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.

 

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Carenado’s Cessna 337H

Carenado sneaks up on you at times and just screams in your ear, scaring you half to death.  Well, not quite, but seeing the release of their Cessna C337H for X-Plane was a big surprise.   Now this means that I have yet another awesome aircraft to buy…   Who knew running a flight simulator blog could get so expensive??

< Carenado’s Cessna C337H page >

Anyway, you X-Plane Cessna fanatics better get over to their store and buy it.

Poll: Which Flight Simulator Do You Fly Most?

With an upcoming series of posts that touch on multiple flight simulator products, please share which flight simulator that you fly the most?

Poll closes Friday, November 2nd at Noon PST!

Decisions on Flight Simulator: A Multipart Series

Here at ARoMO, I am not only intrigued by the awesome aircraft that our community creates, both payware and freeware, but I am also intrigued by the choices we have.

As a multi post series, I would like to discuss some of the larger decisions made when we sit down in front of our computers and click on the icon of our favorite simulator.   In fact, the very choice of which simulator to fly in is the first of a series of critical decisions we make, hence Part One, the Simulator.  If you are like me and have FS2000, FS2004, FSX, P3D, X-Plane 9, and X-Plane 10 sitting on your hard drive, how do you decided which one to use?  So, this is Part One, choosing the simulator.

For Part Two of this series, the airports.  I wanted to touch on how to decide where a flight a should take place.  From which airport, are there multiple legs and which arrival airport?  The very essence of the flight takes form in the decision we make here, although I don’t think this is the most critical.  In fact, the decision we make here influences the decision in part three. I will also offer some tools that can help inspire your choice of airports should you be looking for a new adventure or lacking inspiration.

For Part Three, the aircraft.  We will discuss the decision on which aircraft to fly.  From what’s available in the hangar, how do decide what your bird is for the day?  While dependent upon the size of the airports selected in part two, this decision is not as simple as walking out to your driveway, jumping in the car you own, and driving off to work or where ever.

One could argue that Part Two, Airports and Part Three, Aircraft can be flip flopped.  Sometimes the decision to fly a particular aircraft drives the decision of where to fly.  Bush planes fly in Alaska, but 747’s fly international between big airports.  But, if you want to fly a route, such as KSBA to KBZN via KDEN, that would take a regional jet or a more advanced general aviation aircraft like a Piper Malibu if you want to fly non-stop.

You can start to see some of the decisions we make every time we fire up the simulator, no matter which one it is.  My hope is that by the end of the three parts, my readers and flight simulator community at large will share their ideas on how they create their own flying journey’s across the globe.

BBJ Design Group Is Back!

Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) come in all sizes.  If Boeing makes a jet, then it can easily be converted into lavish personal transportation for the 1%.

Lucky for the flight sim enthusiasts we have talented painters like the BBJ Design Group to make those BBJ’s a reality in our virtual worlds.

BBJ Design Group’s first release, the 777 VIP

You might recall last summer they released their Boeing 777 VIP repaint  for the POSKY 777 model.  This paint is one of my favorites to circle the earth in.  Whether it is crossing the pond or crossing a continent, you can do it in style.

There are some exciting things to come for this talented group.  Not only are they working on an updated version of the 777-300 VIP livery, but they also are working on a version for the 777-200.  And to complete the Boeing lineup, BBJ Design Group plans to offer VIP liveries for the 747-8i and the more mainstream 737-BBJ.

< BBJ Design Group Facebook page >

Head on over to their Facebook page and show them some love.  They are also taking requests, so ask nicely and perhaps your favorite BBJ will be added to their livery lineup.

A Douglas DC-8 by Kingfisher Addons

The Douglas DC-8 family of commercial jets were perfectly good airliners produced from 1958 to 1972. Production came to a close as newer, larger, and more efficient airliners such as the DC-10 and Boeing’s 747 changed the game for airliner design.   During its 14 years of production, the DC-8 competed quite successfully against the Boeing 707 and even collected a world record for the first commercial airliner to break the sound barrier during testing in 1961.

To me, the DC-8 represents a gorgeous design.  The unique shaped nose, to its squarish windows, the design was the epitome of modern jet design.   Lucky for us, Kingfisher Addons (Kfa), reproduced the model for us in FSX.  Before I go too much further, I want to point out Kingfisher’s  tagline:  simple virtual  aircraft.  For those of you who have been around the flight simulator hobby for a few years, might remember Mike Stone who had the goal of building unique aircraft for FS, but kept it simple.  Eye candy took a back seat to simplicity and low polygon count.

Kingfisher DC-8-73 FSX

The DC-8 taxis to the active at KVCV for a ferry flight Denver.

When I saw version 1.20 available at FlightSim, I jumped at the chance to put this aircraft through the aRoMO paces.  While I am pleased with the visual model (could be better, but it  fully represents the aircraft to my eye), the FDE leaves me wanting a little more refinement.

My test flight was from Victorville, CA (KVCV) to Denver International (KDEN) as a virtual ferry flight for a customer that had taken the DC-8-73 out of storage.   This modernized bird has the CFM-56 engines as opposed to the original JT3C it debuted with.

Kingfisher's DC-8-73 turning to course for Denver  International

Kingfisher’s DC-8-73 turning to course for Denver International.

The weather was clear, a bit breezy, but otherwise perfect flying weather.  With some passing showers in Denver, landing was sure to be a bit more exciting.   I was  hopeful as I pushed back and began to taxi.  The visual model is clearly not as detailed or refined as the SkySpirit models, but it does represent a DC-8 competently and it is light on the frame rates.  The animated nose gear  and flaps are there, as  is the opening passenger door.  The basics are all there.

DC-8 v1.3 panel with era appropriate gauges

Also, basic means no virtual cockpit.  While a bit of a bummer, the 2D panel is okay.

As I lined up to takeoff, added power and trim, I was surprised to see my view appear to flop back on my butt.  It seems a click of trim up from my joystick sends this bird into rocket straight up and trim down sends her into a sharp dive down. However, I after a few resets (thank goodness we have a reset button in FSX), I was  able to finesse the bird into being airborne without the use of trim at all.  Perhaps when Kingfisher means simple, they also mean simple when it comes to FDE and flight controls.   Personally, this aircraft is best flown with the autopilot on!  (note there is a known trim issue with v1.2.  A fix will be released with v1.3 when it is ready.)

Cruising over southern Utah

Cruising over southern Utah with the sun behind us.

As we continued toward Denver on autopilot, I couldn’t help but wonder about the tail number of this bird, N872TV.  So, I searched for N872TV and discovered links to photo archives from the 1980’s or so of  a TransAmerica DC-8-73.   While the single white livery included in the download simply bears the name of the model and engine type, I am happy to see a legitimate tail number adorn the aircraft.  Now, if only someone could provide some additional repaints… perhaps a rainbow United livery?

Descending over Colorado in the dark

Descending over Colorado in the dark

We started our descent in the dark with the vast Denver area of lights before us.  The mountain peaks hidden in the darkness made us glad we were descending from FL330.  Using the autopilot, I setup the approach to runway 7 at Denver.  Once on short final, I cut the autopilot and found the maneuverability of the DC-8 quite sluggish.  Granted this was an early jetliner, but the FDE seemed much more difficult to control than the HJG DC-8 I’ve flown before.

Kingfisher DC-8 landing at Denver

Landing at Denver, a little off center.

With some luck and slightly off center, the DC-8 touched down and quickly decelerated. Exiting the runway, I found that steering required a very low forward velocity.  As speed picked up, the nose gear seemed to become non-responsive.  I would expect  this as turning the nose wheel too much with too much speed can lead to skidding and excessive tire wear.  After a  few turns I got the hang of it and we parked at the gate.

With my first flight in the Kingfisher Addon DC-8 in the history books, I must say that I am impressed with their work.  The model delivers simplicity, but the FDE and trim needs work. It also needs a few good repaints. But beauty can come in many forms and in this package, beauty is simplicity and that is significant.

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!

Cheers!

<link to Cessna 172N by Carenado>