x+s+r // down mexico way

XSR mex hdr

It is a little odd that there’ve not been many Mexican airports in X-plane. There is, after all, a thriving network of modern airports, a growing number of airlines and, I’d assume,  a growing number of people interested in flying. Including students, if you know what I mean. Kids still in school are the perfect age to take up flying in a desktop simulator; they can see if they develop deeper interests in flying and step of from the desktop with a deeper understanding of flight than another teenager who has never tinkered in X-p.

Well, there’s a freeware developer working over at the Org, RUIFO, who has been cranking out scenery files for Brazilian airports recently, but for the past year or so he’s been absolutely prolific – with nine pages of airport files created over the last year. Yeah, I know. Unreal. And there’s no place, it seems, he hasn’t been working…from Malasia to, now, Mexico.

These are scenery library files, and there are a lot of Lego-brick buildings in these files too, which means performance (e.g., framerates) should be stellar. After using four of these files that was my experience, too.

Well, for the past few weeks he’s been concentrating on Mexico – but so far there doesn’t appear to be one type of airport he’s concentrating on. Instead, we’re seeing commercial airports both large and small, some with heliports and some without. Most seem to serve tourist destinations, but hey, that’s Mexico. And, true to form, just as we were finishing this post a new file came out – for the popular tourist destination Mazatlan. Maybe next time we’ll get some images of that one up for you.

MMTJ hdr

What may have escaped notice if you’ve never been to Mexico is not only the size of the country but also the huge diversity of ecosystems. From tropical rainforests to alpine tundra, from the hottest deserts to sublime coral reefs, Mexico has it all – from a tourists point of view, anyway. Looking at the maplet below, note that it’s 2000 miles from MMTJ Tijuana on the California border to MMCM Chetumal on the Caribbean Sea, yet Tijuana is, literally, located right on the border with San Diego, while you’re much closer to Houston when in Chetumal that you are to Tijuana. Also on the maplet, circled in red is the Copper Canyon region we covered a few weeks ago, along with the newest airport in Mexico, MX31 Creel.

Mex GE

I wasn’t surprised to see MMTJ Tijuana show up; it’s one of the most famous in Mexico due to a few unique border features – which we’ll look at in a minute.

The first thing you note is the Lego-brick terminal, and yeah, it’s too bad there’s not a custom terminal but that’s the nature of the beast. You want a bunch of freeware airports to fill in a region where there’s just not a lot of coverage and this is what we have. Now, the good part. This guy has been building a lot of airports and my guess he knows this system inside and out, so what we have here conforms to the outlines of the real terminal.

Now…it ain’t perfect but this isn’t a perfect world, is it?

MMTJ 1

There are two ways of looking at this terminal. 1) It’s better than nothing, OR, 2) Damn! This ain’t bad!

I’m in the ‘this ain’t bad’ camp, by the way. It’s kind of like the ‘glass half full’ analogy, I guess. I like that we now have a very workable group of airports in Mexico. I like it a lot!

When we have a dozen more airports down there I’ll like it a lot more, too. Sheesh, when I compare this to what we had back in version 9 this image makes my head spin.

MMTJ 2

Below, here we have a Laminar MD80 and Laminar art assets. Is this better than nothing, or just plain good? But, you ask: “can’t we do better than this?” Hell yes! That’s what good payware is all about! But, can you talk a payware developer into cranking out a decent MMTJ in two or three days?

Good luck with that.

And in the meantime, can you tell me how many payware developers you think might be interested in these airports?

So, welcome to the looming central dilemma in X-plane these days.

MMTJ 3

MMTJ 4.0

Because, here’s the thing. This freeware file works just fine. No, it’s not payware quality, but it gets the job done, and now we’ve got some decent airports in Mexico to work with.

So…who’d want to work with these airports?

Well, could you guess, in a million years, that AeroMexico flies direct from this airport – to China? Or that Hainan Airlines flies nonstop here? From Beijing? Interested in RJ flights around Mexico? This is a viable hub for traffic to dozens of cities around Mexico.

MMTJ 5

MMTJ 6

Now…here’s the unique element about this airport.

In the image below, note the highway on the right? The one with the white covered walkway over all four lanes?

MMTJ 4.1

You can see more in this image (below):

MMTJ 4.2

And here’s that walkway again, with the arrow pointing to it this time.

Okay, got it?

MMTJ US 3

This line (green, in image below) is the boundary between the United States and Mexico. That white walkway crosses the border and, as you can see in the image below, there’s a terminal for MMTJ – on the US side of the border! This is the only airport in the United States that crosses a border like this. You can check in for a flight in the US, clear customs then walk across the border to take a flight either to a destination within Mexico, or to China.

MMTJ US 2

Note, in the image below, US flags on one side of the terminal, and Mexican flags on the other.

MMTJ US 1

Pretty neat stuff, and great that we now have this unique border element in Xp.

Below, on the far side of the field, you’ll run across this massive military/law enforcement helicopter facility, as well as some GA hangers.

So, this is a well-conceived and nicely executed Lego-brick airport, and I’d call it a Must Have file, too.

MMTJ Hel 1

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MMCM hdr

MMCM Chetumal is located as far from Tijuana as you can possibly get and still be in Mexico. Chetumal is on the Caribbean Sea south of Cancun and Cozumel, and right on the border with Belize. So, why is this an international airport? Well, aside from local traffic to Belize, this area is full of great SCUBA diving and is a jumping off point for trips to a half-dozen major Mayan ruin complexes.

Chetumal

This area has been hit by numerous Cat 3-5 hurricanes, so the town has been flattened more than once. I’d imagine the airport remains a vital link during evacuations and reconstruction.

MMCM 1

And yup, this is another Lego-brick airport. And yup, framerates are excellent. The terminal is what it is, while the hangers and other details are great.

MMCM 3

Yet, when you look around this airport you realize that it’s been constructed with great care. Between the varied lighting and the use of multiple treelines, real depth has been created and, as a result, this is a really cool little airport, especially at night.

MMCM 4

And here’s another cool item. The hangers Laminar has developed for their Lego-brick airports are just about the best in any sim out there.

MMCM 5

MMCM 6

MMCM

And again, this is Laminar’s successful implementation of art assets at work here. It just takes an artist to bring it all to life.

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MMOX 1

Here’s MMOX Oaxaca, located near the Pacific coast in far southwest Mexico. This is another tourist town geared towards archeological sightseeing and resorts in the more temperate climate of the mountains.

MonteAlbanOajaca

The city is nearby and there are a few built-up areas around the airport, so this feels more like Tijuana than the other two airports we’re looking at, and once again we’re dealing with Lego-brick assets so performance is great.

MMOX 2

The terminal? It conforms to the shape of the one on the ground, and that’s not a bad deal.

MMOX 3

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MMPS 1.png

And finally, here’s MMPS Puerto Escondido, located on the Pacific coast just south of Oaxaca (above). This is more a working airport built around trade than it is a passenger airport, but a little bit of everything goes on here.

Puerto Escondido

And the city has kind of Greek vibe going, too. It’s not quite on the main tourist map…yet…but give it time.

MMPS 6

MMPS 4

MMPS

Again, nicely executed, great performance, and the perfect place to use an A320 or a 733, or even an Rj, for flights to Mexico City and Oaxaca.

MMPS 5MMPS 3

So…four useful airports to connect Mexico to regional destinations, from the US to Costa Rica and Panama. All ready to go and they won’t cost you a dime.

Payware developers? Take note: X-plane could use really super detailed airports in Mexico City and Monterrey, not to mention Cabo San Lucas and Cancun. Can you deliver?

Time will tell, I guess, who wins this race.

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x+s+r // LEBA + ESPA

XSR ESPA

There seems to be something in the coffee these days…over in Spain, anyway…! Some of the best freeware scenery files we’ve seen in ages are coming out of Spain in a nonstop rush these days. A few days ago we had Flight World’s LERL and then another new one, in Cordoba, Spain, popped up out of nowhere. On top of that, we’ve seen two excellent files in Sweden recently, so, of course, it’s only natural we found a fresh revision of ESPA this week. And we’ll end up with a quick look at someplace most of you have never been.

What. Is. Going. On?

This is really fun, by the way. Watching our freeware community come into its own. The whole thing is creating an entirely new dynamic, a radically different competitive environment than many payware developers were expecting, too. Will they compete, or will they give up? X-plane has always had a strong freeware ethos, but that will never take the place of really good payware development.

Because one builds off the other…

Doesn’t it?

Well, nothing’s ever as easy as you think it’s going to be.

But…only the strong survive…or…is it – thrive?

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LEBA 1

LEBA Cordoba, Spain

Look at this map from Google Earth:

Spain GE

Start in Bilbao and fly to Madrid. Freeware, by the way. Stop off in Pamplona if you must. That’s freeware, too. Head on down to LERL (freeware), then this new Cordoba file (again, freeware), and end up at LEJR Jerez (alas, payware, but nice). So, for a minimal investment, you can traverse Spain. You can also add LEVC Valencia and LEBL Barcelona, both payware, both exceptionally good, and now you have an astonishingly deep route network – in a compact area. Add Ibiza (and that’s two freeware and one payware available) and now you’ve got a route net that rivals anything else in X-plane. Even California.

This new Cordoba file is very good freeware, too.

LEBA 2.png

This is not a big airport, but it’s generally well done and well worth the download. If you are, like many of us in Xp, interested in building regional route networks, this is one more good file to add to your collection. We’d call it a Must Have file. Give it a try, and we’ll have more images soon.

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ESPA hdr

ESPA Luleå Airport, Sweden

This file caught me off-guard.

Because it’s now approaching AeroSoft quality – and it’s freeware. It’s really, really good freeware, too. It’s also one of those files that will make payware developers work for their supper.

In context?

ESPA GE

This one is way up there, in far northern Sweden, and it’s closer to Helsinki (360 Miles) than it is to either Stockholm (420) or Oslo (510). It’s also a waterfront airport, and while very nice to look at, one approach is over water and quite beautiful.

ESPA 001

This image (above) is high noon in February.

ESPA 1

Now. compare this to the real facility (in July, I assume):

espa real

You’ll find everything a good payware file has to offer here, like an accurate terminal, parking lots, lighting, ramps and taxiway markings, a control tower that looks close to perfect as well as maintenance hangers and a fine looking FBO and Flight School…

ESPA 3

ESPA 4

ESPA 5

ESPA 6

ESPA 7

The overall quality of this file exceeds what we’ve seen in many recent payware files, and while that may cause some to worry about their place in Xp…it shouldn’t. You’ll just have to bring refreshed, ultra-detailed files to market – that include up to date Xp11 compliant materials to the show.

ESPA 8

And you might want to study this one, because this file is up there with the best. Ground textures? Yup, that too.

ESPA 9

ESPA 11

The GA area is to the right in the image below.

ESPA 12

ESPA 14

As is the flight school.

ESPA 15

ESPA 13

Testing ILS accuracy revealed no issues. Runway Follows Terrain Contours was ON here.

ESPA 16

If there’s one weak area, the terminal lighting is a little flat at night. The area could use a little more vibrancy.

espa 17

ESPA 10

Beyond that, I love this file. I’ll use it to work on aircraft reviews in the future, and this is one you shouldn’t miss.

ESPA end

//

One last file today, and this one is really way off the road less traveled.

HTNN hdr

HTNN Ngorongoro Crater Intercontinental Airstrip

I’ll leave it to you to find out more about this place, but I will let on that this airstrip is located in Tanzania and a number of sequences in the John Wayne film Hatari! were filmed here, notably when “the Indian” got horned by a Rhino. There’s little about this airstrip in the usual literature, and very little to this little file… A dirt runway, a couple of thatched-roof huts and not much more. The arrow below points to the terminal area and the runway. If you have all the necessary library files onboard, you can take a nice safari, which is, I think, the point of this file.

The surrounding agricultural landscape depicted in X-plane is ludicrous, however.

HTNN 2

Here’s the proper landscape:

HTNN real 2

This area is quite high in elevation, and so unusually cool, especially in the evening. It’s generally a bad idea to take long walks at night around here, too. Something to do with lions and leopards, I believe…

HTNN 1

…or was it elephants…

HTNN real end

Y’all have a good walk, and we’ll see you next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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x+s+r // LERL Ciudad Real Central

LERL main hdr

Fresh off our review of Adriana’s GMFO Oujda and FNUB Lubango (see our previous review), she has just released a new airport file in central Spain – under the banner of her new production company, Flight World. LERL Ciudad Real Central Airport is located about an hour south of Madrid, Spain, and was conceived as an “overflow” airport for Madrid’s LEMD, though, due primarily to the distances involved, the expected traffic never materialized and the airport quickly went into receivership. The facility now sits unused – and is up for sale. A Chinese group offered a fraction of it’s value, promising to turn the facility into a massive air cargo facility, but the bid was rejected. There’s currently an offer on the table from an investment group in the UK to get the airport up and running again…but, who knows…?

One of the vital preconditions necessary for the success of this airport is included in this download, and that is the high-speed rail link connecting Madrid and Córdoba to Seville and Málaga. LERL would have been the first international airport in Spain connected to AVE, the Alta Velocidad Española, Spain’s high-speed rail network. The connection did not materialize.

In another context, LERL sits near the middle of the Iberian Peninsula:

LERL GE 2

The airport was envisioned, as mentioned, as an overflow facility for LEMD Madrid–Barajas, and there was interest expressed by many budget carriers; operations did, in fact, commence there, in June 2010. Ryanair began service to London-Stansted, and continued through November 2010; Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling flew to Barcelona El Prat Airport and Palma de Mallorca during that year, but their flight-ops ceased at the end of October 2011. Air Berlin served Palma de Mallorca but eliminated service at the end of May. Spanish regional carrier Air Nostrum flew from Barcelona El Prat Airport and Gran Canaria Airport in 2009.

Since late 2011, the airport has been, for all intents and purposes, closed.

LERL GE

Flight World’s file is, then, an imagining of what might have been…and…what still could be. With over a billion euros invested, it’s safe to say someone will put a deal together, but you’ll already have the airport and be an old pro at operations by then, won’t you!

overvu 00

So, let’s take a quick look at Flight World’s latest, LERL Ciudad Real Central Airport, also known as Don Quijote Airport…

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733 runway

First up, a video of the file in operation, courtesy of the developer:

 

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There is one asphalt runway at LERL (10/28, 4100m, or 13450 ft); all radio-navigation aids have been switched off and no official publications cover operations at the airport, however, the airport is literally surrounded with VOR stations, and Xp11.11 shows an active NDB quite near the airport (EAL / 332 Khz).

After looking at the video above, you may have some idea of what you’re about to run into with this download, but like this developer’s GMFO, the experience at night is really something special. There are a few library objects scattered around the periphery, but all the airport’s major buildings are custom. Take a look around and you’ll see some very high-quality work, too. I’d say the quality meets the standard for payware, but I think I’d been insulting Adriana if I did. In some respects, this work exceeds payware quality, and if I were putting together a team to develop payware files, I’d put this girl’s name on the top of my list of people to call.

So…let’s take a look around this airport that was, and, well, that might be again…and let’s start at the AVE railway station and work our way to the terminal from there…

AVE station day

Above, part of the station is seen on the left, with a maintenance hanger on the right, in the distance… (below) the station is there, above the trains, with escalators down to the platform…

AVE station 3

AVE station 1

Here’s the exterior of that large maintenance hanger:

hanger ext

And here’s the interior of the hanger!

Hanger 1

Hanger 2

The control tower looks like the one on the ground, and the interior is lighted at night, with what looks like some texturing done to simulate an interior.

tower

Many of the roadways around the airport appear to be custom constructs, with lighting and extra detailing added:

roadways

roads 2

roads 3

Which brings us to a necessary evil found at all airports…parking lots and parking garages:

term parking 1

term parking 2

Below, the elevated pedestrian walkway that connects the railway station and the main passenger terminal:

term walks 1

I can’t decide if this is some sort of administration building or a chapel…anyone know?

admin 1

Now let’s take a look at the air cargo facilities…and next, a few views from the street:

air cargo 1

air cargo 2

And next, the cargo area from the ramps:

air cargo rmps pit

air cargo ramps

air cargo ramp 1

And now, the main event…the main passenger terminal…

main term 1

main term 2

In the image just above (center), note the vehicle that appears to be coming out of a ground-level exit?

garage stairs

How’s that for an insane level of detail? Now, pull back and note the surroundings…including interior details visible on window textures?

ramp garage

And you say you only like well-lighted ramps, with lots of detail? Well, what about this?

ramps 3

ramps pit

And below, two images of the terminal/air cargo area, from above:

overvu 1

over vu 2

733 ramps

So, let’s wrap this up.

Scenery strengths? Excellent modeling of buildings, roadways, and taxiways/runways. Lighting is beyond excellent…it’s so good it’s almost surreal…with most lighting adding to a real sense of depth (this additional perspective is a real plus). Framerates were good, but might be an issue on a computer with 2Gb VRAM…or with an ultra-complex .acf running. Add WT3 and all bets are off, especially at night. I had difficulty with the FF752, and even the IXEG 733 struggled to get into the hi-20s – but this was with all rendering settings at MAX, and with World Objects at MAX, as well.

The developer advises that an ortho is almost required for best effect, yet it’s not included. That may be due to copyright or other intellectual property constraints, but even so, I think the necessary links to get this mesh in-place would be a nice addition to her instructions. There are, as well, a number of scenery library files you’ll need to run this file. In a worst-case scenario, without the ortho in place, you’ll run into floating hangers and trees where there shouldn’t be any. Add the necessary ortho and that should straighten things out.

That said, about the only limitation I can see is in the nature of the airport itself. Using a service like VatSIM will negate using this airport, so will running METARS. For those of you out there looking for a VFR commercial airport in central Spain, and don’t want to bother with LEMD, this is a viable option. Also, taking off here under VFR, or even modest IFR conditions, and proceeding to an airport with full and current ILS equipment, will further increase your use of this file.

That said, all we can do is judge this file based on what we see, not it’s likely utility as an IFR hub for a virtual airline. As such, this is an easy 10/10 “Must Have” file, not quite a MrX quality airport, but getting very, very close. Considering that this freeware file easily beats a few payware files in overall quality, it would almost be silly NOT to download this file. With this only being the developer’s third airport file, I think it safe to say we’re looking forward to her working in X-plane for a long, long time.

Hasta later – C

 

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x+s+r // gmfo + fnub + lfot & tours city

XSR Main hdr

All in all, we usually do NOT feature a roadway as our main image when covering new airports or aircraft files in X-plane, so pardon this going into today’s post – but there’s something quite interesting going on here. Maybe a little behind the scenes, too, but we’ll get to this in a minute. Also, a little “developer interview” today – as part of our review of two African airport files.

A lot of new and revised scenery files came out over the past few days, and we’re pretty sure you’ll find most of these more than a little interesting. Besides GFMO in Morocco and FNUB in Angola, xpfr released a surprising duo in west-central France: LFOT & LFEN, both in Tours. But what makes this pairing even more relevant is an extensive city file was included, and it’s a very nice addition if your flying takes you around the central part of France. Also out this week, a new version of 2NC0 Mountain Air, North Carolina…everyone’s favorite neck breaking East Coast roller coaster. So, to start off today’s post, let’s look at a very different scenery file, a hypothetical airport located in The Netherlands…that simply does not exist.

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EHDT hdr

So, we’ve never reviewed an imaginary airport before, so…what’s going on here? Why bother?

Well, let’s see what the developer has to say:

Let me be clear first: Doetinchem Regional Airport is a non-existing airport; EHDT is a non-valid ICAO code. Well, since this is out of the way, why did I create this imaginary airport in the first place? To be honest, I wanted to try WED 1.6 and didn’t wanna mess up any existing airport and to learn everything one has to start from scratch. So, this is the result. I was looking for an airport with lots of capabilities, but with tight maneuvering space. I wanted to create a grass strip as well as a concrete runway. And I wanted to make it ‘alive’. So lots of objects, while trying not to overdo it. 

I realize that the result may be far from perfect, but I would like to ask everyone out there to give it a try. And although I also realize that I’ve used a lot of libraries, I’d love to receive comments. Comments are not considered as criticism, but merely as steppingstone for that moment I’m going to work on an existing airport.

So, let’s test your knowledge of existing terminal buildings in X-plane. Look at the glass corner of the building in the image below. Any guesses where this terminal came from?

ehdt 1

Before we look at the answer…take in the interesting scene below. Tons of equipment scattered about the ramps, as well as a throng of passengers about to board the ATR (beyond the 737). I think this image speaks volumes, too, about a central problem with many airport scenery files, namely…Every Picture Tells a Story (and no, we’re not referring to the Rod Stewart song). “Static” has come to define too many of our airports, and that’s not good. A little visual story-telling isn’t such a bad thing, even in a flight-simulator…and, as you can see in the little action unfolding here, perhaps this is an image with all kinds of stories waiting to be told. It’s a hard thing for a designer to wrap their head around too, but sometimes little out of the way corners are great places to develop a little scene like this. People talking around a construction site, or by an engine with access ports open…just little pockets of interest…but these give your final product a lot more impact.

ehdt 2

There’s a fair amount of action going on around here, too, though there could be more movement, such as ground vehicles scurrying about. For a first effort, however, this is excellent work.

ehdt 3

Lighting helps produce layers of depth here, and this makes the small area look larger. So, re: the question above, if you guessed EICK Cork, Ireland…you’re correct! Easy to see when looking at the whole building, isn’t it?

ehdt 4

If the developer’s intent was to cram as much action as possible within a confined space, I’d say ‘Mission Accomplished!’

ehdt 5

Whatever the merits of the developer’s original idea, this is an interesting, very useful little commercial airport. I suppose it makes more sense to use it with a virtual airline, but it’s well conceived and nicely executed, so it would be a shame to let it go to waste. I’ll not be deleting this one.

Score: (9/10) Download the file here.

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2NC0 main hdr

2NC0 (zero, not the letter O) is a very small private airport located in western North Carolina, near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (west of the Winston-Salem/GSO area). The airport is located on the grounds of a private development that includes upscale homesites, condominiums, as well as a country club with a quite challenging golf course. As a rule, the airport is NOT open to the public as there are very limited emergency services available here. That does not mean, however, that users in X-plane can’t take advantage of all this runway has in store for you.

When we reviewed Santiago’s (nee Nimbus’) original version of this airport (eight years ago!) we featured a Youtube video of an MU2 making the approach here, and this is still about the best introduction you’ll find to flying this runway…

You’ll note, however, that the runway in this file (indeed, all such files to date) does not accurately reflect the contours of the real facility…

2NC0 hdr

I think a Super-Cub, or another such ultra-light STOL aircraft, might manage to land near the threshold of runway 32, but a larger twin, such as an MU2 or King Air might get in real trouble here, so I’d advise trying Rwy 14 first.

2NC0 407

2NC0 5

Taking off on Rwy 14, once the runway crests it falls away quickly. You’ll want to be airborne before you hit the final pitch…or you’ll be digging a ditch with your aircraft. Regardless, what sets this file apart from earlier efforts is the golf course and residential developments spread around the mountain. It’s a very nice job and quite immersive…

NC 340 1

NC Ph 2

NC Ph

The Phoenix ultra-light is a blast to land here as it carries a tremendous amount of flare (if you, ahem, come in a little hot), and the tricycle gear works to your advantage on Rwy 32s steep initial grade, too. A tricycle geared acf like the Waco, on the other hand, is hindered by its limited visibility…and not recommended.

NC waco flyby

There’s also something funny going on in the parking area. Several aircraft I used had a difficult time turning here, like the pitch of the original hill is still enabling a loss of steering. The Phoenix and Waco were almost impossible to turn here.

NCtrees

Which brings me to another element worth noting; the trees around this airport. I don’t know if this is auto-gen, but the forests around this airstrip just feel right. This part of North Carolina sees a mix of deciduous and conifer trees, and this is well presented in the file. Also, there is a separate WINTER file available, but I did not try this out, and, in real life, this runway would be terrifying in either snow or ice. I’d imagine the facility is closed during such weather, too.

Anyway, this is now an Xp11 compliant file and assuming you fly GA aircraft in the mid-Atlantic region, this is a fun addition when you want to work on your piloting skills.

(9/10) Link here, and winter file link here.

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LFOT main hdr

xpfr has seemed almost dormant lately, with few new scenery files released and little to indicate they’re still active. The vast majority of their files came out several years ago, in a burst of creative energy that took them from early version 8 well into v10. Arno & Khamsin developed their T28 Trojan and B17 files then (not to mention Arno’s little ErCoupe) and, at about the same time, their teammates at xpfr released the huge French Polynesia file; for a time it looked like xpfr was THE dominant force in X-plane. Then…well, that’s a long story, a thorny tale for a rainy day, perhaps. It takes time for some wounds to heal.

So, anyway…when xpfr releases a new file it’s time for celebration here at Chaos Manor, though the choice we see today is rife with potent symbolism. I see little need to talk about Charles Martel and the Carolingian ascendence after the Battle of Tours; after all, what has that to do with X-plane?

Tours Battle Steuben_-_Bataille_de_Poitiers

Indeed. Let’s ramble on to more relevant material…

So, what we have here are two rather interesting airport files in one download, as well as an extremely well-executed presentation of some of the more important buildings in and around Tours (and if unfamiliar with Tours, try this Wikipedia entry to get caught up).

LFOT GE

It’s a little over a hundred miles to LFPO Paris Orly, and about 250 out to Brest (above), and note that Ryanair flies to London-Stansted, Marrakesh, Porto, Dublin, and Marseilles.

LFOT is primarily a small commercial facility – one it happens to share with a  significant military base – and you’ll find both included in this part of the download. Well…wait one. I say “you’ll find” with a wink and a nod, as there are Rafales hidden in hardened revetments all over the place, usually hidden deep in the surrounding woods, and some aren’t exactly easy to find. Aside from a commercial ramp surrounded by trees (with a Ryanair 737 static parked at the terminal), you’ll also find a large military area behind these trees, with all kinds of military equipment on display, including an Airbus 400.

LFOT ref 1

LFOT mil 1.png

LFOT base

Now, let’s look at the commercial side of the facility, and how about a little comparison to start off with?

LFOT real

LFOT 1

All in all, a very close rendition, and xpfr was modeling parking lots in X-plane before just about anyone else…so, of course, you’ll find an excellent one here.

LFOT 1.1.png

LFOT 1.11

True to form, they employ a variety of lights to impart depth. Learning how to use light – as well as shadow – is an important part of the design process. These guys are masters.

LFOT 2

Diving into the blue end of the spectrum found around sunrise – and with a low RVR – this terminal seems to come alive. Can’t you just smell the coffee and croissant…and the lingering patina of a little jet-fuel…?

LFOT blu 1

LFOT blu 2

I loved nothing more than getting to work on mornings like these…and…are you checking out that control tower yet…?

LFOT blu 3.png

LFOT blu 4

Because night brings out a few details you’ll want to take note off, too.

a) below, you’ll find a ton of interior detail hidden within these textures of the terminal building’s second-floor windows, and;

b) note the tower is subtly lit, and there are interior details showing from the ramp.

LFOT det

Below, some of the details on the terminal building, as referred to above in (a):

LFOT det 2

LFOT det 3

I’m not sure, but I think I can tell what brand of copier is in that window!

Now, let’s hop on down to the southern part of the city, where you’ll find LFEN Tours Sorigny…

LFEN hdr

This is a small GA facility with both a grass and paved runway, an FBO/flight school, and a bunch of extremely well-detailed hangers…all set off by small, almost whimsical details.

LFEN 1.png

LFEN sign

There’s a little rust on many of these hangers, lending the airport a faint patina of age. Faded paint is the tell-tale sign I note here: real artists at work…vintage xpfr, too.

LFEN 1.11

LFEN 1.111

The asphalt runway is too short for anything more than GA singles, maybe an overpowered light twin like the Baron, as well. Ramps and taxiways are paved, and there’s some runway lighting, too.

LFEN Waco 1

LFEN Blu 1

LFEN blu 2

Now, a few “impressions” of the morning…just for fun.

LFEN old 1

LFEN old 2.png

LFEN old 3

LFEN old 5

The third part of this download encompasses landmarks in and around the city of Tours, and two of my favorites are the Cathedral and the art deco influenced Gare de Tours. Both are located within blocks of one another, just south of the Loire.

Tours GE

In the image from GE (above), the cathedral is at the top, the train station at the bottom. Below, some images of the cathedral, and NOT from X-plane.

Tours_Cathedral_Saint-Gatian W

Tours C W

Now…a few in Xp, and note the textured flying buttresses.

Tours 1

Tours C 2 in xp

Below, the Gare de Tours:

Gare de Tours W

And now, the front facade, followed by a shot of the interior/platforms.

Tours gare in xp 1.png

Tours Gare platform in xp

Note the trees on the end platform!!! Obviously, helicopters are the best way to experience these city files, but even flying into LFOT, the view of the city center is impressive.

So, lots to see and do here, and as all of these elements are well executed we’d rate this a solid 10/10. It’s a Must Have file…and you have no idea how good it feels to say that about a new file from xpfr.

//

GMFO Hdr

Adriana is a young girl with an interest in graphic design and developing assets for X-plane, and she has, to date, created two very interesting airport files – which we’ll be looking at today. We’ve been picking up bits and pieces of her story for a while, so decided to reach out and ask her a few questions about her work, and where she’s going from here. Here’s what she had to say:

  1. Could you tell us a little about your interest in X-plane, and how you became interested in flying?

Since I was a child I have always been interested in the creative world as well as gaming. Starting out as playing with Photoshop and 3D programs, I fell head over heels with design and 3D Modeling, which resulted in taking a degree of Graphic Design in high school. While continuing modeling, I had thought of a way to enter the gaming world, and my dad being a huge fan of X-Plane and in the flying simulation world made me also have this same passion as he started to introduce me to this world. Since then, I have been developing content and getting better and better at what I love to do. If I must say, I am not interested in flying aircrafts, but actually developing content. I have not entered this world to have people downloading my sceneries, on the contrary, I entered to be able to let all simmers enjoy what I love to do, just like I do, as well as feel like they are truly inside the airport just like in real life.

While continuing to develop my skills and my love for gaming, I got into the world of Animation, in which I am now undertaking a course in 3D Animation, in my opinion in one of the best Animation schools. Additionally, and to complement my gaming experience, I am working in ESL (Electronic Sports League) the biggest eSports company, I am a Staff Head leading the Design Team.

  1. Concerning the two files you’ve released so far, what sparked your interest in these two airports?

Why Oujda in Morocco? It was one of the first places I have ever traveled to, and it was a scary landing (due to high winds and a sandstorm) which will stay in my memory forever. But although all of this happened, I had a great time and I enjoyed the vacation. This was what led me into deciding to start out with this airport. As for Lubango, Angola I found it curious due to the fact that it is both a military airport as well as civil. This truly fascinated me and I was more than excited to make it as my second project!

As you can realize my main focus is not to build mainstream airports but build exotic airports. This is also why, this next project that I will launch this weekend is a closed airport, that will reopen this Easter. I like to be different 🙂

  1. So, this surprise project is your next?

The launch this weekend and already in development (you are the first one to know about this 😛 ), a supercar and an airplane, where I will be applying the animation techniques. These, however, are very challenging projects although fun to work on! My goal is to release them in the next couple of months.

So, let’s look at Adriana’s first airport file, released last summer, GMFO, located in Oujda, Morocco. You’ll note this airport fits in nicely with almost any western Mediterranean route network you could be interested in. In addition, flights to Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam, and Marseilles are all viable real-world options, as well as regional flights around North Africa.

GMFO GE

I decided to show more night-time images here as this file just comes alive at night, and her choice of lighting reflects a concern for lighting objects and revealing depth. Look at the image below; I count at least four types of lights used, and her choice helps create an immersive sense of depth.

GMFO 1

The only drawback? Plain blue textures on the windows. Compare this effect with those on xpfr’s above, on the main terminal at LFOT. With interior details visible, this airport would be approaching payware quality; hopefully, Adriana will revisit this file in the future and show us a v2 file with such detail included.

GMFO 2

GMFO 3

She’s got the lighting down, and good use of foliage, too.

GMFO 5

GMFO 4

Ramp & apron detail is very good, though there’s not a lot of movement on the ramps.

GMFO 6

GMFO 7

Ramp and taxiway markings are similarly well done, as are the multiple parking areas for automobiles.

GMFO 7end

All in all, this is a very useful file that will tie in nicely with the Casablanca file released a few weeks ago. As is, this file is a 9/10; with better night/window textures, this file would be close to perfect, and you’ll find the download link here.

FNUB hdr

Adriana’s second file is located in Angola, and I found this one particularly interesting. Why? Well, look at the map below…

FNUB GE

Yes, that’s St. Helena off to the left, and Windhoek, Namibia at the bottom right…so…guess what? We now have an excellent airport file to use in concert with the St Helena Island payware package we reviewed in December! And I do say excellent advisedly, as this one is as interesting as GMFO.

FNUB 1

There is a military facility attached to this airport, and it’s modeled, as are a number of ancillary hangers too, for air freight, maintenance and, I reckon, for military use, as well. Appropriate static aircraft are included, and the SAA paint is on the EADT x738, available from EADT. The New Lufthansa Cargo paint is for the EADT x737-7.

FNUB 4

FNUB 5

Here’s the real terminal, BTW, and another image of the building in Xp11.11. It’s hard to tell from just one image, but the real building appears much longer than what’s modeled:

FNUB real

FNUB 7

This file is so useful as a stepping off point for St Helena, I know I’ll keep this one. I like the feel of the main terminal building, too, as well as the lighting here. I’d rate this file a 9/10 as well, and you can download the file here. It’s great to learn we have such a promising and talented new developer working on new projects for Xp, and we’ll keep you posted as we learn more. Thanks, Adriana!

los endos

.Again, great to see xpfr back in the fight! The image above? From LFOT, of course!

Hasta later – C & A

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x+s+r // VSKYLABS Air Phoenix U-15

VSL Phoenix hdr

Well, how about something really different?

VSkyLabs has steadily developed the reputation as one of the very best up-and-coming developers for aircraft files (.acf) in X-plane, and that made me more than a little curious. They’ve got some “cute files” out there, too, ultra-lights like the MicroHopper, then there’s the light twin Tecnam 2006, and what’s come to be regarded as the best DC-3 simulation in X-plane. I was tempted to try out the MicroHopper – until I saw this beast – and that was that. The Phoenix has been around a while, and I gave some serious thought to buying one about seven or so years ago – so when I saw this was in the VSky stable I popped for it right away.

u15 1

So, just what IS this thing?

Well, the clue is in the name – LAS – or Light Sports Aircraft and, as such, the Phoenix occupies a narrow little niche within the general aviation ecosystem, for, while it is considered an aircraft, it’s also a glider…albiet a powered glider. If you’d like to read up on these classifications, and on this type of flying in general, give this link a try. More information about the manufacturer can be found here, and information from the US importer is located here. Next, a couple of videos for your enjoyment. First:

And next, an even better one:

And a few images of the real aircraft ought to go down real easy right about now…

real 1

real 2

//

VSky does not include much documentation with your download; you will, instead, be directed to their website…where you’ll find all you could ever hope to find out about this aircraft – and more! Including the basics, cockpit orientation, and, as seen below, instructional diagrams in-sim:

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+fron+panel

Of course, you could also simply download the real aircrafts AOM, here.

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+fron+panel2a

Suffice to say, if you can handle starting the default C172 in X-plane, this aircraft is not going to present any difficulties…with the possible exception of using spoilers…but then again, they’re often called “speed brakes” for a reason.

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+fron+panel3a

A unique attribute of this .acf is the ability to change wing configurations, from long, slender, glider-like wings to narrow, almost stubby sport aircraft wings. Both come with the .acf, just as both come with the real aircraft. Below, the hot-spot inside the cockpit to make the change.

vskylabs+phoenix+u-15+wingfold

This, however, I did not try. Zero interest in anything other than the glider variant on my part. Sorry. My bad.

I did not, BTW, deploy the rescue parachute. Be my guest.

//

u15 2

This aircraft looks as aerodynamically efficient (or perhaps hydrodynamically?) as a tadpole. Slippery is the word that comes to mind. Also, the real aircraft is a composite structure. There are no hidden luggage doors on this model, no canopy opening mechanism (that I could find, anyway). What you will find is an aircraft whittled down to provide the bare essence of flight. Basic instrumentation, the simplest imaginable engine – and very little else. A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine…and thee…

u15 3

u15 4

The cockpit in VSky’s file IS equipped with “needle, ball, and airspeed,” and that, as they say, is all you need to get from point A to point B. The Garmin 530 will no doubt offer a modest improvement on your odds of actually getting where you’re going – assuming you know to work the damn thing.

u15 5

Perhaps the most important gizmos in the ‘pit are the engine controls – and the engine instruments on the right side of the panel. There is no Carb Heat control, but there is an engine cowl-flap control, and if you’ve never used one of these let’s just say you need to learn – quick. You can do so without formal instruction by watching the various engine temperature gauges; when the engine’s temp runs up to the yellow, open the cowl flaps. When the engine gets too cold, close ’em. There’s more to it than that, but this’ll get you going.

u15 6

Texturing shadows down in the footwell? Doesn’t look like it much baking down there, but this is not in direct view so who cares, right?

u15 6.1

And, alright…they got me here. JBL speakers on the aft bulkhead. Could it get any better than this?

u16 6 jbl

//

u15 flite pit 1

This is a tricycle landing gear arrangement, and you know what that means. Yup, it’s a tail-dragger, so while taxiing isn’t exactly straightforward this isn’t a hard airplane to get off the ground. I’d advise against any rate of climb more than about 6-700 FPM, and don’t let your airspeed drop below 60KIAS. That said, if you’re in a race with a bunch of Cessna 150s, you might win. I stress – might. This is NOT a speed demon.

//

So, off from Interlaken, up the valley towards the Eiger, passing Lauterbrunnen on our way to Murren; this is one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland and the perfect place to play with the Phoenix – at least in X-plane.

 

u15 flite rocks

u15 flite rocks pit

This valley is steep-walled and on warm summer afternoons filled with convective thermal activity…so hang on!

u15 flite 1

u15 flite 2

u15 flite pit turn

wingturn

So, I motored up the valley, managed to climb to 7000MSL, then cut the throttle and sort of motor-glided back to the airport, and this .acf WILL pick up speed, in a hurry, in even a modest glide.

u15 flite 3

No need to use the engine coming back, either, though I did have to evade some power-lines a couple of times…

powerlines

Then the airport just pops into view, right as you come out of the valley, and I didn’t have space for a long straight-in approach, either. At 80 knots on short final (about 20 over the recommended approach speed) I popped the speed brakes (oops, spoilers) and tried to bleed energy by slipping a little…

u15 flite app pit 1

Then just sailed down the runway ’til speed dropped to 60KIAS, and that was that.

u15 app 1

u15 app 2.png

Fairly non-eventful for my first time up.

u15 app 3.1

u15 app 4.1

U15 app 4

All in all, I think this is one helluva fun little file. If the whole sport-flying genre is your thing, this is a good .acf to become familiar with.

//

So…conclusions?

u15 flite 4

Well, first, the obvious:

  1. The exterior of the physical model is great; I couldn’t see anything that looked out of place when comparing this .acf to images of the real bird;
  2. The nature of the beast, I suppose, but there doesn’t appear to be a “stock cockpit” from the manufacturer. Instead, it looks like there’s a tremendous amount of customization necessitated by the installation of various new-gen avionics, and as a result, this .acf simply looks like one more custom job. You just cannot, therefore, say this model looks just like the one made by the factory. Personally, I like the look of this ‘pit – it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Taken on that level, it’s an aircraft I’d like to see, and to fly. In short, this file in X-plane makes me curious about the real aircraft, and that’s perhaps the highest compliment an end-user can pay an aircraft developer.
  3. Another “nature of the beast” comment, but despite this being certified as an LSA (Light Sports Aircraft) I’d love to use this file in X-plane – at night. The inclusion of strobes and panel and landing lights would make this aircraft legal for people holding a PPL, would it not? I did note that when I attempted to set total dark conditions the inside of the canopy because opaque with interior reflections. That was weird, and with no artificial horizon, not a little disorienting.

PIT 1

(like, dude, where’d you score those knickers, and what ARE you doing with that hand…?)

The downsides?

Well, no night ops, and that’s about it. Maybe a working canopy???

Our score? A perfect 10 out of 10, with no reservations recommending this one just for the pure joy of flying,

end

Adios – A

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x+s+r // auctus delineations EV55

EV55 hdr

As mentioned in our last post, we ran across this newly revised file yesterday and when we noticed the new G1000 panel – well, that was enough to get the whole curiosity thing going – and off we went…flying this beast around the English countryside – from EGHU Eaglescott to Plymouth and on to Exeter. She handled well enough to make a good first impression, and when that happens it’s time for a more thorough look around.

So, welcome aboard!

We’ll start this look over at EFVA, a small city with a great airport on Finland’s northwest coast, and we’ll fly the EV-55 (and this is v1.25, not 1.3) down to EFHK Helsinki this morning, looking over her systems and physical model as we go. We’re setting a mix of broken and solid overcast from 500 through 15,000 feet, OAT at 59F and zero wind or precipitation. Time? About an hour before sunrise when we opened the door and climbed in.

So, first off, there are no provisions for a ground cart so this is a battery start. With a PT6 this might work if the time between flights was short, but if the temps fall below 30ºF for any length of time you’d more than likely need a cart. Anyway, even though there isn’t an operating handbook or other dedicated aircraft manual included with this download, the included checklist/procedures chart makes short work of starting the EV-55. In truth, this checklist is about all you need for basic OPS; there IS a PDF for the Laminar G1000 included in the documentation folder, and if you haven’t fiddled with this system yet the manual is worth skimming through. The fact of the matter is, basic data entry is little changed from the 430; it’s the functional differences that can overwhelm (or underwhelm, if you don’t get familiar with the capabilities of this unit). All three units can be clicked (on the face), scaled and moved around, rather like any other window on your desktop. I do not have multiple monitors, so can’t advise how they scale in that environment.

EV55 IFR 3.0

EV55 IFR 3.1

A/P controls are built-in on the lower left, but do note the only “auto-throttle” is your Mark-I Right Hand. As with the 430, you can cycle between GPS derived RNAV and VOR CDIs, and while the so-called six-pack instrument cluster cannot be found in this version of the aircraft, most functions are replicated on the G1000s primary display (and there are two of this type onboard). The other, the Central Display, contains the “moving map” as well as overlays for airways and weather data. As there is no radar unit onboard this functionality is somewhat limited.

EV55 IFR 2 AIRWAY HI

Hi & Lo Airways are displayed, as is a Topo selection that displays terrain data. You’ll note, (above) that Finland has the terrain characteristics of a billiards table, and a lot of lakes.

Engine instrumentation is on the left of this screen, and there are duplicate AP controls here, too.

EV55 COMM PANEL

Between the primary and engine management displays, you’ll find an integrated NAV/COMM selection panel. Above this, you’ll find the main annunciator panel and a compass.

EV55 COMPASS

The throttle quadrant also houses controls for flaps, trim, and anti-ice devices.

ev55 trim flaps

Exterior and interior lights are controlled by toggles (not rotary-rheostats) under the primary display. Electrical and engine management controls are directly under the central engine management display.

By the way, the developer provided me with this image of a real panel; I’d assume he consulted this, and more, while developing the original file, as the real aircraft is still not in production (and, I’d assume, not easy to crawl around in with a tape measure).

EV55 real panel 2

I can’t tell, but the main panel almost appears to be a dark slate gray-green color, and not black. Switches on the intermediate panel (lighting, etc.) seem bigger than those in the file.

Referring to the exterior now, look at the leading edge of the wing, and where this joins the fuselage, as well as where the engine nacelles join the leading edge. Also, note the NACA vent above the forward pax window on the right side:

ev 55 real 1

And compare these features with those found on the file:

ev55 nits 2.png

From the front windshields to the top of the wing seems to be more a single slope, same with the nacelles. Also, the top of the leading edge on the vertical stabilizer is radiused. The winglets seem superfluous at this point, but the misshaped fuselage is a bigger deal, one that should be addressed in a future update.

Another problem with the fuselage concerns the windshield area.

ev55 nits 1.png

The side window needs to be more tightly radiused, inside and out, same for the main windshield. Making what appears to be a 120º turn in four steps makes for a rough, misshapen corner.

The leading edge of the wing seems roughly modeled:

ev55 wing splines

There would appear to be too few splines (pink); adding at least 3-4 more would make a smoother radiused leading edge.

ev55 logo light

The logo light on the tail seems to do a good job of illuminating the underside of the horizontal stabilizer, and not the tail itself. Perhaps move that light to the upper part of the fuselage?

Now, let’s get inside.

//

Once the engines are running and before you’re ready to taxi, make sure the steering switch in ON – BEFORE taxiing (it’s located left of the exterior lights panel); this is a nose-wheel steering implementation and it’s difficult to move the aircraft at low speeds without this engaged. You’ll need to turn this off after you line up on the centerline, and remember to engage this after you’ve landed and are preparing to depart the active runway.

EV55 DOOR CHART

This little card (above) lives on the left side of the dash (blue arrow), and once clicked this worksheet appears. You can click to OPEN or CLOSE the passenger, cockpit, and luggage doors (green arrow) or the pink arrow to dismiss the chart. (Ah, yes…KMMH. Those were the days.)

EV55 RAMP DOORS 1

EV55 REAR DOOR 1

EV55 REAR DOOR 2

You can also click between pax and cargo variants on the worksheet. Landing and taxi lighting are simple and straightforward:

ev55 lighting

Using both gets the job done.

EV55 SEATS

Jack’s Dash-8 Q400 has the undisputed best pilots’ seats ever. These come close. Fun, and a good job.

I’m not sure what’s going on with this panel, whether texture baking was attempted or not, but there’s an unremitting whiteness to many areas that seems to call out for shadowing of some sort. Under the seats, above, is just one area; the pilots’ footwell and rudder pedal area, and even the circuit breaker panels just seem (too) monochromatic.

ev55 shadow footwells 1

ev55 shaodow footwells 2

Arrows point to areas that need shadowing of some sort. Note, in the image (below) the sun is low on the horizon and dead ahead. Shouldn’t the footwell area and the lighting panel be in deepest shade?

EV55 IFR 3.0

Once moving, the Outback is easy to taxi and brakes with authority. Do cut back from flight idle to ground idle (red knobs) to keep speed under control on the ground.

ev55 takeoff roll

I did NOT taxi to the end of the runway, but entered at the blue arrow. Vr was achieved well before the next turnout, a takeoff roll of less than a thousand feet. Gear and flaps up, engage the AP (make sure you enter all pertinent data BEFORE taxiing, including setting the heading bug and having your first two needed VOR freqs entered). Once you’ve got the wheels stowed and the wing clean, hit the AP and FD buttons on the lower left AP section of the primary display, then the heading button. Enter the desired altitude with the altitude knob lower right, see the displayed value top of the V-speed tape, then hit the VS button, followed by a selected nose UP value (600 FPM worked well, allowing a climb speed of 150-160KIAS).

Recall now that the EV55 is NOT pressurized, so climbing above 8,000 feet is recommended only for very short duration flights. Going over 10,000 should be considered an emergency option only (perhaps to clear a growing storm cell), and 12,5 is your hard top (I saw no oxygen equipment in the cockpit). Cut back power/condition/prop levers and monitor all engine instruments are in the green while maintaining VS or cruise speed, then pull out your copy of Playboy and start reading.

//

EV55 IN FLITE 1

With G1000s onboard, flying such disparate aircraft as this Outback, the Kodiak, the TBM850, and the Cessna 172 begin to take on oddly familiar characteristics – at least in X-plane – and I think this sudden commonality is a weird by-product of an unanticipated cross-pollination. Sure, flying with VORs was similar, in some ways, but almost all aircraft had their quirks. Not so with these various G1000 units (again, in X-plane). Once you’ve learned the ins-and-outs of the G1000 in one aircraft, you’ve learned the heart and soul of a bunch of aircraft. As I’ve been tinkering with the G1000 since I picked up Dan’s Kodiak three months ago, this aircraft felt oddly similar. Power up, take off, engage the AP and just settle in…

But here’s where over-confidence can settle-in and get you.

First thing to keep an eye on is climb speed. Once you pass 190 KIAS you’re in the yellow, and from that point on the AP will struggle to maintain either a set rate of climb or such a high cruise speed. There’s just too much pressure on the control surfaces as you approach Vne, and the AP will enter a climb in order to slow the aircraft down – and from that point on things get dicey…like uncontrolled climbs, stalls…all sorts of nonsense. And the thing is…this is not bogus operation. APs, especially low powered units like on small turboprops, don’t like overspeed situations. If you’re in cloud and not paying attention? Guess who’s about to get into some serious trouble?

SO…set your speed no higher than about 180 (give yourself a little wiggle room) once you reach your desired cruising altitude. Again, there’s no auto-throttle, so just set it manually (and keep an eye on your engine instruments, keep them in the green). You’ll do the same when time to descend (e.g., set a VS of, say, -400FPM and pull back on the power to keep your speed at 180 as you descend). Keep in mind, too, that you’re not descending from FL330…you’re flying down in the weeds so don’t need a long time for a protracted descent.  I was lined up on my final approach angle fifty miles out so just let speed bleed once I passed 5000; at ten miles out I switched NAV2 to active and with the localizer right there the AP, once in APP mode, captured both the LOC and the GS. All you have to do is manually set speeds, get the flaps and gear down, then cut-off the AP when you hit your DH. I hate to say this, but the G1000 equipped Outback made all this look and feel easy…CAT II approaches should, theoretically, be no problem in this .acf…

EV55 EFHK LOC 00.11

EV55 EFHK APP 0.1

If this kind of approach sounds a little too easy, first, consider this. ESSA Arlanda pioneered what’s now being called the Continuous Descent Approach, and it’s been adopted all over Scandinavia, and the EU is next. The basic premise is that stopping a descent to enter a predetermined step altitude wastes fuel, so keeping approaches long, straight and at continuous rates of descent saves fuel – and reduces pollution. I’d assume the procedure will even come to the US – someday – so get ready! LAX has been doing it this way for a half-century, so I don’t know what the big deal is…but elongated holding patterns might start forming out over the North Atlantic…

Anyway, I didn’t test out entering an ILS from an extreme angle, just this one, long, straight approach, and it went smooth as silk. Again, all you have to do is monitor the LOC and GS, keep speed optimal for flaps and gears, and remember…this isn’t a 757, so your approach speed is going to be more like a Cessna 172s. I held 100 knots until a mile out, then bled speed to 90 and held that all the way to touchdown. Very simple, very smooth, very, very easy.

EV55 EFHK APP 2

//

So, conclusions?

Despite a few rough edges on the physical model I really like this .acf, and for a few good reasons:

  1. The flight model felt rock solid to me;
  2. The two core animations, gears and flaps, sound great and feel unobtrusive;
  3. Stalls are gentle and easily corrected, even in a steep turn;
  4. The G1000 unit is well implemented and presented no surprises under these limited conditions. The only caveat? Read and understand Laminar’s manual, because there are many features buried in there some will find surprising.

Aside from the items listed on my concerns list, I think the cockpit could use more conventional lighting (dimmable dome and instrument panel lights via rotary manipulators). The rear air-stair door could use some lighting, as well.

We’re beginning to see lots of really excellent smaller airports in Xp, and many of these will be perfect for using an aircraft like the Outback on light commuter flights. Think Idaho Falls to KSLC and you’ll be right on target. ESSA to ENGM? EDDH to EDDL? LOWI to EDDM? Inter-island flights in the Canaries? All over Brazil? Chile? California? France?

You’re no doubt getting the picture now…

So, what’s needed are a few fictional liveries to go with this .acf.

How about an Austrian, Delta Connection, paints for Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, the UK, and the Canary Islands? Kenya? South Africa? All would be perfect additions for this little bird…so would FedEx, UPS, and DHL.

And you? If you have an interest in light turboprop airliners, you’ll enjoy this implementation of the G1000 package in addition to it being an interesting new bird in the turboprop family.

Assuming the developer continues to smooth out the few rough edges noted, this file will soon be as good as any Carenado file out there. Should you wait, maybe see what happens? Maybe, but my thinking is this: the few niggles discussed here are mainly cosmetic and don’t impact the flight model. If you want to tinker with a G1000 in a regional turboprop airliner, this is a great place to start.

On the ten scale? Let’s call it a nine. The physical (exterior) model needs some work, but nothing critical needs to be done. The exterior is generally quite nice to look at, the panel more than functional, and the mechanicals just work. My flight from EFVA to EFHK was as pleasurable as any I’ve made recently, and this under near IFR conditions. I’d also say this .acf functions well as a G1000 trainer. If you’re into very heavy metal or keep to GA singles, this file might interest you at some point, so keep an open mind.

Last thought here. This is a new developer, and his first file. We’ve been advocating, for years, that this is exactly the type of person the community needs to support…so think about that too.

Next up on our horizon?

Next

We’ll see you then. – C

 

 

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x+s+r // essa stockholm arlanda & ev55

essa hdr

I don’t know what’s happening to freeware developers these days, but it’s like they got it into their heads that they could start making freeware files as good as payware – maybe better, even – and get away with it, like, forever. Leading the charge is tdg, a freeware developer whose list of completed projects is, well, staggering. There are now thirteen (yes, 13) pages (yes, you read that correctly) of his FILES at the Org. Freeware, all of them. You can see a progression in the quality of these files, too, from EGNT Newcastle, in 2014, to today’s release – ESSA Stockholm Arlanda – and it makes me wonder. What’s the end game here? Build an audience like Mr. X and then go payware, or just keep making freeware?

If this guy was building scenery libraries of his own I could almost see him taking the payware route – but he’s not. No, right up front, in all his files, we read the long list of scenery libraries he’s used and that puts an end to that speculation. So, if he wants to make freeware files, so be it; he’s apparently set out to make the best possible files and, as mentioned, you can see a steady progression in the quality of his work over time (and pardon me, but I’m using the pronoun ‘he’ unadvisedly; I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s identity here).

We looked at his ESSB Stockholm Bromma v2 a few weeks ago, and recently compared his Ibiza file with two others (last week), and we concluded his work is, generally speaking, as good as some pretty expensive payware – despite his reliance on scenery library objects.

In his release notes for this ESSA file, tdg states “This was one of biggest builds I’ve done and the most requested…”, so when you consider he’s put together some extremely large and very complex airport files over the last four years, you kind of have to sit up and take note when someone makes a statement like that. If his files looked like Lego-brick airports maybe this wouldn’t be so impressive, but that’s the thing…they don’t. Sure, some are better than others but, by and large, those released over the past half year-or-so have reached the point where it’s hard to draw a line between his files and decent payware.

So, first things first, let’s look at the real airport and put it in context – first within our Baltic regional network.

ESSA GE Routes

Note, it’s about 2600nmi to the Canary Island airports we looked at last weekend. A little closer to home…it’s less than 250 miles to either Oslo or Helsinki, 800 or so to Heathrow, more than 900 to Paris Orly, in the 700s for EDDF, EDDM, or LOWW. Madrid is about 1600, Rome a little more than 1200, and Newark, New Jersey (service by both SAS and UAL) is, roughly, 4100 miles.

ESSA GE 1

Here’s the airport in GoogleEarth, with NORTH to the RIGHT.

And a terminal diagram:

ESSA diagram

All the major European carriers work out of here, while both SAS and Norwegian Air Shuttle use Arlanda as a hub. The airport is notable for a couple of reasons: 1) they have a 100% open policy, despite snow conditions, and; 2) the ramps and some taxiways are heated via a complex geothermal network of circulating water. The 100-man strong snow-cat crew is at work – constantly – when heavy snows hit, and the airport’s policy is simple: at least one runway will be open, all the time. With CAT 3A autoland, that makes Arlanda a 24/7/365 proposition. And no ice on the ramps is always a great thing!

ESSA LH A320 SNOW

Below, the main tower, at night, with a little snow on the ground:

ESSA real control tower

And here’s an oddball area I found both in the file and in GoogleEarth imagery of the airport. Note the roadway through the lake leading to the threshold. There’re HIRL lighting towers on this roadway…

ESSA GE runway road

…but, apparently, no exclusion zone on this file’s underlay, resulting in this:

essa runway undershoot road

While this may be an error, it’s a pretty cool one. I mean…can you imagine? Those would be the best spotting homes, ever! There’s a rail express link to the city center, a la the Heathrow Express…called the Arlanda Express (clever, huh?):

ESSA ArlandaExpress

And, this is what it’s all about. Getting people here:

Stockholm old city

Now, let’s look at tdg’s file, because it’s good. And yes, it may be his best yet, which is saying something – but don’t take our word for it. Download the file (right here) and decide for yourself.

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I’d recommend opening Xp at someplace like Oslo or Helsinki and flying into this ESSA – just letting the experience of the place sink in slowly.

There’ve been a few ESSAs in Xp over the years (the last I recall was a v9 file), but this is a horse of a different color. If you’ve been waiting for this one as long as most of us have, you’re about to be a very happy camper.

ESSA 1

You’ll look at the image below and see some telltale signs of Lego-brick terminals and groan, but hang on, you’re not there yet. Oh, take a look at the roof details (blue arrow) and ask yourself – “Is this a Lego-brick terminal…”

ESSA 3

Swing around, take a look at the parking lots and garages, at the airport hotels and the control tower. There’s a huge amount of detail here, and even for a scenery library airport, this file will hit your GPU pretty hard. You don’t get something for nothing. Ever.

But some things are worth the price, even if they’re free.

ESSA 4

Now the interesting stuff. This is a v11 file – only – and it comes in two flavors; with and without static aircraft. If you’re using WT3 that question has already been made for you; if you’re not, do download the version with static aircraft. tdg has loaded the ramps with relevant aircraft/airlines, and the ramps look great filled out this way.

Now, ask yourself this: have you ever seen a Lego-brick terminal that looks like this?

ESSA 5

Or this?

ESSA 6

Note: the cylindrical details on the roof (above). And…how ’bout some ramp detail? How many freeware files offer this level of detail?

ESSA 7

ESSA 8

Lighting? Yup, this too is just about perfect. Now, start concentrating on the night-window textures, starting with the image above. See any smeary blue textures? Do you, on the other hand, see interior detail and real depth?

ESSA 9

You’ll start to pick it up everywhere, too…

essa 10

ESSA 11

You’ll also begin to pick up more reflective detail, too. In the image above, the left-side arrow points to a half-dozen reflections on a series of louvered panels. The right arrow, very good window textures.

essa 12.1

You’ll begin to have a few of “those moments” around here, too. You know…the “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” moment – when you about fall over – as you realize you’re looking at something very special. Maybe even something better than the twenty buck file you bought last week.

essa 12

Here’s a thought. The next time you run across a payware file that’s not as good as this one, why don’t you tell the developer to do a better job, and that you’re not going to buy their stuff again until they do.

Why?

Compare this work to, say, a certain payware file on the Norwegian coast. You remember, the one with the crappy parking garage and poor lighting? Why isn’t the work in that file as good as this? Why did you (not to mention me) pay for inferior work?

Because developers can. There’s little real competition and we’re, in effect, starving for good files. But when a freeware file beats a payware file in areas of basic quality, something’s wrong. We – you and I – need to be more discriminating buyers. But – and let this sink in – it’s just wrong that payware developers are offering files with mediocre details.

ESSA 14

It’s wrong because developers like Mr. X and tdg have blown the freeware paradigm apart. In the recent past, freeware in X-plane meant either poor quality or Lego-brick cookie-cutter airports that were, well, boring. Take a look around this airport file, a very close look, then ask yourself this… Are you bored? Have you bought a payware file recently that was not as good as this one?

See what I’m getting at?

It’s time to starting demanding more from developers moving into X-plane. Don’t settle for mediocrity just because some FsX developer starts porting their ten-year-old files over to Xp11.

tdg’s ESSA Arlanda is a 12 on the 10 scale. It’s a total Must Have file. Period.

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A couple of other fun files to catch up on now.

The first is simply called Monuments Pack 1 v1.0, and it’s decent enough to grab now – and to keep an eye on. I’m NOT going to show you examples of each hidden treasure, though I managed to find them all, as this file is set-up almost like a game of hide-and-seek…

Monuments 1aa

Above, this is EG51 Hermitage Airfield, located adjacent to a small farmstead. It’s a quiet, very special feeling place, too:

Monuments 412

In this download, you’ll find a set of directions to a series of monuments. Three located in the UK, one in Egypt. Simple NAV exercises, you might call them. But a couple aren’t as easy to find as you might think. I recommend a helo, but do try a fixed wing. Nothing fast, mind you…

Monuments 1

…as some of these are difficult to see until you’re right on them. And yes, three are British Heritage sites. The group below is not:

Monuments 2

Again, print out the read-me (very detailed, quite informative) and give it a go. My guess is you’ll keep these onboard, too.

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UUOO hdr

Another file from X-plane-Russia worth adding to your collection just came out. UUOO Voronezh is located not quite 300 miles south of Moscow, about 800 miles from ESSA Arlanda, and close to 1300 miles from Dusseldorf:

UUOO GE

This is a combined civil/military airfield, as well, with nice static a/c on display.

UUOO 1

UUOO 2

And the figures in the image above are animated! Nice touch!

UUOO 3

Lots of high-powered radars here…

UUOO 4

And great attention to detail. Foliage, lighting, ramp detail and surroundings, all well executed. Another 10 out of 10 for the Russian Team! Real artists at work here!

UUOO 5.png

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EGHU hdr

There’s something about the southwest…of England. Clotted cream on warm strawberry scones, hot tea and honey, maybe a long walk on the Cotswold Trail, or out in Cornwall. Hard to beat this part of the world…

EGHU GE

And a few pleasant aerodromes out this way, too. More than pleasant, really. Downright nice, and a nice bit of whimsy can be found out here, too.

EGHU 1

We’ve seen a few files like this one over the years, but when we run across one this good it’s worth sharing. So, here it is. Consider it shared.

EGHU 2

Lots of hidden details in this little airport, so get out and walk around, check out the hangers, take a chair out of the sun…

EGHU ev55

And take a look at the heavily revised EV55 Outback that came out today!

EV55 hdr

You’ve seen this one, I’m sure. The EV55 Outback is an interesting new aircraft, developed by Evektor-Aerotechnik in the Czech Republic. There’ve been two prototypes built for flight evaluation, and a third static testbed, with the first flight in 2011. The company failed to secure financing and the project is on indefinite hold, though with certification still hoped for in 2019, the company is searching for a white knight.

EV55 real x2.1

As you can see in the image above, there’ve been some mods made since this aircraft file for X-plane was first presented…

EV55 real x2

Most notably to the wingtips.

ev55 green i

But the real magic has yet to take flight…a three panel G1000 suite as seen in this mockup, below.

EV55 real panel

In a 14-passenger configuration, this aircraft could compete against the Beech 1900D and the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and, as it’s not pressurized, could do so at far less cost.

ev-55-14pax

With this wing/engine configuration, the -55 reminds me of an updated MU-2, and one can see this aircraft slipping into a short/thin route network – routes where even Rjs can’t turn a profit.

ev 55 real 1

Regardless, with robust landing gears and out-of-the-box STOL capabilities, this is a more-then-interesting new aircraft.

ev-55-tail-03

And we’ve had a decent version for X-plane for a while, that has a panel that looks like this:

EV55 1 old panel

For some reason, however, this file just never piqued my interest. This panel looks flat and uninteresting – and with small, barely legible instrumentation I never made the purchase.

EV55 .1

Still, it’s an interesting looking aircraft, and every time I passed by it at the org store I paused and gave it another look…

EV55 2

EV55 3

Anyway, something happened this afternoon that made me think twice about this file.

EV55 4

And no, it wasn’t the nice, operating passenger doors…

EV55 5

Or the robust, well-modeled landing gear…

EV55 6

Or even the precision exterior model…

Not even the aircraft’s nimble STOL performance could reel me in…

EV55 8

But you know what got me? What tripped my trigger?

EV55 7

Laminar’s new three panel G1000 suite.

Is this file perfect? No, not yet, but the developer seems to be working on it – which is a good thing for a new developer. The panel needs better, more adjustable lighting, the side-cockpit windows need tighter modeling, and I’d get my panel looking EXACTLY like that mockup as soon as I could.

The take-off and landing performance is in the same league as the Thranda Kodiak, cruise speed is in the near-200 KIAS range, and the ease of use of the G1000 is something that takes NO getting used to. After three hours in the .acf this evening, all I can say is this is a fun, easy to fly twin – with really gonzo IFR capability.

Flying around southwest England in the Ev55 was as good as it gets, and we’ll have more, soon.

So, have a good weekend, and we’ll see you soon if something new comes out.

Later – A

 

 

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