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!

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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.

FSPro’s Newest Project: L1011

When all good things come to an end, the start of new things bring really nice surprises.  So, when I visited Free Sky Project’s page today, I was utterly shocked when I saw that they are now developing the Lockheed L1011 commercial jetliner.

OMG!  The L1011 is only one of the best three-holers around and my favorite commercial wide body of all time!  Now, a new version will be available for flight simulator!

Check out the announcement here.  Based on Erick Cantu’s source model, the L1011 will come as a -100 and -250 series variants.

Can’t wait to see this bird in a Delta and TWA liver!

Cheers!

Historic Jetliners Group October Update

The talented modelers at Historic Jetliners Group (HJG) continue to crank out outstanding work that bring historic, jet-powered aircraft to life in flightsim.   I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since I began flying in FS2000. Their DC-8’s and Convairs are two of my favorite aircraft that see regular flight time.

Updated on October 26th, their website contains some new goodies for us to enjoy:

  1. New 727-200 textures that include Eastern Airlines, AVENSA, and Blue 1
  2. DC-9 textures including various SAS registrations and recent Ameristar colours
  3. The DC-9’s also receive updated base packs and panel packages.

It is without a doubt that you must head over and immediately grab these files <HJG home>.  Your eyes, your heart, your joystick, and that inner aviator inside you will thank you!

Cheers!

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!

Cheers!

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>

Cheers!

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.

Cheers!

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