Air Hauler 2–More Progress

Since the last update from a few weeks ago, I’ve made even more progress in my overall expansion plans.  I did go ahead and purchase the Boeing 747-400 for heavier and longer cargo operations.  In doing this, I also decided to sell off all the King Air aircraft.  I was able to keep all the current pilots, train them onto different aircraft between the remaining Connie’s, B738’s and B757’s.  The fleet now consists of three Connie’s, four 738’s, two 757’s and the one 744.  I keep the Connie’s based at KAPA along with two B738’s.  The remaining two B738’s, two B757’s and the Queen are based at KDEN.  While technically the runway at KAPA is long enough for the B744 to land (based on Air Hauler 2 specifications), living just about 5 miles and on the approach path of the 17’s, I would be surprised if I ever were to see a 747 going into KAPA.  Of course I would also be just as surprised to witness a 737 landing there as well.  But sometimes reality just needs to give way to imagination. 

I opened a new base at KDEN and eventually closed the base and factory at Colorado Springs KCOS.  While I believe the long-range plan will certainly support additional bases, I want to just focus on two at this time.  Keeping KAPA and KDEN made more sense than KDEN/KCOS.  With the factory operations I need to move materials between the two factories.  While I can do that via my own aircraft, I find just contracting this function to ground transportation is my better option.   The KAPA/KDEN combination has saved money in these ground transport fees and also shortened the amount of time it takes to move materials between the two factories as well.  The combined factories work to produce materials to make cell phones.  The current production rate of cell phones is 2000 per day which brings in approx. 1 million per day. 

Financially speaking, with the current setup the monthly overhead is just under 30 million dollars.  This includes the rent at both KAPA and KDEN along with the lease and insurance payments for our fleet of ten aircraft and salaries of our twenty pilots.  We currently have 65 million in the bank with no outstanding debt. 

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Looking Ahead

I think the next step I would like to take is to replace the slower Connie’s with B738’s.  The Connie’s have certainly been useful, but their speed and cargo capabilities are somewhat limiting.  The 738 can still fly into smaller airports, but transport twice as much cargo in much less time.  After all…time is money!  Of course, I want to take the same approach as I did with replacing the King Air’s and that is to train those current Connie pilots up to the B738 which will take some time. 

Not Bored Yet

As I mentioned in a previous update, I’m playing this in the role of CEO and not actually flying the routes myself (as is possible).  I’m about 45 days in and still enjoying the strategy of it all.  I’m sure at some point I will grow bored with it.  Unfortunately Air Hauler 2 doesn’t have a pause feature.  As an example, if I simply stop playing for a month or two and then relaunch the application, I will most likely find my cargo company bankrupt as the monthly lease, rent and salary payments will continue to be paid out.  To prevent this from happening I would need to essentially sell off any assets, turn in any leased aircraft, fire pilots and close down bases/factories.  But for now, I still enjoy spending an hour or so each day just planning out flights and ensuring enough revenue is coming in to keep the forward momentum going. 

Thanks for reading. 

Until next time…

Happy Cargo Hauling!!!

Jerry

Around the World Adventure–Day 2

Note:  This is a fictional flying adventure using Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Any similarities to real world events, people and places is strictly for the purpose of the story.  While a trip like this might not be possible (or even a good idea) due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’m omitting this from this adventure.  At this time in all our lives, we need a little break from reality from time to time. 

Day 2

While our trip is mostly self-funded, we have been sponsored by the Mooney International Corporation.  Our day two trip will include a short hop from Georgetown over to Kerrville (KERV) for a photo op and some handshaking and well wishes.  The Mooney International Corporation is based at the Kerrville airport.  There have been many (including my Mooney Ovation) produced at the Kerrville facility.  We’ll then proceed southeast to Brownsville where we’ll spend the last night in the US for several weeks. 

KGTU T82 KERV (FS) CVB PEZ IKG BKS T05 PIL KBRO

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We arrived back to the Georgetown Municipal airport in the early afternoon.  Temps were in the mid 60’s with light rain falling. 

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Loading up our bags and getting ready for the first leg of two today.

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Performing our pre-flight checks.

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As we taxi to the active runway, we noticed the double rainbow.

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Climbing out over the clouds over Central Texas. 

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Descending into the Kerrville area. 

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Parked in front of the Mooney International Corporation at KERV.  We met with the CEO and many Mooney employees.  We received one of those big cardboard checks (which we left behind) and the best wishes for a successful trip around the world from the Mooney company.  They consider this a great publicity event for their company showcasing the endurance of their aircraft. 

We spent an hour on the ground in Kerrville, had a nice early afternoon snack and prepared to head further south to Brownsville.  Our second leg should take us less than two hours and we’ll be in Brownsville before dark. 

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Flying over South Padre Island near Brownsville.

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On final approach into KBRO. 

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On the ground in Brownsville, Texas.  Headed to the hotel and we’ll return tomorrow for our third day of flying fun. 

Thanks for reading. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Around the World Adventure–Day 1

Note:  This is a fictional flying adventure using Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Any similarities to real world events, people and places is strictly for the purpose of the story.  While a trip like this might not be possible (or even a good idea) due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’m omitting this from this adventure.  At this time in all our lives, we need a little break from reality from time to time. 

The day has finally arrived to embark on what I hope will be a fun adventure as I fly my single engine Mooney M20R Ovation around the world.  I’ve been busy the past several weeks planning, packing and even more planning for what will be a long, but hopefully fun experience.  While I certainly have the “Big Picture” concept of this entire journey planned out, at this extremely early stage of the journey, it’s difficult to say exactly where we’ll be this time next month, in six months etc.  The best I can truly do is plan out a few days at a time and hope the weather allows for safe travel conditions. 

My wife and I spent a nice, quiet Christmas together completing a few last minute projects in our home.  Our friends will be looking after the place while we’re away.  Our original plan was to leave on Monday, 28 December and spend a few days with family in Texas, then perhaps spend New Year’s Eve in Mexico.  However, Mother Nature had other plans for us and decided to bring about a late White Christmas.  So being the flexible travelers we are, we are delaying the start of the trip until after the snow storm and will spend New Years Eve in Texas with family.

The Aircraft

I purchased the 95’ Mooney M20R Ovation (reg. N542JS) six months ago from a friend.  It’s in near mint condition for a 25 year old aircraft and will be perfect for our journey.  The M20R features a slightly longer fuselage than earlier models and while it’s still a four seat aircraft, the extra length will allow for more cargo capacity.  In other words, more room for all the things my wife couldn’t leave behind.  Smile

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My wife and I have flown several endurance flights to best determine just how many hours at one time we can fly.  Unlike a road trip in a car where you can quickly and easily pull into the next town, the next gas station for a bio break….this can’t be done as easily when flying cross country.  So over the summer we took a few trips and determined four hours is the max.  Under most conditions we should be able to keep our flight legs under four hours, with some perhaps exceeding this but that should be the exception and not the rule. 

Day 1

The day has finally arrived.  The snow storm was pretty much a non-event, so we decided to embark on our trip on Tuesday, 29 December.  We arrived at Centennial Airport (KAPA) just before 9 AM and loaded the last minute items into the Mooney.  We also needed to clear the ice and snow off the aircraft.

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Our flight route from KAPA to KGTU.  KAPA LAA DHT KAMA (FS) LBB SWW BMQ KGTU

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With the aircraft fueled and ready to go, we departed KAPA enroute to Amarillo, Texas (KAMA) by way of the LAA and DHT VOR’s. 

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Holding short runway 17L KAPA

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Departing the south Denver area.

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Goodbye Denver, see you soon.

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Passing the LAA (Lamar, CO) VOR and turning south to intercept the DHT (Dalhart, TX) VOR.

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On the ground in a wet and cold Amarillo.  We’ll refuel and have lunch before continuing our trip to Georgetown.

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With some hot food in our bellies, we taxied out to runway 13.

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The weather was quickly changing in Amarillo with freezing temperatures expected soon.  We’re leaving just in the nick of time. 

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Heading south towards the LBB (Lubbock, TX) VOR.

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Above the clouds and in smooth air.  Next stop Georgetown.

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Breaking through the clouds as we approach Georgetown.

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North Fork of the San Gabriel River.

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Gear Down!  Flying over Sun City on approach to runway 11 at KGTU.

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Final approach for runway 11.

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On the ground at Georgetown Municipal Airport.  Total flying time today was 4 hours, 22 minutes with one stop.  Not a bad first day.  We’ll tie the aircraft down here and spend the night with my dad and most of tomorrow.  As we’re slightly ahead of schedule, I believe we’ll be able to spend New Year’s Eve in Mexico after all. 

Check back in on my progress as I fly around the world in a Mooney Ovation.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Uniquely Satisfying

The past few weeks I’ve been playing Farming Simulator 17.  No, that’s not a typo….I’ve been playing the FS17 version which was released back in the fall of 2016 and is over four years old.  While I enjoy FS19, my enjoyment of the older FS17 version has been rekindled by the updated The Western Shore map by the extremely talented BulletBill.  If you are interested in playing The Western Shore for FS17, you can download it from my mod hosting site, SimplySafeMods.  Here’s the link.

I was first introduced to this map a little over a year ago.  BulletBill had allowed me to download and play the early release of this wonderful map.  But since that time, the map has been updated to version 2.0.0.2.  The latest version of the map is truly a joy to play and in my opinion, has been modded to play more like a farm sim map should.  More about this later.

No Right or Wrong Way

I’ve often said there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy farming simulator.  One can choose to play big maps with big equipment (or even small equipment) or one can play smaller maps with smaller equipment.   Of course, smaller maps will generally require the use of smaller equipment and The Western Shore is certainly that kind of map. 

With mods, one can also choose how to handle various tasks on the farm.  As an example, if you don’t want to mess with baling hay or straw, there are mods available which will allow you to store these items in bulk.  You can also pair these storage silos with feed mixer mods which will pre-mix your cow or pig feed needs for you.  Again, there’s no right or wrong way to play. 

My Game Play

As previously mentioned, I’ve been playing FS17 and BulletBill’s The Western Shore.  The map was designed with multiplayer in mind, however….it can also be enjoyed in a single player/offline setting as well.  The map features multiple farms with each individual farm consisting of a single animal type.  But nothing is stopping you from playing multiple farms at the same time.  That’s exactly what I’m doing.  I’m raising sheep at Strumble Lane and running a small dairy at Bramble Lane.  Strumble Lane Farm is my main base of operations (where I live) and I am considering the dairy function as a contract. 

Seasons?

Oh yes, I’ve been a HUGE fan of the Seasons mod since it first came out and I’m playing a six game day season setting on The Western Shore.  For me, six game days per season is the sweet spot.  Three is too short and nine is too long.  Six is just right and the custom GEO provides a perfect representation of that wonderful British weather. 

Contractors or Helpers?  Yep

As with many of my maps, I do use helpers as and when needed.  I typically stick with two and that’s what I’m doing here on The Western Shore.  While Courseplay certainly has a role in my game play, the Follow-Me mod is proving most helpful especially with grass work. 

Lot’s of Grass Work

I love grass work.  Running both sheep and cows will certainly require lots of hay and silage.  This is some of the most satisfying work that can be done within Farming Simulator (my opinion).  Like I said, lots of hay and silage are needed to keep my animals in tip-top shape. 

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Mowing…lots of mowing is required. 

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Raking and baling using the Follow-Me Mod.

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I do use a few other “assist” type mods on the farm.  Including a auto-loading bale trailer.  But once offloaded, the bales are handled and stacked manually and as neat as possible. 

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Today we’re stacking hay in the barn at Bramble Lane Farm. 

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Still more hay to bring in.  But need to take some time and feed the cows. 

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The fall crops will soon be ready to harvest and that will mean more straw will go into storage and I’ll begin to plan out the jobs that will need to be done over the late fall and winter time here on The Western Shore.  I’ll check back in down the road and share some more progress I’m making on this wonderful and fun map. 

Thanks for reading.  Until next time…

Happy Farming!

Jerry

An Around the World Adventure

Just a little over 10 years ago, I successfully completed an around the world adventure using a Mooney Bravo in FSX.  I departed KAPA (my local GA airport in Centennial, Colorado) on 30 September 2010 and arrived back at the same airport on 19 November of the same year.  That route took me northeast through Canada over to Greenland etc.  you can view this 2010 route here

The goal for that trip was simply to circumvent the globe the best way possible and in the shortest amount of time.  As a matter of fact, my total flying time for that trip was just over 200 hours.  It was a lot of fun and with the release of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, I believe it’s time to do it again.  But this time I’m adding a bit more realism.  My goal will obviously be to fly around the world, but this adventure will be more than just that.  I plan to visit as many countries/continents as possible.  

Weather permitting, this adventure will start in the next few days.  I say weather permitting because I plan to fly each leg using real world weather.  If the weather isn’t suitable for VFR conditions, then I just won’t fly.  Having said this, I don’t believe it would be practical to fly northeast or northwest at this time.  So I plan to fly southeast from Colorado and spend the next several weeks exploring Central and South America.  As we get closer to spring in the northern hemisphere, I’ll then turn and head back north to the US and time my crossing from Canada to Greenland, Iceland etc.

How Long Will This Take?

The short answer, it will take as long as it takes.  I’m fairly certain this trip will take much, much longer than my 2010 trip.  Actually, perhaps my first goal is to be back in Colorado by the end of 2021.  This will allow me an entire year and will prevent me from burning out by doing the same thing day in, day out.

The Aircraft of Choice

Much like my 2010 adventure, I’m also going to be flying the Mooney M20R Ovation.  I picked up the Carenado M20R during the Christmas sale and while it pretty much handles like any of the other default aircraft, it’s an enjoyable aircraft to fly.  Plus with a 25,000 service ceiling, cruise speed of 242 knots and range of 1,100 nmi it’s the perfect single engine aircraft for this adventure.

Flight Tracking

While I don’t plan to blog about each and every leg of this trip, I will update a flight log and map after each leg so you can follow along with my progress.  Every few legs I may write up a blog post discussing the adventure and providing a few screen shots to highlight the trip. 

Rules

We don’t need no stinkin rules!  LOL  Ok, there are a few rules I’ve established for this trip.  First, I will be flying all legs in real time (no time compression) and real weather conditions.  I will adjust the time of day in the simulator when required.  I do plan to fly mostly during daytime hours.  After all, MSFS truly has stunning visuals and we’ll want to see all we can as we explore our wonderful world. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about this adventure as much as I will have flying it. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Air Hauler 2–Growing the Business

A few weeks ago I posted about my progress of running Air Hauler 2 in a standalone environment where I was just acting as CEO and directing my AI Pilots here and there hauling cargo from our two Colorado hubs.  Since that time, I’ve managed to both grow and also somewhat consolidate the business into a more revenue generating and efficient operating machine. 

Size Matters

In the early stages of getting the business off the ground (pun intended), the need for smaller, single pilot aircraft was very much needed and heavily utilized.  As the business grew, I began to realize that these smaller aircraft were actually holding me back from the higher paying jobs.  While it’s possible to just schedule a King Air and one pilot to fly back and forth between airports until they’ve managed to move all the cargo.  This method is also not efficient.  So I decided to make a few adjustments to the fleet.

No Layoffs

After having experienced my own layoff earlier this summer from a company I had spent the past 22 years fully dedicated to, I didn’t want this change of business model to impact any of my hired AI.  So I set about a plan to train pilots up to the next level of aircraft.  But this isn’t as straightforward as one might think.  In the perfect world I had hoped I could simply train two of my King Air pilots up to the Boeing 737 and eliminate two King Air aircraft and keep one.  But I found one was qualified and one was not.  So I took a step back and re-evaluated my staff and operations. 

After this re-evaluation effort, I decided I would sell off all three King Air aircraft from the fleet.  Of the three pilots impacted by this decision, one would be trained up to the 737 and the other two would be trained up to the Connie.  Two of the existing Connie pilots would then undergo training for the 737.  Once their training was complete, I would hire a brand new pilot already qualified on the 737.  So in reality, this plan is growing our cargo hauling capacity, but also eliminating three aircraft from the fleet.  I then leased two Boeing 737-800 aircraft configured for cargo operations. 

Even More Growth Opportunities

The shuffling efforts mentioned above, still left me with over $28 million in the bank and only a monthly overhead of $16.9 million.  The decision was made to further expand the fleet with another Boeing 757 and the hiring of two additional qualified pilots for that aircraft type.  As it stands today, my fleet of cargo aircraft consists of three Connie’s, four 737-800’s and two 757-200’s. 

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Future Outlook

Looking ahead, the future is bright for GrizzlyBear Cargo.  It will be necessary to operate in the current setup for sometime.  However, the next logical step will be to introduce an even larger aircraft to the fleet which will greatly extend both the range as well as the cargo hauling capabilities for us.  Most likely this will be a Boeing 747.  But with that plan in mind, it will probably be necessary to also look to a bigger home base airport.  KAPA (Centennial Airport) is my current main base.  The runways at KAPA can accommodate our existing fleet, but not a 747.  While the secondary base at KCOS (Colorado Springs) can accommodate the 744, most likely we will move our main base (HQ) to KDEN and decide on either keeping KAPA or KCOS as secondary.  Time will tell….

I’ll check back in and provide an update in a few weeks.  By then I should have made the decision on the new HQ and other operations. 

Until next time…

Happy Cargo Hauling!

Jerry

Running Air Hauler 2–Standalone

I purchased Air Hauler 2 a year or two ago when it was in early beta for P3D.  I played around with it, but during those early days the application wouldn’t function in a networked environment.  So the only time I really could use it was when I was physically in my man-cave and using my main gaming PC.  Really at that time my main interest in Air Hauler 2 was in running my own cargo airline empire using AI pilots to do all the work.

At some point between the early release and the present time, the developers of Air Hauler 2 made the application capable of running in a network environment.  Meaning, I can run Air Hauler 2 and no longer need to have my main gaming PC running, or at least running all the time.  This also means that while I don’t have a lot of time to game at the present moment, I can schedule out the flights in the morning over my first coffee and check their progress throughout the day and afternoon.

The Setup

As previously mentioned, I installed Air Hauler 2 on my laptop.  I needed to connect it the first time via across my network just to sync P3D.  This is required so you can import the aircraft options you have installed.  But this step really is only needed to be done once or in the future if you install additional aircraft into the sim. 

The Initial Strategy

As previously stated, I have no desire to use Air Hauler 2 to track my flights and in my cargo airline I’m fulfilling the role of CEO and not a pilot.  I started out in “Medium” mode.  This gave me $500,000, 50% reputation and a Cessna Caravan which I immediately sold.  I took out a bank loan which allowed me to purchase two aircraft with one being a King Air 350 and the second the larger L049A Constellation.  I hired three pilots and established my cargo base of operations at Centennial Airport KAPA.  I chose KAPA over the larger Denver International as KAPA offered cheaper landing fees and after all, I’m a small cargo airline. 

The initial grind was challenging, but fun.  I managed to keep the two planes and three pilots busy enough to accumulate a little extra cash.  I then leased another King Air and a second Constellation.  I set a goal of paying back the bank loan before adding anything additional to the fleet. 

Another few days of the grind, I managed to pay back the bank loan and lease a Boeing 737-800 setup for cargo and hired another two pilots with certifications capable of flying the B738.  The money was now rolling in hand over fist. 

Factories

I setup my first factory at KAPA so I could manufacture cell phones, memory sticks and televisions.  I didn’t realize at the time I would also need to manufacture plastics and battery packs.  So I had a bit of a delay and had to save enough money to open a second base (Colorado Springs KCOS) where I could take chemicals and produce plastics and batteries to produce battery packs.  Once this was setup, I was set to get rolling in my factory operations. 

Initially I was moving the completed plastics and battery packs via my own aircraft.  But soon started paying for ground transportation between KAPA and KCOS.  The cost is minimal and allows my aircraft to do what they do best and that is haul cargo for paying customers. 

As It Stands Today

Today, I’ve grown my little operation to a total of 15 pilots and 9 aircraft with a total of 3 King Air 350’s, 3 L049A Constellation’s, 2 Boeing 737-800’s and 1 Boeing 757-200 with two bases and two factories.  The total cost for aircraft leases, insurances and base costs approx. $10.7 million and I currently have just over $15.0 million in the bank with no outstanding loans. My next payment for aircraft leases, insurance etc. is due in about two weeks.  So the goal for now is to grind out more cargo runs, keep the factories running  and producing approx. $1 million every 24 hours.  Depending on how hard I work my pilots, the cargo operation brings in approx. $1.5 – $2 million per day.  Again, it really just depends on how much I play.

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Future Goals

Once this next $10.7 million payment is made, will see about leasing another 757-200.  This may or may not replace one of the existing “Connie” aircraft in the fleet or perhaps be yet another addition.  I do plan to continue to grow the small cargo airline into something much larger with the addition of a Boeing 777 Freighter and the Queen of the Skies the Boeing 747-800.  But we first need to continue crawling before we can run the marathon. 

I’ll check back in with you sometime after the new year and provide a progress update.  At the present time, I’m finding that leasing aircraft is far better than purchasing.  After all, most real world airlines lease versus buy for much the same reason. 

Air Hauler 2 is available for Prepar3d, XPlane and now MSFS2020.

Until next time…

Happy Cargo Hauling….

Jerry

P3Dv5.1 HF1 Enhanced Atmospherics

One of the major benefits of P3Dv5 was the integration of Enhanced Atmospherics (EA) and TrueSky.  From the very early days of my experiences with P3Dv5, I had issues (both performance and visual quality) with EA enabled.  Of course, in the early stages EA was very much beta.  But with each P3D update, I optimistically tried EA only to find myself disappointed in the outcome.

Today I’m running the very latest version of Prepar3D v5.1 (with hotfix 1) and while I’m glad to say that performance is no longer an issue with EA, the over visual quality is still absolutely terrible.  I’ve read as much as I possible can, watched countless videos and the look with EA enabled is an over exposed, blurry sky with no defined cloud textures. 

While I’m running a few extra texture add-ons such as TOGA Projects EnvTex and EnvShade along with ASCA, Reshade, and the Lucas Cavatoni preset, these don’t have any impact (good or bad) to the overall experience with EA enabled in P3D. 

I’ve even followed a few steps to ensure my monitor is correctly color balanced (it was already), but double-checked.  I’ve also read (can’t remember where) that EA just will not work with a non-4K monitor. However, I believe I’ve debunked this theory when speaking with a few others who have the exact same experience I’m having on 4K setups. 

The bottom line (at least for me) is an assumption that Enhanced Atmospherics still just isn’t ready for prime time.  Hopefully Lockheed Martin will continue to work through these issues.  But for now, I’m enjoying a very stable, well performing P3Dv5.1 HF1 without Enhanced Atmospherics.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

The Future of VATSIM’s CTP

If you’ve been perusing some of the social networks and perhaps listening to some of the more popular Twitch and YouTube streamers, you may have heard that the ever popular VATSIM Cross The Pond events might be in jeopardy.  If you are new to the hobby of flight simulation and especially VATSIM, the Cross The Pond (CTP) events are held twice a year with the west bound event taking place in the spring (Europe to North America) and the east bound event (North America to Europe) in the fall.  This past Saturday, the eastbound event took place. 

I’m honestly not sure just how many years the CTP event has been taking place.  I’ve participated in a few over the years and made the early decision to sit this previous one out for a few different reasons.  First, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to a full international flight of 8+ hours at this time of my life.  Second, I also felt I was a bit rusty on my oceanic procedures and didn’t have the time to do anything about it. Third, with the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 our hobby has exploded with a ton of new simmers and I figured things might be a bit chaotic as a result. 

The 2020 Effect

Much like everything else which has occurred in 2020, the earlier westbound event this last spring caused VATSIM to take a few additional measures to ensure the eastbound event ran much smoother.  From what I’ve heard, the earlier westbound event was so chaotic with pilots and ATC screaming at each other and ATC just logging off that it became extremely difficult for VATSIM to find enough willing controllers to staff the fall event.  This is sad because these events are supposed to be fun for all who participate.  For pilots to truly get the “As Real As It Gets” experience, we need controllers who are willing to invest their time in controlling and staffing a full top-down ATC experience. 

One of the changes VATSIM made for the fall event was in how pilots requested and were awarded a slot.  It was done on the lottery system.  VATSIM capped the number of pilot slots and for the very first time requested pilots who did not receive a slot to NOT fly oceanic during the event. 

Entitlement, Entitlement, Entitlement

Just like the run on toilet paper the world experienced in the early days of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, entitlement reared its ugly head in the VATSIM world.  Pilots who didn’t receive a CTP slot still made the decision to fly across the pond (some even flying the opposite direction) just because they could.  Some of these pilots endured lengthy holds both on the ground and immediately after departure and restricted to flying below FL290.  I’m hopeful these restrictions helped to minimize the impact to those who had valid slots.

The Future

I’m optimistically hopeful these CTP events can continue in 2021 and beyond.  Many in our community are throwing out their own ideas on how things could get better.  A suggestion of holding CTP more frequently seems to be one popular opinion.  With the amount of events VATSIM is currently holding on an annual basis, I don’t see how they have the bandwidth to add more CTP events to the schedule.  The only way this might work would be to restrict VATSIM members from being awarded slots in more than one pair of crossings per year.  This still would not prevent those who don’t have slots from flying oceanic anyway. 

All this really hinges on each individual VATSIM member doing their part to ensure they follow the guidelines.  If VATSIM says don’t fly oceanic without a valid slot, then stay the hell away.  But in the world we live in today, this is most likely just a pipe dream. 

One More Thing

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  VATSIM is a wonderful multi-player environment which brings together the functions of both Air Traffic Control and Pilots.  There is no AI Traffic (default or payware) that even comes close to giving a pilot the same level of experience.  In my 20 year experience with VATSIM and SATCO before that, both networks have always been friendly and welcoming to new members.  However, there is (and always has been) a slightly steep learning curve to mastering the basics.

I often throw out the comparison with TruckersMP which is a multiplayer server environment for both Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2) and American Truck Simulator (ATS).  While TruckersMP has a fairly loose set of rules which must be followed, someone relatively new to ETS2 or ATS could login to TruckersMP and be driving on the network in a very short period of time.  This just isn’t the case with VATSIM, IVAO or PilotsEdge. 

If you are reading this and you are either brand new or unfamiliar with VATSIM, have a read through a post I wrote back in April of 2019 titled, “The Basics of VATSIM”. 

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone in the US has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

An Update on Prepar3d v5

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted to this blog.  My life has been rather busy and hectic the past few weeks.  As some of the DIY projects were wrapping up a few other household problems began to surface.  The largest was a plumbing issue with a portion of my sewer mainline.  This resulted in having a portion of my basement floor jackhammered up and about 15 feet of pipe replaced.  As a result of all this activity, I haven’t really had much time to spend gaming.  In addition, I also have spent time in my garage woodshop turning pens and other small wood items.  If you are interested in taking a look, here’s a link to my Etsy store.  With colder weather moving in, the amount of time I have to work in the woodshop has been reduced considerably.  But I digress….

The last time I wrote about P3Dv5 I had mentioned that I managed to finally get it dialed in and running smooth.  As many will know, this is not always an easy feat.  Nothing in flight sim is plug and play.  Especially if you choose to run various add-ons which all need to be carefully and painstakingly configured.  Everything we install into the sim fights for resources and in some instances one must choose to sacrifice some settings and FPS in order to achieve what we want to experience visually.

P3Dv5.1

The Prepar3D v5.1 update was released by Lockheed Martin a few weeks ago.  I initially held off on updating as I almost always do.  But around that same time I had been experiencing a few little glitches which I had hoped the update might resolve.  As is the case many times, little things will often become bigger things which I would find out soon after updating. 

Two Steps Forward, Three Backwards

The little glitches I just mentioned became slightly larger ones after updating to 5.1.  My frustration level was high and I was truly beginning to second guess my decision of moving away from P3Dv4.5.  I went to bed one night with the plan of uninstalling P3Dv5.1 and going back to P3Dv4.5.  But with a BIG cup of coffee and a bit of hope, I decided to try to resolve the issues one last time. 

Success At Last

After a few hours of going through some of the basic P3D troubleshooting steps which in this case led to a complete uninstall of my GPU drivers via DDU, updating to the latest Nvidia drivers and clearing shader cache in P3Dv5.1 all was once again stable.   I ran in this configuration for a few days just to make sure all was truly fixed. 

Enhanced Atmospherics

One of the big changes with the P3Dv5.1 update was Enhanced Atmospherics (EA) going from beta to full production.  Honestly, on my system with EA enabled the view out of the cockpit windows appears as if I have a really bad case of cataracts.  I didn’t like EA before v5.1 and still didn’t like it after the update.  Apparently I’m not the only one.  So Lockheed Martin has much more work to do on this.

Lack of Eye Candy

In my P3Dv5.1 setup, I was missing the level of eye candy which I had in v4.5.  The sky and cloud textures were boring and just too plain for my liking.  Of course I knew this would be the case as it takes time for developers of 3rd party add-ons to make the move from one version to the next.  When I heard the TOGA Projects Envtex and Envshade along with ASCA were all compatible with P3Dv5.1 I decided to invest the time to install and configure them.  I had used this combination with much success in my P3Dv4.5 setup and had hopes it would work equally as well in v5.1.  I did make one small change with the addition of using the popular Reshade add-on to further enhance the visuals. 

Nearing Success

As you can see from the images below, the sky/cloud textures with using Envtex, Envshade, ASCA and Reshade look a lot more natural and vibrant.  The images below were taken during a early morning departure out of KRDU (Raleigh-Durham) in the PMDG Boeing 738. 

2020-11-14_5-46-46-456

2020-11-14_5-49-21-998

2020-11-14_5-49-29-429

I still have a bit of tweaking to do, but all-in-all I believe it’s looking much better. I’ll try to get all my settings documented and available for Envtex, Envshade, ASCA etc. etc.  in the very near future. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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