The American Virtual Experience

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Long time readers of my blog will certainly know that I’ve discussed the subject of virtual airlines (VA’s) many times.  I’ve shared with my readers the pros and cons of VA membership and I’ve also shared my experiences with some of the best and worst the internet has to offer.  This writing is going to focus on a new (to me) virtual airline and why you should join today.

During the internet age of my flight simulation experience, I’ve always enjoyed being a member of a virtual airline community.  For me personally, I’ve found VA membership brings a sense of purpose to my flight simulation hobby.  Especially when flying jetliners around the world.  I’ve held memberships in many different VA’s over the past two decades and served in many capacities including pilot, hub manager, executive management and even owned my own fictional cargo based VA for about 5 years where I served as CEO.  For the most part, my experiences have always been extremely positive.  I’m a believer in the saying “You Get What You Give”.  More about this in a minute.

Prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the spare time I had was rather limited and it had been several years since I had been a member in a virtual airline.  However, being stuck at home and especially after being laid off in July, I found I had more time and I began seeking out a new VA to call home.  For most, the choice of VA will most likely be an airline in their home country and one they prefer over another.  Growing up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and beginning my IT career there as well, I always preferred to fly American whenever possible.  So I’ve always gravitated towards an American Airlines based VA whenever possible.    But unfortunately, not all VA’s (even those simulating AAL) are created equal. 

A few weeks ago I found myself somewhat bored with the American VA I belonged to.  While I was keeping myself busy flying (almost daily) and I was serving in a management capacity, I just wasn’t happy with the direction things were going.  While I’m not going to mention the name of this VA, I’ll just say that I’ve had a long history with them and in all honesty not much has changed or progressed with their systems in more than 10 years.  Don’t get me wrong, they are a fine VA with wonderful and dedicated individuals.  But I just wasn’t happy and felt I needed to make a change. 

In the VATSIM Facebook group I saw a posting from another American Airlines VA which caught my attention.  I clicked the link and had a look over their website.  After reading as much as I could from their About, FAQ and News pages and reading even more comments others have posted on Facebook, I decided American Virtual was going to become my new home.  I completed the application process and was absolutely stunned when I received my acceptance and welcome email within 10 minutes of applying.  In the past I’ve waited 24 – 48 hours or sometimes longer to be accepted into a VA.  Being hired/accepted in the short period of time I experienced after signing up with American Virtual showed me these guys are a serious VA.  Of course it needs to be said, VA’s are operated by real-life humans and the expectation of being hired within 10 minutes will not always be possible.  However, any properly managed virtual airline should be able to review, process and hire certainly within 24-48 hours.  But I digress….

I downloaded the ACARs program and setup my first flight from DFW to DEN in the PMDG Boeing 737-800.  During the flight I joined the American Virtual Discord and found it to be an active and lively group.  By the time I completed the return flight to DFW I had decided I made the right decision.  The very next day I contacted the CEO and inquired about an open hub manager position at DFW.  While I was new to the VA, I wanted to offer my experience and willingness to serve in a management capacity and was promoted to the role of hub manager over the DFW hub. 

While I realize this has quickly become a lengthy post, I will wrap things up very shortly.  I promise!  While most VA’s operate in a similar fashion by allowing pilots to accrue hours, offer group flights and an online community via forum, Discord etc.  American Virtual takes all this many, many steps forward. 

In a recent video message from the American Virtual CEO, Sean Jackson, he describes the VA as being “more than just a virtual airline, but literally a technology company that provides virtual airline services.” During his six minute address, he highlights many of the features which makes American Virtual stand out as a leader in the flight simulation community.  A few features he discusses are as follows:

Flightaware Schedules

At American Virtual we strive to mirror the real world American Airlines flight operations in as realistic manner as possible.  American Virtual uses flight data from Flightaware to inject real world flight data in the scheduling system for both American Airlines and also its direct subsidiaries.   

Enhanced Flight Air Map

American Virtual uses a feature rich graphical tracking mod which provides a street level view of your aircraft in flight.  This is very similar functionality to what you might see with real world traffic on FlightRadar24.

Premium Miles

Earn miles towards purchase of real items or unlock special privileges on the site.

Perks Program

Earn discounts towards amusement parks, movies, sporting events, restaurants and more.

Odyssey Magazine

A quarterly full-color virtual magazine similar to American Way (AA’s inflight magazine). 

Discord Community

An active community on Discord where virtual friendships are forming on a daily basis. 

Plus Much, Much More…

American Virtual is hiring and if all this sounds interesting to you, you should join today!  But before I let you go, near the top of this lengthy article, I mentioned a saying or motto which has always been important to me.  “You Get What You Give”.  I’ve applied this in all aspects of my life, everything from my faith, my family, my education, my career and to my hobbies.  In the very short time I’ve been with American Virtual, I can tell you this is also an important motto from the CEO all the way throughout the management team.  There’s more to running a successful VA than just opening the doors.  The effort Sean and his management team, as well as each individual member is putting into this fine VA will only strengthen its core.  I’ve found my new home and I certainly hope you’ll join me

I hope to see you in the friendly skies at American Virtual.

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

How I fixed my OOM issues

Without sacrificing the eye candy.

This is part two of a two-part blog article.  Please see and read part one for the clear picture on what I’m talking about.

First, this blog post is titled “How I fixed my OOM issues without sacrificing the eye candy”.  Please note the large “I” as in ME.  The disclaimer here is this is how I did it.  It worked for me, but there is no guarantee it will work for you.  In other words, your mileage may vary.

Again, please take the time to read part one to get the full picture.

As I stated towards the end of part one where I described the OOM errors I had only started to receive after many years of using FSX.  I DO NOT BLAME PMDG!  IT”S NOT PMDG’s FAULT.  If you feel I’m wrong about this statement.  Then please stop reading.

To recap from part one…

My FSX machine had been running on the same build for about 3 years.  I purchased and installed the PMDG T7 about a month ago and experienced my first OOM.  As I was having some other challenges on this PC, I decided to do a full and complete rebuild of the machine following Nick’s method and was still experiencing OOM’s when flying the PMDG T7 into payware airports.  I followed the recommendations mentioned in Kosta’s Flight Simulation Blog but wasn’t satisfied with losing out on some of the eye candy.

Part Two

I don’t give up easily.  I continued reading and searching various forums.  The only hopeful piece of information was reading about the possibility of a P3D 64 bit version of their flight simulator.  While this is the way forward…it wouldn’t be happening any time soon.  Finally I stumbled on this forum thread.

If you read that forum post, you’ll notice that many of the discussions are centered around all that I had previously done and described in Part One.  However, if you look at the 9th reply posted by stretch1365 on 07 November 2013 he mentions something called “Steve’s Scenery Fixer”.  This is actually a piece of software called SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer and is available from The FlightSim Store.  The price is $33 USD.

Based on what I had read in that forum post, this SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer might just help me.  It was worth $33 to find out.  So I made the purchase, installed the software, read the instructions.  I launched the software and performed the changes and enabled DX10 in FSX.

The moment of truth.  I knew I could easily determine if I had wasted $33 by flying from KDEN to KLAX in the PMDG T7.  So I set my sliders and everything else for what had triggered the OOM’s on approach into KLAX and departed KDEN running ActiveSky weather.  I monitored the VAS using the Process Explorer and upon departure from KDEN, FSX was running approx. 2.4GB.

As I began the descent and approach into KLAX I kept my eye on Process Explorer and noticed it stayed under 3GB.  I made the exact same approach into KLAX  and made my turn onto final for runway 07R.  Checking Process Explorer and about 10nm out from KLAX I was still under 3 GB.  VAL crept up to slight over 3 GB as I landed.  Success????

I conducted another test of loading up a flight from KLAX back to KDEN.  Yes, I realize the T7 probably hates these short flights, but just hang in there.  As I departed KLAX, heavy cloud cover blanketed the airfield.  At take-off I was running a VAS of 2.6GB.  No OOM’s and had a safe and happy landing back at KDEN.  Success???

OK…it takes more to convince me.  I next tested a flight from KDEN to KJFK (FSDT payware).  Results were just what I had experienced with the KDEN to KLAX flight.  In other words, my VAS does not creep up higher than about 3.2GB.  Success????  Maybe….

I will continue to test and do plan to conduct several long-haul payware to payware flights.  I will probably start with a KJFK to EGLL and then EGLL back to KDFW.  I’ll be sure to post the outcome of these flights.  But for now, yes I believe I have reached some level of success with the $33 investment.  I’ve also tested many of my other aircraft (payware and freeware) and have not found any issues after the running the SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer software.

Will the SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer software work for you?  All things being equal, I would say yes…but there are no guarantees.

Until next time…

Happy Flying !!!

Jerry

Out of Memory (OOM) Errors

Part One

While I’ve had my share of CTD’s (Crash to Desktop) in FSX over the years, I only recently began experiencing the dreaded Out of Memory (OOM) errors which plaque many.    As a result, until I started experiencing the OOM’s I really didn’t know much about them, nor what truly caused these to happen.  Likewise, I was also mis-informed about how to prevent them from happening.  What?  I’m running out of memory?  Time to go to the hardware store and buy more RAM.  WRONG!!!!!

Let’s break this down…..

FSX is a 32 bit Windows application.  While I (and many others) suggest running Windows 7 64-bit OS on your Flight Sim computer, FSX is still a 32 bit application.  Even with FSX installed on a Windows 7 64 bit computer, the maximum amount of VAS (virtual address space) available for FSX (and all the goodies installed for FSX) is just 4 GB.  But hold the presses….you have 6, 8 or more GB of RAM.  What is going on?  Again, due to FSX and its 32 bit restriction, the best you can expect is a max of 4GB of VAS.  Any more will trigger the OOM error and bring much frustration to your FS experience.

Now if you are running FSX on a Win 7 64 bit OS, consider yourself lucky. If you were running FSX on a 32 bit OS the best you would have is 2GB of VAS (3GB if tweaked).  To my knowledge, there are no tweaks to get any more than 4GB in the 64 bit OS scenario.

There is a ton of knowledge published by many wonderful flight sim enthusiasts regarding these OOM errors and how best to prevent them from happening.  Perhaps one of the best I’ve read is Kosta’s Flight Simulation World blog site.  The link to his specific article on FSX, OOM and Addon VAS Usage is here.

Again, I’ve been flight simming since the early 1980’s and have been an FSX user since day one of its release.  I’ve been running FSX on a Windows 7 64-bit OS computer with 6GB of RAM for over 3 years and I only began experiencing OOM errors.  So what was my tipping point?  Before I tell you what ended up being the straw that broke the camels back, allow me to give a brief history of the last 30 days.

For perhaps the past six months or so I’ve been saying to myself that I felt it was time to do a full and complete rebuild of my FSX machine.  I’d been having a variety of issues (mostly performance issues) with the machine which had been running for about 3 years on this build.  However, being the CEO of a relatively new VA, I just didn’t want to take the time away from flying to do a full reinstall.

I purchased the PMDG T7 about six weeks ago and was starting the process of learning to fly this beautiful aircraft.  I read the manual and I watched a few great Youtube videos.  The time was ready for me to make a flight from KDEN to KDFW.  Yes, a short-haul flight in a long-haul aircraft.  But I was limited on time and familiar with both airports…so figured it was a good first flight.

With exception of dragging the tail on take off, the flight was uneventful until I reached about 30 miles out of KDFW.  I began hearing a dinging sound which I had never heard before.  In my mind I’m trying to remember if I read anything in the PMDG manual about some type of audible warning.  I had no visible errors on the T7.  OK…no worries I’ll land at KDFW and then investigate what I did wrong to cause the dinging bell.  Then just a few minutes later….I received my very first OOM error message and FSX shut down.  Bummer…..

Remember, I had never experienced an OOM error before and with some of the other issues going on with my FSX machine…I decided the time was now to do a full reinstall of EVERYTHING.

When I build or rebuild my FSX machine, I follow the very sound advice outlined here in Nick’s FSX Bible for installing FSX.    So after spending a couple of days getting Windows 7 setup and getting FSX installed and the add-ons, I was ready to once again take flight.  But I also wanted to take the cautious approach and I made very good notes on what I installed and in what order. The PMDG T7 was one of the last payware aircraft I installed and was one of the last I got around to test.

As vAL (my virtual airline) continues to grow, we will expand and have plans to use the T7 to expand our cargo operations outside of North America.  We will probably offer a freeware paint version of our aircraft and offer the PMDG payware version.  In anticipation (still a few weeks out) of adding the T7, I needed to resume my practice in this awesome aircraft. So I loaded up another short flight (KDEN to KDFW) just like before and started my journey.  Success.  I landed in KDFW with no issues.  Over the next few days I completed many other flights all over the US in many different types of aircraft (payware and default/freeware) and had no issues.

One other point I want to make.  I love add-on scenery.  I have just about everything in Orbx North America catalog and have all the FSDT US airports and also now own the Orbx FTX Global.  My new FSX build really makes all the airports come to life and regardless if I’m flying VFR or IFR, low and slow or high and fast, it all looks good.  I’ve really been pleased with the effort I put into the new build.

On Saturday, I completed a flight from KDEN to KMIA (default FSX to default FSX airport) in the PMDG T7 with no issue.  However on Sunday I decided it was time to fly from KDEN to KLAX (default FSX airport to FSDT payware airport).  The departure from KDEN was uneventful (no tail drag) and as I was approaching KLAX (about 30 miles out) I began hearing that blasted dinging sound.  KLAX was landing west to east and as I made my turn to final out over the Pacific, OOM ERROR!  DOH!!!!

How was this possible? Why did this happen?  Is it PMDG’s fault?  Most importantly, what must I do to fix this from happening?

I began reading and learning about OOM’s.  Just about everything I read was telling me things I really didn’t want to hear.  Suggestions such as disabling scenery I’m not using.  Why?  Why would I need to do this?  I don’t have these issues with any other aircraft.  I was starting to regret my PMDG purchase.  But I forced myself to keep reading.  To keep learning.

Because I so enjoyed flying the PMDG T7, I was willing to start moving sliders, backing AI traffic down and disabling scenery.  I made a few small adjustments and began another flight from KDEN to KLAX. Boom….same place…OOM. Geez…. Really???

Oh, before I forget.  I did install the Process Explorer software which is mentioned on Kosta’s blog site.  Even with the tweaks I mentioned above, I was still maxing out VAS on approach into KLAX.  More cuts would be needed.

I turned AI traffic down to almost nothing.  I turned off ActiveSky weather and used FSX weather to setup a flight on a clear day.  Finally I deactivated ALL add-on scenery with exception of FTX Global and KLAX.  I once again departed KDEN and headed west to KLAX.  I performed the same approach as I had done the two previous attempts and made my turn out over the Pacific.  On final I was watching the VAS and it was creeping up, up, up.  Just as the T7 touched down on runway 07R the VAS hit 4GB and the dinging started.

While I was successful at getting the aircraft parked and FSX shut down without the OOM error.  What this was telling me was I would never be able to fly a long-range route and probably not be able to fly from payware airport to payware airport.  I really didn’t like these terms….But I continued to turn down the sliders and made one more attempt.  BINGO…I was able to fly from KDEN to KLAX without the OOM dings and my VAS stayed around 3.5 GB.  But it was rather boring looking outside.  I guess this is what it would be like if I wanted to fly the T7.

Now let me just quickly say that I do not blame PMDG.  While the PMDG T7 appears to be the only aircraft that pushes me over my VAS limit, this is not PMDG’s  fault.  Remember, FSX is a 32 bit application with restrictions as I outlined in the beginning of this blog post.  Should PMDG NOT have pushed the envelope as they did with the T7?  Some may say PMDG should not have…but I say…Push it baby!!!  It’s the only way we’re going to move past FSX.  But this is another story.

I will tell you that I’m not satisfied with what I must do to fly the PMDG T7.  I’ll tell you what I’ve done to resolve the issues in part two in the coming days.  Stay tuned….

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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