Mountains and sunsets.
The two seem to go together – like Fred and Ginger.
Mountains and Sunsets is also the title of a piece on the You Only Live Twice soundtrack, a John Barry classic if ever there was one. I often putter in X-plane with music playing in the background and so found myself listening to this old album as I was flying south over Japan in Xp last night. As the music played I found drifting thoughts and fleet-footed memory teasing the way ahead. I’d just finished reading Adrian’s last two posts and had downloaded his finds and was on my way south. So many things on my mind…so much change ahead.
In these odd, hot summer doldrums, with wildfires blazing above the arctic circle and blistering hot temps in places like Stockholm and Helsinki, X-plane feels like a kind of perfect place to go to fritter away a few hours. You could almost call it an escape, couldn’t you? Who knows? Maybe for some people it is, but actually, I kind of doubt it.
Can you imagine going into X-plane and, like watching a movie, sitting back with a coke and popcorn and passively taking things in? No…I can’t either. X-plane – and flight simulators in general – just don’t qualify as passive entertainment, do they? No, they’re active engagement with a number of cognitive faculties, some basic and others quite complex, but unless you’re “flying” an Airbus on AP, flying actually requires a lot of the pilot. I guess the point here is you’ll rarely see a real pilot in the ‘pit piling down one Coke after another while shoveling prodigious quantities of popcorn, and I have a hard time thinking of flying in Xp as simple entertainment.
One of the things that passed through the gray matter once upon a time, the idea of using Xp as a teaching and learning tool, is something I hope many of you have thought about, but something else was nagging away in the back of my mind…and that’s the recently quoted statistic that 70% (or more) of users in Xp are GA flyers with, apparently, little to no interest in flying larger aircraft. And that got me to thinking…just how many of these GA pilots fly in places beyond their comfort zone? In other words, if some of these GA pilots live in Texas, how many fly in places other than Texas? Or…Colorado? Do they ever tire of the Cessna 172? Why, or why not?
So, I was thinking about this stuff while “flying” late last night from Sapporo to Tokyo, yet I was in fact sitting at my desk here in the good ole U. S. of A. And I’d rather fly anywhere other than here in my own proverbial backyard, too. Give me Tierra del Fuego any day of the week, please! So…why is my comfort zone so different? Because I flew a lot in real life? Somehow I doubt that’s the case.
Because – and strictly from a pilots perspective (in X-plane, anyway) – flying from Hokkaido halfway down the island of Honshu isn’t any more challenging than, say, flying from San Diego to San Francisco. But…while flying down in Fly-J-Sim’s bodacious 732 last night (and I do mean flying from VOR to VOR with little help from the AP) another little thought passed my way.
If you’re a die-hard GA pilot and like to fly one of Carenado’s new twins, say the Aero Commander or the Piper Navajo, what keeps you from making the leap to heavy metal? My guess is it’s the perceived complexity of programming an FMC; most of us who’ve used these things on a daily basis are used to all the bother, but to a newbie these beasts can be troubling, even off-putting. With unusual data input formats and syntax often difficult to grasp, not to mention somewhat time consuming, it’s no wonder heavy metal remains an activity few in X-plane really “get into.” You need a serious level of commitment to wade into the deeper waters of FMC programming.
Enter the Fly-J-Sim 732 and 727 series and, to a degree, the IXEG 733. All of these aircraft can easily be flown in “steam-gauge” mode; i.e., without having to use an FMC to get from point A to point B, but Jack’s 732 has got to be the most satisfyingly easy to fly “old school” heavy metal jet in X-plane. After getting the wheels-up last night, it struck me how easy it would to transition from a twin like the Baron to Jack’s 732, and when (or if?) you do a range of new opportunities opens up to you in X-plane. Sapporo to Tokyo in the Baron is more than a three hour flight, but it’s just half that in the 732. And yet, there’s another opportunity which is, perhaps, even even more striking.
If you start tinkering in something like the 732, why not break out of all your other comfort zones? Why keep flying from Dallas to Houston when you can break out of your rut and try new places like Japan or Scandinavia? Is it the FMC problem again?
So, think about it…just how many default heavy metal aircraft these days don’t have an FMC? Uh-huh, that would be zero. You see the problem? And Jack’s 732 is one answer, too, but once our hypothetical 70% GA pilot breaks free of the rut why not try the Leading Edge Saab or even the IXEG 733? Who knows where this might lead, you know?
Maybe from Sapporo to Tokyo, but maybe Laminar needs to revisit the whole heavy metal thing. Maybe what X-plane needs is an old steam gauge DC-9-10 – with no FMC, no bogus INS, no nothing to program. Just VORs and ADFs, just the kind of panel someone who’s comfortable in an old school Cessna or Piper can relate to.
Yup. Mountains and sunsets. Somewhere over the rainbow, I reckon.
Adrian’s imagery reminded me…Jack’s 732 is a gorgeous aircraft, and the animated air-stairs (fore and aft) are such a joy to watch unfold. Watching the Better Pushback tug approach and lock-on is too, and in the third image below look at the light from the tug bouncing off the 732’s overhead panel. Great effects like this pull you in…and it’s just this kind of little detail that is making X-plane such an immersive joy. And this airport! Freeware doesn’t get much better.
Taxiing and taking off in the 732 isn’t radically different than a twin like the Baron (as just about any LH flight instructor will confirm), and in X-plane the differences that remain are mitigated by hardware limitations. You’ll never get the kind of feedback through hardware joysticks and rudders that you’ll feel in a real aircraft, though basic control inputs will be similar…so there are limitations and qualifiers at work here.
In the third image above you can just make out another 737 scooting along a few thousand feet above. Kind of a hoot, too, when you think about it. It’s not as fun to fly in empty skies, and between SkyMAXX Pro and Xp11’s new textures, the view out the front glass is getting very nice indeed, but having some company up here is a whole new perspective.
Below, coming into Tokyo, or, more specifically, coming into tdg’s RJTT Tokyo Haneda International while passing over a nicely done Tokyo city file…
Interesting that aeroSoft included such a complete Dortmund city file, isn’t it? Can’t wait to try it. And also interesting how important these city files are becoming to the way we experience major airports in Xp. It wasn’t all that long ago that xpfr’s Paris city file was the only game in town; now of course there are dozens available, yet Dortmund marks a transition of sorts. How many payware files do we have where the airport file includes such a large, well conceived city included with the purchase? Is this a change brought on by the arrival of Orbx? Will our expectations evolve now? Will the market demand this kind of addition?
Anyway…I’m flying on to RJNS tonight…still getting caught up and glad to be home…and it’s so nice to see Japan is getting some attention by our freeware developers. There are few places in X-plane I’d rather fly. I’m looking forward to more, please!
tdg’s RJTT Tokyo Haneda file is here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/23223-rjtt-haneda-tokyo-airport-japan/
And though quite dated, this Tokyo city file still works well in Xp11.25: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/2856-japan-tokyo-city-scenery-for-86/
There’s yet another RJTT file worth trying, but I think v11 is messing up the orthos. I had dozens of errors on opening and so did Adrian. Here it is if you want to try; the preview images look quite good: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/37241-rjtt-tokyo-haneda-airport/
A freshly revised Mont St Michel came out today, and that is, perhaps, a good thing.
It’s a comparatively simple file and, I suppose, you could say that about the island in France, too. The island, and the abbey on it, have a long and somewhat complicated history, and you can read a little about that here so lets dispense with the history lesson today, but it’s one of those places you ought to see. It’s worth noting that sea-level increases pose an interesting challenge to this site, and if you should ever be in the mood to spend about a hundred dollars on an omelet, this is the place to do it. The rooms aren’t bad, either.
So, we now have two, yes two nice Mont Saint Michel files, and let’s look at the new file, by jpb63, before we look at xpfr’s much older though still quite nice version.
This file represents a decent attempt to get the site into Xp11 compliance, but beyond that you’ll find numerous objects of interest that never made it into xpfr’s version, notably tourist sites and a small hydropower facility.
If you don’t have xpfr’s file on hand already, you’ll have not seen the local airfield (code 3553), so first things first. After downloading your choice and opening Xp, enter 3553 for your airport code (or better yet, open on a 3-mile final) then putter the short distance over to the abbey spire…
Some of the texturing looks incomplete, notably on the exterior chapel walls and on the spire, but the lighting looks nice, especially from a distance. Beyond that, the spire itself seems short and bare white, while the flying buttresses simply look odd. Here’s the real deal, by the way:
Now…let’s look at xpfr’s version, which dates back to version 8, though to be fair, the file was updated about five years ago to v10.2 compliance. Among the biggest differences, xpfr’s includes a sweet little GA airfield…yes…and you get there with airport code 3553.
An airfield with a farmhouse nearby smacks of hot coffee and perhaps fresh jam on a warm croissant, does it not? And with a nicely detailed upper level the island in xpfr’s rendition is lovely to look at. The file cannot, however, compete on the lower levels or with the land approaches to the island…so we are, then, presented with a minor conundrum. Which is more important to you: the quaintly modeled airfield and the nicely detailed abbey and spire, or the much more completely modeled lower reaches of the island, including helicopter landing compatibility? Regardless, this is an area you owe it to yourself to explore, and even if there are no mountains here, the sun setting behind the abbey spire is pretty special.
Anyway, I’d highly recommend you try both before answering that question, as this very much comes down to personal choice. Moi? Je pense que je garderai le vieux pour l’instant, car l’aéroport me convient. Désolé, mais là vous l’aves!
You’ll find jpb63’s new file here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/38923-a_mont-st-michel_xp11/
xpfr’s old though nicely revised file is located here: http://www.xpfr.org/?body=scene_accueil&sc=269
Et oui, c’est la grosse dame qui chante alors il est temps de vous quittter à nouveau. Au revoir, et on se voit la prochaine fois! Happy trails – C
(note: a bunch of these images came from –A)