x+s+r // OMDB Dubai International

xsr dubai

The definition of a conundrum is itself a little unsettling, and it most often reads something a little like this: a confusing or difficult problem or question. Writing a review of Aviotek’s new OMDB Dubai International is a bit of a conundrum too, as this file tip-toes along the edge of greatness, yet seems to pull back every time it does. Not a bad file then, yet not a great one either, this effort to nail down a large and quite important international airport falls short in a few key areas. Still, the effort is resoundingly good in others, so good, in fact, that any sound verdict reached has to take both the good and the bad into account and reach some sort of balanced result that makes sense.

The next few months should see some more large (read: important) international airport releases, notably aeroSoft’s LSGG Geneva, Switzerland, so this is a good time to establish some parameters. We’re firmly in the Xp11 era now, so any high quality airport file is going to have to employ PBR material textures and HDR lighting effects. Glass surfaces on major terminal buildings need to be either translucent or, at the every least, present a reflective surface. Lighting needs to be both effective at illuminating ramps and aprons but itself be interesting to look at. Parking lots need to looking like what they are, not a smeary ortho-photo. Jetways should work, ramps should be hives of intense activity and cluttered in the extreme, and above all else said ramps should be oil stained and almost filthy looking.

And most important of all, when the pilot pulls up to the gate the results of all these effects should come together and present a view out the cockpit glass that leaves no doubt in the pilot’s mind that she’s at an airport, and not a shopping mall. In other words, when our intrepid sim pilot pulls up and sets the brakes she should be looking inside the terminal at a departure lounge full of people, and the ramps below the cockpit need to look like filthy, cluttered swarms of activity.

Anything less is just a shopping mall, and a dull one at that.

OMDB sub hdr

Which brings us to Aviotek Simulation Software’s (ASS) Dubai International. The windows are blue smears, whether night or day. They are not reflective, neither are they translucent. Strike one. The ramps are neither dirty or cluttered. Strike two. When you pull up to the gate there’s only a Jetway to remind you where you are. Strike three.

Look at the image above: even the Jetways employ opaque blue glass, yet that is not what you’ll find on the ground in Dubai:

OMDB real night

Whether night or day:

OMDB real day

Even opaque with some sort of reflective (PBR) material would be better than what we have here, and by way of further comparison, look at Fly Tampa’s version for FsX:

OMDB FlyTampa

Yup, there’s some reflectivity going on there, and note the color spectrum employed on the skyline in the distance for future reference.

What we have at Aviotek’s OMDB is an airport that works very well at a distance, and then gets progressively less immersive the closer you get to the main terminal buildings. So yes, in the pattern, on final, or even on the main taxiways the window issue doesn’t intrude on the proceedings all that much. But pull up to the gate – where, arguably, these effects are needed most – and the effect falls apart.

Still…look at these images and tell me this is a “bad” file. I can’t, and I won’t. Far from it, as a matter of fact…with a little more work this could easily be one of the most majestic scenery files in X-plane.

OMDB 1

To my eye, it appears that certain key elements were rushed, so maybe we can expect to find an update in the near future that addresses a few of these issues?

We’re not done with the airport yet, but I wanted to cue you in on another key element of this scenery file: some major (and quite famous) buildings not on the airport’s grounds. Let’s take the Bell 407 into town for a look-see:

OMDB 2

My first observation is that the terminal buildings work better in daylight than at night. As I’m a night owl who loved to fly at night this does not work well for me, but that’s just me and your mileage may vary.

Below, the Burj Khalifa building, the centerpiece of the Downtown Dubai project:

Dubai BK

And here’s the area in the scenery file:

OMDB 3

Yes, the area needs work, both with the addition of more buildings and color choices. At night the area is vibrant and full of pulsing kaleidoscopes of light, yet in the scenery the area is almost a monotone dark gray, night or day. The last few images above are of the Burj Al Arab Hotel on the waterfront, and the developer added a heliport up near the top of the primary structure. Landing there is not fun. Here’s the hotel in Dubai:

Dubail BAA

The area in the scenery is decent enough from the cockpit of arriving or departing jets, but a little underwhelming up close. Still, it’s a lot better than nothing and I was happy to see the developer went the extra mile to include such elements. A better solution might be to omit them, then produce a really full featured addition that could be sold separately to those who really want such features.

As you work your way around this airport you just have to ignore the bad glass and concentrate on the positives. The layout is accurate, the main buildings are impressive to look at though not quite as immersive as they could be, but in truth what gets me is the sheer size and complexity of the model. aeroSoft’s EDDF Frankfurt is similar is scope.

OMDB A380N

Only when you taxi out to the active does the immense nature of the airport grab you, and this too is another reason I can’t help but like this effort.

OMDB A380 D

There are air cargo areas, VIP facilities (most biz jets around here are BBJs or larger, BTW) and outlying aircraft parking areas too big to be believed. The airport seemingly just goes on and on, a never-ending thing that fairly screams out in pride: “Look at what we built out here in the desert! Look what we can achieve!”

OMDB AC

So, yup, this file is impressive despite its flaws, and I think anyone interesting in flying anything larger than 757s, especially 748s and A380s, will want to get this file into their X-plane installation. And we can remain hopeful that Aviotek will work out the kinks, make a few additions and adjustments to what they’ve created here.

With that in mind, I’d score this less than perfect file quite a bit lower than 10 out of 10, yet I just can’t do it. To me this is an unfinished file, and so this will remain an unfinished review.

Like I said, conundrums are tricky things.

Hasta later –

Posted in First Look, Scenery: Middle East | Tagged | Leave a comment

x+s+r // LFCA+MMHC+MM20+LLHZ

xsr Q2 hdr

I’ve read more than a few comments recently (at more than a few sites) that go a little something like this: ‘Man, it sure seems like the flow of new files has slowed to a trickle…’

Yeah? Well, after being in this Xp environment for ten plus years let me cue you in on the real score. The release of new files in X-plane is cyclical and, to a degree, seasonal. The big seasons are early summer and from mid-November through “the Holidays” (which means Christmas in a less than politically correct vernacular). Even so, September and October have been the slowest months for new file releases in X-plane since I’ve been involved writing these reviews (and again, that’s been about ten years or so).

So those who think this “slowdown” portends doom and gloom in the X-plane universe might want to hang on a little longer. And we had a couple of blistering weekends in September, so I’m a lot less concerned than many of these worried correspondents.

Besides, there are a bunch of new airports in the pipeline and due for release soon, so hang on, keep those credit cards at the ready…the whole Santa Claus thing is right around the corner, and that’s traditionally been a very good time to rupture your credit limit with new add-ons.

Anyway, we’ve got a bunch of freeware airport files to look at right now, as well as a couple of freeware aircraft and a revised airport file. Lots of good stuff to look at and work with, so let’s get right to it.

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The images above and just below are from PropStrike’s Qualam River file, and today we’re including a bunch of night imagery at the main base…as they’ve gone out of their way to mention the HDR effects at night in their promotional material. My conclusion? This is astonishing work, almost groundbreaking, especially at dusk or dawn. A few of these scenes look so bloody real I was half expecting to see a grizzly bear or mountain lion come ambling out of the shadows, looking for a snack. In as much as the developers have openly stated that they intend to add new features, including wildlife, in forthcoming revisions and updates, such scenes are only going to get better. Take a look and see for yourself:

Q2.1

This is technically superior work, immersive realism on a “Hollywood” scale, but the greater question still remains: do you want (or will you really use) such a limited-in-scope scenery file? If you’re still sitting on the fence about this one, well…that’s very understandable. “It’s gorgeous, but am I really interested in landing a JetRanger on a landing platform the size of Stormy Daniels’ panties?”

I’d also say that whatever future updates the developer has in mind may mean a lot to the long term success of this file. More than anything else right now, this is a helicopter skills challenge. Secondarily, this is a decent, if limited, bush pilot training facility. Third, I guess, it’s just really nice to look at, yet a lot of very intense video action-games are really nice to look at, too. And while turning this scenery file into a challenging “game” may be of interest to younger people using X-plane, I’m afraid the developer will need to broaden the scope of appeal a little to turn this into the breakout file such work deserves. X-plane is a flight simulator, but a large enough audience may well go for something as different as skills challenge-action driven situations simulator.

So…if you’re still on the fence, buying now is almost an act of faith. Sure, we like to reward developers who let it all hang out, and we can also act based on the developers’ good intentions, but right about now some kind of development timeline might be a good idea. Qualam River is gorgeous and that might be enough for some of us, but if this was my project I wouldn’t count on it.

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LFCA hdr

Here’s a small GA airfield in west/central France, located just north of Poitiers and a rural/agrarian area. The file boasts custom objects and the work shows; this is a realistic piece of work and I hope the developer keeps enjoyed the project enough to try another, larger airport.

I’d say a few of the scenes imaged could almost be mistaken for a photograph, and if that appeals to you…well then…this is an airport you’ll want to get onboard. GA flights anywhere in France are obvious options, but add Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux countries to that list, as well.

This is a 10/10 Must Have file for GA drivers in Europe.

LFCA 1

Link: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47534-lfca-chatellerault-targe/

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ruifo continues to revise earlier works (pre-version 11 files), and he let slip two such files this week:

MM20 hdr

Located close to sister-city Orizaba and west of Veracruz, this appears to be a regional GA airport, and it’s an odd one. The single runway is flanked on both sides by warehouses and small ramp areas, so the layout is completely unconventional. Taking off or landing, it almost feels like you’re working in a canyon – full of tall warehouses.

This file represents an idealized vision of MM20. Looking at the area in Google Earth you’ll find a small airport in a rough, under-developed neighborhood, and not this almost park-like setting of new buildings…yet this is an important part of Mexico and I’d hesitate to NOT recommend this one. Orizaba lies on the eastern approaches of the Sierra Madre and is 4000 feet above sea level. Cordoba, just a few miles away, is 2600 feet above sea level. The tallest mountain in Mexico, a volcano named Pico de Orizaba, is just to the north and at 5600MSL it’s impossible to miss. Cordoba and Orizaba are located along the principal trade route established by Spanish colonists moving between Veracruz and Mexico City. Keep in mind Cordoba was settled in 1612. So, my point is that the geography here is astonishing and the area is rich in history. Explore a little in a Piper or Cessna, and have some fun in Wikipedia along the way.

MM20 1

Next, a small GA/commercial facility ESE of Mexico City, near the gorgeous university city of Puebla.

MMHC hdr

Located near Puebla, data on this airport is sketchy at best, reporting that 3800 people boarded flights here, but no airlines or destinations are cited. ruifo’s file is well executed, showing two commercial ramps and several small GA areas.

MMHC 1

I’d say this is a good choice to build up the commercial options around Mexico City, but probably best with small turboprops, or possibly RJs. Still, quite nice.

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47540-mx-mmhc-tehuacan-national-airport-2018/

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Here’s a small GA airfield located quite close to LLBG Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv, Israel. The model is well conceived and executed, and the thought hit me recently…why not take a fast GA single or twin from here to Greece. I’ll leave it to you to look at the navigational options, but suffice to say it’s not as difficult as it sounds. I’ll be testing two new GA files along this route over the weekend, so sit tight or go for it now. This will be an excellent GA field to work from, and the file is highly recommended.

LLHZ

The surrounding cityscapes are well realized, too – a nice bonus.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/41366-llhz-herzliya-airport/

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A “new” B58 Beech Baron popped today, but it appears to be Laminar’s default unit with a well executed Garmin G1000 panel onboard. This is quite close to what Beech is offering on it’s new Barons, so check it out. The model works quite well, and is a welcome addition to our growing G1000 fleet, but could use updated panel lighting. Many thanks for this one!

B58 Baron x

Link: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47555-xp11-baron-b58-with-g1000/

And here’s another default Laminar file that’s been tweaked, this time the 744, now with gray cockpit and revised screens on the panel. Rather than download the various parts, the developer has simply packaged an entire 744 file, complete with liveries, for ease of installation. Note the Emirates Cargo paint, last image.

744D

Aircraft: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47551-boeing-b747-400d/

Emirates paint: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47556-emirates-sky-cargo-oo-thd/

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LIML r1.0.3

Yup…LIML Milan again, this time with a new control tower, various radar radomes (they’re sprouting up like mushrooms, I tellya…), and the whole thing is looking better and better.

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TWA Quito

Here’s a heartbreaker.

A freeware SEQU Quito Mariscal Sucre (the old, original international airport) popped on the Org’s servers Thursday night and I jumped on it as it looked really, really good. A few minutes looking around confirmed that this was indeed a very nice looking, well detailed file, yet within minutes the file was pulled and it’s no longer available. Assumption? A conversion with no permissions, and that’s a shame. Take a look, and look closely, as this would have been a seriously good file to have on hand.

SEQU

Boeing 707s and 727s fit in here like an old glove. Most of the major US carriers, including Braniff, had extensive route networks in South America, and the old SEQU carried on until recently.

SEQU 2

My hope here is that the developer will get his permissions lined up and we’ll see this one at the Org again soon. Quito is a dynamite destination and SEQU was a one of a kind airport; you can catch glimpses of the city and the old airport in the Russel Crowe, Meg Ryan film Proof of Life.

If the file pops again we’ll get word out ASAP, and that’s all for now. Adios –

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

x+s+r // KBCT+LFNB+LERS+MMSL+more

xsr KBCT hdr LFNB

Okay…in what amounts to a HUGE post today…we’ve got lots to cover…so I’d recommend a mastodon sized jug of coffee to help you get through this one. We’ve got Fred’s latest, two from tdg, one from ruifo, another piece of the puzzle for all you tundra-tyre-types, and maybe even a few more things to throw into the mix, so really, while this ain’t exactly War and Peace it ought to take more than a few minutes to crawl through this one. That said, enough hot air from your narrator. We’re burning daylight, so let’s get to it…

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Fred over at NAPS busted loose with a really nice KBCT Boca Raton last night, which is quite near the KPBI Palm Beach International we covered recently. This is, however, a GA facility (with limited chartered jet OPS now also on site). A US Customs Point of Entry, the airport sees a lot of GA traffic to and from the Bahamas, as well as regular charters to Toronto in the winter. Routine jet charters to Vegas are a staple, too.

Fred’s scenery is, as usual, pristine, but what sets this effort apart is the airport perimeter, especially along the I-95 frontage road adjacent to the airport. A cinema, a variety of stores, hangers (Atlantic Aviation), and a faithfully modeled hotel are all included, so if you’re looking for immersive realism, this is your file…and it all sits on a nice ortho, too.

KBCT 1

Fred’s files are typically highly optimized…and frame rates here were excellent. This file fills out the GA scene in S Florida and we are indeed only about 2-3 airports away from having complete coverage of all the major GA airports here.

Get Fred’s 10/10 Must Have file right here:

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47521-boca-raton/

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tdg released this LFNB Brenoux Airport – Mende, France today, and it is a very small GA/Sport plane facility, and not at all the sort of airport tdg is known for. Be that as it may, many will find the facility appealing in X-plane for a couple of reasons: 1) there’s an active sport flying club here (ultralights and gliders), and 2) the airport is surrounded on three sides by cliffs and sharp drops of up to 1500 feet. Both the French and Maritime Alps are nearby, and the airport sits above 4000ft MSL, so it gets a ton of snow in winter.

LFNB

tdg’s file sits on an ortho, includes custom as well as library objects and is, in practice, an interesting addition to the French GA scene. As it’s only about 60 nmi from Montpelier (see the recent payware file there) this makes an interesting GA destination to or from Lyon on the way to the coast. Note the adjacent plowed fields and baled hay. Outstanding!

A Must Have file, you can get it here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47517-lfnb-brenoux-airport-mende-france/

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tdg released this LERS Reus Airport, Spain two days ago, and you’ll want this one if you fly in Spain, Portugal or France. Though quite near Barcelona, there is regular service via Ryanair to Stansted and Eindhoven, and about 20 billion seasonal flights during the winter months by almost every airline on earth (see the list here).

This is vintage tdg, and by that I mean this is a perfectly great airport file. Take note of the solar panels on the covered sheds in the car park (very well done), as well as paved ramp and apron markings (excellent).

LERS

I’m losing count of all the great airports we’re getting along this coastline, and as most of these new files are relevant to both commercial as well as GA flights, this is becoming a real playground. As such, count me in here…and let’s call this one a 10/10 Must Have file too. Because it is.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47470-lers-reus-airport-spain/

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It feels kinda like déjà vu all over again. Last year about this time it felt like tdg and ruifo were in a contest to see who could release the most files. There was, however, only one winner: us.

Well, ruifo released a new file today, and it’s so good I had to step back a bit and look at this one more closely. Made from Laminar (LegoBrick) assets, the buildings and other hangers are certainly interesting, but what’s so bloody good is the site work.

You’ll want to open this one with Runway Follows Terrain Contours set to ON in order to see these results. The airport is built on a sloping site, but also in a shallow valley, and I’ll say no more. You have to see this work to believe it, and while I tried to capture the effect in these images I’m not sure I succeeded very well.

So, where is this work of art?

Well, welcome to MMSL + Cabo San Lucas Aerodrome, and do NOT confuse this with MMSD Los Cabos International Airport, located less than 20 miles away and where all the heavy metal comes to play.

This is a primarily a GA airport, though a small Mexican regional is based here (Calafia Airlines), but do not underestimate the importance of this airport in the greater scheme of Mexican tourism. Every year, during the winter months, trillions of GA aircraft fly into this airport, most joining a vast aerial migration from either Texas or California. Men come down here to go fishing for pelagic fish (Marlin, etc.), the wives are dropped off at spas, while the kids are dropped off on the beach and admonished NOT to go into the water (which is full of vast schools of Hammerhead sharks…and a dangerous rip current). Piston engine flights to and from Texas typically must be made in groups.

Developments of condos and huge McMansions is all the rage in Cabo these days…and the sleepy little village is long gone… Wal*Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club…they’re all here now, and c’est la vie.

MMSL

Take off and turn NE, set your VOR to 114.00 and you’ll come to the huge international airport in a few minutes. That’s it in the last two images above, and we covered the file last year.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47507-mx-mmsl-cabo-san-lucas-aerodrome-2018/

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Welcome to Denmark. Denmark, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, on Oregons SW coast quite near the border with California. If you read up on Denmark it sounds like a ghost town, but search real estate prices and you’ll find quadrillions of homes listed for more than a million dollars. Why? Oregon’s coast has bodacious weather, pure and simple. Hence…lots of jets here.

So, welcome to 5S6 Cape Blanco State Airport, located near Denmark. Somebody likes to play with grass, don’t you think?

5S6

The file sits on a huge ortho, and nearby agricultural projects are well in evidence here, but the trees and foliage around this airport really ought to get your attention, because they’re outstanding. So are the pavement textures, for that matter.

Now, think about Orbx’s KVUO Pearson Field. Think flying from there to California with a full load of kids in the back of your Piper or Cessna. Yup, you’ll want to stop for gas right about here, so DO NOT FAIL to download this excellent GA field, and you can right here:

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47502-5s6-cape-blanco-state/

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When FSFH Saint Helenas came out last year we were hoping to see a couple of good South African Airlink paints to the SSG E190, and KD KORONAKIS finally came through for us. Excellent work, as always.

SAA

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47504-ssg-e-195-evolution-airlink/

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“Honey? What’s that coming out of the bar across the street?”

“Oh – my – God…it’s a…a bushie!!!”

“A bushie?”

“A bush pilot!”

“Quick…we’ve got to save the children…!”

PS02

So, here we are at the MOH Creek Airport (ahem…right), a picnic bench and some logging gear being about the only things on hand to define this as an airport of some sort. This is a 540m collection of potholes and bear shit with more twists and turns than a rattlesnakes intestines, and if you want to land an airplane down there, well, you go right ahead, fella. Knock yourself out. As a matter of fact, you probably will.

Yes, this is the second airport (sure thing, bub) in the Quatam River Suicide Club’s package of interesting ways to Crash and Burn in X-plane scenery file.

Assuming we can find at least one of the helicopter landing pads (ahem, are you kidding me?) we’ll try to add some images of our smoldering wreckage to our next post.

Yee-ee-haw…

Adios, and Happy Trails –

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

x+s+r // LLBG + Quatam River Airport

xsr hdr LLBG

Two Must Have files today, one free – and the other not so free. First up, we’ll take a very close look at LLBG Ben Gurion International in Tel Aviv, Israel, then we’ll hop across a few ponds and drop in on a logging camp in British Columbia, Canada. Hey, I know, two more different files you couldn’t find…but we found ’em for you anyway. What can I say?

So, your coffee is hot, and so is that stack of Krispy Kreme donuts, eh? Time to get to it then, while everything is still hot and fresh…

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LLBG hdr

LLBG Ben Gurion is one of the most significant airports not only in the Middle East, but the world. Situated right in the middle of some of the most hotly contested ground in our fractured world, this airport has on more than one occasion been a vital lifeline while conflict raged all around Israel. As well, Christians, Jews and Muslims from around our world travel to Jerusalem’s temples, mosques and shrines to celebrate their faith – and most come via Tel Aviv’s LLBG Ben Gurion International.

Go over the list of airlines and destinations (here) to get an idea of the importance placed on this country, and the history that is still very much alive here. Delta and United fly from the U.S., but Israel’s national carrier El Al flies to many more destinations in the US and Canada. Israeli carriers Arkia and Israir fly to many Greek destinations that we now have excellent airport files for, airports where our various 737s and RJs can be put to good use, and you can literally fly to almost any capitol city in Europe or the Middle East by those nations carriers. To say that there is a world of opportunity – in X-plane as in the world – to engage, to keep yourself busy almost indefinitely here…is an understatement. This airport begs to be explored from, and to learn from.

So it would help if we had a particularly good freeware airport file for LLBG, yet we have a group called The IXP Team that has provided our community with a very detailed file. It was, however, submitted in 2015 so is a v10.x file; it is missing Xp11s various surface treatments, those shiny runways we’re beginning to take for granted, yet even so the basic airport works quite well. There is also an older file by tdg, and we’ll look at that version later this week, but I think you’ll like this one. Let’s take a look, with the MagKnight 789 first up and doing the honors, wearing an El Al “retro” paint today.

LLBG

There are docking aids, a fair amount of ground clutter, a variety of window textures, good lighting on ramps and aprons – as well as on the various buildings – a large terminal area under construction, but very few static aircraft. Runway and approach lighting  appears excellent.

LLBG C3

Small foliage, trees, grasses and vehicles are found in abundance, yet there are a few conflicts related to some of the roads and trees and their exclusion zones. Not surprising as this is an uncorrected v10 file, but all of these issues are located in peripheral areas irrelevant to aircraft operations.

There are two large, well organized air cargo ramps to work from:

LLBG c2

As well as three major piers (concourses) and two ramp parking areas at the main terminal complex. Another huge terminal is under construction in this scenery file.

LLBG c4

There are charts for the airport from all major vendors, and I flew a VFR pattern to check the VOR, LOC, and GS for runway 12 and found no issues.

LLBG c5c

Electro-optical docking aids are at each gate, and  most gates have several clusters of static ground operations vehicles. Again, taxiways and ramps are well marked.

Note the Israir paint below, for the EADT x737-7; this is one of the few paints I could find that works on v11 aircraft files. Many older paints for the FF 757 series simply no longer work, but recall the El Al and Arkia paints for the FJS 732? Again, between these three you’ll be able to work almost all of the Greek airport files we’ve covered this year, and many more as well…

LLBG 737 Israir

So, again, this is a Must Have file, and for a number of reasons. We’ve had an unusual number of very good payware AND freeware Mediterranean airports release this year, and in one sense Tel Aviv anchors the eastern end of a chain. You can now criss-cross the Med working your way East or West, using any one of dozens of airlines, until you make it to the Spanish Mediterranean coast (LEAL, anyone?) or back to Tel Aviv. Or take that 789 and load it with fuel, and then take off for San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco.

Again, the options are endless. All you need is a little curiosity and, perhaps, a lot of time.

You can get the file here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/28892-llbg-ben-gurion-international-airport/

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Q hdr

There are two files in Xp that seem to regale in the primitive – Stewart and Bella Coola – and that have attracted the darker practitioners of that hideous branch of aviation (often referred to in hushed tones) known as “the Bush,” as in Bush Pilots, or Bushies.

God help us, there are so many of them…

These lunatics love to land their airplanes on runways that would scare the shit out of a mountain goat. They look at a boulder strewn river bottom and smile, saying to their terrified, wide-eyed passengers “Better tighten them seatbelts…” They carry extra rolls of paper towels and upholstery cleaner in their kit bag…to clean up all the piss and vomit from those passengers who didn’t heed that advice. The more they have to clean up, the more they smile.

Like I said. Lunatics.

Orbx has made a ton of money off sim-pilots who, apparently, can’t get enough of this bullshit, and now the disease is spreading into X-plane.

We’ll never be the same, you know. Soon the floodgates will open and dozens of these files will spew forth into our custom scenery folders, corrupting our youth, forever destroying our ability to shoot a back-course ILS.

So, to start off this exercise in futility, I’d ask that right now you stare at the image below, and for about 30 seconds or so. While you do, I’d like you to imagine the sound of the wind through the cedars and pine, the crunch of gravel underfoot, perhaps the cry of a passing seabird, or the splash of a jumping fish just off to your left… So yes, try that for about 30 seconds…a minute if you can stand it…

Q1

Back with us? Well, let me summarize this review as succinctly as I can.

If you got into the exercise odds are you’ll love this scenery file. If, on the other hand, the image of perfectly executed trees and grasses (and yes, milkweed) in that image mean absolutely nothing to you, then by all means download LLBG Ben Gurion and open up the 737 of your choice and start flying to Corfu or Rhodes. Really. This file will probably bore you to tears.

I have only one aircraft file on hand that can handle a strip like this: Dan Klaue’s Quest Kodiak. It has the option to slap on tundra tires, huge, fat and soft tires that can soak up much more punishment than typical aircraft tires can. The Kodiak also has sterling short field performance – assuming you’re not too overloaded. Or too scared.

Besides, its a kewl airplane, and when you open it up at the Quatam River Airport (fictitious code PS01) and experience that massive surge of turboprop horsepower on this itsy-bitsy gnats-ass of a runway, you’ll finally understand why Stormy Daniels always says bigger is better.

Q2

This is a logging operation, not an all-inclusive spa-resort. Accommodations are a wee bit on the spartan side of the equation, and there are no facilities for repairs or fuel, so just put all that stuff out of mind for now while you ponder the last two images above. Yes…that is the runway. All of it. It is neither straight nor level. It is not smooth. It takes a half hour to taxi from the shacks at the “terminal” (sheesh, right…) to the turnaround, but only because you’re dodging water-filled potholes all the way up the hill. Yes. The hill.

You give the engine a little fuel while you hold the brakes, then brakes off and counter the torque, and cheat a little to the right so you don’t clip a wingtip… Get off that goat path as soon as you can, and get above those trees, too…

And it’s about that time that the little lightbulb in the back of your mind goes off, and you have an epiphany…

Q3

…which goes a little something like this: “You know, all things being equal, I think I’d rather be in a helicopter right about now…

And when we return in our next post, we’ll take you up into the mountains…in search of the most insane helipads ever put in a scenery file. If you just can’t wait, head on over to PropStrike and get your fix now. Link here, price 28 Can$, about 22 USD.

You can stop smiling now, and y’all have fun. We’ll seeya next time –

Posted in Aircraft file reviews, Europe Regional Routes, Scenery: Americas, Scenery: Europe | Tagged | Leave a comment

x+s+r // KLKU + NZWN + LIML + EGAA

xsr hdr egaa

Four very good freeware airports to look at today, from Europe to New Zealand to a smaller GA field just a half-hour south of Washington D.C., and then we’ll round out the post with a few more interesting paints for the IXEG 733 and the FF320.

If you’ve got your favorite hot beverage ready to roll, let’s hop to it…

//

KLKU hdr

This is the latest file by M9 Aviation, who’ve been turning out some interesting small airports in “off the beaten path” locations around the US for several months now. KLKU Louisa County is located 76 nmi SW of Washington DCs Reagan National and M9s file has nailed this one. Compare the airport, as well as the adjacent industrial park in this file to overhead imagery and you’ll see just how good a job this is. Lots of interesting touches here, too, from the PAK Air FBO (note the light bollards) to the small details scattered around the perimeter. The project sits on a very nicely prepared ortho, as well.

The US East Coast is literally swarming with VOR stations, so taking off from here for New England or Florida is a no-brainer. We’re taking the Alabeo Piper Saratoga II up to Teterboro, NJ in the images below, and we’ll include images of Washington DC in the second set.

KLKU comp 1

You can open in the PAK Air hanger, and if you do take note of the immediate details, including window reflections and the grounds, which are all very well executed.

Below, this is the DD Washington DC scenery package, which includes KDCA as well as the most important national monuments around the city. In the first image we’re over Reagan National, then the White House, the Capitol Building, then Nationals Park, where the Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals team plays.

KLKU DC comp

KLKU Louisa is a nice addition for growing network of GA flyers working the Atlantic Seaboard of North America. The runway is long enough to handle most any GA aircraft, up to and including a few regional jets.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47445-klku-louisa-county/

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NZWN hdr

Part of DazaXIIIs NZ Stories, this new NZWN Wellington, NZ is worth a look if you routinely fly down under. Wellington is the capitol of New Zealand and as such the airport here has strong air links to Australia. Qantas, JetStar, Air New Zealand, and Singapore are the big players here. The single runway is about 6800 feet, and the airport routinely handles 744, 772, and 787 class aircraft.

Wellington is located along the channel that separates the North and South Islands, and as such is routinely slammed by high winds. Take this into account if flying under METARs.

NZWN comp 1

The airport is nicely detailed, and a few surrounding areas are as well. If this is your area of interest, I’d imagine this airport needs to be in your scenery folder.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47243-nzwn-wellington-–-nz-stories-11/

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LIML hdr

We looked at this airport a few weeks ago, but there’ve been some major revisions here since, including an air cargo complex and several peripheral hangers added, not to mention the huge Armani hanger above. If you downloaded the original, this revision is worth the effort.

LIML C1

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47269-milano-linate-airport/

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EGAA hdr

Sparky56s Project Belfast is an ongoing WIP, and we’ve been watching this one for a while. EGAA Belfast, Northern Ireland is at a point now where you might take a look and get this one onboard, especially if you enjoy flying an esoteric route network. Check out the list of airlines and destinations here for an eye-opener.

EGAA c1

Nice effort so far. A little more work on the smaller details around the main terminal would pay big dividends here, but we’ll keep you posted as work progresses.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47439-project-belfast/

//

Now let’s look at some paint for the IXEG 733 first, then a few for the Flight Factor A320U. As usual, links follow the image. Enjoy.

Armenia

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47458-air-armenia-737-ek73797-for-ixeg/

Bucharest

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/45277-air-bucharest-yr-tib-737-300/

Caspian

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/45557-caspian-boeing-737-300-ixeg/

Coulson FL

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/46815-coulson-137-fireliner-for-ixeg/

Czech

This has to be one of the coolest liveries ever. This poor aircraft looks like it has just flown through a hail storm, then a sh*t storm. You gotta get this one, period. Awesome work.

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44798-ixeg-733-retro-livery-csa/

FF320Croatia

FF320Swiss

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/42519-star-alliance-pack-a320-ultimate/

The two Star Alliance paints above came from the same download (link just above); there are 15 different versions at the link, and I’m only showing the Croatia and Swiss versions above.

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x+s+r // PA23 AZTEC + 757 Series Revised

xsr elal733

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?

Let’s go!

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Aztec hdr

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:

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:

Aztec early

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…

C310

…as well as the Beech Travel Air, the immediate precursor to the Baron:

Travel Air

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…

Aztec 1

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:

Aztec HSI

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.”

Aztec 2

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.

Aztec 3

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.

Aztec 4 lite

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.

//

757 hdr

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.

757 1

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.

757 2

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…

32 AE

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/46295-air-europe-g-brjp-for-732-twinjet-v3-pro-by-flyjsim/

32 air west

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/46260-america-west-old-livery-for-flyjsim-737-200-v3/

32 Argent

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/43456-aerolineas-argentinas-lv-jmy-in-80s-livery-for-flyjsim-737-200-twinjet-v3/

32 ark

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/46929-arkia-israeli-airlines-4-in-1-collection-flyjsim-737-200-v3/

32 elal

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/46851-el-al-israel-airlines-4x-abn-flyjsim-737-200-v3/

32 Malta

Link here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/47318-air-malta-transavia-lease-ph-tvp-for-732-twinjet-v3-pro-by-flyjsim/

And speaking of kewl, look at the light scatter on this 732s overhead panel:

32 light

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 –

 

 

 

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x+s+r // Obvious Comparisons

xsr 177 hdr

Looking at a bunch of similar aircraft over the last few days, I wondered why we have so many similar aircraft in the sim. Besides the obvious problem…that we are literally almost drowning in 737s, why so many similar, or even duplicate aircraft. For a sim with just a few developers (compared to “that other platform”) we are still struggling to bring all the world’s most popular aircraft to the party. Still. After. All. These. Years.

Yet, when you get right down to it, we DO have a nice, working variety of both commercial and general aviation aircraft in X-plane. What we lack, generally speaking, is a CHOICE of developers when it comes to almost any particular aircraft. If you want a payware quality MU-2, well, there’s Tom Kyler’s over at X-Aviation. If you want a 727 just head right on over to the Org Store for Jack’s Fly-J-Sim series. If you happen to want a 737, well, we got that covered, don’t we? Like…what flavor do you want?

Where we do have the most choice, for the most part, can be found in the area of General Aviation aircraft, and while it might be easy to think that all we have are choices between various Carenado models, we actually have a thriving GA aircraft development community regularly cranking out a steady supply of new files. Truly…not a bad position to be in, from either a market standpoint or as a customer, and I don’t hear too many complaints. And there are probably a bunch of people, both in the X-plane community and among the enlightened masses still enthralled with the whole “flight model on rails” thing, that have no idea of this diversity (after all, to the FsX/P3D world we’re the dead sim with no future whatsoever…).

So, I was looking over the Alabeo Piper PA31 Chieftain 350 the other day and I got to thinking…just how similar is the Alabeo file to Carenado’s PA31 Navajo? Or…how about the various Carenado Bonanza’s…because of the three available only one is truly Xp 11 compliant? And how many Cessna files do you have in your aircraft folder…aside from the default Cessna 172? How many developers are behind all those Cessna’s? Just one?

Well, perhaps its time to take a look at a few of these files, make a few obvious  comparisons of our own, and with that in mind today we’re going to take a look at those big, heavy Pipers, then the three Bonanzas, and then a few of those single engine Cessna’s. How ’bout a few turboprops? We can do that next time out. Mooneys? Well, we did that – two months ago, so maybe we can round up a few Pipers singles for our next edition…

So, let’s look at those heavy Pipers twins today. Ready?

//

Yes, we’ve looked at both PA31s recently, but not side-by-side, as it were. So, let’s start by looking at that gorgeous Carenado Navajo, a very new file:

PA31 comparo

There’s a lot to love about this panel. It’s IFR ready with a radar altimeter, a full-featured HSI, as well as a Lean Assist module for help getting those power settings just right. There’s also full instrumentation on the right side, if that’s important to you. Lighting is fully realized and the aircraft looks brand-new. Performance is little less startling than in the Chieftain 350, but for someone looking for a heavy GA-IFR platform…look no further. This is a v11 file, too, and it shows in HDR lighting and with full PBR materials onboard…

In short, this is a really nice aircraft – and one of our very favorite GA files in Xp. If you want to move up from a Baron this should be on your list.

Score: 5 out of 5

//

Pa31C350

Alabeo’s PA31 Chieftain 350 is virtually the same aircraft as the Navajo – and sports almost the same panel, but they’ve chosen to weather this one and “modernize” the panel with a G500 unit. Everything works but the beat-up effects just don’t work as well, not for me, anyway. The G500 unit offers all kinds of Bells and Whistles, yet there’s no radar altimeter and no Lean Assist module. There’s also a hodge-podge of lighting on this panel, so the net effect is simply not as coherent as the Navajo’s. Performance, with those twin turbocharged 350HP Lycomings – with counter rotating props, is nothing short of amazing.

This file is aimed at pilots wanting to get into the commuter airliner environment, and it works quite well for those with more experience. Newbies might want to keep away from this one until they’re comfortable in a Baron class airplane. A weird mix of avionics and funky lighting hurt this file’s score.

Score: 4 out of 5

//

Now let’s look at three classic Beech Bonanzas; all three are Carenado files but only one is an Xp v11 compliant file. Will that make a big difference? Well, let’s take a look, from oldest file to newest:

V35

The panel on this file barely works these days in anything other than bright sunlight. Even in twilight conditions most instruments are difficult to read, while at night the situation turns dangerous. This v3.2 file was made for Xp10; it barely passes muster in v11 and is in serious need of a makeover. Too bad, as the old V-tail is an iconic aircraft that deserves better.

If you can stand daylight only OPS, however, this old file still delivers a decent flight model and a reasonably well equipped panel. As such it’s a viable choice for some.

Score: 3 out of 5

//

A36

Another v3.2 Xp10 holdover, this A36 suffers from funky panel lighting and an almost bizarre choice of instruments. First, there’s no internal instrument lighting (except on the Aspen panel) and that squirrelly looking green lighting is either full on or all off, no in-between. And there are two sets of flight controls, yet the right side has zero primary flight instrumentation. But…the “36” has always been Beechcraft’s Flagship Model Bonanza…the most well-equipped – usually for the buyer who says “cost is no object.” I  can’t see this model without a radar altimeter; further, I’d rather have a top of the line HSI than this glass rig. Anyway, the Aspen setup has not kept pace with the G1000NXi and this panel has room for the full NXi kit. Don’t believe it? Well then, take a look at the current Beech catalogue, at the 2018 G36 Bonanza.

Score: 3 out of 5

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F33A

The venerable (and venerated) F33A Bonanza is currently the only model Carenado has updated to full V11 compliance – and it shows. Panel lighting is perfect, yet there’s still not a viable set of flight instruments on the right side. This panel IS equipped with a radar altimeter and a full-featured HSI, and in my book this is optimal unless moving up to the full G1000NXi. (note the right side instruments afforded on the factory G1000 installation below!). Still, for solo operation in X-plane it just doesn’t get any better than this, with a rock solid flight model and an amazing panel.

Unless you can manage to get your hands on this, the F33A is the best Bonanza in Xp11…

G36.png

…and as such, the Carenado F33A earns a solid 5 out of 5, and yes, this too is one of my favorite GA aircraft files.

Now, let’s wrap up today’s post with a look at several Cessna singles.

//

177 sub hdr

The General Aviation world has been, for as long as I can remember, a divided place. Some pilots swear by Cessna, think they’re the best small singles ever, while other swear at Cessnas, any Cessna. Same for Piper and Beechcraft, and like the rest of our belief structures we tend to either inherit or adopt our parents beliefs. My dad liked Beechcrafts, always had a Bonanza or a Baron, though for a while he had a C210. And – predictably – he detested anything made by Piper, but this was after a few less than fun experiences with a Cherokee Six.

So it is funny, though not wildly unpredictable, that the same thing holds true in X-plane – to a degree. I am my father’s son, which means, I think, that my likes were – to a degree – informed by his, yet the beauty of a desktop flight simulator like Xp is that you can try things you might otherwise never get a chance to try.

And that’s why I love the Piper Navajo, pure and simple – in X-plane, at least. I’ve flown a Navajo on multiple occasions and I thought they were poorly built, but those aircraft were consigned to hauling heavy loads of air freight night after night, year after year. Though well maintained, they looked like hell and the engines always ran rough, but those airframes were racking up hours like crazy. Still, those airfreight companies had Cessna 404s and 414s too, and a bunch of old, beat up Barons, yet the Pipers were most everyones least favorite choice on those long West Texas nights.

So, this is my way of telling you I’m biased, because I am my father’s son. And I happen to love Cessna singles, as well as Beech Bonanzas, so read the following with a grain of salt.

//

DC172

When I got back into X-plane last October one of the first aircraft I opened was Laminar’s (so-called default) Cessna 172 Skyhawk, and after a five year break away from the sim its safe to say I was completely stunned by what I saw. The current 172 looks nothing like the last version I’d used, and in truth I think Laminar’s acf is about 99% as good as most GA singles out there, free or payware.

And then, a few weeks later, the G1000 equipped model came out. What a game changer.

You take an excellent model and build a breathtaking panel, texture it perfectly then add the absolute best mix of avionics there is. What else can you say? The G1000 equipped 172 is one of the best GA singles in X-plane, and I use it all the time because its both fun and fascinating to use.

So it’s no wonder why so many first time simmers come to X-plane and never venture beyond this aircraft file. Yes, it’s that good. No, it’s not perfect, but I’d be hard pressed to find a good reason not to recommend it to people new to the sim, or to the idea of flying generally. This is a docile, well equipped version that just happens to be a blast to fly, especially for people new to flying (even if this is a sim). This 172 is a confidence builder, forgiving in the way the real 172 is – especially when compared to a C150 or Cherokee 140, which many new pilots move up to after 40 or so hours in the smaller trainer. Then again, I’ve heard 707 captains say it was easier to land that airliner than a Cessna 150, but who knows, maybe they were Piper People!

Score: 5 out of 5

//

177 comp

Alabeo’s new Cardinals (yes, plural, as both fixed and retractable geared models are included) may well be the best aircraft file someone new to X-plane should consider moving up to – after they’ve exhausted the 172 Skyhawk, that is. With similar handling characteristics AND a retractable gear, if all you think you ever want out of X-plane is to fly GA singles this could easily be the file to get.

This is a ridiculously easy airplane to fly, what I’d call a total confidence builder. The panel is well equipped for VFR, while light IFR duties are possible too. Aside from the retractable gear, flying this aircraft is no more complicated than flying the Skyhawk, though because of the gear there’s an honest increase in speed and range. Because it’s an Alabeo file, all the neat features on the exterior model are right there, and again, as this is a fully up to date v11 file there’s HDR lighting and full PBR materials everywhere you look. In short, the visuals are simply excellent.

Here’re a few images of a quick trip I made from KTTF Custer to KMBS, about 80 miles north of Detroit. The KMBS file from Turbulent is one of the very best airports released so far this year, so please do check it out.

177 trip

Again, this is an easy rider that ought to keep a smile on your face for years.

//

206

So yes, this is a v3.2 version, so it’s an Xp10 file that’s received a few tweaks to make it work well enough to stretch the file’s shelf life until a full v11 makeover can be delivered, but I’ve had very few problems with this file in the latest versions of the sim. Yes, a few manipulators don’t work too well, and yes, things aren’t as “pretty” as a file that’s received the full v11 treatment, but I love this Carenado Stationair, aka the Cessna 206.

This is an airplane you might find up in Alaska, or perhaps in Africa running medicine and lab work for MSF. Both the 206 and the 207 were Cessna’s biggest singles – until the 208 Grand Caravan came along – and for singles these birds are really bigger than expected out on a ramp. While not the fastest planes around, with one pilot onboard they can haul a bunch of stuff, reliably and through almost any kind of weather. And perhaps that’s why Cessna is still making the Stationair. If you’ll look at the link you’ll see the panel Carenado has put in this file is letter perfect to what Cessna is putting in their latest bird.

Combine that with a great flight model, decent sounds, and generally solid manipulators on the panel and you have the makings of a real classic. A non-G1000 version is also available.

Score: 5 out of 5

207

The 207 is a stretched variant of the 206, built from the late-60s through 1984, and the aircraft was (and is) popular with air-taxi operators. Later models went from seven to eight seats, and inadvertent tail-strikes became an issue. Too much linguini, eh Pauly?

This is a relatively new model by Alabeo and is fully Xp11 compliant; unfortunately there’s not a good way to make a black panel look like anything other than a big, black hole – so there’s just not a lot of contrast on this panel at night. This is a fairly simple panel, too, with basic IFR OPS possible but nothing more serious. The Garmin 530 is a nice touch, but there’s no instrumentation on the right side for a second pilot.

The exterior model is truly exceptional, and in practice Alabeo’s model feels as polished as Carenado’s 206. Still, I simply don’t like the black panel, especially at night.

Score: 4 out of 5

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210

The 210 is one of Cessna’s most popular singles, and was produced from the late-50s through 1986; more than 20 Variants were produced, including two turbocharged/pressurized models. The 210 my dad bought was a second hand model that had been purchased new by the University of Nebraska Dept of Meteorology to do research on thunderstorms; it was a turbocharged model with an oxygen system onboard, and needless to say, any aircraft purchased to do research on thunderstorms in Tornado Alley has to be one tough mother.

The earliest 210s had a strut supported wing, but after the B-model the struts were gone – and yet somehow wing strength was never an issue on these aircraft. Well, Cessna has always had a reputation for superior engineering and great build quality. Anyway, my dad loved the airplane and so did I; though I only got to fly hands-on in it a few times you could tell it was something quite special, with a tremendous climb rate and a very smooth ride. The retractable landing gear provided kind of a springy effect on touchdown, too, and as the aircraft was relatively heavy there was very little “Cessna float” on your flare.

This is one of Carenado’s best GA singles ever, with tremendous panel lighting a highlight. I’ve included three images above showing three lighting permutations: 1) floods only; 2) floods and about half panel lighting (on a rheostat), and; 3) floods and full panel lighting. There are four lighting controls in addition to the red floods, so “getting it right” is easy to accomplish. Sounds are another highlight, and both the gears and flaps are satisfyingly clunky sounding.

There are dual Garmins, a good HSI as well as, oddly enough, a backup horizon on the far left side of the panel, but little on the right side. I’d prefer to see a radar altimeter in place of the extra horizon, and a lean assist module on the right side; other than that this is as fine a GA file as you’ll find in X-plane. In fact, the only other GA singles as good as this are the Carenado F33A Bonanza and Alabeo’s new Mooney M20 Ovation. The panel is a little too blue for my taste; a little more gray wouldn’t look so weird, but that’s just me, I guess.

Score: 5 out of 5

So, we’ll try to make a few more obvious comparisons over the next week or so. We’ll see you next time. Adios –

 

 

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