I won’t bore you with the details, but after we wrapped up the NY94 post I took the Waco from NYC to 1N2 Spaduro, then all the way out to Block Island. At 100 KIAS that’s a pleasantly long flight. Once again, flying over Manhattan in the Waco is – if not exhilarating then at least quite visually interesting.
The end of January is coming up hard and fast, and still, the file doldrums continue. The Saab 340 is now AWOL, and there’s no fresh word on the DR As350 flutterbug. Conex was talking about a late-January launch for his heavily revised file, so we still have time. The Saab? Geez…who knows? Assuming no bugs were uncovered, and with ongoing revisions to Xp that’s always a concern, I wonder what the hold-up is? Flying out to Block Island was a reminder that iBlueyonder is about to release their Nantucket Island file, and you can bet I’m checking in on that site almost hourly. I can’t wait to see if the version for Xp betters the FsX/P3D versions; if so, this could be one of the best files of the year.
That said, it continues to be a time to scour freeware files at the Org, but while doing some research I ran across a short film called Airplanes, and I wonder if you’ve seen it. It’s really quite lovely.
So, on the iTunes version of the film, you’ll find “extras” not included elsewhere, and there’s one four-minute long feature on flying the Waco in Africa – to recreate several scenes featured in the film Out of Africa. I highly recommend watching this if you get the chance. Of course, if you’ve not seen Out of Africa, it is, in a way, an ode to flying and not to be missed.
Worth watching. Bring tissues.
Now, let’s head over to Italy, to the southern part of the country. To Sicily.
tdg’s LICJ Palermo, Sicily is another good addition to any regional network in Xp you might be developing around the Mediterranean or North Africa. There’ve been more than a few airport files in Xp for this airport, some of them really quite good, but this file may be the best to date – and it’s worthy of your consideration. Let’s put this one in some kind of context first.
If Italy is a booted leg, then Sicily is the football, and LICJ is at the top of the football.
Concerning the real airport, it’s well served by regional and major European carriers but, once again, North American carriers have vacated this market. LICC Vincenzo Bellini Airport, located on the eastern side of the island, serves as the primary international gateway to Sicily – yet still, you’ll not find one American carrier there, either. It seems that once PanAm and TWA went away that was the end of a more broadly defined US airline presence overseas. Thanks once again to the illustrious Carl Icahn for destroying many of the world’s great airlines.
Anyway…referencing the map above, flying to the west it’s about 600 miles to Barcelona, and 900 to Bilbao. Second arc: 900 to Paris and 1400 to Dublin. Third: 1600 to Oslo. Fourth: 1300 to Riga. Fifth: 1700 to Moscow. I’d assume Sicily is a winter destination for lots of people fleeing northern winters.
Monte Pecoraro looms over this airport, and it looks a little like a resting lion, I think. After you fly a few patterns around the airport, or take a tour in your Bell 407, you’ll appreciate that statement a little more…but this peak is a massive presence.
And…I think you’ll find the rugged terrain nicely rendered in Xp. We’ve got AlpilotX’s regional v4 mesh working here, too.
Anyway, here’s the real tower at LICJ:
And you’ll note the tower in the file looks nothing like this. Nothing, as a matter of fact, looks quite like this thing. Perhaps I’ll give it a try in SketchUp and see how bad I can make it look…? Below, another image from the real airport:
This little ground control tower is missing from the file, as well, but do look at the interior of the tower. Developers take note: towers are lighted at night, usually in cool blues (like this), and they’re absolutely full of junk – again, just like this one. You really need to start including this level of detail in your files, too, because empty control towers are an eyesore. Here’s a small terminal & control tower I did in SketchUp years ago showing just one set of possibilities:
But detail up in the tower is an important element to add to your files. Appropriately lighted, of course. Now, let’s take a poke around TDGs file:
Overall, this effort is extremely well done, with the original’s layout well represented, and with tons of little details everywhere you look.
Cars and trees are spot-on, and the ramps even look a little cluttered…a plus!
Lighting, including on the ramps, is just about perfect. Runway and taxiway lighting is nicely done, though taxiway signage is a little sparse.
I kept “runway follows terrain contours” ON here, with no problems noted.
This is a waterfront airport, though there are no seaplane facilities., but note: there are no runway undershoot areas…just rocks and mud…
Overall, this is as good as freeware gets. We’d consider this a must-have file, especially if your wanderings take you to the Med.
Something I don’t often do…crank up real hurricane conditions in X-plane and look over a scenery file under more than extreme conditions. Below, a set of images at LICJ with 40 knots winds, gusts to 60+. Temperature: 20ºF, so well below freezing. The ramps are ice-coated, in other words, and this led to some interesting consequences.
During pushback, the aircraft was beam-to the wind and, as mentioned, the ramps were iced over. During one of the stronger gusts the aircraft began sliding on the ice…not backward…but sideways, towards the tower in the image below. I’ve never experienced anything like this in Xp before and it was a little disconcerting. Counter by adding left rudder (spilling air off that huge surface) and a increasing power to #1 – just a little bit.
I should mention that if, by this point, you don’t have every bit of anti-ice going you won’t be going anywhere. In the Flight Factor file, the windshield iced over just sitting at the gate and it took running windshield heat for several minutes to restore forward vision. Using the wipers is dicey, too, as they can freeze to the glass if not in constant motion. In this 752 file, frosty ice on the glass is nicely rendered.
Taxiing with the wind on the stern was a challenge, too, as gusts pushed the aircraft into a slide more than once. Again, counter with thrust on the same side as the direction of the slide (if sliding to the left, add left-side power). Keep your speed as slow as possible to maintain forward momentum, and don’t count on the brakes being there if you need ’em.
Note the windsock, above. When it’s pointing UP like that, it’s time to head to the barn and tie things down…then head to the bar.
Taking off into this wind was almost funny, as the 752s takeoff run was about the same as a Cessna 150s. Don’t even think of using AP or auto-throttle in conditions like these; it won’t work out for you. There’s just too much motion for the AP to counter and it’ll give up within a minute or so, leaving you trying to get caught up and with diminished situational awareness. Better to keep your hands on the controls and work the storm, eyes glued to the six-pack. I climbed at 210 KIAS at around 600FPM until out of the first turn, then picked up the climb to around 1200FPM and 230 KIAS until breaking into the sun. It’s tempting to want to climb with slats extended, but I doubt you’d ever get them retracted due to ice buildup.
Anyway, once out of the clouds check the wing for residual ice then resume a normal climb.
Generally, when conditions hit shit-city like this, airlines like to get their aircraft out of the way well before the really bad stuff hits the fan. Flying an aircraft like this 752 out of harm’s way happens when people are trapped and loss of equipment and life is considered imminent – as happened in Puerto Rico last autumn when three hurricanes lined up to swat the island. Often, if conditions warrant, airlines will try to get the aircraft out – without passengers – as conditions may make taking passengers too dangerous (and note: different carriers have different policies about this). Anyway, this was an interesting experience in Xp, but I can’t recommend trying it unless you have some IFR training under your belt. BTW: I volunteered when Braniff flew DC-8s into Saigon to airlift several loads of orphans back to the states; that was another situation where company policy can be stretched to the breaking point, too. The airport was almost completely surrounded by hostile forces by that time, and some civilian aircraft were taking fire during departure. Even so, the company told us to load and go. Fun trip, too. Six kids stuffed into three abreast seating, nuns helping stews take care of the children – who were terrified – yet fascinated.
So, that’s about all on our plate today. Take it easy, and we’ll see you next time. – A