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About this blog

A wander though the x plane looking glass.

Entries in this blog

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

First up, Apologise for letting this slide guys. When my Mother passed, many things seemed unimportant, but as life got back to normal, this blog just got forgotten about. Its a good thing Tom gave me gentle nudge :)

 

Right, With that out of the way,, its time to pick up where I left off. Now as it happens, this trip report was written just a few days before my Mother passed, so, it's a little out of date. so don't expect cool cloud shadows and such. Getting on with it then.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XPX world tour flight 2

Inverness to Keflavik

Flown 27/09/13

1215z

With the fuss of the first flight over, I was determined to get the second flight right. So on a nice early afternoon in Inverness I got 'Charlie' (yes Charlie. That's the unoriginal name that suggested itself and she's certainly seems happy with my choice) ready for the four hour plus flight to Iceland. The first thing I did was to call for the fuel truck to make sure I had enough fuel for the trip. Topped with 1000lbs of avgas, I felt a lot better for the upcoming trip. In Theory this would give me 6 hours of endurance.

My plans today involve a touch and go at Wick. Call it unfinished business. I also plan on breaking the trip with a bit of lunch at Vagnar in the Faeroe Islands. All that was to come though. With Charlie's engines running I taxied out to runway 23 and prepared to leave Scotland. The weather today is much nicer than expected with just some fluffy Clouds and a light wind to worry about. I'm hoping this stays with me for the whole trip, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

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Leaving Inverness I turn on course with Wick's VOR and settle into a cruise at 7000ft. The trip is only half an hour and the clouds cover much of my view.

 

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Every now and again I get a glimpse of the coastline off to my left. Soon enough I begin a slow descent for my touch and go at Wick. I turn onto final and perform a nice lick of the runway surface before its wheels up and a climb up to 15000ft.

 

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I want to get up as high as I can to enjoy a faster cruise. It'll be a few hours until I'll need to return to earth. With Wick disappearing behind me, I say goodbye to the mainland and start out to sea. This is where the real fun starts. Below me I overfly the various islands that make up the Shetlands. Kirkwall passes quickly and I'm off to the last Scottish waypoint. Lerwick marks the end of Scotland and I start my turn out to the west and the Faeroe's. This leg is a hour at cruise and Charlie and I settle in for the longhaul. The weather has continued to behave and fluffy white clouds sit below me. There's not much to see out this far north. An occasion island passes the window but little else. So I busy myself with instrument sweeps and checks.

 

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The hour passes and I'm soon descending towards the desolate North Atlantic Faeroe Islands, home to a big fishing industry, but little else. I'm feeling the need for a break and I'm more than pleased to see the airport off to my right. I continue downwind and Land at Vagnar. Its a surprisingly beautiful approach and in the bright sunshine I taxi to the terminal for a leg stretch and lunch.

 

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The Faeroe Islands are a place I've never been, but I so glad I landed here. The freeware xp9 scenery works perfectly. The weather however is blatantly wrong. Checking plan G as I approached the Islands, I expected 6000ft visibility and rain. Obviously XPX's weather downloads don't cover this area. Its a shame and I remind myself to install the noaa plugin to help with the weather downloads

 

I Depart Vagnar I begin the longest leg of this trip. Leaving the Faeroe's behind, it'll be a full hour and a half until I see land again. For the time being I relax and return to 15000ft. The wind has turned from a nice tailwind to a bit do a headwind and all to soon, cloud returns beneath me, though gone are the nice fluffy clouds to be replaced with near full overcast underneath. At least up here the sun is out. The weather radar paints a picture of rain below.

 

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It's not to long until my VOR sparks to life and I find myself just 160nm or so from land. Up until now I've been on a heading only, so the reassurance of a proper navigation aid lifts my mood. My happy mood doesn't last though. Shortly after passing over the coast of Iceland, my left engine unexplainable coughs and stops. With last flights fuel cock up now at the front of my mind, I quickly check the gauges. This time, there's plenty of fuel in the auxiliary tanks and I'm puzzled by the issue. I try to restart the engine with no success. I check the electronic fuel flow gauge and notice that despite the fuel pumps being on, the left pump reads 0. I assume the auxiliary pump has failed and I switch back to the main tank where I was saving a couple of Lbs just incase. I retry the engine and this time she purrs into life. With a problem on board I look for my nearest airfield only to find Keflavik to be my nearest. The engine out has also cost me height. I'm down to 9000ft, but with the left engine running, things are not to bad. The broken pump though has left precious fuel in the left auxiliary tank, and I can't use it. So for the second flight in a row, I'm watching the fuel gauges hoping to make it. There's cloud all around me and below, signs of life, sort of. Vast glaciers cut through the landscape. Its eeriest beautiful.

 

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Soon Keflavik is on the nose and I've had to switch the left engine to the right fuel tank to get me here. The needles are still perilously hovering near zero. It's all ok though and I pass over the threshold and on to Icelandic soil safe and sound. I taxi to the apron and shut Charlie down. A quick chat with a local mechanic and I find my faulty pump to be little more than a blocked fuel vent in he auxiliary tank. Its quickly fixed and the mechanic promises to give Charlie a good clean once I'm gone. It's been a long day and I'll need a long rest before I tackle the next leg to Greenland. So off to the Capitol for a Bacardi or three and a some rest.

 

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The engine failure really threw me, and I mean that in a good way. It turns out that I have' random' failures set in the failures menu. It's very lifelike given that this aircraft isn't that new and from what I've seen, faults like this happen all the time.

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

Apologies to anyone waiting for the next leg of the journey. My mother passed away this week and I've been unable to finish writing the second leg. Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon.

 

Jess

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

Date flown 24th September 2013

Time 1600z

 

 

 

So, this is it. The inaugural flight of my around the world trip. Ahead of me are 63 different flight plans. But today, here are Wales's only international airport, an excited crowd has gathered early to se me off. In reality of course the crowd are her for the food at the Wales Aero club. But I prefer to enjoy my delusion. Things don't get off to a good start though. Fog is covering the airport and it's going to be a few hours until it lifts enough for me to take off. I'm also having aircraft trouble. The Cessna C337 I planned to take has been hit with engine trouble. The rear engine has issues and take off with just the single engine is prohibited. With no mechanic available, I've been left with the Cessna C340 for the trip. The extra GPS and storms scope are more than welcome, plus the plush interior means I can manage more luggage than the C337. I return to the Wales aero club for abit of tea and sympathy.

 

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p

Weather for EGFF - EGFF 241620z 07007KT 4800 HZ SCT004 BKN006 15/14 Q1013

Weather for EGPC - EGPC 241820z 08013KT 5000 -DZ FEW004 SCT006 BKN010 10/10 Q1018

Weather for EGPE - EGPE 241820Z 00000KT 9999 FEW008 SCT023 13/12 Q1015

 

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Waiting on the GA ramp at Cardiff

It's around five by the time the fog has lifted enough for me to begin my preflight. The C340 is prepared and ready to go, but a new issue has turned up. Time. Today's flight sees me leave Cardiff for the north, heading to the Brecon VOR beacon (not in Brecon by the way) before heading though mid Wales for the Welsh border, then on to Manchester. From Manchester I head up into the Lake District passing Carlisle and the Scottish border not long after. Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness all Beckon before I reach Wick or John o Groates. The problem I have is that Wick closes at 1830z and the time has just pasted 1600z. My flight time with the C340 is expected to be around two hours and a half, and that's in clear air. So I have time to make up.

 

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Still, its time to get going and after taxiing to runway 12, I set the flaps and advance the throttles. I head off into the wild blue yonder, leaving Cardiff behind as I pass over the cliff below and out over the bay below of what affectionately known locally as Barrybados.

 

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Bye Bye

With the flaps and gear up, I bring the throttles back, adjust the prop pitch and bring the mixture back. I settle into a climb and turn towards my first waypoint. The clouds thicken around me and I head to 5000 ft to try and clear the worst of it.

 

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Ebbw Vale and the Heads of the Valleys road

 

Passing over the Welsh town of Ebbw Vale, the view clears and I get a glance of the Brecon Beacons off to my left. So far the aircraft is behaving herself nicely. There's a bit of left wing low as I took off, but as the speed picks up, she balances out and becomes a real softy to fly. Even the autopilot behaves itself despite its simplicity.

 

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Brecon Beacons To the West

 

Ok so this italics section is where you'll find the details of the add-ons I'm using away from the narrative I'm using to frame the this whole crazy trip. So what's going on With the Cessna C337? I had intended to use this brilliant aircraft from Carenado, but after the the last update to XPX to fix the memory leak with 64 bit Carenado aircraft, the C337 seems to crash in no time at all. The C340 doesn't suffer from this so it made my Aircraft choice easy.

Cardiff airport doesn't have any add on scenery although I did toy with converting some fsx freeware, but the surrounding scenery, all the way to the scots border, is Flight 1's VFR uk. The complete set is made up of 4 volumes and takes up over 300gb on my hard drive. I'm not usually a fan of vfr scenery but this looks good and marks a great start to the trip.

The Carenado C340 is a beautiful looking aircraft. It does have a tendency to roll to the left on take off it seems. But unusually as the aircraft speeds increase I find the trim has to reset to the centre. Its an interesting experience and I'm not sure that the dreaded 'torque' issue is at work here.

 

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Near Shrewsbury

 

With the Welsh countryside disappearing below, I start to worry about the amount of daylight left. The last thing I fancy is a late evening approach to the Wick. For now though I concentrate on flying. Ahead of me, more cloud is bubbling up and as pass over Shrewsbury, I decided to climb to 10'000 ft to clear the worst of it.

 

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The Dee estury in the distance

 

I needn't have worried, as I pass overhead Manchester Airport the cloud has cleared and I'm looking forward to heading into the lake district. With the British seaside resort of Blackpool off to my left I set y sights on on of the UK's most beautiful spots. With the sun starting to hang low over the Irish sea, I take in the scenery. The view is simply Breathtaking.

 

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Overhead Manchester

 

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Blackpool and the Irish Sea

So Passing into the Lake district really begins to show the Flight 1 Photo scenery off to best effect. The combination of XPX's mesh and the photoscenery is second to none, and its a beautiful sight to behold. Sadly though, As I leave the mountains, I can see where the Photo scenery ends and it's not a pretty transition.

 

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The Lake District

 

As I cross the border into Scotland, I hear the right engine cough. A quick check of the fuel gauges gives me a bit of panic. The right tank is almost empty and the left, whist being a bit more frugal, is showing next to zero. I switch the Auxiliary tanks and curse. In my rush to leave Cardiff, I forgot to check the fuel for the aircraft. With the Auxiliary tanks now supplying the engines, I realise that Wick is as far from me as ever. If time doesn't beat me, the lack of fuel might. As I push on to Edinburgh I reassess my plans and begin to think of landing elsewhere.

 

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The Weather radar pointing out showers below

The low fuel in the aircraft is a big mistake, but I'm not convinced it's just that. one of the problems of 'jumping in' to the C340 at the last moment is that I Haven't read the manuals, or more importantly I haven't looked at the performance tables. I've probably kept the mixture too high, set the prop pitch incorrectly and in an effort to race the clock, just pushed to hard at the expense of fuel economy.

 

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​Edinburgh

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Leaving Edinburgh airspace, I check the time. It's not looking good. According to my calculations, I have about an hours flight time. But Wick shuts within two minutes of my time. I push on and as I reach Perth I check again. it's 1800z and I've 40 minutes flight time left. My fuel is looking low and I call ahead for the Weather at Wick. The news isn't good. Visibility is around 6000 feet and fog and low cloud cover the airport. I sigh as I realise it's all in vain. I set course for Inverness with the knowledge that this will be my stop for the night. Inverness is clear and offers the reassurance of ILS approaches. So as I begin my descent from 10000ft I'm not to concerned at the cloud cover around the airport. I pass over the mountains below and as the sun bids farewell for the day, I join the circuit for a runway 23 approach. Ahead of me the lights of Inverness blink into view and as I turn onto final I get a quick look at the estuary that feeds into the north sea.

 

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Approaching Inverness

 

I land at 1830z, confirming I had no hope of getting to Wick tonight. So I taxi in, shut down and secure the C340. For our first flight together things have gone ok. She hasn't really spoken to me yet though. I sure once we get to know each other, I'll be able to give her a name. For now though she's just a C340. As it stands, It's time to head into Inverness in search of a bed, a glass of white wine and a nice meal. Tomorrow I'll reassess my route, making sure I take a stop at Wick before heading out in to the North Atlantic.

 

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And shut down for the night.

 

So An interesting first flight and most importantly, I learnt a few things about XPX. First I made a mistake with the weather. Having downloaded the RW weather, I switched to 'Set Weather uniformity' to view the actual weather. I forgot however to set is back until I was passing Perth, Meaning the weather I'd seen throughout the trip was not accurate. It was a stupid mistake that won't happen again. With weather in mind, I may checkout the NOAA plugin to provide weather to XPX. IT should improve the reporting of the conditions I'm flying in.

Navigation was fairly easy with most VOR's woking OK. However some were not broadcasting, whist XPX made others unavailable until I left the tile of scenery i was flying in. This should make navigating the North Atlantic tricky to say the least. It's not helped in the least by the poor GPS found in the C340. The Standard Garmin 430 is not great, but it's usable. The biggest problem though is the lack of Flight plan support. XPX is able to use .fms fligthplans, but only with aircraft with FMC's. so the 430 GPS is relegated to just a nice moving display for now. I'll dig into it but I suspect I'll need a replacement for it soon. In the meantime I'm grateful for Tim Arnot's excellent Plan-G flight planner. I planned the whole trip using this and when I'm flying it provides a view of my route, VOR frequencies and a moving map, all displayed on a second PC. For now I'm using this as my defacto GPS.

On other thing I'll touch on is scenery popping. Now many X-plane pilot will tell you that XPX is great because you don't get the 'popping' of autogen like in FSX. They're wrong. As I reached Edinbough, I could clearly see the city Autogen 'pop' as I flew over . This probably has to do with the World Detail level your running.

Finally, you'll have noticed the white clouds as I approached Inverness. These are probably due to user error. Thanks to John, who has kindly included me in the beta for the upcoming 'Skymaxx Pro' clouds add on. I'm looking forward to seeing what weather they'll provide along the way.

 

Add-ons used

 

VFR UK - flight1 and RC simulations. www.flight1.com

Plan-G flight planner. - www.tasoftware.co.uk

Carenado C340 HD - www.carenado.com

UK OSM Data - www.simheaven.com

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

It's no secret things have been a little slow around here lately. Since starting this blog at the end of June, I've been away for a much needed long vacation and on my return in early August, I found myself inundated with other Flight sim work. From a complete rebuild of my PC for an article to a month that has seen quite a few highly anticipated product releases, I've found little time to fly. And that sucks. So I think its time for a change.

 

All Change

 

Ok, so change it is. My original idea for this blog was to delve into XPX and learn as much as I could, which I could then tell you guys about. The problem is that all this tinkering is kind of boring. For example, I'm still working on the XPX tuning guide. To do this, I have set everything in the rendering options to minimum. It's not pretty, believe me. With everything set to minimum, I then adjust one item, check the frame rate and move on. This involves a shut down and restart of XPX each time to ensure a clean result. It's slow, tedious work. It's the same tinkering with the weather engine, or looking at any of the other different aspects of the sim. Whist the end result may make a few say 'wow' the truth is, that taken in isolation, these cool features mean nothing. If XPX is going to appeal to a new audience then having me explain how great the weather engine isn't necessarily sell the sim. There's just no sizzle. The best way to Sell XPX is fly.

 

Off into the Wild Blue Yonder

 

So with flying now top of the agenda, I've come up with an idea to help showcase XPX to the full. We're taking XPX on a world tour. That's right, it's time to fly around the world. At least that's the plan. Here's how it'll work. Starting on Saturday the 28th of September 2013, I'll be taking off from my home airport and flying counter clockwise around the globe. After all XPX comes with 60+gb of data, the vast majority of which I've never seen. I'll be using real world weather supplied by XPX's weather engine and hoping for a bit of fun along the way. After the flight, I'll type up a trip report complete with route details, weather and a shed load of pictures all help show off XPX. Along the way, I'll be taking in some of the best default, freeware and if funds allow, payware scenery around. This will happen every two weeks.

 

Route

 

Journey consists of 63 different flight plans grouped together in just three legs. The first leg takes me from Cardiff to Anchorage. Leg two goes on from Anchorage to the orient and into New Delhi. Leg three is the run from New Delhi into Europe and home. For now I'll publish the Leg one routes below, with more to follow

 

Leg 1 - Cardiff to Anchorage.

 

1. Cardiff to Wick

2. Wick to Keflavik

3. Keflavik to Narsarsuaq

4. Narsarsuaq to Schefferville

5. Schefferville to Baie Comeau

6. Baie Comeau to Toronto City Centre

7. Toronto City Centre to Detroit Metro

8. Detroit Metro to Hausmann

9. Hausmann to Eppley airfield

10. Eppley Airfield to Denver Int

11. Denver Int to Salt lake int

12. Salt lake int to Boise

13. Boise to Pearson airfield

14. Pearson airfield to boundary Bay

15. Boundary bay to Bella coola

16. Bella coola to Ketchikan Int

17. Ketchiken Int to skagway

18. Skagway to Beaver creek

19. Beaver creek to Lake hood Strip.

 

It's going to take me awhile to get to Anchorage but considering this will be over winter, I expect it to be a lot of fun.

 

Aircraft

 

The choice of aircraft isn't that obvious, and it won't be from any of XPX's included aircraft. Instead I've narrowed the choice down to just two made by Carenado. It's a straight shootout between the Fun and Freaky looking Cessna C337 or the more refined Cessna C340. Both are twins so I have a contingency should an engine fail over the north Atlantic. Both have pluses. THe C337 has that great high wing making scenic flying a pleasure whist the C340 offers dual GPS and a stormoscope whick could be really handy Mid Atlantic. Either way one of these great aircraft is going to be my new friend.

 

I mentioned GPS above but that will only be my back up for the trip. Being primarily a tube liner flyer, my nav skills are a little rusty. I can cope with VOR nav but in parts of the world I'm flying to, NDB's are the order of the day. I've never flown with NDB's active so I'll be hitting the books and doing a few training flights to brush up on a skill I should have learned along time ago.

 

Watch this Space.

 

So there you have it. It's time to XPX though its paces and see if the Sim is all it's cracked up to be. It'll also test me as I plan to hand fly as much as possible. So stay tuned and see how good XPX can be.

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

Ok guys, here's a quick update.

 

Since arriving back home in early August, I've been up to my eyeballs with magazine work and a few other projects that have stolen time from me. So unsurprisingly, I've not had a chance to sit and get into XPX as much as I like.

 

However, I've started looking at the tweaking guide in the last few days and its thrown up a few surprises already. It will be a while until its ready though.

 

In the meantime, I'll be looking at multiplayer for XPX, and as such, this weekend I'll be hosting a live session. If you'd like to join me, let me know. I expect the session to be around 16.00utc this Saturday.

 

So expect some new stuff to be posted soon, and don't forget about the imminent release of the Saab 340. It's gng to be great.

 

Best wishes,

Jess B

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

Hey guys and a big hello from Vienna, Austria.

 

I'm currently on vacation, enjoying some time off from work and probably eating a bit too much. I'm also away from my flight sim rig, but that doesn't mean I'm not shopping for add ons, or thinking of future blog posts once I get home.

 

When it comes to add ons, Vienna has surprised me. At home in the UK just buying a PC game from any high street shop is difficult. Finding an fsx add on in said shops is almost impossible and finding an x plane add on is the stuff of myth and legend. Here on the continent, things are much different. Shops like Saturn and Mediamarkt are everywhere and their PC games sections are huge. It's also very clear that sims are huge here, with boxed versions of flight sims, bus sims, train sims and more taking up more than a bit of space on the shelf. There's no shortage of boxed XPX add ons either. Almost all of Aerosoft's XPX boxed titles are available somewhere in the city. For XPX its great news and I'm giving serious consideration to moving here because of the great number of options for sims in general. Lol

 

Moving away from XPX boxes, I'm also thinking of a few new posts for this blog. The first of which is a look at XPX's rendering options, their impact on fps and finding a balance for smooth flight. So expect a post some time in August that looks at tweaking the sim, since even though XPX involves less tweaking than brand 'X', simmers are natural potchers (A Welsh term for a person who tinkers).

 

Next up would be online flying. Now I thought I'd look at this in two parts. First, Vatsim and IVAO. I've not tried flying online with XPX yet and I'm curious how well it all works, so it seems like a good idea to take a look.

 

Then I thought I'd look at the wonderful world of multiplayer. I fly with several friends regularly in fsx and I'd wager that most XPX pilots were unaware that x plane even has a multiplayer option. So at some point I'll be hosting a session and asking for people to connect to try out XPX's multiplayer system, as well as connecting to a session hosted elsewhere. If your interested in joining me online for this test, drop me a line here at avsim.

 

 

So that's all planned for when I get home. I'm off out for a bite to eat and a bit of shopping. Catch you guys again.

 

Best wishes,

Jess B

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

So, after the heavy weather first post, I thought I'd lighten things up a bit and take a look for a few goodies to get your XPX experience up and running, for nothing. Freeware has been the lifeblood of our hobby since the first guys discovered they could change the sim to be more accurate. It was freeware that allowed me to try new aircraft as a young 13 year old. Because at that age, money isn't a thing you have control of. So freeware is essential in bringing in new blood to our hobby. It's also a great way for people to learn a new skill. I've been learning to use sketchup to design 3D buildings for sim scenery, I've also been playing with X Plane's WED or world editor to improve the look of the sim. Its an addictive and fun part of our hobby that I didn't think I'd get.

 

Anyway, with the Internet, freeware is everywhere. I've picked some of my favourites for now. So lets take a look at XPX's top freeware scenery packages.

 

Aerobridge's Meigs Field

 

Oh the memories. Many, many sim pilots will have fond memories of flying from Meigs field. The airport was smack in the heart of Chicago and I spent many an hour doing touch and GOP's in a Cessna. In real life of course, Meigs field was destroyed overnight by the then mayor of Chicago and all we're left with now are memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fortunately, we get to enjoy the old girl here thanks to Aerobridge. This is no ordinary freeware airport. There's 3D volumetric grass, custom textures and even the surrounding shore front gets a makeover. It's all surprisingly top quality stuff. If you like this scenery (and why wouldn't you) you can also pick up LJPZ Portoroz in Slovenia and in the pipeline is Key West international which will be their first payware airport.

 

You'll find Meigs field over at www.x-pilot.com.

 

Aeroworx Capetown.

South Africa isn't a place I've ever thought to visit. Which is shame as the landscape in South Africa can be very Dramatic. So When I spotted Cape Town in AVSIM's very own File library, I thought I'd take a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FACT is ideally placed for a bit of Sight seeing, with both Cape Town itself and the surrounding mountains making for some fascinating flying. The Airport scenery itself isn't fantastic, but its a good representation in general. The addition of a few static planes would help and its easily done with WED. Although the airport isn't up there with the more modern offerings found here (This airport dates from 2008 Apparently) its still worth a look in my opinion and like everything here, its free.

 

find it in Avsim's File Library.

 

 

Sim heaven's Vienna photoscenery

 

Photoscenery is a big thing for XPX. Seriously, the file size for this area is 5.5gb expanding to over 8gb once you've unzipped it. But oh boy, what a scenery. I chose Vienna for several reasons. One of these is that I love Vienna, so much so that by the time you've read this blog post, I'll be there for a well earned break. But the main reason I chose Vienna is that the open street map or osm data is almost complete. so expect plenty of buildings. The scenery itself is photo scenery with a zoom level of 17 (pretty big hence the 5.5gb size.) so it looks great even at fairly low levels. Best of all, there are hundreds of free sceneries covering major cities, to countries to whole continents, although the main photo sceneries are limited to cities only. It's a great website and should be on every XPX pilots bookmark bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Check out simheaven.com for some of the best osm and photoscenery around. All for free.

 

Truscenery's Rantasalmi Airport + Photoscenery (EFRN)

 

Truscenery are the new guys on the block when it comes to XPX scenery, but they've hit the ground running with fantastic payware airports like Tampere-Pikkara airport. But if you feel like dipping a toe in the Truscenery waters, then this freeware airport gives you a great taste of things to come. The airport features photoscenery under the fantastic buildings and it. Looks stunning. It's a great freeware airport for Finland. While you're downloading this airport, be sure to pick up their Finland 1.2 OSM pack which offers you the whole of Finland in osm data. Also get the free Helsinki photoscenery pack and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Find all these great files at

www.truscenery.com.

 

Madeira Airport - LPMA

 

This ones a must. Often referred to as one of the worlds most dangerous airports, Madeira airport still offers pilots a challenge despite an increased runway length by way of a elevated section at the end of one runway. This package is made up of three parts. The first is the airport itself, whist the second is a complete pack of custom objects for the whole island. The third is available from the airport PDF file and its photoscenery to cover whole island. All three are needed or the airport will not sit properly on the terrain.

 

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With all three packs installed, you'll get to see a real stunner of a freeware airport. The photoscenery is great, the airport buildings themselves are well made and every here and there you'll find a few hidden items that come together to give the whole place a 'real airport' feel. From static aircraft, baggage carts and even a few busses stored next to the terminal, the whole thing really deserves to been seen. A bit of polish and pay ware would beckon for this great airport.

 

Pick it up at xpfr.org for this and many other sceneries and aircraft.

 

CYYZ and CYTZ airports Toronto by Chris K

 

Ok, heads up people. Socks prepare to be blown off. Toronto, Canada's most populated city has has a XPX makeover. Firstly, download CYTZ Toronto island airport and take a look. This is a fantastic start. The island airport is home to Porter, Air Canada and few others who serve the city centre's business district. It's rendered in great detail and with the addition of Jacques Brault's Toronto Skyline add on, the city comes to life.

 

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Now add into the mix Chris K's Toronto international, currently in beta at version 0.99. It's not perfect, but it adds to the whole cityscape and now you've got one of XPX's best looking cities, for free.

 

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All of these are available from x-plane.org or x-pilot.com

 

AlpilotX's New Zealand

 

I've left the best for last. This is an absolute must have for everyone. Made from the actual satellite data provided by the New Zealand government for free, this scenery features both the north and South Islands to play in along with a complete set of custom buildings and overlays to help New Zealand stand out from the default. Andreas (a.k.a. Alpilotx) has done a fantastic job here producing a whole region for us to explore, all for free. Check out his site and you'll see he's also been producing improved HD meshes for Europe and the us along with several other add ons, all for free. It's well worth a visit.

 

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Check out www.alpilotx.net. And be prepared to enjoy XPX like never before.

 

Non optional extra's

 

So those are some of the best free sceneries XPX has to offer right now. But what the hell do you do with them once you've downloaded them? You'll need a few things. An essential is Opensceneryx available from opensceneryx.com. It's a package of free scenery objects that most freeware packages use to expand on XPX's default Library. It's updated every so often as well.

 

Tweaking things up.

 

Whilst installing scenery in XPX is simple. (Just copy the files to your custom scenery folder). You'll find that a little tweaking may be needed to ensure everything plays nicely. In your custom scenery folder,you'll find a file called scenery.ini. Open this up and you'll find all your custom scenery is listed here. There's a certain order it needs to be in though custom airports should go on to, then osm data downloads, then your photoscenery. This way everything's meshes together and you don't get problems.

 

 

So that's it for this post. If you guys have any suggestions for freeware flies for me to look at, let me know. The next freeware post will be on aircraft, so stay tuned.

Jessica Bannister-Pearce

Hello, and welcome to my first blog post here on avsim. For those who don't know me or who haven't read my profile, my name is Jessica Bannister-Pearce, although most people call me Jess. I'm a regular contributor to PC pilot magazine and a flight sim nut. I've used most sims gang back to the 1980's and the zx spectrum. However, I'll say I'm not an expert, mostly because there's always something new to learn or skill to master. And that's how I feel about X-Plane 10. I'm not new to x-plane. I remember having x-plane 6 many years ago. It was kind of flat and for a teenage me, difficult to get into. That reputation of being difficult to get into has stuck around ever since. To be fair, much of the advertising blurb over the years has made much of X-plane's aerospace heritage, its use as a tool for budding aircraft designers and its unique desktop virtual wind tunnel, Blade Element Theory or B.E.T. For some simmers, that overload of what look like professional features was frightening and the were better off sticking with MSFS.

 

It's all a bunch hooey though. X-Plane is just like any other sim. But myths about X-Plane persist and if the number of 'x versus y' debates around here, these myths cause more trouble that they're worth. So I thought, for this first post, I'd try and debunk a few of these myths, explain some of X-Plane's features and own up to some of its failings.

 

This will probably be one of the few posts here that will reference other sims alongside XPX. I'm not a fan of needless comparisons. They're unhelpful in many ways because no to simmers are looking for the same things. It's also because I believe XPX should stand or fall on its own merits. There'll be no sly digs at the competition, and I ask those who leave comments to do the same.

 

So with the introductions over with, let's get on with the fun stuff.

 

Through the looking glass.

 

In the last few months, the X-plane forums here on avsim have seen a steady trickle of fsx users taking a look at X-plane. That's great. I'm sure I'm not alone in trying every sim that comes out, so its great to see people taking a good look at XPX. I first saw XPX way back in November 2011 in Lelystad, in the Netherlands. X-Plane grand wizard, Austin Meyer was demoing along with Aerosoft. At the time, the version we saw had only been compiled a week before the show. Still, the sight of KSEA all lit up at night was something to see. I got my copy of XPX as a valentines gift and I've been plugging away at it ever since.

 

Despite owning X-plane 9, XPX was still very different from fsx. There was no start up screen just to begin with. In fairness, Laminar research listened to feedback and introduced a new start screen for those who wanted it. Since then, XPX has been gathering pace. So with this in mind, Its time to spell out XPX for everyone.

 

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At least someone's listening when it comes to start buttons.

 

Lies, Damn Lies and X-Plane Facts

 

The UI is difficult to get into.

 

I thought I'd start here because it's the first thing a new user will encounter. This is a really big myth. As mentioned above, users have the option of using the new splash screen to select everything from airport, weather, aircraft and time of day. It's all nice, big and friendly. Inside the sim, the menu is simple enough once you're comfortable with it. Part of the menu's problem is that its written by an engineer. Engineers use different language than normal people. A good example is displaying frame rates. Whist fsx users just use shift+z, XPX hides this option away in the attractively titled 'data inputs and outputs menu' it's not immediately clear that this menu holds the fps counter, nor is it easy to see in the plethora of click spots inside the menu. You could argue that XPX suffers from 'to much information' in this regard.

 

Whilst the menu system may be written in engineerese, once you get up use to it, it becomes as easy to navigate as any other set of menus.

 

 

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Like many dogs, The Menu's bark is worse than its bite.

 

Yeah, well calibrating joysticks is hard.

 

Actually, calibrating joysticks in XPX is very easy. Any new user will be presented with a 'calibration' message on their first use. Simply move every joystick around and you've calibrated everything. All you need to do then is go to the 'joystick and settings' menu and assign the right axis to the right control. The menu isn't as friendly as it could be, but its not difficult to calibrate and assign a joystick here. If anything I'd say XPX's joystick window is much easier to work with that using fsx's joystick calibration window. Every joystick axis is there on one screen. Simply move an axis and note the corresponding axis on the screen. It's that simple. No two hours and it still wouldn't work.

 

 

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Setting up your joysticks is easy, if not terribly friendly looking.

 

Assigning buttons is also fairly easy. Select the button menu, press a button and choose the click box that corresponds to the control you want to use. Again its not as friendly as it could be. I'd say its functional. But it's certainly it difficult to get. Even the advanced settings are easy to get the hang of.

 

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Button, Button. Buttons are easy to see even if its written in Engineerese

 

 

It's not very stable. It's always in beta.

 

This is a good one, because its sort of true, but not. One of the great things about XPX is that laminar research is constantly working on the sim. It's fair to say that most of the reason for this is due to LR being a very small team. Around 5 people I believe. This means improvement and bug fixes have to take a tiered approach. So things from autogen or AI improvements are done in stages with serious bug fixes taking priority. This leads to beta's being released and the idea that XPX is never out of beta. In truth, every beta is optional. XPX comes in stages from 10.0 to 10.10 to the current 10.21. These are all stable releases and are available to all users and developers. In between these there are beta's. some are bug fixes that are released, tested and if they work, rolled into the next stable release. Some are improvements, like the recent 10.20 beta that brought us XPX 64 bit. Again, things are tried and if they work, a stable release is sent out to us all. Beta's are optional and do not form an integral part of XPX usage. In this respect its no different that when Microsoft released sp1 and sp2 for fsx. There's just more going on.

 

Fine, but all the airports are missing buildings.

 

This is true and one of the major letdowns for new users. If you've downloaded the demo and enjoyed KSEA its no wonder they get annoyed. Again this comes down to LR's small team there are over 30000 airfields in XPX and its implausible to expect 5 people to even make a dent in that number. Remember, Microsoft had a team of over a hundred and a back catalogue of airports completed that they could convert for use in a new sim. Even in fsx though there are airfields that are bare.

 

Things are never what they seem though. LR may be small, but they think quickly on they're feet. XPX has a companion app called world editor, or WED. it's a free app that can be downloaded from LR to help design airports easily. It's still a work in progress, but WED 1.2 now offers a simple way to build an airport either from scratch, or more interestingly, add buildings to XPX with objects from the XPX Library. So if you want to add a few buildings to an airfield you can. But that's not the best part. In the latest release you can now submit a finished airport to LR who will check it, and if its good (doesn't cause errors on other systems) it will be added to the database and come the next release, distributed to everyone. In theory that could result in thousands of airports being built and redistributed to everyone, filling the world quite nicely. This crowd sourcing is a brilliant idea.

 

 

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Here's one I prepared earlier. It took less than 10 minutes. The houses aren't mine though

:)

 

What about flight models? I've heard it's rubbish. No it isn't, its more realistic (and queue a flamefest)

 

It's the elephant in the room this subject. And I have this to say about it. No PC flight model is 100% accurate. Even the huge level D simulators pilots train in cant model everything correctly. The simple fact is that a simulated aircraft will only be as good as the data used to produce it. The old adage of 'garbage in, garbage out' holds true. So moving on.

 

Doesn't matter anyway. There are no good 3rd party aircraft coming anyway.

 

It's true that 3rd party developers are thin on the ground compared to msfs developers. However, with msfs having been with us since the late 70's/early 80's, you could say its had a while to develop its developers.

 

 

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The JRollon CRJ-200 was the first of many High quality add-ons for XPX

 

For XPX though, things have change and moved on. One of the big moves was Aerosoft's support for XPX as a simming platform. Aerosoft is Europe's biggest publisher of flight sim add-ons and having them on board has opened doors and broadened X-Plane's presence no end. Aerosoft have also allowed XPX developers to have a great platform to sell on. Speaking of developers. We've got Carenado, Jrollon, Ramzzess, FlyJsims, Truscenery, Just Flight and even PMDG now making high quality add-ons for XPX. And like many developers before them, their stretching the base sim and finding improvements that LR haven't found.

 

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Carenado's C337 is Even better than it's FSX counterpart.

 

No Rose Tinted Specs.

 

So those are the common XPX complaints, and hopefully I've debunked a few. However I said I'd deal with its faults just as much as its myths. The truth is, XPX has bugs, flaws and errors. I'm not going to shy away from them because if your looking to try XPX yourself, its better to go in 'eyes wide open'.

 

Plausible Deniability

So first up is the whole 'Plausible scenery' thing. It hasn't worked. Simmers like myself enjoy more than just the Flight model. Eye candy is a big part of simming for lots of people and XPX kind of missed the boat with the 'Plausible' idea. As with flight models, the autogen scenery is only as good as the data provided. XPX's scenery is based on Open Street maps, or OSM data. OSM is an open source mapping project that anyone can add to. The idea is that you take the road networks, forest boundaries and such and produce a map much like a road atlas. Then users can look at their area and add the various buildings to fill in the 'blanks' as it were. Its a great project with individual users or indeed local governments using the service to fill in whole cities. Europe itself is very well covered with accurate building placement for many cities. Here XPX can excel at placing objects to resemble real life. I on the other hand, live out in the sticks where osm data is scarce. This leaves XPX to 'guess' where to place the autogen. The result is houses where none should be and no houses where some should be. Then there's problems with water. OSM is a little iffy with water. Try following the Danube river from its source and you'll find it disappears in many area's. Now a new recut is coming of the OSM data and it should update the base scenery to be more accurate. All is not lost of course. Since OSM data is Free to all, many have created special OSM maps for XPX to read fill area's much more accurately. check out www.simheaven.com to find soem great freeware scenery.

 

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OSM Data can help smooth out the plausible world into something more recognisable

 

 

Weather.

 

XPX's weather is actually very good. It's only let down in three areas. Clouds, fog and Winds.

The Clouds are actually a very good idea. When XPX generates clouds, it takes a certain number of small 'puffs' to create 3D clouds that can look stunning. The downside to this though is the strain on the system. the clouds are very FPS intensive and for most it's not possible to run them at 100%. For myself running over three screens, clouds are a no go area, even at 10%. I can cope with 100% on a single screen. Even then, Climbing above the cloud I find my FPS lower than below the cloud base. They can also look kind of samey. In overcast conditions they look great, there's no different kinds of cloud. The cloud system desperately needs an overhaul.

 

 

 

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Clouds can look beautiful, but at a cost.

 

From Clouds to Fog and low visibility settings. At the moment, there's a very hard line where your visibility sits. If you've got 800 meter visibility, at the 800 meter mark, X plane will show a thick curtain of grey. There's no gradual visibility loss, more of an 'on/off' switch. Fortunately, I believe a fix is in the pipeline.

 

Last is the wind or the effect the wind has on aircraft. In certain conditions, Aircraft will 'Weather Vane' into the oncoming wind making ground control almost impossible.. Its an overdone effect that's being worked upon. Nonetheless, it's annoying when you're trying to taxi out to the runway.

 

Seasons

 

Another bone of contention with many is the lack of season. Again a fix is being worked on and hopefully seasons will be here sometime this year.

 

High altitude blur.

 

This is a really annoying one. Climb past 18000 feet and X-plane begins to blur the horizon to help maintain performance and save memory space. It's an old trick that was needed back in the 32bit days. With 64 bit now in charge, this blurry nonsense has it's days numbered. There's a great 3rd party a that removes this limitation but if you wait, LR have announced that a free fix is inbound.

 

Torque Steer

 

A biggie and one of the most talked about. the effect of engine torque on an aircraft is a little over done, but being refined and worked on, with a few users reporting great improvements since 10.21. Personally, I'm not too concerned about it, given that aircraft developers can work around this in Plane maker.

 

A.I. Traffic

 

XPX default isn't great but there's at least on 3rd party program, World Traffic, that promises to give XPX an Ultimate traffic 2 style traffic add on. ITs still a work in progress but you can check out the demo at http://www.classicjetsims.com/WorldTraffic/

 

ATC.

 

Buggy and a bit thin on features. Expect 3rd parties to improve this soon.

 

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XPX newcomers TruScenery have hit the ground running.And this is just their Freeware stuff

 

 

It's Not all Bad, Right?

 

It would have been very strange if I'd have left this first post there don't you think? XPX is more than these few bugs. so looking on the Brightside we have this.

 

HDR Lighting.

 

A Thing of Beauty is a joy forever and XPX's night time environment is as beautiful as they come. Whist HDR lighting engines have been with us in games for a while, In flight sims they're still kind of new. So how does this feature differ from the norm. With traditional scenery, night time lighting was achieved by basically drawing an impression of light on a scenery texture. Its time consuming and it means that you have double the amount of textures to produce, if not more. Where HDR lighting makes the difference is that you only need a single set of textures for any item. So come evening, a building underneath a light will be lit from that light, on the fly. It works by basically looking for a specified light source. A street lamp, car headlight, aircraft strobes and building lights are all designated light sources, given a set amount of parameters (Light size, strength and so on.) And the HDR engine computes it and renders it on the fly. The result is some of the most realistic night lighting you'll find in a sim.

It's not free of course, with HDR Lighting being around 20% heavier on FPS on average than without. It's also not the prettiest thing in the daytime with AA settings not really smoothing things out as well as standard. But come night time, it's something else.

 

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XPX's most enchanting feature. Like me you'll welcome the night.

64 Bit

 

Ah, the holy grail of Flight simming. With the update from LR to 64 bit, XPX has now the potential to fly past the 4gb limit of 32-bit programs so users will never see the dreaded OOM message ever again. BTW it's possible to OOM in XPX 32-bit as well. But in general terms, for me at least, 64-bit isn't such a big deal. Sure the 4gb limit is gone and XPX can now really use my 16b of ram and the 4gb of Video ram to. But you won't see a significant rise in FPS. You're actually more likely to see a drop. 64 bit means that scenery can be more complex, textures bigger and systems depth even deeper, safe with the knowledge that memory is near infinite (It isn't But I don't think we'll be hitting the 192gb limit of windows ultimate just yet). But if memory is almost unending, CPU and GPU cycles are not. with all that extra to drag around, we could see slowdowns. Fortunately, we won't see those kinds of issue for a few years, so heavy metal pilots can rest assured that the 12 hour flight they took off in yesterday will reach the runway today.

 

 

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You may not get a performance boost, but scenery like this won't bring on the dreaded OOM!

 

Multi Platform

 

Ok, not a huge plus if you just run one OS, but it has an unexpected bonus. XPX is very antisocial with operating systems. It's kind of like the weird guy at the party who doesn't speak to anyone. Instead, XPX can sit on a hard drive, and if you want to move it to another hard drive, you can. It's all because XPX doesn't add itself to the windows registry, so you can copy your install to an external HDD and run it on any computer you wish. This is all due to its multi platform approach.

 

 

 

 

 

OK, What next?

 

So there you have it. XPX for the uninitiated or the curious. Don't let the faults I've listed put you off. With LR and a number of 3rd parties peeling back XPX's outer shell to reveal its source, the future is actually bright. The truth is, for XPX to succeed, it just needs time. FSX has had seven years to reach where it is today. 3PD's have had time to work out FSX's faults and find workarounds to keep the old girl running. XPX has had just around 19 months. In that time though, its moved to a new 64 bit platform, had various improvements to the HDR settings (An XPX strong point) and more importantly, seen many new users find the sim. There are improvements coming and that's just from LR themselves. XPX isn't the future. It's here now, so give it a try.

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