Why I Switched To X-Plane 11

Why I Switched To X-Plane 11

I was asked that question today in the YouTube comments, and I thought it was a good one. Why DID I switch to X-Plane 11?

I use a Mac at home, and have had X-Plane on my system for at least 10 years. I flew FSX before that, but with Mac X-Plane was the only option and I liked it. But when it came time to build the Basement Sim I knew that I’d be looking at the most powerful possible rig I could afford, and that rig would almost certainly be running Windows. And so it was, and with that being the case, I was left to choose between FSX and P3D. I picked P3d because it’s a platform under ongoing development.

And I love P3d. Let’s be clear about that. It’s an awesome package, and with ActiveSky and ORBX and REX it’s astonishingly good. But I kept hearing about X-Plane from simmers I respect, and more so, I noticed that many of the real pilots I follow online who also sim were X-Plane advocates. So maybe six months back I downloaded X-Plane 10, and it lasted on my system for about 10 minutes. As soon as I figured out that I could not easily run with multiple screens it was clear X-Plane 10 was a non-starter for the sim. So I happily stayed with P3D.

But when the X-Plane 11 beta was released I learned that it had native multi-monitor support, so I decided to give it a go. I was very taken with several aspects of the X-Plane 11 experience. The fast loading time and modern and easy-to-use user interface were great. The default scenery had come a very long way and looked great. And it never crashed. But initially, what really got my attention were the graphics. Without even full sliders the visuals in X-Plane 11 – the night lighting, the reflections, the way light moves about the scenery – were stunning. And thanks to X-Plane being 64 bit, there was no scenery popping, or scenery resolving into a less-blurry resolution, to break the immersion.

I loved what I saw, and it was enough to get me to spend some time with it, and in that process I was very taken with the X-Plane flight models. X-Plane models flight in a fundamentally different way than FSX or P3D, and at least to me, the way the airplane moves both on the ground and in the air feels much more realistic than in P3D. That means something to me as a student pilot, but it means a lot as a simmer, too – I want the sim to be as immersive as possible, and with X-Plane 11 it was as immersive as I’d seen it. That was enough for me to figure out a solution to the nettlesome (and frankly disappointing) fact that X-Plane does not allow separate eyepoints for each monitor. And once I had that nut cracked I was sold.

I never intended to switch to X-Plane 11. I was just checking it out based on the passion demonstrated by other simmers and pilots I follow online. But once I used it, I stayed with it. And with about a month of time under the belt, I continue to stay with it for the UI, stability, and flight models as noted above. But I’ve also come to love several other aspects of the X-Plane ecosystem:

  • Great default aircraft with excellent flight models
  • Tons and tons and tons of excellent freeware aircraft, airports, scenery, and plugins
  • Free HD mesh
  • The simplicity of installing (and uninstalling) add-ons and managing the file system
  • No configuration tweaking
  • Did I mention no configuration tweaking?
  • Thanks to xEnviro, great real-world weather
  • The ability to easily create and share my own airport scenery
  • The ability to create photorealistic scenery
  • The ability to have autogen appear on-top of said photorealistic scenery

And finally, the ability to access the full breadth of the PCs RAM can’t be overstated.

I still have P3D on my system. I do miss its great AI aircraft from time to time, and I do love ORBX. But I booted it up a few weeks ago with a friend, and in comparison to using X-Plane it felt archaic. I even got an OOM to boot. I will keep following P3D, will fly it from time to time, and eagerly await the 64 bit version that will certainly come this year. But unless that version includes a significant re-write of the now ancient Microsoft code, I’m not certain that 64 bits in P3D will counter and exceed the things I enjoy so much about X-Plane. In fact, I’m nearly certain they won’t. I will hope to have Lockheed Martin prove me wrong, because if they do, it will mean only spectacular things for our community and our hobby. But in the meantime you will probably find me in X-Plane, cruising over some stunning photorealistic scenery, enjoying the flight model, and probably, talking to the controllers on PilotEdge.

New Field: KTHM Thompson Falls, MT

I had a viewer request to fly from KTHM, and looking at the default X-Plane scenery I decided to update it with something better. So here is KTHM for X-Plane 10.5+, and you may download it here. For this scenery to work properly you will also need the OpenSceneryX, JBHangars, and MisterX libraries. You will also need to download and place this folder in your custom scenery folder, and then place the JBHangars library inside it – this will make it so X-Plane sees the hangars. You only need to do this once. Thanks and I hope you like the scenery.

KTHM8

KTHM1

KTHM2

KTHM3

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KTHM5

Back In The Real Bird

I had a flight lesson today and it was the first time up since December 6th. I was home for much of December, and had visions of completing the next several flights from the curriculum, but weather intervened. It was just not good flying weather for several weeks in these parts. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been on the road quite a bit, so I was excited today to finally get back to the field and go up. Ceilings were too low for maneuvers, and that was just as well because it’s pattern work that I wanted to do to knock the rust off.

And there was some rust, as the below flight track shows. My takeoffs and landings were actually very solid, but the pattern itself was shaky at first. Those first two legs that are way out off track from the others were the first two laps, and after that I settled in. I flew an extended downwind, a turn-to-final, and a power-off landing in three of final four laps, which is why the base legs vary a bit.

pattern

So I feel back in the groove, and it’s amazing how relaxed I am after being up. Flying an airplane requires real focus, but it’s a focus that relaxes me, and I love it. Next flight will be a long cross country with my CFI: Brandywine to Harrisburg to Wilmington to Brandywine. We probably won’t get that on the books for a week or so, and I look forward to planning, simulating, and then making that flight.

Power Adapters For USB Hubs & Saitek Yokes

Saitek gear has had a very limited supply chain for more than a year now, and it’s making the aftermarket for some stuff a bit ridiculous. One of those things is the power adapter for the Saitek Pro and Cessna yokes, which are either on multiple-month backorder or being sold by some people on eBay for (the outrageous price) of $70 or more US.

No need to pay that, and I certainly wasn’t going to. Instead, I went to my local PC shop and bought a universal AC adapter that allowed me to match the ratings of the Saitek yoke. The Saitek Pro yoke needs voltages between 100 and 240 volts AC at 50-60 hertz, and the output is fixed at 5 volts and 2000 mA (2 amps). This is good as you need about 500 mA per USB device plugged into the yoke (or any USB hub you hope to use, for that matter). Given that, the Nippon America 2000mA Universal Adapter Multiple AC 3v 5v 6v 7.5 9v 12v should do the trick, and it’s available in the US at least at Amazon for $12.67.

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This is similar, but not the same, as the one I have, and it’s nice because it allows you to set multiple voltages, has multiple tips, and the tips are switchable so you can have the polarity positive outside or inside. There are other units available – just be certain the voltages, mAmps, and polarity are right.

A General Update

It’s been a bit quiet around here recently so I want to provide a bit of an update on things On The Glideslope …

First, the guide to building your own basement GA sim. My original hopes of having it done over Thanksgiving were nowhere close to realistic, but I have been working on it here and there and really trying to make it useful (especially if I’m going to charge for it). It’s currently 28 pages long, and I’ve been filling in sections and it’s getting closer all the time. I hope it’s done in a month or so.

Second, videos. I’ve not made any for several weeks. Some of that is because of my schedule, some of it is because I got interested in scenery design over the holidays, and some of it is because of the transition to X-Plane (which took a fair amount of my sim time). I do plan to get back to it next week, though, and have several videos in the queue that I hope to make over the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience.

Third, scenery design. I really have enjoyed making the few airports I’ve made for X-Plane. The first three (Brandywine, Chester County, and Lloyd Stearman) all turned out pretty well, and the next project is Wilmington. This is a big field, and it’s going to take some time. In the meantime, I plan to make versions of those first three that are suitable for upload to the X-Plane Scenery Gateway. They won’t be as close to the real thing as the originals as I’ll be limited to the native X-Plane objects library, but this way they have a chance to be included in future releases of X-Plane, which will benefit everyone. So that’s something I want to do.

Finally, the X-Plane migration. I’ve loved it, and am glad I did it. I’ve held off on the releases of betas 4 and 5 based on the problems they seemed to create, and think it’s generally a good idea to wait a few days when any new release comes along to see how it plays out. That said, beta 6 looks solid, and I’ll probably update when I have the chance. I also have learned enough about creating photorealistic scenery that I’ll probably make a few tiles, covering parts of the world where I want to fly but don’t have photorealistic so far (Scotland in particular). I also am going to try flying the sim WITHOUT World2XP America. The underlying textures and autogen of X-Plane 11 are pretty good, I already have HD mesh, and I just find that too many of the buildings in W2XP America don’t jive (they still look too European). I do want to get better European scenery, though, and will probably get W2XP Europe and see how it looks.

So that’s the latest. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.

Make Your Own Photorealistic Scenery For X-Plane

More than a few readers have asked about where to find photorealistic scenery for X-Plane, and for copyright reasons you pretty much have to make your own. The good news is that with the latest version of Ortho4XP, the process appears really quite simple, as I learned from this video:

You can get the latest version of Ortho4XP here (download instructions are in the video), and Python here. Note that I’ve NOT done this process myself, but based on this video I do believe I will give it a try.