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  1. NEWS! - X-Plane 12... Final day at the old price! From the 1st of November 2023, X-Plane 12 with increase it's base price to US$79.99 from the current US$59.99. This price has been current for the Simulator for over a decade, so with all the extra features and detail, it should be priced higher in the category. X-PlanrReviews have said that X-Plane was too cheap for years, not for inflation, but to put more resources into the Simulator. Which is the said reason for the price change in the announcement from Laminar Research, the developers of the Simulator. You purchase is investing in the Simulator's future. Being in Australia, this notice gives you an extra 12 hours to purchase at the old price, so be quick if you want to upgrade from X-Plane 11... even X-Plane 10? (Yes we know you are out there). X-Plane 12 features include Photometric Lighting Engine Light brightness, intensity, spread, and more – all computed in real time with the laws of physics. 3D Water Gorgeous global water rendering, complete with wave height controls and floatplane interaction based on feedback from expert pilots. Seasonal Effects Tree color and leaf coverage vary to show season – snow accumulates, too! Tropical Water Colors Gorgeous, geographically-aware water colors. 3D Forests and Vegetation Large variety of 3D trees with variation of species, size, and seasonal effects. They even sway in the wind. Ambient Sounds The entire world now comes to life with FMOD sound – birds in the forest, cars in the cities and of course, ground service vehicles. And don't forget the basic physics Math and Physics Make the Difference "Our commitment to realism in the X-Plane flight simulator starts with first principle physics, a mountain of math, and decades of real-world flight experience. Our development team has spent 30+ years refining the rendering engine and mechanics for a blisteringly authentic flight experience. You’re in complete control inside the cockpit: fly any aircraft, anywhere in the world, in any type of weather conditions. We’ll provide an ultra-realistic combination of lift, drag, wind, turbulence, scenery, flight controls, and more. Feel every force acting on every piece of the aircraft in real-time. It’s something you can’t replicate in a free flight simulator or even the most cinematic airplane games." X-Plane 12 runs on four platforms including; Mac, Windows, Linux and mobile platforms. X-Plane 12 Minimum Requirements CPU: Intel Core i3, i5, i7, or i9 CPU with 4 or more cores, or AMD Ryzen 3, 5, 7 or 9. (Those with other CPUs should try the demo before purchasing.) Memory: 8 GB RAM Video Card: a Vulkan 1.3-capable video card from NVIDIA or AMD with at least 2 GB VRAM If your system is borderline, we encourage you to try the demo first. The full version of the simulator will perform exactly the same as the demo—neither better nor worse. X-Plane 12 Recommended Requirements CPU: Intel Core i5 8600k or Ryzen 5 3500 or better, or Apple Silicon Memory: 16-24 GB RAM or more Video Card: a DirectX 12-capable video card from NVIDIA or AMD with at least 4 GB VRAM (GeForce GTX 1070 or better, or similar from AMD) Supported Video Cards: NVIDIA: NVIDIA GeForce 900 or newer, driver version 510 or newer AMD: AMD Radeon RX 500 or newer, driver version Adrenaline 22.2.1or newer Supported Operating Systems: OS X: OS X 10.15 or newer (e.g. Catalina, Big Sur, or Monterey) Windows: Windows 10 or 11, 64-bit Linux: Varies If you want to run on Linux, you will need to try X-Plane on your distribution to see if it is compatible. We have developers using Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and newer successfully, however we don’t provide support for specific distributions. We require the proprietary driver from NVIDIA to run X-Plane. We require the Mesa drivers, version 22.0 or newer, for AMD to run X-Plane. Download the free demo of X-Plane 12 and experience all of these improvements for yourself. _____________________ X-Plane 12 is purchased directly from Laminar Research for still currently US$59.95 and the download file size is 82 GB X-Plane 12 Price is US$59.95, tomorrow it will be US$79.99! _____________________ NEWS! by Stephen Dutton 31st October 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
  2. Scenery Review: Dolpa Airport for XP12 by Cami De Bellis By Dominic Smith Introduction Welcome to the world of Cami De Bellis, a seasoned scenery developer for X-Plane whose footprint spans a remarkable fifteen years. Known for her precision and high attention to detail, Cami is a respected figure within the X-Plane community, with a notable portfolio of predominantly tropical sceneries. In addition to the multitude of freeware sceneries she has contributed over the years, Cami is also the creative mind behind the CDB library, aptly named after her. A tool set crafted for fellow developers, the CDB library enables the creation of unique freeware sceneries, encouraging a collaborative and creative space within the X-Plane universe. One of Cami's recent additions to her collection is the payware scenery of VNDP - Dolpa Airport Nepal for X-Plane 12. This follows her successful renditions of the challenging topographies of Paro Intl Airport in Bhutan and Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl in Nepal, further cementing her expertise in recreating airports located in the complex terrains of the Himalayan region. Dolpa Airport, also known as Juphal Airport, is a small domestic hub situated within Nepal's Dolpa District, a region renowned for its rough and rugged landscapes. It plays a vital role in connecting the remote region with the rest of the country. Opened to the public in 1966, the airport resides at an impressive altitude of 8,200 feet, offering a unique and challenging environment for pilots. It's the gateway to the Upper Dolpa and Shey-Phoksundo National Park, making it a vital hub for both local transportation and eco-tourism. With an array of features including highly accurate airport buildings, over 40 custom objects, and mesh modifications for accurate topography, this scenery reflects the breadth of Cami's expertise. Other highlights offered by the scenery package, include photorealistic textures, custom-textured taxiways, runways, aprons, and on the surrounding buildings, and much more. I've admired Cami’s work for quite some time, as her attention to detail and quality of execution has never failed to impress, so the promise of such intricacy and detail at Dolpa, only served to heighten my anticipation. But, as with all X-Plane sceneries, there was an essential first step to take care of – the installation process. With that in mind, let's get started on this exciting journey. Installation The installation process, much like many X-Plane sceneries, was relatively straightforward. Upon purchase, two separate download links were provided, one for X-Plane 12, and another for X-Plane 11. At first glance, the relatively small file size of the scenery (just 290MB), might raise a few eyebrows, given its promised complexity. However, this is due to the required installation of Cami's CDB Library, a resource already widely used and appreciated by the X-Plane community. To further enhance the scenery, the download of a custom Ortho4XP mesh tile for the specific area (+28+082) was required, along with two additional but optional scenery tiles. These ranged from between five and six gigabytes, so if you have a slow internet connection, be prepared for a wait. Once all the required and optional files were downloaded, unzipped, and then placed into my Custom Scenery folder, the final step of the process was to adjust the scenery load order within the scenerypacks.ini file. Once this was accomplished, I was all set to embark on my journey through VNDP - Dolpa Airport, Nepal. Walkabout My exploration of Dolpa Airport began at altitude, presenting a broad view of the airport embedded within its vast natural landscape. The custom mesh and photographic scenery, impressive in its magnitude, provided a striking backdrop to the airport. As I lowered towards the airport, the textures of the runway, taxiways, and apron came into clearer focus. The markings were suitably done, contributing to the realistic feeling that resonated throughout the area. Also worth noting was the way in which the mesh had been used to shape smooth surfaces and adjust the airport area topography, an important aspect, especially considering Dolpa’s challenging location. Moving closer to ground level, the surrounding 3D vegetation came into view. While there were some slight irregularities with the trees, the overall visual impact was minimal and didn't detract from the scene's immersive atmosphere. At ground level, the array of 3D people and animal models added a lively touch to the scenery. The variety of characters, including passengers, locals, and even cows and pets, brought a sense of realism to the setting, reminiscent of a bustling small-town airport. The local buildings, all meticulously modelled in 3D, caught my eye as I walked around the airport. The texturing was notably detailed, with some surfaces featuring a weathered appearance. There were a couple of unintentional texture mishaps, but never enough to become an issue. The closeness of the buildings, coupled with the mountainous terrain, must have represented a considerable challenge to get right, but it all works well. The high-resolution 2K textures enhanced the visual experience, creating a detailed and realistic local environment. My last stop was Dolpa Airport’s main terminal, the largest building in the scenery and one that stood out amongst the smaller structures in the village. The attention to detail was consistent with the rest of the airport, maintaining a unified look across the scenery. While the lack of interior modelling might not appeal to all, it felt like a considered decision, aimed at preserving performance and fluidity during flight operations. Night Lighting Unlike many airports seen worldwide, which are often lit up like Christmas trees, Dolpa's nighttime lighting may initially seem underwhelming to some. However, upon reflection, it appears to be in line with the reality of the actual airport. Given the location, it's reasonable to assume that local power supplies may limit the scale of illumination, setting a more modest expectation for night-time lighting. That said, what lighting is present, is implemented well. Buildings are illuminated sufficiently without being overly bright, offering a sense of realism, instead of standing out like sore thumbs in the night, an issue that some other sceneries have fallen into. As for the runway, it's important to note that there's no lighting available. As the saying goes, discretion is the better part of valour; so, it would be prudent not to entertain any ambitious landing plans after sundown. All in all, the night lighting feels authentic and true to the location, rather than underwhelming, adding another layer of immersion to the experience. Winter Textures X-Plane 12's enhanced weather engine allows for the creation of picturesque winter landscapes, and it would have been remiss not to experience Dolpa's unique winter rendition. Given its geographical location, it was almost a given that the scenery would transform with a sprinkle of snow and the presence of some overcast clouds. The results were nothing short of impressive. The landscape underwent a striking transformation, turning from the usual inviting ambience to something that felt somewhat more daunting, yet visually appealing. While the snow-covered landscape took on a different, more austere look, it maintained an undeniable charm that locals would surely appreciate. Performance Throughout my testing, spanning various weather conditions and times of day, I found the performance to be more than acceptable, a benefit largely owed to its geographically unique location. Despite the high detail within the village and immediate surroundings, the absence of other settlements or large forested regions, allowed the scenery to provide excellent framerates. Conclusion As I journeyed through this delightful scenery, it was evident that Cami’s talent and dedication have yet again created a compelling and immersive scenery. Its intricate detail, from the faithful modelling of buildings to the considerate night lighting, all attest to its high-quality craftsmanship. Enhanced by X-Plane 12's seasonal capabilities, the scenery beautifully captures Dolpa's unique location. Despite the absence of bustling city lights or crowded terminals, it delivers a unique experience that genuinely captivates. Performance-wise, it excels, promising a smooth journey throughout, allowing users to fully appreciate the scenery's depth without worrying about taxing their systems. In short, Dolpa Airport is an impressive feat of design, a must-explore destination for any X-Plane user, and stands as a testament to Cami’s expertise, underscoring her reputation as a truly valuable contributor to the X-Plane community. ________________________ VNDP - Dolpa Airport Nepal XP12 by Cami De Bellis is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: VNDP - Dolpa Airport Nepal XP12 Priced at US$19.95 Features Highly accurate scenery for VNDP- Dolpa/Juphal Airport with all buildings modelled Over 40 custom objects all with Ambient Occlusion DSF mesh created and modified to fix bump terrain and set and correct the topography of the airport’s area Fully compatible with Ortho4XP_meshes Photo real textures on buildings, vehicles etc. Detailed airport objects and vehicles Custom textured taxiways, runways, and apron Custom surroundings buildings Custom forest and flora trees High-resolution building textures – all in 2K Excellent night effects Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac, or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 2.1 GB Current version: 1.1 (April 18th, 2023) Review System Specifications Intel i5 10400 – 32GB RAM - Nvidia Asus RTX 3060 – Windows 10 Home 64 Bit __________________________________ Scenery Review by Dominic Smith 29th 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 copying of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions).
  3. Laminar Research : X-Plane and the future in the new world order It was almost impossible to define X-Plane as an ongoing simulator in all the hype of the release of Microsoft's reinvention of it's original "Flight Simulator" product. For one only beta (and alpha) users had access to it and also for most of that final build periods they where also heavily restricted by a NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement, and step out of line and you were severely wrapped over the knuckles... all in the name of creating a good impression. But the mega-changing simulator is now out there and warts and all, Microsoft can't hide anymore, but on that count neither can Laminar Research in their aspect of this now complete "New World Order". This analysis of the future is going to note the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms and have a sort of vision into the future of what simulation will be. First you would have noted that I only mentioned two simulators. There are certainly more simulation based platforms out there, like Digital Combat Simulator (DCS), Rise of Flight, Aerofly FS and the upcoming is the Squadron 42. But first and foremost we have to define a "Flight Simulator". A lot of those titles that say they are simulation are in fact just games with an aviation theme. This is a big factor to consider with even the new Microsoft "Flight Simulator 2020" or MSFS. In the aspect of "is it a game or a simulator?" The definition of a simulator is what we call "Study" grade, in other words the simulator can replicate the effects of an aircraft flying through the air but mostly in it's system depth in replicating the aircraft's systems to mirror the real systems on real aircraft. This aspect means that pilot's can train on these aircraft (not officially, but many current "study grade" aircraft are actually far better than official versions) to gain their real world licenses and study aircraft systems to improve their real world skills. Currently in reality X-Plane is the really the only fully "Study" grade simulator, MSFS is currently in it's release form only still a game... but obviously that aspect will change in the future but by how much is a big question to explore here. You may have noticed in the above simulator list I didn't mention Flight Simulator X (and the oddly named "Steam Edition") and it's post cousin PrePar3D by Lockheed Martin. Microsoft discontinued the FSX development way back in January, 2009, in that aspect the Lockheed Martin (with it's military connections) needed to keep the simulator alive. This created a licensing agreement on the foundation of using the base code of FSX... PrePar3D, and most addons in aircraft and scenery in FSX could easily be ported over to the P3D platform, but from it's very early incarnation the P3D was not ever really a public simulator as early access was only under a Academic License which was available for US$59.95, the full version was a whopping US$499, although a Pro license was available for US$199, and all this for an older source code simulation platform. To note the "Study" aspect. Yes a lot of FSX based simulators do have the deep study grade systems, but don't have real world aerodynamic flying qualities of which X-Plane does via it's aerodynamic model called "blade element theory". The first point to define in the "New World Order" is that both FSX (and PrePar3D) platforms will now slowly and gradually going to disappear, one for being simply obsolete (FSX) and the other not withstanding it's huge improvements is still FSX source code based, and P3D simply can't compete with MSFS. The second point is more interesting and actually the most vital aspect of the "New World Order". The actions of developers are the lifeblood of any simulator. When FSX was at it's most vibrant it had an arsenal of quality developers creating product to create an attractive platform. Carenado, PMDG, Aerosoft, Just Flight, A2A, Majestic, iFly and Captain Sim. In X-Plane it had it's own highly original developers; FlightFactor, Rotate, FlyJSim, Dan Klaue, SSG, ToLiSS, IXEG and only a few FSX developers crossed over successfully to X-Plane in Carenado,and Just Flight (both via Thranda or Dan Klaue). In most aspects the platforms were highly separated in context in that the core aspects of both platforms were very highly built on very different standards, and as noted by a leading X-Plane developer "I had to totally rip the guts out to rebuild it for X-Plane". In reality the two platforms were and are completely different from a development point of view, so one platform developer very rarely strayed over to the other's territory, and even if they did try then they completely mostly totally hated it, and I can't name one X-Plane developer that went to the FSX platform? (a very few scenery crossovers happened), so in most cases it was two completely different platforms that were completely absolutely different from each other. X-Plane itself has been in constant development since X-Plane 1.00 in 1995 which is now 25 years ago. There has been eleven versions of the simulator with X-Plane 11.50 the current version, mostly versions are released every four years and on that timetable the next version X-Plane 12 is due later this year. The release of MSFS in it's 2020 guise is not lost on the release of the next version of X-Plane 12. So now at this date is the understanding the current situation of simulation... so where do we go from here. Simulation now more alike than different The next most interesting point to understand about simulation is that unlike in the past the most prominent simulators are becoming more alike than in the past of their significant platform differences. In the olde world of FSX and X-Plane they were very if completely different in their platform standards, or simply worlds apart. But look closely at the new MSFS release and there is now more familiar to X-Plane users than differences, as on the surface the MSFS has that familiar Flight Simulator look and feel, but look closer and in most areas it matches X-Plane in the way it has been recreated. Debatable is how much of the new simulator has been actually duplicated (carefully as not to start court cases), but in many areas both now have very familiar internal structures. Outwardly this would seem to be a negative impact for the X-Plane simulator, but in fact it will be the main reason that both simulators will be able to build substantial users going forward from the huge gaming base that they both want to access. Again developers are the key. The number one aspect is that developers are a business, so they are primarily here to make a profit, in reality they don't care about your feelings or what version of the Cessna 172SP you want, if it sells and makes sales they will do the aircraft or scenery to fit the market. The core of the issue is that X-Plane has always come from a hobbyist angle, to "Make" more than "Buy", and with different platform standards then the money usually went to the FSX buyers. So making money in X-Plane is noted as "difficult" even "impossible" as there is a lot of product easily shared and actually free. That is fine for the hobbyist, but not great for keeping the actual simulator viable. X-Plane has noted it has grown up over the last few years, and mostly that has been the remnants of the outdated FSX users looking for a better simulation, they liked actually what they found on the X-Plane platform and far more than what they would actually admit too... so the foundation is there to keeping them in the X-Plane realm and not switching back to Flight Simulator or even better in using both platforms. One of the first big surprises of the release of the first product for the MSFS simulator was that the only two platforms in product were promoted, and that is MSFS itself and X-Plane. This is a very interesting aspect in the fact that the two simulators at their core are now more very similar than actually different, yes ground textures and layout will be different, but now any scenery developed for MSFS (or the other way around in X-Plane) can be easily be converted to the other. For a developer it is a "win win" situation of creating one product for two simulators at the same time, doing away with the very earlier FSX standards means also dropping its very different standards (and why both FSX and P3D are going to fade away). This is a huge bonus for X-Plane and creates even more product for the simulator without the significant differential development costs. The more interesting area will be in the same context for aircraft? If aircraft are created in MSFS more of in the same structures as X-Plane (PlaneMaker) then it also means that aircraft can be shared as well, again a bonus for each simulator (think of PMDG in X-Plane and Rotate in MSFS) it makes for an interesting scenario. Most would say that would be to the detriment of the X-Plane platform, but in fact the opposite is actually true, what is does mean is simply more product for both simulators. In fact in the current situation MSFS or no new FS2020 then developers would have still left or abandoned X-Plane because it is simply not returning their time and investment in the simulator, overall we a "tightfisted mean, even selfish bunch of users". In reality X-Plane can go one way or another... We can go back to the decade old situation of a mega MSFS and a hobbyist smaller X-Plane (most seem to want that scenario) or both platforms thrive off each other, and notably X-Plane has grown up over the last few years and to point has even thrown off it's tinkering ways, but that aspect is also the difference of why MSFS and X-Plane can actually thrive together. Is MSFS a game or a simulator Currently that answer is easy, it is simply a game. You can fly an aircraft of course and look around at the very pretty scenery, but that is nothing a good aviation based game can do... and to a lot of gamers that will simply satisfy their ambitions of being a (so called) pilot. That in reality is not simulation. I have watched a few (or a lot) of extremely bad so called aviation piloting in the promotion of the MSFS... simulation users they are not, they are just gamers getting their gaming jollies. I actually thought it was a very bad way from Microsoft to promote a serious simulation application, I think it turned the more die hard simulation users off the product than actually attracted them. The core situation is that until Asobo Studios (creator's of MSFS) can get a decent SDK or Software Development Kit completed then MSFS will not move forward into being a real simulator, yes that will happen and mostly not till 2021, but even then in how much depth in systems will it actually have. Remember X-Plane has had a year on year succession of being deeply developed in it's core systems that cover; real icing (not the visual stuff on the wings but the way the icing affects the aircraft's controls and systems), Navigation systems, Hydraulic systems, Fire Systems, Electrical buses, Turbine Pressures, Engine Bleeds, Cockpit and Cabin environments and so on, yes clever MSFS developers will create plugins to simulate all of these aspects, but X-Plane has them all already currently built in, and yes you guessed it in being a deep system "simulator". These systems have been created over decades of X-Plane versions and updates, and are deeply entrenched within the simulator, no new simulator can possibly redefine that detail in a few years, no matter of their resources. So the current MSFS is only the starting point and not in being an actual simulator. The deeper argument is how much control will Microsoft actually give the user. We have already defined the gamer, but the core simulation user is a wholly different species. Currently we can note that for MSFS to deliver the graphic capabilities it has, and don't get me wrong they are quite substantial, you are required to run MSFS on the internet, the point being is that the simulator you own is not the full simulator, it is a bit like being connected up to Rehoboam in Westworld or in reality it is Azure which is Microsoft's cloud services and server division. It controls you and not the other way around... it is the only way that MSFS can function on this scale, you download 120gb as a base, but still have to access 2 petabytes worth of Bing Maps' aerial imagery which are stored away on the Azure servers. So with MSFS you can never be a solely owned product, the other point is how much access will Microsoft give you to their servers, that I doubt very much. Updates from Asobo Studios will be the only access. X-Plane is (still) a sole product, you own it and all of it is installed on your own server, this is the aspect on if you want to change any of it (I call it morphing) you can, obviously you can't change the root or core files (and many still do that with the constant shader inventions) but anything else is pure open slaughter, and many users don't know of the word restraint. The core user is constantly tinkering with their simulator, so no two X-Plane simulators are actually the same, this does create complexity, but also that American way of wanting freedom to do what they want, when they want to. X-Plane was built on this open philosophy, hence it's "Hobbyist" tag, and the X-Plane.Org is the centre of the X-Plane universe with constant new ideas and content to rebuild or change your X-Plane world to your own specific ambitions. Why do simulator users stay so addictive to simulators, and this open framework aspect is actually the key. I am not saying that Microsoft will allow certain areas to be changed, but I doubt you will be able to create FSX v10.1 So MSFS is not FSX, in fact in modifying elements then X-Plane is more to the FSX framework than MSFS will ever be, so will that aspect define the differences between the gamers and core simulation users, so if you want to continue to create your personal nirvana sim, then X-Plane more than MSFS will be the only place you can seriously do so. Other aspects are also important of the current differences between MSFS and X-Plane. First X-Plane is multi-platform or covers users that use different operating systems in Windows, Apple OS and Linux, the main and only reason I was attracted to only X-Plane was that I used then a Mac computer, even then I have never used or downloaded a FS version. MSFS has currently a very limited range of aircraft. Airliners, General Aviation are catered for, but there are no military, helicopters, classic or even the downright weird aircraft available to fly.. to note X-Plane was also based on the ability to create your own aircraft and fly it in the simulator, that is still the core use for the dynamics and tools available. Converging platforms This article is all about looking into the future, but as we have witnessed with this 2020 year, is that your future predictions can come seriously undone via even a small change in circumstances. But as noted I see a more of a convergence of simulation than the usual wide differences of the past history of simulation standards and platforms, more important will be the huge increase of the user base as the net will be bigger to catch more users into the context of getting involved into simulation as a passion, a lot of new users are out there, and they just simply don't know that simulation exists. Which asks the question of is "simulation" an entertainment or a skill.... or simply a skill learnt through entertainment. For me it is the continuing refinement of my (online) flying skills. I came into simulation to fly aircraft from my childhood, but I still required the skills to fly them correctly. Ten years later that skill base is enormous, but I still need to train and practise in areas I still have weaknesses, that is ten years in consistent flying (and I run X-Plane on average 36 hours a week in doing reviews), but that is what also brings me back to the simulator over and over again. The skills are not just the basic airmanship flying skills, but also in how to fly the various and varied aircraft types and above all master their complex systems, yes I am talking about those study grade simulations, for that the simulator is always testing me, so the depth of the aircraft simulation is important to keep the interest. Most commentators note that MSFS currently blows the X-Plane simulator off the planet in terms of simulation, but as noted both have currently major deficiencies coming from different directions, in fact both simulators are not quite close in terms of where they need to be, but in completely different contexts. As noted again MSFS is certainly a ground breaking simulator in the aspects of the visual experience, but still quite hollow as a simulator under it's very extravagant exterior, the goal is to of course give depth to visuals, and both Asobo Studios and dedicated MSFS developers will focus heavily on those features, but to note it won't be done quickly or to the high level of what X-Plane currently has as standard, in fact there are many, many different areas to cover than just adding in a "Study" grade aircraft and payware scenery, it is in the details that need the work to make MSFS see it's full promise as a world defining simulator. Hollow is a word that MSFS will need to address, not only in it's systems but in the critical areas as well like weather, as again the weather system in MSFS is quite sensational, but only in a visual sense and more than a dynamic sense of the way it affects flight, and this aspect is a constant recurring theme. X-Plane is in the opposite situation, great depth of simulation but poor visuals. Certainly don't get me wrong on this aspect as X-Plane since the release of v10 has come an exceedingly long way in it's visual presentation, but in many aspects it has also fell way long behind the standard in what gamers expect in gaming experiences, in that 8 years or two version cycles it is a seriously long time in changes and with the advances in technology. X-Plane v12 In one aspect the timing of MSFS to release their "Wonderkind" simulator at this point in time is more to an advantage to X-Plane and Laminar Research than a release say in a years time and that X-Plane12 would have been released and on the table, it's features then defined and locked in. But with a before launch announcement of features and detail, it can give Laminar room to make adjustments to the feature process. Don't get me wrong, X-Plane12 was set out almost a year and a half ago as per the usual development cycle, work has already been long ongoing in the background, so in most areas the features will be already locked in and onboard, but the chance to cover areas that MSFS excels at can be at least addressed before the next version 12 announcement. Secondary note is will X-Plane12 make it's usual cycle November release date (or the release beta)... circumstances have thrown that aspect into some confusion as X-Plane 11.50 is late, very late, and almost over four months past the deadline and the beta process was extremely long and buggy as well. The Laminar core development coders were then also tied up just wanting to some sort of release point, and they have finally got there but at what cost to the development of X-Plane12. My guess is the release announcements will still be made in the usual November timeframe, but an actual beta won't now come until 2021. We will go through the details of what X-Plane12 requires to be in reference to the simulator market in reference to MSFS. (No I don't have inside information from Laminar, this is also not a X-Plane12 announcement, but a critical viewpoint on what is required in the v12 release to make X-Plane still a competitive if not a better simulator). Scenery and Mesh Let us first get this out there, there is no way that X-Plane or Laminar can compete with Microsoft's 2 petabytes of world mapping, it is simply not going to happen, but that is also not the be or end all of a simulator. To note that X-Plane (v10) was the first to actually use OpenStreetMap data in the simulator and the idea was clever and gave a semblance in creating an order in which gave shapes to the dynamics of recreating the real life layouts of the world. As noted the current mesh system in X-Plane is now eight years old, yes updated via some more updated DEM (elevation) data by alpilotx, but even he has been gone out of X-Plane for a few years now. So a new scenery mesh was always going to be top gong in any feature list for X-Plane12. MSFS will now just push that agenda far higher in the required quality of the mesh and texture detail. For everything since I started in X-Plane the biggest visual aspects have always been it's patchwork feel, this aspect is made worse in the (over) use of photo-ortho textures, other bad points are X-Plane's consistent loss of tiles (water mostly), tile cracks and extremely poor horizons. The one most striking thing about MSFS is the consistency of the mesh, it feels as one and you move around within that same consistency making it seem all very seemless. Doing thousands of reviews I have seen everything in scenery and the one thing that is a major issue is that developers try to keep new photo based mesh punters happy, so you can have even up to four or five different base meshes with a single payware scenery, worse the default version is usually not refined into the background of the default mesh... yes I hate it as I want a one world solution. One thing that MSFS has done right, is that you have to fit into the already processed mesh and not the other way around and in so creating a one world flow solution and Laminar need to learn from this, the problem is weeding users off their beloved photo-mesh and terrabyte storage. But overall for the simulator to be successful it has to be all of a one form and get away from that very distinctive "X-Plane Patchwork" styled look. Laminar did have their hands tied with OpenGL in creating a better mesh solution, but with the Vulkan/Metal intergration those restrictions should now be overcome. So a complete and new world modeling mesh should be the main and foremost feature of X-Plane12. Weather The one thing that really blew me away when sighting MSFS for the first time was the weather engine. It is a masterpiece of coding and the biggest overall challenge for Laminar Research. As noted the weather engine does look quite sensational, but it is not as effective dynamically, so again X-Plane has an advantage there, but like the above mesh, the current weather system is again two cycles old. Nothing can be stated more strongly than how the weather engine stamps the look and feel of a simulator. The only really effective current weather engine for X-Plane is xEnviro and it is a pointer on how a big a difference the right lighting, shading, particle and colouring can create a very immersive experience. The problem with xEnviro is that it is expensive, extremely slow development (still not available for X-Plane11.50) and always feels it is a buggy beta more than a complete solution, missing features like to be able to set your own weather conditions also makes it very unusable or even an non-effective tool for the setting of the required conditions for training and practise. MSFS weather engine has everything you can dream of in a simulator, instant changes on screen, adjustments, changeable ice and snow, and exceptional lighting and all in 3d particle modeling and simply overwhelms even the likes of xEnviro, and the current default X-Plane weather engine is simply relegated to a none starter. For X-Plane12 to be a truly great simulator the weather/environment engine has to be more than great, if brilliant, no area in the simulator needs the most attention and that is currently a very tall order, but I do think that Laminar have the talent and skills to take this very significant aspect of the simulator and make it work and it is certainly the one vital area that X-Plane can then compete with MSFS on the same level or at least a level the playing field. ATC In one area Laminar can easily compete with MSFS is in the ATC or Air Traffic Control. The ATC in MSFS is just a revision of the already (if old) effective ATC system, in other words "It works so don't change it". Somewhere in the backwoods of a room of Laminar's coding division is Tyler Young, and Tyler has been pounding away on the ATC feature for years, some speech improvements have flowed out and dribbles can be found in X-Plane Mobile, but otherwise the development aspect has been going on for almost the full cycle of X-Plane11, that is years folks, not a year. There are two scenarios to take on board, he has simply given up on the whole idea of a effective ATC system, or he has created a masterpiece, with X-Plane12 we will find out which of the scenarios is the correct one. Personally I think it is the second scenario, because if Tyler had given up he would have appeared doing another vane of coding and being more visual on the development site. One aspect of ATC makes it very hard to implement and that is the A.I. (aircraft), and truth is we simply don't use it, and never have. We use JustFlight's Traffic Global and WorldTraffic3 from Classic Jet Simulations, so how can you have an effective ATC when there is nothing there to talk to? So any good new ATC system has to have an extension aspect to cover third party applications on using their traffic as well as the inbuilt traffic system, in reality it should be based on the real world flight numbers and general aviation registrations, complex yes. But like everything else hopefully doable. Either way I really don't think that users will wait any longer for a decent ATC, in X-Plane12 Laminar will have to finally deliver that very feature. Objects As noted Laminar were very clever in using the OpenStreetMap data as a basis for their autogen. Will the current autogen feature still be in X-Plane12, well quite possibly. There is nothing wrong with the autogen system, but the development pace was extremely slow, as there is in reality only two artists working on the autogen, in most cases it was just one. As excellent as the work is (the night lighting is exceptional) then over two cycles and X-Plane 10 and 11 then the autogen has grown significantly, but still not even close to fast enough to create the virtual world in it's complexity, as noted without ShortFinal's excellent SFD Global addon we would still only have two in the US and European style autogen, it is simply not a fast enough pace and highlights the deficiencies of the advancement of MSFS to the current autogen status, in other words Laminar dropped the ball or lost the lead. I always noted that to make a realistic autogen work you needed two elements, a wide scoping autogen to do the layouts and the Icons/landmarks to cover the more intimate VFR aspects. To a point even the MSFS system has to do the same issues in that it can't cover all the smaller details like the missing Sydney Harbour bridge and Buckingham Palace block of flats, so still you need these landmark city packages to fill out the missing areas. Laminar did indeed create a few "Landmark" packages and again as good as they are they are just to minute to have any effect on any VFR visuals. It is noted that Laminar has recruited (finally) a large art team and noted they are mostly Eastern Europeans, so certainly the art or autogen will get a significant boost in X-Plane12, the results will be certainly interesting, but I still think that addon payware city packages will still be require to fill in the blanks, again the crossover factor will be interesting in that the same packages will be available for both MSFS and X-Plane. To note that most city packages currently being released in MSFS are also X-Plane based (which were originally FSX modeled, but the current quick conversions from only X-Plane sourced scenery to MSFS is significant). Another area MSFS has made an impact has been in fauna. FSX was littered with simply horrible trees with very poor jaggy low-resolutions and mostly blue halos around them, but in MSFS the trees and fauna is very good, 3d and have volume they finally get away from the 2d cardboard look of trees, ditto the excellent grass and far better than anything we have in X-Plane... after thousands of reviews I am really over poor trees, but one point is in MSFS the trees do look out of scale as in being too large? In this aspect Laminar have a chance to fix this forgotten area of X-Plane, as again in those patchwork looking ground textures and the serious need for something to cover them over. That lo-res mottled ground texture look is a very X-Plane looking style, and needs to be addressed and creative grass can cover and create a more viable eye level and realistic world. Extra Laminar always throw in something that you would never think about and then deem it essential, but more features including systems, lighting effects and even Garmin GTN 750 and Garmin G500 GPS instruments are also likely to be new features. Meshing Simulators If you read the above features that could be the future of X-Plane, then one thing becomes very clear, MSFS needs to become like X-Plane and X-Plane needs to become like MSFS, in fact if you take the visuals and highlight features from MSFS, and merge them with X-Plane's better diversity, better system dynamics and tools you get really the ultimate simulator. But currently both are very far from the ideal situation of simply having it all. You can see where all this is going over the next few years, as in reality the race is on, but as noted the future development will be mostly that the simulators will share more this time than be totally different than it was set out in the past. As their platforms are now significantly more closer than the same in being totally opposite each other, in fact it mirrors the real world in that Microsoft has currently taken the Apple approach in design and layouts with it's Surface and even Windows 10 software than the older Windows 7 legacy feel and applications... or a new if the same design direction, simulation will be the same in taking only the best if only direction and in an odd way the product will then become very similar. Obviously the above feature list for X-Plane12 (and that is very old promises included) is critical, but not impossible to create the next generation of X-Plane simulation, and it will be a very interesting story on how all this unfolds out. There will be really no answer of which will be the better simulator in the future as that aspect is in the hands of fate and change, but X-Plane will have on balance the diversity of allowing more OS operating systems and the more open user interaction to adjust your simulator to your own liking, VR - Virtual Reality and open cockpit builders are also more highly catered for, but ultimately it will come down to actual flying experiences of feedback from the aircraft, not only in the systems but with the environments around you.... after everything else, a simulator has to provide the basics of training and learning to be a pilot and heighten his aviation skills, and he is not there just to look at all the pretty scenery. Stephen Dutton Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  4. Scenery Review : Golden Gate, KSFO and South Bay by Tom Curtis Tom Curtis's Golden Gate package of which includes KSFO (San Francisco International and Oakland International) now has two extra expansion packages of "South Bay" and "San Carlos" also added into the whole bay area package. First note is that this is a huge scenery. It now has eight airports listed in all: KSFO - San Francisco International airport and gateway to the Pacific Rim KOAK - Metropolitan Oakland International Airport KSJC - Mineta San Jose International Airport KHWD - Hayward Executive Airport KPAO - Palo Alto Airport - General Aviation KHAF - Half Moon Bay - General Aviation KSQL - San Carlos Airport GG01 - Clipper Cove, Located on Treasure Island And also GUQ Moffett Field also has a few items of note as well More items includes: Golden Gate Bridge, Oakland Bay Bridges, San Mateo Bridge and the Dumbarton Railroad bridges. Alcatraz Prison and the Nike Missile Site Museum. A few San Francisco landmarks are also visible like the Transamerica Tower. Maps by Google So where would you start?... Well my interest in this package was noted by a video. It is the "PilotsEYE" series of the first service by Lufthansa of the Airbus A380 on the Frankfurt - San Francisco route. What is interesting in the video is that it shows you all the landmarks and viewpoint in the landing and docking at Gate 101B at San Francisco International Airport: This being X-Plane I wanted to run that route and simulate that landing... Peter's Aircraft wonderful Lufthansa Airbus A380 allows you to easily indulge in your own fantasy. The point of this is that if the scenery works in this context then the scenery is good... Make no doubt as the Tom Curtis KSFO delivers here in spades, views and the background match the video to perfection. Frame-Rate was impressive at 24frames... not a lot of margin I admit, but this is serious scenery and Peter Hagar's A380 is no lightweight either - so the user number here is impressive. KSFO - San Francisco International Airport San Francisco International Airport (IATA: SFO, ICAO: KSFO, FAA LID: SFO) 10L/28R (11,870) 3,618m Asphalt 10R/28L (10,602) 3,231m Asphalt 1R/19L (8,648) 2,636m Asphalt 1L/19R (7,500) 2,286 Asphalt Elevation AMSL 13 ft / 4 m San Francisco International Airport (IATA: SFO, ICAO: KSFO) is an international airport 13 miles (21 km) south of downtown San Francisco, California. The airport opened on May 7, It was named Mills Field Municipal Airport until 1931, when it became San Francisco Municipal Airport. "Municipal" was replaced by "International" in 1955. The KSFO scenery is excellent in scale, There so much detail here it is overwhelming. So the best way to view it is to show the different Terminals. The odd thing to note here is the International Terminal is at the front (lower) and the domestic termnial is at the rear (upper). So we will start with the domestic arms and then show the International. Terminal One Gates 20 - 36 Boarding Area B _____________________________________________________________________________________ Terminal One Gates 40 - 48 Boarding Area C _____________________________________________________________________________________ Terminal Two Gates 50 - 59 Boarding Area D (formally the Central Terminal) _____________________________________________________________________________________ Terminal Three Gates 60 - 67 Boarding Area E (Now Closed) _____________________________________________________________________________________ Terminal Three Gates 68 - 90 Boarding Area F _____________________________________________________________________________________ International Terminal Gates A1 - A12 Boarding Area A _____________________________________________________________________________________ International Terminal Gates G91 - G102 Boarding Area G _____________________________________________________________________________________ All the main terminal infrastructure is excellent with almost every gate filled with ramp equipment or parked aircraft, One aircraft is an animation that pushes back and then returns to the gate. The parked aircraft textures are a little washy (even on a high texture setting).. . but otherwise it can't be faulted. (A note the United B747 at the United Terminal 3 gate is not in the correct position as in the scenery. I moved it so I could park a large aircraft next to the B747 original gate position). All ramp and taxiway markings are exceptional... taxiing around the terminals with the linage and runway signs is as perfect as you will ever need them. Tom is very good at night lighting and the SFO airport is excellent, The buildings have a slight whiteness about them but that is not really an issue here. All gates are well lit and the terminal windows are exceptional. Highlights away from the central area is the American Airlines Hanger and the United Airlines maintenance base. Both areas are excellent with great signage in both day and the night. There are a huge amount of offices, warehouses and the Coast Guard station situated around mostly the Northern boundary, nothing is missing here... as every building is accounted for. There is a small (for) FedEx cargo base and fuel depot and the only few items to note is the high rail line stops abruptly?, and a few of the underlying photo textures are a little washed out... I would like to have a few working (animated) gates and I understand that SFO now has a new control tower? - but again these are minor issues. Tom notes the ATC has been set up to run correctly.... As scenery with KSFO you can't fault it. KOAK - Metropolitan Oakland International Airport Almost directly across the bay from KSFO is Oakland International Airport. The approach to KOAK runway 11 is excellent with this scenery package, You cross over all the Oakland Bay Bridges with San Francisco City on your right (The Golden Gate bridge is viewable in the distance) and a few city icons are visible with the default autogen filling in the rest of the view... If you take away these few items like the bridges and the city icons you would certainly notice what makes a great scenery and what does not. It cannot be stressed more than here as this is the small difference of what makes this outstanding package work. Airports set out alone can not deliver the whole experience. Oakland International Airport (IATA: OAK, ICAO: KOAK) (Metropolitan Oakland International Airport) is a public airport five miles south of downtown Oakland, in Alameda County, California. Oakland is the focus city for Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air. As of July 2013, Southwest has 108 daily departures on peak-travel days of the week.Alaska Airlines combined with sister-carrier Horizon Air is in distant 2nd with as many as 12 flights. The city of Oakland looked into the construction of an airport starting in 1925. In 1927 the announcement of the Dole prize for a flight from California to Hawaii provided the incentive to purchase 680 acres in April 1927 for the airport.The 7,020 foot long runway was the longest in the world at the time, and built in just 21 days to meet the Dole race start. The airport was dedicated by Charles Lindbergh September 17. In its early days, because of its long runway enabling safe takeoff rolls for fuel-heavy aircraft, Oakland was the departing point of several historic flights, including Charles Kingsford Smith's historic US-Australia flight in 1928, and Amelia Earhart's final flight in 1937. Earhart departed from this airport when she made her final ill-fated voyage, intending to return there after circumnavigating the globe. Oakland International Airport (IATA: OAK, ICAO: KOAK, FAA LID: OAK) 11/29 (10,000) 3,048m Asphalt 9R/27L (6,212) 1,893m Asphalt 9L/27R (5,454) 1,662m Asphalt 15/33 (3,372) 1,028m Asphalt Elevation AMSL 9 ft / 3 m The airport is split into two separate areas by runways 9R/27L and 9L/27R with the commercial Airport to the south along side RWY 11/29 and the executive and general aviation areas to the north. FedEx has a large facility here which is almost in the central position of the airport. A very large maintenance building is a big part of the airport as well. Oakland has Two terminals - One and Two. Terminal 1 has 17 gates (1, 3, 4–7, 8-8A, 9-9A, 10–12, 14-14A, 15, 17) and is also used for International services. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Terminal 2 has 13 gates (20–32) (mostly Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air) _____________________________________________________________________________________ Detailing is excellent... all gates are covered with full ramp equipment. All the glass work is excellent and totally realistic. All taxi and runway linage is again of high quality as with noted at SFO. The Private executive and GA area is well covered as well. With items for the Business Jet Center, Kaiser Air and Flight schools Alameda Aero Club, Lou Fields Aviation, Oakland Flyer and Oakland Aircraft Maintenance other noted are Aerial Advertising Services, Oakland Aviation Museum, formerly Western Aerospace Museum and Pacific Aerial Surveys. Only slight eyesore is front of the main terminals is that there is a bit of washed out area with no real carpark. Night-Lighting is the same as SFO... Excellent. All the terminals are very well lit and the night textures are outstanding. The FedEx facility (above) is the standout in the area and the Executive and GA area (below) is very good as well with great lit signage. Oakland International Airport is a great supplement to the main San Francisco International... It has the same quality, but it is ideal for your Private Jet/GA movements and LLC (Low Cost Carrier) operations. With OAK I had no Frame-Rate issues (28-30fr). KSJC - Mineta San Jose International Airport Despite San Jose being the largest city in the Bay Area, SJC is the smallest of the three Bay Area airline airports (8.4 million annual passengers in 2011), with less than a quarter of the passengers of San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and fewer passengers than Oakland International Airport (OAK). Like Oakland airport it attracts Bay Area residents who find SFO too distant from their homes. SJC is noted as a "downtown airport", unlike SFO and OAK which are on opposite shores of San Francisco Bay. SJC's convenient location near downtown San Jose has drawbacks: it is surrounded by the city and had little room for expansion. The proximity to downtown causes limits on building heights in downtown San Jose as by FAA rules. Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport is a city-owned public airport in San Jose, Santa Clara County, California. It is named for San Jose native Norman Yoshio Mineta. Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (IATA: SJC, ICAO: KSJC) 12L/30R (11,000) 3,353m Concrete 12R/30L (11,000) 3,353m Concrete 11/29 (4,599) 1,402m Asphalt Elevation AMSL 62 ft / 19 m Although there are two terminals. They are set out in one long lineup. With Terminal A which has 16 gates: 1–16. and Terminal B which has the North Concourse of Terminal B which has 12 gates: 17–28. A planned South Concourse has now been built as the other Terminal B, but it is to be noted that here in this scenery it is the older version and not the new curved building designed by Gensler... Across the runways are the General Aviation areas and the Control Tower. This area is well detailed with hangars and excellent aircraft parking. All the parking and taxi linage is exceptional. Night-Lighting at KSJC is again exceptional... The lighting around the terminals is expertly done. With this you will find SJC is as good with detail as the other two major airports. The surrounding OSM (Open Street Map) traffic is excellent here as the airport is heavily boxed in, so the traffic swarms around you as you approach or takeoff. I found SJC hit my frame-rate more heavier that SFO and OAK, my guess it is the heavier laid out default autogen. As it dropped down into the on the line 19's and 18's frames. Flying into SFO above SJC in the A380, caused a little stutter as well... but again the A380 is a very heavy file. That is the three very large airports in this package... we will now briefly look at the other smaller Executive and General Aviation airports and one large Ex-Flyingboat base that are dotted all around the bay area. KHWD - Hayward Executive Airport Hayward Executive Airport is just 8 miles south of Oakland International. Hayward Executive Airport (IATA: HWD, ICAO: KHWD, FAA LID: HWD) 10R/28L (5,694) 1,736m Asphalt 10L/28R (3,107) 947m Asphalt Helipad : H1 (110) 34m Asphalt Elevation AMSL 52 ft / 16 m Hayward Executive Airport is a city owned public airport two miles west of downtown Hayward, in Alameda County, California, United States. The airport was built in 1942 during World War II for use as a fighter base as an auxiliary field to Chico Army Air Field and was originally named "Hayward Army Airfield". The primary aircraft stationed at the field were Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft. This post may have also been named "Russell City Army Air Field" for the unincorporated area outside of the Hayward city limits where it was located. In April 1947 the War Assets Administration quit-claimed the airfield, comprising some 690 acres (279 ha) and related buildings and equipment, to the City of Hayward. The airfield was then renamed the Hayward Municipal Airport. On May 1, 1980 the California Air National Guard units at Hayward were reassigned to NAS Moffett Field. It looks like an Ex-Army Field because that is what it was, mostly today it is a storage airport for small aircraft although the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) have offices here. Tom has done a good representation of Hayward. The control Tower area with a large parking ramp is very good with waving flags and other great details... but mostly this airport is all about storage hangers, and all the various different types are represented, Night-Lighting is again very good with great spill lighting on the hangers and the Control Tower/Terminal windows. KPAO - Palo Alto Airport - General Aviation Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County is a small general aviation strip on the western edge of the bay. Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County (IATA: PAO, ICAO: KPAO) 13/31 (2,443) 745m Asphalt Elevation AMSL 7 ft / 2 m Facilities at this busy towered airport include multiple aircraft repair shops and a staffed terminal including West Valley Flight Club, Advanced Flyers, Peninsula Avionics, Sundance Flying Club, Stanford Flying Club, Rossi Aircraft, and Palo Alto Fuel Service. A small airport but it is filled to the brim with detail. Great small control tower and the entrance gate with a carpark is excellent (more flags!). The parking ramp is well completed and the night-lighting is simply excellent (mainly on the hanger down lights and signage). The Abundant Air Cafe, the Golf Course and the popular Ming's Restaurant are all represented... The Restaurant looks great at night down by the water.... KHAF - Half Moon Bay - General Aviation Out on the Pacific Ocean coast is KHAF - Half Moon Bay. (IATA: HAF, ICAO: KHAF) is a county-owned public use airport in San Mateo County. The Half Moon Bay Airport is located approximately 20 miles south of San Francisco. It was constructed by the California State Highway Department for the U.S. Army in 1942 as an auxiliary airfield for Salinas Army Air Base. On 1 June 1945, the War Department issued a five year permit to the U.S. Navy to operate the Site as "Outlying Field, Half Moon Bay". Half Moon Bay field became an outlying field for Naval Air Station Moffett Field, to furnish facilities for utility aircraft providing target towing service for the Anti-Aircraft Training Center, Point Montara, California. Following the end of World War II, San Mateo County acquired the airport from the Navy in 1947. The airport has served a variety of roles over the years and is currently an important business, transportation and emergency service asset to the community. Half Moon Bay Airport provides a variety of emergency service and response functions including: Air ambulance and Medivac flights; law enforcement and homeland security patrols and Coast Guard sea-rescue operations. KHAF - Half Moon Bay (IATA: HAF, ICAO: KHAF) 12/30 (5,000ft) 1,524m Asphalt/Concrete A well represented general aviation airport that is great for training or a fly around the coast go-to destination, the detail at the airport is again very good with the famous 3-Zero Cafe front and centre. The cafe looks really great at night with great detailing. Rusting hanger roofs show attention to detail and plenty of ramp parking and GA aircraft. KSQL - San Carlos Airport San Carlos Airport is a county-owned public use airport in San Mateo County. It is located two nautical miles (3.7 km) northeast of the of San Carlos.The FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) classifies San Carlos as a reliever airport for San Francisco International Airport. The airport is home to Civil Air Patrol West Bay Composite Squadron 192. Adjacent to the airport is the famous Hiller Air Museum. San Carlos Airport (IATA: SQL, ICAO: KSQL) 12/30 (2,600ft) 792m Asphalt Elevation AMSL 5 ft / 2 m The San Carlos Airport is home to over 30 aviation related businesses. Facilities at KSQL include: Zanette Aviation Insurance, West Valley Flying Club, Bel-Air Aviation, Air West Aircraft Engines, Diamond Aviation, and the newly opened San Carlos Flight Center and most are represented here in this scenery. The Hiller Museum is prominently noted with a great (lit at night) sign. The standout item is the "Sky Kitchen Cafe" which has been wonderfully reproduced... There is supreme detailing in the rows of parked buses and of course the aviation museum with the Flying Tigers B747 forward fuselage sitting on the building. The OSM (Open Street Map) traffic is exceptional here as well giving the airport a great buzz. Night-lighting is very good as well with great signage and window textures. GG01 - Clipper Cove, Located on Treasure Island Treasure Island was planned for and used as an airport for Pan American World Airways flying boats. And the area was noted as Clipper Cove. Treasure Island itself is artificial island in the San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Oakland. The original Pan American terminal is still there and well reproduced here and the two old aircraft Hangars 2 (Building 2) and Hangar 3 (Building 3) are also present. Today the hangars are used as Film Studio sound stages. The overwhelming feeling at Clipper Cove is of course the towering Oakland Bay Bridges. Would this scenery have the same clout and authenticity if these bridges had not been created by Tom Curtis... again as noted earlier before... I doubt that. They look splendid in this setting. Other items to note in the scenery are: GUQ Moffett Field. Tom here has created the iconic (Airship) hangars of which you note as you turn around to the southern SFO approaches. (an airship flies over Clipper Cove!) The city area has a few buildings like the Transamerica Tower. Alcatraz Island is here as well. And last but not least is the famous red San Francisco Golden Gate bridge. great in the daylight, but excellent at night... The only slightly visual item is all the bridges at night have a strange pattern on them. My guess it is to represent traffic but it doesn't work... Conclusions This scenery is big... huge in scale! It took almost 150 images to put this review together and I haven't touched everything in absolute detail. I could easily double the amount of images here and still not cover the full size of this package. So value is the big question? The Golden Gate + South Bay scenery is listed as US$34.95 of which for scenery is high price. But that would be missing the whole point. If you listed just KSFO as say US$19.95 (well worth that price) then all the rest (7 airports) of the Golden Gate scenery would cost you only an extra US15.00 and looking at it that way it is excellent value. Tom Curtis is one of the very best designers of these packages for X-Plane, and this is one of of his very best. The quality of the work here is simply outstanding. And the night textures and lighting are first rate. And it also needs to be specially noted is that the frame-rate is highly usable for such a huge amount of scenery in a relatively small area. Only slight negative is the photo underlay textures. They are not very detailed and the textures look washed out and flatten out the scenery unless you can run X-Plane in the very highest texture resolution setting of "Extreme Res". So the point is can you not have this scenery in your collection. The answer is simply no. This package is so complete (and I doubt that Tom hasn't finished yet) that not to have this scenery as a destination or to use as part of your North American network is simply doing yourself and X-Plane a disservice as it is one of the most complete city sceneries available for X-Plane at this moment. I will admit it is not total perfection because the scale here does not allow that. But like all of the very best scenery the Golden Gate + South Bay package is one of the very best investments you can do for yourself and for a lot of use with a wide variety of versatile flying around North America in X-Plane. TheScenery Review : Golden Gate , KSFO and South Bay by Tom Curtis is available now from the New X-Plane.org Store : Golden Gate KSFO + South Bay Price is US$34.95 Features: KSFO - San Francisco International Airport KSJC - Mineta San Jose International Airport KSQL - San Carlos Airport KOAK - Metropolitan Oakland International KPAO - Palo Alto Airport - General Aviation - 18 miles south of KSFO KHAF - Half Moon Bay Airport - 10 miles west of KSFO KHWD - Hayward Executive Airport - 8 miles south of KOAK GG01 - Clipper Cove Located on Treasure Island All airports include : All gates and terminal Global Night Lightning Custom ATC Frame rate friendly Golden Gate Bridge Detailed model of the world's most famous bridge Alcatraz Island The 'Rock'. Used to be home of a federal jail until 1963 Other landmarks All of the piers and other structures along the shoreline from AT&T (Baseball) Park all the way to the Presidio near the Golden Gate bridge. Transamerica Tower located downtown San Francisco Nike Missile Site Museum Bay bridges Oakland Bay Bridge, San Mateo Bridge and the Dumbarton Railroad bridge Developer Site : Scenery4XP _____________________________________________________________________________________ Documents and Installation : Download: 84mb : Installed as GOLDEN_GATE+SOUTH_BAY_150_XP-10 (295.00mb), and four animation files noted Banner Tow (1.5mb), GG Bridge (634kb), San Meteo Bridge (641mb) and SF Bay Bridge (639mb)Tom Curtis provides a full set of instructions on how to install the scenery under: "OPEN FIRST!" Golden_Gate+South_Bay_Open_Me. Internet is required for installation instructions as it is an address HTML link. GOLDEN_GATE+SOUTH_BAY_150_XP-10 is the main scenery file and four other files are noted under GND_TRAFFIC are - GG Bridge, Banner Tow, San Meteo Bridge and SF Bay Bridge are all to be installed in the "Custom Scenery" Folder (These are bridge traffic animations). Supplied also is the "Red Flag" flag animation plugin. Folder "CustomSBDatarefs004" is installed in the X-Plane Resources/Plugin Folder. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Technical Requirements: X-Plane 10 (any edition). - This scenery is now compatible with X-Plane 9 Windows XP or Windows Vista or Windows 7 / 8 (32 or 64 bit) or MAC OS 10.7 or Linux 1Gb VRAM - 2Gb VRAM Recommended. ______________________________________________________________________________Scenery Review by Stephen Dutton 24th August 2013 Copyright©2015: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) - ExtremeSceneryMAXX Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle Aircraft Airbus A380 - by Peter's Aircraft available at the (Lufthansa Airbus A380) X-Plane.OrgStore $54.95
  5. Aircraft Update and Review : Carenado C208B Grand Caravan v2 HD series Route - KEYW (Key West) to MYNN (Nassau Intl) The Grand Caravan from Carenado was their first larger, one size up aircraft for X-Plane. And right from the start at the release in Mid-2012 everyone knew this was something special. It was a sensational success and really cemented Carenado’s already formidable reputation of creating the very best aircraft in General Aviation. Over a year later it has now been finally updated to 64bit and moved over into the HD series. So what does make the Caravan C208B so special. What are the core ingredients that makes it stand out a little above the rest of so many other really good aircraft. Why time and time again it was always the Grand Caravan that you of choice would to choose to fly again and again. I think I know the answer to those questions and this review is a way to explore them and highlight the qualities that made this aircraft so good and we can also see the extra features and update changes to v2 . The Cessna 208B Caravan is a short-haul regional airliner and utility aircraft with a single turboprop engine. It uses a fixed-gear undercarriage for reliability and for rough runways and the aircraft is built by Cessna in Wichita, Kansas in the United States. The aircraft typically seats nine passengers with a single pilot, although with a FAR “Part 23’ waiver it can seat up to fourteen passengers. The 208 Caravan I prototype first flew in December 1982. The production model was certified by the FAA in October 1984. Since then, the Caravan has undergone a number of design evolutions, and working with FedEx, Cessna produced first the Cargomaster. (utility cargo version). Cessna offers the 208B in many configurations and the basic 208 airframe can be outfitted with many various types of landing gear, and allowing it to operate in a wide variety of environments. Some common adaptations include skis, enlarged tires (Tundra) for unprepared runways and also floats on the Caravan Amphibian model. The 208B Grand Caravan is a 4 feet (1.2 m) stretch of the Caravan I. The 208B also features a more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A engine (built in Canada). Cost is US$2,022,450 (Base price) and over 2000 have been built. Cruise speed: 197 mph (171 kn; 317 km/h), Range: 1,240 mi (1,078 nmi; 1,996 km) with max fuel and reserves, Rate of climb: 770 ft/min (3.9 m/s) To a point the Grand Caravan is a niche aircraft with a wide scope of different roles, It fills the need of an aircraft sized larger than the standard General Aviation aircraft and is still smaller than a commuter aircraft of 20 seats and above. So it is ideal as a regional feeder aircraft or in its most popular role as an Island hopper in transporting around 9 to 14 passengers over short distances (200nm to 500nm). This is a typical route that we will fly today is from Key West to Nassau Intl which is 245 nm. To set the aircraft up for its flight you have three sets of menu options on the lower left of your screen. (D) is for Doors and this pop-out menu allows you to open and close the aircraft doors, which in include the Pilots and Co-Pilots door(s) (with a great swing down ladder), a passenger door (right rear) and a double (upper and lower) Baggage door, and when you open the passenger door if you have the cargo pod attached under the aircraft the four smaller baggage compartments also open. (O) is for Options and this second pop-out menu allows you to stow the Static Elements (Chocks, Tow Tractor, Pivot Cover and engine and prop covers. You have a choice of two seating configurations in eight Single seats (8 Pass) or a singe and a double seat per row (and two single seats (11 Pass). the Co-Pilot's seat can be used as either a passenger or a pilot. I am here going for the 11 passenger configuration for this flight. You can also on this menu select either Clear or Tinted windows (VC Windows), I like the dark green tinted. You can choose if you want the under-slung extra (baggage) cargo pod on or off, It adds weight to the aircraft and so if you going for range or flying a considerable distance it is better left off. (C) The top Menu item is “Camera”, that gives you the standard Carenado view system with a zoom function. This has been extended in v2 to add extra programmable views. Settling into the Pilots seat is time to get the C208B ready to go, the panel is clear, unfussy and well laid out. The main engine and power/electric switches are on your left on a tall box structure, and the lighting switches are arranged (grouped) on the left lower part of the panel. The centre upright pedestal has an emergency power lever, single throttle lever, Propeller RPM/Feather Lever and a (clever) gated conditioning/cutoff lever. On the far right is the gated flap lever (3 positions). A huge pitch trim wheel on the side and another rudder trim wheel lower down in the pedestal box. The Bendix/King weather radar has been updated in v2 with a rainbow activation screen. It is quite bright and can either (thankfully) be turned down or you can select the “on” position that gives you the standard screen. The system is just limited to the standard X-Plane weather screen and is really just on or off. You don’t turn a key but push a switch to start the huge Pratt & Whitney PT6A, So after setting the RPM and condition levers to right up high you then just sit there. Nothing happens at first but then deep in the nose something stirs, it cranks and whines and finally rumbles into a sucking whiny loud turbine roar. One of the highlights of the Caravan is its noise, 3D stereo sounds are all around you, but in reality it is so noisy you can’t really tell which direction it is coming from anyway. It is mega great though as nothing else sounds like the caravan, on the ground you get those whiny sucking air turbo sounds and in the air it just roars. The propeller animation in v2 has had a revision and it was pretty good in v1 but now in v2 it is more refined. Let off the brakes and you have to control the power. The Caravan was always hard to taxi as it has so much thrust. I found adjusting the RPM doesn’t work? The only way could reign in the power was to pull the condition lever back into the gate (to far back will kill the engine) and finally you can taxi out at the right speed (and with a bright “low oil Pressure” light in your face). It may not be the right thing in a real Caravan to do but, it was the only way to reign all that thrust in? Power is the problem on takeoff as well. Push up the throttle on 10º Flap, and the asymmetric thrust will pull you hard to the left. So you have to be aware right from the moment you let the brakes go to give only a little thrust until you can lock the nose-wheel straight and then give it full power after a certain speed. It works with a little deft right rudder and once in the air you can quickly straighten the airframe up. Even with a full fuel and passenger load the aircraft has the power to climb easily and you soon find the aircraft settled into a 800fpm climb to 10,000ft. Watch you speed though, if the C208B starts to struggle then half the pitch. But otherwise it will climb quite high, you are not pressurized but have a ceiling of 27.700 ft (8.443 m). You have real C208B weight and balance dialed into the aircraft and that gives you a realistic feel for the aircraft empty or fully loaded. I don’t know if you could call the Grand Caravan a beautiful aircraft, it is functional and utilitarian rather than pretty. But Carenado’s work here is exceptional, the textures are now in the HD (High-Definition) series, and the detailing is excellent. All the riveted panels are there to be seen and the detailing is exquisite in noting the flap runners and pitot probes, and the rubber trailing edge aerials that feel and act with realism and movement. Wire mesh in the engine intakes and a beautifully crafted tricycle undercarriage, that springs and claws together when not under-load. A final piece is the large horn of an exhaust that billows smoke under-load. The windows and glass is perfection in realism. In the air the panel is very functional. The white background on black dials looks modern and distinctive, The Standard Six set of instruments is well set out, but the yoke (removable) can hide the radar height and turn indicator. I like the voltage switch, you can switch it to different aspects of the voltages in four modes. There is a full set of alert lights that can be in two modes in that completely dark or a night setting, which illuminates the panel slightly to see them at night - It works well in the day also to see what their different functions are. The equipment stack is not large, but you still have everything you need. Radio, A Garmin GNS430 (Comm1/VOR1), Bendix King KX165 (Comm 2/ VOR2), Garmin GTX 320 Transponder, Bendix King KR67 ADF and an excellent KFC 150 Autopilot with pitch hold (V/S) and height ALT on a separate panel (push button to switch to either “select Height or V/S” (Vertical Speed) ) The Co-Pilots./Passenger side only has the Standard Six instruments with lower Air-Conditioning and Cabin Heat controls. The panel lighting is excellent with small over lights on the dials, switches and with no background dial lighting, and so at night it is spectacular and still very functional. Overhead is your fuel supply switches and oxygen supply. Overhead lighting works in the front but not in the rear? The front window blinds work in being very adjustable, but still odd in the way you move them into position, and get it wrong and they can be hard to store away again, They are just tricky to use but essential for the pilots in flying directly into the sun. Cabin detail is first rate and can’t be faulted, worn in parts but still a modern flavour in cloth seating for the pilots and rear seats. The two pilots up front are fully animated and realistic... Wouldn’t it be great to have the same animations as passengers in the rear?... As it looks pretty empty back there without anybody sitting in the seats. In v2 the lighting has been brought up to HDR standards, the new flickering strobes are excellent, as is the wing light (left side only). The taxi and landing lights are both set in the wings together and are very good, the tiny detail attention by Careando is shown here by them (Taxi/Landing) being noticeably different up close. The standard Nav/Beacon lighting is also more noticeable though the upgrade. Now way out over the water it is starting to feel empty out here, The engine is feeling strong and purring along, but you have to watch those flickering dials. This engine feels like a tractor engine and you can run it hard at full throttle until the pressures start to show you that you should back off a little. You get a white (paint/default) livery and five other HD liveries, (Clockwise) Executive (Blue), E Arab, GoTrop, Brazil and Executive 2 (Red). GoTrop is my favorite, but there are over thirty others available on the .org As Nassau Island popped up on the horizon it was time to descend. I was happy the VOR (ZQA 112.70mhz) finally kicked in and on the Caravan it gives you your speed and distance to the Nav-Aid. In many cases you pull back on the throttle and slow the speed. But in the C208B it can cause you to stall without the power on. So it is a little throttle back and set the V/S to -700 to start the glide down and then adjust the throttle to match the right speed. If you get it right dropping the flaps to 10º and then 20º to reduce the speed down to 80knts, but don’t forget to give the aircraft a little throttle to balance the drag - as the flaps do create a lot of drag. The Caravan is very stable on the descent and it is very easy to turn-in and line-up with the runway (RWY32). Using the throttle to find the right speed is also very easy and a final flap down to 30º is setting the aircraft up easily for landing. Lowering the speed (throttle) smoothly till you get to the right place to slightly flare it down. As quiet as it is in the air. The Caravan suddenly becomes noisy on the ground. First is the noise of the Reverse Thrust of the Propeller, and noisy and powerful it is. This action can give you almost STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) capabilities. The sounds of the engine reving up high here is simply amazing as in “goosebumps” territory. But then you suddenly have duel issues to contend with, 1) holding it straight on the centerline (keep the front wheel locked until the speed is right down) and 2) that powerful engine is pulling you hard as you move into the taxi speed zone. I have to jump on the condition lever to get it back to the first gate position as soon as possible to quell the speed. Otherwise set it on the approach ready. This can be problematic if you need power on a missed approach and really not advisable, but it does give you a better transition from your landing speed to a sedate taxi speed. As you taxi the 3d sounds change with every turn as the high whine returns. Find your parking position and pull back the condition lever to “Cut-Off” and revel in the winding down of the turbine. You just love these sounds and never get bored of them and that is a big part of the attraction to this aircraft. Hit the menus to open doors and get the baggage out. I personally would like the lower pod baggage doors on a separate button option from the opening passenger door, as they droop down even if you just want to let a passenger out. The C208B is a complex aircraft but frame-rate is not a problem, I rarely get the shudders and rarely go below the 20 frame-rate mark. Conclusions Why is the Grand Caravan 208B so good. First off is the sheer versatility of the aircraft. Any situation or idea you can dream up in a short distance flight, can be usually done in the Caravan. Pickup passengers, island hop, deliver mail, short regional airport to regional airport delivery flights, tourism flying, hub shuttling and delivering cargo or small freight. The Caravan can do anything that you can put together in flying 8-11 passengers (or Cargo) in a 500nm circle. The Carenado Caravan was my “Aircraft of the Year 2012”. Many other aircraft that were released were better like the Boeing 777. But I flew more hours and went to more destinations in six months in the Caravan than any other aircraft over the whole year. It is challenging to fly in all that power from one engine, it has brilliant sounds, It is beautifully crafted by Careando and fully featured and detailed, and you can also configure the aircraft in many different ways... and most of all you just fly and watch your course and hum along to that turbine sound like you are in heaven. At 10,000ft in a C208B Caravan you are as pretty close to heaven that you can get. Follow on from this review to the "Expansion Pack" Version of the Caravan with a review here; Aircraft Update and Review : Carenado C208B Grand Caravan CargoMaster v2 HD "Exp Pack" So If you have the v1 of the 208B Cessna Caravan then the v2 update is now available at the X-Plane .OrgShop... or if you want to buy: Price is $29.95 : C208B Grand Caravan HD Series Documents: Technical Requirements: Windows XP , Vista, 7 or 8 (32 or 64 bits), MAC OS 10.3.9 (or higher). Linux X-Plane 9.7 , X-Plane 10.22+ . 32 and 64bit compatible Pentium 2 GHz - 4GB RAM/512 MB VRAM. 1GbVRAM Recommended Download: 291.60mb - 252MB available hard disk space Current version: v2 (last updated September 25th 2013) X-Plane10 is required for HDR lighting effects and the HD textures are rendered to maximise the low frame-rate. updated store# Developer Site: Carenado Review By Stephen Dutton 27th September 2013 (note: the engine torque enhancements are included and ignore the C208B service pack on the Carenado site.) Full List of v2 updates: -32-bit and 64-bit Mac, Windows, and Linux support. -X-Plane 9.7 and 10.22 acf files included. -Updated SASL to official v2.0.1 release, which contains optimizations that benefit from Laminar's X-Plane 10.22 release. -Overhauled lighting system. Lighting halos for nav and strobe lights are now more visible under certain viewing angles. -Landing light features tightly-focused "glare" effect when viewed from the right angle. -Landing lights optimized to work better under v9.7 lighting, as well as v10 HDR-off and HDR-on lighting -Nav lights have been improved for a more realistic appearance. -Strobe lights have been re-programmed to follow a strobe flashing pattern, determined by the plugin. -Improved ground handling -Optimized objects -Improved weather radar, -improved stereo sounds -Improved interior and exterior graphics and visualizations -No longer has inverted fuel and oil systems. More realistic. -Optimized various menus, to use less memory. -Tweaked turning radius on ground to compensate for new v10 no-toe-brake-with-rudder setting. -Adjusted trim time from centre to max for v10, as this setting, left un-addressed, will cause the same plane to take twice as long to trim. -tweaked gauges, such as fuel and oil pressure, vacuum, etc. to conform to v10's new way of calculating "Nominal pressure/temperature" as opposed to "Max pressure/temperature". -Programmed default camera snap points for v10 (on top of existing ones via "Cameras" pop-up menu) 2 Different .acf files: one for v9 and one for v10. -v10 .acf features optimized objects. Interior/exterior shading is applied only where needed, saving resources. -v10 .acf has further optimizations to objects that don't need the background (clouds, skies) to be drawn through them, if they're not transparent, saving further resources. -v10 .acf also protects certain textures from resolution degradation at low rendering settings. This guarantees that the panel instruments and text are always crisp and clear, no matter what rendering settings are chosen for the sim. -v10 .acf is optimized to make use of HDR rendering, especially in terms of lighting. This includes spill lights, which illuminate the surroundings, coming from Nav and Strobe lights. -When HDR mode is turned off, care has been taken to optimize the appearance of the plane without the enhancement benefits of HDR. Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) - ExtremeSceneryMAXX Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle Scenery - KEYW - Key West International Airport V1.0 - fletcherj - MYNN - Lynden Pindling International (Nassau Intl) - mhayling
  6. Scenery Review : KLAS - Glitter Gulch by Tom Curtis If planning a relaxing vacation then a city in the middle of the desert, satuated in extreme heat this would surely be the last place on your bucket list. But the title of Las Vegas is usually the first place on anyone's buccket list or any list for that matter in losing yourself to the world and all its problems. Las Vegas was created by mobsters to launder their ill gotten gains and to their surprise suddenly found out very quickly that Las Vegas would become their biggest cash cow of the century, if ever. History The first Las Vegas airport in this outpost area was the 1929 airfield (dirt runway, water well, and small operations shack) north of Las Vegas and was operated by the 1925 Western Air Express for Contract Air Mail (CAM) and was used by the Army Air Corps in the 1930s for training flights. This airport was named after Senator McCarren in McCarren Field, and this could cause some confusion in the fact that this is not the McCarren International (KLAS) of today, but it is in fact the current Nellis Airforce Base. KLAS was originally established by an American aviator called George Crockett, a descendant of frontiersman Davy Crockett, who established in Paradise another landing area called Alamo Airport in 1942 (which is a great name by the way) which became Clark County Public Airport, the title of McCarren Field from the old Las Vegas airport was then transferred in 1948. As Las Vegas opened up or the money rolled in a new terminal was opening on March 15, 1963, The terminal wasdesigned by Welton Becket and Associates and John Replogle who was inspired by the TWA terminal at JFK (Idelwild). Terminal 1 handles most flights and today consists of a total of 96 gates in four concourses: Concourse A (A3, A5, A7, A8, A10–A12, A14, A15, A17–A23). One wing of the Concourse A (Gates A17–A23) is closed because those gates are currently unused. Concourse B (gates B1–B2, B6, B9–B12, B14, B15, B17, B19–B25), Concourse C (gates C1–C4, C5, C7–C9, C11, C12, C14, C16, C19, C21–C25), and Concourse D (gates D1–D12, D14, D16–D26, D31–D43, D50–D59) and was finally completed in June 1998 . Terminal 2 was opened on December 18, 1991, as “The Chartier International Terminal” and was used for all international as well as most charter flights into Las Vegas. It contained eight gates (T2-1 through T2-8), four of which were equipped with facilities for international flights. However Terminal 2 closed on June 28, 2012, and has yet to be demolished. Terminal 3 was opened on June 27, 2012 at a cost of cost $2.4 billion, and is used for all international flights as well as some domestic airlines. The terminal contains 14 gates in Concourse E (E1–E12, E14–15), with the easternmost seven gates (gates E1–E7) being used for international flights. A people mover system connects Terminal 3 to Concourse D. Gates E1–E3 have two jetways to accommodate large aircraft. The top five routes are - 1) Los Angeles, California (1,075,000) - 2 ) Denver, Colorado (892,000) 3) San Francisco, California (872,000) 4) Phoenix, Arizona (730,000) 5) Atlanta, Georgia (722,000). Top International routes is - 1) WestJet (Canada) 2) Air Canada 3) Virgin Atlantic Airways (UK) 4) British Airways (UK) 5) Mexicana (no longer operating) 6) Aeromexico 7) Philippine Airlines 😎 Korean Air , Seoul-Incheon 9) Condor (Germany) 10) Sunwing Airlines (Canada). KLAS is a base for Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines and lately (2012) Spirit Airlines. (US AIR will be pulling out soon with its American Airlines takeover) The airport has a very large fixed base operator precence, notable for Personal Jet use and tourism related activity, most notable is Signature Flight Support, owned by BBA Aviation Services Group, provides services for private aircraft using McCarran and the “The Las Vegas Executive Air Terminal”, owned by Eagle Aviation Resources. Glitter Gulch Scenery - Ver1.2 created by Tom Curtis (Scenery4XP) Download 40.40mb Installed 123.70mb For Version X-Plane10 Installation Installation is easy in just download the scenery and expand the folder to your “Custom Scenery Folder”. One item that is important, There is a read me to install or update the “CustomSBDatarefs004” in your plugins folder. This for the Flag effects to work correctly in the scenery. Introduction If you are a regular user of X-Plane then Tom Curtis and his sceneries will be of no stranger to you. His “Inside Passage” and companion pieces “Final Frontier” and “Canadian Rockies’ are classics of their genre. His follow up in KSFO (San Francisco) is also a major work worth purchasing for any collection. Tom was really the ideal person to take on McCarran International because the scenery requires something unique in that just creating a standard destination Airport. The problem is that unlike say LAX which is mostly surrounded with the normal high density and semi-urban cityscapes and could be easily be surrounded by the standard default X-Plane scenery engine, Las Vegas is well Las Vegas!. The buildings are all iconic in the extreme, and some are even beyond that (Like a fairytale Castle for example), so no developer is going to get away with just creating McCarran Inter in solitude, for one the airport is part and parcel of the city itself, If you want KLAS then the rest of Las Vegas is also going to have to be part and parcel of the package. And that is what we have here with “Glitter Gulch”. The scenery is really set out in three parts: 1) McCarran International Airport (IATA: LAS, ICAO: KLAS) 2) Las Vegas cityscape 3) Henderson Exeutive Airport (IATA: HSH, ICAO: KHND) Tom has noted that their will also be a follow up package consisting of: KVGT - North Las Vegas Airport KBVU - Boulder City Municipal Airport KLSV - Nellis AFB KINS - Creech AFB KTNX - Tonopah Test Airfield (Initial home of the F-117 Stealth Fighter) KXTA - Area 51 Groom Lake Test Facility That will go on and fill out the remaining surrounding areas around the Glitter Gulch scenery. First Impressions The first thing you note is not the scenery package itself but the area around Las Vegas. It is an amazing scenerio of flat basin, surrounding mountains and man-made lakes. Flying around this area or as an arrival is simply a joy to behold. In close proximity is also the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon which are excellent areas to explore either by Helicopter or a General Aviation aircraft. This them makes both KLAS and Henderson both very strategically important as a destination or departure point. This makes this scenery even more welcome to any collection because of its diversity and usability for any simulator user. Before getting directly to KLAS I want to note the default scenery. The area of Las Vegas is very visual and to get the very best from this package it is worth considering on how best it is to set it up in X-Plane10. The problem is that if you put the Glitter Gulch package directly in the standard X-Plane default settings you get a lot of empty green squares, of which doesn’t really work for the scenery (or any scenery for that matter). Pump up your render settings to cover “objects” of which you need to have set to at least “mega Tons” (for all those roads and traffic) but you will also need to push out your “World Distance Detail” as hard as you can as well. The problem with this area is that it is circular in the middle of the basin, so if it is broken into patches it shows up very badly here. There are two options that are helpful, The first is SimHeaven’s photo sceneries: SimHeaven Sceneries Simheaven has excellent Las Vegas coverage, but be warned as it is a big download for a slow connection at 2.6Gb, and then it all expands out to 4.28Gb. Over the city area the coverage is excellent, but ruins the mountains in the distance by making then bright and flat. The photo tiling also puts a hard line on the edge of the photo overlay at where it meets the default scenery. Most simulator users love these photo sceneries but I don’t like the large block patchwork look they create from the air. The option I used here is John Spahns “Urban Maxx Supreme” in that at least it keeps the photo areas under the actual city areas and so blends in very well with the default X-Plane10 world, It does however create a pattern from a distance, but up close it is very effective with the surrounding default autogen “plausable world” KLAS - McCarren International Both KLAS and Las Vegas are really one big scenery. Before adding in the texture special effects, you can see the scenery package in its basic form here.... McCarren is a large airport with four main runways: 1L/19R 8,985 2,739 Concrete (ILS 01L) 1R/19L 9,775 2,979 Concrete 7L/25R 14,510 4,423 Asphalt (ILS 25R) 7R/25L 10,526 3,208 Concrete (ILS 25L) The runway setup is interesting, with Two Main runways 7L/25R - 1R/19L with 7R/25L - 1L/19R as secondary (smaller) runways. The interesting part is that three converage all at one point (lower left) and when departing you can hold from both sides of the taxiways F and D with also taxiway E between the the two left runways. Approach is visually exciting, but you have to watch the mountainous areas surrounding the city with using Runways 25R/25L. Las Vegas!... the cityscape works well from the taxiways. Lineage is excellent if a little confusing at certain intersections as points converge, missing though is main to lead up lines up to each gate. Gates are well stocked, but there are no moving docking airbridges. KLAS looks very spread out but in reality it is only two terminals and terminal one is split into two very different sections of Concourses A, B, C and D which set futher apart. Terminal One - Concourse A Terminal One - Concourse B Concourse B is almost a mirrror image of A with round satellite gates Terminal One - Concourse C Terminal One - Concourse D Concourse C is a finger concourse with the control tower set behind. Concourse D is set in a cross shape of four finger concourses. Set behind Concourse D is Terminal 3 which is the International Terminal. Terminal 2 is the old “The Chartier International Terminal”, of which Tom has depicted as being partially dismantled. A Large fuel depot is to service the airport set out just behind the old buildings. Quality of the terminal buildings are excellent, and the expansive glass (alway a very hard one to get right) is also well created with clever detail is also first rate. There is quality in the brick work and steel work, but the important details are in there as well as air-conditioning units and systems abound. There are few items of animation as well with aircraft being towed over the ramp to certain gates. Although still modern in look the central terminal, designed by Welton Becket and Associates and John Replogle, was inspired by the TWA terminal at JFK and it is well represented here. The new KLAS (FAA) control tower is part of the package. and the modeling is first rate. It is easy to get confused between the ramp towers and the new version, but Tom has done a great job here. The Cargo area is also well produced with not just recieving buildings on the ramps but also warehouses behind. From the air the car parks look great, but they are flat on the ground which look slightly odd if you (like me) like to fuss over the aircraft before or after a flight. Western Boundary The western boundary is the main area that cover the fixed base operators and private jets. And they are all very well represented here. They are split into many areas, but the main are the Atlantic Terminal (Above right) Signature Executive Terminal (below Left)... Which is a really well laid out aircraft park. The JANET terminal (Above Right) "Which is all so very hush, hush and Military" Quail Aviation is very well represented, with many buidings and hangers.Gulfstream and the excellent Sands hangar. To note only a few as there is quite a few other hangars and ramps dedicated to helicopter tours and sightseeing and personal jet parking. Las Vegas The important backdrop of the Las Vegas skyline is very well represented, all your favorite hangouts are here and are all well recreated. I found that to get the maximum benefit I needed to have my “texture” render settings set to “very high” to bring out the excellent texture detail, with already pushing the framerate on the “objects” and “distance” This scenery will push a low powered computer to the limit. I found it still very usable for such a very large scenery and in context you will admit the package is very good, but this also in trying to get the maximum out of the whole package... and that has to come at a small cost somewhere. The “City of Sin” does look very good and you can pick out all the landmarks (The Convention Centre is behind the airport). Great signage certainly enhances the detail, but isn’t Houdini a bit.... well Dead!... But then again so is Elvis. The OSM (Open Street Map) networks in X-Plane10 are excellent and really make the city busy and flowing. Night Lighting Las Vegas is really a night bound destination and so the town only really comes totally alive after dark, and in this “Glitter Gulch” package it comes really alive here as well. The Strip buildings pop off the screen in bright colours as the city glows bright in the desert, It will certainly be interesting when Laminar Research update their nighting in the default autogen and introduce some medium buildings to compliment the iconic skyline set out here - I think then it will be a very good if not a great skyline, the laser out of the Luxor Hotel is good at night, but just a line in the sky in daytime... I’m not sure on that one? McCarren International is however sensational in the dark.... The HDR lighting is excellent, and when you get close up to the terminals the graphics and the texures are simply first rate. You can work around the ramps with ease in the dark, If you are coming to Las Vegas, then the Dusk, Night or early Dawn periods are certainly the best times to come. Henderson Exceutive Airport Henderson Executive Airport is a public airport located 11 nautical miles (20 km; 13 mi) south of the central business district of Las Vegas. It was originally known as Sky Harbor Airport, but was renamed in 1996 when it was purchased by Clark County to be used as a reliever airport for McCarran International Airport. Today it is primary a General Aviation and Private Jet (Executive) facility and storage. Henderson has two Runways: 17R/35L 6,501ft 1,982m Asphalt 17L/35R 5,001ft 1,524m Asphalt Part of the “Glitter Gulch” package is “Henderson Executive Airport”. If Henderson was a separate item than KLAS and Las Vegas then it would worth the purchase alone, It is an excellent scenery and more detail is allowed here because of its smaller footprint than the vast spread of KLAS. All buildings are as good a quality as anything that Tom Curtis has delivered in the past. Highlights are the central terminal buildings and offices. The buildings are very well constructed with great detail, carparks and cars are well executed and the scenery is just very well complete in every aspect. The only slight difference is the day glass is a bit flat and not dimensional like at KLAS. The Maverick Hangar and Control Tower are more highlights up at the Southern end of the airport, the flying American flag should work if you inserted correctly the new dataref plugin earlier. You will find the airport a large storage facility in most cases but the set out is excellent with a wide variety of hangars and aircraft shades. All the ramps are full of aircraft and helicopters to add to the visual appeal. Refueling areas are excellent (above) and to the North of the main ramp are more larger hangars (expensive?), offices and aircraft storage - and all air-conditioned for your comfort. Building construction and design is first rate and so is the smaller detailing. Fences, signage cars and nice tropical palm trees all to help fill in the desert location. Henderson Nightlighting The quality of the HDR night lighting is as good as KLAS, There full lighting on all over the ramps and in all areas it is well lit in abundance. The lighting detail here is excellent and very realistic, like KLAS, Henderson works very well in dark. Henderson Executive is top class scenery and a great addition to the package, if the other to coming add-ons are as good as this airport then this whole area is going to be very well represented. A note on departing using Henderson 17R and 17L, make sure you have a good high angle of departure. The ground rises up quite quickly from the end of the runway, it is quite a deceiving view from the cockpit as it doesn’t look as steep as it really is, a lazy departure will find you scraping the expensive underbelly of your precious GA along the ground or doing a wheels up landing on the rocks! Summary Any scenery from Tom Curtis is great value, and “KLAS - Glitter Gulch” is no exception. You have to understand that these big projects are not for the faint hearted, and for a single developer like Tom it is a major achievement to cover all the aspects delivered here. Because it is so widespread in its scope there will be small areas that are not covered, KLAS is a huge airport and alone and is a big project to cover, but Tom has been able to do an excellent job in doing so. As mentioned at the start of this review is that the city skyline of the iconic Las Vegas is as important as the airports themselves as here one cannot really exist without the other. The only real minor point with KLAS is that using photo underlays can create blank areas that look great from the air but look odd on the ground, These underlays can and do create slightly unattractive visuals like in this case the over bright green golf course. And because of the huge size of the airport you can’t cover all these areas with small details. In most cases Tom has certainly done great detail in the small stuff, but the flat carparks and other small airport infrastructure of small buildings and the really fine detail is missing. However it is to be noted in that where it counts like in the excellent western boundary fixed base area it is very well covered. The other consideration is to make the scenery really work is that you have to work your render settings to their X-Plane10 limits, you need the textures on “very high” at least and objects on “Too Much” to get the Las Vegas excitement working - and having the “distance” detail at the highest settings is needed to create the sprawl of the city. Anyone one with the headroom to do this is going to really get the most benefit from “KLAS - Glitter Gulch”. I am not saying it is framerate killer, because the actual scenery is excellent considering its breadth and scale. Tom Curtis is a really good quality 3d designer, his work is always first rate and he doesn’t disappoint here, KLAS is excellent in the the quality of the airport and its terminals, great detail and perfect renditions of the infrastructure, airport layouts of runways and lineage is also very good and detailed. Without doubt the nightlighting and night textures are highlights. The Las Vegas cityscape also delivers as every major icon is covered, it is a consideration on far you can go with hotels and motels or the “Chapel of Love” before you start wasting work time on excess, but a few more basic buildings (hotels) would really finish off the area to its perfection. The whole “KLAS - Glitter Gulch” package is already great value, and with the addition of Henderson Exec, it then becomes exceptional value. This airport is excellent in the GA/PersonalJet category and make a ideal base for exploring the area. This scenery will certainly fill in a big area in the X-Plane envionment, and it has to be part of your collection. It is great value as well and with that “KLAS - Gutter Gulch” does tick all the right boxes. ___________________________ Price US$24.95 and “KLAS - Glitter Gulch” is now available at the .orgStore : KLAS - Glitter Gulch Developer site: Scenery4XP Review By Stephen Dutton Copyright©2013:NewBluePublications Published 31st July 2013 Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) - ExtremeSceneryMAXX Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle
  7. Freeware Releases Roundup September 2013 : Skyhawk A4 - Falcon7X - Airbus A380 In late August and September 2013 we had a really huge choice of quality “freeware” aircraft released. You could say be spoilt for choice in the range and high quality workmanship that became available on the .Org. Of the releases I have picked three of the best to have a fly around and comment on in the Skyhawk A4, Falcon 7X and Riviere’s Airbus A380. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk 1.7 This version was designed by Ben Harber, aka Mid7night and was for sale on the X-Plane .OrgShop site. But now the aircraft has been decommissioned by Nicolas Taureau and put up for freeware on the .Org downloads. The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a carrier-capable attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The delta winged, single-engined Skyhawk was designed and produced by Douglas Aircraft Company, and later by McDonnell Douglas. It was originally designated the A4D under the U.S. Navy’s pre-1962 designation system. The Skyhawk is a light-weight aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 24,500 pounds (11,100 kg) and has a top speed of more than 600 miles per hour (970 km/h). The aircraft’s five hard-points support a variety of missiles, bombs and other munitions and was capable of delivering nuclear weapons using a low altitude bombing system and a “loft” delivery technique. The A-4 was originally powered by the Wright J65 turbojet engine; from the A-4E onwards, the Pratt & Whitney J52 was used. The Navy issued a contract for the type on 12 June 1952, and the first prototype first flew from Edwards Air Force Base, California on 22 June 1954. Deliveries to Navy and Marine Corps squadrons (to VA-72 and VMA-224 respectively) commenced in late 1956. The Skyhawk remained in production until 1979, with 2,960 aircraft built, including 555 two-seat trainers. The last production A-4, an A-4M of Marine squadron (VMA-223) had the flags of all nations that operated the A-4 painted on its fuselage sides. A-4 Skyhawks played key roles in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Falklands War (Argentina). There are four versions of the A-4 available in the 107.60mb download package. Blue Angels - flight demonstration squadron. It was formed in 1946. And the A - 4F Skyhawk was the demonstrator aircraft between December 1974 – November 1986. The aircraft design is very good and well done but it is now showing its design age in the modeling and liveries department. The cockpit (on all versions) is 3d and very well created with an opening canopy and dropping tail hook. On the Blue Angels aircraft you can pick your own number on the tail by changing the liveries. A-4F Jester - The aircraft of “TOP GUN” fame. Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) training brought on with the establishment of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in 1969, the availability of A-4 Skyhawks in both the Instrument RAGs and Composite Squadrons at the master jet bases presented a ready resource of the nimble Skyhawks that had become the TOPGUN preferred surrogate for the MiG-17. Here the air-brakes are activated with split wing and fuselage opening air-brakes. Lady Jessie - Recreation of historical aircraft. This is the Naval version of the Skyhawk, with the humpback blister and wing fuel tanks. The tanks were designed for a wheels up landing, and most Skyhawks carried them. Note - the excellent forward leading edge spoiler, and the air-brake/flap arrangement that drops down under the wing. BAE - Recreation of experimental model. You can feel how agile this aircraft was to fly, you are just a finger and thumb on the stick and it will just maneuver by just your light touch and feel. No wonder pilots could feel part as one with the aircraft and the reason for its longevity and success. If you like killing things you can arm the cannons and fire away, but your supplies don’t last very long. Overall a great aircraft and one savor and now available for a free download: Douglas A-4 Skyhawk 1.7 Dassault Falcon7X The Falcon7X by after, Won the "Best Aircraft of September" on the .Org monthly Poll. This is a great version of the Personal Jet that is almost payware quality. It is not a completely new file but an updated version for X-Plane10 from v9.510. The Dassault Falcon 7X is a large-cabin, long range business jet manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It is the first fully fly-by-wire business jet. It is also equipped with the same avionics suite, the Honeywell Primus EPIC “Enhanced Avionics System” (EASy), that was used on the Falcon 900EX and later on the Falcon 2000EX. The Falcon 7X is notable for its extensive use of computer-aided design, the manufacturer claiming it to be the “first aircraft to be designed entirely on a virtual platform” using Dassault Systemes’ CATIA and PLM products. It is also unusual in having an S-duct central engine, and is one of only two trijets currently in production, the other being the Dassault Falcon 900. It was also the first production Falcon jet to offer winglets. First Flight was on the 5 May 2005, The first 7X, MSN05, entered service on June 15, 2007. Maximum speed: 953 km/h (515 knots, 593 mph), Cruise speed: 900 km/h (486 knots, 559 mph), Range: 11,000 km (5,940 nm)8 passengers, Service ceiling: 14935 m (51,000 ft) At first glance the Falcon 7X feels like a very good payware project. It was updated from the v9 aircraft and quite considerably so for X-Plane10. Outwardly the design work is excellent and the modeling is first-rate. The cockpit (3d) is excellent and very functional, the centre console is as good as anything else and well detailed. Most of the upgrade work has centred on the displays and systems, and the central display is fully functional. Quite comprehensive in their detail are the center screens, the lower upper tabbed screen shows you your Nav, Trim, Engine, Electrical, Bleed, ECS and Failure options. The lower screens main layout is your FMS settings and Navigation Inputs. And then Fuel status and consumption. The next two tabs are the same as the upper screen in Engine and Trim and finally there are three MAP/GPS positions in MAP, FR (France) and USA (Local). The systems are quite deep in operation and the aircraft is excellent just for these systems alone. The Cabin is well fitted out as well with club seating and tables (a, la, Challenger 300) and the front door opens back on Terra Firma. It flies very well as well. Nice to the controls, fast with an enormous range of which you can cross any ocean or continent and in all counts it is an excellent aircraft. But the Falcon7X doesn’t reach payware quality yet, as it just falls short... But however this is a project still in progress and still bound for payware and to reach that goal then some issues will have to be reviewed. Like the main cockpit panels are a mixture of sharp and fuzzy labeling that annoys after awhile. You would put up with this in XP8 or XP9 for payware, but you want to feel it needs to be better than it is, even now with such a lot of considerable detailing and screen functionality already completed. The outer aircraft design are parts beautifully done (like the leading edge and rear flaps systems), but let down by the poor tires that make the aircraft wobble as it taxi’s around the taxiways and the lighting shows through the panel work. The Falcon7X displays the differences of quality that is needed to become payware, the gap is “oh so small” but it is still a gap to be crossed and as a lot of the work already completed by “after” does show the quality is in there to bridge that gap - It just needs that final polish and realism touches to be a really worthy contender. You can download the : Falcon 7X V9.510 for X-Plane V10.22 Here. Airbus A380 If you have been around X-Plane for a few or so years the name Christian Riviere will be well known to you. In fact Christian’s work is significant and varied throughout many versions of the X-Plane simulator. So when he releases any aircraft it will certainly catch your attention as his skills are very well regarded. The surprise is that it is the Airbus A380, Yes Christian Riviere has done airliners before but they tended to be iconic aircraft and old propeller dogs from the 1950’s. But lately he has gone all modern Airbussy in the A350XWB and now the big daddy in the A380. The outside modeling on the A380 is superb, with a high 3d quality that is very well crafted and detailed. From this aspect it is payware quality and very well done. Detailing in the engines (Wide chord fans are excellent) and well created and detailed landing gear. Flap arrangement is also very well done and so are the leading edge spoilers. and comes with a great selection of liveries : Emirates, Air France, British airways, China southern, Korean air, Lufthansa, Malaysia airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Thai. The doors open and inside there is a first class section with chairs and fittings. And then we will get to the cockpit. I will admit I have had many hours on A380’s in X-Plane. The best at the start was the EOLE-CREATION & VALERIAN BAYLE version which was not half bad and quite well done. But you soon realised it was not configured correctly in the fact it would not fly over 33,000ft and a stopover for fuel was required (LON-SIN) in Chennai to fly the last leg to Changi did not look good on the copybook. Peter’s (Aircraft) A380-800 is the deal to have, but it is costly (cheaper now than when I purchased it), but you soon understood why you have to pay for quality. If you follow Peter’s (extensive) guidelines, you soon become quite proficient because the basics are correct. And that is an important point to note, because if you hit the correct targets (height/weight/speeds) and the aircraft does what it is supposed to do, then you fly and learn much better. In other words “good data in” will produce “good data out” by your flying skills. If the aircraft tuning is not correct then you have “bad data in” and so “bad data out” in the fact the aircraft won’t do what it should do in the real world. Here Peter’s A380 excels because if you look at the real world data, the aircraft will hit those numbers perfectly (The low and approach speeds are simply outstanding) and flying these big A380’s is more an art form than a sum of total procedures, so if the numbers are right then you can fly them closer to the mark. The art in motion part is that this aircraft is very heavy, and flying long distances means getting the weight and climb performance right, 33,000ft is the go to number before losing weight to go higher. Running the Riviere A380 version the same procedures as Peter’s A380 version out of London (to Frankfurt) and at first it feels the same, but then it does not. No doubt that flying Peter’s Aircraft demands very precise points in the changes in speeds (you can set it to auto/FBW, but that is missing the fun) and V/S, so you are very busy in there compared to the Riviere version. For a start Riviere’s version is really only the default X-Plane cockpit setup, no FBW (Fly-By-Wire) or Airbus Logic Law. and the cockpit layout is very different from the real aircraft. Riviere's A380 Cockpit version Peter's Aircraft A380 Cockpit version If fact Riviere's cockpit feels really odd, the shape and the front windows is more Concorde with the visor down than an Airbus, The panel is crammed together and not very wide either? The basic controls are all there, but most of the detail is missing and the overhead panel is a standard Riviere item of a photo background with a few switches on it. Jumping over to Peter’s version and it feels like home again. All the switch gear is correctly placed and works. The wide windows feels far more realistic, but the much needed wipers are still missing (they are on the 2d cockpit, but are very poor). The only really frustrating annoyance is the (mostly the Autopilot) manipulators are impossible to find, I have missed many an approach in just trying to adjust my speed?... drives me simply nuts. But there is a difference in style. The Riviere version is not bad in many aspects, from climb to the FL330 ceiling but it is in the subtle differences you notice the more tighter programming that makes the difference if you are doing a serious simulation profile. Leaving London (EGGL) I ran both versions at MTW over the same route. At VOR “CLN” moving into the serious point of the climb (I call it the “lift”) the Riviere version is struggling to keep it’s speed and the V/S (Vertical/Speed) is down to 1200fpm. Peter’s version however is at the correct speed (285knts) and lifting at V/S 1600fpm with ease and with plenty of power in reserve (N1 is at 61%). Past 25,000ft I usually pull the A380 into a climb of 500fpm and reducing it down again to 300fpm as the climb goes past FL300. With a full load you have to adjust for wind strength with the V/S and watch for the limits before the nose starts to stall. Landing at EDDF (Frankfurt) I found Riviere’s A380 hard to perform at slow speeds and worse it wouldn’t turn past the 5º turn angle to align for runway (top). (odd because it would turn correctly at other points). and I missed the approach by a (country) mile and then had to do a complete (slow) 180º turn to realign with the runway. The speed dropped away badly as well and the A380 came close to a stall. Flying into EDDF (from the opposite direction) Peter’s version (lower) was rock solid on 185knts, and the degree turn was directly in line to the correct approach alignment. And the aircraft was so much more precise on how it performed. The question is “Is it fair to compare a Freeware aircraft with an expensive Payware Aircraft”? Well really “no” is the answer. But the point is this is simulation and the aim is recreate the aircraft’s systems and its flying abilities. There is no doubt that Christian Riviere has done a really great piece of work with his A380, but the constraints of just using the default X-Plane tools to build the aircraft shows in the performance, and you really miss those FBW systems. And that is the interesting part because Airbus Aircraft are built around these complex logic systems and that at the end of the day is what you pay for when buying a payware version of an aircraft. You can download Rivere's A380 : Airbus A380-800 for XP9.70 Here. (43.31MB download) You can buy Peter's Aircraft A380 : Airbus A380 X-Plane .OrgShop. Here - Price is US$59.95 Stephen Dutton 4th October 2013
  8. When Alabeo release an aircraft it is a bit like meeting Forrest Gump and him offering you something from his box of chocolates “you just don’t know what you are going to get”. There are a few clues though. It is usually highly different. It is usually very Iconic and it is usually very well done but not totally absolutely functional. Their latest release is the 1930’s aircraft the “Beechcraft D-17 Staggerwing”. and it fill out all the criteria. It is different, It is Ironic, It is very well done and some small things don’t work. The “Staggerwing” (Meaning the upper and lower wings are “Staggered” to give a better view out of the front windows) was the aircraft of the 1930’s that represented you as a person of high standing. It was well loved by the Hollywood royalty of the period. The sort of same image you will get today by flouting off your new G350 Gulfstream Jet. It stood for “Rich”, “Powerful”... and a global reaching exciting image! - Of course pilots loved the power of the machine as well. History Aircraft developer Walter H. Beech and airplane designer T. A. “Ted” Wells at the height of the Great Depression, joined forces to collaborate on a project to produce a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive. The Beechcraft Model 17, popularly known as the “Staggerwing” was first flown on November 4, 1932. It was not popular at first because of the high cost. Originally it was called the Model 17 with its negative stagger wing configuration (the upper wing staggered behind the lower) and unique shape maximized pilot visibility while negligibly reducing air interference between the wings. The fabric-covered fuselage was created with wood formers and stringers over a welded steel tube frame. Construction was highly complex and it was for its time the most innovated aircraft available with the Staggerwing’s retractable conventional landing gear, which was uncommon at that time that was combined with careful streamlining, light weight, and a powerful radial engine which helped it to perform very well. In mid-1930s, Beech then undertook a major redesign of the aircraft, to create the Model D17 Staggerwing (this Alabeo version). The D-17 featured a lengthened fuselage that improved the aircraft’s handling characteristics by increasing control leverage and the ailerons were relocated to the upper wings, eliminating interference with the flaps. Braking was also improved with a foot-operated brake linked to the rudder pedals. In the Second World War the D-17 became even more popular as the need for a compact executive-type transport or courier aircraft became apparent, And so in 1942 the United States Army Air Forces ordered the first of 270 Model 17s for service within the United States and overseas as the UC-43. The U.S Navy also bought the aircraft and so did the British RAF and Royal Navy. Since then it has slipped in to fame and notes for its ‘muscular strength and delicate grace,’ and is rated highly for its ‘classic lines and symmetry.’” Design Alabeo is a sister studio with Carenado and so they share a lot of design ideas and features. The main feature is that the quality is just as good as the Carenado’s but in a just slightly different form in that usually the form is more of a whole and not as completely constructed as the very highly detailed Carenado’s are, and that is reflected in the lower price and being slightly under US$20. The same quality but with just a slightly different design approach. But still the same of where it really counts. And so the detailing on the “Staggerwing” is exceptionally good on this beautiful aircraft, It does look and feel slightly bulky because of that huge radial engine at the front. Look inside the cowling and you can see the wonderful air-cooled cylinders. This version uses the 9 cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 with 450 hp (340 kW) at 2,300 rpm, and only the geared “supercharged” 600hp engine was bigger. The fine wires on the wings are magnificent as are the smooth wing pylons, although the rear tailplane and elevators look very standard for the period. The highlight is the construction of the front and tailwheel (retractable) undercarriage. More art than design, Its is beautifully proportioned and detailed. Steel springs and levers and it is what we really love about simulation in the fact that just admiring these items can give you as much pleasure as flying the aircraft. The animation is first rate as well as even the tail-wheel retracts up into the tail which was unusual in this period Alabeo use the same O (Options) menu panel as Carenado, but there are only three items listed here. The options are: Transparent Windshield - Instrument Reflections and you can open the - Passenger Door. The door opens but strangely stops between the wires? Very odd. Panel & Cabin Aircraft where fitted out inside very differently in the 1930’s. It was either wire and canvas or like this Beechcraft a cross between a luxurious boat or an expensive automobile. Heavy leather and wood trim would sound crazy in today’s world of carbon-fibre and plastic... however the D-17 was created for the “Distinguished Business Gentleman”. Alabeo have done a discerning job in the fit out of the cabin, with only one outstanding issue... You can’t really see any of the work - It is really black down in there, so dark you can’t even see the yoke never mind the rudder pedals. You are restricted to using X-Plane’s Night-Vision to really find anything you want to usefully use. Lovely it all is in a sea of green. The Yoke can be positioned on the left or right by flipping it over to the new position, you can remove it completely if you want to as well. Fumbling around you can find the lighting switches. A lovely thick clicky Ignition selector. A "press" to start the engine button that I really love to use and a great chunky trim wheel... The radio is a standard Bendix King 155A T50. The dials are recreated vintage with the standard six. Perfect in design and feel. The right side instruments consist of engine dials in RPM, Manifold Pressure, CHT, Amp’s, Carburettor (remember those!), Suction, Temp and Oil/Fuel gauges (LBS) - and a Omni-Bearing Indicator (OBI). As noted you can switch off the glass reflections - But why would you do that? You really feel that 1930’s vibe, The flap selector is a half metal square ring with three settings and flap use is restricted to under 95knts (110mph). The panel lighting is gorgeous, I flew the “Staggerwing” in early morning light just adore those creamily lit dials. There is a red light situated high on the central windshield pillar to shine down on the dials at night. This effect turns the panel bloody red and again gives out a lovely feel to the cockpit. There is the Carenado standard menu C (Camera) for setting “points of view” including the zoom function that is handy and the wing view (left or Right) with belly/tail cam are the highlight view points. HDR switched on the night-lighting is good with each (retractable) landing light in the wing giving its own light throw. The beacon is also totally realistic in its rotation and reflection. The Bluey/Green and red navigation lights are set out in a pod in front of the lower wing and are very authentic. Time to Fly On the lower part of the panel and hidden behind the yoke is a pull handle to lock the rear tail-wheel. To taxi is easy in theory but harder in practice. With the tail-wheel locked you can go straight but only take wide turns with the rudder. Un-lock the tail-wheel and you go around in circles on the same position?... The trick is to use both. I don’t know if this is the correct real way you would control a tail-dragger like this, but you can’t have someone in a simulator to push your tail around to straighten you up on the runway either. And you have to be kind to the brakes as well. Hit the brake and with all that weight on the nose the aircraft will tip up at every touch of the handle - It looks like the aircraft has hiccups all the way to the runway. Once on the centreline with the tail-wheel locked. The “Staggerwing” is lovely from the word go, You don’t need any flap as you have a huge amount of lift from those double-wings. You can’t lift off to quickly either as you need the speed to get your tail up and straight and the aircraft ready to fly. That huge radial sounds glorious as the sounds are all in 3D. The effects from different angles (certainly in the turns) are excellent. All that weight helps you and balances the aircraft out to perfection, and so it is a really nice feel in your hands. There are no sudden movements but the best actions are to use slow maneuvers in what you want to do in that to either turn, gain height or simply hold a line to the horizon. One thing I did notice was that you had to get the right line of sight or angle of the aircraft to keep it at a level height. It was very easy to slowly wind downwards the altitude meter if you didn’t keep a close eye on the dial... And it is very hard to keep it there as well without gaining or losing height. The trim works well in this case (but you have to find it to use it). Concentration is high as you don’t have any aids to carry the workload. So flying even across the state or around and 300nm to 400nm is going to tire you out. I loved those wide turns and the aircraft climbs with ease and power, It is no rocketship by today's standards but it must have felt like one back then - but that is the attraction. Maximum speed: 212 mph (184 knots, 341 km/h), Cruise speed: 202 mph (176 knots, 325 (km/h), Landing speed: 45 mph (39 knots, 72 km/h)), Range: 582 nm (670 mi, 1,078 km), Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m), Rate of climb: 1,500 ft/min (7.6 m/s) Adjusting the flaps down (remember to drop off a lot of speed first) will only cause a slight bump in the airflow as the speed drops away nicely to slow to your 30-40knts landing phase. The aircraft is as sturdy as a rock in this configuration, nice with turns to the runway and keeping the runway line of sight straight are very easy to do. The drift down while dropping the power will give you an easy landing and for a tail-dragger it will stay pretty straight while tapering off the speed. You will need a lot of tarmac though to run out that speed as touching the brakes is not the thing to do. Just let the D-17 find its own pace to slow down and sink the tail down to a slow speed. Back on the ground you now only have to master the taxi all over again to get back to your parking area. Liveries There are Five liveries and the standard default “White”. You can get a little confused with the “White” because there is two of them... The one on the default file and another one in the “Liveries Folder”. The livery version is really Grey not white. The Beige is very white as well and is sponsored by “Gargoyles”... The blue is an “American Embassy” livery based in the United Kingdom. And finally the bright Red and Yellow. Liveries are HD and high quality, and all are excellent and with keeping in with the period. Conclusions Alabeo stands for something different and with a quality set at a value price, and that is what you get here. The only mis-match on the aircraft is the door sitting in the wires, the tricky taxiing techniques and that dark cavern of a cabin. Otherwise it is very hard to fault this “Staggerwing” of an aircraft. It is sublime to fly, you feel the aircraft well through the controls and bask in those lovely wide turns. It finds you reaching out for your vintage aviator sun glasses and posing in a suit like Clark Gable or Cary Grant, or if of the fairer sex then Kathleen Hepburn. Stars... Hollywood stars. And this is the aircraft to match theirs and your image. The Alabeo Beechcraft D-17 “Staggerwing” is available now from the X-Plane.org Store : Staggerwing D17 Price is US$19.95 This Aircraft is available for X-Plane9 and X-Plane10 Documents: Review By Stephen Dutton 10th September 2013 Alabeo : recommend certain settings for X-Plane 9 and 10... But frame-rate is a not really an issue as the D-17 has a very high frame-rate because of its low footprint. Developers Site : Alabeo.com Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS MountainLion 10.8.2 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) - ExtremeSceneryMAXX Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle
  9. Plugin - Update : World Traffic 1.1.4 Classic Jet Simulations have updated their World Traffic Add-On to version 1.1.4 Greg Hofer has completed some bug fixes and done some changes on World Traffic. But the real point of this version is the release of the "Random Traffic Generator". Now you can set up a flurry of fights between the different airports on your list. Set the main or host airport. And that will then bring up the main menu screen. Here on the main menu screen, you can set out the many different variables to create good automated traffic flows. Settings include: Minimum safe altitudes Airport Classification (%) to Military or Commercial Aircraft Type (%) Connecting airports (routes) A list of Operating Airlines, Air Forces and Aviation Companies and your selection. And the percentages (%) of flights departing and arriving over 6 hour periods during a full 24hour rotation. Once set your World Traffic plugin will then create random flights with three way points between the chosen airports with the selected airlines or aircraft. Another highlight is the "Flight Plan List" has been increased from 400 plans to 1500 Flightplans, that is the now the full limit of the application (An X-Plane limitation). The full update details: Fix problem with starting aircraft using same ground route starting location when taxiing to different departure runways. This resulted in departing planes appearing in the same parking spot. Fix list size of displayed flight plans... it was only showing 400 flights. The limit is now 1500 flights which seemed to be about the maximum size retrievable from the X-Plane getDirectoryContents function. Helicopter flights have been fixed as they weren't displaying in the last test version Make check dist longer for departing planes to decrease number of overshoots - increased from 1.5 to 2.5 miles With one known issue noted as: - The Random Traffic Generator may crash for some users when using the 64 bit version on the PC. The 32 bit version is apparently ok. The code crashing is in the stl:vector function so it may take a while to sort that one out. You can download the new World Traffic version here: World Traffic 1.1.3 I recommend reading the World Traffic .pdf And the support Forum is : World Traffic Aircraft - X-Plane To use World Traffic you have to buy a user key. $24.95 World Traffic(License Key sent by email by CJS) This is available from the X-Plane .Org Store : World Traffic All updates and support are free. 5th Aug 2013
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