Flying the Heavies

Much of these early “How To” blog articles are dedicated to understanding some of the basic knowledge required, as we progress I’ll include some additional and more advanced “How To” information.  At this time I’m assuming you are still very much new to the hobby of flight simulation.  If you have been following my “How To” articles, you may recall I’ve suggested on more than one occasion to start with the default Cessna (or some other single engine, light aircraft) and work your way up.  In my opinion, this is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.  As in the real world, an individual just doesn’t walk off the street and learns to fly a Boeing 747.  They start off in a much, much smaller aircraft.

The principle of flight is the same regardless of aircraft type.  Regardless if you are flying a Cessna 172 or a Boeing 747, you must taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descend and land the aircraft.  Again, the process is much the same….but one major difference is in the speed at which you accomplish these tasks.  It’s easier to learn the basics in a slower and more forgiving aircraft like the default Cessna 172.  But certainly as you master these tasks in the Cessna it really is just a matter of applying the same principles as you progress to larger and more complex aircraft.

I know there are some (perhaps many) who have no desire to fly the heavy jets.  Likewise, many of you once you get the hang of flying may never fly anything smaller than a Boeing 737.  This is of course the beauty of our hobby.  There truly is something for everyone.

At some point if you want to try to fly the heavy jet aircraft, I would suggest you start with the default Boeing 737.  The Boeing 737 has been a featured default aircraft of Microsoft Flight Simulator since FS95 and is an easy aircraft to learn.

Tip – When starting to learn how to fly the heavies, stick with the default aircraft.  While these default aircraft models may lack the sophistication of their real world counterpart, the up side in learning is that they lack the sophistication of their real world counterpart.  Said another way, the default aircraft modeled in Flight Simulator are more forgiving and much easier to fly than the study-level, payware models such as PMDG.

Much as I did in the article titled “Your First Flight”, I suggest you load up the default Boeing 737 and head out to KEDW (Edwards Air Force Base).  Our goal is to spend time getting to know the flight characteristics and differences of the Boeing 737 (compared to the Cessna).  I highly suggest following the same steps of concentrating on taxi, takeoff, climb and cruise at first.  As you’ll quickly get the hang of that (since you’ve been practicing and mastering the Cessna), then add the descent and landing phase.  Just follow the pattern shown in the image below until you get it right.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

Which Flight Simulator Software is right for you?

Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software.  When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer.  I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer.  In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft.  I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.

As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B.  Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator.

I’m going to break down the options you have in the various flight simulators available today and provide a brief description and even some opinion regarding each of the available options.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

I’m starting off with Microsoft Flight Simulator since I very much consider this the grandfather of all today’s flight sim applications.  While Microsoft discontinued their popular Flight Simulator franchise many years ago, many enthusiasts continue to use their two previous editions of Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) and Flight Simulator X (FSX).  Actually, the first several titles I’m going to list below were all born from much of the original FSX code.  As I stated, many still use both FS9 and the original FSX boxed edition today.  However, due to their age…I feel for those looking to get started in this exciting hobby entertain other available options.

Dovetail Games – Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition

In July 2014, Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute the popular Microsoft FSX via Steam.  Dovetail Games made a few minor tweaks to the application to help improve performance and fix many issues which Microsoft had failed to patch before they mothballed the flight simulator projects.  The Dovetail Games Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (FSX SE) is still available to purchase via Steam for $24.99.  Since the release of FSX SE, many third party payware add-ons or DLC have been made available.

While FSX SE remains a 32 bit application, with the impressive list of available add-ons (which most have been optimized to function well with FSX SE) this simulator remains an excellent starting platform for the brand new flight sim enthusiast.

Dovetail Games – Flight Sim World

Around the same time Dovetail Games announced their licensing agreement to distribute the above mentioned FSX SE, they also announced they had plans to develop their own flight simulator platform.  Just last month, Dovetail Games announced and released Flight Sim World as an early release (beta) product.  Flight Sim World currently sells for $24.99 on Steam.

At this point in time, not a whole lot is known about the future of Flight Sim World (FSW).  There’s a wide variety of opinions regarding this simulator and how much support it will receive from 3rd party developers.  I recently wrote an opinion piece regarding my experience with FSW which you can read here.

In a nutshell, Flight Sim World is not a complete re-write.  There’s still a lot of the old FSX baseline code which exists within the sim.  However, Dovetail has developed it into a 64 bit application and of course this is great news from a systems performance perspective.

Unfortunately, the “what we don’t know” about Flight Sim World is about the only thing giving me some pause.  The way I see it, (and this is just my opinion) but as FSW is born from FSX…if Dovetail doesn’t get the 3rd party developers involved and allow them to develop the content we all expect to see in a sim, then this may never get off the ground.

The Importance of 64 Bit

Before I proceed with my article, I just want to touch on one very important piece and that is the importance of a 64 bit application in today’s modern technology world compared to the older 32 bit architecture.

I’ve written many pieces regarding the obstacles we’ve all faced in trying to wring out as much performance as we can from the older 32 bit applications like FSX (and early versions of P3D).  As we drifted further and further away from the date the original FSX code was developed, we’ve pushed harder and harder on that ever important envelope referred to as VAS or Virtual Address Space.  Essentially available RAM.

Unfortunately, simply adding more RAM to a PC isn’t the solution.  A 32 bit application (like FSX) will only utilize up to 4 GB of available RAM regardless of the amount available in the PC.  Running down to the local hardware store and buying an extra 8 GB of RAM will do nothing to help prevent those pesky OOM’s or Out Of Memory Errors.    Of course, these OOM’s are (for the most part) self-inflicted by piling on visually stunning add-on payware in the form of ground textures, enhanced airport scenery and highly detailed study level type aircraft.  In other words, for the most part….the base FSX application works well until you begin adding the eye candy.

Let’s continue with the list….

Lockheed Martin – Prepar3D

In 2009, Lockheed Martin announced they had negotiated with Microsoft to purchase the intellectual property (including source code) from the Microsoft ESP side of their flight simulation division.  ESP was the commercial side of Microsoft’s business in developing flight simulation applications.  Prepar3d version 1.1 was released in 2011, P3D v2 in 2013, P3D v3 in 2015 and finally Prepar3d version 4 (64 bit) in May 2017.

For me, P3D v4 has become my personal standard and it is what I use for my day to day flight simulation enjoyment.  While P3D v4 (just like versions 1-3) still very much contain original baseline ESP code, and much of the base scenery hasn’t been updated since the days of FSX….the 64 bit architecture is a noticeable “night versus day” difference maker for this very popular flight sim application.

Unfortunately, the only real drawback to P3D comes down to their EULA or End-User License Agreement.  To put it mildly, it’s confusing.  Essentially, P3D is licensed under the following structure:

Academic – ($59.95) Designed to offer the academic community a platform to develop hands-on STEM lessons.  While the academic version of the software is the same as the professional version, there is a watermark visible  signifying the acceptable use of the license.  The academic license is provided at a discount for students.  Currently, there are no requirements to prove eligibility for the academic license.

Professional – ($199.00) The P3D Professional license does allow for training, instruction, simulation and learning.

Professional Plus – ($2300.00)  The P3D Professional Plus license is designed for real world business customers who are going to use the software for extensive training purposes.

Developer – ($9.95/Month) Registered software developers can subscribe and receive two full copies.

I’ve written about the confusion of how the P3D EULA simply doesn’t offer a license for basic entertainment purposes only.  It is for this purpose, I personally purchase the “Professional” level which does specifically identify simulation as part of the acceptable use of the software.  I feel this is also the right thing to do considering that I do often stream and record my flights on YouTube, Twitch etc.  Plus….I’m not a student.

All versions of P3D are still available for purchase on the Prepar3D website and all are offered at the same price.  So if you are truly interested in the P3D platform, I would saddle up with the brand new P3D version 4.

Before I venture away from the topic of P3D allow me to address one thing.  Many are upset, disappointed etc. with the fact that Prepar3D version 4 is simply a 64 bit update of the original ESP code.  Meaning, much of how P3D looks by default hasn’t changed since FSX hit the store shelves almost a dozen years ago.  While I truly understand what many are saying….I must also remind everyone that P3D has never been directly marketed to the general consumer for mere entertainment purposes.  The real target audience of P3D is the commercial, professional and academic side of things and I suggest that perhaps…just perhaps the criteria is just different.

Needless to say, I for one am extremely pleased with P3D v4.  If Lockheed Martin had followed the suggestions from those demanding a new game engine, the wait would be much, much longer.  P3D v4 is performing extremely well on my gaming system and is allowing me to finally enjoy ultimate realism without the need to worry about the crash due to running out of memory.

X-Plane

Just a reminder, my list is not ranking the titles in any particular order.  X-Plane has been around for a number of years and it should be noted that X-Plane was the absolute very first to release their flight sim platform built on the 64 bit architecture.  Their recent release of X-Plane 11 has been making news and is certainly a worthy consideration.  One of the great things about X-Plane is the community behind it.  It truly reminds me of the old Microsoft Flight Sim days where the community truly worked together to develop quality freeware add-ons.  Unfortunately, for the FSX, FSX SE and P3D titles….most add-ons will be payware (with a few exceptions).

For me personally, while I do own X-Plane 11, I’ve really found it to be a struggle to forget the old Microsoft ways of controlling the sim application.  Fortunately for my old mind, much of how FSX was controlled (again from the application level) is absolutely the same in the most recent version of P3D v4.  Plus my extensive collection of add-ons continue to work well.

Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning

There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear.  While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear.  In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGear that will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line.  It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program.

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc.  I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here.  But please….don’t take my word for it.  Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.

What should you choose?

Unfortunately, we all have different interests and we all have different budgets.  If you’ve previously been involved with the flight simulation hobby and are looking to get back in…then I would recommend either Prepar3D v4 or X-Plane.  What we know about these two platforms should prove these will both be around and will see continued improvements and enhancements for many years to come.

However, if you are brand new to flight simulation and are looking for simply an entry level starting point to help you understand some of the basics of flight and serve as a litmus test if you want to pursue the hobby further, then I suggested giving the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World a solid look.  While this sim is in early access (beta), the current price of $24.95 won’t be money wasted even if you decide in six months you want to move to P3D or XP.  I’m very impressed with the tutorials in FSW and believe they can be most helpful in helping you achieve a better level of understanding in the principles of flight.  I believe this to be extremely helpful.

As time permits, I do plan to feature more flight simulation content on the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  Most likely, I will provide some videos from Flight Sim World and of course also Prepar3D v4.  While I do own XP 11, I’m really just not comfortable enough with that platform to do it justice.

I hope this information has helped you.  As I recently discussed, I truly believe 2017 will be a great year for flight simulation.  I wish you the very best in your new aviation adventure.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

The Last OOM?

In less than 24 hours, Lockheed Martin will release the highly anticipated and very long overdue 64 bit version of Prepar3D version 4.  With this release, will we finally see an end to the out of memory issues we’ve all experienced with FSX and every version of P3D?  Have we experienced the last OOM?  Can we once and for all stop worrying about how much (or how little) VAS we have?  Are those little ding, ding, ding noises just as we are on final approach after an extremely long-haul flight going to be a thing of the past?  I darn well hope so….

If you are an FSX or P3D user and don’t know what the acronyms of OOM or VAS stand for, or you haven’t encountered those ding, ding, ding sounds just before you are rudely presented with the error that says “Too Bad, Too Sad…we don’t care that you’ve just spent 12 hours flying and are in the final 5 minutes of flight, but you’ve run out of memory and we’re about to ruin your fun”, then I suggested you read this post.

Taking the Plunge

Sure…I might as well!    While I owe a review of Dovetail Games brand new Flight Sim World FSW (and I’ll get that done soon), in a nutshell I don’t believe (at this time) there is any chance I’ll spend a great deal of time in FSW.  Reason being is lack of 3rd party aircraft, scenery and such.  I don’t see FSUIPC making its way to FSW anytime soon and without that, it really limits just how much fun I can have in the sim.  NOTE:  I said it will lack how much fun I will have.  Your mileage may vary depending on what you want from a flight sim.

But yes…I do plan to purchase P3D v4.  But I’m also doing so knowing it will be some time before some of my favorite add-ons will be made available.  Some developers will have content ready on day 1, others will have their content after the first few weeks etc. etc.  From what I’ve read, much of the add-ons I currently own will not require a repurchase to obtain the P3D version 4 installers.  This is great news…but it’s more or less the commitment that many of these developers made when we all began speculating about a 64 bit version.

By the way, I have been flying lately as I’ve been playing around with both FSW and enjoying flights in P3D v3.4.  I experienced what will hopefully be one of my last OOM crashes on Sunday when I was flying from KDFW to KMEM.  Just within about two minutes after landing (thankfully) the system just said..”Nope…you’re done” it has used up 100% of the available 4 GB of VAS which is the dreadful limitation of 32 bit applications we’ve all been dealing with.  It was a great flight other than that.

My Future in Flight Sim

All things being equal, in the past 6 months I’ve been using P3D v3.4, X-Plane 11 and Dovetail Games new Flight Sim World.  As I’ve stated many times, I have a large dollar investment in FSX/P3D, so much so that I really can’t afford to seriously look at X-Plane as being a full replacement  and still be able to enjoy the hobby in the same fashion.  I have many years of experience with the Microsoft Flight Sim family of products and still find the X-Plane way of doing things about as difficult as trying to hammer a nail into the wall using only my forehead.

You can expect to read my first impressions on the 64 bit version of Prepar3D version 4 in the coming days/weeks.  I might even record my thoughts and make it available on my YouTube channel.  Stay tuned…

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Dovetail Games Flight Sim World

Look at the calendar.  It’s not April 1st and this is no April Fools Prank.  Yes…finally we have the much anticipated news regarding Dovetail Games official entry into flight simulation with Dovetail Games Flight Sim World.  I’ve frequently blogged about this very subject for what seems like eternity.  From the very early days of learning that Microsoft had authorized Dovetail Games to market and release FSX on Steam, we’ve been hearing about Dovetail’s plan to develop the next generation of flight simulation software.  Actually, this is a direct quote from a Dovetail Games press release dated 2014 Dovetail “is currently investigating new concepts in this area and is expecting to bring a release to market in 2015”.  OK…so they’ve missed their mark by a few years….but ladies and gentlemen….please sit back, relax (and turn off those darn electronic devices) because things are about to get interesting.

If you are new to my blog site, please take a moment and read an article I wrote back in November 2016 titled “Flight Sim News”.  If you are not new to my writings, then you can skip that as you’ve already read it.  Yesterday, Dovetail Games announced their new flight simulation platform they have titled “Flight Sim World” (I guess to line up with their new Train Sim World franchise) and I couldn’t be more excited.  Now time will tell exactly what all this means, but the one really important element is this will be a 64 bit application.  To date, the only 64 bit flight simulation based platform is X-Plane.  The old Microsoft FSX (boxed edition), FSX Steam Edition and even all version of Prepar3D is only 32 bit.    If you want to learn more about the challenges of trying to run an 32 bit application as complex as Flight Sim built, then read an article I wrote in February 2014 titled “Out of Memory (OOM) Errors”.

Importance of Early Access

Dovetail Games Flight Sim World will be released this month (May) via an early access process.  This is also really great news and all the proof is coming direct from Dovetail Games Executive Produce Stephen Hood when he says, “We’re bring Flight Sim World to Early Access, we believe it makes no sense to work in isolation…so we wish to work with the community, engage with them, to shape the future of Flight Sim World over the coming weeks and months”.  He further states, “We intend to develop a platform that stands the test of time over the next 5-10 years”.

Under the Hood

With the launch of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World, they have moved away from the old DirectX 9 to DirectX 11 and moved it from a 32 bit to 64 bit platform while also working to rebalance the  usage between the CPU and GPU.  This is also a very important change as today both FSX and P3D is very CPU dependent and doesn’t take advantage of today’s modern and powerful GPU’s.  The hardware technology of today far exceeds what FSX and P3D can do with it.  These older applications just don’t touch the full capabilities.

Third Party Opportunities

One of the unknowns from years ago was just how Dovetail Games would work with 3rd party developers.  Over time, and as they continued to work with their FSX Steam Edition, we saw evidence that Dovetail Games was serious about working with the various 3rd party developers like PMDG, Orbx etc.  Simon Sauntson with Dovetail Games leads up their Third Party division and mentioned Dovetail has actually engaged with many 3rd party developers to develop content which is part of the core application of Flight Sim World.

Simulation, Simulation, Simulation

Stephen Hood, acknowledges the importance of an “As Real As It Gets” experience as he states “As a Pilot you care hugely about the environments around you, it has to be accurately portrayed in Flight Sim World in order for you to fear it”

More Information

Want more information regarding Dovetail Games new Flight Sim World, visit their website, visit the Steam page, visit their Facebook page and watch the video below.

Jerry’s Final Thoughts

Dovetail Games….Just Take My Money and take it now!  Honestly, I’ve had my doubts Dovetail could, would create the truly “Next Generation Flight Sim Platform” and not just pickup where Microsoft left off with Microsoft Flight.  Which in most everyone’s opinion WAS NOT A FLIGHT SIM PLATFORM, but more of an arcade game.  Of course, time will tell and not much else is really known at this time regarding which 3rd party developers are onboard with Flight Sim World.  Honestly, I’ve not really done much with X-Plane.  Meaning I’ve not spent much money on add-ons and such.  I still find that old habits are so hard to break and trying to un-learn the Microsoft way which is still very much engrained in P3D.  I’m hopeful that some of the “Microsoft Way” will be a part of Flight Sim World.  Of course, not so much of it that it chokes the new application down.  But as I have stated many times, some people may not openly embrace Flight Sim World as it will mean (most likely) replacing add-ons which had been previously developed for FSX/P3D (32 bit) with newer 64 bit versions.  But this is how we move forward….

I’ll keep you posted on any new news I learn from this.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

 

Flight Sim News

A few months ago I wrote a blog piece discussing my plan to take a very close look at X-Plane 10.  I took that look, didn’t really like what I saw and I promptly requested a full refund via Steam.  There are a few reasons why I believe my initial X-Plane (XP) experiment failed.  The first, and perhaps foremost reason was my very, very long history with the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise (including Prepar3D).  While I certainly understood that these two platforms are as different as daytime versus nighttime, I had hoped things would be a little more intuitive.  For example, I spent an extremely long time just setting my my CH Products Yoke and Pedals.  While controller setup in FSX/P3D has never been anything to write home about, I found the setup in XP to be even worse.  The user interface (UI) in XP10 had the look of something developed way back in the mid 90’s.

Perhaps the real reason my X-Plane experiment failed was because I compared just about everything to my long history with MSFS/P3D.   But who can blame me?  My history with computer based flight sims goes all the way back to the early/to-mid 1980’s when I played a version of flight simulator on the Commodore 64.  My experience with PC based flight sims started in the early 1990’s and I owned and very much enjoyed every version of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator all the way to FSX.  I will even admit how disappointed I was (crushed even) when Microsoft went the direction of MS Flight and then eventually killed off the franchise.  While Lockheed Martin has carried the torch now for many years, I’ve always had some level of issue with the whole licensing framework.  Some seven years into the P3D experience, and they still aren’t licensing for personal (home entertainment) use.  Of course, I also understand the reasons.

Back in 2009, Microsoft sold what was their MS ESP platform to Lockheed Martin.  ESP was essentially the commercial side of Microsoft’s core flight simulation business.  From the early days of the Prepar3d v1.x release including present day, the licensing has never included “personal consumer entertainment”.  Of course, we can stretch the heck out of our collective imagination and make the wording they use in the EULA (Training, Instruction, Simulation, Learning) work for our individual situations.  As I’ve lamented time and time and time again on this blog site, legally speaking…the majority of P3D users really shouldn’t be using the software.

In 2014, Microsoft granted the rights to Dovetail Games to develop the next flight simulation and per this arrangement also allowed Dovetail to release FSX on Steam.  I’ve heard from many individuals that the re-release of FSX on Steam has been met with a positive experience.  Perhaps Dovetail better optimized FSX or they are including a little bit of magic pixie dust….whatever the cause, FSX via Steam does perform slightly better than the old boxed version of FSX.  This is a good thing.  But, I must remind everyone of the following statement Dovetail made back in 2014.  This came from a press release around the same time describing FSX Steam edition and outlining the future of flight simulation and reads as follows:  Dovetail “is currently investigating new concepts in this area and is expecting to bring a release to market in 2015”.

No, you didn’t miss it.  2015 came and went….and there was no new flight sim from Dovetail released.  Of course the target date moved (as these things do), and Dovetail once again was quoted as saying “Dovetail Games Flight Simulator, built on the foundations of Microsoft’s Flight Technology will be released on PC for 2016”.  Now we find ourselves two years down the road after the re-release of FSX via Steam and we still don’t have the new and upcoming flight simulator from Dovetail Games.  Oh wait….yea….I almost forgot.  Yes…Dovetail did release Flight School in May of this year.  While I did see some cool things in Flight School, “like sands through the hour glass”, time is quickly slipping by in 2016.  But just last week Dovetail did release a press release basically saying there would be no new flight simulator coming in 2016.  Please take a few minutes to review that press release….but here’s my cliff notes version.

First, it wasn’t 2016 when they “announced” the development of their new flight simulator.  That was actually in 2014.

Second, they state “based on your feedback, we have been focusing on three key areas: visuals, performance and experience”.  Sounds to me like any of their structured plans  which they may have come up with in 2014 and 2015 were ripped to shreds when they FINALLY decided to listen to the flight sim community.  While I’m not a betting man, I would be willing to bet Dovetail’s original plan was to pickup where Microsoft left off with that crappy Microsoft Flight game.  Microsoft Flight was an arcade game and not a simulation.  Finally, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Dovetail’s partnership with folks like Aerosoft, Orbx and PMDG also didn’t help shift their focus back towards true simulation.

To be honest, I haven’t really spent any significant time with flight sim in many months.  Actually, perhaps the last time I did any sim flying was the few hours I spent messing around in Dovetail Flight School.  While I do long for getting back into the virtual skies, I’m also sick and tired of being frustrated.

If you look through my blog archives you will notice that in recent months I’ve written more articles regarding simulation game titles such as Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator and Farming Simulator 15 and 17.  While these game titles are not perfect, for the most part they are stress free.  You install them and you play them and they work.  I get a smooth game playing experience from each of them without much need to constantly tweak the game or tweak the system.  Of course, I also am perfectly aware of the vast differences between those games and flight simulation.  Sadly, perhaps most of my problems with flight simulation has been with the vast amounts of add-ons I use.  While most are quick to blame a dodgy mod for causing issues with ATS, ETS2 or FS15/17….it’s really not the same with Flight Sim.  Perhaps a very high 90-95% of add-ons for flight sim (P3D) are payware.  I’ll admit, with regards to flight sim…I’m addicted to eye candy.  I very much want my eyes to see the same thing at KDEN (Denver International) in P3D that I would see if I visited the airport in person.  This perhaps is another reason why I wasn’t impressed with X-Plane 10.

The Future of Flight Simulation

I’ve never considered myself a predictor of anything.  After all, I’ve been predicting the Dallas Cowboys would win the super bowl for the past 20 years.  Shhhhh, I’m not saying another word about that.  Smile   But I’ve often put my thoughts regarding the future of flight simulation into words here on my blog site.  I’ve been blogging about flight simulation here since 2010 and in this span of time I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot and experienced a lot.  I’ve said that I felt P3D was not the future, and I’ve said that it was.  But even though I really wasn’t impressed with X-Plane 10 (and I’m not sure this fact will ever change), I must admit that I am impressed with that I’ve witnessed with X-Plane 11.  Yep, X-Plane 11 beta was released recently and it looks pretty darn good.  I was so impressed with a few videos I watched on YouTube that I downloaded the X-Plane 11 trial just to test it out for myself.

Once downloaded/installed, I fired it up and within about 10 minutes I had my CH Products Yoke and Pedals fully configured.  The only challenge I found was XP11 also detected my Logitech G27 and Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick.  Not a problem, but in order to get my Yoke and Pedals working accurately, I had to go in and clear out the settings XP11 thought my G27 and joystick would perform.  Once I did this, then all my CH Products gear worked fine.  The overall UI in XP11 is 100% night and day difference between what I witnessed in XP10.

Bottom line is I’m really impressed with what I’m seeing from the guys at X-Plane.  I’m so impressed that I plan to purchased X-Plane 11 (even in its beta state) just so I can spend more than the 15 minutes the trial allows flying.  Plus I really want to be able to follow the progress of XP11 through its beta stages and I’m fully aware what beta means.  But I really believe the guys at Laminar Research have finally moved the chains further than anything I’ve seen to date.  But of course, this is just my opinion.

I do plan to provide occasional updates as time allows.  I’ve already stumbled onto one little fix which has improved both FPS and visual performance and I’ll share that with you tomorrow.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Prepar3D v3.x Compatibility

Not only do I blog to help others, but I also tend to write content for my own benefit so I can find things when I need them.  The wonderful folks behind AirDailyX.net started compiling a Prepar3D v3.x Compatibility spreadsheet in Google Docs some time ago.  The spreadsheet is still updated as new information is confirmed and made available.

While I’m on the subject of AirDailyX.net.  I highly recommend you visit their website, bookmark it and return often.  AirDailyX.net was started one month after I started my flight sim blog, Position and Hold.  Of course, Position and Hold is just an extension of my flight sim hobby and I write when I can.  But AirDailyX.net (as the name implies) has fresh new content each and every day.  D’Andre Newman has done an outstanding job with AirDailyX.net and our hobby is stronger for his contributions.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Which Flight Simulator Software is right for me?

Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software.  When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer.  I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer.  In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft.  I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.

As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B.  Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Perhaps some will argue this point, but I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator leads the popularity contest when it comes to flight simulator software.   From Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 released in 1982 all the way to Microsoft Flight Simulator X released in 2006, Microsoft has certainly done its part to create the industry behind the flight sim hobby.

Tip – Microsoft released a new ‘simulator’ titled Microsoft Flight in February 2012.  While Microsoft referred to MS Flight as a simulator, the flight sim community does not.  Unlike all other versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Flight is geared to be more of a ‘game’ versus simulator. On July 26, 2012, Microsoft cancelled any further development plans for Flight.

If you are looking into purchasing a version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’ll find Flight Simulator 2004 (AKA FS9) and Flight Simulator X as the most common versions used among Microsoft enthusiasts.  You’ll also find software add-on options (including scenery, aircraft and other accessories) widely available for both FS9 and FSX versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator.  I wouldn’t advise purchasing any version prior to FS9.

FSX will function (as well as just about every add-on) without issue on the Microsoft Windows 7 OS (32 bit and 64 bit).  I’ve also read in various forums where users have installed FSX on the new Microsoft Windows 8 OS.  However, I can’t confirm Windows 8 will handle all the other add-on options available. 

X-Plane

X-Plane, developed by Laminar Research is another popular flight sim platform which has been around for a number of years.  Designed for Mac, but also available for 32/64-Bit Windows and Linux OS systems, it has become a solid alternative to the Microsoft brand.  Most 3rd party developers designing the various add-on options include X-Plane versions.  Unlike Microsoft, the developers of X-Plane continue to develop the software and as of the present time the most current version is 10.10.

Prepar3D

Prepar3D or P3D is the new kid on the block with regards to payware flight simulation software.  Announced in 2009, Lockheed Martin negotiated the purchase of the intellectual property including source code of Microsoft Flight Simulator X along with the hiring of many of the MS developers which were part of ACES Studios to develop what would become Prepar3D.  From what I understand, most add-ons as well as the default FSX aircraft work in Prepar3D without any adjustment since Prepar3D is kept backward compatible to FSX.  However, there are some small technical changes that must be made if you want to fly online via either the IVAO or VATSIM networks.

There is some debate whether or not Prepar3D is designed to be used in the flight sim hobby community.  I don’t believe Lockheed Martin plans to develop a public version, but the Prepar3D website does state that the academic license version is available for students from kindergarten through undergraduate and is suitable for home use.  You can learn more about the licensing of P3D here.

Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning

There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear.  While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear.  In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGearthat will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line.  It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program. 

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc.  I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here.  But please….don’t take my word for it.  Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.

Final Thoughts

I base much of my decision around what flight simulator platform I continue to use around the fact that I have a large investment of money and time in the Microsoft platform.  I built a custom PCback in 2010 which would handle the demands of Microsoft FSX.  I have hundreds of dollars tied up in add-on software and hardware to enhance my flight sim experience.  If I woke up tomorrow and could no longer run Microsoft FSX, I would probably further investigate Prepar3D as a solution.  However, if you are just starting out….the sky truly is the limit in the direction you proceed. 

While there are many reasons to select Microsoft Flight Simulator as your software of choice, the fact that Microsoft discontinued development and in my opinion will never develop flight simulation software again is perhaps a reason to steer away from this as an option.  But for now, FSX continues to be my platform of choice and it works well for me.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT