First Impressions of A340 for X-Plane

There is a new Airbus A340-600 model out for X-Plane, brought to us by the team at The X-Plane Paintshop.  This model is based off of the FSX A340 model from Thomas Ruth, with a host of others contributing to its greatness.

XPP A340-600 over Santa Barbara

XPP A340-600 over Santa Barbara

I am still in the process of putting “the long one” through its paces, so I will limit this post first impressions.  The exterior model, like the FSX counterpart, is nicely detailed and highly accurate.  The 2D panel is the full width (as opposed to the pilot of first officer view) and provides easy access to the autopilot and contains the “glass” gauges typical of an Airbus.

The only drawback are the twitchy flight dynamics.  I have not flown a real A340 and have only spent about 20 minutes flying this model, but I found that is noses up and down easily.  This may have been due to weather, but I found it very difficult to trim the aircraft for straight and level flight.  More testing here to come!

You may download the aircraft and livery pack from the X-Plane Paintshop download page.  Registration is required, but its super simple and free (so don’t complain!).



Cessa 172N For X-Plane

The Cessna 172 is a very familiar sight at many airports.  There is at least one or two in every flight school’s fleet and just about every pilot flew one as a student.   Flying the 172 is like a blast from the past and reminds me frequently of those tough lessens learned.

With Carenado’s entry into the X-Plane marketplace, it was only a matter of time that their FSX model made its way to the other side.  And, it just did.  Welcome the latest release from Carenado, the Cessna 172N model.

Carenado's Latest X-Plane model: Cessna 172N

Available with wheels, floats and skis, the model can be wrapped in one of four liveries depending on you preference of era (modern vs classic vs somewhere in between).   In addition, the package includes a lively sound set and some awesome animations including a pilot and suspension.

Suspension and Brake Detail

I had the chance to take the 172N faring model out for a quick touch and go at Oceano Airport (L52).  One of the first things I noticed was the throaty, deep rumble of the engine, which immediately brought back some interesting memories of doing run-ups as a student.

The second thing I noticed was the shine / reflection on the “glass” of the cockpit and exterior of the fuselage. Details like this bring a sense of realism to the simulator.  Walking around the outside, other details emerge, like the suspension detail of the front wheel and the brake pads on the main gear.

< Check out the X-Plane Directory for other great add-ons >


Moving inside, the usual detailed cockpit is all there.  Having spent time in a real 172, I immediately felt right at home and familiar.  Panning around with my joystick, I can see the cockpit from all angles and sure enough, it looks like a Cessna 172 interior.

The Camera Pop-up

One feature that really, really stood out to me was the quick reference “cameras” pop-up.  If you click the indentation where the N-number place would normally be, up pops a little click-able placard that gives you different views.  Included are options to enable skis and farings on the exterior as well switch interior views including Co-Pilot view, Nav and Switches, Fuel, and my favorite, “View From Rear.”

The "View From Rear" will surely entertain.

The “View From Rear” makes me appreciate how my grandmother felt during while recording (with an 8mm camera) my grandfather performing aerobatic maneuvers in a Piper while he was a test pilot.   I spent a few minutes flying from this view and quickly became air sick.

<check out my review of the Carenado Piper Saratoga SP for X-Plane>

Upon taking off, those throaty sounds gave me a very real feeling.  As I pushed the throttles forward, the deep bass in the sound (enhanced by my sub-woofer) started vibrating my desk and I could feel it in my joystick.  It really did feel real there for a bit.  Sweet! Talk about bringing back memories as a student pilot!

The model with floats.

So, what is there to not like about Carenado’s Cessna 172N for X-Plane? Not much.  It seems to be a little heavy on the frame rates compared to the Mooney they offer, but it is not as bad as the Saratoga (which kills my video card every time).   The included liveries don’t excite me much, but I am sure painters will take care of that issue shortly!

Lifting off on another X-Plane flight.

Would I recommend paying the $25.95 for this model?  Hell YES!  The package that you get is very complete and rivals payware costing twice as much.   With three models (including skis), a great set of sounds, multiple views and the awesome X-Plane community to support you, how could you go wrong with this purchase?

So, quit reading and go get! Start reliving those tense moments as a student pilot!


<link to Cessna 172N by Carenado>

A Tampico Joins the X-Plane Club

X-Plane is an awesome alternative to MS Flight Simulator and is under constant development.  Seems that updates are frequent and with X-Plane 10 on the horizon, it has a very bright future.

And! It just got better, with the release of the TB9 Tampico by Pascal Nicolas. Manufactured by Socata, the TB9 is a single engine, light twin that can carry up to 4 passengers.  Popular as an instrument trainer, many students with advanced ratings may have spent quite a bit of time in one.

Ready for takeoff, the TB9 has an elegant shape

So, I was eager to give Pascal’s new model a test flight.  In this case, I flew it from Santa Maria (KSMX) to Santa Barbara (KSBA) on a day with varied weather conditions in X-Plane.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as the winds were quite gusty at Santa Maria and Santa Barbara had a fog warning.  Maybe I was getting more than I bargained for, but I pushed the throttles forward, felt the power come up and released the brakes.  Away we went…

Turning to head 120 for Gaviota (KSMX below)

I quickly noticed the gusty winds and how severe the TB9 responded to them.  Once we cleared 500 feet and began our turn toward Gaviota, I considered turning back, but ultimately decided to continue the flight and see how it goes.  There was a very strong tendency for a left bank and we hopped around as the winds gusted, but I kept the wings generally flat and the nose pointed slightly up to maintain climb.

Once at 3,000 feet, I came to predict the handling and settled into a routine to constant adjustment to correct for the winds insatiable appetite to throw us off course.  In fact, the handling, expansive view forward, and quiet interior was really starting to grow on me.  As a fan of the Mooney M20J, the TB9 was a reasonable cruiser at a lower price point (free vs $30 for Carenado’s model).

Turning over Gaviota toward Santa Barbara

As we approached Gaviota, we made a turn toward the east to Santa Barbara, staying north of the 101 freeway.  Despite the clear skies, I could see fog creeping in in the distance, so I knew the beautiful weather was limited.  Would I land in Santa Barbara before the fog hit the airport?

Approaching KSBA, runway 15R is ours

With little air traffic and the clear skies, I pushed the Tampico to its limit, cruising at 160 knots.  With the wind dissipated flying didn’t require constant correction and I could relax a bit and enjoy the expansive view of paradise. The Tampico was turning out to be a great little companion.

KSBA from the office, coming in a little high

With clearance from the tower to land on runway 15R, I reduced power and pulled the nose up to bleed off speed.  But then I realized that I am higher than I should be, so I reduced power again to slow enough to engage the flaps.  At that point, I can start a more rapid descent without losing control of airspeed.   This was going to be an interesting approach, but we beat the fog!

Turning to course, I was still quite high.  Nosing the aircraft down, cutting power, and keeping my fingers crossed, I dove for the numbers.  Tower noticed this and asked if I wanted to go around, to which I answered, “no, I got it.”

Arriving at KSBA, just before the fog rolled in

Before I knew it, I was on the runway.  Watching airspeed, altitude and the runway, I put down about 1/3 down the runway in a perfect stall.  The aircraft rolled out and we turned left at the end of the runway.

Taxiing the Tampico is a joy.  With great visibility and responsive controls, it easily goes where you want it.  However, imprecise control inputs will be rewarded with chaos.  Upon turning to the ramp, I over reacted and steered hard to the right while hitting the brakes, resulting in a spin on the taxiway.  Oops.

The detailed cockpit

Arriving at the ramp, I set the brake, cut fuel and open the doors. The sweet smell of ocean and aircraft exhaust was like cow manure to a cowboy.  With the wheels chalked, electrical systems off and my bladder emptied, I complete the post flight walk around.

The fog arrived as the Tampico preps for a rest.

Just in time too, the fog came barreling in, causing some VFR pilots to divert north to Santa Ynez.  We admire the fog as it enroaches on the hills above Santa Barbara and say good afternoon to the Tampico, the airport and a day’s successful test flight.


Aircraft: Socata TB9 Tampico for X-Plane (<download>)
Author: Pascal Nicolas
File Size: ~20mb

Scenery: Santa Barbara Municipal (<download>)
Scenery Author: Martin (aka Partnair)
File Size: ~ 10mb

A BBJ 747-8i for Hawaii

It is without a doubt, the SkySpirit2011 Boeing 747-8i is a brilliant aircraft.  Not only did Boeing do a great job extending the life of their largest airliner, but the SkySpirit2011 group brought it to life for us in FS9 and FSX.

The SkySpirit2011 Boeing 747-8i over Anchorage, AK

Since its release, repaints available have been somewhat limited and limited to commercial airlines.  With only a small percentage of the population with the means to have a private jet the size of a 747, it is no wonder that private liveries weren’t more abundant. Until now that is.

Recently released by Alexi Antoniou is the “BBJ” livery for the SkySpirit2011 model (link at the end of the post).  While the repaint is not without fault (there seem to blending issues on the left wing [fixed in a recent update]), it is still a pretty cool repaint and it is the only one available as of the time of this post.

Since I have been obsessing about a trip to Hawaii, I decided to take the BBJ 747-8i on a “long” trip from Denver, Co (KDEN) to Kailua-Kona, Hi (PHKO).  With a distance of about 2,800 nm, the newest 747 is the perfect, roomy personal shuttle to get there in style.

Pre-flight preparation on the ramp at KDEN in FS9

So, we arrived at Denver airport and was promptly escorted to the ramp where our flying hotel awaited us.  There was lots of activity loading cargo, stocking the galley and other last minute preparations for our flight to Hawaii.   Despite the light rain and thunderstorms in the distance, we anticipated a relaxing flight.

As each engine started, the cabin doors closed and the flight crew escorts us to our leather wrapped personal modules, we took in the beauty of the lavish interior. With lots of fine wood, chrome and gold accents, and enough leather to kill a cattle ranch, we started to feel like kings.

Cleared for takeoff, we begin our flight

Despite the luxurious accommodations and careful pilot, we could feel the motion of the aircraft as we taxied to RWY 17R for departure. The occasional flash of lightning and roll of thunder in the distance made me wonder if we shouldn’t wait.  However, the pilot knew more than we did and we trusted his judgement.

Pressed back in our seats as the thrust propelled us forward, we eagerly anticipated that sinking feeling when lift off is achieved.  However, we didn’t really notice that we left terra firma until we looked out the window and saw the ground falling away.  The pilot made such a smooth transition to flight, we almost missed the moment.

leaving Denver behind, we take to the air

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as smooth.  Not even one minute after leaving the ground, we experienced some heavy turbulence.  Despite the leather and padding, the stomach felt every dramatic drop, lift and bank produced by the unstable air.  Ironically, I noticed a lack of puke bags, which made me wonder if the VIPs ever got sick.

Turning west for Hawaii

As we banked toward the west and steadily climbed out over Denver and the Rockies, the cabin crew came by and checked on us.  Free drinks and appetizers were being prepped.  I asked for a beer and chose the chicken kabobs, as the ahi tuna rolls seemed a little too much for my weary stomach.

After we reached cruise altitude and settled in the for the long flight, we got up and explored the exquisite surroundings.  From the polished, wood carved mahogany staircase that led to the executive suite and lounge upstairs to the gold plated fixtures in the master bath, the builder left no luxury behind.  We took a seat at the lounge and kicked back with our personal bartender.

Sunset over the Pacific ocean

With a few too many drinks and a fabulous steak dinner with garlic mash potatoes, I retired to the lounge and fell asleep on the couch.  I dreamed of being an entrepreneur with many successful companies under my belt, flying around the globe to give speeches to inspire my employees and relax on brilliant white beaches while the money rolled in.  Ah, the life.

But the dream was cut short when the cabin crew woke me up and asked to return to leather wrapped throne. We were getting ready to land at Kona.  I looked out the window and found nothing but blackness.  It was just after midnight in Hawaii and the sun had long set and the moon was but a sliver.

Descending near Hawaii

With an announcement from the pilot, we were ready for landing.  I commented to the crew that falling asleep on such a beautiful airplane was like a mortal sin, to which they snickered and walked away.

The flaps extended and the engines quieted.  As I began to make out the detail of ocean below us, it quickly changed to land.  Then a marker light passed below us, and I prepared for a quick deceleration so typical of commercial jets.   Then there a slight jolt, but the deceleration was nothing more than hitting the brakes in the car.  This pilot was good.

Touching down at PHKO

We taxied to the ramp and I watched as the staircase was moved into the place and the cabin crew opened the door.  You could feel the warm, tropical air rush into the cabin, displacing the leather and varnish smell.  I was happy to be here, but sad to leave such an accommodating and large aircraft.

On the ramp with smoke pouring from the rear galley

But, our departure was not without fanfare.  One of the cabin crew had left a microwave oven going with a meal in it.  As we took a step toward the door, the cabin began filling with smoke.  At the top of the stairs, we looked toward the tail and saw nothing but black smoke.  The fire crew were on there way and we were ushered quickly down the steps and into the waiting limousine with our baggage. Then our Hawaiian vacation began.


Model: SkySpirit2011 Boeing 747-8i (<download>)
Livery: “BBJ” by Alexi Antoniou (<download>)
Scenery: Default FS9 (boring!)

For an awesome Boeing 777 (POSKY model) BBJ livery, check out BBJ Design Group.

An Aspen Approach with FSX

It was love at first sight.  The Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprop lifted off gracefully from the runway.  I had never seen such a graceful thing before.  At that moment, I knew the Brasilia was going to have an important place in my virtual hanger.

And the Brasilia is available for FSX thanks to the Eagle Rotorcraft Simulations group update to Erick Cantu’s EMB-120 model for FS9.  Version 1.1 adds the default King Air 350 virtual cockpit, which isn’t entirely accurate, but beats flying with a 2-d panel.

So, with a vacation to Colorado not too far away, I decided to visit Aspen.  Not only is the approach to KASE an interesting one, but the surrounding scenery is stunning.   So, Aspen was the destination.

But where to depart from?  Why not where I grew up, Phoenix, Arizona.  Since KPHX is a pretty busy airport, I decided to use KIWA, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. This would make the flight just under 500nm, so the Brasilia would be a good choice. Here it goes:

We left Phoenix-Mesa Gateway mid-afternoon and climbed to FL200.  The weather was breezy but clear.  With relatively little air traffic and a pretty barren scenery below us, we quickly learned to anticipate the arrival of the Rocky Mountains.  The cabin crew delivered coffee and shared a few jokes to pass the time.

Descending north of Aspen

Once the Rockies appeared on the horizon and their jagged peaks and valleys added some interest to the view outside our window, time seemed to fly by and it was time to start our descent and prepare for approach.

Turning to left base over Aspen

With a slight haze reducing visibility, we pass directly over Aspen and prepare for a left base approach to runway 15.   Just then I received a call from tower reminding me of noise abatement and not flying over populated areas.  Well… too late now.

Looking down at the airport I couldn’t help but notice the lack of traffic.  Sure, it is July, but Aspen is a beautiful place all year.  With an open ramp, navigating the taxiways was not going to be a problem.

Turning to approach (note the King Air wingtip)

As we turn to approach and enter the Roaring Fork Valley, I run through contingency plans in my head while monitoring the instruments.  The approach to runway 15 is offset and there is a slight breeze with some gusts. Challenging, but beautiful.

Touching down, really late!

We are cleared for landing and I put the gear down, throttle back and gasp at the awesome peaks that now loom above us.  The runway rushes towards us.  The illusion of descending into the valley, the tall trees and gusty winds all do a very good job at distracting the pilot.  Still, we turn slightly late to course and touch down more 1/3 down the runway.  The late touchdown is a tad embarrassing, but at least the ramp is not packed with onlookers!

We were immediately cleared to the gate in the late afternoon sun.  The sun dramatically lit the ridges around us, mother nature’s way of reminding us of our place on this earth.

On the ramp at Apsen

With the engines shut down, the cabin crew cleared, and the ramp crew giving the okay, we opened the passenger door and started offloading luggage.  The fuel truck arrived and gave us a few hundred pounds to get us back east.

With that, another FSX flight comes to a close.  A brilliant Brasilia landing in a beautiful location in Microsoft’s latest simulator.  Life is good.