Well, yeah, I’ve been away for awhile. Hangin’ down on that boat, skinnin’ my knuckles trying to install a new SSB ground plane, not payin’ any attention at all to XP or FsX or even Erica (and that’s one sure way to get in deep do-do, believe you me!). So I get back up here and now there’s this thing called 64-bit available via the installer and so (being habitually stupid) I went ahead and downloaded it straight away. Interesting experience.
Very interesting. As none of my ACF worked the way they used to, if at all. Gee. That was real fun.
So. Re-run the installer, make sure betas are switched off, and back to square one. Again. Mind you, this was with b5, so I assume this is the fifth beta with 64-bit code? So what now? Are all our ACF going to need updating? We all know this story is one of incremental updates, but why are we seemingly always reinventing the wheel? Surely this can’t be perceived as a sound business model? So much for the Trailblazer’s Lament, eh? This feels like deja-vu all over again, and the whole X-Plane thing is suddenly leaving what feels like a distinctly sour taste in my mouth. One unstable beta after another…for a year? And we get to start… all over again? Is this a bad joke? Or a nightmare?
Well…someone asked me recently if we’d heard anything about PMDG’s plans to port an ACF to XP. And no, there’s been no news, no new talk. A year after PMDG announced they’d announce their intentions in six months, still nothin’. As in nada. Zip. Zilch. And I guess that’s an answer. Of sorts. And no news on the IXEG blog in almost four months. And XP Jets? You gotta be kiddin’ me. But we do hear that Fly-J-Sim will release a triptych of 727s later this month, and surely that’s good news? But aren’t these things related? Endless beta releases and the trickle of major new ACF releases? And the ACF everyone seems to have been waiting for, for ages, are still nowhere on the horizon?
Are these related??? Do bears crap in the woods?
Then there was that bit let slip by Ben that many of the folks working on scenery development at Laminar are, what, volunteers? As in, working in their spare time? For no pay?
You can connect the dots, if you want to, that is. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see what the problem is. Or where this is headed. XP 10 is stable in 64 bit in what? Another year? Is this why we’re hearing from so many diehard XP users… asking about system requirements for FsX and P3D? And here’s the killer. XP has always been a Mac-centric platform, yet now Laminar is increasingly aiming it’s product at the Windows market. Just as Apple is surging in the market. And think this thing through. If long time diehard Mac users feel compelled to buy a Windows machine just to get workable performance for XP, what’s going to keep these folks from trying out FsX or P3D? Just as that market has found new life? Is this a Faustian bargain? Or simple suicide?
Yup. Bears crap in the woods. That crashing sound? What’s that you say? Was that Laminar’s window of opportunity slamming shut? On a finger, perhaps?
Sheesh. On to the good stuff.
So… do you remember JARDesigns? The team that made that award-winning An-148, and that’s been hard at work on an Airbus A318? Well, out of the blue we get an email from them advising that they’re going to release an A320NEO, as payware, and very soon too! Perhaps by Christmas? Who knows, but maybe. And Felis is now onboard with the team, making this one very formidable group indeed.
So, check out the images and features at the link above, and get ready for some fun over the holidays. Now, in other news…
We all know KSEA is the default airport in XP10, and that Tom Curtis modeled several other airports in the region as part of his Boeing Country package. One of those airports, Paine Field, is a manufacturing and delivery center for Boeing’s larger aircraft, and where new AWACs birds are put together, but after years of wrangling it now appears that the airport is going to be opened to commercial traffic, and fairly soon, too:
- The issue of adding commercial flights at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., has been hotly debated since the airport was opened in 1936. On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the general aviation airport, which is located near the Boeing plant, for commercial passenger flights. Allegiant Air and Alaska Airlines have expressed interested in offering flights from the airport. The Seattle Times
- Some of the 52 employees of the Kinston, N.C., facility Delta plans to close will be able to transfer to a consolidated private jet unit in Hebron, Ky. Delta Private Jets, based at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, serves as a fixed-base operator, and manages and maintains private and charter aircraft. American City Business Journals/Columbus, Ohio
- An independent study of wind turbines located near Ontario’s Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport has found the project to be a “tremendous success for both Chatham-Kent and the airport.” According to consultant involved with the study, South Kent Wind has offered the municipality $2.5 million for upgrades to the airport, which would include an airfield lighting upgrade, a new automated weather observation system and a runway extension. The Chatham Daily News (Ontario)
- Flathead Emergency Aviation Resources was founded in 2011 by Jordan White, then undersheriff of the Montana county, and other like-minded individuals. The group recently purchased a new Bell 429 helicopter to be equipped with a hoist, and expects delivery in the spring. “When we add the hoist, along with adding a lot more training and a lot more equipment, we can literally pick somebody out of the forest in a place where we may not be able to land a helicopter for miles,” said White. Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Mont.)
- While Apple’s iPad mini has only been on the market since Oct. 23, aviation app developers are already drawing attention to how well their products work on the 18% smaller device. According to Rick Ellerbrock, Jeppesen’s director for aviation strategy, the mini is expected to find common use as a backup device, and its small weight and size will encourage development of applications designed specifically for crew members. AIN Online
- Chris Golembeski, a junior at State College Area High School in Pennsylvania, passed his “check ride” in a Piper Cherokee 140. At 17, Golembeski is the minimum required age for a licensed pilot. The son of a single mother, he paid for most of his training with savings from cutting grass and restaurant work. Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.)
- General aviation has a number of things to worry about as it rolls into 2013. The recent election has reduced the number of GA supporters in Washington, while the $100 user fee remains on the table and the president’s budget request for the FAA is down by $730 million from the last fiscal year. General Aviation News
- A Diamond Aircraft DA42 twin was tested in Austria with digital fly-by-wire systems, demonstrating active electronic control. The company hopes the technology could someday change how people fly light aircraft. AVweb
- FAA type certification was granted to the Sikorsky S-76D medium-twin helicopter on Oct. 12, sealing a seven-year development program. According to a company official, the helicopter will offer a higher cruise speed than earlier models and burn fuel more efficiently. Sikorsky is now seeking EASA certification and plans to begin deliveries by the end of this quarter. AIN Online
- Eric Radtke, president and chief flight instructor at Sporty’s Academy in Cincinnati, says the academy’s secret is building a successful community. From a bell that invites all employees to congratulate a pilot on his or her first solo flight, to news releases on social media, to monthly cookouts, Sporty’s eagerly welcomes newcomers into the aviation community.Jetwhine.com
- Blogger Dan Pimentel writes about the difference between pilots who fly turbine engines and those who pilot piston-driven planes — and his brief experience in a PC-12. “Call it confidence, call it the walk of a high timer, but the pilots who bleed Jet-A just have a different way of crossing a ramp,” he writes. Airplanista
- The Board of Education for Etowah County Schools in Alabama has approved an agreement with the Alabama Aviation Center to offer a dual-enrollment program in airframe technology. It set to begin in January. “It will offer our students some great opportunities in a field that’s in demand,” said Superintendent Alan Cosby. The Gadsden Times (Ala.)
One very bright spot on the horizon recently was last week’s release of the McPhat Studios ATR-72-500, and we’ll have Part II of Robert Arts’ “First Look/Review” a little further down in today’s post, but I wanted to throw in my two cents as well. I did manage to get a second install of XP updated to 64-bit in order to test this ACF, and it appears to work well in the 64-bit environment. I opened AeroSOFT’s EHAM with all, I mean ALL object settings maxed out…airports to trees…and with basic res at HIGH and frames were in the teens, operation was quite slow, but the sim remained smooth, not jerky.
Though offered a free review version, I opted to purchase my copy, and was stunned to find the download is 1.7Gb in size. With download speeds varying between 1.5 and 2.2 Gb/sec the process took almost half an hour, but installation was a snap. Just follow the directions and you’ll be up and running in a few minutes. Operation is simple, too. There’s simply nothing complex about this ACF, at all, so don’t purchase this ACF expecting a full-on procedures SIM and you’ll remain a happy camper.
I’d say this ACF is an exercise in eye-candy, and on that level it succeeds quite well. Looking at the Fly-J-Sim Dash-8 Q400 in comparison (and both are similarly priced, BTW), I’d say both are equally good looking, and the Q is just a bit more operationally complex, and has much, much better night lighting – both exterior and on the panel – while the McPhat ATR holds a solid edge in exterior texture clarity. Flying the two, the Q is definitely a handful ( as is the real aircraft ) while the ATR feels about as daunting as the default Cessna 172. That’s not really a complaint, by the by, as I think the McPhat ATR is aimed squarely at the casual simmer.
Still, that’s not to say the more experienced user isn’t going to enjoy using this new file. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. If you’re in the mood to fly some shorter commercial routes in a zero stress environment…say for an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon…this new ACF makes for an interesting new option that will require minimal study to get up to speed and enjoy.
So, taking the “easy to fly” route may well turn out to be a very wise business decision on McPhat’s part. There’s just no “Gee, this is too hard to fly” to deal with here. If you can confidently handle a GA single and can shoot a basic ILS approach in XP, the file will work for you. If you’ve kept away from payware commercial aircraft because of a perception that these might be too complex for you, this is an ideal first file.
That said, she is indeed a gorgeous aircraft to look at, and in 64-bit mode with objects dialed up we can begin to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. XP does indeed begin to look promising when all these elements start coming together, though clouds still, by and large, stink.
Where does this file leave us? Well, for now let’s just call it the Trailblazer’s Lament, and let’s hear what Robert Arts has to say as he wraps up his look around the ATR:
After the product introduction of last week we continue with a full review of the product Austin announced as ”What if we had the best visual models in the world AND the best flight models in the world?” As you have guessed we are talking here about the McPhat Studios ATR-72 and especially its external modeling. The responses to our quick review and on the different forums were very mixed, almost only in extreme opposites. So what’s the deal with this aircraft? To find out I made one major test-flight and several short test-flights over the last week, while using X-plane 10.20b5 64-bit and 10.05r1.
I started my major test-flight at LOWI. I wanted to start the aircraft myself, taxi and take off from Innsbruck in daylight, followed by using the autopilot at an altitude of 20.000 feet during a route above the Alps to LFMN Nice, where I wanted to do an automated approach with a manual landing at night. I used ‘real weather’ and luckily there was a heavy winter blizzard along my route over Switzerland, so I had the ideal circumstances for a test-flight.
When you nestle yourself for the first time in the captains’ seat you feel you’re back in the eighties; two small CRT screens in front of you and for the rest a lot of gauges, some knobs and buttons. But this particular aircraft isn’t from the eighties, cause the panels are spotless and clean, in contrary to the latest released pay-ware aircraft for X-plane. The aircraft looks as new as your installed copy is old.
When you are familiar with the cockpit layout and follow the checklist provided by Aerosoft, you could have the plane started and configured in around 15 minutes, which indicates that the systems are simple. You have to put on the electric system, turn off all other systems, check gauges, turn some knobs, push some buttons and you are ready. If you open the plane with running engines you can immediately take off. Every button is modeled, but maybe half of them can be operated. This model is in that aspect very similar with the pay-ware Boeing 787. Some switches can be put in the right position only by clicking on it. Although this isn’t realistic, it’s a better method than virtually turning the knob, as often is the case in X-plane. However strangely some positions aren’t clickable, which results in clicking everywhere in the hope the switch gets in the right position. So it’s a good idea that hasn’t been worked out perfectly in this case.
When you have started the engines you look at one of the most beautiful cockpits in X-plane. It’s a bit like the good old Boeing 757, because of its shape and color. But better, a lot better. Partly this is caused by the excellent lighting, which does its job very well, but also delivers a pleasant atmossphere. Everything with glass on top is reflective, which you only encounter when the angle of the light is right.
This gives a very realistic effect because at that moment you can’t read those gauges or screens very well any more. But when you change the angle of your view they become visual again. This will create an excellent chaos when it happens during your approach at that dangerously situated airport. For every window there is a sunscreen, although the first officers one at the front window was stuck. It’s a shame that using the sunscreens doesn’t stop the reflections, but maybe that could only be accomplished by a plug-in?
I made this test-flight with the 64-bit beta version of X-plane and used the ‘high’ texture setting. With this setting the meters can be read, but they aren’t very crisp. I tried the ‘very high’ texture setting, which resulted in sharp textures, but the needed VRAM jumped from 287 MB to 772 MB! Beware: Aerosoft advices ‘extreme res’ texture settings!
After closing the front cargo door (shift F1)…
…and the aft passenger door (shift F2), selecting the correct radio and navigation frequencies and configuring the standard X-plane Flight Management System I got my clearances and started taxiing. It didn’t matter where I set my viewpoint; the outside view is very limited. Maybe it’s the model or maybe I’m too spoilt with my fighter jet canopies, I don’t know. But it handles very well, maybe too good. However the taxi-light doesn’t work, a bug known by Aerosoft. The switch of the taxi-light is functional, which isn’t the case with the one for the tail lighting. That one doesn’t show up either. At night the fuselage is very dark, so better stay inside in that cozy cockpit.
Taking off is very easy. Flighttime56 notified me about the plane’s tendency to start floating if you don’t rotate. I replicated that effect and found out that if you use full flaps it will slowly gain height with its nose down. I think this is realistic and related to the design of the aircraft. Models with a similar wing layout, like the Fokker 27 and C-130 Hercules, are known for their take offs where they can easily keep the same height after raising the gear. You have to bring the yoke backwards to get them climbing.
The ATR isn’t a very fast climber. In the cockpit the pilot has two altimeters, one in front of him and one just on the right. The plane is also equipped with a radar altimeter, which displays the first 2000 feet to the ground on the screen in top. If you used the correct air pressure the altimeter in front of you shows the same height as the radar powered altimeter. However you soon discover that your back-up altimeter can display other values. Or does it, because it turned out that the meter in front changed to the next number when that level was reached, while the back-up altimeter has constantly moving elements. When you are flying on 1.800 feet it displays 2.900, because the numbers ‘2’ and ‘9’ are almost in the centre position. Again some much needed chaos in the cockpit and possibly like in the real aircraft?
While flying manually I noticed that the plane was more sluggish than I expected from its size. When you are changing the course and you reach the right point the plane doesn’t immediately respond to a straight yoke, just slowly it becomes straight. Because of that you keep on counter-steering till you reached the right heading. Something you expect from a wide body, but not form a prop-liner. However if you select the ‘YD’ button on the autopilot the yaw damper becomes active and the plane becomes much more responsive and flies sharper.
Which brings us to the autopilot. It’s situated in the middle of the cockpit, nicely on top of the center console. When turned on you get some digits displayed in your analogue cockpit, which gives you a bit more modern feeling. However it isn’t a very sophisticated autopilot; it responds to just one setting at the time, or in the case of max altitude and climb speed, to two. When you click on the ‘nav’ button it also works with your navigation equipment like the nav 1 and 2 radios and the FMS. However don’t expect a changed maximum altitude or a different climb speed setting when the FMS crosses a waypoint while the next one is on another height. While flying through the blizzard the autopilot remained on and kept the plane perfectly on course and height. I had to trim the plane often, I haven’t figured out whether the autopilot also trims, but it was often not in balance. While using the pitch trim the autopilot turns off, trimming the other axes didn’t influence the autopilot.
The descent and approach was pretty straightforward. Landing the plane manually isn’t very difficult, but you have to keep the nose down till just above the runway. I haven’t made a perfect landing so far. After this long flight I made several test flights, to check its handling capabilities in different load settings and how it reacts to a stall. You are a X-pilot after all. Well the plane reacted very trustfully and didn’t behave strangely or dangerously. You can use this model with confidence in risky approaches.
So how does the rest of the model look like? The cabin is standard looking, nothing special, just many rows of seats. Windscreen wipers are modeled, but can’t be operated. One of the modelers replied about this: “The wipers could move, that would be easy, but as the plane has only a 3D cockpit, the wipers won’t be functional unless we make let’s call it “3D rain”. That needs more textures and more resolution in one key texture; that would mean less FPS, so we decided not to sacrifice those FPS, for the moment. But we are willing to improve this aircraft, if we can”. Fair enough. While doing a walk around there are a lot of beautiful details to be seen. Not only the excellent textures, but also the whole fuselage and its moveable parts are very nice detailed; the stair, undercarriage, propellers, antennas and so on. They are a joy to watch and Austin’s remarks are totally understandable. Like in real life the windows have depth, in which the sunlight can reflect.
With the default installation you get Ultra High Definition Textured liveries of:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Austral
- Binter Canarias
- China Southern
With the free expansion pack from McPhat (the Mac-friendly installer will be released this week) you get the following additional UHDT liveries:
- Air Caraibes
- Alitali Express
- American Eagle
- Bangkok Airways
- Cebu Pacific
- Vietnam Airlines
So in total you get eleven liveries with this aircraft. In the near future they will add these liveries:
- Air Dolomiti
- Air Nostrum (Iberia Regional)
A paint-kit, for the people with enough courage to take it up against McPhat, will become available sometime next year.
In this model two worlds come together, that of the aircraft modelers and the livery makers. This new team created a remarkable looking aircraft, in my opinion the best yet in X-plane. However some people miss the in-depth systems, which is another special profession. In some way it’s a shame, because including such systems could have transformed this aircraft into far the best for X-plane. But the aircraft in that league had twice as high introduction prices as this model and sometimes you have to pay extra for liveries that don’t match this quality. So for half the money you get a better-looking aircraft in which you can easily fly away. Ideal for when you arrive home after a whole day programming at work. The aircraft flies very well, but maybe too easy; I couldn’t find any characteristic behavior that you can love or hate.
So for who is this aircraft? For people who wants a stunning looking model, in which you can feel like a pilot, with the ability to fly it solo on short hops, without the need to use the autopilot to get most of the work done. I’m looking forward to the next release of this new team!
So, that’s about all for now. I’ll try to get one more post out before heading to the boat…again! Hasta later – C