Sponsored Review–EGTB Wycombe Air Park by Pilot Plus for MSFS

 

About This Sponsored Review

The product I’m reviewing today was provided to me at no cost in exchange for writing this review.  As with all my reviews, it is my intent to provide to you, the reader, a full and un-biased review of this product.

About The Real Wycombe Air Park

Wycombe Air Park (EGTB), also known as Booker Airfield is a general aviation airport located in Booker, Buckinghamshire, 2.4 nm southwest of High Wycombe, England.  The airfield celebrated its 55th year of operation on 25 April 2020.  Originally opening in ‘41 as RAF Booker it was primarily involved in training during World War II and remained an active military establishment until ‘65.   Today the airfield operates three runways consisting of one single asphalt runway measuring 2,411 ft (735m) (06/24) and two shorter grass strips (06G/24G & 35). 

Much like my real life experience with London City Airport (EGLC), I have also visited Wycombe Air Park on a few occasions back in the 2001-02 timeframe.  My wife lived just a little over one mile east of Wycombe Air Park.  From her third floor flat we could watch the GA aircraft fly over her flat as they approached the airport.  A few times my wife became just a little anxious while watching as she would hear the pilot practicing an engine out scenario as the aircraft was headed directly for her flat. 

Why Consider Add-on Airports

Microsoft Flight Simulator utilizes satellite imagery from Bing maps to create much of the airport scenery and surrounding area we see in the simulator, it’s far from perfect and generally leaves default airports lacking the same level of detail one would might see if visiting in real life.  While default type airports have been significantly improved in MSFS (compared with FSX or P3D), there’s still many reasons to consider purchasing/installing payware add-on scenery.

The Wycombe Air Park by Pilot Plus add-on includes full PBR textures of the air park including apron assets, buildings and ground. The scenery also includes local VFR landmarks such as Adams Park Stadium, St. Lawrence’s Church Golden Ball in West Wycombe and the BT Tower located in Stokenchurch.  Making this a truly wonderful VFR flying experience. 

Before & After Images

Default MSFS (left column) and Pilot Plus Wycombe Air Park (right column).  For these images, I’ve set the weather conditions for clear skies and the time is mid-afternoon.  Click thumbnail to view full-size image.  As you can tell between the before and after images, the Pilot Plus Wycombe Air Park scenery adds extra details which are missing in the default scenery.

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Additional Pilot Plus Wycombe Air Park Views.

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I’ve enjoyed watching the glider and GA aircraft from those picnic tables in real life back in the 2001-02 timeframe. 

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Yes, there’s an actual hangar which you can taxi through and park your aircraft.

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Pilot Plus Wycombe Air Park (EGTB) Review

As with my previously posted reviews, I always spend a bit of time enjoying, or in this case trying to enjoy the default airport.  I say trying simply because while it’s been 18+ years since I’ve visited this airport in real life, I still had memories of spending a nice Sunday fall afternoon here with my fiancé (now wife) and the default just didn’t provide me the level of immersion I needed to take myself back to that time before.  However, the wonderful job the Pilot Plus team did in recreating this beautiful air park allows me to go back in time to those visits.

From a overall system performance perspective, this add-on caused me no issues.  No major reduction in FPS and no lag.  With the scenery installed, I spent time flying during different times of the day and different weather conditions.  My FPS remained in the 60-70+ range.  As a point of reference, my hardware specs are as follows:  Intel 8700K, GTX1080Ti, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB M.2 SSD and I’m running on Ultra Graphics Settings in MSFS.

I’m very pleased with this add-on scenery and while I don’t typically spend a lot of time flying in the UK…I know this will become my favorite place to spend time flying VFR on this side of the pond. 

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Above: Adams Park Stadium

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Above: St. Lawrence’s Church and the Golden Ball

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Above: The BT Tower in Stokenchurch

How To Purchase

The Pilot Plus Wycombe Air Park (EGTB) can be purchased from Orbx for $18.99 AUD and installed via Orbx Central. 

About Pilot Plus

Pilot Plus is a technology company that builds virtual worlds with a mission to propel accurate digital experiences, creating breathtaking environments for hobbyists and leading software for businesses.  Please also visit their Facebook page to learn more about their products and join their community.

About GrizzlyBearSims

Jerry (aka GrizzlyBearSims) is an independent blogger and avid flight simulation enthusiast covering the flight simulation hobby for over 10 years.  He began flying computer based flight simulators in the early 80’s on the Commodore 64 and today enjoys both Prepar3D and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

I would like to thank Pilot Plus for the opportunity to review Wycombe Air Park and provide this review to the readers of my GrizzlyBearSims.com blog site.  If you have questions regarding this scenery, please visit the GrizzlyBearSims Discord server and let’s discuss.

Thank you for taking the time to read this sponsored review.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Welcome Aboard KPHX to KLAS

SnapShot_aal777 Hello and thank you for stopping by.  For several years I have wanted to produce more cinematic flight sim productions.  However, the amount of time required hasn’t always been something I’ve had a lot of.  But times are different now.  Of course I love flying and this video was a lot of fun to put together.  There will be more soon….

Welcome Aboard to American Airlines flight 777 with non-stop service between Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.  Your captain for this flight is JT.  Please sit back,
relax and enjoy the flight.

Addons used:

Aircraft:
PMDG Boeing 737-800 (NGXu)
American Airlines Livery

Simulator:
Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v5

Scenery:
(1) ORBX FTX GLOBAL
(2) ORBX OpenLC North America
(3) Flightbeam Studios KPHX
(4) FlyTampa KLAS
(5) FSDreamTeam GSX Lvl 2
 
Camera Effect:
Chaseplane

Weather:
ActiveSky 

I hope you enjoy watching my videos.  If you do, please hit that “Like” button!  Also, if you are new to the channel, please SUBSCRIBE.  It really does help!

Please visit my blog site https://grizzlybearsims.com  You’ll find my complete mod list and various articles and reviews on many of the simulation based games I enjoy playing.

Thank you for watching!

J

MUSIC CREDITS
________________

Inflight Music
Dreaming in 432Hz by Unicorn Heads (YouTube Music Library)

Sponsored Review–LOWI Innsbruck Airport

 

About This Sponsored Review

The product I’m reviewing today was provided to me at no cost in exchange for writing this review.  As with all my reviews, it is my intent to provide to you, the reader, a full and un-biased review of this product.

About The Real Innsbruck Airport

Innsbruck Airport (LOWI), is the largest international airport in Tyrol in western Austria.  The airport officially opened in 1925 and handles regional flights around the Alps and seasonal international traffic to many European destinations.  Winter is the peak season due to holiday ski travel to the region.  The airport features a single runway measuring 6,562 ft (2,000 m) (08/26) and can handle aircraft up to the size of the Boeing 767.  Innsbruck Airport is known for having a difficult approach due to surrounding terrain.

Why Consider Add-on Airports

Microsoft Flight Simulator utilizes satellite imagery from Bing maps to create much of the airport scenery and surrounding area we see in the simulator, it’s far from perfect and generally leaves default airports lacking the same level of detail one would might see if visiting in real life.  While Innsbruck Airport is one of Microsoft’s custom, hand-crafted airports available in all versions of MSFS, there are significant improvements which have been made to the Orbx add-on that may be of benefit to some users. 

Before & After Images

Default MSFS (left column) Orbx Innsbruck Airport (right column).  I’ve set the weather conditions for clear skies and the time is mid-afternoon.  Click thumbnail to view full-size image.  As you can tell between the before and after images, the Orbx Innsbruck Airport scenery adds extra details which are missing in the handcrafted default scenery.

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Additional Orbx LOWI Innsbruck Views

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Orbx Innsbruck Airport (LOWI) Review

I’ll be brutally honest and say that when I first heard Microsoft was going to include several custom, hand-crafted airports in MSFS I certainly had hoped they would be up to the same standards we’ve come to expect from many of our add-on airport developers.  After all, Microsoft certainly has a much larger development budget and resources to truly make each of these custom airports shine.  Upon getting MSFS installed back in August, Innsbruck was one of the first airports I loaded up in the sim and had a look around.  I did somewhat cheat a bit and fired up P3Dv5 to take a quick look around just to refresh my memory and soon realized there was a difference between what I could see in P3Dv5 compared to MSFS.  Thankfully, with the Orbx Innsbruck scenery installed in MSFS all is once again right in the sim world.

Much like I did with my first look of London City Airport review, I spent about an hour flying around and exploring the custom, hand-crafted Innsbruck Airport which comes standard in all versions of MSFS.  Compared to the standard default airport, the Microsoft custom, hand-crafted version is nice.  During my time exploring, I flew the default Cessna 172.  My FPS ranged from the mid 70’s to low 80’s in various areas of the airport scenery. 

With the Orbx Innsbruck Airport (LOWI) scenery installed and using the same default Cessna 172, my FPS under clear skies (around mid-day) held an average FPS in the low to mid 70’s.  Introducing clouds and evening skies did drop the FPS down into the low to mid 60 FPS range.  I did some circuit work around the airport and even flew down the valley about 15nm from the airport and then back with no stutters or freezes on approach.  As a point of reference, my hardware specs are as follows:  Intel 8700K, GTX1080Ti, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB M.2 SSD and I’m running on Ultra Graphics Settings in MSFS.

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Note:  As you can see from a few of the above screenshots, my FPS did drop down into the low 50’s.  This only occurred under cloudy, evening conditions.  Knowing that MSFS still isn’t fully optimized and for the most part I’ve never experienced FPS in FSX/P3D above 35 in these same conditions, I’m personally not troubled by this.  While the jury is still out on what may or may not happen when we start adding more complex aircraft into MSFS, the sim remain stable with no lag.  Remember, FPS is just a number.  You always want to tune your sim for a smooth and eye pleasing experience.  I believe this is exactly what I’ve done. 

In comparing the Orbx Innsbruck Airport runway 26 with that of Google Earth, I believe Orbx did a fantastic job in recreating the runway as you can see in the below images. Images from left to right: Google Earth, MSFS custom and Orbx.  Orbx even provided a much closer looking mowed grass texture.  Remember, it’s sometimes the little things like this that truly helps to add to the level of realism we experience when flying.

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Another area I’d like to point out which Orbx included in detail is the general aviation area.  Once again, from left to right: Google Earth, MSFS custom and Orbx. 

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How To Purchase

The Orbx LOWI Innsbruck Airport add-on can be purchased one of two ways.  Users may purchase directly from the MSFS Marketplace (see image below) or from Orbx direct.  If purchased from Orbx, you’ll need to install via the Orbx Central application.  The cost of the add-on is $26.99 AUD.

MSFS Marketplace

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Orbx Central

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I install in the Main Library

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Install Complete

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Once installed, just launch MSFS and select LOWI as your departure airport and enjoy!

About Orbx

Orbx has been the leading developer of scenery for flight simulation since 2006 and have published over 800 high-quality add-on products for Flight Simulator X (FSX), Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, Aerofly FS2, X-Plane 11 and now Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

About GrizzlyBearSims

Jerry (aka GrizzlyBearSims) is an independent blogger and avid flight simulation enthusiast covering the flight simulation hobby for over 10 years.  He began flying computer based flight simulators in the early 80’s on the Commodore 64 and today enjoys both Prepar3D and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

I would like to thank Orbx for the opportunity to review LOWI Innsbruck Airport and provide this review to the readers of my GrizzlyBearSims.com blog site.  If you have questions regarding this scenery, please visit the GrizzlyBearSims Discord server and let’s discuss.

Thank you for taking the time to read this sponsored review.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Parting Shot

With the sun going down on my Innsbruck adventure, it’s time to shut down and head over and grab me one of those picnic tables and enjoy a cold brew.  Thanks again for reading.

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Confused in Cleveland–Weather Addon for MSFS

I recently received an email from one of my long-time blog readers asking my opinion regarding the recent announcement from REX on their upcoming release of Weather Force 2020 for Microsoft Flight Simulator.  With his permission, I’m going to post a portion of his email and then provide my opinions.

Hello Jerry,

I hope you and your family are well.  I’ve really enjoyed reading all your blog posts regarding the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  Like you, I’ve been excited about this new sim ever since I first learned about it.  But I’m slightly confused about a recent posting over on FSElite regarding a new add-on being developed by REX.  REX appears to be developing a weather add-on for MSFS, yet I thought (I think we all thought) MSFS had real world weather baked into the sim and weather add-ons from REX or Hi-Fi  Simulations (ActiveSky) would no longer be needed.  I’m curious what your opinions are on this subject?

Thanks again for all your efforts.

Confused in Cleveland,
Bill

Bill brings up a very valid point and one that I’ve taken some time to ponder.  He’s right!  From the very early news regarding the new Microsoft Flight Simulator we’ve been led to believe that the sim would include real-time weather injection that would be far superior to anything we’ve had as default in the past and there would be no need for a 3rd party add-on to provide this function.  Microsoft actually released a video in October of last year where they specifically discussed the new weather system within Microsoft Flight Simulator.

It is worth noting, at the present time…Microsoft is well aware and working to resolve the real-time weather functions within MSFS.  We expect to see a fix in the upcoming “Patch 2” release from Microsoft in the next few days that hopefully will address the weather (or lack thereof) issues within the new sim.  I personally remain extremely confident that in time (and that’s the operative word or phrase we must all understand) Microsoft will address all these issues/bugs and MSFS 2020 will be an amazing sim. 

The news article which Bill references from the FSElite site can be read here.  It’s also worth noting some fine print which REX discusses on their website“Even though the REX weather engine is pushing the proper temperatures and winds aloft data through to the simulator, due to core issues of Microsoft Flight Simulator, temperatures and winds aloft are not properly rendered yet. Microsoft & Asobo are aware of this issue. (September 13, 2020)” 

My personal opinion and certainly my initial plan is to take a “wait and see” attitude regarding all things weather in the new sim.  While it’s been an almost necessity to use an add-on weather engine in FSX/P3D, the jury is still out on whether this will remain true in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  At the present time, I’m not even sure the default aircraft flight models are stable enough for real-world, real-time weather.  This is also currently being worked on and improvements to both aircraft aerodynamics, avionics and systems are part of this update #2 patch.

Interestingly enough, later today Hi-Fi Simulations commented on the future of their Active Sky product as it directly relates to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  This announcement was posted to FSElite and can be read here.  One of the key takeaways from that article reads, “Sadly, Damian did say that right now they are not aware of any way to bring weather interpretation into the simulator or what the possibilities will be.”  I find this statement rather interesting considering the REX product announcement discussed earlier.  I’ve tried both REX and Active Sky over the years and always found that Active Sky does a much better job with accurate weather interruption and injection.

Having said all this, does this still mean there will never be an opportunity for a 3rd party weather add-on in Microsoft Flight Simulator?  Where I personally believe some type of weather add-on might be beneficial is for those who enjoy flying with historical weather.  But I plan to allow Microsoft time to address the current issues with real-time weather functionality and go from there. 

I appreciate Bill taking the time to email me his question and would like to invite anyone else the opportunity to do the same.  You can contact me via email or by Discord private message

Thanks to all for taking the time to read my blog articles.  I hope you find them educational and entertaining.  Stay tuned for more…

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Sponsored Review– EGLC London City Airport by Orbx for MSFS

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About This Sponsored Review

The product I’m reviewing today was provided to me at no cost in exchange for writing this review.  As with all my reviews, it is my intent to provide to you, the reader, a full and un-biased review of this product. 

About The Real London City Airport

London City Airport (EGLC) is a small international airport located in the Docklands of East London, England near London’s Financial District.  The airport features a single 4,948 ft (1,508 m) runway (09/27) which allows for only multi-engine, fixed-wing aircraft capable of flying a 5.5 degree approach.  The largest aircraft allowed to conduct operations at London City Airport is the Airbus A318.  London City Airport is the 5th busiest airport serving the London area and in 2019 handled over 5 million passengers.

Over the past 18 years, I’ve had the opportunity to fly into and out of London City Airport numerous times on flights from London to Antwerp, Belgium. 

Why Consider Add-on Airports

Microsoft Flight Simulator utilizes satellite imagery from Bing maps to create much of the airport scenery and surrounding area we see in the simulator, it’s far from perfect and generally leaves default airports lacking the same level of detail one would might see if visiting in real life.  While default type airports have been significantly improved in MSFS (compared with FSX or P3D), there’s still many reasons to consider purchasing/installing payware add-on scenery. 

The Orbx EGLC London City Airport add-on includes a full PBR representation of London City Airport and the surrounding area with full HD textures throughout.  Includes the Excel building and the Tate & Lyle Sugar factory along with other nearby landmarks. 

Before & After Images

Default MSFS (left column) Orbx London City (right column).  I’ve set the weather conditions for clear skies and the time is mid-afternoon.  Click thumbnail to view full-size image.  As you can tell between the before and after images, the Orbx London City Airport scenery adds extra details which are missing in the default scenery. 

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Additional Orbx EGLC London City Airport Views.

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Orbx London City Airport (EGLC) Review

Before writing this review, I’ve spent a few hours flying into and out of the London City Airport in both the default configuration and also with the Orbx London City Airport installed.  During the default experience (flying in the default Cessna 172) my FPS ranged in the 60 to 70+ range.  Note:  during my default testing I also did not have the London City Pack by Orbx installed as I wanted a true default experience.   I’ll review the Orbx London City Pack soon. 

With Orbx London City Airport installed, and real time weather I witnessed no impact to my FPS as observed with FPS counter in upper left corner.  I was still maintaining an FPS ranging from 60 to 70+ during circuit flying in and around the airport with no lag.  My hardware specs are as follows:  Intel 8700K, GTX1080Ti, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB M.2 SSD and I’m running on Ultra Graphics Settings in MSFS.

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I compared the Orbx London City Airport details with that from Google Earth and noticed no irregularities with the airport including runway and taxiways. I enjoyed the added level of immersion the Orbx scenery has added to London City Airport and surrounding area.  As this is an airport I enjoy simulating flights to/from I regard this scenery as a must have for my collection. 

How To Purchase

The Orbx EGLC London City Airport add-on can be purchased one of two ways.  Users may purchase directly from the MSFS Marketplace (see image below) or from Orbx direct.  If purchased from Orbx, you’ll need to install via the Orbx Central application.  The cost of the add-on is $20.99 AUD. 

MSFS Marketplace

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Orbx Central

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I install in the Main Library

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Install Complete

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Once installed, just launch MSFS and select EGLC as your departure airport and enjoy!

About Orbx

Orbx has been the leading developer of scenery for flight simulation since 2006 and have published over 800 high-quality add-on products for Flight Simulator X (FSX), Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, Aerofly FS2, X-Plane 11 and now Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. 

About GrizzlyBearSims

Jerry (aka GrizzlyBearSims) is an independent blogger and avid flight simulation enthusiast covering the flight simulation hobby for over 10 years.  He began flying computer based flight simulators in the early 80’s on the Commodore 64 and today enjoys both Prepar3D and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

I would like to thank Orbx for the opportunity to review EGLC London City Airport and provide this review to the readers of my GrizzlyBearSims.com blog site.  If you have questions regarding this scenery, please visit the GrizzlyBearSims Discord server and let’s discuss. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this sponsored review. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

UK Virtual Tours–A Closer Look

Last week I wrote an article titled “The Wonderful World of Virtual Airlines”.  I discussed the finer points of why one might want to join a VA and provided a short list of examples of those VA’s which I’ve had direct experience with.  As I mentioned in that article, virtual airlines are not for everyone.  For all the reasons why one might want to join one, there could certainly be an argument made towards all the reasons why one shouldn’t follow that path.  It really boils down to the individual and what he/she wants to get out of the flight simulation hobby.  There really is no right or wrong answer.

With a few rare exceptions, I’ve typically been a one VA at a time type of person.  The free time I often have to enjoy my simulation hobby is sometimes limited.  One of the points I tried to hammer home in that previous article was most (if not all) VA’s will require a minimum level of participation to remain active within the organization.  While this is typically only 1-2 PIREPS per month, there have been times where I’ve completely burned out due to too much going on in my life and just need to take an extended break.  Other times I’ve lost interest in flying online and if you fly for an online only type VA, then this can be an issue.  But I digress…

With the gaining popularity of flight sim after the release of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, and my own enjoyment with the new sim, I’ve wanted to do more with my new investment.  As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, for me…MSFS2020 will be used (for now) as mostly VFR GA flights.  I just don’t feel the default aircraft are VATSIM ready and I do enjoy flying jets on the VATSIM network.  So until such time as study level aircraft are available for MSFS2020, I’m going to stick with GA in that sim. 

A few days ago I saw a Facebook posting in the VATSIM group regarding UK Virtual being compatible with MSFS2020.  I had heard great things about UK Virtual over the years and decided to check out their website.  I really liked what I saw with regards to the number of airlines they feature (over 120) and the airlines schedules (over 35,000).  But what really caught my eye was their GA (general aviation) tours.  The wheels in my brain began to turn and within a few minutes I had filled out my application and was anxiously awaiting the approval confirmation. 

UK Virtual, but not virtually all UK

The name might imply that this is mostly a UK based virtual airline.  Not true!  While the vast majority of members might be from the UK, UK Virtual has members from all over the world.  The 100+ airlines they feature are also from all over the world.  All the major US airlines including the major freight carriers are represented.  So the possibilities are truly endless. 

Touring with MSFS2020

Those wheels in my head I mentioned a few minutes ago now have me flying the default Cessna 172 in the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 as I’m flying along the old Route 66 from Chicago all the way to Santa Monica, CA.  This tour (the first one I’ve attempted with UK Virtual) is divided into two parts.  Part one consists of 15 flight legs with the first leg departing Chicago O’Hare (KORD) and ending at Tucumcari, New Mexico (KTCC). 

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Departing Joliet Regional (KJOT) on leg 2 (part 1) of the Route 66 Tour.

The tour ends on 30 September, but as I’m half way through part 1, I shouldn’t have an issue making it all the way to Santa Monica. 

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Somewhere over southern Illinois on my way towards St. Louis.

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Flying VFR and following the old Route 66 towards St. Louis.

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The mighty Mississippi River as we near St. Louis.

Part two of the tour will depart Tucumcari, New Mexico and end in Santa Monica, California.  I’m sure I’ll provide an update as part two as I begin in a week or so.

Over all I’ve been very pleased with the way this tour was setup.  There’s a mixture of large airports and smaller municipals mixed in for variety.  When flying VFR with GA aircraft I do prefer the smaller municipal/regional airports to the larger airports as it cuts down on taxi time.  But all-in-all I’m having a fun time with this tour and with UK Virtual.

Of course UK Virtual offers plenty of tour options for jet aircraft which I’m sure I’ll explore in time.  I’ll also provide a similar update in a few weeks as I explore the many airline schedule offerings so stay tuned.

Until next time…

Happy Touring!

Jerry

The Wonderful World of Virtual Airlines

As I’ve been writing about the flight simulation hobby for just over 10 years, I’ve covered the topic of virtual airlines a few times.  However, with the release of the brand new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 the doors of our hobby have been swung wide open and we’re seeing hundreds, thousands and even perhaps tens of thousands of brand new flight simmers arriving into our hobby.  As a matter of fact, Microsoft recently released some statistics regarding just how many individual users have been flying MSFS2020.  Care to wager a guess as to how many have spent some time with the new flight sim?  As of 3 September, over 1 million unique users have used the new sim and recorded over 1 billion flight miles.  WOW.  You can read more about these statistics here

Of course, within these numbers are individual YouTube content creators and Twitch Live streamers who were given a copy of MSFS2020 (some even a full setup with yoke, rudder pedals etc.) who spent a bit of time and will never, ever return.  But I digress…

What is a Virtual Airline and Do I need to join one?

Virtual Airlines or VA’s for short, are essentially online clubs or groups which are formed to represent one or more real world airlines.  In some cases a VA might represent a completely fictional airline, but most will emulate a real world airline in some form.  The majority of VA’s I’ve been associated with will also operate under a ranking system whereby you’ll work your way up from smaller aircraft as you accumulate flight hours.  However, this may not always be the case.  Finally, each VA should have an established set of rules which will need to be followed to remain in active status.  I’ll discuss this a bit later.

have been around for over two decades and perhaps even longer.  I’ve told the story about my friend and I who both had Commodore 64 computers in the mid 80’s.  We both owned Flight Simulator for the C64 and we both tracked our flights, shared our numbers with each other.  On at least a few occasions, we came together in the same location with each of our C64’s and flew from point A to point B.  One could argue this was a virtual airline, but thankfully the world of VA’s have vastly improved since the days of a Big Chief tablet and a number 2 pencil.  Of course, a VA is much more than just tracking flights and accumulating hours. 

Virtual airlines began to appear in the mid to late 90’s, however I’ve heard of VA’s existing on AOL, CompuServe and other online BBS systems even before the internet became what it is today.  The first internet VA I joined was in the 1998 timeframe.  At this time the websites were often crudely designed and there was very little in the form of automation.  PIREPS (Pilot Reports) were often just a web form which needed to be reviewed by the hub manager and then he/she would update the roster.  It was all a manual process. Today’s more modern VA’s will offer completion automation in the form of an ACAR’s application that tracks all elements of the flight and will automagically file the PIREP once you’ve safely arrived at your destination and parked at the gate. 

The heart of any good VA is its people and management team.  In the almost 25 years I’ve been flying for internet based virtual airlines, I’ve flown for some of the best and a few of the worst.  While a spiffy website and lots of bells and whistles might lead you to believe it to be a quality VA, some of the less shining examples have been some of the better ones I’ve experienced.   But as I’ve said, it really boils down to the members and the management team overseeing the operation. 

Have It Your Way

Depending on what you want from your virtual airline experience, you shouldn’t have an issue finding a VA that fits your flying style.  If you are new to the flight simulation hobby, I highly encourage you to find a VA that offers a rank structure and while I know everyone eventually wants to fly the heavies…you’ll appreciate the time, patience and personal rewards of starting out as a CAT 1 pilot and put your hours in.  After all, in the real world a brand new pilot doesn’t go from nothing to flying a Boeing 747 without first serving their time in a Boeing 737.  When I first began my VA career back in 2000 with an American Airlines VA, I served my time flying short hops of generally 1-2 hours in a Saab 340B and ATR-72.  After about 100 hours I was able to move up to the Fokker 100, MD-80 etc.  If memory serves, it wasn’t until I had racked up ~500 hours before I could fly the 777. 

Choices, Choices and even More Choices

Most will choose their VA based on airline preference, others might select a VA based on aircraft selection.  Some would rather transport boxes and cargo.  Regardless how you like your tea, you’ll certainly find what you’re looking for in the VA world.  Of course, some pilots will fly for more than one VA and there’s certainly nothing wrong with this pending you have the available time to meet your minimum requirements.

Speaking of Requirements

At a minimum, most VA’s will require you to fly at least two flights per month to remain in active status.  Some VA’s require more and some less.  Of course, most will allow a short LOA (leave of absence) to accommodate real life schedule conflicts.  However, keep in mind that some VA’s will limit the number of times per year that any pilot can request a LOA. 

Online vs. Offline Flying

Some VA’s may require all flights to be flown online.  While flying on the VATSIM or IVAO network may not be everyone’s cup of tea, flying online is an awesome experience and just simply can’t be duplicated by artificial ATC.  Yes, there is a significant learning curve to with VATSIM/IVAO.  These are not just online networks where one can connect and do whatever he/she pleases.  There is a structure and organization to flying online and is meant for serious virtual pilots.  If you are interested in learning more about flying online and specifically the VATSIM network, please read this.  

Misc

Virtual Airlines which use an ACARS type flight tracking system may have certain requirements regarding landing rate.  In other words, if you haven’t quite mastered the art of smooth landings you should probably practice, practice and practice some more until you can successfully land your aircraft as smooth as possible.  While I personally detest landing rate competitions and placing an importance around ultra low numbers.  A landing rate above 500 FPM in most situations will be regarded as a hard landing.  Anything above 750 in a jet is considered very hard and in the real life could actually cause damage to the aircraft and endanger the lives of passengers and crew.  VA’s who have policies around landing rate requirements may choose to reject a filed PIREP if the landing rate is high. 

Conclusion and Recommendations

Much like I stated in my “The Basics of VATSIM” tutorial (near the bottom), if you’ve reached this point and have realized joining a virtual airline seems more trouble than its worth, that really isn’t my intention.  Within the flight simulation hobby, I’m my most happiest when I’m flying for a VA as I enjoy the structure and the camaraderie which only a virtual airline can provide.  However, for the enjoyment of all….you will need to be prepared to follow the rules and as I’ve pointed out the rules (or lack thereof) will vary from VA to VA.  Failure to comply will only force the VA and their management team to quickly show you the door. 

I’m going to provide you a few recommendations based on my experiences over the past 20+ years.  I would encourage you to visit these VA websites and read their policy manuals, then choose the one that you fill best suits you. 

American virtual Airlines

American virtual Airlines, AvA earned the distinction of being the very first virtual airline to be affiliated with the VATSIM network.  It is also one of the oldest.  AvA requires all flights to be flown on the VATSIM network, requires two flights per month to remain active and requires pilots to adhere to a rank structure.  You really won’t find a better VA, and certainly not one representing American Airlines.  AvA allows pilots to fly any of the OneWorld partner flights which in addition to AAL offers the virtual pilots another dozen or so airlines to choose from.

Virtual United Airlines

Virtual United Airlines, vUAL is the premier VA representing the real world United Airlines.  vUAL does require a minimum of two flights per month, but does not require flights to be flown online.  However, you will need to use their ACARS program. 

Southwest virtual Airlines

If flying the Boeing 737 is your cup of tea, then you’ll find no better representation of Southwest Airlines than at SWAVirtual.  SWAVirtual requires one flight per month to remain active and does not require online flying (but highly encourages it).  A general knowledge exam is administered at the time of submitting an application. 

British Airways Virtual

BAVirtual has been around since 2000 and once held the distinction as being authorized by their real world counterpart, that being the real British Airways.  BAVirtual requires one flight per month and does not require online flights.  BAv does limit the number of pilots and therefore a waiting list might delay your application approval.  Much like SWAv, a general knowledge exam with a passing score is required at the time of submitting an application. 

UK Virtual

If you really don’t want to be tied down to just one airline, and you aren’t interested in joining multiple VA’s, then you might be interested in UK Virtual.  UK Virtual is the home to over 100 different airlines and over 20,000 schedules to choose from.  All the major airlines are available including freight carriers like Fedex, UPS and DHL.  UK Virtual does not require online flights, but of course highly encourages it.  There are no aircraft restrictions and basically you can fly for any of the airlines they feature and any of the aircraft within those airlines fleet.  UK Virtual offers many different tours around the world. 

Well, there you have it.  The above list of virtual airlines are some of the best you’ll find on the internet.  I’ve spent some time with each of them over the years.  

In Summary

At the top of this article I asked whether or not you need to join a virtual airline.  Hopefully by now you’ve figured out the answer to that question.  I can’t really tell you one way or the other as everyone has their own method of defining their own enjoyment factor.  In the 20+ years I’ve been flying, I’ve spent time flying with VA’s and I’ve spent time just doing my own thing.  For about three years I even operated my own fictional cargo based airline and built up the member community to over 100 active virtual pilots. 

Today I’m only flying for AvA and UK Virtual. These two VA’s give me exactly what I’m looking for.  AvA provides the structure I enjoy while belonging to a virtual airline and UK Virtual provides me the flexibility to more or less do whatever I want, whenever I want.  I’m really enjoying the UK Virtual tours at the moment and working my way through the first half of the Route 66 tour. 

If you have questions regarding VA membership, please drop me a note or head over to my Discord and message me.  I’d be happy to answer any questions.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Sponsored Product Reviews by GBS

I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to bring to my blog site my first ever sponsored reviews of various flight simulation add-on products for the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  While I’ve written many product reviews over the past 10 years, (this year I celebrate 10 years blogging about flight sim) these reviews carried the disclaimer “The product I’m reviewing was purchased by me and for my own personal use” etc. etc.  In these reviews I’ve always expressed my absolute opinion (good or bad) and I while these new reviews will be sponsored (meaning I’ve received the add-on at no charge in exchange for reviewing it here on my blog), my writing style will not be influenced.  Simply put…if the developer has created a solid add-on, then they shouldn’t be worried about what I (or anyone else) could possibly say about it. 

Review Format

When I was a Boy Scout, I held the position of troop scribe.  I would write up all the activities our scout troop was involved in and not only record this in our troop log book, but also submit the article to our local weekly newspaper.  I learned a lot about journalism from the owner/editor and firmly believe this is one of the reasons I enjoy blogging today.  Anyway….I will present the reviews in the “Five W’s and an H” of journalism of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. 

Each review will accompany images and with add-ons which involve airport scenery, I’ll provide before and after images along with specific elements regarding system performance in both a before and after style report.  I may from time to time use both still images and video to showcase the product. 

Honest Opinions

What I hope to be able to offer through these sponsored product reviews is a genuine, honest opinion.  Too many times the bloggers, content creators and live streamers fail to truly share an honest review of whatever product they’ve been provided to showcase.  I will do my best to always point out the pros/cons, positives/negatives and/or strengths/weaknesses of whatever product I’m reviewing.  Just as I’ve always tried to do in the past. 

Stay tuned.  I’ll have my first sponsored product review out very soon.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry

MSFS2020 PMDG Delays?

Could the PMDG 737NG3 for MSFS2020 be delayed even longer than first anticipated?  While many of us fully understand the time it would take to bring an aircraft of the level of quality and sophistication like the PMDG 737 into MSFS2020, we might need to wait just a bit longer.

A few weeks before the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 was released, Robert Randazzo (CEO of PMDG) announced we could see the new PMDG 737NG3 in the new simulator sometime in late Q1 2001 or early in Q2.  Here’s the link to the full article and below is a snippet from that same article discussing the possible timeline. 

pmdg q1

However, it appears Robert commented just a few days ago with the following:

pmdg 6-12 mos

While certainly his now 6-12 month comment isn’t a sign of panic, after all I’d personally rather have it 100% ready than to have PMDG rush to bring it out only to find it’s useless.  Plus this isn’t how PMDG operates anyway. 

What this comment tells me and I quote from the post, is the platform (as it stands today) simply isn’t ready for products as complex as PMDG’s.  I believe the same can also be said for FSLabs and others.  Again, I’m not worried (and neither should you be) as those of us who are content with P3D and X-Plane certainly have alternatives. 

Of course, time will tell just what other “stuff” is coming to P3D and whether anyone will buy it.  I’m just hoping the release of their Boeing 777 is sooner rather than later for P3Dv5.  While I tend to mostly fly shorter-haul flights in the Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/A320/A321, I do still enjoy stretching my legs on some longer flights and absolutely adore the 777. 

So Robert Randazzo, if you happen to stumble onto this writing (which I doubt you will).  Take your time with FS2020.  It will be worth the wait. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Microsoft Flight Simulator Patch 1.7.14.0

Microsoft Flight Simulator logo (2020).png

The highly anticipated, brand new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS2020) was released on 17 August 2020 with much fanfare.  The release wasn’t without a few small hurdles and within days of the release, Microsoft had already announced a patch would soon be made available.  I discussed this first planned patch earlier this week.

Before I get into my experience with MSFS2020 after the patch, allow me to say this.  To the best of my memory, and at no other point in the history of flight simulation related to Microsoft or even Prepar3D have we experienced a shorter timeframe between initial release and the first patch.  While some will say that MSFS2020 was rushed and should have been delayed a few weeks which may or may not have avoided the need for an update patch, we’ll never really know.  But I believe when Microsoft released FSX back in 2006 it too was not without issues and required two service packs to fully resolve all issues.  It took Microsoft about 6 months to release SP1 and another 5-6 months to push out SP2.  It really wasn’t until SP2 was made available that FSX was truly stable. 

With Prepar3D v5 (the latest P3D release), it was released on 14 April and the first hotfix (HF1) was released on 30 April.  But many still experienced issues(myself included) which made the sim unusable until HF2 was released on 23 June.  It should also be mentioned that unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, Prepar3D v5 was not a complete rewrite of P3Dv4.5.  MSFS2020 is a completely brand new simulator from the ground up. 

FlightSimulator_HjCIs9oCOs

My Experience Post Update Patch

The past few weeks I’ve been heavily prepping for a series of job interviews which have taken priority to my gaming time.  As of this writing, I’m still awaiting the official news as to whether I’m still in the running for the position and exactly what the next steps are.  But….what time I have spent with flight simulation has mostly been in P3Dv5.  P3Dv5 provides me more immersion based on the type of flying I mostly enjoy (jetliner), but this doesn’t mean I’m ignoring MSFS2020. 

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, I believe MSFS2020 will become the next generation flight simulator and in time, it will completely blow away what we have today with P3Dv5 and XP11.  However, with exception to VFR/GA flight, there are several obstacles preventing me from flying any of the jetliners in MSFS2020 and especially flying on the VATSIM network.

Lack of Immersion

This is key to me.  While the visuals are absolutely stunning and better than I can possible achieve in P3Dv5, the lack of payware/study-level aircraft is only one of the deal breakers for me at this time. I know I probably sound like a payware snob and I certainly don’t mean to.  In all honesty, I believe the work that is being done on the default A320 via the MS2020 A32NX Project will eventually have me flying the Airbus A320 in MSFS2020 on the VATSIM network.  But even then, until there is a model matching program that allows me to see other aircraft in the liveries those pilots are flying, the immersion is very much blown for me.  While I realize this is just a slight niggle, it’s big enough for me to stick with P3D.

FlightSimulator_Srpk0rZN3l

Fine Job

In all honesty, the recent Microsoft patch resolved two major issues I had been experiencing.   First, the load time seems to have been reduced.  However, even in P3Dv5 the load time generally takes 2-3 minutes from the time I launch the .exe until I can actually begin prepping my aircraft for flight.  But in reference to MSFS2020, the load up time seems to be much improved.

The really big issue for me was related to the performance hit when connecting MSFS2020 to the VATSIM network and of course I wasn’t the only one.  VATSIM stated all would be ready to go on day 1 and to their defense,  the issues which caused the performance hit wasn’t their fault.  There was a major bug with the Microsoft Simconnect which was the culprit.  Simconnect is what allows 3rd party applications (like VATSIM’s vPilot) to connect to the simulator.  This middleware connection is responsible for sending/receiving data elements to these third party add-on apps. 

On Wednesday evening (with the MSFS2020 patch installed) I fired up MSFS2020 and loaded up the Cessna 172 and then connected to VATSIM via vPilot and had my first successful VFR/GA flight around the Denver area.  It was a lot of fun and I’m sure there will be many more flights just like that in the near future. 

Not Fully Baked

Rest assured, this first patch for MSFS2020 is only the beginning.  Very soon we’ll learn what’s on Microsoft’s radar for the next patch.  I would suspect we’ll see multiple patches over the next several months as Microsoft/Asobo gently fine tunes the sim. 

Interested in Flight Sim?

If you are interested in getting started in the flight simulation hobby, there’s no better time and in my opinion, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is your best option.  While flight sim can be looked at as just another game, for those of us truly passionate about it…flight sim is much, much more.  For those who are new to flight sim, MSFS2020 will be your best investment option and will allow you to grow in your experiences.  While I’ve discussed limitations which I view as showstoppers for my own enjoyment, these shouldn’t prevent anyone coming into flight sim from experiencing an “As Real As It Gets” experience. 

In time all the bugs will be gone.  In time there will be more add-on aircraft (both payware and freeware) available to the new sim.  There’s hours and hours of fun which can be experienced in the new sim with the available aircraft on and off the multiplayer services like VATSIM, IVAO and PilotEdge.  Get started today and earn your wings.  I’m looking forward to seeing you in the friendly skies very soon. 

Thanks again for reading.  Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry

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