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NGXfanatic

Alaska Airlines 737-800 KPHL to KSEA (Warning! Big pictures!)

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Howdy, it is my pleasure to share a great recent flight, from my real life hometown airport, KPHL Philadelphia International.  The scenery for the airport is provided by Sunskyjet, and is widely praised as one of the finest airport sceneries of all time, not bad for freeware.  I have an extensive knowledge of the airport and its operations, and I take particular pride in keeping the airport's AFCAD updated with accurate airline gate assignments, and I also continuously maintain my AI collection to ensure the liveries and routes as accurate and current as possible.  When I'm flying, I hardly notice these details as I'm so focused on flying the aircraft, but when I load up the replays to gather these screenshots, I really sit back and appreciate the fruits of my labor.  Anyhow, lets move on to the details of the flight.

ASA37 is the lone daily flight operated by Alaska Airlines to carry passengers between Philadelphia and Seattle.  A 5 hour flight, I made it in about 5 hours 14 minutes.  Weather was rainy and wet during preflight, but by the time I reached the runway the rain had ceased.  Seattle was cloudy as usual, but the cloud bases were high enough to allow visual approaches once the localizer for the southbound runway was intercepted.

Route: PTW SARAA RAV PSB J60 DJB J34 BAE J70 GEP FAR DIK MLP GLASR9
SID: PHL8, runway 27L
STAR: GLASR9, runway 16C
Cruise Altitude: FL360, step to FL380 about a 1/4 into the flight.

Here I am loading the passengers at gate D6, 5:00pm EDT. Notice the queue of departures, as this is rush hour at KPHL!
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Pushback commenced, right on schedule at 5:56pm EDT.
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At my favorite spot in the cabin, takeoff power set with a Delta MD90 next in line.
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Liftoff, as seen from one of my favorite real life spotting locations!
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On the 268 degree heading from runway 27L, shortly before the 1000ft point where I reduce to climb thrust, ask the copilot for flaps 1, and accelerate to flaps up speed.
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Overhead at the crossing over Lake Erie, comfortably at cruise height of FL360.
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I wish I could remember where this was, but I believe this is somewhere over North Dakota
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Chasing the sun to the west coast.
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Clouds are starting to appear, also, time to put on the shades.
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Starting the descent onto the GLASR9 STAR over the mountainous terrain of the PNW.
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Cloud all around, I find I need to add engine anti-ice as the TAT is -8C.
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Intercepting the localizer for ILS16C, near Paine Field.
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Descending to 4000ft to intercept the glideslope, at 170kts.
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Established on the glideslope, with a nice view of downtown Seattle.
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At about 1000 ft agl, time to add the final flaps and slow to vref+5, 148kts. Winds were very calm, making for an easy final approach without the usual wiggling around of the yoke.
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I particularly like this shot, notice the company 737 at number 2 in the lineup for the ILS16C approach.
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Whoosh! ASA37 passes over my head seconds away from touchdown. I spy a Horizon Air Dash 8-400 in one of the special sports team liveries!
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What do you know, another sports themed Horizon Dash 8! What are the odds of two of these rare birds in such close proximity? Looks like runway 16R was active as well to handle the onslaught of arrivals.
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Wing view, just seconds before main gear impact and spoiler deployment. Lots of Fedex MD-11s and a MD-10 and A300 on the cargo apron. Time is 8:28pm PDT.
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At Gate D7, with a full array of ground service vehicles helping to unload the weary passengers and their baggage.
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I've been meaning to fly to some less common airports in the Alaska colors, but I just can't resist flying from my local airport. I can't get enough of Sunskyjet KPHL, and as I had flown the KSEA to KPHL leg a few weeks back, I wanted to complete the round trip.

 

The approach into KSEA did not go completely as planned. Anyone who's a NGX nerd knows that the -800 variant is notorious for being a slippery bird on descent, and it does not want to comply with ATC speed constraints in tight approach situations. I tried to follow the real flight's direct route from the GLASR9 JAKSN waypoint to the 4000ft IAF for ILS16C, but I had a very difficult time slowing down and losing altitude on the steep descent simultaneously. As a result, I was forced to turn north to the PAE VOR to add track miles to kill speed and altitude. Basically, the way the GLASR9 STAR is arranged, as published, for KSEA arrivals, traffic is routed in a way so that they can descend from the JAKSN waypoint at 12000ft/250kts by passing though a series of waypoints and ATC vectors that allow plenty of time to kill speed and altitude. Not so this time, because according to the path I saw on the flightaware map, and without knowledge of the speed and altitude modifications made to the route by the crew, I had to figure out a way to arrive at the IAF in the correct configuration on my own. Had I stayed on the original path, I would have been too high and fast and would have had to execute a go around. Yikes!

That little diversion aside, this was a fun cross country trek for me. I'm getting used to the HUD, and find it so helpful on takeoff and landing as it allows me to focus on the runway ahead while maintaining my scan on the most important performance figures. Now I need to decide on my next trip. Decisions, decisions!


A.J. Domingo

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I absolutely love these that you do. Here in Arizona we see these Alaska airlines aircraft all the time, and I love their livery. It's crazy to me how into these flights you are, and the realism you add, which makes it all the better!


Regards, Jeremy Chesney

 

 

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Very high quality pictures. Are you using ENB by the way? Either that or your AA settings makes your graphics look superb in my opinion.


Boeing777_Banner_Pilot.jpgsig_TheBusIveBeenWaitingFor.jpg

Alfredo Terrero

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No ENB, or SweetFX, as they both crash my system.   AA is just 4xS AA in Nvidia Inspector, but I have made it a point to convert all my AI and airport object bitmaps to mipmaps to reduce shimmering.


A.J. Domingo

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Goodness, you do a lot of work for your FS! I try to avoid it, I would rather fly than tweak and edit/convert, but with my system I don't get much of a choice... :(

 

The work you do on your AI too to keep everything as up to date as possible must be difficult? Is it difficult, or just time-consuming?


Regards, Jeremy Chesney

 

 

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Epic!  Superior images ... very realistic.  I'm not sure I understand everything that you do to get these fantastic shots, but I sure would like to learn.  I'm especially interested in :  "loading up the replay"  "ai updates" and "bitmap to mipmap" conversions.  Perhaps you could point me in the right direction to get some efficient and relatively detailed instructions?  I know that's probably asking a lot, but when I see something this good, I HAVE to know about it:)


Dennis Trawick

 

Screen Shot Forum Rules

 

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At this point in my years of FSX experience, I have pretty much nailed all the tweaks and customizations that I could squeeze out of the platform, such as custom afcads, scenery bitmap mipping, most of the AI, etc.   I used to really live and breathe tweaking back around 2010-2011, but all the major work is done. 

 

Regarding the AI, I have a system going where most of the hard work in downloading aircraft models/paints was undertaken in 2009/2010 (around the time Flight1's Ultimate Traffic 2 was first released), and I have just made incremental changes since then.  The time consuming part was replacing the "ugly" AI models in UT2 with models freely obtained from AVSIM and the like, as well as converting the bitmaps of the daylight textures of the AI paints.  But the mipping of the bitmaps was mostly done by a running a batch file on the UT2 paints, so it wasn't as bad as it may seem.  Same with airline flightplans, the groundwork was laid out by importing better schedules from alpha india into UT2 around that period, and now I just update as new schedules are released.  These days, I mostly concentrate on updating all the U.S. major carriers, and International carriers that fly to the U.S. airports, as I haven't really flown overseas in the past 2 years. 

 

Yeah, it's alot of work, but I enjoy it.  Adding custom AI and tweaking the AFCADs, it's almost like building a model railroad "world" in your basement.  I don't have the skills to design scenery, but when I add custom AI flightplans and paints to FSX, I feel like I'm shaping my FS world by adding "moving" scenery.   I know of some folks who are AI nuts, who just go spotting but don't take actual flying that seriously.   But as much as I like dabbling in the AI side of things, and playing around with making my AFCADs accurate, I get great satisfaction by flying by the book, and when I'm in the cockpit, I am so focused on the flight operation side of things that I barely notice the scenery around me.   I go to great pains to research the flights I am emulating by gathering all kinds of sources, like flightaware records of flights and LiveATC archived ATC recordings, to get a feel for what the cockpit crew is experiencing and trying to match it in the sim.  It sounds laborious, and it is, but I have always had a fascination for everything that the pilots go through in moving these pressurized tubes of tin from point A to B, and this is my chance to learn about how things work.  That is why I take tons of screenshots and enjoy viewing the replays, so that I can appreciate the beauty and immersion that the talented scenery and aircraft painters add to our virtual world.   And keeping a library of screenshots and posting these little diaries in this forum is a way for me to preserve the memories of these sessions, something I regret not doing earlier in the 6 years I've been in this hobby.


Epic!  Superior images ... very realistic.  I'm not sure I understand everything that you do to get these fantastic shots, but I sure would like to learn.  I'm especially interested in :  "loading up the replay"  "ai updates" and "bitmap to mipmap" conversions.  Perhaps you could point me in the right direction to get some efficient and relatively detailed instructions?  I know that's probably asking a lot, but when I see something this good, I HAVE to know about it:)

 

I will have to get back to you about this.   Tutoring is not my forte, but I can certainly gather up some links to the resources that helped me along the way to getting to the level of craziness I'm at now :P


A.J. Domingo

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Great shots.

 

nebojsa

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Very nice blow by blow account of your flight. The Alaska livery is one of my very favorites. I recently started to use MegaSceneryEarth version 2.0 products. The effect is just outstanding. I have their MN package and flying around is just like the real thing. Blueprint Scenery sells KMSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul) for around $15. The jetways don't operate but the layout and geo referencing is spot on. For me, the "eye candy" is a big part of the sim experience and I appreciate the time you put into this post.


Rick Bertz

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Epic!  Superior images ... very realistic.  I'm not sure I understand everything that you do to get these fantastic shots, but I sure would like to learn.  I'm especially interested in :  "loading up the replay"  "ai updates" and "bitmap to mipmap" conversions.  Perhaps you could point me in the right direction to get some efficient and relatively detailed instructions?  I know that's probably asking a lot, but when I see something this good, I HAVE to know about it:)

 

As promised, I have some links to help guide you in applying my practices to your sim experience. 

 

1. Replays, I use the freeware FSRecorder.   The default replay in FSX is, basic, to say the least.   FSrecorder offers many more options, and it's flexibility allows the user to even create dramatic videos with multiple user aircraft flying in formation!   Basically, the most important difference to me between FSrecorder and the built in FSX recorder is that it allows the user to record more variables to make the replay more enjoyable, such as the replay of flap/spoiler settings, engine parameters (reflected in the engine sound heard in the cockpit matching the live experience), even gear retraction.  Basically it records user and AI aircraft movements and simple animations that the default replay does not.  As a result of the AI recording, you will see AI movement in the skies and ground as they occurred when you were flying.  It's also very easy to configure keyboard shortcuts to move about in the replay, jumping in small or large increments between playback positions.  I haven't used the in game FSX replay in ages, but I do remember it being very limited in regards to saving the parameters used by the flight controls, and I don't think you could even save the replay for future use.  Have a look at http://www.fs-recorder.net/    It's the most important tool in my toolset for creating these diaries and screenshots, as I would not have the ability to take these fancy shots when I'm flying live.

 

2. AI, this is a pretty complex subject as I have a rather intricate layout, it's almost a hobby unto itself.  Hell, I even keep an Excel spreadsheet to track which airlines I have updated and what paints/models are used!   But I will say that I use Ultimate Traffic 2 to provide the main airline traffic, and I use WOAI and other user submitted traditional .bgl style flightplans to supplement UT2 to provide traffic not represented in the UT2 schedule, such as cargo carriers, military, charter, and general aviation and bizjet traffic.  Ultimate Traffic 2 updates their database for airline schedules about twice a year, but it also offers a module that allows the user to import freeware schedules into the UT2 database, provided by the likes of Alpha India or UTT United Traffic Team.  I like this option, because I find the user submitted flightplans to be released with greater frequency, and the paints and models used are better looking and more specific to the engine type used IRL.   It's a lot of work, and I'm sure most people don't care or need to go to such great effort.  Be assured that the base UT2 product offers very accurate liveries and schedules out of the box, that's all you really need to have a plausible representation of real world airlines using real world schedules and aircraft types at your simulator airports.   http://ut2.flight1.net/

 

Bitmap to Mipmap.   The basic explanation is that the default textures used on AI aircraft in FSX leads to "shimmering" when viewed from afar, which can be very unpleasant to see.  Mipping the textures eliminates this effect, making the paint look smooth and readable from a distance.   Another benefit can be derived from mipping, as it reduces the filesize of the bitmap texture file, which decreases the load on the sim leading to an increase in FPS!   So you get two benefits in one! 

However, it takes time to convert all your textures, because you have to open each .bmp file individually and convert the file format from DXT5 or 32 bit to DXT1 AND also apply mips to the texture.  However, with UT2, a batch file is provided that converts all the files in one step.   But if you don't own UT2, or you also use WOAI models/paints, you can run a script in the cmd prompt in windows to do this work for you.  Here are the links with details for each step, with a very important caveat: you must own UT2 and be registered at their forum to view the links:

 

Batch mipping of UT2 paints:

http://ultimatetraffic.flight1.net/forums/forum_posts.asp?TID=7891&title=solved-how-to-mipmap-your-ut2-aircraft-properly

 

Batch mipping of non-UT2 paints (scroll to 4th post from the bottom for details on the script command):

http://ultimatetraffic.flight1.net/forums/forum_posts.asp?TID=6942

 

By all means, have a good read of the above posts, and work with a backup copy of the files you are converting in case things go screwy on you.

 

Now, if you don't use UT2 and cannot access these two posts, you can reference this post: http://forum.aerosoft.com/index.php?showtopic=36780&st=0&p=241181&fromsearch=1entry241181

There are also tons of other articles on mipping that can be found via google.  Note that you can also mip textures in your addon airport sceneries, and even the user aircraft paints, as they often times are supplied without mips by default and are very shimmery.

 

Sorry for the long winded post, as there is a lot material to cover, but I want to share my knowledge with others as I find just mipping textures alone to be one of the best ways to get improved performance for free in FSX!


A.J. Domingo

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You have no idea how much I appreciate this. Funny thing is I already have FSRecorder and UT2, just have never dove into their capabilities. I'm not averse to projects. On my computer I have EVERY single NGX repaint known to the Flight Sim world (over 1000). They are all categorized by date, author, carrier, reg # and variant. I'll probably do the same with theT7. Now I have a starting point and a new project. Thanks A.J.!

 

One last question ... do you use DX10?


Dennis Trawick

 

Screen Shot Forum Rules

 

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No DX10 for me, I had considered it with all the news the new mods have been making, but I feel the bad outweighs the good for me.  Namely, compatibility issues are a niggling concern for me, even though progress has been made recently.


A.J. Domingo

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