Taking the Simulator out of Flight Simulator

Well, we thought Microsoft Flight Simulator was dead when Bill & Family killed the ACES team way back in 2009.   This was great because many of us were introduced to the wonderful world of X-Plane.

As it turns out flight simulator is dead in name only. Microsoft recently previewed Microsoft Flight, the next generation of their venerable flight simulator series.

What do you all think?  Is it an FSX killer?


The A380 for X-Plane

Flying Project Airbus’s A380 in Microsoft Flight Simulator is a lot fun.  However, I have an iMac and to get the full power of the processor, I have to boot into Windows.  Not very convenient for multi-tasking on long flights.  Which is another reason why I started taking another look at X-Plane.  X-Plane lets me run in my native Mac OS X environment without reboots and I can run it with some pretty high graphics settings (unlike MSFS in the virtual environment using Fusion).

Being that the recent release of the Project Airbus A380 is still at the top of my mind, I thought I would add an A380 to my X-Plane hangar (which is a little barren at the moment).  After searching the web, I found one. While originally developed for X-Plane 8.40, comments on the download seemed favorable and recent. <available here> So I downloaded it and have to say that it is quite nice.  A Project Airbus A380 it ain’t, but for X-Plane, it is good enough to enjoy, especially since it has a custom panel and cockpit views.

X-Plane’s A380 flying the Columbia River Gorge

Flying this baby up the Columbia River Gorge after leaving Portland (KPDX), was an experience like no other.  X-Planes rendering settings were cranked, I was flying low and relatively slow (for an A380) and that water looked oh so refreshing.  The vacation of a lifetime!


Boeing’s Different Beast for FS9

There are certain releases in the flight simulator community that just shock me.  Either the release was unexpected (at least by me) or the quality of the aircraft was so good, I wonder how it could possibly be released as freeware.   Another one of these shocking releases happened.

Boeing’s 797 is a fictitious double deck, blended wing airliner with seating for 1,000 passengers.  Capable of flying 8,800 nm, the 797 can move a lot of people around the world efficiently.  Whether or not the 797 is actually real, or ever will be real has been a debate for quite a while, with rumors and discussions popping up across the internet.

Lionheart Creations has taken the 797 design and made it a reality for the Microsoft Flight Simulator family, FSX & FS9.  William Ortis left no detail behind when he created this monster.  The windows, landing gear, engines, virtual cockpit, and stairs are of superb quality. Flying this distinct looking bird around the virtual skies is an experience that you will never forget.

The only drawback is the size of the model.  Not only is it a 65mb download, but the model itself contains 32-bit textures and tips the rendering scales at 65,000 polygons.   While the user can improve frame rates by converting to DXT-3, the sheer size of this model will leave low-end systems stuttering.  Still, the flying experience is worth it.

Head on over to Simviation.com and download this rather different beast.<direct download>  As of Aug 19, you can also download it from AVsim’s library as well. <Avsim download>


X-Plane’s Santa Barbara

For the past few months, I have been a proud owner of X-Plane, the “alternative” flight simulator.   With the demise of the Microsoft Flight Simulator Development team,  I, like many other people, took advantage of discounted pricing and purchased X-Plane.   While it takes a little getting used and a fair amount of configuration, X-Plane offers a competitive package to the MSFS products.  But this post isn’t about comparing MSFS to X-Plane.

No, in fact, this post is about me showing my delight to finally have my hometown airport available for X-Plane.  Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (KSBA) has been beautifully modeled by Partnair and is available for download at x-plane.org.

Approaching Santa Barbara over Summerland

While not as detailed as Al Wheeler’s Central Coast Scenery of the MSFS products, it is far better than the empty default scenery in X-Plane.  There are things like rows of trailers parked in the short-term parking lot and some detail around the tower is missing, but the big pieces are there!  The tower, the antique passenger terminal, the T-hangers, and the runways (of course!).   I hope that with future development, this scenery can be improved upon.

Baron at SBA's passenger terminal.

Who knows, maybe someday this scenery will include the new terminal which is currently under construction.  The two story, modern building provides a much needed update to the crammed, inhospitable terminal of today.

No matter what, updates or not, this scenery has made me revisit the X-Plane simulator.  I am looking forward to spend many more hours flying its alternative skies and making countless approaches into Santa Barbara… after all, this is X-Plane’s Santa Barbara.


Note: The Beechcraft Baron 58 is by Alcala-Sim and is available for X-Plane 9.x at this link.