A long post today, and huge in terms of images, so download times may get rough on a handheld. Sorry ’bout that. We’ll be looking at three revised aircraft files; the Leading Edge Saab 340a – which came out late last week, while both the Carenado Cessna 210 Turbo Centurion and the JustFlight Piper Arrow III came our earlier this morning. We’ll also take a quick look at the UK2000 EGKK London Gatwick file, but before we get to any of that, take a look at these images of Helsinki…in winter.
And…these have nothing at all to do with TerraMAXX…
These first two images are of hapet’s EFHK Helsinki…AND…FAsimulations HelsinkiVFR file, and no, they are NOT supposed to inhabit X-plane together.
But they can, if you bend the rules a little bit…but we’ll get to that later this week. For now, I’d like you to look at Helsinki, as FAsimulations has rendered it, in deepest winter.
Below, coming in from sea over the main part of the old city; water is below the Bell 407 here and that’s kind of interesting, or downright strange…depending on your point of view. Usually, in X-plane anyway, when we’re over water it looks like, well, water. Water does not, however, look like water in the middle of winter along Finland’s coast; it looks white, like snow covered ice, and that’s exactly what you’re looking at below.
What you’re looking at is not generated by a clever program like TerraMAXX, but is instead an ortho – a winter ortho for the entire city of Helsinki – and then some. And instead of relying on the ortho to impart depth and realism (I know, a hopeless task) this developer has filled the entire city with a combination of auto-gen and custom objects…like this winter carnival Ferris Wheel, below, which is animated.
I’ve been puttering around in X-plane for a long time, but I was absolutely enthralled for the hour or so I was flying above this city. The experience was beyond immersive, and that’s really about all I can say. If this file works in Xp with VR active it will be mind-bending.
Back to Xp and water. In the image above, little offshore islands poke up out of the ice covered sea to the left, while we’re looking at the sea to ice boundary to the right. Yes…the Baltic is frozen in many places throughout winter, and almost always along coastlines.
So, back to TerraMAXX for a moment. In the image below, the bottom third is a TerraMAXX landscape, and if there’s any doubt in your mind, note that river on the left margin is in a liquid state, while on the ortho this river is snow covered ice. Also, trees on the ortho side are green, whole those on the TerraMAXX side are white.
The only thing going though my mind as I looked at this was how do we get these two development teams together!
TerraMAXX has a couple of glaring omissions…the first is the whole water thing – and this image puts the issue clearly in perspective. Rivers and lakes should be iced over in winter…but it’s impossible to do this in Xp with TerraMAXX – without turning the Earth into an ice-planet…and that only serves to highlight the second issue…TerraMAXX’s uneasy coexistence with ortho-sceneries. To wit…straight lines.
Anyway, it’s a fascinating problem. For now…? Run over to the Org and pick up a copy of the HelsinkiVFR file, read the installation instructions and get ready to be blown away. We’ll have more on this over the weekend.
The image above is of the Leading Edge Simulations Saab 340a departing KASE in X-plane, headed ENE towards Independence Pass and Mt Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado. The ortho is included in the new aeroSOFT KASE scenery file; the aircraft is the latest version of Goran & Theo’s masterpiece and what has to be one of the very best aircraft files in X-plane. Together, these two make quite a sight; hard to beat, as a matter of fact.
The Leading Edge 340a version 1.5 came out last Friday, and with this release the Saab became an X-plane 11 compliant file. All flight and ground dynamics are revised now, and PBR rendering materials are onboard, too. Gone are the quirky ground handling in Xp11; gone too is the vexing autopilot operation. What we have now is simply one of the richest, deepest – and most accurately modeled and rendered aircraft ever made for X-plane.
This aircraft file has a certain reputation in X-plane, too. It’s frequently described as “too hard to fly,” and “impossible to master,” or simply as a “real handful.”
If you can handle a Beech King Air you can handle this airplane. On the other hand, if a Cessna 172 makes you break out in hives maybe this isn’t your best next purchase, yet you should consider this one for that time when a 172 doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. Maybe it should be a goal? Maybe it’s so good it should be a goal for anyone using X-plane?
Anyway, I love this file so I’m biased. It IS complicated the first few times you work through the systems, but that’s one of the best things about this file, and certainly shouldn’t be consider a problem. And while there are a bunch of fairly complicated aircraft files in Xp, few are as well documented. There are manuals, performance charts, and tutorials aplenty, enough to provide anyone interested in this type of aircraft all the support they need to learn the essential systems. Keep that in mind the next time you take delivery of a file – and find a two-paged photocopied performance chart in the documentation folder. Again, this is part of the fun in learning a new aircraft, really learning your way around something new.
Oh…there is no easy start here…no “start with engines running” option. There IS a one button push start, but I’d almost consider that feature as part of a tutorial. You watch what happens during the start-up sequence, and when, so take notes because this procedure is, in effect, and animated checklist. You’ll realize soon enough that it’s not really that complicated, and if you have any ambitions at all about flying in the real world, this is a good file to get your hands on – because it does “go deep.”
There are only a couple of aircraft in X-plane that have cockpits this well executed. I’d say the only real competition in terms of immersion comes from the IXEG 733 and the FFA320U. Still, the Saab is all about flying, while the Airbus is all about learning how to program systems to do the flying.
You know what?
I’ll take the Saab.
The IXEG has been my favorite cockpit since I got back into Xp; I will NOT say I like this one is better. It’s closer to a tie, really.
In terms of handing…? This is a turboprop, and a fairly powerful one at that, but it’s not a jet. I’d almost say it’s a little more forgiving than a jet, and navigation is simplicity itself. VOR1 and VOR2…intersecting radials…LOC/DME approaches. This IS old school, and it’s magnificent…and while a turboprop like this can be more complex…give it a week or so.
You can tell PBR materials are at work in the image below; look at the sliver on sunlight reflecting off the wingtip and the edge of the windscreen.
There are enough lighting controls in the cockpit to suit anyone’s needs. With textures and HDR at MAX, this feels like a cockpit, not a computer screen. That said, make sure you have a good pair of headphones hooked up to your computer. The included soundscapes are rich, immersive, and ought to leave a smile on your face.
I’d have to say with this revision the Leading Edge Saab takes its place among the top three aircraft files in X-plane. From there, it’s kind of up to you. If you want to work with a classic jet, the IXEG is the perfect file. If you want to learn how to fly a computer, the FFA320U is tops (though the Toliss A319 comes close in systems depth). If you want to fly in something that’s a challenge – and that has a cockpit that’s so gorgeous it almost hurts, the Leading Edge Saab may just be the unshelled nuts you’ve been looking for.
Somedays are like this one. Hard at work on two deep files when two more pop up, and six hours of work turns into twelve.
When the news popped that the Carenado 210 had released I dropped what I was working on and went over to their site and hit the orange button. Orange equals buy, I guess you know. Anyway, when this one came out early in v10 it soon became regarded as one of the best GA files in X-plane. The v3.2 file for Xp11, however, did not cut it. With crappy sound and balky manipulators, this file was giving Carenado a bad name, and fast. Anyway, I’m not surprised this is one of the first GA singles they revised for Xp11; it used to be one of the best in Xp, and it may now be the best single Carenado makes for Xp – again.
Anyway, the panel is a nice, cool gray and the lighting is adequate, though still not as good as it once was (post lighting is gone now). Most light comes from the glare shield, though there is some internal lighting, as well.
Oh, a word about settings and airports today. I made one round trip between KTTF Custer Gateway and KDET Detroit Coleman Young, the first leg in this Cessna, the return leg in the Just Flight Piper Arrow III. Here are the settings used, identical for both legs:
Yes, that’s a 14.6Gb scenery load. This is, after all, Custer Gateway! I was getting about 21-24FPS most of the time, when pointing at Custer, anyway…!
Watching the gear retraction sequence on this bird is fascinating; same assembly as the SkyMaster, BTW.
Handling is back where it ought to be; very precise and with a good rate of climb. I think this is one of the best panels they’ve ever done, BTW. I’d like a Lean Assist and a radar altimeter, but other than that this file represents pure Cessna circa 1976, until you factor in the twin Garmins, that is.
Note the PBR textures? How ’bout the junkyard down on the ground…? Think that’s an ortho? Well, look at the image below…
Nope. All objects, and that’s why KTTF is pulling down a 14.6 gig scenery load. Another reason this is such a well-regarded file? Look at the antennae detail in the image below.
Pop-ups for the two Garmins, and for the King A/P, as well. Dan Klaue is getting this whole Carenado thing down, isn’t he?
Below, look at the reflections – INSIDE the instrument bezels!!!!!!!!!!!
The only gripe I had? The Heading bug manipulator on the HSI is dog-poo-poo; other than that everything worked perfectly…
210s are clean airplanes, and they’re a little heavy. Cut power for your descent and watch how it reacts…it doesn’t lose speed easily, but it will drop fast if you don’t keep on the trim. Gear retraction/extension times are a little longer than average too, so don’t pop them at the last second. They are maneuverable, but not up to much beyond basic aerobatics. Inverted flight is not good in this aircraft.
All the little details Carenado is famous for are here, and for a piston powered GA single, you won’t find many acf in X-plane more enjoyable. Of course, there are a bunch of people who say that about our next aircraft…
I think the type of aircraft you learn to fly in prejudices your likes and dislikes going forward. So, that said, if you learned to fly in a Piper odds are you’ll like Pipers. I learned to fly in Cessnas and then moved on to a series of Beechcraft, and I detest Pipers. Build quality was always a joke amongst the flight instructors I knew, and while I was working on my PPL I flew a Cherokee 140 a couple of times…and hated it. Probably because I was used to the way the Cessna 150 handled; I usually flew 150s and 172s until I had my ticket, then I moved on to a Bonanza, but my few times in that 140 colored my experience for years to come. I was flying a Piper Navajo, at night of course, when the fuel manifold blew. All the gas just vented out the belly of the aircraft…in about a minute…which caused all kinds of fun and amusement for the next several minutes. Needless to say, I’ve never been in a Piper since. Like I said, I hate them.
And I’m telling you this by way of accounting for my bias. This acf for X-plane is just fine, I reckon, but as it’s a Piper I detest it. JustFlight have captured the cheap plasticky feel of the instrument panel perfectly, and this cockpit just feels filthy – and every Piper I’ve ever been in felt the exact same way. Like the owners just didn’t care enough about their aircraft to do much more than change the oil once a year. Maybe change the chewing gum stuck under the seat once every two years…
So yeah, this is a perfect Piper. I was flying air freight for a few years and there was a Piper Cherokee Six in the fleet, and it was always the junior pilot who landed that one (no one wanted to fly it…), so for about six months she was mine. She had belonged to Hood Airlines (I know, I know) before finding her way to the cargo operator, and her panel wasn’t all that different from the panel you see below. I actually learned to love that old airplane, kind of the way you can’t help but fall in love with an ugly dog. You begin to ignore all the ugliness after a while, until only the good shines through.
Anyway, this is not a 210 Turbo Centurion, it’s a Piper. It floats when you flare. The plane’s stall comes on hard and fast. Everything leaks and half the avionics don’t work…well, they work in this file which makes this file something of a rarity. It’s a Piper that works, and that’s just crazy.
And…this is a Pure Piper, indeed. The A/P follows the heading (only) and you’ll need a scanning electron microscope to see the heading bug, so good luck, Chuck.
Instead of finding an altitude hold mode on the A/P, you can use the throttle and trim tab instead, but do note: if you try to use ONE and not BOTH you’ll never trim this bird.
This is a VFR-to-light IFR panel, and though the Garmin will take away some of the guesswork, it’s not coupled to the A/P so it’s there for little more than backup to the VOR. Still, it looks nice, don’t it.
Below, the pop up menu can handle the lighting, clean your windshield, call for fuel and read the latest issue of Penthouse to you – in Swahili.
One of the key items in this revision was to clean up the reputation for bad FPS performance, as the old file could hit a weak GPU as hard as a complex jetliner. To me, it felt about the same as the C210 here at KTTF. Last year, when I tried to open it here the FPS were glacial, so it’s improved.
I had no trouble landing this crate, er, this airplane, and it didn’t balloon on me and float down the runway, either. Maybe that’s because I’ve flown a little since then.
If Carenado is known for all the little details (like doors and such) then they’re in trouble. Just look at that door! Ain’t it purdy, Jethro? I’d also say the sound package in this file is as good as it gets. You can hear three squirrels running around in the engine compartment.
Well, the fact of the matter is…I like this acf. Its fun to fly, and by that I mean its fun to fly hands-on. Set your trim and your throttle and just keep an eye on things kind of fun, if you know what I mean. When all the electronic doo-dads just get boring and all you want to do is fly…this may be just what you’re looking for.
I’ve almost picked up this file a couple of times since it came out a few months ago, but it’s hard to tell if its Mac compatible so I’ve held off.
Until today, anyway.
So, the developer has been making files for FsX and P3D for a while, and though they’ve made a few for Xp this is the first Mac compatible file they’ve released, so here I be. Let’s see what UK2000 has in store for us.
EGKK is one of five airports serving London, and most European carriers fly from here. Most US airlines did in the 70s and 80s, too, including Braniff, but none do these days. Norwegian Air Shuttle will be flying to the US this year from Gatwick, and a few Canadian carriers to Canada, but Gatwick is a Europort these days.
I focused on night imagery here as the UK2000 site focused on daylight images for their p/r work and, oddly enough, I think this airport file looks better at night than during daylight. Textures are decent, though they’re simple window textures. Most are bright enough and look somewhat sharp, but overall the airport is a little on the dark side. Ramp and apron lighting looks, by and large, Xp11 compliant – but if there is PBR materials usage here I couldn’t find it. In short, it looks rather like a v10 airport, with good lighting. Still, lighting has no starburst patterns of glow, so it’s almost dull looking.
The window textures used are repeated with little variability, but again, the overall effect is decent. Ramps are bare in places and there could be more in the way of animated vehicular traffic, so having a ground handing package will work wonders here.
Ramp textures are better, though painted lines are faded and somewhat dull.
Structural details seem to match what I can see in overhead imagery.
EDDF used reflective surfaces on windows to better effect, and when you look at some windows here they’re quite blurred.
Lighting at the air cargo facility looks like an afterthought. In fact, lighting in general seems flat, dull, and almost inadequate.
Runways and taxiways too, for some reason. My HDR was at MAX, too.
A few issues and problem areas I need to mention, too…
In the area circled above, there are a few objects (buildings) modeled, but inexplicably many more are left as flat images on the ortho. Some buildings don’t line up with the corresponding image on the ortho, too. All buildings should be modeled on a payware file of this purported quality.
I could not find the church (above) in Google Earth, and somehow I doubt trees are growing up through warehouse roofs. Just as I doubt (below) there is tract housing on the airport grounds, or the roofs of same protruding through motorways. Exclusion zones, anybody? And that corrugated steel texture on the curving wall…? Please. No. Just…no.
And…no people visible! They’d look good on that sky-bridge, too.
All in all, I expected better for the price, a not insignificant 25 dollars USD, which puts it above many much better airport files, in price, anyway.
Still, if you want airports around London, this is one of the best. We’d rate it an 8 on the 10 scale.
Hasta later – A