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.
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.
Was able to take a nice long flight on Friday and knock out the remaining minutes of my solo cross-country requirement. It was a beautiful day for flying. The 172 I fly was booked so I took the Archer.
Yesterday I was able to download and install (on my own dime, not as a promotion) the new True Earth Great Britain South scenery from Orbx for X-Plane. I had posted about this upcoming scenery earlier in the month, along with some Orbx screen caps. It looked fantastic, and in all candor this was an announcement I’d been waiting some time to see. I used Orbx scenery extensively when I used P3D, and while the ability to create your own photorealistic scenery in X-Plane (for free) is a huge asset, as is the availability of HD mesh (also for free), there’s nothing quite like photo scenery, mesh, and landmarks created by someone who’s really doing it with intention.
And after spending about 90 minutes kicking the tires on the scenery in VR yesterday, I can say without hesitation that Orbx has created an amzaing product for X-Plane. I streamed that VR flight online, and it’s posted below. It was my first flight in the scenery, and we started in London, in part to find out what it does to my frames, optimal settings, etc. So if you choose to watch the video, know that much of the first 40 minutes or so are me trying different settings, re-loading the scenery and X-Plane, etc. Summary of the London experience? Really hard on my frames in VR, although people in the comments noted that it seemed to be much easier on frames in their physical cockpits. So perhaps it’s something about the VR rendering. It was not unflyable — nothing is unflyable if you compromise your settings — but to have what looked like a natural draw distance of objects, and a decent density to my taste (one notch below full on the object slider), my frames were really being tested. I can tolerate it, but it doesn’t make me eager to spend a lot of time flying around London (at least not until I upgrade my PC and video card).
We also ported to three other locations, though, and that experience was spectacular. Good-looking tiles, fantastic color-correction of the ortho scenery, trees everywhere (and of many different varieties), fantastic autogen buildings, gorgeous blending of the water textures on the seashore, and many, many custom local objects just where they should be — with highly flyable frames (at least on my rig). It was nothing short of thrilling in VR, and it looks good at all times of day (including at night, with all kinds of unique strobes, flashing red lights, etc. on different objects).
Summary: If you like to fly GA, this scenery is a must have. GB Central and North are next, and then Orbx plans to move to the US. And if you are tracking the path of X-Plane scenery development, all I can say is that Orbx have done it. The future is here.
Video and screen caps from the video are below.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.