Mb into the Aircraft Folder. Authorization is required, then a full X-Plane restart. As noted above there is a requirement to use Rosetta on the Mac System
      There is one basic highly detailed Manual pdf (29 pages) with an install, set up, description of the LLTV, plus full checklists. The menu design is to replicate an official NASA document.
     

     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08b3 (This is a Beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KEFD - Ellington Field - X-Plane default - Free
    ___________________________
     
    News by Stephen Dutton
    1st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  21. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from Busair in NEWS! - Airport Upgraded : KMSY - New Orleans International Airport XP12   
    NEWS! - Airport Upgraded : KMSY - New Orleans International Airport XP12
     

     
    VerticalSim has upgraded their KMSY - New Orleans International Airport to X-Plane 12. Released for X-Plane 11 in 2020, this New Orleans International Airport XP11 is also still available here for US$14.95. But this newly refurbished KMSY is X-Plane 12 only, with the expected X-Plane 12 effects and weather features.
     
    Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is an international airport under Class B airspace in Kenner, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, United States. It is owned by the city of New Orleans and is 11 miles (18 km) west of downtown New Orleans. A small portion of Runway 11/29 is in unincorporated St. Charles Parish. Armstrong International is the primary commercial airport for the New Orleans metropolitan area and southeast Louisiana.   Features Some VFR landmarks 4k UHD Texturing with PBR 2023 Airport Layout Animated Car Traffic (via Groundtraffic plugin) Color Graded Satellite Imagery SAM Jetways X-Plane native weathermaps  

     
    The free SAM plugin is required for this airport to work.  You can get it here SAM3 Suite.
     
    Images are courtesy of VerticalSim
     
    Price is set below US$15!...  cheap as, for a very good scenery.
    __________________
     

     
    Yes!...   KMSY - New Orleans International Airport XP12 by VerticalSim is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    KMSY - New Orleans International Airport XP12
    Price is US$14.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12 Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB VRAM Minimum - 12 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 1.8 GB Version 1.0 (December 1st 2023) ___________________________
     
    News by Stephen Dutton
    2nd December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
     
  22. Like
    Stephen got a reaction from SteveDe in Aircraft Review : F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata   
    Aircraft Review : F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata
     
    This is the first operational fighter aircraft to fly a sustained twice the speed of sound. It is of course the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter", or otherwise known as a "Missile with a man in it".
     
    The F-104 is a pure machine built for pure speed, it looks fast... Supersonic fast, just a long pointy fuselage, with those small straight, mid-mounted, trapezoidal wings, and a high stabilator (fully moving horizontal stabilizer) which was mounted atop the fin to reduce inertia coupling, it was the ultimate interceptor aircraft. Of course NASA loved it, the USAF not so much.
     
    But an iconic aircraft it still was. The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War. Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the "Century Series" of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF), it was developed into an all-weather multi-role aircraft in the early 1960s and was produced by several other nations, seeing widespread service outside the United States than within.
     
    Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, vice president of engineering and research at Lockheed's Skunk Works, visited USAF air bases across South Korea in November 1951 to speak with fighter pilots about what they wanted and needed in a fighter aircraft. At the time, the American pilots were confronting the MiG-15 with North American F-86 Sabres, and many felt that the MiGs were superior to the larger and more complex American fighters.
    The pilots requested a small and simple aircraft with excellent performance, especially high-speed and high-altitude capabilities.[4] Johnson started the design of such an aircraft upon his return to the United States. In March 1952, his team was assembled; they studied over 100 aircraft configurations, ranging from small designs at just 8,000 lb (3,600 kg), to large ones up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg).
    To achieve the desired performance, Lockheed chose a small and simple aircraft, weighing in at 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) with a single powerful engine. The engine chosen was the new General Electric J79 turbojet, an engine of dramatically improved performance in comparison with contemporary designs.
     
    Colimata is a well known X-Plane developer of considerable skills. His main claim to fame has been the extraordinary Concorde FXP project, complex but truly original to the most famous airliner ever built. Colimata is not immune to fast military jets either, as his earlier projects were the FA18-F Super Hornet and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This F-104 however is all new, and available only for X-Plane 12.
     

     
    First the F-104 Starfighter by Colimata comes in three different variants, the FXP G, the FXP S and the FXP 21C (21st century). You can see what variant you are flying by the menu notice in the X-Plane Banner.
     
    ‘G’   F-104G was the most-produced version of the F-104 family, a multi-role fighter-bomber with a total of 1,127 aircraft built. They were manufactured by Lockheed, as well as under license by Canadair and a consortium of European companies that included Messerschmitt/MBB, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA. The type featured a strengthened fuselage, wing, and empennage structures; the larger vertical fin with fully powered rudder as used on the two-seat versions; fully powered brakes, a new anti-skid system, and larger tires; revised flaps for improved combat maneuvering; and a larger braking chute. Upgraded avionics included the Autonetics NASARR F15A-41B radar with air-to-air, ground-mapping, contour-mapping, and terrain-avoidance modes, as well as the Litton LN-3 inertial navigation system (the first on a production fighter). Here the "G" is the most authentic and the base version of the F-104 package.
     

     
    "S" F-104S was upgraded for the interception role, adding the NASARR R-21G/H radar with moving-target indicator and continuous-wave illuminator for semi-active radar homing missiles (initially the AIM-7 Sparrow), two additional wing and two underbelly hardpoints (increasing the total to nine), the more powerful J79-GE-19 engine, and added were two additional ventral fins to increase stability. The M61 cannon was sacrificed to make room for the missile avionics in the interceptor version, but was retained for the fighter-bomber variant. Typically two Sparrow and two (and sometimes four or six) Sidewinder missiles were carried on all the hardpoints except the central (underbelly), or up to seven 750 lb (340 kg) bombs (normally two to four 500–750 lb [230–340 kg] bombs). The F-104S was cleared for a higher maximum takeoff weight, allowing it to carry up to 7,500 lb (3,400 kg) of stores; other Starfighters had a maximum external load of 4,000 lb (1,800 kg). Its combat radius was up to 775 mi (1,247 km) with four external fuel tanks
     

     
    "21C" or 21st Century. It is the most modern variant which can be seen immediately from the cockpit instruments with the digital displays. It doesn't exist obviously, as there is no real "21C" but F-104's do come with digital instruments as shown in the video. Debatable here is there should be a YF-104A variant, this is the NASA No.818, and this aircraft was flown for 19 years as a flying test bed and a chase plane.
     

     
    The Colimata F-104 comes in that original skin metal only livery. The airframe was all-metal, primarily duralumin with some stainless steel and titanium as part of the structure. The fuselage was approximately two and a half times as long as the airplane's wingspan. The wings were centered on the horizontal reference plane, or along the longitudinal centerline of the fuselage, and were located substantially farther aft on the fuselage than most contemporary designs. The aft fuselage was elevated from the horizontal reference plane, resulting a "lifted" tail, and the nose was "drooped". This caused the aircraft to fly nose up, helping to minimize drag. As a result, the pitot tube, air inlet scoops, and engine thrust line were all canted slightly from centerline of the fuselage.
     

     
    The Colimata F-104 is beautifully done, it glows in the X-Plane 12 sunshine, the light bouncing off the metal realistic skin. You can feel the "Skunk Works" talent here, in the way they created and crafted these formidable machines, metallurgy at it's finest.
     

     
    The panels and rivet patterns are beautifully crafted, and of course those razor sharp wings...  notable this is the "S" variant.
     
    The wing design was extremely thin, with a thickness-to-chord ratio of only 3.36% and an aspect ratio of 2.45. The wing's leading edges were so thin (.016 in; 0.41 mm) that they were a hazard to ground crews. Hence, protective guards were installed on them during maintenance. The thinness of the wings required the fuel tanks and landing gear to be placed within the fuselage, and the hydraulic cylinders driving the ailerons were limited to 1-inch (25 mm) thickness to fit.
     
    You can see the different types of metal here to absorb the engine output heat, and the built in fuselage Speedbrake doors
     

     
    Flaps are "Barn Door" deep, and note the extremely large aileron for supersonic control and manoeuvrability. Notable is the Boundary Layer Control System (BLCS) at the rear side of the wings right above the flaps. Compressed air is taken from the compressor of the engine and injected in the airflow right above the flaps. This improves lift by reducing the probability of turbulent airflow above the flaps. This way reasonable landing speeds were achieved.
     

     
    Because the vertical fin was only slightly shorter than the length of each wing and nearly as aerodynamically effective, it could act as a wing-on-rudder application, rolling the aircraft in the opposite direction of rudder input. To offset this effect, the wings were canted downward at a 10° negative-dihedral (anhedral) angle. This downward canting also improved roll control during high-G maneuvers, common in air-to-air combat.
     
    Under the fuselage are both the central ventral fin, and this being the "S", the twin empennage structures.
     

     
    The maw of the jetpipe exhaust is excellent, not only externally, but deep internally as well in finite detail.
     

     
    The stabilator is also razor thin, and has a very wide tilt angle, all set in a T-Tail configuration.
     

     
    The undercarriage is a simple three wheel setup, basically very basic in a system to fold up into the tight fuselage. Extremely well executed here by Colimata with metal hydraulic piping the highlight, and all of the internal bay detail is a feast for the eyes, links and joints are also perfectly created, and note the taxiway lights mounted internally on the outer bay doors.
     

     
    Single nose wheel is again simple, with the single landing light on the front strut, again the internal bay detail is excellent, notice with the way the twin doors frame and clamp the strut when closed.
     

     
    Glass is excellent as well...  a deep dark green tint, shows off the thickness of the glass, and reflections are perfect. The canopy opens to the left side, and you can see the mottled glass detail...  the frame is extraordinary in it's perfect detailing.
     

     
    Externally there is a well developed "Cold War" style pilot, he is not animated, but looks authentic.
     

     
    Cockpit
    This is the ultimate "Cold War" warrior, the next generation up from the Second World War fighters. The detail is very black, but worn, highly realistic and authentic. Colimata has done a really great workmanship in getting the details right, right down to the worn text, that needs a second glance to read it.
     

     
    Bit of trivia...   the original F-104 had a Stanley C-1 Ejection Seat, and this seat ejected downwards through the floor at 500ft, this was to clear the high T-Tail for a safe ejection from the aircraft...  later F-104s used the Martin Baker Q7 seat, this seat was now powerful enough to clear that troublesome tail. Here it is the later Q7. The ejector seat works! so don't pull the hoop unless you want to vacate the aircraft, oh and get rid of the canopy first as well..
     
    The simple stick has no operational buttons or switches, but can be hidden via "hotspot" on the base.
     

     
    The three different G, S and 21C instrument panels are all quite different with their layouts. It is best to study them all and then select the one you like, as each have a very different role. I'm going to stay with the original "G" layout.
     

     
    It is a complicated panel layout, and you would need a little study before serious use. The manual provided "Quickstart", is in my mind a little bit too under detailed for the complexity here, you need the areas to be broken down and explained, this is only a "Quickstart" so a better manual as noted might follow, it is needed.
     

     
    Dials and gauges are beautifully created and reflective, very realistic. Centre seven dials cover (anti-clockwise) AirSpeed, Angle of Attack, Vertical Speed (V/S), Artificial Ball Horizon, Turn and Bank rate, a Position & Homing Indicator (sort of Heading Indicator) and Altitude.
     
    Left is a G-Meter, Radio Altimeter, and right are the engine RPM, Temperature, Oil Pressure, Fuel Flow and Nozzle Position, the Whisky Compass is upper left glareshield...  sticking out far right is a intricate clock/chronometer.
     
    Lower panel is the Engine Start and Landing/Taxi lights far left, then the Weapons panel, landing gear switch is here as well. Central is the huge RADAR system, that covers both AIR to AIR mode and AIR to GROUND mode.
     

     
    Right lower panel is the Cabin Pressure, and internal and external fuel gauges. Oxygen is far right.
     
    Side panels are again quite different between the variants. On the "G" the layout is smaller and less detailed, highlight is the lovely white stubby throttle lever, the Flap position indicator is set behind, but you can also hide the throttle if you want to. Left side has radio, fuel switches, Radar position lever (nice) and Stability Control.
     

     
    Right side has Oxygen Regulator, IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), IN Inertial/flightplan (note here, this panel tends to move around, on the 21C it is lower left Instrument panel) and ECM. There are various types of displays between the G and S/21C. Here there is no flightplan screen on the G, but on the other variants. The G has a "Range Timer", the S the fully interactive flightplan panel.
     

     
    The autopilot is very basic, in a set the aircraft and "HOLD" the situation in Altitude and Mach, you can TURN left or right via the lower switch. 
     
    But it is in the extreme detailing that you get here, something simple like opening the canopy is a marvel to watch, the catches are all animated and reassuring that the canopy will be safely locked down at Mach 2, they click and clank as well...  it's all beautifully done, and more importantly VR (Virtual Reality) ready, with the goggles on, you will be immersed in a Cold War environment like no other.
     

     
    Menu
    The menu GUI is accessed on the X-Plane banner Menu under the aircraft title, the CHECKLIST window is here as well.
     

     
    There are Eight tabs to select on the menu; MAIN, SETTINGS, ROUTE LOADING, EQUIPMENT, WEAPONS, FUEL, DOORS & GROUND and STATUS. If you have Colimata;s Concorde they are all quite familiar in design and use. MAIN tab is a welcome screen.
     

     
    SETTINGS: Covers PRO Mode. This mode changes the aircraft from simple (aerodynamics and systems) to the PRO mode, where you get access to everything, but be aware the already difficult F-104 is far more harder to fly and use. SOUND, Includes Engine Volume internal and external, cockpit fans, G-Suit sounds and Oxygen mask sounds, RADAR, HD Resolution and Simple mode or heavy shadows, MORE includes, Simple Air-refueling, Cockpit lamp glow and Intake doors... here you can have the optional variable (moving) intake doors on the "S" and "21C" variants.
     
    Before we go any further. You will find that most systems here on the Colimata F-104 are very X-Plane default based, so if you know how X-Plane systems work, then you will easily understand how to set up and use the F-104.
     
       
     
    ROUTE LOADING: Here is a Flightplan Loading tool. flightplans are stored in the X-Plane "Output/FMS plans" folder and can be accessed and loaded via this tab. Obviously they have to saved in the .fms format.
     

     
    EQUIPMENT: There are four options on the "Equipment" tab...  Selecting the Air Re-Fuel Probe, Radar Warn Receiver..  which is located top right instrument panel, Chaff Flare Dispensers...  which are both located on each side of the rear exhaust pipe, and the Rocket Motor!
     

     

     
    WEAPONS: Weapons are selected via the X-Plane "Flight/Weight&Balance/Weapons menu, standard X-Plane default settings. The list is huge at a mix of 22 armaments and fuel tanks for the 10 stations on the aircraft. Overload and you get a RED weight indication "Caution Very Heavy Aircraft".
     

     

     
    FUEL: If you add on Fuel tanks in the "Weapons" menu. Then the tank(s) selected will appear in the Flight/Weight,Balance & Fuel Menu to add in more fuel onto the aircraft, again watch the weight as the F-104 is very easily overloaded. A point to make is that if you "Drop" the both wing-tip tanks then you get the "Stubby" wing version of the F-104
     

     
    Lower menu the page notes your RANGE, in High altitude flight, Mix Altitude flight and Low Altitude flight...  Also if your route is loaded, it will note the distance available in NM (Nautical Miles). Also noted if your AIR REFUEL is switched on or not.
     

     
    DOORS & GROUND: This menu gives you options on the ground. You can reveal the RCA AN/ASG-14T1 ranging radar. Put a very nice ladder on the right side of the aircraft, Open/Close the Canopy. There are also four bays you can access...  lower right Electronics bay, the left lower Cannon Bay of which is the 20 mm (0.79 in) M61 Vulcan auto-cannon, Top forward is the Avionics bay, and behind it is the Ammunition bay...  lower left rear is the RAT (Ram Air Turbine).
     

     
    Centre selections include, a load of flags, pins covers and chocks. There are far too many to even count! Note the lovely wing edge covers and authentic engine inlet covers.
     

     
    Lower D&S menu covers two static items in vehicles. A military Heavy Duty Tanker and GPU (Ground Power Unit)
     

     

     
    STATUS: The final menu tab is the "Status" of the aircraft. This is a one look view of the total status of the F-104. Included is Fuel and your current Range, System status in Oxygen, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Fuel (system), Landing Gear, Elevator (Trim Position), Aircraft Weight and required Approach, Final and Touchdown speeds.
     
    CHECKLIST
    As noted also on the menu bar is the F-104 Checklist tool
     

     
    The first page is a "walkaround" diagram, it's not animated by set views, but just a guide around the aircraft. The menu window is moveable and scaleable around your screen.
     

     
    There are thirteen checklists from Pre-Flight to (engine) Shutdown. Then four "Emergency" pages and five "Custom Content" pages for your own use. Navigation is via the two PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons.
     

     
    Altogether it is a very comprehensive and detailed menu, certainly very well done by Colimata... Easy to use and has loads of current required data avalable.
    _____________________
     
    Flying the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
     

     
    The Startup sequence will not find a battery switch inside the cockpit. Electric energy is only available as soon as the GPU is connected
    externally. Complete the cockpit checks, then make sure that the Fuel Shutoff switch is in the ON position.
     


    Engage a starter switch. Switch 1 on uneven days, Switch 2 on even days. The engine will start spooling up. Now click on the lower right side of the throttle to bring it from OFF to IDLE position. With this the engine will continue its spool up and the dials start to revolve. This is a very "Ground Crew" aircraft start, you almost want to stick your hand up out of the cockpit and twirl your hand.
     

     
    Engine start up sounds are seriously "Amazing", first the startup compressor, then that familiar whine out of the J79 turbojet, it fills the air in the cockpit (always have the canopy open), the starter switches will go off automatically, when the engine is above 40%, then engage the Generators GEN1 and GEN2.
     

     
    You don't want to close that canopy yet, but to hear the noise, absorb your surroundings. Let of the brakes and a slight throttle and your rolling..
     

     
    You soak up the feeling, this iconic jet aircraft. Now quickly it is also time to get down to business, and you pull down the canopy...
     

     
    ...  suddenly your immersed in another world, a tightly contained space, a cold-war scenario, and the F-104 feels of what it is, a Skunk Works project to go very fast. You need a very long and wide runway to takeoff, those petit fine wings don't give off much lift, so you need a lot of air around them to make them work.
     

     
    Hold the brakes, then put up the throttle to full thrust, yes you will need everything you have for the initial push...
     

     
    You get a dragons ROAR! out of the rear, and when you let the brakes go, the F-104 bounces with the forces, it moves, but slowly at first then gradually gains speed, you need a lot of runway to get enough to get around 200 knts, there is a marker you can adjust for your rotate moment, tracking needs full concentration in keeping the Starfighter tight and straight to the lift point.
     

     
    Even then the lift is slow, worse you have to have a very steady firm hand to keep the F-104 stiff and clean, if not the nose will bounce...
     

     
    Immediately you clean up the flaps, more clean lift is now required, speed as well, more lift... then your climbing out. Gear up next, and the undercarriage all folds into the fuselage and gives you a very nice shiny clean underside, the gear animations are extremely well done by Colimata, very professional.
     

     
    Shredded of it's earthly bounds, the Starfighter will now seriously climb, so you tone the throttle back a bit, rate of climb here is 48,000 ft/min (240 m/s) Initially... fast, really fast, needed as you can fly as high as 73,000 ft (22,000 m), almost in space, SR71 territory (84,000ft).
     

     
    Some points here. The F-104 bounces around a lot, not wind mind you, but just nervy. The nose jiggle is very disconcerting. You can tone this down a little via the X-Plane settings to dull the controls out a lot, then to perfect the trim and it can really help, problem is? that flying like this even for a short time is very tiring, you are working consistently hard all the time in just flying the aircraft. It does get better with familiarity, but the F-104 is not an easy aircraft to fly. The Autopilot is of only a minor help, or relief, so your workload is high in here.
     
    A trick is to use the AOA ‘Angles Of Attack’ equivalent gauge. It does not show the exact angles, but a scale that informs you about how near to the maximum AoA the aircraft currently is...    the so trick is staying within the boundaries. There is also the APC "Automatic Pitch Control" system which provides additional safety. If AoA value limits are exceeded too far it will even ‘kick’ the stick forward to get back to safe levels, but not when landing gear is down.
     

     
    There was a special version of the F-104 was that ‘NF-104’. It was equipped with a rocket motor in addition to the jet engine. In the 1960s the NF-104 broke many records and it was used in the training for the X-15. The motor can be switched on and off, and the thrust can be set between 50 % and 100 %. The rocket provides thrust for 90 seconds. The rocket panel is only visible if the "Rocket Motor" is selected, situated on the left side.
     

     
    Since air is super thin at high altitudes, the conventional flight controls will loose authority. For this an RCS ‘Reaction Control System’ can be activated. It provides controllability in very thin air. There are both controls for the actual rocket motor, and the RCS system.
     

     
    Re-heat the J79 turbojet, then flick the switch and your head slams back like in the "Right Stuff", and your climbing like.... well "Hell, hang on" actually...   dials are twirling and you really can't make any sense of them, you are just along for the ride!
     

     
    Passing through 65,000ft and that air is now extremely thin, and your controls don't respond as they should...  the F-104 is EXTREMELY hard to fly up here, slight movements you will are all you need, but if you lose it, then there is no coming back...  and you will simply spiral away to your death.
     

     
    It took a few high-altitude flights to get the feel of it all right and to get the use of the RCS system, exhilarating, certainly. Worse is that at these extreme altitudes the jet engine will switch off, and it is required to be restarted during the reentry. If the jet engine nozzle stays open, close it via the emergency engine nozzle handle before the restart attempt.
     
    This is not a Air-superiority fighterjet, an agile, lightly armed aircraft and ready to eliminate any challenge over control of the airspace. Even turning is an effort for the F-104, you bank, but you will still take a very wide circumference to go to your new heading. 
     

     
    The word "Interceptor", says it all, and in reality it is all the F104 can really do, go fast, go high and "Intercept!" First you climb as high as you need. There is a marker on the Artificial Horizon to get the 15º climb angle perfect, then up you go, almost to 4000fpm...
     

     
    ...   now at a high altitude, you can let the F-104 loose, on goes the burner again and your soon pushing a mach, then m.1.5. The aircraft is a handful to keep in a straight bullet line, turning... only for the faint-hearted. I can see and feel why it was called the "Widowmaker".
     

     
    Yes the Starfighter is bullet, but more X-15 than fighter jet. The Autopilot takes ages to settle down on a course and altitude, but in time will hold the aircraft with a "hands off the stick" relief, turning is tricky with the turning knob "left-Right", again it works, but difficult to put the aircraft on a straight heading again, so you readjust with ENGAGE off, then when at a set altitude and heading, then (Re)ENGAGE the Autopilot...  and hopefully it will HOLD either the speed or the altitude, you can't have both.
     

     
    The F-104 ships with a sophisticated RADAR system covering AIR to AIR mode and AIR to GROUND mode, in the AIR to GROUND mode can require quite a few computer system resources. It is therefore possible to switch it from HD ‘High Definition’ to a lower definition. Furthermore the interpretation of the AG ‘Air to Ground’ image can be complex. Therefore the system comes with a "Standard-Simple mode" and a "Complex" mode.
     

     
    In "Complex" mode we see the same landscape from above but with ‘RADAR shadows’. If the RADAR beam is blocked by an obstacle, everything behind is in its ‘RADAR shadow’ and will then be displayed black.
     

     
    In AIR to AIR mode or AA mode, we can track and lock on to other aircraft. The available ranges are 20 nm, 40 nm and 80 nm. The RADAR beam sweeps 45° on both sides in the ‘G’ variant and 60° in the ‘S’ and ‘21C’ variants. To lock an enemy aircraft the target line can be moved left or right. When the target line is aligned with the target aircraft, press the ‘lock’ button or use the custom command. When the aircraft is locked (on target) the symbology on the display changes. We then see a circle that represents the distance to the target. The smaller the circle diameter the closer we are to the target. It shows direction and altitude to the enemy jet relative to our aircraft.
     

     
    The system is very good, but needs time to study and work it all out. To be honest I only had the "Quick" guide for information, and you really need a detailed depth of information to use it.
     
    Nightlighting
    Very night fighter...  that is the feeling inside the "Starfighter" cockpit, there are a lot of instrument adjustments, but the knobs are spread around both sides of the instruments. Three separate knobs covers the instrument lighting; INTERIOR INSTRUMENT, INTERIOR CONSOLE (sides) and INTERIOR FLOOD. The lighting is the instrument backlighting and two spot lights each side of the pilot.
     
    All set at full BRT and it is all a bit overwhelming in the brightness...
     

     
    So the trick is to tone it all down, even below the halfway marker, then it becomes all "Very Nice". Externally you have some very (very) nice rotating beacon's top and lower, and Navigation lights, that can be set to FLASH or STEADY. As noted there are two landing lights on the inner gear doors and a single nose taxi light.
     

     
    Landing is probably one of the trickiest treat of them all. The wings here are relatively small, and therefore they need substantial speed to keep you airborne. The ‘BLC’ Boundary Layer Control’ system above the flaps is of great help and the engine is very powerful in case we need to get out of critical situations. So you need to engage the burner to prevent sinking or even stalling, or for a worst case scenario, for a go-around
     

     
    At the lower speed, the flaps and with the gear lowered the roll rate is also significantly reduced, in other words the stick and rudder responses are dull, laggy. It keeps you on your toes to get the speed right at around 200 knts - 190 kts, that's very fast, with not much control response.
     

     
    If your clean and straight, then all you want to do is plant the aircraft, no groundeffect or lift to help you here, it is a carrier shot in reverse. Touched down should be around 150 knts.
     

     
    Even before the nose hits the ground, you release the "Chute", no reverser thrust here to slow you down, but the "Parachute" is extremely effective, you don't (or even dare) touch the brakes. I recommend to set a key command to deploy or lose the chute, your too busy to look down in the cockpit for the hard to find white "DRAG CHUTE" handle.
     

     
    At taxi speed, you let go of the "chute", then flip the catch and open up the canopy...  now you can "Breath".
     

     
    We have to be very clear here, that the Starfighter F-104 has some very, very unsual flying characteristics, this is not a forgiving aircraft, rewarding yes, but totally unforgiving...  to fly the aircraft well, it would need a lot of commitment and focus, as it is though all its different flight phases, the one aircraft that changes personalities consistently, it is your job to understand each one of them and master the differences, for the novice, not really, even the usual pro's will find it a challenge, but a major repect to those with the "Right Stuff".
     
    In the release I had (early) there was only three liveries; The Metal default, a German Luftwaffe and an Italian Air Force. More liveries will be available for download at no additional cost.
     

    __________________________
     
    Summary
    The first operational fighter aircraft to fly a sustained twice the speed of sound. It is of course the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter", or otherwise known as a "Missile with a man in it". The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War. Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the "Century Series" of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF), later it was also a NASA test aircraft. Loved more by international Airforces than the American ones. It was created by the famous Lockheed "Skunk Works", and in performance and design it has a the same particular traits as the later SR-71, just to go exceedingly fast.
     
    F-104 Starfighter by Colimata comes in three different variants, the FXP G, the FXP S and the FXP 21C (21st century). Known for his excellent Concorde FXP project, Colimata is also not immune to fast military jets either, as his earlier projects were the FA18-F Super Hornet and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This F-104 however is all new, and only available for X-Plane 12.
     
    The F-104 is sensationally designed and developed here, in reality X-Plane, and X-Plane 12 gives this aircraft one of the best positions in Simulation, the top and the best, a very high accolade. It's top notch stuff, the best you can invest in.
     
    The quality and detail is excellent, nothing is missed here, that is from the shiny metal skin to the worn but highly detailed cockpit and instruments, super detailed 4k textures and complex landing gear and brake chute.
     
    Features are as long as your arm, with an extensive menu. With panels that can open up (Electronics bay, gun bay, avionics bay, radar dome and canopy), ladder, full tags, wing covers and chocks, featured GPU and Fuel trucks, and an NF-104 Rocket and Reaction Control System. There are extensive weapons, with highly replicated "Cold War" era weapon and radar systems, the later 21c has modern glass instruments and avionics.
     
    It is extremely tricky to fly, as was the original "Widowmaker", but that is a major part of the attraction to this sort of Simulation, so what you will put in, is what you get out of the aircraft, it is demanding, but highly rewarding as well as it brings out the best of your "Right Stuff", those generation of pilot's that pushed the extreme boundaries of speed and space.
     
    This Starfighter aircraft allows you to experience that era and fly something very unique, an icon, a classic...  the best of it's time.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    F-104 FXP Starfighter
    Price is : US$45.00
     
    Requirements
    -Plane 12 Only Windows, Mac and Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Download Size: 941 MB
    Versions 1.01 - December 1st 2023   Developed by Colimata
    Support forum the F-104 FXP   Installation
    Installation of F-104 FXP Starfighter XP12 is done via a download of 825 Mb...   With a total installation size of 1.17Gb.
     
    There is one basic Manual pdf (45 pages)
     

     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08b3 (This is a Beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KTCM - McChord AFB  - Seattle - Boeing Country 10.5 by Tom Curtis (Sorry not now available)
    ___________________________
     
    Classic Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    1st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  23. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata   
    Aircraft Review : F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata
     
    This is the first operational fighter aircraft to fly a sustained twice the speed of sound. It is of course the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter", or otherwise known as a "Missile with a man in it".
     
    The F-104 is a pure machine built for pure speed, it looks fast... Supersonic fast, just a long pointy fuselage, with those small straight, mid-mounted, trapezoidal wings, and a high stabilator (fully moving horizontal stabilizer) which was mounted atop the fin to reduce inertia coupling, it was the ultimate interceptor aircraft. Of course NASA loved it, the USAF not so much.
     
    But an iconic aircraft it still was. The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War. Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the "Century Series" of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF), it was developed into an all-weather multi-role aircraft in the early 1960s and was produced by several other nations, seeing widespread service outside the United States than within.
     
    Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, vice president of engineering and research at Lockheed's Skunk Works, visited USAF air bases across South Korea in November 1951 to speak with fighter pilots about what they wanted and needed in a fighter aircraft. At the time, the American pilots were confronting the MiG-15 with North American F-86 Sabres, and many felt that the MiGs were superior to the larger and more complex American fighters.
    The pilots requested a small and simple aircraft with excellent performance, especially high-speed and high-altitude capabilities.[4] Johnson started the design of such an aircraft upon his return to the United States. In March 1952, his team was assembled; they studied over 100 aircraft configurations, ranging from small designs at just 8,000 lb (3,600 kg), to large ones up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg).
    To achieve the desired performance, Lockheed chose a small and simple aircraft, weighing in at 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) with a single powerful engine. The engine chosen was the new General Electric J79 turbojet, an engine of dramatically improved performance in comparison with contemporary designs.
     
    Colimata is a well known X-Plane developer of considerable skills. His main claim to fame has been the extraordinary Concorde FXP project, complex but truly original to the most famous airliner ever built. Colimata is not immune to fast military jets either, as his earlier projects were the FA18-F Super Hornet and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This F-104 however is all new, and available only for X-Plane 12.
     

     
    First the F-104 Starfighter by Colimata comes in three different variants, the FXP G, the FXP S and the FXP 21C (21st century). You can see what variant you are flying by the menu notice in the X-Plane Banner.
     
    ‘G’   F-104G was the most-produced version of the F-104 family, a multi-role fighter-bomber with a total of 1,127 aircraft built. They were manufactured by Lockheed, as well as under license by Canadair and a consortium of European companies that included Messerschmitt/MBB, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA. The type featured a strengthened fuselage, wing, and empennage structures; the larger vertical fin with fully powered rudder as used on the two-seat versions; fully powered brakes, a new anti-skid system, and larger tires; revised flaps for improved combat maneuvering; and a larger braking chute. Upgraded avionics included the Autonetics NASARR F15A-41B radar with air-to-air, ground-mapping, contour-mapping, and terrain-avoidance modes, as well as the Litton LN-3 inertial navigation system (the first on a production fighter). Here the "G" is the most authentic and the base version of the F-104 package.
     

     
    "S" F-104S was upgraded for the interception role, adding the NASARR R-21G/H radar with moving-target indicator and continuous-wave illuminator for semi-active radar homing missiles (initially the AIM-7 Sparrow), two additional wing and two underbelly hardpoints (increasing the total to nine), the more powerful J79-GE-19 engine, and added were two additional ventral fins to increase stability. The M61 cannon was sacrificed to make room for the missile avionics in the interceptor version, but was retained for the fighter-bomber variant. Typically two Sparrow and two (and sometimes four or six) Sidewinder missiles were carried on all the hardpoints except the central (underbelly), or up to seven 750 lb (340 kg) bombs (normally two to four 500–750 lb [230–340 kg] bombs). The F-104S was cleared for a higher maximum takeoff weight, allowing it to carry up to 7,500 lb (3,400 kg) of stores; other Starfighters had a maximum external load of 4,000 lb (1,800 kg). Its combat radius was up to 775 mi (1,247 km) with four external fuel tanks
     

     
    "21C" or 21st Century. It is the most modern variant which can be seen immediately from the cockpit instruments with the digital displays. It doesn't exist obviously, as there is no real "21C" but F-104's do come with digital instruments as shown in the video. Debatable here is there should be a YF-104A variant, this is the NASA No.818, and this aircraft was flown for 19 years as a flying test bed and a chase plane.
     

     
    The Colimata F-104 comes in that original skin metal only livery. The airframe was all-metal, primarily duralumin with some stainless steel and titanium as part of the structure. The fuselage was approximately two and a half times as long as the airplane's wingspan. The wings were centered on the horizontal reference plane, or along the longitudinal centerline of the fuselage, and were located substantially farther aft on the fuselage than most contemporary designs. The aft fuselage was elevated from the horizontal reference plane, resulting a "lifted" tail, and the nose was "drooped". This caused the aircraft to fly nose up, helping to minimize drag. As a result, the pitot tube, air inlet scoops, and engine thrust line were all canted slightly from centerline of the fuselage.
     

     
    The Colimata F-104 is beautifully done, it glows in the X-Plane 12 sunshine, the light bouncing off the metal realistic skin. You can feel the "Skunk Works" talent here, in the way they created and crafted these formidable machines, metallurgy at it's finest.
     

     
    The panels and rivet patterns are beautifully crafted, and of course those razor sharp wings...  notable this is the "S" variant.
     
    The wing design was extremely thin, with a thickness-to-chord ratio of only 3.36% and an aspect ratio of 2.45. The wing's leading edges were so thin (.016 in; 0.41 mm) that they were a hazard to ground crews. Hence, protective guards were installed on them during maintenance. The thinness of the wings required the fuel tanks and landing gear to be placed within the fuselage, and the hydraulic cylinders driving the ailerons were limited to 1-inch (25 mm) thickness to fit.
     
    You can see the different types of metal here to absorb the engine output heat, and the built in fuselage Speedbrake doors
     

     
    Flaps are "Barn Door" deep, and note the extremely large aileron for supersonic control and manoeuvrability. Notable is the Boundary Layer Control System (BLCS) at the rear side of the wings right above the flaps. Compressed air is taken from the compressor of the engine and injected in the airflow right above the flaps. This improves lift by reducing the probability of turbulent airflow above the flaps. This way reasonable landing speeds were achieved.
     

     
    Because the vertical fin was only slightly shorter than the length of each wing and nearly as aerodynamically effective, it could act as a wing-on-rudder application, rolling the aircraft in the opposite direction of rudder input. To offset this effect, the wings were canted downward at a 10° negative-dihedral (anhedral) angle. This downward canting also improved roll control during high-G maneuvers, common in air-to-air combat.
     
    Under the fuselage are both the central ventral fin, and this being the "S", the twin empennage structures.
     

     
    The maw of the jetpipe exhaust is excellent, not only externally, but deep internally as well in finite detail.
     

     
    The stabilator is also razor thin, and has a very wide tilt angle, all set in a T-Tail configuration.
     

     
    The undercarriage is a simple three wheel setup, basically very basic in a system to fold up into the tight fuselage. Extremely well executed here by Colimata with metal hydraulic piping the highlight, and all of the internal bay detail is a feast for the eyes, links and joints are also perfectly created, and note the taxiway lights mounted internally on the outer bay doors.
     

     
    Single nose wheel is again simple, with the single landing light on the front strut, again the internal bay detail is excellent, notice with the way the twin doors frame and clamp the strut when closed.
     

     
    Glass is excellent as well...  a deep dark green tint, shows off the thickness of the glass, and reflections are perfect. The canopy opens to the left side, and you can see the mottled glass detail...  the frame is extraordinary in it's perfect detailing.
     

     
    Externally there is a well developed "Cold War" style pilot, he is not animated, but looks authentic.
     

     
    Cockpit
    This is the ultimate "Cold War" warrior, the next generation up from the Second World War fighters. The detail is very black, but worn, highly realistic and authentic. Colimata has done a really great workmanship in getting the details right, right down to the worn text, that needs a second glance to read it.
     

     
    Bit of trivia...   the original F-104 had a Stanley C-1 Ejection Seat, and this seat ejected downwards through the floor at 500ft, this was to clear the high T-Tail for a safe ejection from the aircraft...  later F-104s used the Martin Baker Q7 seat, this seat was now powerful enough to clear that troublesome tail. Here it is the later Q7. The ejector seat works! so don't pull the hoop unless you want to vacate the aircraft, oh and get rid of the canopy first as well..
     
    The simple stick has no operational buttons or switches, but can be hidden via "hotspot" on the base.
     

     
    The three different G, S and 21C instrument panels are all quite different with their layouts. It is best to study them all and then select the one you like, as each have a very different role. I'm going to stay with the original "G" layout.
     

     
    It is a complicated panel layout, and you would need a little study before serious use. The manual provided "Quickstart", is in my mind a little bit too under detailed for the complexity here, you need the areas to be broken down and explained, this is only a "Quickstart" so a better manual as noted might follow, it is needed.
     

     
    Dials and gauges are beautifully created and reflective, very realistic. Centre seven dials cover (anti-clockwise) AirSpeed, Angle of Attack, Vertical Speed (V/S), Artificial Ball Horizon, Turn and Bank rate, a Position & Homing Indicator (sort of Heading Indicator) and Altitude.
     
    Left is a G-Meter, Radio Altimeter, and right are the engine RPM, Temperature, Oil Pressure, Fuel Flow and Nozzle Position, the Whisky Compass is upper left glareshield...  sticking out far right is a intricate clock/chronometer.
     
    Lower panel is the Engine Start and Landing/Taxi lights far left, then the Weapons panel, landing gear switch is here as well. Central is the huge RADAR system, that covers both AIR to AIR mode and AIR to GROUND mode.
     

     
    Right lower panel is the Cabin Pressure, and internal and external fuel gauges. Oxygen is far right.
     
    Side panels are again quite different between the variants. On the "G" the layout is smaller and less detailed, highlight is the lovely white stubby throttle lever, the Flap position indicator is set behind, but you can also hide the throttle if you want to. Left side has radio, fuel switches, Radar position lever (nice) and Stability Control.
     

     
    Right side has Oxygen Regulator, IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), IN Inertial/flightplan (note here, this panel tends to move around, on the 21C it is lower left Instrument panel) and ECM. There are various types of displays between the G and S/21C. Here there is no flightplan screen on the G, but on the other variants. The G has a "Range Timer", the S the fully interactive flightplan panel.
     

     
    The autopilot is very basic, in a set the aircraft and "HOLD" the situation in Altitude and Mach, you can TURN left or right via the lower switch. 
     
    But it is in the extreme detailing that you get here, something simple like opening the canopy is a marvel to watch, the catches are all animated and reassuring that the canopy will be safely locked down at Mach 2, they click and clank as well...  it's all beautifully done, and more importantly VR (Virtual Reality) ready, with the goggles on, you will be immersed in a Cold War environment like no other.
     

     
    Menu
    The menu GUI is accessed on the X-Plane banner Menu under the aircraft title, the CHECKLIST window is here as well.
     

     
    There are Eight tabs to select on the menu; MAIN, SETTINGS, ROUTE LOADING, EQUIPMENT, WEAPONS, FUEL, DOORS & GROUND and STATUS. If you have Colimata;s Concorde they are all quite familiar in design and use. MAIN tab is a welcome screen.
     

     
    SETTINGS: Covers PRO Mode. This mode changes the aircraft from simple (aerodynamics and systems) to the PRO mode, where you get access to everything, but be aware the already difficult F-104 is far more harder to fly and use. SOUND, Includes Engine Volume internal and external, cockpit fans, G-Suit sounds and Oxygen mask sounds, RADAR, HD Resolution and Simple mode or heavy shadows, MORE includes, Simple Air-refueling, Cockpit lamp glow and Intake doors... here you can have the optional variable (moving) intake doors on the "S" and "21C" variants.
     
    Before we go any further. You will find that most systems here on the Colimata F-104 are very X-Plane default based, so if you know how X-Plane systems work, then you will easily understand how to set up and use the F-104.
     
       
     
    ROUTE LOADING: Here is a Flightplan Loading tool. flightplans are stored in the X-Plane "Output/FMS plans" folder and can be accessed and loaded via this tab. Obviously they have to saved in the .fms format.
     

     
    EQUIPMENT: There are four options on the "Equipment" tab...  Selecting the Air Re-Fuel Probe, Radar Warn Receiver..  which is located top right instrument panel, Chaff Flare Dispensers...  which are both located on each side of the rear exhaust pipe, and the Rocket Motor!
     

     

     
    WEAPONS: Weapons are selected via the X-Plane "Flight/Weight&Balance/Weapons menu, standard X-Plane default settings. The list is huge at a mix of 22 armaments and fuel tanks for the 10 stations on the aircraft. Overload and you get a RED weight indication "Caution Very Heavy Aircraft".
     

     

     
    FUEL: If you add on Fuel tanks in the "Weapons" menu. Then the tank(s) selected will appear in the Flight/Weight,Balance & Fuel Menu to add in more fuel onto the aircraft, again watch the weight as the F-104 is very easily overloaded. A point to make is that if you "Drop" the both wing-tip tanks then you get the "Stubby" wing version of the F-104
     

     
    Lower menu the page notes your RANGE, in High altitude flight, Mix Altitude flight and Low Altitude flight...  Also if your route is loaded, it will note the distance available in NM (Nautical Miles). Also noted if your AIR REFUEL is switched on or not.
     

     
    DOORS & GROUND: This menu gives you options on the ground. You can reveal the RCA AN/ASG-14T1 ranging radar. Put a very nice ladder on the right side of the aircraft, Open/Close the Canopy. There are also four bays you can access...  lower right Electronics bay, the left lower Cannon Bay of which is the 20 mm (0.79 in) M61 Vulcan auto-cannon, Top forward is the Avionics bay, and behind it is the Ammunition bay...  lower left rear is the RAT (Ram Air Turbine).
     

     
    Centre selections include, a load of flags, pins covers and chocks. There are far too many to even count! Note the lovely wing edge covers and authentic engine inlet covers.
     

     
    Lower D&S menu covers two static items in vehicles. A military Heavy Duty Tanker and GPU (Ground Power Unit)
     

     

     
    STATUS: The final menu tab is the "Status" of the aircraft. This is a one look view of the total status of the F-104. Included is Fuel and your current Range, System status in Oxygen, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Fuel (system), Landing Gear, Elevator (Trim Position), Aircraft Weight and required Approach, Final and Touchdown speeds.
     
    CHECKLIST
    As noted also on the menu bar is the F-104 Checklist tool
     

     
    The first page is a "walkaround" diagram, it's not animated by set views, but just a guide around the aircraft. The menu window is moveable and scaleable around your screen.
     

     
    There are thirteen checklists from Pre-Flight to (engine) Shutdown. Then four "Emergency" pages and five "Custom Content" pages for your own use. Navigation is via the two PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons.
     

     
    Altogether it is a very comprehensive and detailed menu, certainly very well done by Colimata... Easy to use and has loads of current required data avalable.
    _____________________
     
    Flying the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
     

     
    The Startup sequence will not find a battery switch inside the cockpit. Electric energy is only available as soon as the GPU is connected
    externally. Complete the cockpit checks, then make sure that the Fuel Shutoff switch is in the ON position.
     


    Engage a starter switch. Switch 1 on uneven days, Switch 2 on even days. The engine will start spooling up. Now click on the lower right side of the throttle to bring it from OFF to IDLE position. With this the engine will continue its spool up and the dials start to revolve. This is a very "Ground Crew" aircraft start, you almost want to stick your hand up out of the cockpit and twirl your hand.
     

     
    Engine start up sounds are seriously "Amazing", first the startup compressor, then that familiar whine out of the J79 turbojet, it fills the air in the cockpit (always have the canopy open), the starter switches will go off automatically, when the engine is above 40%, then engage the Generators GEN1 and GEN2.
     

     
    You don't want to close that canopy yet, but to hear the noise, absorb your surroundings. Let of the brakes and a slight throttle and your rolling..
     

     
    You soak up the feeling, this iconic jet aircraft. Now quickly it is also time to get down to business, and you pull down the canopy...
     

     
    ...  suddenly your immersed in another world, a tightly contained space, a cold-war scenario, and the F-104 feels of what it is, a Skunk Works project to go very fast. You need a very long and wide runway to takeoff, those petit fine wings don't give off much lift, so you need a lot of air around them to make them work.
     

     
    Hold the brakes, then put up the throttle to full thrust, yes you will need everything you have for the initial push...
     

     
    You get a dragons ROAR! out of the rear, and when you let the brakes go, the F-104 bounces with the forces, it moves, but slowly at first then gradually gains speed, you need a lot of runway to get enough to get around 200 knts, there is a marker you can adjust for your rotate moment, tracking needs full concentration in keeping the Starfighter tight and straight to the lift point.
     

     
    Even then the lift is slow, worse you have to have a very steady firm hand to keep the F-104 stiff and clean, if not the nose will bounce...
     

     
    Immediately you clean up the flaps, more clean lift is now required, speed as well, more lift... then your climbing out. Gear up next, and the undercarriage all folds into the fuselage and gives you a very nice shiny clean underside, the gear animations are extremely well done by Colimata, very professional.
     

     
    Shredded of it's earthly bounds, the Starfighter will now seriously climb, so you tone the throttle back a bit, rate of climb here is 48,000 ft/min (240 m/s) Initially... fast, really fast, needed as you can fly as high as 73,000 ft (22,000 m), almost in space, SR71 territory (84,000ft).
     

     
    Some points here. The F-104 bounces around a lot, not wind mind you, but just nervy. The nose jiggle is very disconcerting. You can tone this down a little via the X-Plane settings to dull the controls out a lot, then to perfect the trim and it can really help, problem is? that flying like this even for a short time is very tiring, you are working consistently hard all the time in just flying the aircraft. It does get better with familiarity, but the F-104 is not an easy aircraft to fly. The Autopilot is of only a minor help, or relief, so your workload is high in here.
     
    A trick is to use the AOA ‘Angles Of Attack’ equivalent gauge. It does not show the exact angles, but a scale that informs you about how near to the maximum AoA the aircraft currently is...    the so trick is staying within the boundaries. There is also the APC "Automatic Pitch Control" system which provides additional safety. If AoA value limits are exceeded too far it will even ‘kick’ the stick forward to get back to safe levels, but not when landing gear is down.
     

     
    There was a special version of the F-104 was that ‘NF-104’. It was equipped with a rocket motor in addition to the jet engine. In the 1960s the NF-104 broke many records and it was used in the training for the X-15. The motor can be switched on and off, and the thrust can be set between 50 % and 100 %. The rocket provides thrust for 90 seconds. The rocket panel is only visible if the "Rocket Motor" is selected, situated on the left side.
     

     
    Since air is super thin at high altitudes, the conventional flight controls will loose authority. For this an RCS ‘Reaction Control System’ can be activated. It provides controllability in very thin air. There are both controls for the actual rocket motor, and the RCS system.
     

     
    Re-heat the J79 turbojet, then flick the switch and your head slams back like in the "Right Stuff", and your climbing like.... well "Hell, hang on" actually...   dials are twirling and you really can't make any sense of them, you are just along for the ride!
     

     
    Passing through 65,000ft and that air is now extremely thin, and your controls don't respond as they should...  the F-104 is EXTREMELY hard to fly up here, slight movements you will are all you need, but if you lose it, then there is no coming back...  and you will simply spiral away to your death.
     

     
    It took a few high-altitude flights to get the feel of it all right and to get the use of the RCS system, exhilarating, certainly. Worse is that at these extreme altitudes the jet engine will switch off, and it is required to be restarted during the reentry. If the jet engine nozzle stays open, close it via the emergency engine nozzle handle before the restart attempt.
     
    This is not a Air-superiority fighterjet, an agile, lightly armed aircraft and ready to eliminate any challenge over control of the airspace. Even turning is an effort for the F-104, you bank, but you will still take a very wide circumference to go to your new heading. 
     

     
    The word "Interceptor", says it all, and in reality it is all the F104 can really do, go fast, go high and "Intercept!" First you climb as high as you need. There is a marker on the Artificial Horizon to get the 15º climb angle perfect, then up you go, almost to 4000fpm...
     

     
    ...   now at a high altitude, you can let the F-104 loose, on goes the burner again and your soon pushing a mach, then m.1.5. The aircraft is a handful to keep in a straight bullet line, turning... only for the faint-hearted. I can see and feel why it was called the "Widowmaker".
     

     
    Yes the Starfighter is bullet, but more X-15 than fighter jet. The Autopilot takes ages to settle down on a course and altitude, but in time will hold the aircraft with a "hands off the stick" relief, turning is tricky with the turning knob "left-Right", again it works, but difficult to put the aircraft on a straight heading again, so you readjust with ENGAGE off, then when at a set altitude and heading, then (Re)ENGAGE the Autopilot...  and hopefully it will HOLD either the speed or the altitude, you can't have both.
     

     
    The F-104 ships with a sophisticated RADAR system covering AIR to AIR mode and AIR to GROUND mode, in the AIR to GROUND mode can require quite a few computer system resources. It is therefore possible to switch it from HD ‘High Definition’ to a lower definition. Furthermore the interpretation of the AG ‘Air to Ground’ image can be complex. Therefore the system comes with a "Standard-Simple mode" and a "Complex" mode.
     

     
    In "Complex" mode we see the same landscape from above but with ‘RADAR shadows’. If the RADAR beam is blocked by an obstacle, everything behind is in its ‘RADAR shadow’ and will then be displayed black.
     

     
    In AIR to AIR mode or AA mode, we can track and lock on to other aircraft. The available ranges are 20 nm, 40 nm and 80 nm. The RADAR beam sweeps 45° on both sides in the ‘G’ variant and 60° in the ‘S’ and ‘21C’ variants. To lock an enemy aircraft the target line can be moved left or right. When the target line is aligned with the target aircraft, press the ‘lock’ button or use the custom command. When the aircraft is locked (on target) the symbology on the display changes. We then see a circle that represents the distance to the target. The smaller the circle diameter the closer we are to the target. It shows direction and altitude to the enemy jet relative to our aircraft.
     

     
    The system is very good, but needs time to study and work it all out. To be honest I only had the "Quick" guide for information, and you really need a detailed depth of information to use it.
     
    Nightlighting
    Very night fighter...  that is the feeling inside the "Starfighter" cockpit, there are a lot of instrument adjustments, but the knobs are spread around both sides of the instruments. Three separate knobs covers the instrument lighting; INTERIOR INSTRUMENT, INTERIOR CONSOLE (sides) and INTERIOR FLOOD. The lighting is the instrument backlighting and two spot lights each side of the pilot.
     
    All set at full BRT and it is all a bit overwhelming in the brightness...
     

     
    So the trick is to tone it all down, even below the halfway marker, then it becomes all "Very Nice". Externally you have some very (very) nice rotating beacon's top and lower, and Navigation lights, that can be set to FLASH or STEADY. As noted there are two landing lights on the inner gear doors and a single nose taxi light.
     

     
    Landing is probably one of the trickiest treat of them all. The wings here are relatively small, and therefore they need substantial speed to keep you airborne. The ‘BLC’ Boundary Layer Control’ system above the flaps is of great help and the engine is very powerful in case we need to get out of critical situations. So you need to engage the burner to prevent sinking or even stalling, or for a worst case scenario, for a go-around
     

     
    At the lower speed, the flaps and with the gear lowered the roll rate is also significantly reduced, in other words the stick and rudder responses are dull, laggy. It keeps you on your toes to get the speed right at around 200 knts - 190 kts, that's very fast, with not much control response.
     

     
    If your clean and straight, then all you want to do is plant the aircraft, no groundeffect or lift to help you here, it is a carrier shot in reverse. Touched down should be around 150 knts.
     

     
    Even before the nose hits the ground, you release the "Chute", no reverser thrust here to slow you down, but the "Parachute" is extremely effective, you don't (or even dare) touch the brakes. I recommend to set a key command to deploy or lose the chute, your too busy to look down in the cockpit for the hard to find white "DRAG CHUTE" handle.
     

     
    At taxi speed, you let go of the "chute", then flip the catch and open up the canopy...  now you can "Breath".
     

     
    We have to be very clear here, that the Starfighter F-104 has some very, very unsual flying characteristics, this is not a forgiving aircraft, rewarding yes, but totally unforgiving...  to fly the aircraft well, it would need a lot of commitment and focus, as it is though all its different flight phases, the one aircraft that changes personalities consistently, it is your job to understand each one of them and master the differences, for the novice, not really, even the usual pro's will find it a challenge, but a major repect to those with the "Right Stuff".
     
    In the release I had (early) there was only three liveries; The Metal default, a German Luftwaffe and an Italian Air Force. More liveries will be available for download at no additional cost.
     

    __________________________
     
    Summary
    The first operational fighter aircraft to fly a sustained twice the speed of sound. It is of course the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter", or otherwise known as a "Missile with a man in it". The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War. Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the "Century Series" of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF), later it was also a NASA test aircraft. Loved more by international Airforces than the American ones. It was created by the famous Lockheed "Skunk Works", and in performance and design it has a the same particular traits as the later SR-71, just to go exceedingly fast.
     
    F-104 Starfighter by Colimata comes in three different variants, the FXP G, the FXP S and the FXP 21C (21st century). Known for his excellent Concorde FXP project, Colimata is also not immune to fast military jets either, as his earlier projects were the FA18-F Super Hornet and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This F-104 however is all new, and only available for X-Plane 12.
     
    The F-104 is sensationally designed and developed here, in reality X-Plane, and X-Plane 12 gives this aircraft one of the best positions in Simulation, the top and the best, a very high accolade. It's top notch stuff, the best you can invest in.
     
    The quality and detail is excellent, nothing is missed here, that is from the shiny metal skin to the worn but highly detailed cockpit and instruments, super detailed 4k textures and complex landing gear and brake chute.
     
    Features are as long as your arm, with an extensive menu. With panels that can open up (Electronics bay, gun bay, avionics bay, radar dome and canopy), ladder, full tags, wing covers and chocks, featured GPU and Fuel trucks, and an NF-104 Rocket and Reaction Control System. There are extensive weapons, with highly replicated "Cold War" era weapon and radar systems, the later 21c has modern glass instruments and avionics.
     
    It is extremely tricky to fly, as was the original "Widowmaker", but that is a major part of the attraction to this sort of Simulation, so what you will put in, is what you get out of the aircraft, it is demanding, but highly rewarding as well as it brings out the best of your "Right Stuff", those generation of pilot's that pushed the extreme boundaries of speed and space.
     
    This Starfighter aircraft allows you to experience that era and fly something very unique, an icon, a classic...  the best of it's time.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the F-104 FXP Starfighter by Colimata is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    F-104 FXP Starfighter
    Price is : US$45.00
     
    Requirements
    -Plane 12 Only Windows, Mac and Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Download Size: 941 MB
    Versions 1.01 - December 1st 2023   Developed by Colimata
    Support forum the F-104 FXP   Installation
    Installation of F-104 FXP Starfighter XP12 is done via a download of 825 Mb...   With a total installation size of 1.17Gb.
     
    There is one basic Manual pdf (45 pages)
     

     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08b3 (This is a Beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KTCM - McChord AFB  - Seattle - Boeing Country 10.5 by Tom Curtis (Sorry not now available)
    ___________________________
     
    Classic Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton
    1st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  24. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Experimental Vehicle Review : LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle by NHAdrian   
    Experimental Vehicle Review : LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle by NHAdrian
     
    It was a moment of inertia. A pause in the air that could have changed history as we know it. It is 6th May 1968 at Houston’s Ellington Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas. As the strange web framed vehicle was now suddenly frozen at 200ft above the ground with the sudden loss of helium pressure, that then caused the depletion of the hydrogen peroxide that was used for the reserve attitude thrusters. The pilot only had one option, "to get the hell out of there", he did so by ejecting upwards as the machine twirled downwards into the ground and violently exploded beneath him, he landed safely by parachute with only a few aches to his back and a bit tongue from the intense jerk upwards...   in two hours he was back at his desk at the Houston Space Centre, doing paperwork.
     
    The pilot in question here was Neil Alden Armstrong. The same person that commanded the Apollo 11 mission, during which he became the first man to set foot on the moon (20th July 1969).
     
    That infamous moment was captured on film, observing it closely, you saw the nerves of steel to defeat the jaws of death, just like Armstrong had done a few times before. In Korea, as he was making a low bombing run at 350 mph (560 km/h) when 6 feet (1.8 m) of his wing was torn off after it collided with a cable that was strung across the hills as a booby trap. He planned to eject over the water and await rescue by Navy helicopters, but his parachute was blown back over land. A jeep driven by a roommate from the flight school picked him up.
     
    Then again in a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which was to air-drop a Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. Climbing to 30,000 feet (9 km), the number-four engine stopped and the propeller began windmilling (rotating freely) in the airstream, then the propeller disintegrated. Pieces of it damaged the number-three engine and hit the number-two engine. Butchart and Armstrong were forced to shut down the damaged number-three engine, along also with the number-one engine, due to the torque it created. They then made a slow, circling descent from 30,000 ft (9 km) using only the number-two engine, and landed safely.
     
    Then the most dangerous moment of all in orbit in Gemini 8. While out of contact with the ground, the docked spacecraft began to roll, and Armstrong attempted to correct this with the Gemini's Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS). Following the earlier advice of Mission Control, they undocked, but the roll increased dramatically until they were turning rotations about once per second, indicating a problem with Gemini's attitude control. Armstrong engaged the Reentry Control System (RCS) and turned off the OAMS. Mission rules dictated that once this system was turned on, the spacecraft had to reenter at the next possible opportunity. Armstrong was a cat that had 10 lives, so they sent him to the moon, were he saved the long landing in the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) and made history, which brings us to our weird looking machine in this review.
     
    The Bell Aerosystems Lunar Landing Research Vehicle LLTV (nicknamed the "Flying Bedstead") was a Project Apollo era program to build a simulator for the Moon landings.
     
    But lets clear something up first. There was five of these vehicles built, the first two were the LLRV or "Research Vehicle". Then later three more were commissioned and called LLTV or "Training Vehicle", they are in design almost identical, but the LLTV's were slightly improved and the forward Styrofoam cockpit enclosure (to simulate the LEM's cockpit) had also the roof removed, to stop an excessive yawing force. Secondly they also had a new mode introduced, called "Lunar Simulation Mode"... of which we will see later.
     

     
    Built of aluminum alloy trusses, the LLRVs (and LLTV) were powered by a General Electric CF700-2V turbofan engine with a thrust of 4,200 lbf (19 kN), mounted vertically in a gimbal. The engine lifted the vehicle to the test altitude of 500ft, and was then throttled back to support five-sixths of the vehicle's weight, simulating the reduced gravity of the Moon. Two hydrogen peroxide lift rockets with thrust that could be varied from 100 to 500 lbf (440 to 2,200 N) handled the vehicle's rate of descent and horizontal movement. Sixteen smaller hydrogen peroxide thrusters, mounted in pairs, gave the pilot control in pitch, yaw and roll.
     
    The LLTV is an ungainly insect like machine. Really well designed and produced here by NHAdrian, a developer known for his quirky but very interesting machines, a flying AirCar anybody?
     

     
    The LLRV evolved out of the Bell X-14 (Bell Type 68) experimental VTOL aircraft, but it had problems with ground effects. The X-14 had the reverse effects of helicopters, in that when close to ground, a helicopter needs less power to stay aloft, were as the X-14 needed exactly the opposite in a huge amount of downward thrust. The LLRVs were built by Bell Aerosystems and were used by the FRC (Flight Research Centre) now known as the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, to study these VTOL dynamics.
     
    Helicopters were the obvious choice to simulate Lunar Control Characteristics. And astronauts at the time who were very familiar with helicopters, pushed heavily for them to be used as the LEM training vehicles. But Dick Day the simulations expert at the FRC, pushed heavily for the LLRV to become the better (or correct) vehicle to do the LEM simulations. The person put in charge of the conversion was no other person than Neil Armstrong (the reason he was not on the Apollo 1 fire committee) and was and in the early part of the LLTV "Design Engineering Inspection" that was the selection committee for the program. He quickly deduced that to build a fully modified LEM Trainer, which he called "prohibitively time consuming and expensive" was not the answer, and noted that the characteristics of the LLRV was not at all that different in physical size, and had the same control rocket geometry from the Lunar Lander.
     
    When the earlier VTOL program had been completed, the two LLRV's were shipped to Houston in December (12th) 1966, and three new vehicles in trainers with modifications were ordered by NASA, these were the LLTVs, all five machines were used in Lunar training. The earlier LLRV's were reassigned as LLTV A1 and LLTV A2, the new LLTV's were designated LLTV B1, B2 and B3.
     
    Neil Armstrong's strong views against Helicopters was against the current normal thinking. This was because Armstrong was noted as a "Engineer Pilot", and not a "Training Pilot", so basically Helicopter pilots were flying Lunar Simulations on Earth, were as Neil Armstrong was studying and flying Lunar Simulations on the Moon. It was a critical assignment that produced an Historic moment. He of course later had that vexatious moment in LLTV A1 in the final 100 ft of descent going into land when his controls had suddenly degraded. By a rule Apollo Commanders had twenty-two flights to certify them for the mission, but for backup commanders in the later stages of the program, these numbers of flights were reduced to maybe a dozen.
     
    The LLTV's design is beyond simple, a frame holds the CF700-2V and surrounding it are the four downward facing HP thrusters (earlier LLRV had only two), then the clusters of HP directional thrusters are positioned on the outer frame, it is all a very spacecraft LEM like in design. Tanks hold the Jet-A1 fuel and the twin globes of Hydrogen Peroxide (HP) are outer centre, rear is balance weights and the large equipment/avionics pack.
     

     
    The whole design has been intricately recreated for your flying pleasure, everything is perfectly done here, like noted, very simple, but intricate at the same time to get it all perfectly authentic...  and yes you can spend a lot of time just looking at all of the design and on how it all works, this is one clever aspect of a Simulator, as you have almost the real thing on view for your inspection.
     

     
    Can this be called a cockpit? sort of. The original LLRV just had the pilot hanging out on the front on the frame, in the LLTV version is was boxed in to recreate the feeling of the inside of the LEM. The light metal frame construction and riveting is totally excellent, and note the nice touch of the Apollo mission patches...  but there is an important one missing? An oversight or just a small trivia question by the developer?
     

     
    The cockpit layout is very familiar if you are also familiar with the LEM's controls. The hand controls both sides, and the instrument box right.
     

     
     
    Left side here are two levers, the "Lift Engine Control Lever", and the secondary "Lift Thrusters Control Lever" known as the "T-Stick". Top left panel is the CB Control Panel, with Circuit Breakers (fuses) and system switches. 
     

     
    Note the rear COM Radio with 25khz and 8.33 khz modes and fuel cock lower. The "Main Control Panel" covers Battery A/B and Generator A/B switches, Altitude Controller over-ride, Lunar Simulation wind compensation switch, Helium Isolation valve, Altitude Thrusters operations mode, Inverter A/B switches, Pitch/Roll AHRS source, Artificial Horizon source and Altitude controller rate sensitivity adjustment knobs for; Pitch, Roll and Yaw.
     
    Right side is the "Main Instrument Panel", from top; Engine Fire annunciator and test button, HD quantity indicator, Annunciator Panel, Lateral/Forward velocity indicator, lift rockets chamber pressure, Helium Pressure, analog stop-watch/button cycle, Artificial Horizon, Radio Altimeter and V/S (vertical Speed) indicator, Thrust-to-Weight ratio indicator LSM mode, EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature gauge), Oil Pressure, Analog Altimeter, Analog Variometer, N1 Indicator, Jet fuel quantity and aft Jet fuel quantity.
     

     
    On the right is the actual LEM panel for comparison, and the main flying instruments in layout are almost identical. The Annunciator panel has 4x4 block of warnings and failures. Note the "LUNAR MODE" selection.
     

     
    Bottom right is the "Right Control Panel". It includes; "Attitude Control mode switches", DC Volts and AC Volts, "Source Switch A/B and finally the same famous "Ground Contact" light.
     

     
     
    Right hand joystick is fully animated in forward-back and left/right movements, as is the well done NASA pilot in his arm movements...  let us call him "Neil".
     

     
    You can hide "Neil" by pressing the seat base, but be careful, it is very easy to mix up the hotspot of the "Ejection Seat",  and just disappear. If you move the slider on the pilot's helmet...  it will push down the visor, also then go into "Sunglasses" mode, in dimming the view, honestly I'm not sure about this while flying, as you need as much a clear view as possible, and an option to turn it off, but the idea is very clever.
     

    _____________
     
    Installation and Settings
    In X-Plane, you will find the LLTV in the "VTOL" section at the bottom of the "Flight Configuration" page. There are no liveries (laughs)
     

     
    LLTV Authorization is standard with a key, then a restart is required. Control settings are for all the "Control Response" (Pitch,Roll and Yaw) sliders to be at the minimum setting, and at least "5 Flight Models" per frame, it is highly recommended to have at least a 30 frames or more capacity, if not it will struggle to simulate.
     


     
    The LLTV fuel and weights are setup via the X-Plane "Weight, Balance & Fuel" Page, the HP is top, and the Jet Fuel is set lower, note the correct CoG (Centre of Gravity).
     

     
    If you have (or I recommend) a 3-Axis Joystick...  then move your Yaw axis to the Joystick X-Axis from the rudder pedals for an authentic feel of the machine, the LEM did not have rudder pedals as both pilots stood up side by side together.
     

     
    A final tip is to set the "Lunar Simulation Mode" to a Toggle or "On/Off" switch, I used the hat on my joystick, the custom command is available and as all the usable "Custom Commands" are noted in the manual. This action will reduce the distraction of the switch between the different modes, and keep your hands on the controls.
    ____________________
    Flying the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle
    I found that before every flight you have to set your fuel quantity, it resets back to zero if you don't, in other times also top up the H202 tanks, the LLTV guzzles fuel like nothing else, so this is always your first action.
     

     
    The fuel cock is down under the COM Radio, and this needs to be horizontal for fuel flow, then it is the simple need just to flick up the Ignition switch, then the START ENG switch, the system does the rest of the startup sequence, when done it will settle down around 20% RPM and EGT around 450º
     

     
    The startup whine and thrust from the CF700-2V is very good, then becomes a roar if you add in a bit of throttle, plus there is the puffs and blasts of Hydrogen Peroxide all around the vehicle, and you haven't done anything yet?
     

     
    Increasing the throttle increases the noise and the activity from the thrusters as they intensely fire off (really well done) the HP, and slowly your off the ground...  and your first target is just to hover. Honestly it's not that hard, just like flying a drone in every aspect...  up/down...  hover.
     

     
    Then your just glad to lower the LLTV back onto the ground...  safety.
     

     
    Confidence restored, "Lets try that again". This time I hovered far higher, the limits are 500 ft and 2 minutes of fuel, and the clock is ticking.
     
    Again it was easy to climb and hold, twist the throttle grip and turn easily in the yaw, left or right...  then front or back with a slight dip in each direction...  "easy peasy"
     

     
    Trickier is sideways...   any slip has to be carefully coordinated, and keeping the vehicle almost upright. Push too far in angle or speed and you will easily lose the LLTV, and there is no coming back, except for an explosive crash on the ground. A note that there is an "Ejection" to do an "Armstrong" and get the "hell out of there".
     

     
    There are two modes, the first is really the "Drone" mode were the LLTV flies basically just like a drone. Second flying mode is called "Lunar Simulation Mode" that is activated on the joystick. The difference between them is that with the first (drone) mode the CF700-2V is locked in it's cradle, so the thrust is completely downwards.
     
    In Lunar Simulation Mode (LSM)" the engine is now loose on a Gimbal to still produce the balance thrust, but the vehicle angle can now change, however the engine (thrust) stays relative to the ground to simulate the Moon's gravity (1.625 m/s2, about 16.6% to that on Earth's surface or 0.166 ɡ), to replicate the same propulsion system on the LEM.
    Several other actions also happen when you initiate LSM, first you change levers to the T-Stick, this lever now controls the downward thrusters and in giving you only control over them (disengages the Jet Engine) and lifts the rockets thrust between 20% and 100% power range.
     
    Note...  there has been an update, v1.01 now has the animation working that moves "Neil's" hand from the throttle to the T-Stick, and the T-Stick movements are now animated as well...
     

     
    The LSM system won't work unless you are at 500ft (or slightly more), then you flick the switch to change the modes... 
     

     
    Then the "Luna Mode" light is illuminated to show you are in the active mode. The transition between modes is seemless, initially you can't tell the difference, but adjust the T-Stick and you are quickly aware of the more heavier thrust at your disposal, with both the Jet engine and thrusters now producing lift, actually altitude control is far more easier, you as you have significantly now more control over the machine, but there is more and more lag in reactions the closer you get to the ground.
     

     
    Yaw and slip is still the same, so be careful... but the flying of the "Bedstead" was far easier than I had imagined, you would love to stay here in this controlled environment all day, but your now guzzling fuel at a ferocious rate, so it is time to descend and do a nice controlled landing.
     

     
    The amount of thrust power is excellent, and in reality you do feel what piloting the LEM would actually be like, I was amazing on the amount of power that was available to you, even on the moon!
     
    The trick here of course is to learn an actual moon LEM sequence landing, moving forward and picking your landing spot, controlling the flow of the descent and the angle of approach to a hover position and then a "Contact". It would take a fair bit of practice and familiarity with the LLTV to get that all right, but the adrenalin rush would be worth it, remember the old "Lunar Lander" game, well this is far more better and in 3d, you also have the same limited amount of fuel as well! Armstrong noted on his return from the moon.
     
    "Eagle (the Lunar Module) flew very much like the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle which I had flown more than 30 times at Ellington Air Force Base near the Space Center. I had made from 50 to 60 landings in the trainer, and the final trajectory I flew to the landing was very much like those flown in practice. That, of course, gave me a good deal of confidence  — a comfortable familiarity"
     
    Considering the traumatic events on 6th May 1968, then the LLRV and the later LLTV, were actually very reliable over thousands of test flights. Actually only two crashed, the LLTV A1 (Armstrong) and Test pilot Stuart Present ejected again safely from crashing LLTV-2, 29th January 1971, the surviving rest are listed below
     
    LLRV-2 (LLRV NASA 951) is on display at the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. It was lent to the museum by NASA in 2016.
    LLTV-3 (LLTV NASA 952) is on display at the Johnson Space Center.
    A Replica of NASA 952 is in a partially complete state in the aircraft boneyard at the Yanks Air Museum.
    __________________
    Summary
    So how do you replicate landing on the Moon when you have never actually been there? This was the problem facing NASA in 1966. To build a full trainer of the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, that was the lunar descent vehicle, was considered then be too expensive and even impractical.
     
    Then came the idea to convert two VTOL experimental aircraft at the FRC (Flight Research Centre) now known as the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. These were LLRVs, later renamed LLTVs (A1/A2) and to build three more for training lunar astronauts in the skills of using the lunar lander in B1/B2 and B3.
     
    The LLTV vehicle is reproduced here by NHAdrian, and brilliantly good it is. This is not a helicopter, more drone in skills, but the "LUNAR MODE" is replicated in absolute realism, in allowing you to practise Lunar Landings on Earth, or to practise this significant skill set, and actually get the feel of what flying the LEM was really like.
     
    Sounds and the feel of the machine are simply excellent here (it's very loud), the rocket pulses perfectly synchronised, there are no extras or liveries, but a very well detained machine. The LLTV is also fully VR (Virtual Reality) ready, for an even more authentic immersion. With the update v1.01, the T-Stick in "Lunar Mode" is now also animated as well as the throttle control...
     
    It is all very clever, very X-Plane as well, and the modeling detail and systems recreated here are exceptional, it is also very Lunar Lander, the 1979 video game, you get addicted to it, and try over and over again to achieve your goal...  of landing on the Moon.
     
    Highly recommended, and great authentic fun.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle by NHAdrian is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle
    Price is US$19.95
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12
    Windows, Mac (using Rosetta)  or Linux 4GB VRAM Minimum - 8GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 331 MB
    Current Version : 1.0 (December 1st 2023)   Important note for MAC OS X users: please read this article about enabling Rosetta: https://www.x-plane.com/kb/using-x-plane-11-addons-with-x-plane-12-on-mac-systems/   Designed by NHAdrian - Support forum for the LLTV by NHAdrian
      Installation
    Installation of LLTV is done via a download of 296 Mb...   With a total installation size of 566Mb into the Aircraft Folder. Authorization is required, then a full X-Plane restart. As noted above there is a requirement to use Rosetta on the Mac System
      There is one basic highly detailed Manual pdf (29 pages) with an install, set up, description of the LLTV, plus full checklists. The menu design is to replicate an official NASA document.
     

     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08b3 (This is a Beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KEFD - Ellington Field - X-Plane default - Free
    ___________________________
     
    News by Stephen Dutton
    1st December 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

     
  25. Thanks
    Stephen got a reaction from Kiwiflyer in Aircraft Review : Schweizer S300CBi Helicopter X-Plane 12 by Dreamfoil Creations   
    Aircraft Review : Schweizer S300CBi  Helicopter X-Plane 12 by Dreamfoil Creations
     
    Without doubt the biggest pioneer in X-Plane Helicopters is Dreamfoil Creations. The list is too long to mention here of over a decade of development, but the Eurocopter AS350 B3+ and Bell 407 are brilliant examples of his work...  not to mention the brilliant plugins like DreamEngine sounds. Then Dreamfoil went quiet about three years ago, disappeared off the X-Plane Simulator radar.
     
    There was another brilliant project released for X-Plane 11 by Dreamfoil Creations and that was a small gem of a ultra-light Schweizer S300CBi two-seater helicopter, now both DreamFoil and the S300CBi are back for X-Plane 12.
     

     
    By all accounts this the S300CBi a small machine, almost more like a large backpack of strapping on an engine and rotor blades, James Bond style, than a fully fledged flying machine. But even when considering the compact size of the aircraft, it has the capacity to be not only a good working machine, carry two people and fly a fair distance, but I doubt I would want to spend 101 hours in a hover pattern in it.
     
    The prototype of this machine first flew as far back 2nd October 1956. In other words only weeks before I was born, and that is nearly sixty seven years ago. That aircraft was the Hughes Model 269, and only by 9th April 1959 did the 269 actually receive certification. In 1964, Hughes introduced the slightly-larger three-seat Model 269B which it marketed as the Hughes 300.
     
    The Hughes 300 was followed in 1969 by the improved Hughes 300C (sometimes known as the 269C), which first flew on 6 March 1969 and received FAA certification in May 1970. This new model introduced a more powerful 190 hp (140 kW) Lycoming HIO-360-D1A engine and increased diameter rotor, giving a payload increase of 45%, plus overall performance improvements. It was this model that Schweizer began building the 300C under license from Hughes in 1983. In 1986, Schweizer acquired all rights to the helicopter from McDonnell Douglas, which had purchased Hughes Helicopters in 1984. the helicopter was known for a short time as the Schweizer-Hughes 300C and then simply, the Schweizer 300C.
    The basic design remained unchanged over the decades. Between both Hughes and Schweizer, and including foreign-licensed production civil and military training aircraft, nearly 3,000 units of the Model 269/300 have been built and flown over the last 50 years.
     
    The CBi version available here is the fuel injected version of the 300CB that alleviates carburetor icing concerns in colder temperatures. The 300CBi also includes overspeed protection and an automatic rotor engagement during start-up, as well as a low rotor RPM warning system.
     
    So here is the X-Plane 12 version of the S300CBi. If you had flown the original X-Plane 11 version you will find this new version very familiar. It is modeling and detail wise, but there is still a substantial twist on the basics to make the aircraft really shine in X-Plane 12.
     
    First off is that the XP12 version has the new 4k PBR textures...  and "Wow"
     

     
    I remember the quality was good, but the striking thing here is that the X-Plane 12 detail now feels levels above again over the X-Plane 11 version, you can almost touch those molded pressed metal panels and the rivet construction. Note the absolutely perfect window frame and door panel. The 32.5 gallons (123 liters) fuel tank is perfectly designed as well, most S300's have two for a full 65 Gal capacity, the frame is there, but the tank isn't attached? but wait it is! as the extra range auxiliary tank is now set as an option.
     

     
    The highlight here is the amazing belt system running off the Lycoming HIO-360-D1A engine that connects to the tail rotor prop-shaft, in detail it is astounding in creation and animation, of course your life depends on any of those bands not breaking.
     

     
    The whole guts of the machine is on show, beautifully created, you can spend hours dissecting it all and marveling at the intricate work here, as all detail is so complete. Even small items like the engine oil and air filters, piping and exhaust systems which are all exceptionally well done. Again you feel it all looks very different from the XP11 version, as everything pops out at you and simply cries "Realism". Same options are available with the exhaust, with "Short", "Long" and "Long+Tip" versions all available.
     

     
    Rotor linkages and control rods are the heart of great helicopter design, and shows the skills of the developer. DreamFoil is certainly the best, and the expert work really shows here. As all the links are animated and perfectly done too, and they work (animated) from the cockpit all the way up to the rotor hub and out to the moving blades.
     

     
    Move the controls, Cyclic, Collective and they all work perfectly. More clever stuff is also the rubber covers will also move in shape to the linkage movement...  the detail here is in the extreme with great texture work in that the assemblies are perfectly worn and highly realistic.
     



     
    At the end of the long boom tail, the tail rotor assembly is just as highly detailed, with again those magnificent animated boots. Yaw movement (Rudder) is again animated and perfect.
     

     
    Another change is that the rotor hub adjust, where you could move the rotor blades to a set position is now gone (or moved). It is replaced by a "Rotor Tie" menu, that can add on the blade, hub and windshield covers. You can also use the same point and click tool on each of the separate blades.
     

     
    Another point and click menu will lower or raise the wheels, note the lovely spring and cover action to the skids.
     

     
    Initially I found the cockpit windows too dark, almost black compared to the XP11 S300CBi? Then I found in the Menu, now there is a slider that will adjust the translucency of the windows from 0% to 100%, and I found that 50% opacity was about perfect (as before).
     

     
    Doors of course can be opened, or removed altogether, either by touch or via the menu.
     

     
    Cockpit
    Internally the cockpit is the same, with the same seats and materials. But again everything is highlighted more by the higher quality textures and the excellent X-Plane 12 lighting...  Realism 101
     

     
    Those seats are thin, but the vinyl seating covers are just so realistic in their shapes, stitching and light reflections. Quality headphones that are hanging on the center roof support can be used by clicking on them, and the external sound goes down (slightly) with their usage. Slender collectives both sit between the seats for either pilot or co-pilot use, and you can hide the control set (collective and cyclic) if you want to. Twist throttle movement is excellent.
     

     
    Panel instruments are quite basic which would mean VFR rules only, turn on the power and the GPS Garmin GNS 430 powers up as does the Garmin GTX 32, which is the built in transponder unit.
     

     
    Instruments are top row down is (left to right)....    Chronometer, Vertical speed, Speed (knots/MPH), Altitude, Engine RPM, Manifold Pressure.
     
    But wait?
    You can now also select (or insert) an Artificial Horizon (missing before), and that makes the V/S and Altitude instruments shuffle across and down to fit.
     

     
    Another option is to replace the GNS 430 with a Bendix/King KY 98A that is usable for COMM 1 use.
     
    A set of six gauges cover...   Fuel Gauge - Fuel Pressure Gauge - Cylinder Head Temperature, and lower, Oil Pressure Gauge (PSI) - Oil Temperature Gauge - Ammeter Gauge. Below the gauges is a hourly Hobbs Meter.
    Lighting switchgear includes - both adjustable avionic and panel lighting, panel main switch, position and beacon switches. Fuel mixture and fuel shutoff knobs with electrical main key switch, Battery and Alternator switches are also lower right panel. All the Circuit Breakers (fuses) are active, and each function is fully listed in the manual.
     
    To note that the Cylinder Head Temperature (CHT) here is driven by a custom algorithm which simulates more realistically the CHT behavior to give a more realistic flying experience, instead of it being just a dumb gauge.
     
    The Panel at night is very nice (so was the XP11, but a bit too bright) here it is lit perfect.
     

     
    Menu
    For X-Plane 12 the menu system has been overhauled. Gone is the spinning dial menu, mainly because it was too limited for all the options. The menu now is a bit more a standard rank and file square, but it can hold far more features and options. You access the menu via a "hotspot" top right corner of the Instrument panel...
     

     
    You can also access the menu externally by pressing a "hotspot" lower windshield.
     

     
    Originally you had eight selections, but here you have two more in ten selections...  Menu items include: Smart livery - Stability - Customize - Report - Volume - Weights - Correlator - Quick Views - Extra - Settings. Missing is the POV (Point Of View) feature.
     
    Smart Livery: There was Eleven liveries with the XP11 version. Installed here are Five liveries: White (default), Calypso, Grapite, Orange, Purple and Silver Blue. But on the X-Plane.Org there are another 25 selections!, so altogether there are 36 liveries to choose from. Note the Calypso, this livery comes with floats.
     
    The new Smart Livery menu is of course different than the circular version before, in the choice, it is now on a horizontal scroll.
     

     


     
    Stability: This feature allows you to specify the percentages for (Yaw, Roll and Pitch) in stability augmentation. The "Rigid Cruise" feature shares the same principle of Stability Augmentation, but instead of keeping in a fixed value, and it will progressively increase the values from Hover to Cruise, in so making long flights an easier task for general simmers....  in other words holds the aircraft to make it easier to fly.
     

     
    Customize: There are a lot (loads) of options were you can customize the S300CBi...  top is the "Panel" options in the shown "Alt Indicator" and "Garmin 430" (or Bendix/King KY 98A)
     

     
    Next are options for the "Covers & Tie(downs)", shortcuts include "All On" and "All Off", and "Doors" on/off
     

     
    Next is the "Exhaust" options...  Short, Long and Long+Tip
     

     
    "Wheels/Floats/Spray kit" these options first remove the wheels on the skids, put some very nice floats on the S300CBi, and finally install a very nice "Spray Kit" with twin mounted inboard tanks.
     

     
    "Windshield Opacity" can be graded from 0% to 100%, note here is that the setting is not saved? so you have to adjust it at every new startup?
     

     
    Next three options include a "GPU" (Ground Power Unit), but it is more of a Power Stick, called a Li-Ion start stick, which is stuck into the side of the machine. The second "AUX fuel tank" option, and an external "Hook" under the S300CBi.
     

     
    "Governor Kit" allows you to have on the Collective a Governor, or a clean short collective. The Schweizer 300CBi is not equipped with governor from the factory, but in few cases owners do install the kit which is unofficial and may vary on functionality.
     

     
    Last customized options include, a Yaw String in the cockpit window, and the Co-Pilot Cyclic and Rudder Pedals on/off
     

     
    Report: Report gives you a status message about helicopter usage, it's useful to see if you have stressed the helicopter. Includes Fuel estimate – It's an estimate in hours of your current - Datcom Engine (engine hourmeter), Datcom Flight (flight hourmeter), Min and Max G's - This indicates the maximum and minimum values that helicopter structure has experienced, including during a crash. You can also reset "ALL" or "G".
     

     
    Sounds: Sadly the original "DreamEngine" plugin sounds are now long gone. Now replaced with the same sounds, but under the FMOD XP12 system. This is the menu adjustment for eight different sound parameters, the slider adjustment is used to change the percentage %
     

     
    Weights: The Weights menu shows you your: Pilot Weight, Pax Weight, Main Fuel Weight, Aux Fuel Weight - Fuel Estimate and Total (aircraft weight).
     

     
    Colelator: More a developer tool, this shows the aircraft parameters and presets, with a debug option panel lower left.
     

     
    Quick Views: this menu selection gives you ten pre-set views of the internal and external aspects of the S300CBi
     

     
    Extra: There are two "Extra" options. The first is a one page (basic) "Checklist", you scroll it up and down at your convenience. Second option is the "Slung Window" or to see the position of your hung load from the hook.
     

     
    Settings: There are four "Settings" available in...  "Units" Metric or Imperial. "External Spots" will put "animated hotspots" on the aircraft for actions like; Rotor Brake, Adding Fuel, Moving Wheels....  One action that has been moved from the top of the main rotor to the tail rotor, is the blade centre adjust. Here now you turn the tail, which moves the main rotor blades to the centre parked position.
     

     
    GeForce...  This option allows you to adjust the "Lateral" and "Vertical" forces against the aircraft, and a slider or keypad is used to adjust the percentage %
     

     
    Final "Settings" option is the "Rotor Particles" or the exhaust plume in on/off.
     
    In the external view you get a pilot, not the most detailed human, and he is non-animated as well...  but he looks fine for the job in hand.
     

    __________________
     
    Flying the Schweizer S300CBi
    I was expecting the Schweizer S300CBi to be very, very nervous or twitchy aircraft, as it is such a very small agile little insect of a machine. But in fact it was quite a well balanced and quite a stable aircraft to fly...  the trick is to manage your X-Plane and Dreamfoil settings to get the best balance and control...  playing with the yaw response curve can do wonders, also there is a "Cyclic Adjustment" below the front of the main pilot's seat, this actuator is a small electrical motor on cyclic base which can apply lateral and longitudinal forces, and you can adjust it via two rotating knobs.
     

     
    Startup was quite easy. Power (Bat) and Alt switches on, make sure the mixture knob is in, turn the key and hold the starter switch for a short while... (the switch changes if you use the governor, on the short stick the start button is on the front)...  so starting is easy, lawnmowers are harder.
     

     
    The Governor will correctly simulate the correlator behavior which is a link between the collective and the throttle to reduce pilot workload, when raising the collective it will also increase throttle or vice-versa. Also notable is the clutch which has 3 modes...  OFF – Manual, SLOW – Automatic engage in slow speed and FAST – An automatic engage used when belt system is already on a high temperature, like after a flight.
     
    When the temps are up to their correct temperature then you can increase the RPM via the throttle grip, the RPM settles down around 2,700 rpm
     

     
    The slim boom tail yaw can be twitchy at first until you feel it, then your away...   slight cyclic forward (not too much!) as you gain height moves you forward, when have enough ground, you can give the cyclic more of a forward push, so you can climb and collect speed at the same time, but don't over do it...  just nice and easy. Rate of climb is tops at 750 ft/min (3.82 m/s).
     

     
    Anyway you don't want to go too high, as skimming the trees gives you the feeling of speed, as this critter doesn't really go that fast....  Maximum speed is only 95 kn (109 mph, 176 km/h) and your cruise speed is 86 kn (99 mph, 159 km/h), you could probably run faster.
     

     
    Biggest advantage with the XP12 version is the addition of the Artificial Horizon... I found when I used to fly the S300CBi, it was it always flew a bit lop-sided, because it suited itself flying at this angle. Now I have a reference line to straighten the machine up correctly and it makes a huge difference in your flying...   in going straight!
     

     
    Sounds are the same, but slightly more advanced than before in now being FMOD based, but there is still the same excellent 3D zoom with directional sound, with an authentic HO-360 engine sound in the rear, blade slap is great if you push the nose too high and volumetric cockpit sounds come with more noise if you don't wear your headset, or even louder if you open or remove the doors...
     
    As you bank or roll, there is the need to push the cyclic slightly forward to keep the altitude correct, keep it centre, and you will climb. But that sweet flying aspect is still there, small cyclic movements does all the work, as this was the biggest attraction to the S300CBi, probably even better now with the superior X-Plane 12 dynamics. Range of the S300CBI is only 195 nmi, 360 km (204 miles).
     

     
    Even though it is only a small container sized cabin. It is all very panoramic, as you feel open and every view is excellent, even the machinery twirling above your head is very noticeable. Certainly if you have a VR (Virtual Reality) headset, it would be levels better again.
     

     
    Effective translational lift (ETL) here is excellent, as you reach into the lower speed zone, around 15 knots, but restraining the speed is quite tricky in trying to slow the Schweizer down...  it takes a little practise to get that aspect perfectly right, but Dreamfoil's aircraft were always based very highly on the skills, it is again here. Approaches are low and slow, then find that perfect ETL point as you go into the hover.
     

     
    The S300CBi is still classed as a "light utility" machine, so it is very light in the feel, but you soon switch in...  get it wrong though, like I did in the last few feet and the absorbing skids will compress and soften the blow (and your ego)...  another great detail from Dreamfoil.
     

     
    Probably need to do that one again.
     
    Lighting
    Cockpit and panel lighting is excellent, the panel as noted is not as bright as the XP11 version, but far better here.... both the instruments and Avionics that can be adjusted separately. External lighting is great with navigation (side rear boom) which are steady, and rear flash strobes.
     

     
    There is a green spot map light on the rear bulkhead that can be fully adjusted in all axis and it is also very good.
     

     
    Under the aircraft there is a spotlight, that is accessed by a hard to see switch on the front of the cyclic. The spotlight is also fully adjustable to get the right lighting angle via a pop-up slider.
     
    Summary
    One of the great X-Plane helicopter developers in Dreamfoil Creations has had a break for a few years. Now he is back with a transition aircraft to X-Plane 12 of his earlier excellent helicopters the Schweizer S300CBi, a twin-seat Ultra-Light for X-Plane 11. 
     
    This machine was very popular with the punters and chopper jockeys, because of it's sweet flying capabilities, and nothing has certainly changed in that area here, if anything the dynamics are even more heightened in X-Plane 12.
     
    When one of the "Old Guard" comes up you can see and feel the difference. Certainly Dreamfoil is a mastercraftsman, but the S300CBI is even more masterful and the extreme quality shows in every part of this helicopter now available in X-Plane 12. It comes with fully functioning systems and components in the rotors and the controls are to be marveled at here, in fact everything can be admired, as the whole machine is exquisitely crafted to the highest degree and takes advantage of all the X-Plane 12 features, a bonus is this is also one of the very best sweetest machines to have and fly. VR ready as well.
     
    This is not just a straight conversion to X-Plane 12 of the S300CBi. As almost every area has had attention, notable the PBR textures to 4K, but the glass, sounds (now FMOD) and the details are all enhanced or transformed into a higher quality. The Menu is expanded as well, as long as your arm, and probably your leg as well, it is full of options and tools...  including the Smart Livery system (but different here), Stability, Covers/Ties, removable Doors, Floats and an excellent Crop Spray Kit, Aux Tank, Li-Ion start stick, Hook, Govenor Kit and on it goes, and new is windshield Opacity. And all the external spots give you access to the various parts of the aircraft, and Quick Views is in there as well.
     
    Basically the "Master" is back, and again Dreamfoil delivers an exceptional Simulation machine in the Schweizer S300CBi. Fabulous investment, but skills are required to get the most out of this Ultra-Light Helicopter. Hopefully more of his Creations in the AS350 B3+ and the Bell 407 will follow the S300CBi into X-Plane 12, until then, you already have a Premier Simulation here for the X-Plane Simulator with this amazing Schweizer machine.
    __________________________
     

     
    Yes! - the Schweizer S300CBi XP12 by Dreamfoil Creations is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :
     
    Schweizer S300CBi XP12
    Price is US$39.95 : On sale: $39.95 US$34.95
    You Save:$5 (13%)
     
    Requirements
    X-Plane 12
    Windows, Mac or Linux 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 445 MB Current version : 1.0 (November 20th 2023)   Designed by DreamFoil Creations Support forum for the S300CBi XP12   Installation
    Installation of Schweizer S300CBi XP12 is done via a download of 423 Mb...   With a total installation size of 1.02Gb. (Excluding extra liveries)
      There is one basic Manual pdf (20 pages)
     

     
    Review System Specifications
    Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD
    Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08b3 (This is a Beta review).
    Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00
    Scenery or Aircraft
    - KFMY - Page Field - Fort Myers, Florida 1.0 by timbenedict3 (X-Plane.Org) - Free
    ___________________________
     
    News by Stephen Dutton
    25th November 2023
    Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews
     
    (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved
     

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