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Aircraft Review : Cessna 172SP SkyHawk XP11 by Carenado As the Cessna 172SP is overwhelmingly the most popular general aviation aircraft in the world with 44,000+ built since 1955, you can expect then that X-Plane or any other simulator for that matter, has too represent the aircraft on their platform... In X-Plane there are quite a few, first and foremost is the default version from Laminar Research in both the analog and G1000 versions, plus the REP (Reality Expansion Pack) for this aircraft from SimCoders. AirFoilLabs also have a very deep version with the same sort of REP pack built in... and so did Carenado with their C172N Skyhawk II. So you have quite a choice of the same sort of C172 design, certainly the Laminar version has an enormous advantage in that it is delivered as part of the simulator and is free. So here Carenado have released the X-Plane11 (and 11.30 compatible) version, but it isn't anything like the earlier C172N. For one the new version is totally rebuilt even redesigned from the ground up and also changed with the (Garmin) G1000 avionics suite, and oddly enough it is the same Laminar system that is installed as the default aircraft. The analog dial version is now gone, as so also has the dual wheel/float versions... it is to say really that the original aircraft has been replaced with a more modern single version of the aircraft. I don't know if the older analog version will still be ongoing and in the future available, but currently it is still displayed on the X-Plane.OrgStore. Obviously it is an XP10 aircraft but the aircraft will still fly fine in XP11, but this aircraft doesn't take advantage of the XP11 features. So if you prefer the analog version, then the AirfoilLab version is your best choice, but it is deathly slow.... even with a tail wind! Cessna 172SP SkyHawk XP11 Obviously the point of this review is why pay for an aircraft when there is a pretty good free version, and it is a very fair point. Because at it's heart the C172Sp is a pretty basic aircraft in the first place. So it is hard to distinguish the differences, but they are there, you just have to look for them. I have always looked at aircraft of the genre in that you don't just buy them just to fly. You are in a way more of taking an ownership of them, certainly when it comes to vFlyteAir aircraft... it is a personal thing. More so if you actually fly a C172, or even more so if you want to fly a C172... or even have done so in the past the significance of ownership is going to be a factor in wanting the aircraft. So authenticity is then the main factor here in any purchase in to be as real as the same Cessna is in real life, and that is more important an aspect than what you think it is... more so if you want to spend your flying hours mostly restricted to only a few types of aircraft of which a real world or as a past life pilot would only do so. In that aspect then again the AirfoilLab's version would tick a lot of boxes. But as you get closer to the new Carenado version, something else again strikes you on how again the game has moved forward... to the normal eye this C172SP all looks the same outwardly, but it isn't... Outwardly developers have always wanted to create aircraft panels with detail, perfect rivets, screws and panel fit. But the realism factor can be a wide margin from flat panels with drawn rivets to the intricate detail... detailing. Careando have here gone that next step further in this aspect. Carenado panels were always very good, and highly detailed. But with a new process they are now taking the quality to another level and using the PBR materials to even a higher level than ever before, and with a better framerate to boot as well. Yes this process has been on most Carenado aircraft on all of their XP11 releases, but not to this newer level as 11.30 pushes the game out further. Note the shape of the tail-fin metal in the light, it is curved or bending as the metal shapes into being pulled or stretched across the aircraft's inner frame, the trick here is that the warping of the surface in an inner dent movement reflects that construction aspect as well as panel fit and outward bulges. Riveting is now not only the quality rivets, but it is in the dent itself it is as they create the fastening movement into the actual metal to more show realism... ... what is far more remarkable about these images, is that they are created in the X-Plane quality texture setting of "Maximum" and not in the top notch setting of "Maximum (no compression)" either. And as we will see the quality of this sort of detail at this setting is set out right throughout the aircraft, so in other words "you can have your cake (In lower quality settings) and eat it as well (with high sharp quality detail graphics). On an odd note though, the lighting wicks are now not animated and don't flicker in the wind, like they used to do on all Carenado aircraft. So all the detail is simply absolutely top notch, and as a highly realistic Cessna that you can almost touch... With the 11.30 new dynamic features you get of course particle effects, but to note that there is a difference between the effects in 11.30 and the actually adjusted effects in X-Plane11.30 as shown here... the C172SP was late in release in waiting for Laminar to go 11.30 final, but with that case then you get the effects, and the correctly adjusted ones by the developer now included... more on the 11.30 performance aspect later. The C172SO is a tiddler of an aircraft, so these effects are going to be minimal. However the hot exhaust is well done, you also get the odd small contrail off the wings and the wheel housings, wet conditions also brings flumes of spray off the propeller thrust, and all give the C172SP a bit more dynamic realism, but the point is that these new particle effects are finely adjusted for this aircraft, and not just with the switch over factor in using 11.30... and there is a difference. You get in the options the choice of the aerodynamic fairings, or the plain open wheels. Strut and assembly wheel detail is of course excellent. Cabin The internal cabin is all new, and reflects the more later variant of the C172 than an early model... nice soft leather seating with lovely dark grey plain weave inserts have the same materials reflected on the cabin walls..... One piece molded roof with fittings gives this standard C172 a more executive feel than a bare bones trainer.... note again the high quality and the sharpness of the detail.... with the quality texture setting that is still not at the full Max setting... ... but you can still see every single screw, every mesh screen and you can easily read any of the many notices set around the panel and cabin in sharp detail. Glass is marked or worn, but the excellent internal reflections deliver that realism required, and for once the reflections are not set as overwhelming... but perfect. Instrument Panel Although the instrument panel surround and to a point the instrument layout itself, it is exactly the same as any other C172 panel. The sharpness of everything is again very clear and realistic when laid out on that nice dark grey background, but also in a very clean if delivering a slightly new aircraft feel. The Garmin G1000 avionics suite does dominate the panel in selection and style. Both Yokes as per usual can be hidden or visual. From the outset the G1000 suite does not look exactly like the Laminar default version, because there have been some visual minor tweeks. It is the same system, but with the artificial horizon on the PFD (Primary Flight Display) being more authentic with the slight central zone being more lighter (brighter) than around the edges, If you remember (or it still is) the default G1000 system is still a very dark brown lower and hard blue upper horizon, which I never ever really liked... this version is excellent, but I will note the display lightness (non adjustable) in that the displays can be slightly dark at different lighting angles, but again it does look far, far more professional than the default G1000... it is branded as Garmin as well instead of G1000. The displays pop-out, but again they are different, in here using the X-Plane11 window layout than just the straight display pop out? You may not like this version as you have to adjust the blank background areas to fit neatly around the display screen, the default version is just as tricky as the G1000 panel can be pulled out of it's scale and shape, but it does look better without the top tabs... but there is a reason for this new pop-out change, as you can now also pop the window out now as a computer window to separate the displays from the simulator, and that is obviously for home cockpit builders or second monitor screens. Most are now very familiar with the default G1000 system, but it does still have a lot of depth. Standard speed and altitude ribbons with built in vertical speed are really good with the rate of turn indicator and all set within the huge Artificial Horizon with built in FD (Flight Director) pointers, as is the radio and autopilot settings in the top banner. Insert (MAP) is switchable and with a good range, but I rarely us it, and all this with those new background graphics... and all together this layout set out in this PFD in actually helps in to making this G1000 feel more realistic All lower keys access ALERTS, NRST, TMR/REF (Timer) and of course the Wind strength and direction with comes with three settings, and the same three switchable DME/GPS/VOR1/2 backgrounds with all their points shown are on the heading rose dial. I earlier found these menu driven systems quite confusing, but is now far more used to them, but however at times you can still get lost in overriding key settings. Two set items are the AP (Autopilot) buttons are down the PFD left panel side as well as the MFD (Multi Function Display), and it is surprising that most G1000 layouts don't do this, but habit means I still use the MFD buttons (the yoke covers some of the buttons on the left). Another item thankfully missing on the PFD is the engine monitor system display, again it crowds up the artificial horizon if set hard in place. On the MFD There has been some quiet additions that rounds the system out more. It feels now far more comprehensive. Engine readout covers RPM, Fuel Flow GPH (Gal per hour), Oil Pressure and Temperature, EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature ) and Vacuum. Fuel quantity is for both tanks. Lower is the Electrical Bus Volts M and E and Battery amps M and E. System switchover (data) covers top RPM, Oil Pressure and Temp. Fuel Calculations show Fuel Flow GPH, GAL USED, GAL REM (Remain) and can be reset. Lower is the same Electrical Bus Volts and Battery amps. All flight plans can be tedious to input, but they do then give you the data feedback. Any imported flightplans do work fine, but you miss out on the detail You can select either Narrow or Wide in the flightplan screen layout, I prefer the wide (unless I need the large navigation map) as it gives you a lot of detailed info on the display. The default G1000 always gave you more detail and airport information than most custom G1000 systems.... .... Terrain and coloured terrain elevations are all in the package, but overall there are far too many settings and uses for this review. Carenado do provide a full G1000 Manual (Laminar) in the set of documents with the aircraft, it is a long read (133 pages) but if you want to completely master the G1000 avionics system, then it is worth all the effort and time. Lower instrument panel is a basic C172 layout... Switchgear dominates, with main power and avionic switches upper left, panel lighting adjustment and external lighting switches below. Center are three backup analog dials that cover Speed, Artificial Horizon and Altitude. Lower panel is the starter switch, fuses, throttle and mixture levers... far right is the three stage flaps lever with UP - 10º - 20º - FULL positions with a nice graphic showing the flap extraction speeds. Two knobs cover cabin heat and cooling... One switch is interesting as it is noted as "Cabin PWR 12V" that has an outlet on the lower centre console panel, and a higher set switch that is the "Standby Batt" Standby Battery switch. Lower is the park brake handle left, rotating pitch trim wheel, and fuel selector on the floor. Fuel selection can left or right tanks or both, but there is a pull knob to shut off the fuel supply (in red). Menus The standard two Carenado menu tabs are on the left lower screen with selections: C ) Is for the standard Carenado with ten preselected Views, Field of View and Volume panel but included are now two views for each of the new G1000 displays. And O ) which is the Options panel. Options include Window and Instrument reflections. The Static elements provided and here they are still quite basic with only two cones, manual electric aircraft puller, engine inlet and flag pitot covers, but no chocks? The wheel "Fairing" selection is here as well. Door animations include both pilot and co-pilot doors and a small baggage door left rear (behind the rear seats). The twin highly realistic (and new) animated pilots do disappear when you activate the static elements. This classic Carenado menu system has been in operation for ages, and yes it is tested and true. But I am starting to find it a bit limiting compared now with other GA aircraft offerings of the same category. It is in the flexibility that you miss. If say you have the static options on then you get everything including the ugly puller, as there is no flexibility to say to just have the chocks, or the tie-downs or even the pilots off/on as it is simply all or nothing? Flying the C172SP XP11 If you had read my last review of the Faroe Islands. I did a twin hop from Gatwick (EGKK), and so my return flights it was my intention to go back via Sumburgh on the Shetland Island, because I had simply not been there for a long time. The aircraft in the review was FJS Q400, but I thought why not go back to Scotland (via EGPB) in the C172SP... which is really a dangerous thought with the Faroes being right in the middle of a weather hell on earth with the mid-winter North Atlantic at it's seasonal worse, it wasn't a choice I had a matter in? But low and behold the day (mid-January) was a lovely and with a brightly shining morning with a light 3knts breeze... good enough to give the C172 tiddler a chance of doing the open water crossing to the Shetland Isles... Fuel was 133kgs (as noted by SimBrief), but the actual block fuel was only 49kg for the actual trip, but 53kg extra was needed for any diversion? At least it gave you a security blanket. Pre-flight checks done and the 133kgs of fuel loaded, it was time to warm up the engine. You have to have the "Stby Batt" armed (for the extra heave to start the engine) and set the fuel selection to both tanks.. it took about 4 min running to get the Lycoming O-320-D2J (160 hp (119 kW) at 2700 rpm) up to the right temperatures. 11.30 has more functionality with carb icing and fuel flow with icing... but in the C172 you don't have a lot of control over that. So you have to be aware of the engine instruments to watch out for any inconsistencies, so this is not the review to convey or review those 11.30 changes, anyway a twin-prop would be a better aircraft to observe and document the effects. A bit of throttle and you instantly realise you don't need that usual Carenado high forward movement here to turn the aircraft, as the 172SP will turn almost as soon as you are moving, it all feels smoother as well. Note the PFD display, dull in the shade but perfect in the bright light. You still can't use wide movements to steer the Cessna, just slight intricate motions to keep it straight, again it does feel far smoother. Line up on RWY12 and a last check around the instruments. You still need that Carenado very slow throttle adjustment as you add in the power, as the C172SP will still pull heavily to the right under the prop thrust, you go from a little right rudder to a lot of right rudder to again a little right rudder as the speed builds, it can be still quite slippery almost yawing if you push in the power too hard, but there is an enormous amount of feel being fed back to you and far more than before... personally I like it a lot, the 11.30 dynamics are certainly better in this Cessna, but I am still doubting if Laminar have still got the ground friction numbers right, more time and different aircraft will build up that theory, but my first feel is no. 550fpm is the climb out rate and the aircraft feels sprightly for the 1160 kg all up weight. Handling... very impressive and responsive, I love the feel of the aircraft, as it feels about perfect. I am climbing up to 3000ft, then trimming the aircraft out which is easy (and to do the adjustment) and getting the aircraft stable. You only have a pitch trim, so you have to watch any drift to the left or right, but in reality, however when once trimmed out you can adjust even any direction with slight single finger movements of corrections... lovely. The flightplan takes the aircraft over the main island of Streymoy, but I want to go around the headland before joining up to the plan, it gives you a bit of a better sightseeing view as well... it is lovely up here in the crisp clean morning light. Once clear of the headland, I made a beeline for the flightplan line... Once on the right track I decided to climb up to 5,000ft, up out of any low cloud. SimBrief noted to stay at 3,000ft, but 5,000ft felt like the better option. Climb was at 450fpm, with the mixture high in not losing any speed, once I got up to the altitude I leaned the aircraft out and settled in for the long passage. In reality this is a very simply aircraft, certainly to fly, but that does not mean that you are getting a very dull experience in return, in fact it is quite the opposite as the aircraft is certainly very realistic to fly, but the feedback and even the depth of the G1000 instruments are as deep or as light as you want them to be... MFD is very versatile, with many map configurations and layouts... ... from full navigation screens to both narrow and wide flightplan views... note leaning the fuel to find the right balance is a bit of an art, but if you find the right point of just on the white band on the RPM you will find the rest of the fuel flow and engine temperatures will fall into place, depending of course on the weather conditions. Topo, Terrain and airways can all be shown and used... One odd thing is that the standard manipulators on the panel are different to the pop-out hand pointers? The hand pointers can be hard to use until you work out where the active areas are? Lower panel is a red button labeled "DISPLAY BACKUP" this changes the displays as if one display goes wonky, or blank... They change into an emergency "get you home" mode, with a black background and PFD instruments on the MFD, and the engine display comes on in the PFD, if you like this style then it is yours to use, but access to the panels are restricted.... it is only a get you home tool. Sounds Sounds are FMOD and come with the usual 360º doppler effect. They are of course very good, but the C172 does not come with a huge range of sounds, the bonus is of course they all sound really good, as they don't have those bad repetitive or droning phases that drive you so batso or annoy you. all in all the sounds covered the full spectrum that you want and you enjoy the aural experience. The Shetlands are now large on the map, so it is time to lower the altitude, and set below the cloud cover are the islands... when descending you have to work the throttle with a bit of feel and precision, so as to not let the speed runway as you descend and then rethrottle perfectly when you arrive at your altitude so as you don't lose too much speed... all management. I go to manual and fly neatly around the headland, Sumburgh's RWY 09 is quite tricky for an approach as it is snuggly positioned well back into a corner... .... at least the weather is good, it is a hard and even a dangerous approach in bad weather, which is usually most of the time up here. I am finding the manoeuvrability of the C172SP really nice, you get a certain flow that you enjoy the movements. I do find a big difference though between the older and newer 11.30 dynamics, and I will be honest I will have to adjust my flying skills to the new feel and flow, it does feel sensational though but requires more thought and yoke and rudder inputs, I have landed the C172 several times now, but I still don't think I perfected the feel, this is certainly not the aircraft but the changes in the aerodynamic performance, it feels though really great... My old style approaches are now landing me too high and too long? speed is correct under flap FULL, but the C172SP just won't descend or slightly floats in the final section of flight.... I feel I need to be more braver on the lower throttle speed. 60knts-58knts is the balance speed, go too high and you float, but go below and you start to stall (Stall is a low 40 knts).... tricky but fun. The numbers worked for you as well which shows that the simulation of the aircraft was excellent... I used in fuel 53 kg (SimBrief noted 49 kgs) but that was at 3,000ft and not 5,000ft, so my guessing with the extra climb and engine warm up is that the fuel use was on the number. It will be interesting too look back at this review when I have flown a few more types of aircraft that have been processed in the new 11.30 dynamics, but let me stress this isn't the Carenado C172SP here or even X-Plane itself, but me in adjusting to the new feel and dynamics, overall it is excellent, far more smoother to your inputs and I didn't get or feel that huge downward pull of the X-Plane landing phase... and maybe that is the answer in my landing hesitation in the fact I am always ready to counter that negative landing effect, and maybe it is now in 11.30 not as overwhelmingly strong a force as it was before? Night Lighting Internal and panel lighting is quite basic, but very good. You can get the right amount of lighting, but still have very good vision out of the windscreen at night, although the reflections can be strong... here again those slightly dull G1000 displays work to your advantage, and are not over bright in your face... very nice. There are two adjustable (map) lights in the roof over the front seats that illuminates the two front seats and the rear is illuminated by a single on/off switch overhead light. Externally again it is basic... navigation lights, tail beacon and twin in left wing lights for taxi and landing (SP version and above), for once they all feel nicely adjusted. The strobes are bright and sharp, but if you like your replays then fly with them switched off as they are static over bright and don't flash? Liveries You get the standard Carenado livery set with a white blank, then five all American registered designs. Quality as noted is extremely high (4K 4096x4096) resolution, but the designs are all a basic wave or flame on a white background airframe design... so overall they all come out a little boring, Carenado needs to get a little more creative, and add in a few more variations. Summary Don't even compare this Cessna 172SP to any other Carenado (or Alabeo) C172's, as for one it is all brand new from the ground up, effectively a new aircraft, the odd thing is it doesn't look it, until you really look at it's amazing skin and highly detailed design. The interior is all new and modern as well, and of course it comes with the latest Garmin G1000 avionics suite, but again even that default system has had some nice tweeks to make it feel all very non-default in look and feel. The 11.30 enhancements are also the a nice top layer of a very nice all rounded cake, as the C172 flies like a dream and so overall it is quite a nice if perfect little aircraft. But I will note the Carenado brand as a whole as it is in some ways related to this aircraft. No doubt any earlier Carenado aircraft were very high in the list of quality and design, and to a point they had that exclusive mantle to themselves. But Carenado have been around now for a few years, even in X-Plane, and make no doubt in many areas like the sheer quality on show here with is amazing C172SP. You are however now still starting and in getting the feeling that in areas Carenado are becoming too stiff in their packages. Notably in the menu's and features, and that many features that were also standard are now slowly disappearing, like here with the loss of the animated wing edge wicks or chocks, so overall the Carenado's are starting to feel quite basic and not as feature filled as before, and no doubt the opposition are closing in fast and delivering what Carenado don't, the Weights and Balance menu's, separate static elements, active fuses, and not only in supplying a few boring liveries and even a manual to work out the instruments... you sort of get the idea. So the main aspect of this review is why buy the same type of aircraft that is essentially available for free, and comes also built in with X-Plane, but believe it or not there is a significant difference. I'll come back to that ownership feel. Yes the Laminar C172SP is a nice aircraft, but it is quite basic and to be honest it doesn't have any intimate feel about it, not only in the flying aspect, but as an aircraft as a whole... fly this Careando version and you feel like you have signed the purchase papers for it, you will want to run your hands down it's flanks and say "it is all mine"... all MINE and "I love my little C172" and that it is a significant feeling to actually own it, and keep it in your life for the rest of X-Plane11 and even pay to have it all back again for X-Plane12. In other words it is perfect, in a Carenado sort of way... and you will fly it around for hours and hours of absolute joy and maximum simulation, and that is far better deal instead of being stuck in a boring default bland Cessna, even if it is free... Highly Recommended. _______________________________ The C172SP Skyhawk XP11 by Carenado is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here : C172SP Skyhawk XP11 Priced at US$32.95 Special Features Designed and Optimized for X-Plane 11 Fully VR compatible Full PBR (Superb material shines and reflections) Updated X-Plane default G1000 Features Specially designed engine dynamics for X-Plane 11. Flight physics optimized for XP11 standards Ground handling adapted for XP11 ground physics Physically Based Rendering materials and textures throughout PBR materials authored with industry-standard software used by the film and gaming industries Goodway Compatible Realistic behavior compared to the real airplane. Realistic weight and balance. Tested by several pilots for maximum accuracy Requirements X-Plane 11 X-Plane 11.30 is also required for this aircraft Windows, Mac or Linux 2GB VRAM Minimum - 4Gb+ VRAM Recommended Download size: 410Mb Current and Review Version : 1.1 (January 16th 2019) Installation and documents: Download for the C172SP Skyhawk is 390mb and the unzipped file deposited in the aircraft "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 461.40mb. Documentation: Overall Carenado provide a lot of documents, including the full Laminar Research G1000 operations manual. C172SP G1000 Normal Procedures PDF C172SP G1000 Emergency Procedures PDF C172SP G1000 Performance tables PDF C172SP G1000 Reference PDF Recommended Settings X-PLANE 11 PDF ______________________________________________________________________ Aircraft review by Stephen Dutton 19th January 2019 Copyright©2019 : X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this preview 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) Review System Specifications: Computer System: Windows - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD Software: - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.30 (v11.30 is required for this aircraft) Addons: Saitek x56 Rhino Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose Soundlink Mini Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : WorldTraffic 3.0 Plugin - US$29.95 Scenery or Aircraft - Faroe Islands XP by Aerosoft - Maps2XPlane (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$45.99 - EGPB - Sumburgh Airport - EGPB 1.0.0 by Relicroy (X-Plane.org) - Free - X-Plane was converted to the "Winter Textures" by xflyer by the JSGME MOD
Laminar Research : X-Plane 11.30 Analysis On Friday 25th October 2018 (US time) Laminar Research released the next version of X-Plane11. This is version 11.30, and as per all new releases this originally was the beta test version of the simulator. You could get the test beta version via the "beta" checkbox on the X-Plane Installer app. (Steam users were excluded). The full release of X-Plane 11.30 is now (final) and is available for download (Steam users update is to follow) and you can update to 11.30 by doing an "Update X-Plane" on the Installer app. Officially on release it is version 11.30b1 or by my moniker 11.30 2.0. As this is a very significant update, and will certainly be a companion the coming Vulkan update now noted for 2019 if targeted for Q2 or mid-year which will be a noted another significant milestone for the simulator. That is a yes in performance, but the ground work for that Vulkan version is actually built into this 11.30 update and so this is in reality the really important one. As with most groundwork code you will very rarely see it, but as I noted earlier this year it is in that the whole internal structure of the simulator that is currently undergoing a total revolutionary change as it is significantly being rebuilt from the ground up or inside out, so it is just not about Vulkan/Metal we are talking about here but the whole complete internal X-Plane code structure itself that is undergoing an extensive transformation to another new era.... "Yes Jim, it is X-Plane, but not as we know it". And so in this 11.30 beta you are starting to feel it's presence, as the changes do however pop up here and there, but mostly they are still all still well hidden and buried from view. This approach can make many users think that it is only what they can see is only what has only been changed, but also a lot of this analysis can't be revealed until other parties (i.e. developers) start to use and mostly adjust their products to take advantage of the full suite available of the new features and ideas presented here, in fact it will be months long after 11.30 has gone final in that it will be then that everyone realises the large effect this version will have on X-Plane. Obviously the special effects noted below will come in all shapes and sizes and many will be totally (even stupidly) overdone, but in many ideas it will be also very clever (as X-Plane users can be) and show off how good the simulator has become. Since the release of X-Plane11 and in many respects the simulator has already changed totally beyond our original expectations, now here there is the start another level of transformation that has got even the most hardened FSX/P3D users wondering what baby they are now left with to hold on to. Internal changes 11.30 is the first installment of API (Application Programming Interface) changes that will switch from the older OpenGL API to the new Vulkan (Windows/Linux)/Metal (Mac) API's. This is to update the simulator to work far better with more modern hardware in processors and graphic cards (a graphic card moniker is really a bit outdated now? as they are more now the size of a mini-computer itself and than be rather of what the installed graphic engine producing machinery really is). Originally we expected that the new Vulcan/Metal API's to all come in together with one major update, but the introduction here shows that is not the case as the API's can be introduced in blocks of areas, and it may also serve as a good test on how X-Plane itself responds to the changes out here in complex-land before going in for the full change over API deal. You may find the API change over in not one but maybe even as many as four updates to complete the full API changeover, you could with this release to note it as the block 1 release. The area most affected in v11.30 is the shader system, so it has been completely totally Vulkanised because it won't work with the .glsl format, so it was changed early. There are huge bonuses here as well, in that the older slideshow shader system was pretty crappy anyway, slow, not very realistic and even really annoying as the light faded or increased in brightness in the significant changes from one shader to the next. The new system uses a very much larger spectrum of shades, it is also quite complex and even fully updatable. More interesting is the new shader system is now off limits to the tinkerers, so you won't be getting loads of experimental shader downloads any more, as there was a full X-Plane industry running on that side of the simulator. An interesting side point is that Laminar note the new (and very complex) shader system will get intermittent updates as the shader system can be refined or reshaded to match conditions and on the fly with updates, which is a sort of window to what to expect from all the different areas of X-Plane in the future, this new feature is one of the most important to understand, because it is the future in not only for its assembly in Vulkan but also in the way it brings in a much more different engine into the original X-Plane machine. So you are starting to see the future changes of X-Plane happening right here, and right now in this version 11.30 update... think of it more like the windows ongoing system updates than major releases. One of the biggest first impressions of beta 11.30 was how brighter it all was, and the change of the basic X-Plane background in light and colours. Besides the actual new shader system, 11.30 has had a lot of fine tuning of the PBR (Physically Based Rendering) effects as well, this is noticeable in those sudden light to dark light changes in the cockpit, that were just as (if not more) annoying as the slideshow in the dawn and dusk periods. Seriously impressive the shaders are... lighting changes are minimal and the only way to see the actual lighting shader movements now is via speeding up the simulator to fast forward. Does the PBR still pop!, unfortunately yes it does and sometimes in a dramatic annoying way, but it also shows the PBR can be fine-tuned... I just don't think this area is the focus for Laminar right now. What strikes you the most though is the sheer smoothness of the simulator, it felt almost quite crude before to what you are experiencing now. Yes you will still get pauses (as scenery loads) and the odd pause as X-Plane shifts from one tile to the other which is still a major obstacle for ultimate smoothness, but that constant shutter and stutter in flight is gone, and it now all feels far more linear. I lost 2fr -4fr frames in the changeover as my 11.30 beta download was nearly 2gb, but I expect to claw that back and far more with the full Vulkan conversion later in the year, but that minimal framerate loss is somehow eliminated because the simulator seems to be not working as hard to achieve the same results, hence the smoothness. Everything feels sharper, cleaner than before. I will note that the framerate was better in the beta 11.30b2 than b1 and more gains came in v11.30b6 (b4 and b5 were absolute duds), but it all came good again in b6 and b7... by the RCs (Release Candidates) 11.30 was excellent. The star patterns at night are back, yes they were fixed before 11.30, but now you can actually see them feel them now while traveling at night, and with the even more refined night ground patterns, it is like X-Plane9 all over again, but far better... yeah! It certainly all bodes well for the future. Particle Effects Yes the showstopper! The particle effect generator has been in development hell for as long as I can possibly remember. "It's coming" was the usual mantra in X-Plane version release after version release, but now it is finally here... was it worth the wait? Of course it was. Like a lot of areas in b11.30 it is important to understand that although the current aircraft all work with the new particle effect engine, most of the aircraft have not been adjusted to get the best of the effects just yet, which it is like when the FMOD sound engine was first introduced... so every aircraft will have to be tailored to the effects engine to get the very best out of the effects, and then some more. Because certainly many developers will want to push the boundaries on what can actually be achieved with the custom particles. It is certainly an exciting time to be in that scenario. Vortices are amazing... and a far cry from the old smoke effect. They are extraordinary at night, as you can see the trail standing rearwards in the turn, as they dissipate of where they stand, and then fade away realistically back slowly into the sky. It is in the subliminal as not the direct effects that the effect change the nature of the simulator. The engine heat blur is excellent as the haze unfocuses the background with absolute realism. You knew something was missing before, and now you realise what that "something" actually was... realism. The biggie effect was always going to be fire. X-Plane already had a sort of animated fire effect, but not the adjustable realistic effect of fire. Now here it is and it lives up to it's dramatic entrance. The are different types of (particle) emitters from smoke, haze to fire and different styles for say streaming continuous smoke or for violent explosions, other effects cover wing vortices, engine blast, tyre contact smoke and wing, engine cowl condensation. The Particle Effects will have a multitude of uses within X-Plane, but currently they are restricted to only aircraft use, and with the odd ground explosion. This has been highlighted by the issues during the beta of smoke or particles in the aircraft (cockpits!)and not the filtering out of the new elements, and more fine tuning of the contrails in certain lighting conditions are still required. But static ground objects will soon have access to the same effects which will be interesting. As a note I never really took to the old X-Plane smoking "puff, puff" chimney effect, I thought they didn't look very realistic and even looked cartoony awful. However I really like the idea more of a hazy chimney or a steam (power plant) effect than the usual and expected black puffing variety. All elements for developers (or anyone) are accessed by the new "Particle System Editor" in the "Developer" X-Plane menu and the layout and the use is very similar to the FMOD sound editor. Access to the various elements are through the particle system definition files (.pss files), which brings up an editor to create, adjust and even delete the particle elements set out in the texture menu. A full dynamic adjustment of : rate, speed, velocity, pitch, heading, size, Alpha and Lifetime (Seconds) are available via keyframes of the all these different elements. ATC Voices A surprise feature included in v11.30 was the new A.I. based ATC voices. There was a comment about these new speech tools by Chris Serio in the mid-year Q&A session, but we never expected the actual release until in 2019, or even longer. The new ATC system now builds up real commands and sentences, as was in the older current version in that the ATC as it was then built up around .wav files to say they were very stilted conversations was an underestimation. But the main problem with this system was it was totally inflexible and very limited in speech capacity. So the new way is to use a text to speech (TTS) engine that is used in Amazon Alexia and Google Voice and of which are both a development of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software. TTS can learn and be adjusted on the fly and you will be even able to contribute to the engine. So instead of the older communications of just the repetitive "X-Ray, Beta two five.. Runway five left" you can or will have "Speedbird 231, taxi cleared to runway five left"... The ATC system will learn and grow and get better as does all current TTS software working now. The system will be also able to work with a multitude of different voices and not just the current male and female choice or no choice at all. Accents in regional or national voices will be available as well as the ATC is more fully developed. Obviously the ATC voice system is still only very limited to the style and the current natural feel vocally until the full ATC system is intergrated later, but it does show that the pace of development is certainly taking place and going forward, which also means that the full ATC feature should be expected during a beta run in 2019. 11.30 Systems and Avionics Phillipp Ringler outlined the extensive navigation and avionics coming in 11.30 in the Vegas seminar. Ringler's overhaul of the X-Plane navigation and avionic areas since becoming part of the main Laminar team have been a total revolution in detail, dynamics and data use and most notably the GNS 430/530 pair, G1000 and the native X-Plane FMS. Certainly Phillipp's unique talents has certainly totally enhanced the basic avionics of the simulator. With the main navigation elements in now place (although I do find the main FMS still a bit wanting in detail), his attention has moved on to the more cosmetic areas of the systems and most notably the Autopilot. So 11.30 comes now with brand autopilots that can installed in your GA aircraft. These include the position based units GFC-700, KFC-250/Century and the rate-based S-TEC 55, KAP-140 and the Piper Autocontrol. The autopilots come as single or dual axis and with or without altitude select and also with or without electric trim functions. The GFC-700 Autopilot is also now part of the G1000 system, which is a high-end position-based digital autopilot, and the new version is now giving the G1000 more realistic capabilities. The Piper Autocontrol Autopilot is a generic low-tech non-microprocessor autopilot, and this AP can be either rate-based or position-based and has the usual dual-axis modes, but does not have any logic for automatic mode reversions. The AP modes are obviously quite basic as all Laminar default systems are, but entirely usable and effective. Here is the S-TEC 55 (C172SP) and the KAP-140 which are the most popular and both can be set as noted with/without altitude preset. One major surprise is that the AP panels don't pop-out?.. ... as with the already branded C90 Collins APS-65 (below) it is impossible to use effectively without a pop-up panel, as the distance from the AP panel to the navigation display on this aircraft is very wide... an oversight? Airliner autopilot systems have also been upgraded as auto-throttle can now use both N1/EPR modes, Control Wheel Steering (CWS) (yoke movements to adjust pitch, mostly on older aircraft), Master FD (Flight Director) or source selection, duel and triple channel preconditions and checks (computers compare two or three channels of data and select the best option), flare and roll out guidance and a three axis DAS/Data Acquisition Systems. GPSS autopilot mode is also now available. All these AP operations are quite comprehensive but mostly hidden, but you will suddenly find you will have more options and get closer to the real world operations of flight deck autopilots once their features start to flow through to the aircraft. In 11.30 system changes the areas focused on have been for the more realistic oxygen systems and anti-ice/de-ice systems, and the propeller itself now has four different propeller failure modes of fine pitch, anti-feathering springs and the full feather position... as not on all aircraft if when the engine fails does the propeller go straight to full feather mode and auto-feather. Also included are more extensive systems to replicate the unfeathering of the propeller realistically with pumps and negative torque sensing, and also fuel-topping and overspeed governors, vacuum gyro limitations and caging is now also being available. With the release of 11.30 Phillipp Ringler is also now responsible for these system changes besides the avionics portfolio which was once the domain of Austin Meyer, so expect more extensive and thankfully more speedier changes to aircraft systems than was the case in the past. While in the realm of systems, in that X-Plane is now also 8.33kHz aware. The old 25kHz spacing has been divided by three 25/3 = 8.33333. to allow more channels to be used which will help in congested airspaces, it became mandatory in Europe as of January 2018 if you are flying in controlled airspace in Europe, as you must have now an 8.33kHz radio to meet that mandate, as you now do also in X-Plane 11.30. The panel resolution has be enlarged to 4K (4096x4096) to get rid of poor resolution text and give a better quality fascia, which is another step away from the original X-Plane standards. Flight Model Although X-Plane is known for its incredible ability to simulate real airflow and air dynamics through its “blade element theory” calculations, it is still not the full range of forces on the aircraft while flying through the air, or on the ground. The aerodynamic basics are of course correct, but in the last few years Laminar has been focusing on more detail of the more secondary forces that affect the aircraft. To that end Austin Meyer has been doing some pretty outlandish if quite bizarre experiments with a Telsla S car to get more realistic data on fuselage, wing forces (post stall), inboard wing air dynamics (the join between the wing and fuselage), propwash and helicopter downwash and tailwash is also being done via more conventional data driven calculations and a follow on from the earlier 11.10 dynamics, as with the earlier asymmetrical new airfoil formats for Reynolds numbers (fluid flow past a body in this case an aircraft). All these new calculations are now included into PlaneMaker 11.30, but you can have the choice in to either opt in out opt out of using the data. These changes are not actually for the X-Plane simulator per se, but for more comprehensive real world data of forces that can be applied to the aircraft's airfoils and wing forces, and PlaneMaker will now do a batch convert to the new settings, but also show you where your drag was not realistic. This aspect is to find a more realistic feel with say the landing and flare dynamics, and with an emphasis on post stall drag factors which are still X-Plane's main limitations, as also for better helicopter downwash and tailwash dynamics which are also currently still not totally highly realistic. My personal beef on this has been the ground friction (or grip) that seems lacking in the simulator... or in other words the weaving and poor tracking on the ground when taking off or landing as I just don't feel that rubber contact grip that I expect to be real world realistic. So has that aspect been fixed or at least refined better than the last set of changes? again personally I don't think so, but in reality the jury is still out on that aspect, it depends on if the 11.30 default aircraft have been updated to the new aerodynamic data, if so then the answer is no, but it will be extremely interesting when the developers do their own calculations... they know their numbers far better than the default aircraft developers as in reality Laminar default aircraft at their heart are quite simple, it will be the specialist developers that will refine and home the data closer to the real world conditions, so when the top payware releases come around after 11.30 goes final then that will be interesting and ralso eflected in the reviews and I will certainly be focusing hard on that aspect. Ditto for helicopters, once say a top helicopter developer like say Dreamfoil does the new 11.30 downwash and rotor dynamics will we see if the improvements are actually realistic. A side note to that is the new "joystick curves" see below... in fine tuning your hardware gear to be also more refined in their inputs. So the changes in 11.30 are actually quite extensive in these areas, but again to stress that you won't see any of these extensive benefits until the developers sort out their own flight model calculations and dynamics to match the more comprehensive flight modeling avaliable to them. Late in the beta run (RC 1) Laminar also inserted the Toe-Brake option for users that have NO hardware (i.e. Rudder Pedals) in controlling aircraft such as tail-draggers, which are notorious to control currently. Previous versions of X-Plane we had this automatic toe-brake behavior that was automatically applied based on some rules that were originally coded into X-Plane. Now aircraft authors can now explicitly control whether toe brakes are auto-applied for users without hardware, and if so, how aggressively. This control is auto-populated for older aircraft with the choices set for X-Plane 11.26 and earlier versions. Engine Improvements Austin Meyer since the start of the X-Plane 11.00 version has been focusing on more realistic engine dynamics. Earlier focus (11.26) was on turbine outputs, specifically in single turbo-turbine outputs. In 11.30 the focus is more of the same but more on the larger jet-turbine aircraft (B737/A320). Believe it or not until 11.30 both the twin-spool tracking of the n1 and n2 engine outputs was done not separately, but notably as one joined calculation. But now it is possible to select both single or twin-spool jets in Plane-Maker to really get the jet engine dynamics (output numbers) better in the spool-up and spool-down phases, and watching N2 lead the N1 output on the spool-up, or the other way around on the spool-down. And the engine output modeling has also be validated of real engine starts and throttle run-ups and shut-downs taken on a (real) Airbus A-320 for realism. (throttle input/output data was a real mess on the release of X-Plane 11.00) Specifically the area noted is the improved Jet 1 spool. Again Jet 1 spool in X-Plane is currently still very basic and the data comes actually from the earlier (now really outdated) X-Plane releases .This current model always has the N1 spinning at a ratio to N2 that was a simple power curve. This is good enough to mimic a real jet engine which was in the past sort of close, if you don’t look at how fast the various turbines spin up and down compared to each other. Jet 2 spool is also a new jet engine model for X-Plane as well with N2 is the power turbine is in the hot section, and it spins up and down as fuel is applied. and is independent of the N1 that is spun by the torque generated from N2, spinning the bypass fan. So a more accurate model, taking into account that the N2 can surge while N1 takes some time to respond, and N1 can windmill briskly even if N2 is shut down and is barely spinning. You can see where all this is going with more internal engine dynamics being realistic in the simulator, and with N1/N2 windmilling which are now more accurate as well. This new modeling should also be more specific in the cruise phase as well. There has been also focus on fine tuning and the modeling of actual dynamic pressure and the resulting Bernoulli effects in the Venturi tube itself to see when ice will form, this will give you a more realistic feedback on ice formations as the Bernoulli principle applies to the motion of air over an airplane wing, to air flow through a carburetor, to the flag flapping in the breeze, and to the low pressure systems in hurricanes. The earlier focus on PT6 turboprops still continues in 11.30, which now in the new model, of which is more accurate and very carefully matched to real PT6 performance. This uses now N2 for Ng which is more accurate, of which there is also now a new manifold pressure model for non-turbo airplanes. The new functionality now allows the simulator understand that lower back-pressure at altitude for non-turbo airplanes provides a bit more power per inch of manifold pressure... all in the quest for realism. Garrett turboprops (Honeywell TPE331) that is an fixed turbo-prop engine that is used extensively with X-Plane aircraft like with the Dornier Do 228/King Airs/Turbo-Commanders is next on the list after the PT6 for the same intensive attention. Aircraft There was a lot of noise in discussion of an F-14 (Tomcat) in pre-release notes, but the actual F-14 Laminar default aircraft didn't appear in the 11.30 release, but is that a spelling mistake? Could it be the F-4 Phantom that has had all the attention and could it all be just misleading? Including the noted F-14 above there was no new aircraft released in 11.30, but a few aircraft had some significant work done on them... obviously the Cessna 172SP was given a lot of attention to highlight most of 11.30's new features including the new S-Tec autopilot (above) and performance/tuning gains. The Boeing 737-800 is of course the showcase aircraft for X-Plane11, so besides the new performance, particle effects and new triple-channel autopilot features the aircraft also acquired something special... ... a cabin! But not just a filler cabin, but a full and very detailed cabin. And it puts even most payware cabins to shame... yes it is that good. At night the internal lighting is even better to sensational with the "Sky Interior" theme... ... even if the Austin Meyer graphic is a bit cheeky, the detailing is just as good in the excellent and realistic galleys that are also payware quality. With the internal structure in place (cabin) then you can also have opening doors as well... ... even if they are not actually attached to the aircraft? and they are hard to open in all have to manhandled directly, I am not sure if the cargo doors open? but the cargo internal 3d containers are in there, so if not now, then certainly the cargo doors will open in the future... obviously still a WIP. Boeing 747-400 has had attention as well... as neglect goes it was way on the top of the list, in fact it was totally unflyable as I found out earlier last year... which is certainly not good enough for an aircraft that is there to promote the simulator. The bug XPD-9644 "747 catches on fire in replay" said it all. In a short flight I found the 747 aircraft at least now usable. there are important elements still missing like the heading pointer on the rose navigation display, but "hey who needs that!" but a lot of the major issues have been addressed including the reverse thrust (yes you need the reverse thrust as well!)... it is flyable... maybe even usable for a long haul, I'll do a route and see how it all goes. Autogen While you have been flying around overhead, then Laminar Research has been very busy filling in your autogen. Europe got the treatment back in the v11.25 release. This is mostly to fill in Urban Industrial Autogen aspect and in 11.30 the US got the same makeover, and it is all pretty impressive, although here it is a much more dirtier and darker theme than the steel and glass of Germanic Europe. Government buildings with the old PWA Moderne 30's 40's styling, glass office towers and excellent modern residential buildings now fill a large area of your X-Plane autogen landscape... even Ben Supnic has now got his own Computer outlet chain! along side the usual US fast food outlets. Building quality is also high class and it all comes with great nightlighting detail as well East US coast New Jersey terraced housing is also now visible and it is again highly detailed. Urban industrial is now also filling in nicely those empty grey spaces, and it is all very highly detailed. And while you are flying around, then the kids can have a go on the swings. Still no churches though? I always get a little annoyed when the scenery developers cover over this expansive quality autogen for something usually quite flat and average with mostly poor orthophoto textures, why not take advantage of the already comprehensive tools the simulator delivers... you won't find better. Landmarks Dubai has been added into the landmark list with two buildings now present... The tallest (for now) building in the world with the Burj Khalifa and the sail like Burj Al Arab, but the modeling comes with no Jumeirah hotel at the rear. Both landmarks are well done, but feel a bit lonely as being the only buildings sitting in a vast landscape, no tall city Dubai autogen and only housing leaves them markedly exposed. User Interface U.I. Some fine tuning of the U.I. interface includes options to enlarge font sizes and the new layout to configure joystick curves in more detail with the option to set the joystick curves per axis., and users can also now submit joystick config files. Other items on the interface include new added sector altitudes in the VFR map. U.I. Options to enlarge the U.I. font size. You are now able to re-enabling of the notification windows that have a “don’t show this again” checkbox and the situation files can now get you close to the landmarks for quick sight seeing. X-Plane data The default simulator data has been updated its airspace to 2018 & Navigraph default data 1708. Which is out of date unless you have an account for the latest cycle (1901) 3rd Jan 19 - 31st Jan 19, but at least it isn't years old. And the total Global Airport count with 3-D scenery in the 11.30r1 release is now 8247. Summary For all its new features and tools, X-Plane 11.30 is a still a bit like an iceburg, there is a little bit sticking up out of the water, but with a lot going on in size under the surface. It will be months and even months before X-Plane users will get the full effect of the update as the developers adjust to the new tools and feature details. We also have to get used to the delay of change than the usual instant gratification of an update and that instant wow factor... like the new autogen in 11.30, it sort of creeps up on you now more than coming in an explosion and all of a sudden you realise that just how much more expansive, responsive and smoother the simulator all is, and just thinking back to even the release version of X-Plane11 you then realise how far the simulator has come in just two years, it makes X-Plane10 now feel almost arcane. And that change didn't come either with huge system or framerate set of penalties, as if you only have even still a fair 4K graphic card you will still find a lot of efficiency. This is also again the underlying factor of this 11.30 update, efficiency, but with not yet getting the full effects of the Vulcan/Metal API core changes. Yes some parts and others are now operating on Vulkan API, like the new shader system... but overall it is all still very much a Work In Progress, as noted... 11.30 is just block 1 of many components that will probably go in and keep going in right up to the X-Plane12 new version release. Highlight visually in 11.30 is of course the Particle Effects and their earth wind and fire elements. Yes it is nice to have them back and it will be interesting to see how the developers use the editor skillfully to use their maximum effect. Scenery particle effects are coming soon. ATC A.I. Voices were a nice surprise but limited until the rest of the ATC is intergrated, as is the nice finer details of new autopilots and avionics, Flight modeling has again improved upon earlier changes with even more adjustments available as has deeper engine modeling and this time focusing on larger jet engine output. Default aircraft had all the above features inserted and with that bonus cabin on the Boeing 737-800. 2018 saw the X-Plane simulator finally shake off it's "hobbist" tag and with respect... thus 11.30 update again pushes the boundaries higher and better again, but this version update is however not a final solution waiting for the next update, but part of a simulator in transition, but a transition that will build it into a far higher platform of a quality and an extremely efficient simulation platform... the words "head and Shoulders" and "above" start to come to mind. _________________________ X-PlaneReviews can't cover absolutely every change or bug fix with the version update, and so the 11.30 Release notes are available here at the Laminar Research Development pages: X-Plane 11.30 Release Notes X-Plane 11.30 is available now for download. Run your X-Plane installer application or download from Steam. ______________________________________________________________________ Analysis review by Stephen Dutton 12th January 2019 Copyright©2019: 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)