It’s Been A While …

… since my last post, so here is a brief update.

All is well. Just busy. Real-world instruction is coming to its final phases. I’m scheduled for my second solo cross-country this Thursday, and have two night flights set for next week. If the weather cooperates this will fulfill all remaining requirements for my check ride. So let’s hope for clear skies and reasonable winds. If things go that way, I’ll probably do two check ride prep flights and if I’m lucky schedule my check ride before the end of May. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sim time has been spent trying to fly on the PilotEdge network and follow real-world procedures, trying to keep things as realistic as possible with the check ride on the horizon. I’ve also been preferring VR to the physical cockpit as it’s just a more realistic experience for me. In doing so I’ve been flying the Mooney Ovation from point to point using real-world weather, starting in Half Moon Bay and making my way to Wendover, NV so far. Here’s a stream of the latest flight. I think I’ll go on to Salt Lake City from there and you are always welcome to join in.

RealSimGear GNS 530 Video Review

My video review of the RealSimGear GNS 530. Summary: a great piece of gear that I can highly recommend. Build quality is excellent, setup was a snap, and with the RealityXP GNS 530 running on it it’s as close to the real thing as you can get. If I were starting from scratch I would prioritize this unit well ahead of any Saitek radios. And if you don’t have a home cockpit, this self-contained unit can sit your desk and provide a fully-functional GPS running alongside your monitor and keyboard. Lean more about it at http://www.realsimgear.com.

RealSimGear GNS 530 Unboxing

Jarrod of RealSimGear was very kind in sending me a beta unit of the new GNS 530 he is offering. Unlike other GPS 3D-printed build-your-own kits, the RealSimGear unit is complete and ready to plug into your X-Plane sim. Here’s the unboxing, and I’ll have a full video review up as soon as I’ve got it in the sim and have given it a few flights. Already this morning I’ve plugged in and configured the unit. I can tell you that this unit running the RealityXP GNS 530 plugin is JUST LIKE the real thing. I’m mounting it in the panel now and a full review will follow, and I hope to use the unit during the PilotEdge flight later today.

Home Cockpit / VR Video Compare & Contrast

As I’ve been working more in VR alongside the home cockpit, I’ve been trying to video / stream of both. Each has its supporters, although on the whole my sense is that the YouTube audience prefers the home cockpit over the VR. I think that’s right. It’s a better visual experience (and not as potentially nauseating!), and probably feels more “real” to the online viewer. Chas, who comments here often, is trying to get me to stream in 3D so others could use their own VR gear to truly see what I see, but I’ve not gotten there as yet.

So I thought it would be interesting to post two recent streams here side-by-side. One is VR, the other home cockpit. I completed the home cockpit flight later today. It was fun, and it was certainly faster to work the GPS and the radios than in VR, and it was nice looking at a real iPad and ForeFlight display. But I have to tell you – it didn’t feel as much like flying. My plan is to probably stream in the home cockpit, but I’ll probably use the VR more often when flying on my own.

 

Video Review: KHAF Half Moon Bay By Rising Dawn Studios (In VR)

The good folks at Rising Dawn Studios were kind enough to send me a promotional copy of their Half Moon Bay (KHAF) scenery for X-Plane 11. I was able to spend some time flying there today, first in a live-stream GoPro physical cockpit flight to Sacramento over lunch, and then in streamed VR flight (a video of which I post below) after work where I really tried to show the details of this very cool scenery. The scenery is available here at the .ORG store and here at FS Pilot Shop for $19.90 US.

It’s a pretty remarkable little field with a ton of detail. The designers have modeled all the on-airport buildings, including the cell towers and the on-strip cafe (which, cleverly, has open shutters and an “open” sign out during the daytime and closed shutters and a “closed” sign out during the night). They’ve also modeled landmarks from the surrounding area, including the nearby hotel, harbor, and radar installation. Possibly the neatest feature is your own “home” hangar which you can customize with different paint textures and different art on the walls (you can even import your own). Even the user manual is clever, designed as a throw-back aviation magazine. It’s smart and well-done.

This field is a nice piece of work, and visually quite impressive (the tarmac textures, in particular, are great in HDR and I wish all X-Plane ramp textures looked like this). See the video below for the tour, including a few laps of the pattern and a “walking tour” via VR teleportation. If you want to make a small GA strip your X-Plane home base (especially in PilotEdge) this is an excellent choice and, in my view, worth the $19.90 . I found it reminiscent of ORBX GA strips, and the more of this we have via professional developers for X-Plane, the better. Looking at Rising Dawn’s Facebook page it appears they’re working on more fields, and I can’t wait to see the coming lineup.

Getting Great VR Results (With VR3 And Some Tweaks)

I upgraded the sim to VR3 last night and found, like several others, that I seemed to get generally better performance. I can run in HDR now with no significant hit compared to non-HDR, and it does seem slightly smoother.

Today, though, I watched the video below, made all of the changes suggested therein, and then had a truly remarkable 2:38 VR flight (yes, two hours, thirty-eight minutes). The sim was buttery smooth nearly the whole time, and this was WITH me streaming it and having the YouTube chat window in the cockpit via Oculus Dash. The flight started at KSPG Albert Whitted, which usually hits my frames pretty hard, but I was running at 45fps throughout. Across the flight I had no “grey flash” moments, judders, or image freezes, save one (when weather re-loaded). Toward the end of the flight I could tell the sim was probably running at 22.5fps for a time, but given that I’d been running it (and chewing through VRAM) for nearly three hours I wasn’t surprised. And after a bit, it improved. Truly a great flight, and I highly suggest taking the 40 minutes to watch his vid.

And for those who want to see the flight, here’s the final 2:00 (it seems YouTube only keeps two-hours worth of streaming video). The flight was a dress-rehearsal for the cross-country I’m set to fly tomorrow real-world. One of the fun things in this flight: about six miles out from my first landing a YouTube watcher suggested via the chat that the airport was closed via NOTAM and that I had to divert. I did, and it was a great example of what to expect from a real-world examiner.

Live Stream: Grand Junction To Aspen

Yesterday I flew my first scheduled live stream on YouTube, a PilotEdge flight from Grand Junction to Aspen. This is actually a continuation of my point-to-point flights, but I’ve switched to the JustFlight Turbo Arrow as the Saratoga isn’t a 3D cockpit suitable to VR (that Arrow is fantastic by the way – a really great X-Plane GA bird). The stream worked relatively well, although I’m still suffering from some upload speed issues. The flight goes relatively well. A weather update gives us some sudden IMC conditions, but we quickly get below the cloud deck and change our planned flight path to stay in the valleys. I also blow the approach into Aspen but the controller is good enough to get me back into the pattern. And last but not least, I crunch the landing hard enough to set off the ELT transmitter – I was using the Rift controllers and thought I had my hand on the virtual throttle in the flare but did not. It’s pretty funny to watch. Also, thinking about it now, I kept having to add rudder on the approach thinking it was a cross wind. It wasn’t. I’d used the Arrow’s rudder trim in flight and never trimmed it back. This is why we practice!

Our First Video From Inside The Oculus Rift

I finally figured out how to capture Rift video using the Oculus Mirror tool and my NVIDIA Experience ShadowPlay feature (it’s actually quite easy, but it did take some research to figure it all out). I also shot some iPhone video up front so folks could see how I have the sensors set in my cabin, and I do two laps at night, one with HDR off and one with HDR on so you can see the difference.

VR settings:

  • SS and AWS / Autoprojection OFF in SteamVR
  • Supersampling 1.5 in Oculus Debug
  • AWS fixed 45 FPS in Oculus Debug
  • Visual effects 4/5
  • Autogen 4/5
  • AA 2/5 No shadows, no reflections
  • 3jFPS plugin set to 46 FPS

These reflect a change from my prior settings. I found that Oculus Debug Tool does a great job of locking the frames at 45 FPS, and this makes both the sim scenery and the Oculus movement very very smooth, especially if I have HDR turned off. As some have noted over in the Facebook VAG group the Debug Tool’s FPS lock doesn’t always seem to “take” when you first turn it on. It may have to do with having the Oculus software running first and launching from within it, but I’m not certain. Regardless, I now have the SteamVR improvement turned off in favor of those in Oculus and I like the results.

I had fun shooting this, and I think it illustrates the quality of the experience in VR. One thing you absolutely cannot appreciate from this, though, is the experience in 3D. I’ll post more on this later, and thanks for watching.

 

Copilots Are A Blast

A good buddy was in town and we had a great time flying in the sim. He agreed to a video, so we made a PilotEdge flight from Haley to Stanley, Idaho. This was a lot of fun, and he did a great job flying the sim, handling the controls from our departing the pattern in Haley all the way to making the landing in Stanley. Thanks for watching.

A Quick Video Tour Of World Traffic 3

I’ve been getting familiar with Classic Jet Simulations’ World Traffic 3, and I have to say I really like it. It’s worth spending a little time reviewing some of the tutorials for how to use the software, and YouTube has plenty of them. Once I understood the basics I found it an excellent addition to the sim. Here’s a quick video tour. It’s not meant to be a how-to, nor a full review of my settings etc. But it should give you a feel for how the software integrates with X-Plane, the ease with which it generates traffic, the quality of the AI models, and its ability to generate GA traffic (which is excellent).