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Ash Brennan

Experience with Activesky Next....

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I've been using the trial version of Activesky Next for the past couple of days, and I have mixed feelings about it so far.      The interface is a lot cleaner and more organized than in previous versions, and the initial weather download/depiction time is much faster than with AS2012.     

 

The Good:

 

Local weather themes with distant clouds on the horizon and the ability to fly into different weather areas, etc. (rather than global weather scenarios with previous versions) seems to be simulated really well.     I would say Activesky is very close to Opus now in this aspect of local-type weather representation.

 

 Wind and temperatures changes seem to both be smooth at both the lower and upper parts of the atmosphere, and now the weather engine is completely independent from FSUIPC.       The latter feature gives Activesky the ability to to control all configuration of the weather in a single interface rather than having to set different smoothing options, etc, in both FSUIPC and Activesky.       I really like this 'one stop' feature instead of having to synch up both for the best weather representation as I do now with AS2012.

 

The flight planning interface is well done and intuitive, and the new map interface is more polished than previous versions.

 

The Bad:

 

Numero uno, visibility.     All of the later versions of Activesky 2012 depict both 'surface' visibility and 'upper atmosphere' visibility in two separate ways, and each of these two visiblity layers have individually assigned minimum and maximum values.     For example, Activesky 2012 lets the user specify a specific altitude at which surface visibility will graduate into the specified upper atmosphere value specified in the configuration menu.      If the surface visibility in AS2012 is set by local Metar report to 15 miles, you will get a 15 mile visibility limit until you reach the configuration menu specified upper atmosphere boundary, at which time the visibility will graduate from the surface visibility value to that upper atmosphere value limit.      Again, AS2012 lets you define the altitude of this boundary, and it can be set at a high enough altitude so that the visibility graduation from the surface metar value to the upper atmosphere value would be fairly subtle and realistic.    

 

Activesky Next, however, does not appear to let the user specify this upper transition boundary between surface visibility and that of the upper atmosphere.     One can still specify minimum and maximum visibility limits for each layer, but there is no longer an option to specify the aforementioned boundary altitude between the two.     As a result, you fly out of surface visibility limits and into the upper visibility layer at lower, seemingly randomized altitudes.     This has the effect of restricted visibilities at the surface suddenly clearing into a crystal clear sky at maybe 3000-4000ft AGL altitudes.     You can thus depart an airport with a 7 mile visibility and have a very nice obscuring atmospheric haze around your aircraft until you climb above Activesky Next's random altitude boundary, then 'poof', the visibility magically clears to the upper limit value.      This is very unrealistic and really a deal-breaker for me personally.      Again, with AS2012, the user can specify the altitude of this upper visibility boundary and the visibility graduation will be much more subtle and realistic.     I have mine set to 18,000 ft in AS2012 and it works out great.      Activesky Next, by contrast controls everything internally in this respect and it just does not work out in my book - at present the visibility with Next simply pops in and out far too quickly, and far too much at once.    

 

I also experience about a 3 second stutter on my system, both on the ground and in the air, when Activesky Next updates the weather at 15 minute intervals.     I've never had a problem with this happening with previous versions of Activesky.     Perhaps one needs a beefier computer to more smoothly load the localized weather theme when Activesky Next updates itself.       I'm currently running a AMD Phenom II Quad Core at 3.5 ghz, 4 megs DDR3 1600mhz RAM, and an ATI 1GB 4870 graphics card.     Not exactly state of the art I know, but up until now I've never experienced weather update stutters on this platform with previous Activesky products.   

 

I'm grateful for the ability to evaluate this product on a trial basis and I wish more developers would follow this lead.     Opus has a 30 day refund policy via Flight1's normal policy, so you can try out both products and contrast your own experiences between the two without spending too much cash.    

 

 

 

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Hi,

 

thanks for trying ASN. Couple of comments:

 

- First, ASN redraws the clouds during updates using the unique smooth theme reload method (our new innovative method to completely prevent cloud pops/shifts). What this means though is that the amount of clouds drawn during this period actually doubles (as the previous ones fade out and the new ones fade in). So make sure you have a modest cloud draw distance setting set inside ASN (for example set the minimum to 60 and the maximum to 90, to let ASN decide based on "cloud load" what's the most fps friendly.

- ASN (compared to AS2012) doesn't need that many cloud layers (because thickness is directly controlled). Given your machine (which btw is similar to mine), I think 3 or 4 should be adequate.

- ASN for the first time simulates an accurate NexRad like weather radar, synchronizing ambient precip/turbulence and visibility while entering/exiting a cloud. This requires however, frequent disk access. Usually this is not an issue, but you have to make sure you exclude as_srv folder (inside your fs installation folder) and fsx.exe itself as a process from your antivirus (if you use one). This (based on user feedback) has been the single one most significant cause of stutters (related to ASN).

 

That's related to performance. Please also take a look at the relative section in the user manual for any additional tips.

 

The other thing you report is related to graduation ceiling. Now this works in a completely different way compared to previous versions of Active Sky (and much more realistically). For example if a cloud ceiling is present then above this ceiling the upper visibility is in effect. This is similar if a temperature inversion layer is detected (in this case lower surface visibility may represent haze). Upper visibility can also be controlled automatically based on temperature/season and atmospheric conditions (I believe there is an option for this disabled by default).

 

So, what you see is not "randomly" chosen, that's for sure. What I'd advise to you is to restrict the upper visibility to a value of 60-70, because this will both help performance and reduce the "feeling" you get from "suddenly clearing conditions".

 

In ASN we decided to move forward, trying to simplify options as much as possible and attempting automatically to adjust depiction in an as realistic way as possible. Having the user select the graduation ceiling based on what "he thinks is correct" is not the way to go IMO. Knowledge of how nature works and real data processing in an attempt to mimic real life is how a weather engine should be designed and work. There are some things that are simply not subjective.

 

Now, it would be very helpful if you could be more specific (location/time where you noticed this "sudden clearing"). This way we can check out how things actually worked there, why ASN selected this behavior and if an actual issue exists in the reasoning, to fix/adjust it.

 

Thanks,

 

Kostas Terzides

ASN developer

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Hi,

 

thanks for trying ASN. Couple of comments:

 

- First, ASN redraws the clouds during updates using the unique smooth theme reload method (our new innovative method to completely prevent cloud pops/shifts). What this means though is that the amount of clouds drawn during this period actually doubles (as the previous ones fade out and the new ones fade in). So make sure you have a modest cloud draw distance setting set inside ASN (for example set the minimum to 60 and the maximum to 90, to let ASN decide based on "cloud load" what's the most fps friendly.

- ASN (compared to AS2012) doesn't need that many cloud layers (because thickness is directly controlled). Given your machine (which btw is similar to mine), I think 3 or 4 should be adequate.

- ASN for the first time simulates an accurate NexRad like weather radar, synchronizing ambient precip/turbulence and visibility while entering/exiting a cloud. This requires however, frequent disk access. Usually this is not an issue, but you have to make sure you exclude as_srv folder (inside your fs installation folder) and fsx.exe itself as a process from your antivirus (if you use one). This (based on user feedback) has been the single one most significant cause of stutters (related to ASN).

 

That's related to performance. Please also take a look at the relative section in the user manual for any additional tips.

 

The other thing you report is related to graduation ceiling. Now this works in a completely different way compared to previous versions of Active Sky (and much more realistically). For example if a cloud ceiling is present then above this ceiling the upper visibility is in effect. This is similar if a temperature inversion layer is detected (in this case lower surface visibility may represent haze). Upper visibility can also be controlled automatically based on temperature/season and atmospheric conditions (I believe there is an option for this disabled by default).

 

So, what you see is not "randomly" chosen, that's for sure. What I'd advise to you is to restrict the upper visibility to a value of 60-70, because this will both help performance and reduce the "feeling" you get from "suddenly clearing conditions".

 

In ASN we decided to move forward, trying to simplify options as much as possible and attempting automatically to adjust depiction in an as realistic way as possible. Having the user select the graduation ceiling based on what "he thinks is correct" is not the way to go IMO. Knowledge of how nature works and real data processing in an attempt to mimic real life is how a weather engine should be designed and work. There are some things that are simply not subjective.

 

Now, it would be very helpful if you could be more specific (location/time where you noticed this "sudden clearing"). This way we can check out how things actually worked there, why ASN selected this behavior and if an actual issue exists in the reasoning, to fix/adjust it.

 

Thanks,

 

Kostas Terzides

ASN developer

thank you for an amazing weather addon :clapping:  :drinks:

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Hi Kostas,

 

Thank you for taking the time to make such a well thought-out and informative reply.    I can tell you that I have tried all of your helpful suggestions and indeed,  setting the number of cloud layers and draw distances does seem to help with the stuttering I've experienced.     FSX on my installation still seems to 'feel' an extra load with AS Next running, and this is manifesting itself by a sort of microstuttering on a random but regular basis.     The small series of stutters does not appear using the same weather report with AS2012 running, but the tweaking and refining settings to each individual's computer setup is of course part of the process with new software.     I'll continue to experiment.

 

Regarding visibility:   I can tell you that I've experienced the phenomenon in several different locations under varying metar reports.    Setting max upper visibility limits down to 60 miles does indeed help make the graduation from surface to upper atmosphere layers less dramatic, but I still feel AS2012 is much smoother and more realistic with it's stricter, user-controlled surface visibility ceiling setting.    I do understand AS Next's philosophy of embracing an easier to use, less margin for error interface though.

 

One aspect of surface visibility I think AS Next might have overlooked is the 10SM or greater Metar visibility in ICAO surface reports.    For example, if the visibility in the Metar is listed as 10SM, this means that visibility is 10SM or GREATER statute miles, and almost always greater.     Activesky Next appears to interpret this as strictly 10SM and sets the surface visibility far too low in the vast majority of circumstances.     FSUIPC has a facility to random extend Metar surface visiblity maxima to get around this, and I use it with AS2012 with great results.     As it stands now with AS Next being independent from FSUIPC, this option is of course no longer available and surface visibility seems far to low in the vast majority of circumstances.

 

Again, thank you for your very helpful insight and Happy Holidays!     

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You are wrong at this too (we do extend the "10SM" surface visibility up to max surface visibility option, based on temperature, moisture, atmosphere stability etc). Please take a look at the ambient monitor when on surface at an airport reporting "10SM" (or 9999) to confirm this. I'll repeat, talking specifics is the key here for us to improve things.

 

Many thanks,

 

Kostas Terzides

ASN developer

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Kostas,

 

please can I ask a question, I am at this evaluating your new weather engine however I have a question regarding the wind.

 

Looking at another WE I own which uses real time GRIB winds in the UK today at 4k at EGKK are reporting light e.g 11 knots but the new ASN is reporting 25knots and at nearby EGLL even higher.

 

The UK at this time has been sitting under a high pressure, but this is changing please could you explain where the ASN system collects the data for the winds I ask this as most of the aircraft I fly can not cope with the winds on final with the AP.

 

Yesterday I flew in to EGKK the wind at 3k was 210/30knots if I recall at the surface it reported 190/9 a massive difference further in real life all aircraft where using runwasy08R but all mine were using 26L. Looking at other area in Europe the winds seemed to have a gradual increase up through their layers. 

 

This product is very good, however the wind issue is taxing me! so any guidance on what to tweak would be appreciated.

 

Many thanks.

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Activesky Next, however, does not appear to let the user specify this upper transition boundary between surface visibility and that of the upper atmosphere. One can still specify minimum and maximum visibility limits for each layer, but there is no longer an option to specify the aforementioned boundary altitude between the two. As a result, you fly out of surface visibility limits and into the upper visibility layer at lower, seemingly randomized altitudes. This has the effect of restricted visibilities at the surface suddenly clearing into a crystal clear sky at maybe 3000-4000ft AGL altitudes. You can thus depart an airport with a 7 mile visibility and have a very nice obscuring atmospheric haze around your aircraft until you climb above Activesky Next's random altitude boundary, then 'poof', the visibility magically clears to the upper limit value. This is very unrealistic and really a deal-breaker for me.

 

Actually, this is EXACTLY what happens in real-world flying, more often than not... especially when moisture-laden air near the surface is capped by a temperature inversion. On many occasions, flying a Cessna 172 in summer, I have seen surface visibility less than 6 miles in warm, humid air. In these conditions, there is often an inversion around 5000 feet, and when you climb up through it, your horizontal visibility can go from 5 miles to virtually unlimited in a matter of seconds - and this in a light GA aircraft climbing at only 500 feet per minute. In a jet, climbing faster, the transition is even quicker.

 

I first started flight training at Montgomery Field in San Diego back in the 1970's. Temperature inversions are very common in coastal Southern California. There were many times where, on takeoff, we could barely see local mountains less than 10 miles away, like Mount San Miguel, or Mount Helix, due to the haze.

 

Climbing up above the marine layer, the visibility could change dramatically in less than 15 seconds, to the point that we could then clearly see the peaks of the San Gabriel mountains north of Los Angeles, over 120 miles to the north.

 

It seems to me, that it is far more realistic to have ASN dynamically determine at what altitude the visibility transition occurs, based on current atmospheric conditions, than to have a transition point set at a fixed altitude.

 

Now, the kind of quick transition I'm talking about is most common in warm weather, with stable air near the surface. Things can be different in other seasons, or in hard IFR, but in any case, a change in horizontal visibility can happen very quickly indeed. Some days, quite close to the surface, on other days, the transition point will be much higher.

 

One problem that ASN, and all other weather engines in FSX have, is in handling the kind of situation I described for Southern California in summertime. Once you climb above the haze, the horizontal visibility will be outstanding, but when down through the haze from above, the terrain will still be in the murk. Unfortunately, FSX's depiction of "haze" is problematic, and graphically rather ugly.

 

 

 

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Interesting!

Ash give a very in-depth "put down" of ASN, the reply's are, and in Kostas's and Jim's case very good ones.

But it seems Ash is not going to be happy.

Also strange that with all the reviews going into the other topic with some 500+ replies that Ash feels his is worthy of it's own topic.

Like its a special one to draw attention to it! It just turns out from what Jim says he does not know what is real when he see's it.

 

Also note his post count. It seems he join to just give a educated put down of ASX.

 

Like I said Interesting!

 

frooglesim

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Interesting!

Ash give a very in-depth "put down" of ASN....

I don't know if I'd call his review a "put down" of ASN. There seemed to be features if the program he liked very much. I think his concerns about visibility transitions stems from a lack of understanding about how horizontal visibility can change literally in "the blink of an eye" in real-world flying.... something that many FSX weather-engine users probably would not be aware of without having some RW flying experience. It doesn't always happen that way, but it definitely can happen.

 

I suppose that the developers could add a fixed visibility transition altitude option back in ASN for those users who really want it, but it would sort of defeat the whole purpose of having a weather engine that emulates RW conditions as accurately as possible.

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The haze layer is very accurate. I have over 800 hours of real life flying, and haze layers are very common, especially in cool clear winter days where you breakout of the haze at about 1500 to 2000 ft. Hazy Summer days, that layer moves up, but is usually between 4000-6000ft.

 

The limitation in FSX, as mentioned above, is the broken haze/fog engine in FSX, so you can't keep that low visibility below. It sucks, but that's FSX for ya. P3Dv2 supposedly fixes that problem, though I haven't tried (yet). :)

 

Here is a good example of a haze layer/inversion on a nice clear day.

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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The limitation in FSX, as mentioned above, is the broken haze/fog engine in FSX, so you can't keep that low visibility below. It sucks, but that's FSX for ya

 

Devin,

 

I won't tap into any the above arguments by others in this thread about haze representation in the real-world vs. FSX.     If I were to divulge my actual aviation credentials here with these aforementioned perceptions and accusations, I'm pretty sure I'd start an endless flame war.     :)       But you are absolutely correct about the haze layer at the surface not being visible from above in FSX;   it simply disappears when you fly above it, creating an instant clearing effect when transitioning above the surface layer visibility ceiling.     In real-world flying, the horizontal visibility most certainly does increase in a dramatic why when you fly above the haze/fog layer at the surface, but the ground below is of course still obscured.      This is apparently not possible to simulate in FSX at present, but may be achievable with the new volumetric fog in P3D2.    

 

With AS2012, setting the surface visibility ceiling to 18000 ft or so mitigates the harsh visibility transition from the surface layer to the upper air layer when viewing the ground from above.     This was the point I was trying to make.     :)    

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I first started flight training at Montgomery Field in San Diego back in the 1970's. Temperature inversions are very common in coastal Southern California. There were many times where, on takeoff, we could barely see local mountains less than 10 miles away, like Mount San Miguel, or Mount Helix, due to the haze.

Climbing up above the marine layer, the visibility could change dramatically in less than 15 seconds, to the point that we could then clearly see the peaks of the San Gabriel mountains north of Los Angeles, over 120 miles to the north.

 

Are you still flying out of Socal these days?     I took a trip in a Citabra this past November from KVNY to an abandoned dirt strip in Amboy, CA (east of Barstow, way out in the Mojave).      Google Roy's Cafe in Amboy sometime.    :)     

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Ash I want to with tract what I said above, well what I was implying. I think I was wrong. I apologise.

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Are you still flying out of Socal these days? I took a trip in a Citabra this past November from KVNY to an abandoned dirt strip in Amboy, CA (east of Barstow, way out in the Mojave). Google Roy's Cafe in Amboy sometime. :)

I live in New York now, but I'm very familiar with the Barstow / Victorville area. I was stationed at what was then George AFB for three years. Did some flying at Apple Valley, and also started working on a sailplane rating at El Mirage, though I never finished it.

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With AS2012, setting the surface visibility ceiling to 18000 ft or so mitigates the harsh visibility transition from the surface layer to the upper air layer when viewing the ground from above. This was the point I was trying to make. :)

Gotcha! I see where you're coming from now! :)

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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but I'm very familiar with the Barstow / Victorville area. I was stationed at what was then George AFB for three years. Did some flying at Apple Valley, and also started working on a sailplane rating at El Mirage, though I never finished it.


Small world Jim. I graduated from Victor Valley HS in '90, was in the Civil Air Patrol and our squadron was based out at George AFB, and did the majority of my flight training out at Apple Valley. I used Mid-Field Aviation (wonder if that old German lady named Ans is still there?) for all my rental and instruction. Funny enough that one of my instructors at Mid-Field was rooming with an F-4 pilot and his wife and he got me about 3 hours of F-4 sim time out at George. 

 

What years where you out there at George and Apple Valley? I wonder if we ever crossed paths out at KAPV.

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Got it today, first Weather purchase for me. SHort flight from Gove to Elco island in the nT seems the weather hasnt changed since I was there friday. Temps about the same. Will do flight in syedney in morning see how it goes.

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not tested it yet still on the free trial out of all the WX addons I beleive activesky has the best depiction...

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Small world Jim. I graduated from Victor Valley HS in '90, was in the Civil Air Patrol and our squadron was based out at George AFB, and did the majority of my flight training out at Apple Valley. I used Mid-Field Aviation (wonder if that old German lady named Ans is still there?) for all my rental and instruction. Funny enough that one of my instructors at Mid-Field was rooming with an F-4 pilot and his wife and he got me about 3 hours of F-4 sim time out at George.

 

What years where you out there at George and Apple Valley? I wonder if we ever crossed paths out at KAPV.

Small world indeed! I was there several years before your era... from 1974 to 1977. At that time they still had two squadrons of F105-G Wild Weasels, and were in the process of transitioning to the F4-G WW. I was an avionics tech in Electronic Warfare, so I had my hands on both models. There were also several squadrons of F4-E models, being used to train German Air Force pilots. They were even training pilots from the IRANIAN Air Force, which goes to show you how long ago it was!

 

A lot of the German pilots came out to APV to get US commercial/instrument ratings in their spare time. I'll bet a lot of them went on to fly for Lufthansa after their military service,

 

I signed up to start PPL training at APV, but the flight school was so overloaded with students, that I could never get time to log any hours of dual. My instructor at that time was Cindy Rucker, who was a championship aerobatic pilot, and owned a Decathalon with a special inverted oil system. She had flown inverted from APV to to Phoenix, which was a world record at the time. She went on to become one if the first female pilots for Continental Airlines.

 

Tragically, she was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow sometime in the 80's.

 

My AF roommate already had his PPL, and went on to get his commercial / instrument / ME and flight instructor ratings at APV under the GI Bill, which paid 80% of all costs! I flew with him in the school's Arrow all over California while he was building cross country hours. One time we flew out to Catalina, which was a blast, and another time took a trip to the Grand Canyon, and flew IN the canyon, below the rim! Can't legally do that anymore!

 

Finally got my PPL in San Diego after I left the AF.

Small world Jim. I graduated from Victor Valley HS in '90, was in the Civil Air Patrol and our squadron was based out at George AFB, and did the majority of my flight training out at Apple Valley. I used Mid-Field Aviation (wonder if that old German lady named Ans is still there?) for all my rental and instruction. Funny enough that one of my instructors at Mid-Field was rooming with an F-4 pilot and his wife and he got me about 3 hours of F-4 sim time out at George.

 

What years where you out there at George and Apple Valley? I wonder if we ever crossed paths out at KAPV.

Small world indeed! I was there several years before your era... from 1974 to 1977. At that time they still had two squadrons of F105-G Wild Weasels, and were in the process of transitioning to the F4-G WW. I was an avionics tech in Electronic Warfare, so I had my hands on both models. There were also several squadrons of F4-E models, being used to train German Air Force pilots. They were even training pilots from the IRANIAN Air Force, which goes to show you how long ago it was!

 

A lot of the German pilots came out to APV to get US commercial/instrument ratings in their spare time. I'll bet a lot of them went on to fly for Lufthansa after their military service,

 

I signed up to start PPL training at APV, but the flight school was so overloaded with students, that I could never get time to log any hours of dual. My instructor at that time was Cindy Rucker, who was a championship aerobatic pilot, and owned a Decathalon with a special inverted oil system. She had flown inverted from APV to to Phoenix, which was a world record at the time. She went on to become one if the first female pilots for Continental Airlines.

 

Tragically, she was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow sometime in the 80's.

 

My AF roommate already had his PPL, and went on to get his commercial / instrument / ME and flight instructor ratings at APV under the GI Bill, which paid 80% of all costs! I flew with him in the school's Arrow all over California while he was building cross country hours. One time we flew out to Catalina, which was a blast, and another time took a trip to the Grand Canyon, and flew IN the canyon, below the rim! Can't legally do that anymore!

 

Finally got my PPL in San Diego after I left the AF.

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Pretty interesting stuff there Jim.

 

Yeah, you were there a bit earlier than me. I didn't move there until 1986 (born in '72) and lived there until 1990. Between '90 and '92 I was their a lot but maintained residency in Az, but drove back a few times a month to visit friends and family.

 

It was a neat place to spend time if you were interested in aviation with George AFB and Edwards being so close. I used to love going out to Edwards every Oct for the Open House and airshow.

 

One time my brother were at Edwards just to drive and look around, we got in with my Civil Air Patrol ID (this was back when my CAP ID would let you enter most AF bases prior to 9/11 security was increased), and I was on a mission to locate the old Happy Bottom Riding Club that was owned by Pancho Barnes.

 

Being interested in test flying at the time, I was really into the history of Edwards and all the pilots from the X-1 to X-15 era, especially Yeager. Knowing that Pancho's was the hang out for a lot of those guys I just had to find the ruins. After about an hour of searching and asking around, we found the old place. Of course there was not much left of the ruins, but to walk around on the slab were some of the greatest pilots of that era and maybe some of the greatest pilots ever, just about gave me goose bumps. I kept thinking about all those guys that used to be there at night and the stories they told. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera on me at the time, but I got a few little pieces of the place as souvenirs.

 

As far as KAPV goes, it was a neat little place to do flight training. With the winds there in the high desert it really made for some interesting and challenging flying at times in a light a/c. I remember so many crosswind landings I did on 18 where I would be crabbing so much into the wind that I almost felt like I was flying sideways on approach, lol. The good part though was that it made you that much better of a pilot once you got used to it.

 

I also did my first solo x-country and solo four leg x-country from there. My first was to Fox Field and then the 3 leg was from Apple Valley to Palm Springs, Palm Springs to Blyth, Blyth to Needles, and Needles back to Apple Valley. I remember being so excited that I would be in the plane for the better part of the day since 1 hour every Sat was not enough, but after cruising for 7 hours in a C-152 at 95kts over desert scenery, I was never more happy to land at KAPV and get out of that little plane.

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