I Spent Time In A Sim Today – And It Counted

My first time using flight simulation software was sometime in the 1980s on the green screen of an Apple IIe. That interest eventually led to my building the Basement Sim, most construction of which happened three years ago this week. So it seems apropos that today I spent 1.5 hours in a sim and was able to enter it in my logbook as counting against the requirements for my instrument rating.

The short story is that one of the CFI’s at my flight school recently bought a federally-approved sim and has it on the virtual line for student training. We were originally set to spend a couple of hours in a Cirrus SR-20 today (I’m getting checked out on the SR-20), but weather was IFR so we jumped in the sim instead. 1.5 hours later – and a failed attitude indicator, failed vacuum pump, failed airspeed indicator, and a shot of smoke in the cockpit later – we had 1.5 hours of simulated IFR time for the logbook. With this sim I can count 20 hours of sim time against my instrument rating, and I plan to make the most of it. And it should only get better, as today they installed PilotEdge on the sim.

My impression is that the time I’ve spent in my own sim was very helpful in this training. The CFI felt I handled the instrument work better than most people just beginning their instrument training, and I was quite comfortable on the instruments. The big learning today, aside from many technical coaching points the CFI gave me along the way, was the distraction partial panel can cause. The urge to glance at your attitude indicator or directional gyro is quite real, and when you do and it is failed it gives a very incorrect signal to the brain that is likely in opposition to what the other instruments are telling you. I can see why folks might carry some post-it-notes to stick over a failed instrument in real-world flight. But that, too, is something I can simulate in my own rig, and flying around in IMC for a while with a failed attitude indicator is on my list of things to do.

One final impression was how useful it was to have a CFI throw you emergencies and failures. You can set X-Plane to fail systems randomly across a particular time frame, but you do know to some extent that it’s coming. I plan to do this at home, but I also left thinking that it’s probably money well-spent to have a CFI put you in a sim and just throw crazy stuff at you once a month. I can’t believe that would make you worse as a pilot.

(And the best part of today was when he had my flying partial panel with a failed attitude indicator and airspeed indicator when the sim threw me carb ice on its own – but a quick pull of the carb heat fixed that particular problem.)

An Update On 11.3 – And Progress

I spent some time digging into the Windows Event Log and saw that my most recent X-Plane 11.31rc1 crash involved the crash of an obscure (at least to me) video driver. My NVIDIA drivers are current, but in researching the situation I found a post noting power management problems as a possible cause of that specific driver crash. I checked my power management settings and, lo and behold, somewhere along the path of mandatory Windows updates they had been reset from “Bitsum Highest Performance” to “Balanced.” I set them back to highest performance, and the next VR flight was (1) stable, and (2) much better performance. I will hope this resolved the issue. The real test will be setting up the physical sim and it’s many associated devices. I’ll post an update when I do.

Finally Answering Some Questions

I have been quite absent from here lately. The holidays were a time to focus elsewhere, and with the new year my aviation interest was focused entirely upon preparing for my checkride. Since then I have been flying to remain proficient, have started my instrument training, and am busy with work. But today I’m answering questions in the Q&A section, and if you had posted one there, thank you for your patience.

For Me X-Plane 11.3 Is A Mess

This is not a post I wanted to write. X-Plane has been a great experience for me, even with the betas. But now it is a mess, and has been since around RC4 or RC5 of the 11.3 beta. The physical cockpit has been virtually unflyable. For a while things worked well until I touched the throttle, at which point I’d get a total hardware crash – to reset, not to desktop. I tried all the standard steps: pref deletion, cache deletion, removal of all plugins, and even a clean and separate install. No joy. I thought I’d isolated the problem as a customized aircraft file, but even with default aircraft, clean install, no add-ins: crashes. Less predictable, and no longer tied to the throttle, but crashes nonetheless. And there is nothing useful in the logs. (And graphic performance in the physical cockpit, with it’s 3-4 monitor setup, has also not been great in 11.3, with me getting about the same performance in 11.3 with my 1080ti as I used to get in earlier releases with my 980ti – but I’d gladly trade lower settings for a stable system.)

So today, after another crash in the physical cockpit, I thought I’d try VR. I had moved away from my VR setup and back to the physical sim to make practice easier for my real-world instrument rating, but thought I’d run with VR and see how it goes. And it was a different story. Graphic performance was excellent – a solid 45 frames and smooth, even with high settings. And with AviTab and my Navigraph sub I was using charts in the VR cockpit without difficulty as I simulated an IFR flight from KSNA to Carlsbad. And then, about half way to the Oceanside VOR from KSAN, crash. At least this one was to desktop. Again nothing informative in the logs.

I will note that I am now running 11.31rc1, hoping that the beta had squashed some of the prior bugs. But as of now, my sim is not reliably flyable. This is very disappointing, especially after several years of excellent reliability from X-Plane. And reading the forums, I’m not the only one. This is a buggy release, in my view, and I can’t wait until they have moved passed it.

But there is good news: in VR I found that if I looked down just at the instruments the experience was very similar to wearing foggles whe simulating instrument conditions in the real-world. So I have that going for me …

Help Me Test KSPG Gateway Edition

I’ve been working for some time on an Albert Whitted / KSPG (my home airport) for the X-Plane Gateway. I have a version complete, and I’m uploading it here in hopes that some readers might download it and test it out prior to submission. I’ve done truck traffic routes and ATC wind rules for the first time in this scenery, so I’d appreciate particular attention to AI behavior (and yes, I know some of the trucks drive through the occasional corner of a building, but I can’t really avoid it). So if you like, download it here and give it a whirl. There are no scenery libraries required for this airport as it is made entirely with default objects, but it does require the 11.3 beta. Also note that the pics below (of an earlier version quite similar to the one here) are on top of my orthographic scenery and that this scenery does not include ortho imagery. Many thanks.

It’s Pretty Up There Tonight

I crossed the three hours of night flight, the night cross-country, and the 10 night landings requirements off the list tonight. It was an amazing experience and a beautiful night to fly.

Ortho4XP 1.3 (And A Preview Of Albert Witted Gateway Edition)

This morning I downloaded and for the first time used the new Ortho4XP 1.3 (download links are in Oscar Pilote’s signature line here). It has several improvements over version 1.2, one of which is smoothing that allows you to have sloped (and not flattened)) airport runways. I watched this YouTube video on how to use it, and the steps there worked perfectly. Also, as he does in the video, I went the extra step in creating mesh and overlays from the HD Mesh 4 package, and downloaded zoom level 19 tiles for several of the airports in the tile.

The results are great, and I’ve attached some screen captures below. Note the nicely sloped runway and airport environment in the last shot. (And you can click any of these images to see larger versions.)

My settings here:

  • ZL 16 as the base zoom level using Bing maps (set in the settings)
  • ZL 18 within three kilometers of each airport using Bing maps (set in the settings)
  • ZL 19 over each airport itself using Google maps (set in with the zoom level screen)
  • Water masks of 300 yards (which is probably too far given how the ortho imagery works in this area)
  • Mesh from HD Mesh 4
  • Overlays from HD Mesh 4

Also, I’m nearly done with my new Gateway version of Albert Whitted / KSPG. You can see that here, too, in the first several images. Overall, I think the result is fantastic, and I look forward to building a bunch of new tiles.

Albert Whitted and environs …

The new Gateway KTPA I’ve been working on …

KTPF Peter O Knight …

Look at that beautiful runway slope! ->

The PilotEdge I-1 Rating In VR (X-Plane 11.3b5)

One of the fantastic things about PilotEdge is the significant amount of educational resources they provide, one of which is the “I-Rating” series of training scenarios. I’ve already passed the I-1 rating on PilotEdge but thought it would be fun to fly it in VR (it’s an IFR flight to and from John Wayne using the ILS 20R approach) in IFR conditions. I bring Navigraph maps (I picked up an annual Navigraph subscription this week) into the virtual cockpit via the AviTab plugin, which works well. X-Plane 11.3beta5 eats 11+ gig of my VRAM for some reason, which does not work out well. But we complete the flight nonetheless.

Three thoughts based on this simulated hop: 1) Gotta figure out the VRAM situation, as that’s not good and it’s never happened to me before in X-Plane. 2) IFR in VR was very realistic, especially with the clouds. The Jeppesen charts in the cockpit via AviTab work great, but it’s still quite taxing to manage radios and notes under the headset. This may be a good thing, though, as it creates task saturation, and the realism of VR may make it worth it as it really felt like being under “the hood” real-world. 3) I’m going to plow ahead with the I-Ratings (I’ve done them through I-4 but will do them all starting with the I-1) and their supporting videos as a jump-start on my real-world instrument training. I’ll fly some in VR and some in the physical cockpit and decide which feels like better training and report back.