Classic Jet Simulations has just posted this preview of one of our most anticipated x-plane developments for ages. I’ve followed Greg’s progress on this for months, looks like he’s almost done. Extensive update here from his Youtube intro:
Comments received at Chaos Manor the past several hours seem to confirm that Apple’s latest OS – v10.8 “Mountain Lion” – is transforming the experience many of us have of X-Plane, and in powerfully positive ways. Framerates improved, RAM usage down, GPU efficiencies and correspondingly better rendering noted by all reporting, and fewer crashes in 10.10b4 would seem to highlight the benefits coming in so far.
Maybe it’s just me, but with the Mac community a large part of the installed base in XP, and with Mac sales increasing dramatically the past two years, this just seems like a very big deal to me. Along those lines, all of screenshots in today’s post are putting these results out there for you to look over, and all in v10.10b4 with res at “HIGH” (not VERY HIGH, not EXTREME), with objects maxed out, and with HDR at 4x. Framerates solid and never dropping below 30, but usually in the 40s-60s range when down near airports, and much better at high altitudes. And NO OSM, all default rendering.
Take a look at this video from Ramzzess highlighting all the liveries that are currently ready for the Trip7:
That’s 100 and growing, in case you missed it. Thankfully we’ve heard no grousing about these liveries being payware. Being sold in small batches makes this an affordable proposition, and will help keep these excellent painters happy and making more. That’s another win-win situation. Oh, how about Braniff? I missed that one? And a TWA retro? Please?!
And Philipp is producing some Trip7 FMC videos, and our correspondent Perry is keeping up to date on these. Perhaps we all should! 1000 + pages of OPS manuals? Sheesh!
Greg Hofer advises that a massive v10 update for his CF-104 is in the pipeline, and look for an updated post on this gorgeous file from us soon.
Reader John Rawlinson sends in these pics from Airventure/Oshkosh, by gosh!
The Douglas Dauntless seen above holds a special place in my family history – as my Dad flew these beasts in WWII, VMSB-235, during his first overseas deployment. There’s a nice one at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in D.C. too, but it sure is nice to see one still airborne today. Below, a newer variant of the same!?
And something a little more on the wild side;
Great images, John. Be sure to get Austin’s autograph!
In other news:
- Cessna Aircraft has announced a new engine option for its Skylane 182 that will run on Jet A aviation fuel. The new engine, which burns up to 40% less fuel than an avgas engine, will be available in the second quarter of 2013, the company said. “This is a game-changer that opens up new markets and new regions of the world due to its versatility and performance,” said Jeff Umscheid of Cessna. General Aviation News
- The US Congress passed a bill Monday that would increase pilots’ rights, and the bill now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., sponsored the bill after he landed a private plane on a closed runway in 2010. “This bill remedies many of the most serious deficiencies in the relationship between general aviation and the FAA, and ensures that pilots are, like everyone else, treated in a fair and equitable manner by the justice system,” Inhofe said. Las Vegas Sun/The Associated Press
- The technology that EADS North America uses in its X3 long-range helicopter can be transferred to other aircraft, the company says, and should allow the company to expand sales to the U.S. military. EADS is demonstrating its X3 hybrid helicopter, including in Washington. Defense News
- Brunswick Community College in North Carolina is partnering with Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island, N.C., to provide training for aviation jobs such as air-traffic controllers. “There is always a need for air traffic control operators,” said airport director Howie Franklin. “It’s a good job, with a good future, and it’s got a need.” The training program may not begin for several years. WECT-TV (Wilmington, N.C.)
- Pilots now have an opportunity to help the Recreational Aviation Foundation keep a valuable California airstrip open to the public. The National Park Service has begun the process to develop a new management plan for the Saline Valley Warm Springs area of Death Valley National Park that includes the Chicken Strip, an uncharted 1,350-foot dirt strip that provides fly-in access to the warm springs. AOPA Online.
- Every flight is different, and the risk involved for any given flight should take into account a variety of factors. Experience, weather, airport conditions — all play a factor in determining how eventful (or not) any flight will be. Let the Air Safety Institute help you decide if you’re pushing your envelope a bit too far. Our popular ASI Flight Risk Evaluator online course is coming soon to an iOS device near you. Take the course, then stop by the AOPA Tent at EAA AirVenture to see how we’ve turned this course into something you’ll want to reference before every flight!
Now, let’s drop back in on the Edinburgh, Scotland area and look at some OSM again.
Aipilot’s Tree Lines and Farms for XP10 was just revised, and the efforts/results just may put this one on your radar if not already downloaded. Just look at the farmscapes in the image just above, and imagine them arrayed all over your rural landforms. Negligible frame-rate hit too.
I reinstalled the OSM Edinburgh scenery by andydckent after hearing from him, and reinstalled my OSX scenery library as well. The results are much improved, and with Mountain Lion handling the rendering chores the results were more than impressive. Let’s jump in the STMA Turbine Otter and take a roundabout!
The Otter above is a “beta” of the next revision, still pending as a few more mods are going to be squeezed into the next update. The area above is about a mile south of the airport…
And above, about 3 miles SSE. Below, headed east now.
And above, heading east along the waterfront.
A lot more density now for some reason, so perhaps reinstalling helped out. I’d say this one moves in to the recommended / must have files for flights around these northern towns.
Oh yes, three new Otter paints out today by “Snow” as well:
Airlines PNG operates out of New Guinea, and this is the standout of the lot to me, though there is another US registry available (a nice red Pete’s Flying Service) as well as a Canadian (Whistler Air, replete in yellows and blues).
So, how about a turn around northeast Florida in the latest mercedes?
Well, mercedes as in the developer, and his latest is a v9.70 file, and it just happens to work very well in v10.10b4, and as the facility is in Jacksonville, Florida you’ll be able to use this file with all of those recent files released in the American Southland.
So, welcome to KCRG + Craig Municipal! Let’s take in the overheads first:
Even a cursory glace will tell you that this one fits in with these many recent releases, including yesterday’s KILM + Wilmington. And this is a well executed GA facility, so take note and get this one onboard!
The first thing I noted when flying in here is the antennae farm north of the airport, and how pleasingly good Jacksonville looks with the default XP objects in place. This is, after all, just what these objects were made for, and additional OSM seems unnecessary here!
Below, turning onto final in the Carenado Seneca:
Now let’s take a look at a few of the highlights here, because ‘mercedes’ usually takes the time to get things right. How does this one look to you?
Yes, well, it looks mighty fine from where I sit! The blue fringing on the trees is a little out of character for v10, but c’est la vie. Of course, as this is a v9 file there’s no Global Illumination provided, and the ramps are simply dark as a result. Still, this has to rank as one of the better recent v9 freeware efforts, and is a highly recommended addition to our growing collection of airports in the South…even in v10.
What a grand surprise this new Chilean airport was! Even with all the excitement yesterday with KILM and the Pitts Special, I couldn’t wait to try Remen’s new SCEL + Santiago de Chile out! Guess what? I think you’re going to enjoy this one for the airport and the region. Spectacular mountains, a huge city that looks very good at night and during the day, and a nicely detailed airport all await. Here’s the lay of the land, too:
Anyway you slice it, this is an excellent opportunity for those looking for a challenging long haul destination, and A340/A380, 744 and 772 OPS ought to be considered here. Regional flights to Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Brazil and Argentina are a natural, as well.
Once again, MacOS10.8 really seems to add a lot of punch to these images, with an excellent sharpness and density : FPS ratio. Take a look at the urban areas around this airport, with default XP objects and no OSM additions.
Still, there’s no doubt OSM would make a nice compare and contrast exercise in this area.
Airport detail, as well as that impressive cityscape, makes this a standout package, too.
And as this is a vibrant international airport I’m hard pressed to think of a better long range OPS opportunity that this one. Take a look at the carriers and destinations (and terminals):
|Aerolíneas Argentinas||Buenos Aires-Aeroparque||I|
|Aerolíneas Argentinasoperated byAustral Líneas Aéreas||Mendoza, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Buenos Aires-Aeroparque||I|
|Air Canada||Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Toronto-Pearson||I|
|Air France||Paris-Charles de Gaulle||I|
|American Airlines||Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami||I|
|Copa Airlines||Panama City||I|
|Delta Air Lines||Atlanta||I|
|Gol Transportes Aéreos||Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Porto Alegre, São Paulo-Guarulhos||I|
|LAN Airlines||Antofagasta, Auckland, Balmaceda, Bogotá, Buenos Aires-Aeroparque, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Calama, Cancún, Caracas, Córdoba, Easter Island, Frankfurt, Guayaquil, Iquique, La Paz, Lima, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mendoza, Mexico City, Miami, Montevideo, Mount Pleasant, New York-JFK, Papeete, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Punta Cana, Quito-Mitad del Mundo [begins October 12, 2012], Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Sydney
|LAN Express||Antofagasta, Arica, Balmaceda, Calama, Concepción, Copiapó, Iquique, La Serena, Osorno, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Temuco, Valdivia||D, I|
|LAN Argentina||Buenos Aires-Ezeiza||I|
|LAN Ecuador||Guayaquil, Quito-Mariscal Sucre, Quito-Mitad del Mundo||I|
|LAN Perú||Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Lima||I|
|PAL Airlines||Antofagasta, Calama, Copiapó, Iquique||D|
|Sky Airline||Antofagasta, Arequipa, Arica, Balmaceda, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Calama, Concepción, Copiapó, El Salvador, Iquique, La Paz, La Serena, Lima, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Temuco||D, I|
|TACA Airlines/Lacsa||Lima, San José (CR)||I|
|TACA Airlines operated byTACA Perú||Lima||I|
|TAM Airlines||Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, São Paulo-Guarulhos||I|
|TAM Airlines Paraguay||Asunción||I|
See what I mean? OPS to the US, Europe and Australia are all valid, and of course regional opportunities abound.
So after just a few flights in and out of this one I can recommend this one highly; detail is not overwhelming but is just enough to satisfy, and I can’t wait to take a certain 777-200LR from here to Dallas or Atlanta…soon!
Oh, then there’s that Leading Edge DC3 all dressed up in one of Leen’s latest! A hard to beat combination if ever there was one!
Well, that’s about it for now. Erica is out with surgery tomorrow so I’ll be offline for a few days, but Simon and FT56 will keep you posted if and as things develop. Hasta later – C
Nice to see a stunning new payware scenery (KILM + Wilmington International, in Wilmington, North Carolina) from X-Aviation!
It’s an xp10 original, meaning it takes best advantage of all the new tech shader methods.
Keep an eye on progress and read about the highlights here.
Again, more images at the link, above!
Laminar Research have released a beta version of WED (World Editor) version 1.2b1.
The update consists of:
- A real airport import dialog box – when you import a dialog box, WED will let you pick a subset of airports to grab. So now you can open the entire apt.dat file from Robin and just pick the airport you want.
- There is now a library preview pane for objects, autogen scenes (.AGP files) and draped polygons.
- WED 1.2 supports all of the new v10 overlay editing extensions, e.g. forests as tree lines, facade wall-type control, etc.
Well the first item is excellent news – try to find an airport in the “Aus” package then I wish you luck as there is over 500 of them so this should help out nicely.
Now when you select a scenery package you get a list of the airports in that package.
Now that will save hours scrolling around in deep space…
Second item on the list is a “Thank You, Thank You” item.
Select an object and “Ta La”…..you can see the object….
This one is out of the default library – better still you can zoom in and rotate the object to any angle!
Moses delivered less….
Better still load in a scenery package and you can see the objects in that package as well.
I found it simply impossible to check on the library items before unless you drop them on in on an empty airport made a load of objects up and then noted them.
Exclusion zones are modified as well, I have to test these out but with the earlier versions of WED this was not very successful, my interest in this area is all important.
With the OSM (OpenStreetMap) data exclusion zones will become critical in defining what can be overlaid and what can not, a clean scenery will be defined by the way the OSM is allowed to integrate with the custom scenery.
If you bought Butnaru’s KMIA you can see the issue very clearly in there with trees in places they should have not been, My Brisbane Airport Scenery is covered in trees and OSM where they shouldn’t be, now maybe I can fix that up. unflexible zones are a pain too, you can’t even align (rotate) them with the scenery which is wasting so much space and the corners of the boxes intrude on areas were they shouldn’t be.
So a big step forward here and a manual is also promised, in this case I feel it is essential as so much has changed and we need a decent guide.
I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed the QPAC update that FT56 posted earlier today. Interesting that the project will continue in payware form too. Now let’s look at some news.
- Business jets have become a status symbol in China as the country’s economy flies high. Individuals in China have been allowed to own private aircraft since 2003, and the country is now home to more than 130 business jets. “It’s still not common for companies to own private jets in China, so to some degree it’s a way to demonstrate our business power, increase [clients'] confidence in us and boost cooperative possibilities,” said Chinese businessman Zhai Jiahua. CNNGo.com (Asia)
- Textron, the parent company of Cessna Aircraft and Bell Helicopters, expects strong sales growth in 2012, this feature says. Shares of Textron are up this year. The company is slated to report first-quarter results April 18. Some analysts say Textron is a value stock that is poised for growth. Forbes/Zacks.com
- The Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Ala., will display a Soviet helicopter. The Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter was delivered to the museum on Tuesday, and the museum will spend up to nine months restoring the helicopter. The Soviet Union relied on Hind helicopters during its war with Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Birmingham News (Ala.)
- The U.S. Navy temporarily grounded its fleet of MQ-8B Fire Scouts after two of the drones, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, crashed overseas. “Northrop Grumman is working closely with the U.S. Navy to determine the cause of the incidents,” Northrop spokesman Warren Comer said in a statement. “We cannot provide further information at this time pending the results of the investigation.” Los Angeles Times
And more interesting still, these WIP images of AeroSOFT’s EHAM | Amsterdam:
Can’t wait to see some nightside images.
This is just a heads-up for those who pay attention to such things, but we’re working Beta on a couple of significant new ACF right now, and we’ll just advise for now that you keep an eye out for new “ACF Alerts” over the next week or so. Hang tight, and know you’ll get the first scoop right here.
Now that’s Simon’s back on the case we’ll have some interesting news for you too. The only downside? My pear cider bill will shoot through the roof!
Anyway, y’all have fun, and we’ll be back soon with more news and views. C/S
Some stunning images from NASA to start off your day, these from last week’s ATREX series of launches up and down the US east coast.
Here’s the story: “Five sounding rockets streaked into the pre-dawn sky on March 27, 2012, leaving trails of milky white clouds in a little understood part of the atmosphere. The first rocket was launched to the cusp of space at 4:58 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and the subsequent launches occurred at 80 second intervals. The goal of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) was to improve understanding of the process that drives fast-moving winds high in the thermosphere.
“Fiery trails from four of the five sounding rockets are clearly visible in this time-lapse photograph (top) of the launch. The second image shows two of the clouds left in the wake of the experiment; the rockets released trimethyl aluminum, a substance that burns spontaneously in the presence of oxygen. The harmless by-products of this glowing reaction were visible to the naked eye as far south as Wilmington, North Carolina; west to Charlestown, West Virginia.; and north to Buffalo, New York. Both photographs were taken near the launch site atNASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
“Throughout the experiment, researchers used specialized cameras in North Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey—as well as temperature and pressure instruments on two of the rockets—to monitor the clouds. By measuring how quickly the clouds move away from each other and integrating that information into atmospheric models, they hope to improve their understanding of the 320 to 480 kilometer (200 to 300 mile) winds in the thermosphere.
“First noticed by scientists in the 1960s, the winds are thought to be part of a high-altitude jet stream that’s distinct from the one lower in the troposphere, where commercial aircraft fly. Observing the turbulence produced by these winds should make it possible to determine what’s driving them.
“An improved understanding of the upper jet stream will make it easier to model the electromagnetic regions of space that can damage satellites and disrupt communications systems. The experiment will also help explain how the effects of atmospheric disturbances in one part of the globe can be transported to other parts of the globe in a mere day or two.
“The launches are part of a broader sounding rocket program at NASA that conducts approximately 20 flights a year from launch sites around the world.” NASA Earth Observatory
And in other, somewhat less spectacular news, Venus invaded the Pleiades last night, and will again tonight:
If a nosy neighbor asks you what that bright star is in the western sky, that big bright one just after sunset, please tell them it’s not a star, nor is it a UFO (as one of my neighbors claimed breathlessly Monday night). It’s Venus, and while that pesky mothership may indeed be lurking behind this particular rocky ball, it is most definitely not a UFO.
That loosely grouped mass of bluish stars to the left of Venus in the image above is M45, or Messier Object 45, aka The Pleiades. Venus was in conjunction with M45 Tuesday evening, and will be again on Wednesday evening (4.4), and will remain very close on 5 April. If you have a DSLR capable of imaging at higher ISOs with decent clarity/low noise you may get some good images. I thought of pulling out a scope but carelessly mentioned the word “telescope” and as soon as the words slipped out huge thunderstorms formed on the horizon. This is, by the way, the First Immutable Law of Astronomy. Mention the word “telescope” and storms start to form, and the intensity and longevity of the resultant storms will rise in direct proportion to the rarity of the event you want to observe.
BTW: “In Japan, the Pleiades are known as Subaru, and have given their name to the car manufacturer whose logo incorporates six stars to represent the five smaller companies that merged into one. Subaru Telescope, located in Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii, is also named after the Pleiades.” Below, a large, desktop sized image to help you find your way around. (from wikipedia)
And in even more mundane news:
- NASA said it has reached a breakthrough in the design of supersonic business jets. “It’s the first time we have taken a design representative of a small supersonic airliner and shown we can change the configuration in a way that is compatible with high efficiency and have a sonic signature” that isn’t a boom, said Peter Coen of NASA. Aviation Daily
- Diamond Aircraft has performed the first test flight of its DA52 twin. “This is the best prototype aircraft I have ever made a maiden flight with, and the performance exceeded all my expectations,” said Diamond CEO Christian Dries. Diamond plans to display the DA52 this month at the Aero show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. AVweb
- Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose, Calif., is considering a plan to open the west side of the airport to more business jets. Airport Director Bill Sherry said that developing the airport “is really the last item we have to generate new revenue at the airport.” The airport saw a 1.5% decrease in passenger activity during the fiscal 2011-12 year. San Jose Mercury News (Calif.)
- MD Helicopters of Arizona is constructing a new single-engine scout helicopter, the MD 540F. “This aircraft will be a game changer for our company,” CEO Lynn Tilton said. “The commercial and military markets have long sought an affordable, light, single-engine helicopter that can perform exceptionally well at hot and high altitudes while carrying a larger useful load.” United Press International
- The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane, is scheduled to fly more than 1,500 miles from Switzerland to Morocco, its builders say. The flight is scheduled for May or June, and two pilots will switch off flying the plane. United Press International
- Wesley Blum, 16, who is taking flying lessons at Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in California, has completed his first solo flight in a Cessna 172. He plans to earn his private pilot’s license. “Anything you study in aviation just opens Pandora’s box. It’s endless — weather, collision reports, runway markings and engine systems,” Blum said. The Inyo Register (Bishop, Calif.)
- The 55th annual AEA International Convention & Trade Show kicked off Tuesday and runs through Friday, bringing avionics manufacturers, distributors and repair stations together. The convention offers more than 75 hours of training, 100 exhibitors and, what excites pilots most, new avionics products for 2012. Catch the show live online through Aero-News Network’s streaming video
- A fatal ATR-72 crash occurred on 2 April: UTAir Flight UT120 was enroute to Surgut and was attempting an emergency landing when it crashed around 1 nmi from the airport, the airline states. It is the carrier’s worst accident to date. (AWST)
Making a few waves today, a new MsFS conversion, but of the C17 transport…not a new scenery effort. This conversion is being made by Dawson Design, and you can be sure we’ll be following this one!
And here’s an interesting video of the Christchurch, NZ area in XP10 – but with all settings maxed out. If you’ve ever wanted to see what XP10 can really do while melting down your CPUs and GPUs, well, this is your video! (Thanks to lisette for the heads up!)
Now let’s check out a file or two:
dkm’s RAF Cranwell is a huge, sprawling affair, and is home to the Royal Air Force College. All RAF flight officers undergo initial training at this facility, and engineering classes are held here as well. The facility is in Lincolnshire, north of London.
The scenery package is extensive in it’s coverage, and includes academic and flight line facilities, dorms and ancillary services buildings. Ramps are well done, lighting is decent.The package is, by the by, an MsFS conversion by the UK.mil.org., and appears to be very accurate in building and textures placement.
Imaged at RAF Cranwell above, and at XPFr’s newly revised LFAE (below), the AvroLiner Project’s RJ85 gets a fresh coat of RAF Sky Grey in Clavel9′s ZE707 livery.
The daylight images below were made at ’shilova’s’ EDVK Kassel, a very nice recent GA facility.
The livery is very well done and represents a “Quiet Trader” freighter, and you’ll note the freighter variant’s cargo doorway added to the texture port side, aft. It is of course a simple texture, and not a functional upgrade.
Below, the Carenado C185 seen below is departing XPFr’s new revision at LFAE Le Tréport:
We’ve covered this airport extensively in the past, but it’s a worthwhile GA effort on the Channel, near Dieppe. And that’s about all we’ve got for you today. Fly safe, have fun, and we’ll see you very soon. C&S
Mr3D, the magician behind HMS Jackdaw, has been busily putting the finishing touches on his latest creation, and word is out now that the ACF will release mid-March…on the 15th to be more specific. I’d suggest you mark your calendars and have your credit cards ready:
This could easily turn into one of the best files of the year, with unparalleled detail and breathtaking realism just for openers.
And there’s this nifty Mil Mi-2 by “SkyTeacher” also nearing completion…
Yes…it’s going to be a very good year!
We’ve heard some pretty interesting comments concerning XP10s clouds and SkyMAXX, and some derogatory comments too, notably concerning a few of the more vibrant colors and oddball shapes. Well, to those who’ve never seen such things before, I give you these:
There are perhaps stranger looking clouds, or cloud imagery, available on the ‘net…but clouds like these are pretty far “out there” and hard to top. They are mammatocumulus clouds, and if you’re flying anywhere near these puppies…well…you might turn 180 degrees and get away as fast as you can! These clouds are associated with anvil shaped thunderstorm formations, and it’s not unusual to find microburst and windshear conditions near these babes.
Sky color comes from Rayleigh scattering and sunlight is “bent” through all colors of the spectrum, and as such at twilight and under a clear sky, the sky can and does indeed turn different colors, with red one of the most common colors on display. Sorry, but it’s true. Get out your Nikon and go shoot some!
Paolo’s latest WWI aircraft is about as iconic an aircraft as can be found from this era. Probably no aircraft used in the First World War was as noteworthy as the Sopwith Camel save perhaps for the Red Baron’s Fokker TriPlane, and a few examples survive in flying condition even today.
Paolo Matricardi’s Sopwith Camel F.1 MM F2137 was flown by Donald Roderick MacLaren, 46 Sq Royal Flying Corps, in the closing months of the war, and the ACF appears to be a faithful recreation of the original. Handling and sounds are exemplary, construction of the model and the textures applied are very well done, however you should note that this is a v9.70 file and attempting to open in XP10 crashed the program. The file is noted as XP9.7 only – but I just had to check it out!
Speed and rate of climb are “sedate”, stalls come on smoothly, and you can dive and get the aircraft up to about 140KIAS before things get too interesting, but the real pleasure with this ACF is simply in getting into the cockpit and looking around, then taxiing and taking off…
X-Plane falls short here by not delivering a real “wind in your face” experience, but spend a few hours in this old girl and you’ll see the light. Most highly recommended fun for a rainy Saturday afternoon!
Patchett has revised CYTZ | Toronto City Billy Bishop Airport to v1.6. An incremental update but one worth checking out if you’re keeping these area airports up to date.
Here’s an interesting pair of Luxair paints for the FlyJSim Dash-8 Q400: MartinR’s latest comes in “clean” and “dirty” versions. Dirty does not refer to salacious in-flight entertainment, rather a light coat of grime turning the bright white paint somewhat filthy. It looks right nice, too! A highly recommended paint even if there are no Penthouse models pole dancing back in coach…
Ah well, c’est la vie. We’ll be back in a little bit…with more news and views. Thanks for coming along, and we’ll seeya soon. C&S
Right after the New Year we spoke with Robert Arts, our amigo in The Netherlands who reported on the XP10 announcements in Lelystad last November, about contacting the chaps at McPhat concerning an interview. Robert got in touch with Leen de Jager and they talked about making this happen, and so first things first today: without their gracious help we wouldn’t be reading this! Second, Robert has worked hard to get the translations and graphics “just so” and this is demanding, time consuming work, and we thank him for making this happen too.
That said, this is a nicely structured piece and you’ll learn a lot about the ACF under development, the team behind the magic, as well as some industry information you may not have been aware of but that’s interesting nonetheless. Still, if you have any questions when done, fire away in the comments and we’ll see what develops. Now, let’s dive on in! Take it away, Robert!
One of the most promising aircraft under development for X-plane at this moment is the ATR-72-500 of McPhat Studios. We interviewed Terrence Klaverweide about this project.
xp+10+reviews: Can you give us a short introduction regarding the design process of this project?
In August 2011 we came in contact with Alfredo Torrado, who offered his services as a 3D modeler. He found out that for the release of a product there is a lot more to be done besides the 3D modeling. He didn’t want to continue with those other aspects and wanted to focus on what he likes doing most: 3D modeling only. We decided to make the ATR, which was at that time already well in it’s development cycle, a McPhat Studios product, adding our expertise in textures to their 3D expertise. This meant that the ATR was remapped and brought up to UHDT standards. At the end of November we decided to release the ATR in cooperation with Aerosoft, because it’s important to be backed up by a solid partner.
xp+10+reviews: What is UHDT?
High Definition Textures (HDT) and Ultra High Definition Textures (UHDT) aren’t generally accepted definitions. When we started approximately 4 years ago with a resolution of 4096 x 4096 instead of the common 1024 x 1024 we soon realized that larger maps don’t always give the same amount of extra detail. For instance the Super 80, which was originally made on 512 x 512 maps, was upscaled to a 2048 x 2048 resolution, but it nearly matched the level of detail of the Captain Sim 757 with 4096 x 4096 maps.
While other developers called every map -larger than 1024- High Definition, we wanted to make a distinction. So instead we decided to work with pixel per meter ratios, which is more fair to our customers. We take the length of the fuselage in pixels and divide it by the length of the fuselage in meters. This results in the pixels / meter ratio, a ratio that –technically- is not related to the size of the map, but how big the fuselage is mapped. This means could achieve the same px/m ratio we might use on a 4096 map, on a 1024 map, simply by using more of them. Simply said, mapping an A380 on a single 4096 map, gives less resolution than mapping a 172 on that same map. We make a distinction between 0-99 px/m (Normal Definition), 100-199 px/m (High Definition Textures) and 200+ px/m (Ultra High Definition Textures).
All our upscale projects, except the Super 80, were made on 4096 maps. Still the Super 80 with 253 px/m is nearly twice as detailed as the PMDG MD-11, which is drawn on 4096 maps, but has a 147 px/m resolution.
We have many returning customers for the whole range of our products. This means that many of them fly multiple add-ons. If we had simply used the term HD, there would have been no textual difference about the resolution of our products, while there is a big difference between, for instance, the MD-11 and Super 80.
In addition, the pixel per meter ratio is in the end not a decisive measure. When you don’t use all the available space to draw, why use larger maps? Larger isn’t by definition better and in our case it’s quality versus quantity. An example is the PMDG NGX, with comes out of the box with 4096 maps with 350+ pixels per meter. When you look at the screenshots below, you easily spot the differences between stock textures and our UHDT.
This attention to detail doesn’t only satisfy the pixel peeping enthusiast, because you also spot the difference from far out.
xp+10+reviews: How does the team look back at the design process, what was satisfying and what would they do different on a new project?
In every project you learn something that you can use in projects later on. Because we are relatively new to developing ‘full fledge’ projects, this is one big learning process for us. We have been active in the Flight Simulator business for four years, but this is our first total project (besides the DC-9, but Coolsky is doing the programming and it’s their product). We didn’t experience the full development cycle with the ATR, because it was finished for the most part when we stepped in, but surely we will have learned a couple of things from it, especially because X-plane was for us, in comparison with FSX, a relatively new design environment. We try to learn as much as possible from each other, but with three 3D developers on the DC-9, working in 3ds Max for FSX, and two 3D developers on the ATR, working with Blender for X-Plane, knowhow is scattered and divided between those two platforms at the moment. I can’t wait to see what happens when we bundle the expertise and move towards one platform.
xp+10+reviews: If I’m correct Juan Alçon Durán and Alfredo Torrado have started this project. What is their background and how did they meet?
Juan and Alfredo are college friends with a graphic design background. Juan made visualizations for architectural firms, like virtual tours through buildings, parks and landscapes. Because of their graphical background they are very proficient in a wider range of 3D programs, like Blender, 3DsMax and Mudbox. Their knowledge and passion goes well beyond aircraft and into 3D development in general.
xp+10+reviews: Why did they choose the ATR as their current project?
The ATR is an aircraft that isn’t made very often. Turboprops in general are overlooked in the Flight Simulator world. Big jets have more appeal (for myself as well), but they wanted to start on a smaller scale, which I applaud. But they have a certain fondness for turboprop driven commercial airliners, like the (freeware) Fokker 27 they made for X-plane.
xp+10+reviews: They continued their project at McPhat Studios, why was that?
I have partly answered this with the answer to the first question, but to be more precise there is a lot to be done for the release of a product. Besides the 3D modeling, animations, textures, sounds, flight dynamics and programming there is a lot overhead, like support, marketing and simple things like project administration. As a developer and certainly as a developer with ambitions it is impossible to do this on your own or with a small team of two. As a Lead Designer I should work on textures and direct the texture artists, but the overhead takes away half of my time: administration, updating our website and social media sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, composing and sending newsletters, writing blogs, building installers, making screenshots and videos (for our YouTube channel), etcetera. You can make the greatest product in the world, but when nobody knows about it, you’re left out in the cold. Juan and Alfredo wanted to focus on 3D development leaving the overhead tasks to others.
xp+10+reviews: Can you give us an introduction of McPhat?
McPhat Studios was started as a business four years ago next month. Before that time we operated under that name, but as freeware developers. Kevin Prak and I started McPhat, because we wanted to share our knowledge and wanted to release our products under one name. Nicolas Nastri, our Lead Designer responsible for many of our Texture Projects but now in charge of the 3D developers, joined us during the first month, since then many have joined (and many left, too). Textures are often underrated, not only by consumers, but also by developers. But in the meantime a good share of developers have outsourced their texture-development to us. Like every other firm we have a supply-chain, but in our case not persé physical suppliers but texture and 3D artists who are responsible for their share of the product. Especially with High Definition and Ultra High Definition Textures it is impossible to do it on your own. We have people who focus on only one particular task, like Dhierin Bechai who did the engine texturing for the PMDG MD-11 and 747, the Level-D 767 and the DC-9. In the end a PW4000 series remains a PW4000 series and the metal of the engine nacelles remains almost the same. It’s the same for the wings, which are made by Snorri Snorasson, who worked on the same projects. They develop their own skill that expands and develops with every project.
We have worked for and with Wilco, FeelThere, Level-D, Flight1, Coolsky, PMDG, Captain Sim and it looks like we are going to work exclusively with Aerosoft.
xp+10+reviews: This is the first X-plane project for McPhat and your first complete aircraft project. Do you have plans to continue this way?
X-plane has potential, a lot of potential. Whether X-plane has commercial potential we can only find out one way and time will tell if that will be the ‘hard way’. It’s a risk, but one we’re willing to take. Although FSX was always ‘good’ for us and is still a wonderful platform (especially graphic wise), it’s also a platform that’s fairly old and it looks like it won’t get a worthy successor. We can continue with the current interest in FSX for some time, but at some point it will decline. With our transition from ‘textures only’ to ‘full fledge developer’ it is also the right time to look at other platforms. The best, at this moment, is X-plane.
xp+10+reviews: McPhat Studios develops pay-ware liveries for FSX. That’s a non-existent market in X-plane. Do you have plans to start this also for X-plane?
Not yet. Textures is a niche market. Our maximum amount of potential customers was not based on the amount of FSX users, but ‘capped’ on the ones who bought the add-ons we developed textures for. So we ‘limited’ ourselves, yet during the years we made our lives a lot more difficult by going from 2 men Normal Definition projects to 5 men HD ones. We were totally dependent on the success of the add-on, and not Flight Simulator itself. Although we were fairly successful and have built-up a reliable name, we no longer want to be solely dependent of third parties in the future. It was a market that we created ourselves but took years to accomplish. Do we want to do this all over again for X-plane? I can’t answer that question right now. Not yet.
Besides, textures are time consuming and very underrated. One of the few who acknowledges this is Ben Supnik, who wrote in his blog of August 2011 (http://developer.x-plane.com/2011/08/x-plane-10-use-more-vertices-maybe/): “Every time I talk to a 3-d modeler, I hear the same thing: the 3-d modeling is the quickest part; UV unwrapping and texture painting takes a lot more time”.
So to continue with a concept which is a niche specialty, with a lower customer potential and for a new platform where customers don’t know this concept, isn’t very likely, especially on our HD level.
xp+10+reviews: There is a rumor that the new Boeing 757 by Ramzzess will be released with just a couple of liveries and additional livery-packs will be sold separately, do you also consider that for the ATR?
At this moment that isn’t our intention. But who knows?
xp+10+reviews: Back to the ATR project, because of the background of McPhat, is the input of the other team members their graphical skills?
The graphics are one of our most important tasks. Everybody can say “it’s the inside that counts”, but we want to see beauty. You can criticize that, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t matter, but it does. The ATR was completely remapped and retextured when we got involved. We are known for our graphics, so it was a major priority to bring the ATR up to our standards, even when it meant we had to redo a lot. That is my task, because our other team members are busy working on the DC-9. Luckily Leen de Jager assists me, because the graphical engine of X-plane still has many surprises up her sleeve.
xp+10+reviews: How do you operate: do you meet regularly or do you only use digital communications?
The major part of the communication is digital, we use therefore our web based project component and our own servers, but also the more common utilities like Dropbox. We speak to each other regularly by phone. Sometimes, if necessary, multiple times a day. Some of us meet each other, especially the Dutch team members, but also Nicolas and Alfredo, who both live in Buenos Aires. We’re sending a team of four to the X-plane developers conference in Palma de Mallorca next month.
xp+10+reviews: How deep are you going to simulate the systems of the ATR?
The ATR will be a LITE product, which means that it doesn’t get an in depth system simulation. You can’t step in and fly away, but you won’t have to spend an hour to start up all the systems. Our target customer is the casual simmer. The full feature list will be announced later.
xp+10+reviews: Will you use plug-ins for system emulating?
We’re looking into a list of plug-ins which we will be using. Luckily we’re getting some aid and behind the scenes advice from Tom Weber, who made a freeware ATR. Listing will be made public when we have more and solid information on the plug/ins.
xp+10+reviews: Does this model introduce innovative features to X-plane?
We always try to be innovative. We were the first with weathered textures and 4096 maps and we introduced HDT and UHDT. With our background we bring our graphical expertise into X-plane, which -we hope- will be a major step forward.
xp+10+reviews: Do you use the expertise of ATR pilots and technicians?
We have the luxury of having an ATR First Officer advising us.
xp+10+reviews: Will the model be released for X-plane 9, or 10, or both?
xp+10+reviews: Will Aerosoft only be the European distributor of the ATR, or are they going to serve the whole world as the sole distributor?
Aerosoft will be the exclusive distributor for the ATR.
xp+10+reviews: Why did you choose Aerosoft as your sole distributor?
We chose Aerosoft because they are very clear about X-plane in their future. Furthermore they are the biggest distributor, they gained a lot of experience in the past decades and they take over a lot of the secondary support tasks, so we can concentrate on our specialty: developing aircraft and not on time consuming overhead tasks.
xp+10+reviews: Is the price already determined?
Aerosoft will announce the price.
xp+10+reviews: It is always difficult to mark a release date. Do you have an indication of when you have completed this project?
We have an indication, but like every other developer we keep it for ourselves. But we will go into beta soon.
xp+10+reviews: Terrence, thank you very much for this interview and good luck with the finalization of this very interesting project! Leen de Jager, thank you for the help with arranging this interview. RA
And we’ll sign off now, but only after once again thanking all concerned for their time and efforts, and wishing McPhat a successful product introduction. Their ATR looks to be a solid, well conceived and executed product, and we’ll be looking forward to it’s release.
So, as always, thanks for coming along. We’ll see you again soon with more news and views! C&S
We’ve been helping Arnaud & Khamsin out with testing the T-28, as you’ll see they’ve made more innovations using Ben Russell’s Gizmo:
I tell ya, keeping the Trojan healthy and alive, all while trying to bomb the tiny jeep is a real challenge but oh so addictive. All those who have this amazing plane or are about to buy it here, are in for a treat. These features should be released soon in their next free update, within a few days or so.
I’m yet to have any issues with the ‘particles’ feature that produces the smoke and explosion, as apparently it’s experimental and may cause crashes. The only crashes I’ve had are MY fault..
So… Got your fresh copy of the Nimitz all warmed up? Ready to work on CarrQuals?
Holy guacamole! Would you look at these images!? Has XP ever looked so good?
Stunning? Amazing? Do words like these come to mind? How about: FUN!!!
This first payware effort by Khamsin & Arno is gonna be a seriously outrageous new ACF folks, but when teamed-up with Khamsin’s Nimitz? Yikes!! I reckon this is gonna be a one-two punch that’s about the most fun you’ll have had in XP in a long, long time.
As always, we’ll keep you in the loop… but still no definitive word yet on a release date.
Whoa, what a day! First those images of the A318, and now this. Sheesh…how about that warnin’ wind? Ain’t it somethin’?
You just gotta wonder what’s next!