Flying the DHC Dash7 in FSX

Years ago, Milton Shupe and the rest of the Flightsimonline development team released a stunning de Havilland Canada Dash-7 for FS2002/FS2004.  This aircraft became a remarkable workhorse in my virtual hanger.  A four engined turboprop with STOL capabilities clearly is a very capable aircraft that earns its respect.

Sadly, when FSX debuted, the Dash-7 was left behind.  While it did sorta work in FSX, the usual bugs such as disappearing propellers and strange flight dynamics made this aircraft far from a joy to fly.  Lucky for FSX users, Shupe and team ported the recently updated FS2004 version to FSX.  I am happy to say that my workhorse is back for another beating in the FSX virtual hanger.

At dusk, the Dash-7 sits on the ramp at KSBA in FSX

At dusk, the Dash-7 sits on the ramp at KSBA in FSX

I flew it on a two test flights between KSBA and KONT and couldn’t have been happier.  The sounds, the virtual cockpit and cabin/cargo, the flight dynamics and the sexy fuselage all live up the expectation of its original release.  We are indebted to Shupe, Flightsimonline, and the rest of the team for bringing this update to our hangers.

< Visit the DHC Dash-7 Homepage >

Now go do some intense bush flying with tons of cargo!


A Weekend Sim Moment

This weekend I purchased the DeHavilland Dash8-Q400 by FlyJSim for X-Plane and took it out on a series of test flights in the southwest USA.

Dash8-Q400 for X-Plane by FlyJSim

This is one spectacular aircraft and the moment that made the purchase worth it for me was maneuvering to final at KSAT in the late afternoon sunlight.  Banking through turns, monitoring instruments and watching the scenery the go by was an experience like no other.

The Virtual Cockpit of the FlyJSim Dash8

There is plenty more to come as I explore the world with my new realistic, model of the Dash8, but this is one moment I will never forget.


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.

An Updated Brasilia Comes to FSX

The Embraer EMB-120 “Brasilia” turbo-prop airliner is one of my favorite commercial aircraft.  Living near an airport serviced by one of the largest operators of the Brasilia, SkyWest Airlines, and you can see why.  It is such a common sight at Santa Barbara that there are usually two or three on the ramp bound for LAX, San Jose, or San Francisco.

Brasilia Leaving Santa Barbara for LAX in FSX.

There have been a few models of the EMB-120 available at different times for various versions of Microsoft flight simulator.  The first, by Nick Botamer for FS2002, set a new compromise between detail and frame rates.  I found this model to be quite fun to fly, but I always found the cockpit windows to be of strange configuration.  Also, repaints were limited. Still, I spent many happy hours flying it.

Then Erick Cantu released his Brasilia for FS2004 (FS9).  For those of us that weren’t already drooling by Erick’s other models, the Brasilia release set a very high standard for small aircraft freeware quality.  Granted, his model lacked a virtual cockpit, but the extreme detail and flight dynamics made up for 2d panel experience.

Flying Over Camarillo and Pt. Nagu NAS

And then FSX came out and we found ourselves without our brilliant favorite.  Granted the FS9 version would work in FSX, but there were issues with the flight dynamics, challenges with the prop animation and it was unable to take advantage of new FSX features like dynamic self shadowing.  If you overlooked these issues, you could be content flying, but for me, I always had a voice in the back of my mind saying “look at those prop animations, this isn’t a TRUE FSX model!”

Landing Long on Rwy 27R at KLAX

Not any more.  Thanks to Eagle Rotorcraft Simulations, Erick’s Brasilia has an entirely new life FSX.   Completely rebuilt in GMAX to take full advantage of FSX advancements, this really comes alive.  I took it on a test flight from Santa Barbara (KSBA) to Los Angeles (KLAX), a flight I’ve taken many times on SkyWest (who is the largest operator of the Brasilia).   The model is beautiful, the shadowing adds an intense sense of realism, and the props animations no longer disappear in the clouds.   Woohoo!

Since this was a GMAX rebuild only, the missing virtual cockpit was not added.  In addition, the model uses the default KingAir panel and sounds. While virtual cockpits are a huge part of the FSX experience, the detailed external model makes up, somewhat, for this.  While you can setup an alias to the KingAir 350, it isn’t a true Brasilia virtual cockpit.

Parked at the gate, LAX.

Bottom line, no matter how much you want to complain about the missing virtual cockpit, you can’t.  The aircraft is such a joy to fly with plenty of eye candy that it makes up for it.  We also have to give a resounding “Thank you!” to Eagle Rotorcraft Simulations for rebuilding this model and bringing it to a new level in FSX for us.

Download (avsim):
Author: Erick Cantu (original model) / Eagle Rotorcraft Simulations (FSX Modification)

Enigma Simulations Releases BAe ATP

Today is turning out to be a huge flight simulator day. Not only did Project Airbus release their long awaited Airbus A380, but Enigma Simulations released their British Aerospace ATP model for FS2004 (FS9).

I haven’t had a chance to download and install it yet, but the screenshots, documentation, and buzz surrounding the release indicates that this is one awesome bird.  It even has its own sound pack!

Check out the Enigma Simulations website for more information and download links.