Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Serious Cirrus!

Most land luggers expect to see what they know as cirrus high up in the sky. Pilots, on the other hand, don't just expect to cloud surf through high flying cirrus, but they could also expect to cloud surf cirrus in a Cirrus!

Happily, X-Plane 11 pilots can do precisely this in a brace of Garmin G1000 erquipped Cirrus aircraft, the excellent default XP11 Cirrus Vision SF50 bizjet, or through a choice of payware Cirrus SR22's.

Even better news is that a brand new shiny Cirrus SR22 has just arrived in the form of the Holdmybeer Cirrus SR22T-G6, and whatsmore, this is 100% freeware!

For those unfamiliar with the type, the SR22 is a high performance single engine fixed gear four or five seat GA tourer...
  • Empty weight: 2,269 lb (1,029 kg)
  • Gross weight: 3,600 lb (1,633 kg)
  • Useful load: 1,331 lb (605 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 92 US gallons (348 litres)
  • Engine: Continental IO-550-N Six cylinder 310 hp
  • Propellers: 3-bladed
  • Cruise speed: 183 kn
  • Stall speed: 60 kn flaps down
  • Range: 1,049 nmi (with reserves at 65% power)
  • Service ceiling: 17,500 ft
  • Rate of climb: 1,270 ft/min
I am sure that the specified cruise speed will have caught your eye, because this is a serious and capable go-places IFR tourer, and on that subject, the Holdmybeer SR22T-G6 has a turbo charged engine which makes it an even more potent aircraft in terms of hot'n'high performance.

Here is the impressive feature list...
  • Animated 3D-Model
  • EVS (Outside camera)
  • Load Manager
  • Moving Airport map
  • AviTab integration
  • ASXP integration
  • VATSIM / IVAO integration
  • Failures based on wear and tear
  • Birdstrike simulation
  • Custom Sounds
  • Custom Particle Effects
  • ADSB Map
  • VSD Vertical Situation Display
  • Aerodrome Information System
  • KeyPad to quickly enter/change the Flightplan
  • Quick-Select of ILS Frequencies
  • Quick-Select of ATC Frequencies
  • Pilot Health simulation
  • Digital Checklists in the G1000
  • Icing simulation
  • Paintkit
So, what's not to like?!

NB. I am positive that the download links have been busy, but even so the main upper link has not worked for me, so use the lower "mirror server" instead.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

X-Plane 11 & Oculus Rift: Rift Restored

EDIT:Laminar Research have issued a fix for the OR V1.7 Update vs. XP11 VR issue, and it can be found here.

The software behind Oculus Rift will occasionally auto-update, so whether you like it or not, you’ll see an update bringing new features and improvements into your VR world. 

And that would be correct except for the most recent OR update which broke the happy and established liaison between XP11 and OR, leaving most XP11 simmers VR-less and Oculus-free. 

Without delving too deeply into the complexities of the issue (essentially XP11’s VR was created with an elderly version of the OR SDK), happily “Kojack”, a member of the OR forums, came up with a solution using a feature called Oculus Injector.

You can follow the thread here, looking out for Kojack’s May 25th solution on page 2 of the lengthy thread.

It’s easy enough to implement; essentially download and unzip the fix, run the “Oculus Injector” EXE, add and name a new entry, browse and select your X-Plane 11 executable, save the profiles, and then launch your new entry. Happily, Kojack does a far better job of explaining it than me.

What I do know is that for VR sessions you must launch XP11 using the Oculus Injector rather than by double clicking the X-Plane 11 executable in the time honoured fashion. 
You’ll still be able to run xOrganizer to setup your plugins and preferred scenery, but then if you want VR, you must launch XP11 via Oculus Injector. 

Virtual Reality has been restored, you are free to roam the ether once again. 

Sunday, 24 May 2020

A Ballet Along the Danube...

This is a very special video, as it combines the beauty, grace, and incredible agility of expertly flown aircraft along the beautifully elegant shores of the historic City of Budapest during their 2014 Airshow:

The video is inspiring enough I think for watchers to hop into their favourite flight simulator steeds in order to join in and emulate the mastery of the Airshow pilots performing above Buda and Pest.

The good news is that if you fly X-Plane 11, you can even immersive yourself into it more fully by installing the latest edition of Hungary VFR scenery as showcased in the video below:

Friday, 15 May 2020

GA Gems - STOL Steals!

By now, you will know that one of my very favourite flight simulator topics is when I bring to you news of excellent freeware, especially when it is ex-payware made freeware.

So, with that in mind, here are two perfect low and slow GA Gems for P3D4 and P3D5 that are worthy of your immediate attention...

This particular release initially caused me some confusion insofar as I knew that William Ortis, the developer behind Lionheart Creations, had recently released a payware Zenith CH701 (NB. The LHC Zenith CH701 remains available for purchase at SimMarket for just under €30).

So, when I saw an identical Zenith CH701 available as a download at Simviation, complete with the same liveries, a sub-folder labelled “LHC_Zenith”, plus Zenith factory scenery, I was concerned for LHC, and is why I contacted William directly. 
He replied very quickly, and whilst thanking me for reaching out, he went on to say that in fact the LHC Zenith CH701 project co-developer had in actual fact decided to release it as freeware.
Therefore, this is a legitimate freeware download, but before you go grab it, and grab it you should, know this: It weighs in at a hefty 850Mb which potentially equates to hours of download time at the reduced Kb rate reserved for non-Simviation subscribers.

I believe, however, that once you do, you will find that this LHC model is to be the de facto simulation of the very capable Zenith CH701 bush-ready STOL-happy tricycle-geared tundra-tyred aerial jeep.
And my only question is, what’s not to like about that?!

A gentle upgrade of the original FSX Super Cub Extreme2, to Prepar3Dv5 standards” is how Flight Replicas describe this release.

However, when you read the list of changes, it seems as if our definitions of “gentle” are really quite disparate, and here’s why!

“Includes: New wings; new tires, upgraded cockpit parts, new extrnal model panel with functioning instruments and clickable switches, buttons, etc. (so you can start it before you get in, if you like); 4K textures, including spec and alphas, tweaked airfiles, tie-down ropes and windscreen cover for when parked, and the ability to hand prop for starting. Plus a new Paint kit.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

SWFSG are very sorry that this year's Show cannot go ahead and we look forward to contributing to Flight Sim 2021 once again.

In the meantime thanks to Just Flight for organising the previous years' shows and for their seemingly endless and brilliant support for our flight sim world, fantastic aircraft and very welcome special offers and their Just Rewards scheme.

See you soon.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Flight Deck Films: Sources of Inspiration

On my shelves can be found a small selection of cockpit based DVD films, and on my PC live another handful of "from the flight deck" productions.

Whilst I may not often get the chance to watch my DVD collection, it is a great deal easier watching videos on-the-go thanks to downloaded videos. For instance, downloads from Just Planes can be streamed or copied onto your mobile device and watched via an app, with the consequence that my iPhone carries another stash of flight deck film action!

Portable selections of informative and well filmed cockpit footage can transform any plain train or automobile journey into something considerably more palatable. I suspect that each viewer will take away what interests them the most from their own viewing, as it is clear to me that a great deal can be gleaned from watching professional pilots operating at their best by following their disciplined procedures from crew briefing to landing.

In addition to this, the many beautiful departures and approaches, colourfully diverse airports, countries, featured aircraft types, and inspiring scenery play a very big part when it comes to inspiring me where and what I should next fly.

Buying these productions can be a pricey business, unless of course one waits for the many annual sales events. Here's a short list of some flightdeck movie and/or DVD production companies:

Until the next discount season is upon us, a number of excellently produced full flight cockpit movies can be watched for free on YouTube, and with this in mind, here are a few of my very favourite freebie productions.
For those curious enough to ask which is my favourite, I will tell you that it is the oldest production here, and the one listed right at the very bottom. I thoroughly recommend watching the Air New Zealand B737-200 from NZCH to NZQN (NB. parts 1, 2, & 3) as Captain John Peterson (at the time ANZ's B737 fleet manager) is a master of CRM, carrying with him an air of command, authority, and knowledge with effortless ease.

Air Austral B777-200 Reunion to Mayotte

Syphax Airline A319 Djerba to Paris CDG Return

Air Austral B787 Reunion to Mayotte

Azerbaijan B752 Baku to Nakhichevan 

Air Austral B778 Reunion to Mayotte

Azerbaijan B763 Baku to Istanbul

Wamos B744 Madrid to Rostock

Air Baltic B735 Riga to Brussels

Nolinor B732 Montreal to Val D’Or

Lufthansa A350 Munich to Tokyo

Eurowings A330 Cologne to La Romana

Interjet A321 Mexico City to Cancun

Azerbaijan A319 Baku to Ankara

Air Baltic A220 Riga to Heraklion 

Interjet SSJ100 Mexico City to Campeche

Private Dassault Falcon 7X Sao Paolo to Hamburg

Azerbaijan B788 London to Baku

First the bad news, then the good

PMDG recently confirmed that they will not be re-introducing their MD-11 which was loved by so many FS9 and FSX pilots in the past.

Enter TFDi who have just announced that they have one in development for P3D4/5 - that's great news!

Their existing TFDi 717 is a Boeing Officially Licensed Product, the final Boeing iteration of the MD-80 family, so if you haven't had a look yet click here. We can expect a similar study level MD-11. The 717 is ideal for preparing you for your first flight in their MD-11 due to a commonality of the avionics.  Two beautiful aircraft for serious flight simmers to immerse themselves in.

TFDi 717

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Recurring Nightmares: Out of Memory...

There seemed to be a need for me to reiterate what is already known and accepted within the flightsim community about those so-called  “OOMS”, so here it is.

A number of our group members recently suffered catastrophic OOMS whilst flying lengthy online flights. An inevitable discussion generally follows any such mishaps, and these usually covered the usual gamut of rumours and myths of how to fix OOMS, including the emptying of Windows Recycle Bins, changing the values of the Windows SWAP file, clearing out temp files, and so on.

FSX and P3D V1-3 Out of Memory Errors (OOMS) are a recurring and clearly misunderstood problem affecting keen flight simulation enthusiasts. These strike with little warning and they have absolutely no appeal - there is no recovery from this error, and you will be going down.

Happily, there is a way to banish OOMS from your flight simulation immersion, so read on. However, know now that you might not like it.

In the beginning, 32-bit Operating Systems and 32-bit applications were the norm as 64-bit architecture wasn’t yet a thing. The hardware requirements for flight simulation back then were very different to what they are today, but nevertheless they were still pretty demanding for the time. It seems a bit obvious stating that you couldn't run a modern 64-bit flight simulator on an old 32-bit version of Windows running on an old PC system because put simply, you cannot, and that's because a square 64-bit peg won't fit into a round 32-bit hole, not even if you bash it into place.

The converse, however, is true. A 32-bit flight simulator can be run on modern hardware featuring an up-to-date 64-bit operating system, and flight simmers do this all the time with their 32-bit FSX or P3D V1-3 running under Windows 10 or Windows 7 64-bit.

If course it’s not just about the software, as the hardware requirements of our old flight sims are very different to the exacting needs of our concurrent flightsim platform. The difference is like night and day.

One of my favourite 1999 period flights sims was Flight Unlimited (I, II and III), but it carried back then the sort of taxing hardware levy that many of today’s top end games feature, meaning that you needed a top tier PC to run FUIII (plus a costly Voodoo FX graphics card). Today, FUIII will run quite happily with all sliders maxed out on a ten year old Intel Atom powered 1Gb RAM netbook.

The real problem is this; 32-bit applications can address an absolute, categoric, and finite maximum of 4Gb Virtual Address Space (VAS) and there is no evading this principle, period. VAS is a very different entity to memory (RAM) or swap files (effectively HD space), and it is to do with PC architechture.

Think of VAS as a Post-it Note whereby 4Gb VAS would equate to one of those tiny 1” square Post-it Notes. Once you have written, scribbled, and drawn all over it, it then becomes full in the same way that a glass is full when it begins to overflow. You’ll not get another drop in it.

OK, so now you wisely reach for a rubber, ink eraser, or Tipp-Ex in order to rub out some of those notations in order to make space for some more. However, whilst your theory is sound, it doesn't quite match the reality of the situation. Simply, you cannot free FSX or P3D V1-3 filled VAS in this way.

Back in 2006 when FSX was shiny and new, unlike the then mature product FS2004 (FS9), you had necessarily to wait a while before add-ons began to appear in the form of freeware or payware scenery, aircraft, weather packages, and so on. 

What you got was a capable top-end flight simulator, and once add-ons began to appear, they appeared in droves! In fact, the market grew enormously as demand for better aircraft, scenery, weather packages, and utilities grew into the FS market that we recognise today.

However, what didn't change with the market growth was the simulator platform itself. Despite two early MS Service Packs, and an early refresh in the form of MS FSX Acceleration, nothing in the chemistry of the simulator changed to keep pace with hardware or operating systems. Beneath the many expensive add-on high resolution textures, intricate and complex study-level aircraft, and detailed scenery areas, the platform itself remained unchanged in both essence and form, steadfastly fastened to its unchanged 32-bit code.

Even the PCs that run our legacy FSX or P3D V1-3 platforms are today better, faster, and more potent than ever before, sporting overcloked multi-core CPUs and GPUs capable of handling 4K textures without ever breaking into a sweat.

It is akin to superficially decorating a house whilst ignoring any serious underlying flaws and defects.

Going back to my Post-it Note analogy and the impossible theoretical rubbing out of some scribbles to free up VAS begins to have an important bearing on performance.

When FSX was in its infancy, no-one quite anticipated how the software and hardware markets would grow, or how long FSX would be used as the most popular flightsim platform ever. Its code was remarkably without mechanism to clear from VAS what had been used. You can fly default FSX from place to place to place practically ad-infinitum without an OOMS in sight, but you cannot fly a fully laden FSX festooned with bells and whistles from place to place to place without jeopardising your meticulously planned flight with the OOMS of gloom.

That tiny tiny Post-it Note of yours is inexorably filling up, and with it you detect a faltering and stuttering effect within the simulator itself as the FPS bleed-off toward single figures. This signifies that your flight will soon be ending prematurely. Let’s take a closer look at you flight. 

Your takeoff was from a detailed payware airport under the skies of an intensely realistic weather system beautifully portrayed by a complex weather add-on. Your aircraft is a complex study-level model which sucks up every last drop of FPS performance. You fly away from the departure airport over glorious payware land class filled with autogen overlaying some astonishing mesh. Quietly in the background, processes have been shovelling data one way onto your 4Gb allocation of VAS. They haven’t been shy; they’ve been doing this by the bucketload. 

Continuing onwards with you flight, you enjoy realistic weather fronts in detailed 4K texturing over 1cm per pixel scenery.

Perhaps you have flown for eight hours across the Atlantic or maybe it has been a short commuter hop, but you are fast approaching your destination just as a fully replicated city scene complete skyscrapers and multiple terminal area airports all busy with AI traffic comes into view.

Well, I'm sure that you get the picture and the message - your VAS is all used up.

What happens next is a shudder, a drop in FPS to single digits, a ten second freeze, and Bang!, you see the message that your computer has run out of available memory (not RAM, the culprit is the lack of VAS).

There are several VAS monitors that can show you how your VAS is being vacuumed up by your system; it’s just a read-only dynamic figure that is displayed somewhere. The way to think about VAS monitors is to liken them an aeroplane's fuel gauge. Whilst airborne, you can but watch the gauge as its needle moves towards empty, and you can do nothing about it until you have touched down and reset.

Whilst all flight simulators allow you to create and save situations, usually a specified aircraft type sitting on the apron of a particular airport, some complex aircraft will actually allow you to save situations whilst airborne. Thus, if your VAS is running low, you could try saving your flight to later restart where you left off. However, few aircraft support this midair feature as most will plummet if spawned high up off in the mid-Pacific. The theory is that if you restart midway, you’ll be starting with more free VAS.

If you would like to know more about VAS monitors, then take a look at my 14/09/2016 blog report "Pain in the VAS - Much Pain, Much Gain". Today, I’d change the title to "Pain in the VAS - Much Pain, Little Gain" because these days we have something that we didn’t have before.

If you are suffering from OOMS, ask yourself whether a fix is worth your while, or whether you don't mind having FSX or P3D V1-3 crash at the end of a long and meticulously planned and flown flight.

It’s perhaps worth mentioning that LM's P3D V3 attempted to address the inability of the ESP flightsim platform to liberate used VAS as your flight progresses by adding just such as feature. However, the jury is still out on how effective their system was. The truth, however, is that P3D V3 remains a 32-bit and is still subject to a macimum VAS allocation of 4Gb.

The fix is simple, but it carries with it great cost.

in order to forevermore avoid OOMS, and just ask anyone who has since chosen this path to flightsim salvation whether the fix works, all you have to do is retire your 32-bit platforms such as FSX or P3D V1-3, and move into the new era of 64-bit flight simulators such as X-Plane 10/11 or P3D4/5 where OOMS are but a distant yet troubling memory.

Referring back to my analogy of Post-it Notes for VAS, here is an approximate depiction of a 32-bit Post-it compared to a 64-bit Post-it Note (TBH, this doesn't do 64-bit much justice as I wouldn’t really have been unable to fit an accurate rendition of a true 64-bit sized Post-it Note onto the page!)...

That's it. Now go hide your FSX & P3D V1-3 and with it some of you older add-ons. They have served you faithfully for a very long time, but they are tired and so are you (of OOMS). Next, immediately take the plunge and move into the modern 64-bit flight simulator world, and finally consign those OOMS to the darkside of FS history. 

Pass Go!, pay your $200, and move on.

You can pick-up some quality aircraft and/or scenery add-ons cheaply or even for free during our period of Coronavirus quarantine, as well as some great cost-effective airliners from QualityWings such as their BAe 146 & Boeing B757 Collections for a few Dollars apiece.

Should you chose XP11, then you can download the highly acclaimed Zibo Mod Boeing 737-800 (plus 737-700/900 Ultimates) totally for free.

There has never been a better time for flight simulation, if you know what I mean!