As I’ve been downloading more ortho scenery to my X-Plane library I started needing a map of what tiles I’d downloaded so I could focus on areas where I really want to fly and not duplicate efforts. I couldn’t find a simple solution to this, so I started making my own map, when I got a tip in the .Org forums to check out xOrganizer. It’s a Windows utility that tracks all your custom scenery, LUA plugins, mesh, libraries, overlays, ortho scenery, airports and more. It also shows your scenery on a map, scans for duplicates, allows you to activate or deactivate scenery and plugins with a click — and perhaps best of all — automatically organizes your scenery config file so the order is appropriate (and tidy). It’s a great utility, and like so much in the X-Plane world, it’s free. You can get it here.
A few months back I replaced my Saitek Switch Panel with the 1015 Cessna Combo Panel from Desktop Aviator. It’s a great product, very much like the real thing, and one of the best units I’ve bought for the sim. Here’s a short video review, and thanks to Bob at Desktop Aviator for making such a great unit.
I get that question often, with people wondering where I came across the very real-world-looking placards and stickers that I have on the dash, the throttle quadrant, and elsewhere. The answer is Screaming Aero Graphics, which sells interior and exterior placard sticker kits for a large variety of aircraft. I purchased mine on eBay, but they have since opened a full-service website where they sell all sorts of aviation decals (including striping, registration numbers, and more).
I purchased the Cessna 182 kit, and it was easy to use. Just peel and stick, and where a sticker didn’t quite fit my panel (like the flap detents on the throttle quadrant) I just trimmed it. Easy. Service was quick and correct and pricing was fair. Check them out.
I’ve been saving for this and finally pulled the trigger. Here’s a quick look at the Basement Sim’s new avionics from FlightIllusion (http://www.flightillusion.com). I can’t wait to start flying with them! Thanks for watching.
Several weeks ago I added the Desktop Aviator Fuel Selector Panel to the sim, and I’ve liked it very much. Here’s a video review, and at $75 I can recommend it. Thanks for watching.
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.
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):
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.
REX/Milviz have collaborated to bring a new weather radar instrument to the sim community, the REX/Milviz WX Advantage. Here’s a quick and dirty first look video. Initial impressions? It’s great, especially for how snappy and responsive it is.Yet another reason I need to buy the folks at REX a drink. A more detailed review will probably follow.
For the past week or two there has been an active thread in the AVSIM P3D forums about a modification one of the members there developed that increases the brightness of Prepare3d scenery, adds more realistic (and darker) shaders for cloud and scenery shadows, and creates a more realistic horizon haze in the far distance. That thread turned into a new thread in which the user, Pe11e, has put up a little app that gives you some configuration options and creates the ability to restore the original shaders if you like.
Note that this modification is for P3D v3 ONLY. I installed it over the weekend, and it really is a marvelous modification. My flights have never looked so realistic, almost amazingly so. A few folks have reported problems with the installation, so be sure to read the entire thread and to back up your ShaderHLSL folder (which is in the P3D folder structure) before you start.
Best of all, the app is free, although Pe11e does have a donation button on the app which I think is well worth using. These more realistic shaders nearly transform the look of the sim, as you will notice the first time you sit on the ramp and watch cloud shadows so realistically passing over the field (as I captured in the screen shots below).
One of the things a person has to do when building (and constantly tinkering with) a flight simulator is get into, update, repair, change, deconstruct, and reconstruct lots of different devices. Nearly all of these have screws and fasteners, and most of those screws and fasteners are some weird head design you’ve never seen before, and they’ve been designed that way precisely to make you less likely to get into, update, repair, change, deconstruct, and reconstruct that particular device.
Over and over again in this process I’ve been very thankful for the iFixit 54 bit driver kit that I picked up from iFixit last year. The kit costs $24,95, but between you and me, it’s probably only worth three times that.
As the name suggests, the kit has 54 bits. They cover every type of screw head I’ve so far had to deal with. The kit also has a flexible neck attachment (which, incidentally, I used to tighten the door handle on our freezer yesterday), other bit attachments, and an extender.
Build quality is spectacular, as is fit and finish. You can read more about the details at their site, but if you were to ask me which three things you should have sitting around to help build a basement flight simulator I’d say, in no particular order, (1) a circular saw, (2) velcro tape, and (3) the iFixit 54 bit driver kit.