Many people deal with the obvious items first, but when you start getting into the various shades of gray… ah, that’s when you know you’ve got a passion for something. It’s getting down to the finer points that separate the die-hards from those who have a passing interest in any given hobby. Much as with model-making, anybody can slap a plastic ship together, but it’s those who are passionate about it that bother with such niceties as accurate paint schemes, retrofitting parts due to inaccuracies in scale or appearance, or the dozens of other items that needed to be changed… simply because they needed to be.
Reality XP definitely falls into the category of passionate. While other developers spend their time creating aircraft or sceneries for MSFS, these fellows go into the world of the finer details by creating add-on instruments and avionics for FS aircraft, either because it wasn’t included in any previous rendition, or because it wasn’t done to their exacting standards. And today, we’ll look into an item that they created under the latter edict. Say hello to their Flight Line T package, flight instruments intended to replace those that don’t come up to par.
Installation and Documentation
FLT installs using the legendary Flight One Software Wrapper, so any fears about how easily it sets up on MSFS can be swept under the rug. As a courtesy, the program also goes ahead and automatically makes special modifications to the default C182 (normal panel). If you haven’t guessed already, these consist of retrofitting that plane’s panel with some choice instruments other than those contained within the program. Ah… if only it were that easy later on the down the road (covered later).
Also thrown onto the hard drive is a trio of user guides and an FLT Config tool. The first items are fairly complete and will go a long way in helping you understand how FLT works and how to install them into aircraft. I’d also like to recommend that the user register with their website’s forums section, as the various users of this product were very helpful to me in filling in the blanks. We’ll go over the Config tool a little later.
What You Get
FLT is designed to replace the basic ‘six-pack’ on the instrument panel, those basic items that any pilot relies on to give him or her feedback on what the plane is doing flight-wise at any given moment. For those just getting into the world of flying, these instruments include (in no particular order) the attitude indicator, directional gyro, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, altimeter, and turn coordinator. All in all, 28 instruments are provided for the task, including generic types, two sets made to represent makes by Cessna and Beechcraft, and one for Bendix King (KI256 ADI, KI525 HSI, and the KI51 Horizontal).
Below are but a few of the 28 gauges included in the package.
The New Standard
Time to get to that one question that is already brewing in the minds of some of the readers out there – With the basic six-pack already included in the default MSFS aircraft, what’s the point?
First and foremost, let’s look a little closer at those basic six-packs. Granted, the basic six for all GA aircraft in MSFS are good at what they represent and what they do, but only to a point. Closer scrutiny reveals that they all are a bit clunky, both in appearance and operation. In my own personal opinion, neither seemed bad enough to warrant a need on my part to look for a replacement… at least not until I ran into FLT.
FLT addresses those shortcomings by providing the end user with a set of instruments created from an all new, in-house rendering program that they call TrueGauge XP. It was explained to me that this technology offers far more precise rendering of the gauges as well as superior refresh rates. I have to admit that I still have problems understanding the intricacies of it’s inner workings, but there was no questioning the end results. Just take a quick glance below and decide for yourself.
The two clips compares the appearance and performance of Reality XP’s gauges vs. MSFS’ in an autopilot controlled left turn.. As you can see on the ADI and HSI, instrument movement is far more fluid, so much so that I picked up on it immediately. Rather than a superfast slideshow, their motion appeared continuous, without the teenie-tiny pauses that I never really noticed until the day I compared them.
The gauges are also easier to interpret, thanks to the more precise rendering technique. The best example of this is the heading on the default ‘steam-gauges’, which I always supplemented with Shift+Z data for exact figures; absolutely not the case for FLT. In fact, if closely watched, tiny oscillation movement of the needles were observed in a variety of flight conditions (ie – turbulence) that the default ones never picked up on. For those interested in super-real instrument appearance, this is that new standard; I have not seen it’s equal for any traditionally equipped GA airplane in the MSFS world, anywhere.
The last advantage of the instruments in FLT is that they are configurable for the specific aircraft they are mated to. The FLT Config Tool that I mentioned before, allows the user to adjust V-speed values as appropriate, and even go as far as allowing one to change the colors on several of the instruments. Lastly, multiple versions of each instrument are included to accommodate both the true low and slow and not so low and slow (although still a bit slow), and even go as far as including a few manufacturer specific models (Bendix King, Cessna, Beechcraft, as well as a pure generic ones). For those concerned with getting hyper-accurate with every little thing for that favorite GA mount, this is the package for you.
Panel Design 101
This is the one possible caveat of FLT that I found. I say possible, because MSFS users these days are becoming much more savvy in terms of working with the files contained within the simulation. In addition, panel design programs such as ‘XXX’ are fairly popular these days, which alleviates much of the workload. For those of you who fall under either of those two categories, you may read on with a smug smirk and have a good laugh at my expense; the rest may wish to read a little closer.
It is important to note that if the end user does not own any panel design software, the instruments for FLT must be added manually. Reality XP elected not to factor in such tools in order to save the end user some dollars, so if you’re without this kind of software, adjustments must be made the old fashioned way; thru the associated aircraft’s panel.cfg file. Granted, it’s was nice to know that no additional purchases were required to make this thing work, but for a person who had zero experience working with panel modifications, this could become a chore in short order. Time to learn what all those little values in all those lines of the config file are all about.
For our example here, we’ll use the one plane I learned this craft on – the B58 Beechcraft Baron. Here it’s 2D panel in it’s ‘pre-modification’ state.
In it’s panel.cfg file, you’ll be looking for a section of lines like these:
gauge00=Beech_Baron!Annunciator Gear Up, 130, 22
To clarify, this info outlines which gauge MSFS is told to use for which aircraft, and what it’s placement is on the applicable panel (’94, 64’ is a coordinate). Manually speaking, the end user has to modify this information so that the sim knows what FLT gauge to use, and where it needs to go. Adding to the work, the FLT instrument needs to be sized to the appropriate dimensions.
As modified, the new line looks like this:
gauge09=RealityXP_FLT!Airspeed, 92, 64,100,100
This new information tells MSFS to use the Reality XP FLT airspeed indicator, place it at ’92, 64’ on the panel, and keep it at original size (‘100,100’). Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go so easy, as you can see in the following modification:
gauge10=Beech_Baron!Attitude Indicator, 190, 51 became gauge10=RealityXP_FLT!KI256, 195, 54,111,111
Here is the retrofitted panel, almost ready to fly. I say almost because there is one last thing to tend to.
Now to tweak the V-speed values using the Config Tool. I know a B58 can handle way more than a measly 155-ish knots.
And voila! Here is my new B58 panel, in the air over the casinos of Las Vegas.
Note - If you fall into my category of zero panel editing experience, don’t let any of this stuff scare you. Just like anything else, practice does make perfect, and the good news is - just like riding a bike - you’ll never forget once you have the basics down. In addition, an observation that shall follow shortly should put some fears to ease.
Oh… and for
all you panel gurus: Enough with the laughing.
Other than the required manual editing, for those who do not possess panel building software, I really cannot say that there are any hard issues when it came to FLT. One slight bug I came across was the appearance of the new VC gauges in the default C182, in which the rims of a couple instruments appeared clipped at the top; despite my efforts to remedy this with editing of the config file, they edges maintained this cut-off look. Again, it is minor, and my failure to fix it could be attributed to my lack of experience.
Based on interpretation, some might find the user guides a little vague on the whole walk through of panel editing (at least I did – others may not). Any problems one might have there, are all but eliminated in the RXP forums within their website, in which one can seek out a little assistance form the very helpful members there. Many graciously share their expertise by posting their own config file for many different aircraft types in the MSFS world, and some are even willing to take requests if the whole editing thing is just not your thing.
I am happy to report that FLT did not seem to have any visible impact on my system. As compared to the default gauge-equipped C182S under a variety of conditions that included more complex sceneries, traffic conditions, and weather, the FPS rate of the FLT-equipped Skylane performed just as well as the pre-retrofit version. In addition, no additional abnormalities were detected, and the package is all in all very stable.
Just how grand FLT may seem depends on how much ‘as-real-as-it-gets’ one needs out of MSFS. Obviously, a ‘glass-cockpit’ and ‘fast-burner’ jockeys might have little use (if any) for what is offered here. Additionally, any person whose needs are perfectly met by the default ‘steam gauges’ in MSFS may want to pass this by. All in all, it all falls down to the individual and what they want out of the sim.
Now considering I use the sim to keep relatively fresh at my IFR panel work, I’m glad Reality XP came my way. I can state without question that they are a vast improvement over the original gauges they replace, and I continue to use it to this day as it makes my refresher sessions far easier than before. If I had gone the traditional route and shelled out those twenty smackers for the package, I could easily have considered it money well spent.
|What I Like About Flight Line T|
|What I Don't Like About Flight Line T|
Tell A Friend About this Review!
© 2006 - AVSIM
All Rights Reserved