Seattle is another one of those places – if you know what I mean. Hard to put a finger on exactly what trips my trigger, but I lived here for a while, on my boat. On Lake Union, in the shadow of downtown, and not too far from this place…
The Pike Place Market is not really a one of a kind place, but then again…it sorta is. Many cities in the U.S. have farmers markets, from the smallest to the largest all across America. They’re quite interesting places, generally speaking, and I think in no small measure because they afford urban cave dwellers the opportunity to feel a little connection to the food they eat…if only because you can look the farmer who grew your tomatoes in the eye…and maybe take the measure of the man for a moment…and what that life must be like.
Pike Place is different. First of all, it’s huge. I mean…huge. There are farmers markets and fish markets and flower markets spread out over blocks and blocks. Spice merchants and coffee places, and then there are the restaurants. You like salmon, clam chowder? You need to come here…for a week or two. Remember the film Sleepless in Seattle? A couple of the restaurant scenes were filmed in the market and, now that I think of it, the houseboat where Tom Hanks’ character and his son lived was on Lake Union, a few hundred yards from where my boat was. So yes, I feel a connection to Seattle because of all these associations, and maybe because Seattle has more hippies than Portland. At least that’s true in and around the downtown area. Hippies, if there really still exists such a beast, bring a weird sort of color to a place that’s hard to beat.
If Portland is defined by Mt Hood, Seattle has Mt Rainier. Where Portland has the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Seattle has Puget Sound. And…where Portland has Nike, Seattle has…Boeing. A lot of people think Apple is the most important company in America, but let me throw in my two cents. There wouldn’t be an Apple without Boeing. Indeed, the world we know wouldn’t exist without Boeing.When I think of the technological innovations that shaped the 20th Century, the 707 and 747 are right at the top of my list. They truly made the world a smaller place, and yes, those two airplanes brought people together in a way the world had never seen before. Innovation happens when people get together.
So, settle in with a cup of coffee and let’s look over KSEA//Seattle…of course, not forgetting that Starbuck’s began in…Seattle.
First, let’s fire up our 733 down in PDX and take the scenic route north.
Looking over the ramps at MrXs PDX, I’m still overwhelmed by the ramp detail, even the window textures are the best. This would be a decent payware file, and I almost feel guilty getting a file like this for “free.” The thing is, making scenery doesn’t just happen. It’s a learned skill, like just about anything else, and the scenery development biz in XP can be an experiment in self-directed learning. The resources are out there, so all you have to do is go out there and find them, take notes, then start working. Sound easy? It’s not. There’s a steep learning curve, a lot of trial and error, and an often indifferent reception to first efforts. My supposition is that MrX used this trial and error period to hone his skill-set, preparing for his first payware efforts and hoping all his hard work would pay off.
How do you think he did?
When I look at the image below I see his work, but I also see a bunch of other people who started off much the same way. The guys at the X-plane Freeware Project, for one. Their 737 and 757 files, files that came out years before Flight Factor was even dreamt of, was started by folks who came up that way…chief among them, Tom Kyler.
Innovation. Yup. Cool stuff. Look at the best we had in XP9, then look at this image long and hard. Remember 2-D panels and airports that had, maybe, runway lights and a boxy looking thing for a terminal. I guess it’s worth remembering…you’ll have no idea where you’re going if you don’t remember where you’ve been.
Took off on that short little runway that bisects the two longer ones at PDX, Runway 21 in this case, and I did…so I could take a few more images of the downtown area!
Yup. Still there.
Anyway, you turn right over downtown, head for the fattest mountain you see on the far side of the Columbia River. That’s Mt St Helens, or what’s left of her, anyway, and her two companions should be visible, too. If you’re flying VFR up this way, if you can see these three mountains it’s pretty hard to miss Seattle. Mt Adams, off to the east, is an intact cone volcano, whereas Mt Rainier is a bulging monster volcano that hasn’t blown in a while.
Lots of folks at the USGS think it’s overdue for a big one, too.
Anyway, if you can see Rainier you can find KSEA. Headed north, turn left at Rainier and you’re just about there. Below, Mt St Helens is accurately represented in XP, with the blown-out north caldera wall showing-up clearly here. Most of the areas conifer forests and granite outcroppings are modeled here, too, and I enjoy flying over this region in XP simply because it looks so correct. And that’s Mt Adams beyond St Helens in the image just below.
Below, passing Rainier, with Mt Adams beyond, and flat-topped St Helens aft of the aircraft.
You can, generally speaking, almost see KSEA from Rainier, or you can set your VOR to 116.8 and let that bring you to the threshold of 34 Right.
Pass over the tower at 10MSL then turn right to 340 and start a long descending downwind. Out around Everett turn on base, then hit the localizer for the runway of your choice – and then drift in over the city.
I, of course, dropped visibility and changed the time. What can I say…I like lo-viz.
And I put down on 16 Left.
And this was, incidentally, the first time I flew a full pattern at KSEA since XP10 first came out…and that was a long time ago, too.
Which got me to thinking…about…
When previews of XP 10 came out there was a lot of talk about Laminar (aka Austin & Ben) setting out to build a “plausible world” in X-plane. It was kind of hard to grasp the concept in those early phases, but our first clues came when we finally saw the new XP “Demo Area” – at KSEA. Before XP10, roads were brown ribbons on the ground…after 10 came out we had our first built-up highways, yet only a few that looked as good as this…
Now…”this” is the norm, and this is, I think, what Austin had in mind when he used the term to define his ambitions for X-plane. Plausible…to look so real you can’t see much difference between the simulated environment and what’s “real”…
And you can see an expression of this idea most clearly in the image of KSEA, below.
A large air cargo complex beyond the control tower, and a BNSF GE ES44AC hauling an intermodal freight consist – on an elevated railway no less – right by the air cargo center. But that’s not all…
As the local light rail commuter line linking the airport to downtown uses this trackage, too. And…the highway is really quite detailed, and…
When all of this – movement – is factored into a flight simulator’s “plausible world” it becomes a very dynamic environment. Add hyper-realistic lighting effects and area-specific buildings and you end up with something really very interesting.
Yes…I’d call this a plausible world. It’s not without fault but it’s staggeringly improved over where we were just ten years ago. Even five years ago. All the elements are coming together now, slowly but surely.
Let’s home in on the airport now, and I’ve overlaid the most recent plate on the image from XP11.10.
Starting at the south end of the airport grounds, we have the tank farms and then the Alaska Airlines maintenance hanger, then the International Arrivals and Departures Terminal. This is a weird one, too, the real one on the ground in Seattle. There’s no direct connection, only a long underground passage on a people mover, and once out there you’re stuck. No good restaurant, very little to do by sit on your can and wait – hoping there are no long flight delays. Anyway, from there you enter the main terminal, then…
…beyond the passenger terminals, you’ll find the north cargo ramps, maintenance OPS and support facilities.
The 744 below is the default acf with a DHL/Polar skin; the FedEx 722 is a static aircraft of excellent quality, one of several on the cargo ramps.
Which made me ask…why on earth use such crappy looking cars?
Especially when the commercial trucks used looks so uniformly excellent.
Anyway, once you get to the commercial ramps things are better, and a little worse. Below, it’s not quite dark out, but it’s too dark on the ramps. There are tons of objects out there, but’s just hard to see them.
Below, all settings MAXed out, FPS in the basement. And it’s night out. No lights inside the building, and while everything else on the building is razor sharp, that window is still a smeary mess at MAX settings.
And about half the terminal is still dark, no interior lighting showing at all.
And…sigh…the ramps are just too dark. Too UNIFORMLY dark.
Still, there’s lots to applaud, too. Good clutter, lots of movement, and the way the plausible world is taking shape is cause for celebration. If developers can get these elements into their own scenery files we’ll be on our way. But, right now I want to drop back down to LA for a moment, so bear with…
We actually have, when you factor in freeware or lego-brick airport files, two more airports in the LA basin: KONT Ontario and KBUR Bob Hope / Hollywood-Burbank. We will also have (insert drumroll here) a new KSNA John Wayne soon, too…giving us five, yes FIVE workable airports in the LA area to work commercial traffic from.
The Burbank file is basic, but it works. Lego-brick, so no framerate issues.
While the Ontario file is a little deeper.
Then, of course, if you add Las Vegas to the mix – with all the attention Laminar just paid to the area – then all of a sudden…
…this whole West Coast Region is looking like the best RJ training area in the US. Need one more visual?
This route-network links excellent airport files that either already exists in X-plane, or are about to release, so the next time you open XP and can’t think of what to do? Just remember to look-over this image from time to time…because you could spend months in XP and not hit all the permutations!
So, this first run up the west coast took us from San Diego to LA, then San Fran, Portland and, finally, Seattle…a good route network but as you can see…just the tip of the iceberg. Yet there’s one more thing to consider, too.
All this innovation happens for a reason, because the time spent by developers, folks who are depending on us for their supper, hang it all out there for us to have good things to use in XP. For the cost of a pizza and a beer you can pick up a new airport file, and all that risk will begin to pay off for them, won’t it? Then maybe that developer will make another airport, maybe even a better file, and then another…and another. Freeware is great, don’t get me wrong, but support our growing community of payware developers. Without them, the future of X-plane will be very bleak indeed.
So, that’s the second region down. If you get tired of working the Baltic, come try California. If those two regions bore you, the next one sure won’t, because the hills are alive, with the sound of music.
We’ll seeya there, and as always, thanks for coming along. – A