Black Marble

I’m a big fan of Chris Bell’s fantastic Night Environment add-on for P3D, which brings realistic “to the horizon” night lighting environments to the simulator. You can see a video of me flying in his Pennsylvania package here.

So it’s natural that I’m excited about Chris’s latest project, Black Marble, which will bring highly detailed vector-level road lighting to the entire planet. Given that night lighting has always been a weakness for P3D, this could be transformative add-on for the simulator. You can learn more about it here, and here are some recent shots released by Chris. I’ll be downloading this immediately upon availability.

And here’s a before/after comparison …
Before:

After:

A Link Worth Following: Alex’s Flying Club

On of my viewers and readers is Alex, who has a nice YouTube channel under “Alex’s Flying Club,” and a blog that’s just getting off the ground at https://abovegroundlevelblog.wordpress.com/. He, too, is in real-world flight training, and I hope he continues to publish as his simulation and flying experience grows.

PilotEdge Alphabet Challenge Update

Since my last PilotEdge Alphabet Challenge post I’ve flown two more legs of the challenge: G (Grand Canyon) to H (Lake Havasu City) and H (Havasu) to I (Laughlin/Bullhead, which is KIFP). Here’s the current map (which you may click to see full-size):

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Next up is Laughlin to Jacqueline Cochran Regional airport, just south of Indio, CA and just northwest of the Salton Sea.

Cool A10 Sim Pit

One of my readers sent in a photo of his simulator, which is an A-10 Warthog that he uses for combat flight simulation and dogfighting. It’s really cool, and he gave me permission to post the photo.

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Video: Monterey To Napa Valley

A VFR flight from Monterey to Napa Valley, with a nice visual tour of the Santa Cruz mountains and San Francisco along the way. This is my first flight in the Orbx NorCal scenery, and it’s a great package. I call it a “fantasy flight” because it’s a trip I’d love to make in real life.

Also in this flight I’ve tried, at a viewer’s suggestion, incorporating into the GoPro video some clips of the panel and side views shot with my phone along the way. Let me know if you think it works. Thanks for watching.

Blog: Position And Hold

While there are thousands of folks doing flight simulation out there, interestingly there aren’t a lot of current flight sim blogs (although there are plenty of abandoned ones). So I was happy today when I can across Jerry Taylor’s Position And Hold. I’ve only seen the first post or two, but it’s provocative and well written. I look forward to being a regular reader. 

Finding My Inner Warrior

I’ve been told by several folks that early in my flight training I should fly both high- and low-wing aircraft so I could compare them and then settle on one for the remainder of my training. So today, after getting about six hours to date in a Cessna 172 (high-wing) I took a lesson in a Piper Warrior II (low-wing). Here’s the bird …

The verdict is that I really liked the Piper. While it’s a smaller cabin, I felt more comfortable, in particular because the Piper feels more like sitting in a car while the Cessna can feel like sitting in a truck. Visibility was better for me, both of the airfield in the pattern and up front over the cowling. Here’s the view up front:

The Piper moves around a bit more, and I needed to use much more rudder (or so it seemed) than with the 172, especially right rudder on takeoff. And while low-wing aircraft experience more “ground effect” than do high-wing aircraft, meaning they can float a bit longer when landing and take a bit longer to climb off the field on takeoff, for me the Piper was easier to land than the Cessna. Even though it was my first time in the airplane, I felt every landing I had today was better than those last Saturday. Maybe that’s the effect of experience, but maybe not. Either way, I felt a lot more effective landing today, even with a slight crosswind.

So I’m sticking with the Piper. The only immediate downside is that the basement sim is laid out as a Cessna! But that’s okay, I can still fly a Piper in the sim and work Piper checklists. I just have to remember that the flaps in the Piper are a big manual handle like an emergency brake and not that little lever like in the 172 …

Review: Flight Sounds FSX-DUAL Aviation Headset Adapter

For the first few months I had the basement sim I had one headset, which connected via a traditional mic input on the back of the PC. I knew that I’d want to be able to fly with two folks in the simulator, and I liked how FlightSim Liberty had an intercom system in his sim and I wanted to model that. My original solution was to use two USB inputs (which allows the PC to see each headset as an individual sound card, which is helpful for managing simulator sounds), one connected to a Saitek headset via a USB-to-traditional mic/sound converter, and the other connected to a Rugged Radios aviation headset via a USB-to-aviation jacks converter. While this worked OK, this solution does not allow real-time crosstalk across the headsets, so there is always a brief (and distracting if not maddening) delay when the two folks in the sim talk to each other.

I researched a number of USB-based solutions, and ultimately settled on the fabulous FSX-DUAL aviation headset/USB adapter from Flight Sounds.

FSX DUAL with David Clark 10-76 (Large)

This is a very functional piece of simulation equipment:

  • Volume and squelch controls for two channels
  • Separate external audio volume control, for controlling the sound of the sim, PilotEdge, etc.
  • Push to talk switch support for each channel (although I’ve configured a button on my yoke for PTT), with a master PTT switch to override the PTT functionality and LED indicators for push to talk confirmation for each channel
  • USB 1.1 and 2.0 compatible, with no external USB power needed (great for those of us with already-loaded USB hubs)
  • Plug and Play with Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Mac OS X
  • Two sets of standard General Aviation headset connectors (PJ-068 and PJ-055B) and support for headset impedances of 100 to 600 ohms (mono and stereo)
  • Zero delay voice feedback

These last two features are what I was really looking for. First, the FSX-DUAL lets me use my two real-world aviation headsets in the sim, one of which I also use for my real-world flight training. They look, feel, and sound great, and because of their impedance they impart that great “aviation mic” sound when talking to someone else in the sim or a controller on PilotEdge. Second, there is absolutely zero delay across the two headsets. All communication is real-time, and it sounds fantastic. Finally, the “plug-and-play” promise delivers. On my Windows 10 system I simply plugged the FSX-DUAL into a USB port, plugged in the headsets, and was off and running. No driver downloads, no configuration hassles. The Windows audio settings see the DUAL as a headset with mic and I can use and configure them just like any other. It all works great.

As do the people at FSX-DUAL. As near as I can tell, the company is based in New Zealand. The ordering and shipping process was simple, and when New Zealand post for some reason returned my unit to them without delivery here in the states, Kate from Flight Sounds let me know, launched an investigation, and re-shipped the unit with track-and-trace free of charge. She was as friendly and as responsive as could be. Truly first class.

Finally, the unit looks great. If you’re building a sim that you want to look real-world, the FSX-DUAL fits right in. Here are some shots from the basement sim, where the DUAL sits under the trim wheel and throttle quadrant (click them to enlarge them):

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This is not an inexpensive add-on, weighing in at $219.95 USD. You can buy some real-world intercoms for less, but then need to either settle with each being part of the overall PC sound card, or running a USB-to-aux adapter. As for an out-of-the box solution the DUAL really was the only viable option I found, and candidly, it has been worth every penny. It looks great, works great, and Flight Sounds provided exemplary support. At least for me, the FSX-DUAL from Flight Sounds is highly recommended.

PilotEdge Live Stream

PilotEdge controller Marcusmmc is streaming his scope live now on Twitch. Worth watching if you’ve ever wondered about the controller’s side of things.

And how about this: you can embed the stream! I’ll do that here …

Watch live video from Marcusmmc on www.twitch.tv