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About Paraffin

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    Pacific Northwest USA
  • Interests
    Civilian and Combat flight sims.

About Me

  • About Me
    I've been flying on virtual planes since the old SubLogic PC days, and was once a SysOp on the pre-Web Compuserve FS forums.

    Real-life flying experience -- never a pilot, but I spent many years as an aerial photographer in light planes and helicopters based out of Miami, FL, Central America, and South America. I know what it looks like up there, with the door off, even if I've never had the yoke in my hand.

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  1. Saw that over on pprune, amazing skills. Apparently they do this fairly often in Afghanistan. The trick with duplicating it in the sim would be the camera view, since you wouldn't have crew directing the approach from the ramp. Simulating that view with the camera wouldn't work because your cyclic input would look reversed. I would probably cheat, and just use an external view from behind and above. Or maybe not much of a cheat at all -- looks like the National Guard CH47's are getting upgraded with fancier cockpit tech, including drone viewing screens. So call it a drone view: And then in the sim, you'd have to hope that crash detection or 3D clipping into the terrain wouldn't kick in before you got a good screen shot. 🙂
  2. Paraffin

    Blackfly - would you try this craft?

    Right, AC isn't common on light GA planes. On the other hand, even on a hot day they have the advantage of flying at altitudes where the air is usually cooler, so all you need is outside vented air. These electric rotorcraft will probably be restricted to operating much closer to the ground where you can't escape the heat. For cold weather, heating is basically free with a hot aircraft engine for a source, but these won't have that, so it will be another load on the battery. Easier than running AC though. Maybe that won't be a factor, but in some areas it could limit the things to a mostly recreational use in comfortable weather. Not a viable replacement for cars and other ground-based transportation, like some of these outfits are hyping. Man, I'm really sounding curmudgeonly, aren't I? 🙂 Heck, I'd fly one if it arrived free on my doorstep tomorrow, and I could find a place where it wouldn't annoy people. I'm just not buying the hype about wide acceptance.
  3. Paraffin

    Blackfly - would you try this craft?

    That's pretty loud, considering this distance is roughly the width of an American football field, and these things may not be permitted to fly much higher by ATC or safety-related restrictions. Here's an interesting quote about helicopter noise from a hearing health site: "According to the Helicopter Association International (HAI), the difference in sound level of a helicopter flying at 500 feet and at 1,000 feet is nine decibels — dropping from 87 dB to 78 dB. That effectively reduces by half the impact of the resultant noise. HAI notes that to meet the generally acceptable criterion of 65 dB, helicopters should fly at altitudes no less than 1,000 feet." Notice the 65 dB criterion there. And also... "Helicopters rank especially high in causing undesirable noise. Eight different studies have found that the annoyance created by a helicopter does not correlate with the decibels it registers. The helicopter’s unique sound, created by blade vortex interaction, causes people to rate its sound level as much as 10 dB’s higher than it actually registers, doubling the noise impact. This would place perceived helicopter noise at around 97 dB, or a whopping 30 dB’s over the generally accepted noise level of residential areas." That's an interesting point about the quality of noise, not just the dB levels. If you've ever heard the buzz of a small camera drone, imagine scaling that up as a continuous sound. Then imagine a dozen or so of these things flying a programmed route nearby, and what that will sound like. As much as I can see the potential thrill from the pilot (or passive passenger) perspective, I don't think the noise will be accepted in most urban and suburban environments. Maybe for remote non-wilderness areas, farms, and some specialized uses. But I don't think it will be successful as general transportation, even if the costs come down.
  4. Here's a dev blog post from January 2018, soliciting feedback on how to make ATC better (which has an impact on AI too, of course). Nothing concrete here, but at least we know it's something they're taking seriously that needs major improvement:
  5. Paraffin

    Blackfly - would you try this craft?

    Yeah, that's more like it. It's also a reminder about the downwash hazard. I suspect the promo video showing a person in the cockpit landing on grass isn't showing the actual downwash. The moving grass underneath looks like CGi effect, not what you'd expect with rotor wash supporting a 200 lb. payload plus the weight of the airframe, motors, and batteries. I've spent a few hundred hours in helicopters doing aerial photography gigs. That's more rotor wash than these things, but it's still something you learn to respect with loose objects, gravel, rocks etc. when landing on anything but dry pavement. It won't be safe for bystanders if these new flying cars are landing anywhere off piste.
  6. There are roadmaps published at intervals, the best way to keep track is to follow the dev blog: And in fact, a recent post is about the current roadmap, although apparently some of it is in a video that is still being edited: There is a lot of great stuff mentioned, unfortunately nothing yet about AI and ATC. We know from Austin's earlier posts that they're working to improve it, but no progress or timelines mentioned yet.
  7. Paraffin

    Blackfly - would you try this craft?

    I predicted before watching the video that it would have a music soundtrack and wouldn't show how loud it is. Yep, prediction success. I've been saying for a while now, that the noise pollution factor will be a major roadblock for these things. If your'e hiking a nice wilderness or rural area like that couple at the beginning, is this what you really want to see and more importantly hear flying overhead? There's a reason why ATVs and jet skis are banned in some wilderness areas. Someone made another point about these things somewhere, I think it might have been on pprune. To get the weight down far enough to make it work at all, those cockpits are just thin, minimalist shells. No creature comforts like insulation, heating, or air conditioning that wealthy buyers are used to in the SUVs or conventional aircraft. They're not going to be fun to fly on a hot or cold day. That probably won't be enough to prevent some early adopters. I think what will limit acceptance will be the combination of noise pollution regulations and ATC restrictions, so they can only be flown in very limited areas. P.S. right now I'm listening to a neighbor running a gas weed trimmer outside my window. A little annoying, but I've done the same with my own weed trimmer. And that's nowhere near as annoying as the sound of one of these things. Let's see one, just ONE of these promotional videos without a music track, showing what they actually sound like. There's a reason why they don't do that!
  8. Paraffin

    Interview With Orbx’ John Venema

    Why not? That ultralight model showing the best frame rate has almost no systems, and it also has the widest canopy (no canopy) view of the outside terrain. Something like 80% of the forward view is pure scenery. If it was just the outside scenery that was a hit on frame rate on this system, that model should have the lowest frame rate in the test. Especially on my fairly low-end GPU. Well, of course! Those are old XP10 or XP9 models that don't make full use of the current XP11 features like PBR rendering and windscreen/instrument reflections, or high res cockpit textures. They don't use plugins for more advanced systems modeling. It's not just the basic 2D cockpit that boosts the frame rate. It's when we load more advanced aircraft with plugins to extend the capabilities of the sim, that we start stressing the system.
  9. Paraffin

    Interview With Orbx’ John Venema

    I was curious about the "hidden" impact on FPS with systems modeling, including more cockpit instruments, so I tried some comparisons. This isn't a carefully controlled test, just one quick look at a few different aircraft in one sim platform, to see the effect on FPS with different aircraft. Setup is XP11 with my normal settings, main forward cockpit view, loading on 3nm approach to KSEA runway 34R (lots of Seattle outskirts buildings), clear skies: Default Aerolite 103 --------- 44 fps Default Cessna Skyhawk -- 42 fps Default Boeing 747-800 ---- 34 fps Carenado Pilatus PC-12 --- 32 fps Default Boeing 747-400 ---- 30 fps So, something is dropping the frame rate besides just the eye candy outside. It might be the load on the CPU calculating flight models for the faster aircraft, although I've noticed that ramping up the number of flight models per frame doesn't really cause much of a hit. It could be the increased number of gauges and displays, although with the normal view on approach there isn't that much of the cockpit visible. I suspect it's more the plugins running the complex aircraft systems. Especially the PC-12, which has always had a fairly heavy hit on frames, and I suspect it might be a systems plugin that isn't well optimized. There's a reason why that ultralight is the frame rate champ -- there is almost nothing modeled for aircraft systems. Anyway, I agree that visual effects are the main bottleneck, because I can easily bring my system to its knees just by turning on object shadows and throwing a bunch of heavy cloud layers in the sky. But if this test is any indication, there is another impact on performance that tracks with complexity of the aircraft being modeled. At least in this particular sim, and I suspect that's a universal no-free-lunch principle. If and when a sim like AFS2 starts including fully-modeled aircraft systems, there's no guarantee they'll be able to keep the same performance.
  10. Paraffin

    Interview With Orbx’ John Venema

    If the point you're making is that a "more recent" sim should be able to do more than a sim like P3D or XP using a legacy code base, then I'm not sure I buy that (with apologies if that's not the point you're making). All flight sims share a common need to render 3D graphics at high enough frame rates to be flyable, while also running a bunch of other stuff under the hood like flight models and systems simulation. The "no free lunch" rule always applies when balancing complexity and frame rates. The fact that the code base of a sim like AFS2 is more recent than say P3D or XP, doesn't mean it has an inherent advantage. If anything, legacy sims have the advantage of more years working out optimization, while adding the features customers want, like dynamic weather, deep systems modeling, AI aircraft, programmed ATC, and so on. It takes years to build that out. Just look at the state of ATC in X-Plane for example, still a weak area in that sim. By the time a "new" sim manages to include all those desired features, I can't see that it will be miles ahead of these other platforms in overall performance. It depends on the ease of integration. We can't just assume this would mean throwing our assumptions out the window. For example, according to an older post in the dev blog, X-Plane doesn't support SLI because the frame rate would actually slow down when sharing rendering between two GPUs, due to the way graphics are handled in the sim. Even in the non-sim, gaming world, the use of multi-GPU setups has been fading in favor of single ultra-fast cards. That's partly due to developers not wanting the extra hassle of supporting it, and also the recent inflation of GPU pricing. For whatever reasons, it does seem to be a trend towards single cards now. I'm not sure Vulkan support for multi-GPUs is enough to reverse that trend.
  11. My only experience is with FSEconomy, which I've used for years as basically a "motivator" to get me flying more often, and into interesting areas I wouldn't know about otherwise. It also encourages good flying practices like route planning and having to complete every flight. It's offline except for the need to have a plugin running that logs in at the start and end of each flight. No live interaction with other pilots during flight, just optional participation in the forums. Routes aren't fixed, except in the sense that you take assignments that point to other airports. How you arrange and link up those assignments is up to you. One downside is that can't fly just anything. No military aircraft except civilian converted like C47 or Chinook, No modern airliners in scheduled ops, although you can take occasional single "all in" assignments in airliners. It's mainly aimed at civilian charter ops in GA aircraft up to biz jets, with a few heavy haulers for supplying FBO's. The other minor downside from an X-Plane perspective is that FSEconomy uses the FS9 database for consistency across all the supported platforms (FS9, FSX, unofficially P3D, and X-Plane). That can lead to occasional glitches where the game shows an assignment destination to an airport that no longer exists, or now has a different code in the up-to-date X-Plane database. But it's not that hard to work around. The game introduced a change a while back that enforces a monthly, generalized maintenance fee on "owned" aircraft. So if you do decide to buy a plane, there is now a requirement to fly it often enough (or your other "owned" planes) to cover the monthly fees. There are also regular scheduled fees like 100 hour engine maintenance, eventual overhaul, and sometimes you'll get a random "hanger rash" maintenance fee. Not hard to cover if you fly often enough in the game. I "own" two aircraft in the game -- a PC-12 and Bell 412 helicopter -- and I can manage the monthly maintenance fees with just 2 or 3 assignments flown every month in the PC-12. On the other hand, you can just rent any aircraft available in the game and fly it to make virtual $ without worrying about that. The game is free and the forum is friendly. Check it out!
  12. Paraffin

    Interview With Orbx’ John Venema

    Maybe, but I still think there is "no free lunch" when you start adding more complexity. An aircraft with only mid-level complexity like the Carenado PC-12 will noticeably drop my frame rate in X-Plane, compared to simpler GA aircraft like a Cessna trainer. And there is nowhere near as much going on with the PC-12 as there is in a modern airliner. Add a few cloud layers in SkyMaxx Pro and my frame rate drops another notch. Although, I can still manage to fly in the 30-40 fps range with most eye candy enabled. That is, unless I turn on tree and building shadows. Then it becomes unflyable on my current mid-range hardware. No free lunch. It has always been the case in PC flight simulation that more complexity means a hit on frame rate. I don't think AFS2 has any magic pixie dust allowing it to achieve the currently high frame rates. It's just a very stripped-down sim, optimized for high frame rates by simply not modeling many of the things available in other sims. We won't know how well AFS2 holds up with more depth and complexity until it actually arrives in the sim.
  13. I agree with all the above, and those are some of the reasons I use default landclass + OSM scenery with the HD and UHD mesh instead of ortho scenery. Here are a few more reasons, from my personal perspective: 1) Unless you're always flying at higher altitudes, medium to lower res orthos can show immersion-breaking artifacts like "squashed" buildings and cars. I hate seeing that on the ground. This can be reduced with very high res orthos and a lot of hand-editing. But it only takes one squashed building, or one baked-in shadow that doesn't match current sun angle, or some other artifact like that to break the illusion. Custom airports that don't have a good color match to the surrounding orthos are another immersion-breaker. Landclass + OSM buildings and roads don't completely match reality either, but at least it's a consistent "look" for the scenery. 2) Landclass terrain + OSM buildings, roads, and cars respond beautifully to changes in the angle and color of sunlight, cloud shadows, and other environmental effects. I love flying low over scenery at dawn and near sunset, seeing the play of light on objects on the ground. With strong enough hardware (which I don't currently have, but will soon), it's also neat to see how tree shadows elongate on the ground. Orthos don't respond to lighting and shadows like that. They just sit there, flat on the ground, looking like it's always 12 o'clock noon on a sunny day (and not good at night). 3) Speaking of helicopters... the only way I can do a smooth landing from a hover, is by looking at the ground texture in the last 60 feet or so of the descent. There is texture on airport runways and helipads, but the fun of helicopters is that you can land anywhere. Try doing that on orthophoto scenery, and all you see is a big blur of color in the last 50 feet. No texture for judging height. I'm not going to bother with swapping out between ortho and landclass every time I fire up a helicopter in the sim, so that's another big reason I don't use ortho scenery. YMMV, these are just personal preferences. I do understand that the ease of do-it-yourself ortho scenery is a good thing for X-Plane, and one reason why we've had more people giving it a shot recently. The look of the ground from an airline pilot perspective is different too, where the flaws in ortho scenery (except for night lighting) aren't as apparent. It just isn't for me, with the way I fly in the sim.
  14. Paraffin

    Are these aircraft close to the real thing?

    The two major missing elements with home simulators are the motion feel, and the feedback you get from the flight controls. In a GA plane you can feel things like vibration indicating a developing stall, or the plane feeling "heavy" from icing. You'd feel the sudden change in rudder pressure from an engine failure in a twin. You'd feel the beginning of vortex ring state developing from shudder in the rotor system of a helicopter, and so on. There isn't as much feedback in a modern airliner because the controls are modulated through software, but feedback is still important for having a feel for the flight dynamics. We don't get any of that with the usual consumer yokes/joysticks and pedals, and it's probably more important than the full-motion experience. There have been occasional attempts at marketing affordable, consumer-grade force-feedback flight controls, but they never caught on, except for a few die-hard combat sim enthusiasts still using old Microsoft FF sticks. Maybe one day... I'm still hoping to see some decent FF controls along with full integration in the sim before I'm too old to fly in this hobby!
  15. Paraffin

    Why is this forum dying?

    It's a delicate balancing act to enable a free flow of conversation, while still avoiding posts that are guaranteed flame bait. Whether the user intended it that way or not. It's a difficult and thankless task for even the best forum moderators. I did that gig once (once was enough), way back in the pre-Web days as a SysOp on the Compuserve flight sim forums. I bailed out over a disagreement with the forum "owner" about how far we could critique a particular developer's product. My hat is off to any moderator who can stick with the job without being too heavy-handed in an attempt to maintain the signal to noise ratio. Avsim is pretty good, as forums and moderators go. This "meta" discussion about forums would be immediately axed in some other places.