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Behind the Screen : Fireside chat or Seaside dialog : July 2015 As we have now past the halfway mark in 2015, I thought it would be the best time to have another look behind the screen and a sort of fireside chitchat... Well in Australia we are in the throws of mid-winter, but most of you are sitting on a beach, fishing, cycling and doing all those wonderful hot summer activities that gets rid of the working cobwebs or for many of you a time to find a few hours to finally finish that X-Plane scenery, plugin idea or long forgotten aircraft sitting on your storage disk-drive. X-Plane can become all consuming. In the off time while not reviewing or testing you are still installing airports (and fixing them), cleaning out old scenery and aircraft and a hundred and one tasks that the simulator demands, I even had a T-Shirt made over at the local Shopping centre (can print on anything) and this one is one I like in it says "X-Plane (logo), Building the world one airport at a time!" and another T-Shirt I created is "File a bug!, Ben Supnik Fan Club" I am sure they would sell in their thousands... One thing I found was that you tend to select somewhere (a place) and then stay there for a certain period of time in the simulator. In my case it has been LMML or Malta. I first flew there for the C-17 Globemaster III Review and then stayed there on and off for about a month, odd business certainly but there is a reason to the madness. I wanted to get on top of Classic Jets Simulations "World Traffic" Plugin that I had seen to great effect in the "Aerosoft-Simwings Heathrow" scenery. I assume that most users that have tried to use WorldTraffic have either made it work or dabbled with it and found it too complex? I did at first and this was why I was back for a second shot at it. There was a second reason as well to understand the plugin well, as Version two (v2) is due soon and has a lot of new really great features. So I wanted it running and running well. Yes WorldTraffic is complex, but you can make it far more complex than it needs to be. There is no doubt that this plugin can be one of the really great addons to X-Plane, when running it is mind bogglingly great and the really biggest ever time-waster in watching the various aircraft fly in and fly out of your selected airports, you can watch the aircraft enroute as well. Once captured I was fascinated by the whole system. Then you have to interact with the plugin as well in waiting for aircraft to takeoff or land (It is amazing how much extra workload you have to do with this sort of simulation) but the biggest advantage is that the plugin is excellent in being in the background. I for one thought the plugin would interfere badly, but no as the interface and menu system is very clever, its there but you interact only when you want to or need too. The trick to WorldTraffic is to keep it simple. I went back to basics and created just one airport in LMML (ground routes) and then connected it to another airport in DTTA (ground routes, route) and then had my commuter aircraft (ATR72) run ragged between them. I not saying that WorldTraffic is not completely bug free, because it is mind-blowingly complex but most of those small bugs are to be cleared up in v2. Once I had two airports running it is then easy like a web of connections to add in more and more... like everything else in X-Plane it is highly addictive. I will cover World Traffic extensively when WorldTraffic v2 is released. (small side note in the commitment to WT is from Bluebell and Massimo68 in their contributions to providing aircraft and tools to make the plugin work) But the last few months were really stop-start. X-Plane is known for its periods of slow traffic, then a frenzy of releases. But time was slow and then as usual all came out at once then went back to slow again. You can get caught out on this as you can't review all releases at the same time or in one week. As I note that aircraft are increasingly complex and you need time to dig deep and understand all the ideas and features, This is to be fair not only to the designers but give an accurate review, you just can't rush the process. So you had the lovely DHC-2 Beaver which has been years in the development, and what a great design the aircraft is. So I was deep into the review and then pops up from nowhere the EMB -110 Bandeirante by Dreamfoil Creations. Another instant classic but as noted in the review, I or the EMB 110 did not see eye to eye straight off. My aim in any review is to go more deeper than the aircraft's systems, features and design quality. I want to find the soul of the machine, find it or what makes the design really feel like to translate that to the user. Do these computer created designs have a soul? It is a great question isn't it, but certainly the aircraft and some really great sceneries have a certain feel that translates over. Does the Boeing 777 or Boeing 757 feel like the real aircraft or the Airbus A320 feels like the real Airbus, certainly as the developers get closer to the design and give us more and more real time systems and almost reproduced realistic textures the lines between realistic and reality are starting to be crossed. As when you look closely as do in the reviews you see the almost perfect environment and you can get lost in there as it is as real is it gets. In the excellent Carenado PC12 the cockpit reflections and design was almost so impossibly good, the EMB-110 was another that you really lose yourself in there, so real and so good. Certainly the aim of simulation is to mirror the real world, but how far we have come from the earlier designs were your imagination had to fill in more than a few blanks, that sort of thought is now being replaced by these so real cockpits and almost perfect environments in which you fly. So it does come down to the point of crossing that believability line, and as I noted you can get lost in there and feel the real thing for what it is. So I have found that my reviews have changed to try to mimic the feeling of seeing and flying the aircraft as you would either for the first time or in a realistic way as you would behave in the real world. And its hard to do and cover the same ground over and over to create a new and different review so there is no photocopier effect between all the reviews and they all look or sound the same. The Carenado PC12 is an aircraft I really like, but many users don't like it? I can't seem to work out why not, and yet the EMB-110 is a very tricky aircraft to get right at low speeds and yet users are bowling themselves over to embrace it like they have found the Holy Grail. As to one's own, but to my mind there is not much between the same aircraft as they both fit in the same category. That is not to say I don't like to fly the EMB-110 as it is one of the most challenging and quality aircraft in that category released this year but it certainly requires your patience or will at least test it. One aircraft that I have spent a lot of time flying lately is the Andreas Much's Avroliner (The Avroliner Project) If anyone can have a totally dedicated approach to one aircraft then Andreas is it. If you have the Avro or are thinking of purchasing it then you are really joining a cult more than just adding another aircraft to your X-Plane hangar. First point to make is that the Avroliner is a work in progress, "it is not finished" and I doubt it ever will be. But that is part of the fun, you really don't know were you are actually going to end up or what sort of aircraft you will actually end up with? But it is a lot of fun getting there. So the Avroliner project is of more a crowdfunding project than an X-Plane designer project, but how many designers will in mid-stream totally rip out the inside of the 3d cockpit and then totally rebuild it, far better of course but that is still a dramatic thing to do. And then give you a progress "nightlybuild" as everything comes along every month or so. No doubt the Avroliner project is unique, but in some sort of strange way you feel you are all in this deal together. So why not a review? Well until the aircraft goes into a released version (it is noted as v7.6) then it is still a work-in-progress. I am building up flights and well "doing a lot of flying" so is that an excuse? well yes it is but "it's a great excuse", and the Avroliner is a great simulation, and quite tricky to fly really well (STOL) but certainly very entertaining. Laminar Research's 10.40 beta is still rolling out. It may be slow but certainly I am very impressed. The extended scenery visuals are amazingly good, and fills out a huge hole (black card) in the overall look and feel of the simulator... It took Laminar Research a long time to get around to doing this, but like with everything else they do it was done right when it came, for that you have to give them credit. My biggest fear (and the swirling rumors) was that it was a frame-rate killer and you had to have huge amounts of ram to cover for it, but nothing is far from the truth really (Although the HD textures can soak up a lot of your space) I found the computer absorbed the extra depth without a murmur and even runs better than with rather than without it. Yes I love it, yes it is about time as well, but well worth the wait. More features to come yet from the 10.40 beta, but Laminar are holding the cards close, but that poker face can't hold out for much longer. One thing that is really obvious is that the site is a bit of a mess. As anyone does to change or upgrade to new software it is always going to cause chaos and send the perfect posts to do strange things. But like with all change then the site also has to evolve and merge into something better. X-Plane Reviews has moved over to the Invision IP.Board v4 and that means a lot of improvements that comes with the new software, it is still far from finished but we are closer to the end than the start, but the site is still fully workable and navigation is still intact, hopefully the transfer will be completed before our 2nd birthday in mid August, at least then I will have a party all by myself... Happy Flying... Stephen Dutton X-Plane Reviews©: X-Plane Reviews2015
Aircraft Review : Aerosoft ATR 72-500 If not anything else the Aerosoft-McPhat Studios ATR-500 has been controversial. The release deadline was moved back more and more until the aircraft was finally released early in December 2012. Then it really divided the users into those who really liked it and those who just didn’t like it at all. Even I was disappointed by the amount of issues that it was released with and many of them were just minor. The extremely large file size and as some perceived the high price in that the aircraft is known as a systems “lite” machine in the fact that many of the aircraft’s in-depth systems including parts of the hydraulics and electrical, Air-Con and others are just blanked out and not accessible to the user. The idea of a “lite” version was to capture a market that didn’t want to spend 10-20 minutes in just getting the aircraft ready to fly. To also spend two weeks with your head in a manual to work out how to turn off a single light on the overhead panel that was bleeding air off from the engines. This sort of in-depth simulation is what aircraft simulation is really all about - but sometimes you just want to start the engines and go. The the point of the ATR-500 was in just doing that with some very nice visual aspects to help the cause along. Now almost 8 months later after the release the first upgrade in Version 1.10 is here and how does it all shape up after a period of time in our hangars. Regional aircraft are the most interesting aircraft you can use in simulation. With that aspect they sell very well and are used a lot by users, because one they are great as the distances are usually very short in around a 200-500nm radius. That is really just a morning or afternoon in flying time. If you want some more extended flying you can then rope in together two or three sectors and do a service loop around a country or an area, or just simply fly back to your original departure point after a brief turnaround. This gives you a satisfying experience that won’t keep you up all night in having to land 6000nm away in Singapore or the Far East. The ATR 72 was developed from the ATR 42 regional airliner built by the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR (Now Airbus (EADS)) in order to increase the seating capacity from 48 to 78 passengers by stretching the fuselage by 4.5 metres (15 ft), increasing the wingspan, adding more powerful engines and increasing the fuel capacity by approximately 10 percent. The 72 was announced in 1986, and the aircraft made its maiden flight on 27 October 1988. And only one year later on 27 October 1989 Finnair then became the first airline to put the aircraft into service. Since then at least 611 ATR 72s have been delivered worldwide with orders pending on at least 28 more. Cruise speed: 511 km/h; 318 mph (276 kn) : Range: 1,324 km (823 mi; 715 nmi) : Service ceiling: 7,620 m (25,000 ft) : Takeoff Run at MTOW: 1,165 m (3,822 ft) Installation Aerosoft use an install system to place the aircraft into your “aircraft” folder. The (v1.10) download is huge at 1.80gb and is expanded out to 3.14gb on installation. The installer requires a registration number and will only install the aircraft in the “Heavy Metal” folder, which slightly annoys me in the fact I have a separate “regional Aircraft” folder that I would usually use for this category of aircraft. There are two manuals - One the main “manual” “In (English and German) and one for “Procedures”. Aircraft Textures McPhat Studios in Holland are one of the great simulation studios in the business. Their quality in texture design is one of the best regarded all round, but until the ATR their work was only available in FSX land. And a high quality this aircraft is. The detailing on the liveries are really second to none... the detail in close-up is simply amazingly good. But it does come at a cost in downloading these huge 80mb files and they take a long time to create. They are also highly shiny? This is a debatable issue. Are aircraft this shiny? Most Aircraft I have flown on are quite a semi-gloss unless they have just come out of the paint shop... But here it can be hard to sometimes get a clear image because the shininess wipes out bright white on most of the lines of the aircraft. So am I a fan? no not really, but that does not takeaway the quality of these 12 excellent liveries and the default livery of which is the TRIP... These complex livery files are split into almost every panel or item on the aircraft to achieve this sort of depth of detail. Because the aircraft itself is quite light in frame-rate it can carry these heavy files without sending your computer into meltdown and that is part of the tradeoff. You can open the large front baggage door and the rear passenger door by using the F1 and F2 keys. A few bags in the front baggage area would be a great addition as the area is very empty. Internal detailing is just as good, if not one of the best cabins I have seen in this scale of aircraft. The graphic text detail is a little blurry at a low texture setting but otherwise it is excellent - and the whole cabin is even better at night. In the Cockpit The first view of the cockpit is of a high quality in depth and colour... But you need to look closer. First off is that there are two cockpit colours in Blue and Brown. These different setups can change with a selection of a different livery. You can note the slight colour seep of blue on the brown panel when it gets slightly darker. but otherwise they both look great. At one look the quality is outstanding with amazing quality and detail and the standout areas are the black textures around the main instruments, central engine dials and the gear lever. The whole panel of light reflections are simply excellent as the glass is in parts almost fully reflective of light. The Autopilot and Radio (COMM and NAV) frequency panel is first rate in set up and usage, and I really like the heading large and small degree adjustment feature. The centre pedestal is also a great work of art in design and function. Levers are excellent in operation and feel, and the MAP (zoom), NAV1/Nav2/FMS selection knobs are slightly twiddly but very clacky in operation and you soon get used to using them. FMS panel is standard X-Plane with default layout and the same default but in this case separate correct COMM/ADF/TRANSponder instruments. One feature I really like is the window blinds and shades, pull up or move down they are great while cruising high with the light on the wrong side of your face. I use them effectively all the time. One issue is the difference in texture quality with the render settings. Set the “texture” setting on “high” in the render settings menu and although many of the main dials are perfectly fine, many however are very blurry and mostly so is the label text on the side panel knobs .. If the texture setting is on “Very High” the problem mostly goes away. You can still see the differences between the two types of textures but now they are more aligned. In version 1.00 these textures were even worse and McPhat have totally redone in v1.10 the textures to be better and use less memory, of which now differences are now much closer. But they are still slightly noticeable if looking at detail and if you can’t run the “very high” setting, then even more so. On the OHP (Overhead Panel) there is not a lot of functionality, Lights and and some Electrical/Hydraulics/Pneumatics and the vital ice and rain protection items work and so the knobs and switches required to start the engines... But the rest is mostly just for show. In three areas the needles on the dials are missing altogether, but my feeling is that they will be made to correctly work in a future version. The altimeter on the main panel only clicks down to the last four digits at 3000ft... before that it still shows 14000ft for 1400ft? My biggest annoyance is the wipers. The switches are there and so are the beautifully rendered items on the windscreen... but they don’t have any animation?... Nothing is better in a regional aircraft than battling down to a runway with a rainstorm in your vision. But with no wipers flapping in your face it sorts of ruins the whole experience. Another small irritant is there are two 1px wide lines on the otherwise excellent propellers. They rotate in your view and if you like to do the view from the passengers perspective in the cabin then they are all you see outside of the window... It is noted the lines were fixed for v1.10, but they are still there? Engine smoke is above the wing and not below by the exhausts. The flap and undercarriage animation is excellent and well created as is the lighting at night. The standard Strobe, Nav and Beacon lighting are all well done. The aircraft has two landing lights under the fuselage and the lighting from the cabin from the outside view is very realistic. Most of the outside lighting has had a lot of attention in the v1.10 upgrade, the main landing lights, the taxi light now works and the lighting does not show through the cabin (floor) anymore (except for the taxi light). The main panel looks gorgeous at night and a place you want to be and so is the well rendered OHP. HDR on or off does not make that much difference. Flying The ATR 72-500 At first count I didn’t know what I really felt about the ATR72, mainly because I couldn’t read all the graphics in the cockpit. But I have had this aircraft for 8 months now and the upgrade has helped to fix many of the small issues. In simulation what is the main value when buying an aircraft. It is in the amont of time you use the aircraft. You could spend US$50 on an aircraft and fly it only a few times and no matter how well created it is, you have to ask yourself if that was good value? With the ATR I found myself flying it almost every week in one form or another. The biggest draw-card was it is an interesting aircraft dynamically to fly. It challenges you to fly it really well and hit the numbers on the money. Jack’s Dash Q400 from FlyJSim is the same and it is not a coincidence that both of these aircraft are direct competitors in the market place. It may be systems “lite” but you still get a very big reward in flying the ATR. Speeds are crucial to every point of the flight from takeoff to landing. There is a “power management” system that adjusts the engine power for a certain segment of the flight from MCT, TO, CLB and CRZ. but be wary in the fact it could bury your power if not used in the right segment as in some cases you need the speed momentum to set the correct power. Leaving the runway requires you to use the power wisely. The ATR is in a way like a big GA and so you have to gain height slowly and it takes time to get to 15,000ft which would be around your average cruise altitude. On a longer sector 20,000ft would be your aim. You are very conscious of the wing. It is a strange beast in its function and so the extension of flaps can make the wing do different things in the way the aircraft will balance on the pivot of the wing behind you. It creates a very small speed zone to work in as well around 120knts to 115knts under full flap, too much power and your nose is going to angle (very severely) down very awkwardly, set the power too light and your nose is soon at a strange stall position, no doubt this aircraft has a very small slow speed window in which to set your flaps, but when you get there then the balance between flying and stalling is very small. The balance is the skill you are willing to give the aircraft. Under the throttle for landing you are very conscious of the speed in that small zone. Using the ILS can give you a false sense of security in that you can easily adjust the nose angle by the slightest of speed adjustments, but coming out of the ILS you can find yourself either going to fast (usually) or going to slow and both actions will give the aircraft a major bounce on the runway. Coming in too fast is usually always the safe side of the equation... But too fast is still to fast. You don’t have any airbrakes and so the reverse pitch is the only means of slowing the speed once on the hard stuff and sometimes the landing is like hitting the deck on an aircraft carrier... Your job is to avoid that sort of flying and try to make it more like a nice smooth touch and reverse thrust approach. Duplicate that by three or four landings and takeoff’s a day and you are in the zone. The reward is in getting it all right every time. And that is the attraction. The pull. The ”I really want to give that run another go” thought. So with every spare few hours that you have you “do have another go” and that is the constant and always repeatable use of the aircraft because... It is challenging and it challenges you hard to fly it really well. Conclusions The ATR72-500 from Aerosoft/McPhat is if anything a “Tour-de-Force”. On one side the graphics and detailing is totally outstanding... but in other areas of simple items and a few extra features still persist that could be quickly fixed with an (no livery) update. It is an almost there aircraft. Most aircraft released over the last year and some noticeably from JARdesign and FlightFactor have had regular updates and extra features that tweek their product into perfect shape. If only the ATR could have that same lavish attention. It is again an aircraft that will certainly divide the punters. But after using the ATR72 for a period since its release I will note it is an aircraft that really gets under your skin, It challenges your skills and it keeps you interested month after month in various ways to get you to keep on coming back and wanting to fly another sector, try another route... It is so addictive in that only and if a few other aircraft have held my attention for these sort of long periods. And with that it comes back to value... If you use aircraft as much as I have flown this aircraft then the value is in there and in a way it starts to deliver on the original promise now with the update (1.10) and with more liveries added in to the package. In the end in context. Even with some compromises with systems and a couple of slight issues that I really try to ignore - The ATR72-500 is with out doubt one of my favorite aircraft that I use constantly and relish in testing my skills and just enjoy flying. And in the end that is what good simulation is all about. The Aerosoft ATR72-500 (ver1.10) is available now from the X-Plane.org Store : Aerosoft ATR72-500 Price is US$32.05 This Aircraft is only available for X-Plane10 Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7 (updated), Linux, Mac CPU: 2,6 GHz (Duo / Quad core recommended) Memory : 2 GB RAM Review By Stephen Dutton Note: I listed four other liveries available for the ATR72-500 by Elanport here : Developer Site : McPhat Studios Ver 1.10 list of changes - Landing lights illuminate brighter. - Landing lights don’t illuminate the Cockpit any longer. - Taxi light works and steers with wheel. - Cockpit textures are brighter and better readable. - Strobe lights now illuminate objects (plane, runway etc). - Camera movement is limited inside the cockpit, so you can no longer go through the walls. - Engine start works as described in the manual for X-Plane 10. - Fixed prop animation. - 5 new UHDT repaints: Air Nostrum, Azul, CSA, Flybe Nordic, CSA Skyteam - Added wing registration to the existing and new liveries. - Fixed Air Austral registration on fuselage. 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
This is X-Plane Reviews! Since 2002 the X-Plane.Org and later the X-Plane.OrgStore has been the central part of the X-Plane simulator universe. And only this July 2013 the X-Plane.Org past the record number of users registered on the site of 250.000 users, a quarter of a million X-Plane users!... or Pilots. With such growth, and with the central focus of X-Plane being on these sites in information and sales, It was only worthy to have a site dedicated to reviewing and supplying you with the latest news of the ever expanding X-Plane universe. And so here is X-Plane Reviews, created by the same people that is the X-Plane.org, we will give you all the latest news and reviews with an insight into what is happening and what is worthy of your interest. No doubt the last year has seen many exciting releases and changes outside and within the simulator, these announcements and releases will become even more prominent as the simulator moves ever forward and from this moment you will have another home to bookmark to access the right information of these great product releases and in-depth XPlane analysis. Items that will be covered by X-Plane Review will range from: News Add-on... Announcements - Development - Releases - Reviews and Updates Developer... Interviews Scenery... Free and Payware - Development - Reviews - Updates Laminar Research... Developments - Betas - Updates Comments and Columns from myself and many other commentators and X-Plane users. In fact anything that is connected to the X-Plane Simulator. Many will know myself from my news and reviews over on the X-Sim Reviews site (as Flightime56) and here you can join me with your own views and comments on the way you use and expand your simulator world. If you have anything newsworthy then contact me at : email@example.com If you are new to the X-Plane Simulator then you are in for a treat. Many new users to simulation are surprised on how deep the platform is, like a game it has many, many levels of involvement... but don't call simulation a game. The aim is of course to replicate and fly just like you do in the real aviation world and X-Plane recreates a whole virtual world for you to do so. The world you fly in is in real time and with real distances that covers the whole area of the earth. So first off, X-Plane can be very time consuming if you want to go long distances. But that does not mean you can not just hop in an aircraft and do a quick flight around your own backyard. Besides the huge variety of aircraft available from both purchase (payware) stores (like the .OrgStore), there are also hundreds of machines available for free(ware) downloads at many other sites to add to your hangar. But X-Plane does not stop there, you can download sceneries, plugins, new aircraft liveries and a huge variety of items that can fill out your own unique collection that makes up your own virtual aviation world. (a sort of minecraft for aviation), and it is addictive!... In fact X-Plane should have a sticker on the box that says (This product is extremely addictive!).... And X-Plane wants for you to be involved. You can create your own aircraft, sceneries and other items to add to the collection folders of other users, They will use your work in their virtual world and enjoy your contribution to the X-Plane experience. So, thanks for joining us here at X-Plane Reviews to expand your X-Plane experience. Stephen Dutton