On a Long, Grounded Journey…

PA321_Taca_FS9

Life is one long journey.  At time we are in the skies, below the water and, most often, on the ground.  Regardless of your life purpose, there are times we all must focus our energy on other things, letting some of the things we love fall through the cracks.

Such is the case with A Reality of My Own.  I started this blog so many years ago to document my experiences, flights, and favorite add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator.  I am always flattered when I look back on the history of this blog and the visits it receives on a daily basis.  I never had any other goal for A Reality of My Own than to combine my love for the hobby of flight simulation with my passion for writing.  Since more than one of you look at this blog on a regular basis, the success makes me realize I am not alone.

The past few years have seen the demise of Microsoft’s control of flight simulator, larger, bigger screened iPhones/Androids, and even the appearance of self-driving cars on our streets.  Like the world around us, flight simulator has changed.   The new players are Laminar Research’s X-Plane (9 & 10) and Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D (their interpretation of the MS franchise).   While I personally never got into Prepar3D after their 2.0 release, I have fallen in love with X-Plane.

So, let’s begin a new chapter of the A Reality of my Own journey and explore the world of X-Plane together.  In fact, we might even explore the World of Tanks (WoT) a bit too.  War Gaming’s phenomenal MMO is a love or hate it experience, but I have found some tidbits the greater community might find interesting and they fit in well with the A Reality of My Own journey. Hope you don’t mind.

Over the coming weeks, I will work on updating the look and feel of this blog and also start tracking down broken links.  There is a lot to do and a lot to share.

 

Prepar3D Version 2 Is Out!

Prepar3D, by Lockheed Martin, takes a giant leap away from FSX with the latest release, version 2!  Out today, version 2 brings some pretty cool changes and adds a few cool aircraft as well.

prepar3d goes to version 2

First off, the rendering nows runs on DirectX 11.  This is a serious upgrade the FSX engine which ran on DirectX 9.  This enables pretty stellar dynamic shadows and a new HDR light system.  They upgraded the user interface, so the dejavu FSX experience is history!

< For a full list of Version 2 features, click here >

Second, four new aircraft join the virtual hangar.  Of course two Lockheed Martin models are included (why did you think otherwise?). The F-22 and F-35 are welcome additions.  The Extra 300s from Alabeo is a great gift for the fast and furious crowd.  Lastly, one of my favorite aircraft of all time joins the sim as default, the Beechcraft A-36 by Carenado (one of the most favorite modelers).

There is a great video by Michaelc136 over at YouTube showing off the new Version 2 UI, system preferences, etc.  Check it out here.

Sounds great, right?  It is, until you realize that being an early adopter counts against you for this “upgrade”.  Users who purchased v1.4 or early, have to purchase the sim all over again at full price.  Yep, $200 for a full license or sign your life away at $9.95/mo as a developer (annual upfront Developer is $120). This leaves a sour taste in this blogger’s mouth.  With X-Plane 10.25 retailing for $60, flat fee, and it offers an arguably competitive experience, users have a great excuse to say goodbye to Lockheed Martin even before trying it.  <  For more information on licensing options, click here >

Anyhow, version 2 is an impressive upgrade.  As soon as I can negotiate a lower rate, I will be purchasing version 2.  Stay tuned…

A San Francisco Sunset and A Seattle Sunrise

Taking off from San Francisco can be exhilarating.  Add a low sun with cool lighting and you have the makings of an awesome screenshot.   Once you start to notice the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and downtown’s skyline, you have a piece of art.

 

SkySpirit2010 Boeing 767--200 framed by San Francisco landmarks

SkySpirit2010 Boeing 767–200 framed by San Francisco landmarks

On separate flight with the TDS Boeing 787-8 lifting off from SEA-TAC, the early morning lighting  gleaned off the fuselage and created another artistic screenshot.

TDS 787

TDS Boeing 787-8 in FSX leaving SEA-TAC for Tokyo in the early morning light.

It is no wonder sunset and sunrise are the most popular times for flights in flight simulator.  Whether you fly in FSX, P3D, or X-Plane, awesome lighting and memorable moments are all around your virtual world.

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!

Project Opensky Archive Site Opens

For those of us that think the world of the old Project Opensky models for FS2004, we are all in luck.  There is a new location hosting the old files called Project Opensky Archive.

Capture3

So, if you are looking for those files, head over there and grab ’em.  Who knows how long the site will be up.

Cheers!

Prepar3D Updates to Version 1.4

Prepar3D is Microsoft’s FSX under a new owner, Lockheed Martin.  Continuing on with the flight simulation tradition, Lockheed Martin has put its own twist on this new version of FSX.  While it is missing some of the more mainstream aircraft like the Boeing 737, just the fact that Lockheed Martin is continuing development of the platform is a huge win for the flight sim community.

Mooney’s Acclaim joins Prepar3D thanks to Lionheart Creations

This latest release shows their continued development, improvements include:

  • fixes for stutters or performance issues
  • Dialogs now remember their previous position
  • Various UI enhancements including the removal of the “apply” button
  • Added two new aircraft: Mooney Acclaim by Lionheart Creations, and the T-6 Texan II by IRIS
  • Fort Rucker area scenery expansion
  • Dozens of legacy scenery and database issues

Upgrading from a previous version (like 1.3) requires the user to download nearly 10G of data, conduct a full uninstall and then reinstall the program.  With this being 2012, such an upgrade procedure is cumbersome, but then Lockheed Martin is new to the consumer flight simulator market.  There is saying, “good things come to those who wait”, so patience is the key.

Beechcraft T-6 Texan II by IRIS in Prepar3d v1.4

I took both the Mooney and the Texan out for a spin around the Fort Rucker area to check out the new scenery.   I have to compliment Lockheed Martin on these additions.  The Mooney feels true to its brand, fast, sleek and forgiving.  While I am not a huge fan Texan II in the real world, I did enjoy flying this model.  It has gobs or power and is super fun to toss around.   I even managed to crash on landing as I came in a bit too fast and lost control.  Way cool!

The Hanchey Army Heliport (KHEY) is a cool addition to Prepar3D

Flying around Fort Rucker, I learned to appreciate the subtleties of the scenery.  I landed at the Hanchey Auxiliary on the north end of the base and was surprised to see a tank hiding in the trees and a well placed Humvee next to the control tower.   I felt like I landed at the real base and was about to get annihilated by a tank.  There are three other areas to check out, the  Hanchey Army Heliport, Knox Army Heliport, and the Cairns Army Field. All of which are nicely done with a great level of detail.

I really like the direction Lockheed Martin is going with Prepar3D.  By leveraging the flight sim community for “default” add-ons and adding some scenery, the future of Prepar3D is bright.   I can’t wait to see what future releases bring.  In the meantime, its time to start porting over my favorite MSFS aircraft!

A Cessna 182RG Turbo for X-Plane

Surprises are always great unless they involve death or car crashes.  Luckily for the X-Plane community, this post doesn’t have anything to do with death or car crashes.  That means good news for the general aviation crowd running X-Plane (9 or 10 works).

The great news is the .Org (X-Plane.org) purchased from Shade Tree Micro Aviation (STMA, checkout their awesome DHC-3 Otter!) their Cessna Skylane Turbo RG model and have made it free to their members.  Whenever a former payware aircraft goes freeware, you have to take a step back and bring your expectations down a level.   In this case, they don’t have to come down too far.

STMA’s Cessna SkyLane 182RG for X-Plane

 

I took the Skylane out for a test flight from Three Forks, MT to Bozeman, MT and have to say my expectations were beyond met.  Granted this is an older model and you can tell it is more of X-Plane 8.6 refinement, but the panel, virtual cockpit, flight dynamics, and overall package are superb.   While perhaps lower in quality compared to Carenado’s payware, the overall package delivered here for free sets it apart.

The modeled interior is a welcoming place to spend a few hours.  While the refinement will likely be hard for some to get over, the fact is that the interior is there.  Seating for four, door handles, and yokes have been fully modeled.  While I was a bit disappointed with the 2D-like panel in the virtual cockpit, you have to remind yourself that everything you need is there; light switches, HSI, altimeter, throttles, etc.

Hey, it has a back seat!

The Skylane Turbo packs a bunch with over 200-hp and a cruise speed of 150+ knots.  The retractable gear is also fully animated and its just cool to watch it fold back into the stowed position with this model.    The flight dynamics are “reactive” yet forgiving.  True to the X-Plane feel, you have to fly this plane or set the auto pilot.

Power and speed in a compact package, the SkyLane Turbo is a great companion.

Perhaps one of the best features is the return you get in frame rates.  Running this model on X-Plane 9.70 on my old 2007 iMac with settings cranked fairly high, I was able to get 45+ fps, easy.  That means more processor power for the world around you.

< Cessna SkyLane Turbo 182RG for X-Plane  >

So, if you haven’t already skipped to this part (who reads these posts anyway?), you can download the model over at the .Org.  Just make sure to say a thank you to Shade Tree Micro Aviation and the .Org while you are over there.