A few aircraft have come into the hanger this week for revisions, the most important being FlightFactor’s 757 series. Cockpit lighting and textures are really much improved, and many missing functions have been added (more below). The VSkyLabs G2 mini-flutterbug had at least one update this week, and their Tecnam P2006T did as well. My updater chimed twice over the week with new updates added to the F-J-S 732, so, yes indeed, better check yours. Busy, neh? If using airports that use scenery libraries both the NAPS and Handy Object libraries were updated, so you’ll need to get those into your scenery folder ASAP.
Tons of new paint for the F-J-S 732 popped this week, and we’ll include a few of our favorites at the end of today’s post.
First up, however, a look around Alabeo’s new Piper Aztec, then we’ll take a quick peek inside the 757. Got your coffee ready?
The Piper Aztec is kind of a Blast from the Past, isn’t it? The design harkens back to a kinder, gentler time…kind of like…that fictional world in the movie Pleasantville. The Piper has a very 1950s feel about it…like sock-hops and chocolate malts at the drive-in movie from a bygone era.
Well, welcome back to the 50’s, and it’s never looked better than in this gorgeous rendition of Piper’s venerable old twin. This is one of Alabeo’s latest files and the work on display is outstanding, both well conceived and executed with precision. There are no weak spots in this v1.1 file, no niggling items left to be improved in a later revision, just simple, pure perfection.
So yeah, the Aztec. Where to begin?
It seems like every airport I’ve ever been to has at least on of these pups sitting out there on the ramps, faded paint baking under the noonday sun. Yet the thing is, these were (ahem, are) high performance twins and certainly one of the best of their time.
Originally conceived as a twin Stinson, the design was sold to Piper in the early 50s and they turned it into the Piper Apache:
The Aztec simply grew out of this first Piper twin, incorporating the rounded tail in early models, as well as the same blunt nose, only with a stretched cabin:
The larger tail added needed control area and was one of the first big changes in the Aztec line, and the longer nose came near the end of production, in the early 1980s (the tail was a popular retrofit item, as well). The F250 model Alabeo has modeled was the last Aztec model and the one most aficionados consider the best. With anti-ice protection onboard and cambered wingtips as well as turbo-charged 250HP engines, she also had strengthened landing gears and improved avionics. Alabeo chose well.
The competition at the time came from the Cessna 310…
…as well as the Beech Travel Air, the immediate precursor to the Baron:
The Travel Air had the exact same landing gear as the Beech Mentor, which is a carrier landing rated gear – and perhaps that explains why Piper felt they had to beef-up the Aztec’s landing gear. Consider too the pricing of these three, in 1959 dollars: the Aztec cost about 40K, the Travel Air around 50K, and the Cessna 310 near 60K (because of the popularity of the Sky King television show, perhaps…?).
So, Alabeo’s file best represents an Aztec from the mid-1980s, and not really the 50s – yet the panel and the other interior appointments fairly scream 1959. The two-tone panel, the tuck and roll leather, the gently worn patina…well…you take a look. Even the included paints feel like the 50s…like I said…kind of a Blast from the Past…
I’ve never seen a more retro looking panel. Classic lines, classic colors…yet the avionics suite is pure 80s – with the Garmin 530 thrown in for a good measure of the 21st century. Speaking of the avionics, the HSI is top shelf, with excellent depth and very legible numerals:
The aircraft in Xp11.26 flies quite well and is fast as hell, though taxiing feels a little tender. In practice, the yoke obscures the HSI so you may find it best to hide it on final approach in snotty weather. I flew this file from Aspen to Telluride in nasty weather without a hitch, IFR almost all the way, and it was a pleasant trip down. No issues, just perfection – “right out of the box.”
As mentioned, the ac is only slightly weathered and while she doesn’t look “brand new” neither does she look beat up and abused.
I made a short night flight, from St Gallen to Stuttgart under VFR, and again, the file performed perfectly. You can see the full range of effects caused by HDR settings on all of the various PBR surfaces in the set of images below. Light scatter, reflections, shadows…a very impressive finish.
Check out the last image just above, the ramp lights at EDNY reflecting off the bottom of the Aztec’s ventral surfaces. Nice. In the images above, cabin flood lighting is at 100%; below, flood lighting is at about 50%, then off. You can see the mouse-scroll icon just to the right of center in both images.
In short, you can get the lighting where you want it…just experiment a little. There are two blue liveries included among the 6 included, and they have blue cockpit trim, not yellow.
The Baron that comes with X-plane may seem like obvious competition, but in reality it isn’t. Laminar’s simplified Baron just doesn’t have the niceties this Piper does, from the panel – especially the night panel – to the various HDR/PBR materials and finishes, not to mention that ultra-kewl 50s vibe.
Yet all that stuff would simply be a triumph of style over substance if Alabeo’s Aztec didn’t work well, yet that’s simply not the case. In Xp11.26 their file hits all the sweet spots, and is nicely equipped for VFR and light IFR flights…assuming you want or need a really fast light twin. About the only thing missing from this cockpit is a cup holder for your chocolate malt.
Priced around 32 buckeroos, you’ll find this one wherever Carenado and Alabeo files are sold. I picked mine up at the Org Store.
Big updates to FlightFactor’s Boeings are few and far between, so when one pops its usually full of new features and a number of visual improvements, and this update is no different. Here’s the full change log:
- added VR (oculus and vive) compatibility with two mode, native and custom. Please see manual!
- added a VR test page to test VR controllers configuration
- added new vehicles
- added an ability to control nose wheel from the cockpit lever
- added plane loading and unloading on command
- added support of loading co-routes in ICAO format, see the manual for details
- added custom gear sequencing, now fully custom and close to reality
- implemented new lighting technology in the cockpit
- implemented a new failure scenario system – allows one to build large scale scenarios with failures events
- implemented missed ADI&HSI options
- made several visual and texture fixes
- made it so the spoiler shacking effect is now dependent on SHAKE ON TURB checkbox
- made available direct-to via the first line in legs in non original variants
- made changes to 3d lighting in the cockpit
- made some minor graphical changes to the exterior
- made some changes to the in-cockpit sounds (more 3d)
- The CDU FIX page has been improved, now you can enter both: brg and dist at the same time to draw both things on the ND, circle and radial at the same time
- tunned the autothrottle to bring it closer to reality
- improved pos update logic (dead reckoning)
- improved vnav profile calculation stability
- graphical fixes in the cockpit
- fixed elevator animation
- fixed nav light
- fixed cabin door
- fixed nose wheel steering
- fixed text lighting on MCP
- fixed some issues with pushback
- fixed the issues with tiller and pedal algorithms
- fixed tilt indication on EHSI
- Remote CDU: Fixed double-entering symbols by one touch on Android devices
- Remote CDU: Fixed rendering the square symbol as emoji on mobile devices
Well, I can attest to the cockpit looking better, and working through a short flight from EDNY to EDDL I worked my way through more than a few of other tweaks. While the flight model seems unchanged, most of the cockpit controls feel much improved, while cockpit lighting (and their controls) are MUCH improved. The cockpit looks brighter, sharper, and colors look a little different, too – different as in better. Also included, more ground support vehicles, including the de-icing truck seen below – seen with all FF ground vehicles by the aircraft.
The last three images above show a variety of lighting achieved through the use of panel and dome lighting. There are five basic controls that when used yield remarkably different results, so the permutation of possible outcomes ought to be enough to keep you busy for a while.
Needless to say, the -200, -300, and the freighter all came in for the new features, and note, the JarDesign GroundHandling files all work as before, so no updates will be needed for those tools.
FlightFactor files are on sale this weekend (29 sept 18), so if you don’t have this series you might think it over. Why? Well, after spending a couple of hours in the -200 this morning I really only had one important thought: this aircraft file feels like it’s finally reaching it’s true potential: I had fun, and no bugs got in the way of that fun. This is a very complex aircraft close to being fully realized in X-plane, so if into airliners you really should think about giving this one a try.
Okay, let’s look at some new paint for Jack’s 732…
And speaking of kewl, look at the light scatter on this 732s overhead panel:
Even the needles on the two gauges…just amazing.
And that’s about all for today. We’ll see you next time, coming to you live, from the dark side of the moon –