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MY REAL C-130 FLIGHT SIMULATOR EXPERIENCE!!!

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I never expected any monetary reward for the scenery designs I have recently released. I am just so glad I am able to share them with others!But I also never expected some of the other rewards I have received either! I recently got the experience of a lifetime!!! I was given a first class tour of a real Lockheed C-130 Hercules Flight Simulator facility located on the Dobbins Air Reserve Base just northwest of Atlanta GA! And WOW!!!! That was one heck of a fantastic experience!I have to thank Clifford Lord, one of the Flight Engineer Instructors at the Flight Simulator, for inviting me and giving me a first class tour of the facility and the Dobbins Air Base. But not only did I get a tour, I got the chance to take the pilot's seat in a C-130 Simulator! I actually got to taxi it from parking at Dobbins out onto the runway and take off! I flew it for about 20 minutes! I was about to enter the approach pattern when I had to give it up to another class coming in!I wanted to share some of that experience with you! First, the simulator was located in a huge 3-story room and took up most of the room. They actually have several simulators for various aircraft in various parts of the building. From the exterior, the Simulator looks like a huge rounded box sitting up on a bunch of hydraulic pumps. Those pumps move the simulator around while you are flying to simulate the movements both on the ground and in the air.Once I got into the simulator, one thing that stuck out immediately: The controls are MUCH more difficult to move and maintain than the FS2K2 keyboard or joystick controls would indicate. Even with hydralic assist, it takes a fair amount of strength to make turns or even to push/pull the pedals or yoke (steering wheel).Unlike with small aircraft, not only do you not use the yoke for taxing, you don't even use the pedals either. There is a rather small wheel approximately 4 inches in diameter down by your left knee that is used to steer the front wheels while on the ground. The pedals have no real effect until you reach at least 80-90 knots!There were VERY few taxiway/runway markings--almost none at all. The only ones I saw were single large numbers such as "2" or "7" to indicate 2000' or 7000' runway remaining. As we taxied out, we did not take the time to go all the way to the end of the runway. We entered the runway at approximate the two thirds position and turned west with approximately 7000' remaining.After just a few moments of using the little wheel, I found that it was actually pretty easy to operate when taxing at slow speeds. But during the take-off roll it very quickly became EXTREMELY difficult to keep the plane headed straight down the runway! I ended up drifting quite a bit back and forth between the right and left edges of an extremely wide runway. The faster we got, the more difficult it became. I was NOT prepared for that at all! In fact, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, I ended up taking off with my wheels in the grass! But once you lifted off, it was extremely smooth! You got a clear sensation that you had a lot of power under you!As I had expected with a large aircraft, controls were extremely sluggish. There was a fair delay between the time you turn the yoke and the time the plane actually started turning. But only somewhat like in FS2K2, when you straighten the yoke, you continue the turn. To come out of a turn you have to turn the yoke pretty sharply in the opposite direction.As you can also imagine, there were FAR more gauges on the various instrument panels than you see in FS2K2. Yet most of the gauges looked and acted almost 100% exactly like you would see on an FS2K2 aircraft panel! It was amazing just how well the FS2K2 gauges are modeled after the real thing (at least as they are depicted on this C-130 simulator).Nearly all of the gauges appeared to be the real thing with real dials behind glass faces and such. But I also found it interesting that the HSI appeared to be a picture projected from the rear onto the back of a flat screen (not like on a TV or computer monitor type of screen). So the HSI actually looked a bit more like we see in the FS2K2 than you probably would see in a real C-130.But the real kicker was, as again you might imagine, there was a nearly 180 degree view outside--almost wing tip to wing tip. The vertical view was FAR more extensive than would be indicated on our PC monitors. I could clearly see upward and downward directions to a FAR better extent than can be displayed on even my 17" monitor.And the view was almost continuous. If you really looked closely, you could see that the images were sectional--combined views. But the transistions were extremely smooth from one to the other and it was really not particularly noticeable at all. That range of view alone actually made the simulator MUCH easier to taxi and fly than I have experienced in FS2K2.And you felt like you were sitting MUCH higher off the ground than it appears in FS2K2. More importantly, the view was eerily very 3-dimensional! Even in the air I had VERY strong feelings that there was a lot of distance between me and the ground. You truly felt you were looking out from a real cockpit!On the flip side, neither the ground details nor even the clouds were anywhere near as complete as you would find in FS2K2. Yet of those that were present they were extremely realistic--far more realistic than in FS2K2. There was just a MUCH smaller percentage of those kinds of details!As an example, the texture of the runway and the lines separating the individual square concrete panels were unbelievably realistic! Yet there were no trees--or what few you saw on the ground looked more like a flat carboard representation much like that way back in the early 1980's version of the T-80 FS-1!Probably the one greatest surprise--I still can't get over the depth of field factor--it was extremely 3-dimensional! I am very jealous of just how much difference that made in whole experience!Cliff, the gentleman who gave me the tour, said they were actually a bit jealous that the facility database of the C-130 Simulator was not anywhere near as complete as that found if FS2K2. In fact I think he said that the number of airports depicted is only something like 18 to 20! That certainly does not compare anywhere close to the tens of thousands of airfields in the FS2K2 database!There were almost no buildings to be seen--certainly not anywhere near like you would expect from FS2K2. There certainly was no Atlanta Skyline that I could see out there in the distance. And there were absolutely no other aircraft depicted anywhere--very lonely--much like it used to be before the addition of FS2K2's AI Aircraft that we have all come to expect and even take for granted to the point of complaining about!From the air, the ground details were extremely sparse--about like it used to be in FS98 or even far before. But again, what details were there were extremely realistic--far more so than in FS2K2. Even with the limited number of details, the feeling of depth was so realistic, that easily made up for a lack in the number of details.Overall, the experience was truly mind-blowing! You really and truly felt you were flying. In fact, while we were getting ready to enter the approach pattern, and even though I knew intellectually that the next class was coming in, I felt a very strong moment of extreme concern as to whether I could just take my hands off the controls and get up. I had a real sinking feeling that if I did not maintain control we might go into a dive and crash!!!! :)While visiting other parts of Dobbins, I also got the opportunity to take a few digital images of some areas of the base. Unfortunately, again as you might expect, the images I got were really too spotty and most from far too great of a distance to really be of much use in designing scenery. I was not allowed out on the tarmac so I could not get any shots at all of the sides of the buildings facing the runway. The only way I really could have done that would have been with a telephoto lens from the opposit side of the field. Sorry, no telephoto lenses. :)Security was pretty tight as it was and I am sure that the events of a year ago have raised that even higher. The entry to the base was like driving a maze to go around the several levels of concrete bunkers. Of course, in light of recent events, it is certainly understandable but no less disappointing.I sure would not want to do anything which might could put our nation's security in jeopardy, yet at that same time, I would love to have put together an excellent scenery upgrade for Dobbins. The bottom line is that I am afraid that is just not going to be possible with the limited amount of images I was able to get. Maybe on some future date, I can go back with someone else and get some additional images. Who knows????And to answer one of the obvious questions I have heard discussed on the forums: Given my experience with FS2K2 and even now with this C-130 Simulator, do I feel I could fly a real C-130? Hmmmm... I guess the answer is both Yes and No. I do feel I could do a fair amount of basic flying with a fair amount of confidence. If I was real lucky in excellent weather, I MIGHT even be able to get off the ground without doing major damage. With my FS2K2 experience, I actually felt a bit more confident with it than I expected!But from this experience, I also clearly realize that I could really get the aircraft and myself into some very dangerous situations VERY QUICKLY! It would clearly not be a toy or video game type of experience. It is VERY obvious to me that there is an awful lot that I would need to know before I could even begin an attempt to do that and considerable advance training would clearly be a absolute necessity!But it sure was a LOT of fun!!!!! Hope you have enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed doing it!And again, THANK YOU CLIFF, for making this wonderful opportunity a reality!Happy Flying!Bill MolonyAtlanta GA USAUnder the 27L Approach to KATL--the busiest airport in the world :)

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Dear Bill,First, I want to tell you how much I, and I am sure others, have enjoyed your Atlanta scenery -- it's fantastic, and please continue to do your scenery upgrades. I can't imagine what you will do next but I am positive that it will be worth waiting for.I smiled as I read your comparision between the FS 130 and the 'real' simulator. some things are very much the same and some are totally different. That is why, perhaps, some of us go to great extremes and amounts of money on items such as PFC yokes and throttles . . . if you've flown the real thing, the CH plastic yokes and such just don't give the same feeling or resistance.An honest man will tell that he knew he was somewhat over his head from the beginning . . . I admire your words, and yes, the nose wheel tillers can get you into trouble in a heartbeat if you taxi too fast and are not smooth. The transition from tiller to rudder is an accomplished art! .Being an ex Buff pilot, I would love to once again sit in an uprated example of the 52 simulator, and see the differences between my time and present day. Back in my time they were most accurate at giving us the bad habits of the aircraft -- and I cannot stress enough simulator time of new pilots in those aircraft. That, of course, is why they have those simulators for in the first place. Its much easier to bend a wing on a sim than the real bird.As for the 3D depth of field, well, that is perhaps why some of us have spent so much money on multipul monitors and the getting the FSWide program dialed in . . . but it still is not as good as a full motion sim for a particular model. And the new full motion simulators are soooo good!Anyway, wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your post . . . keep up your great work and I hope you get another shot at the simulator . . .you'll find the approach and landings are a wee bit different than FS also . . . in truth, I found them so much easier, but then again, I had the luxury of flying the real things and not just FS. But, for those of us who can no longer fly, FS is a great link to connect the dots.Best to you and yours,Clayton T. DopkeMajor, USAF (retired)"Drac"B52Drivr@aol.com

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Hi Clayton!Thanks for the kind words!Yes, it was indeed a real eye-opening experience! :)Happy Flying!Bill MolonyAtlanta GA USAUnder the 27L Approach to KATL--the busiest airport in the world :)

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Hi. Thanks for your excellent article. It was most enlightening. The "pumps" you mentioned were actually hydraulic actuators that are controlled via electrohydraulic servovalves that direct the hydraulic pressure and flow to the actuators. The servovalves are controlled via a servocontroller which gets an electical input that tells where to pitch, yaw or roll the cockpit. Each actuator has a feedback position transducer of some kind to tell the actuator position. The servocontolled system works in a closed loop mode to control the actuator positions with reference to the actual command from the master simulator computer. Boeing and many other moving simulators use this technique also. Thanks for your GREAT scenery too.

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Yep, that's what I meant to say ! :)But you said it so much better !!!! :)Happy Flying!Bill MolonyAtlanta GA USAUnder the 27L Approach to KATL--the busiest airport in the world :)

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Please don't think I was being picky. I am an engineer working with aerospace hydraulic servoactuators all the time. By the way I used to work for Lockheed at Marietta (Dobbins) on the C-130 Flight Control Iron Bird and the C-130 fuel system test rig in the mid 50's. They were working on the B-47 mods then too. It was GREAT to see the C-130's and B-47's takeoff from Dobbins. The JATO takeoffs were awesome. Thanks for your GREAT article. Regards, Bob.

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I meant no offense. Was just a feeble attempt at humor that does not always come across very well in written text.I am definitely no engineer! I can't even figure out what is going on under the hood of my car! I'm one of those who just raises the hood and scratches his head like he kinda knows something but is really just trying not to look too dumb! :)So I definitely appreciate your description but I'm afraid it just goes in one side and right out the other without even slowing down :)Happy Flying!Bill MolonyAtlanta GA USAUnder the 27L Approach to KATL--the busiest airport in the world :)

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Bill, that was a pleasure to read! Thanks!Jaap Verduijn.

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So Bill, a serious question. What were the frame rates like?

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Oh I can assure you that frame rates was definitely NOT a problem! :)As for leaving one up there, I guess satellites don't count, right? :)Happy Flying!Bill MolonyAtlanta GA USAUnder the 27L Approach to KATL--the busiest airport in the world :)

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Bill,Thanks for sharing your expeience with us, sounds like you had an amazing day. Who knows, next time they may let land that C-130 :-)BTW Was that visit as a result of your FS contributions? Also thanks for yout great Atlanta scenery, although I don't fly USA much after reading the posts about it I just had to install it, and wow what a difference.I note in another reply you say you don't have clue what goes on under the hood of you car..I wonder if other scenery designers/artists have a similar thought process; just a little theory I have ;) Rgds

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Yep, a direct result of my scenery. Cliff contacted me to thank me for the Atlanta scenery and in passing mentioned that he was an instructor at the Dobbins Flight Simulator. I jumped on that in a hurry and begged for the opportunity. He definitely had a deep heart and granted my wish! :)RE hood of car, etc..... Yep, I would definitely agree. Some of us tend to be more the artist while others are more engineering oriented. I definitely am not the engineering type. But whether I really fit in the artist category is subject to some speculation as well. Some of us just don't fit any categories! :) We just have to putter along doing the best we can with our middling talents. :)Happy Flying!Bill MolonyAtlanta GA USAUnder the 27L Approach to KATL--the busiest airport in the world :)

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No, leaving something up in space is just "space junk" :-lol We actually have a Hercules simulator at Richmond, here in New South Wales, Australia. You can imagine my annoyance when a work acqaintance managed to get a workout in one when yours truly (the REAL enthusiast) missed out....

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