I’m happy to say that last week I passed my instrument rating check ride. I’m looking forward to flying in the system and building my proficiency with this new skill set. Thanks for all the encouragement along the way.
I also replaced the RAM in the sim yesterday, pulling the two 8 gig strips that shipped with the machine and replacing them with four 16 gig strips. This means the sim now has 64 gig RAM on board, and while it initially messed up my overclocking settings, with some tweaking the sim is running stable. While I have not noticed a frame rate improvement (nor did I expect to), the sim is now very smooth with little to no stutters.
I’ve been getting hard crashes, all the way to a reboot, when streaming. I thought the El Gato camera card was the problem, but the crashes continued after getting a new camera card last week. So I decided that today was the day to completely wipe the PC Windows drive and do a full and fresh install of the operating system. That drive has never been wiped since I bought the PC four years ago, and it was crammed full of legacy registry entries and other junk from years of use (and using FSX, P3D and X-Plane along the way). I very deliberately run X-Plane from a separate SD drive, so it would be unaffected by a change like this — and it’s a reason that you should probably run X-Plane from its own dedicated drive, too. (In fact, I have X-Plane and its associated programs on one drive, and all my ORBX and ortho scenery on a different drive, just so they won’t be affected by any Windows problems or updates — in fact, I could buy a new PC, plug in those drives, and be good to go for the most part).
So far, it seems everything has turned out OK. It took a while to download some drivers, and I’ve had to update a few settings that changed with the new installation, but now I have a clean Windows drive that’s loaded only with a bare-bones install of Windows 10, Navigraph’s data install program, Active Sky XP, Project Lasso, and the OBS streaming software. I have not noticed a significant increase in performance, but the sim seems to be running very smoothly — and no crashes so far. With any luck tomorrow I’ll get in a stream for testing.
Simulated an IFR flight from Olympia to Everett yesterday in the home cockpit. This is over the ORBX Washington True Earth HD scenery, but you don’t really see much of it because the real weather (using ActiveSky XP) was poor. Route was OLM V287 PAE 7000 ft / RNAV Y 16R on PilotEdge. We go down nearly to minimums on the approach, and have an unexpected icing event along the way. This is X-Plane 11 and a Cirrus SR-20 flight model.
If you’ve tuned in or watched the last few YouTube flights I’ve posted, I’ve been having problems with GPU usage in the sim. Things are great for the first 20 or 30 minutes, at which point my GPU usage goes to 100%, frames plummet, and the sim crashes (often crashing the entire PC). Nothing seems to fix the issue.
The past few flights have been in VR. I have found the Oculus software since the Rift S quite buggy, and as an experiment yesterday I disconnected the Rift S and went back to my three-screen physical cockpit setup. I ran the sim for several hours, with clouds and over the ORBX Washington scenery, with absolutely no problems. Frames were down in the 20s at some points, but overall they held in the 30s (with the benefit of VMI Twick to limit objects some), and most important, I had no crashes and the GPU never really went above 60% utilization. I don’t believe the issue is the increased hardware requirements of the Rift S compared to the Rift, as it will run just great for a while before cratering. It must be a software issue. So I’ll be abandoning the VR for a while, at least until Oculus gets their software hammered out.
I have had some rare openings in my calendar this week and have been able to take advantage of them to get in nearly 10 hours of cross-country instrument time. Flights included a round-robin Albert Whitted to Daytona to Melbourne back to Whitted, a hop up to Perry, FL for a $100 hamburger, and today a flight from Whitted to Pahokee, FL (on the shores of Lake Okeechobee), then to Naples for lunch at a German deli, then back to Whitted. All this leaves me less than 10 hours short of my cross country and instrument hours requirements. With any luck the check ride will be in September.
Note that much of what has made flying this week interesting has been weather planning, in particular avoiding the afternoon cumulous and cumulonimbus buildup typical of Florida this time of year. But perhaps the most fun thing about this week has been its fulfillment of one of the reasons people love to fly: the ability to see things and go places. While we didn’t stop in Daytona, flying the missed approach next to the track was great for its views, as was the flight down the Space Coast past Cape Canaveral to Melbourne, as was the routing over the top of Tampa and KTPA on the way back. The hop to Perry yesterday was great because it was a chance to borrow the crew car, see a neat little north-Florida town, and have a great burger at a local haunt — without the seven-hour round-trip drive. Today we saw the large agricultural districts of central Florida, the still wild areas around Lake Okeechobee, and the always-exciting and beautiful view of the Skyway Bridge with St. Pete and Tampa in the distance. Flying to travel new places is really, really, cool, and I’m excited to explore many new places in the years to come. Here are some snaps of these flights over the past few days.
My posting is down quite a bit, for a variety of reasons, none of them bad. Some of it is that I’m busy with things away from the blog. Some of it is that I’m spending most of my aviation-related time on real-world instrument training. Some of it is that streaming IFR flights via VR is a bit of a challenge in the X-Plane aircraft I’m using. But here’s an update on all that and more …
I rolled directly into my instrument training in February / March, and have been doing most of my flying toward its requirements since then. I’ve checked out in the SR20 (which took about 10 hours of flight time to do right) and am doing all of my flying in that aircraft, and while that creates some scheduling conflicts, I enjoy that airframe very much and am better for keeping to one set of avionics and numbers during my training. I’ve completed most of my requirements for the practical exam, and just have a body of instrument hours and cross-country hours to complete, along with the written exam. My long cross country is done. If things stay on track, I hope to schedule my instrument check ride for sometime in September or October. All that said, flying in Florida in the Summer continues to be beautiful, if strongly defined by afternoon cumulus buildup (as you can see below).
Like everyone else in the world of flight simulation, I was surprised and excited to see Microsoft recently show a preview of its new flight simulator. And like everyone else, I have the same questions about how full-featured and capable it will be for those of us who use flight simulators for real-world-level simulation or training. So we shall wait and see … but I can tell you this, even if it’s “just a game,” that game will be on our X-Box 360 if it’s anything like what we see in that promo video …
Yoko “The Yoke” PLUS
I’ve been using the Yoko “The Yoke” PLUS for several months now, and It’s fantastic. Rock-solid construction, extremely fine resolution and responsiveness, and a feel that, at least for me, is very much like a real-world yoke in terms of force and resistance. Highly recommended.
I haven’t been doing much, for a few reasons. One is that streaming in VR when practicing instrument procedures isn’t as easy as in the physical cockpit, although with the AviTab plugin and my Navigraph subscription, it’s not too challenging. But the SR20 models available for X-Plane vary in their avionics in VR, and it’s not really easy for me to simulate in VR the Avidyne systems I’m using in the real world. I enjoy streaming in the physical cockpit, too, though, and in it I’m able to better simulate the Avidyne platform I use in the real plane. BUT — the cable I use to connect the GoPro to the PC for streaming broke and is out of action. So until I get a new one, my streaming is probably going to be limited to VR VFR leisure flying … and I hope to put some online soon.
And More …
While my posting here and on YouTube isn’t as frequent as it has been, I remain passionate about aviation and simulation, and intend to keep posting as well as I can. I also get mail from time-to-time from folks saying that the site is still a strong resource to those building their own simulators or getting started with simulation. Thanks for that, and I’ll try to keep it so.
First impression? Wow. Big improvement in visuals, at least for me. Colors are better, and in the virtual aircraft I have to work to notice the screen door effect. The difference was immediately apparent. No problem fitting over my glasses. No problem with pupil distance, at least for me. Comfortable. Sound is not as good as the prior version with its headphones (as many have reported) but I use a headset anyway. Blacks are not as dark, but I may need to turn off SPUD as I did with the original Rift. Performance for me was great. Very smooth with OVR set to 45 FPS (which sets to 40 in the Rift S) and ASW set to Auto. With HDR on, textures at max, 2xSSA+FXAA, objects at max, and my auto-LOD tool working I had lots and lots of buildings with 1.5 supersampling. That is no loss of performance for me, and in fact, it may even be a slight improvement. With no supersampling I could read the G1000 including the airports on the MFD map display, and with 1.5 things were even sharper. It was no problem to lean the aircraft to 50 lean of peak using the EGT reading on the MFD. Reading charts and maps in AviTab is significantly improved. Put it this way: I didn’t zoom my view once in my short virtual flight. Ortho scenery looks fantastic. Not having sensors is great — no hand controller blind spots in my cockpit and not a single “wow – it just jumped my view 45 degrees left and three feet back” moments. Your mileage may vary, but for me this is an easy upgrade decision. Very glad I did it.
… this time in the home cockpit. I’ve not tried this much lately as I’ve been trying to focus on instrument rating practice in the sim. And when I have tried, the sim has crashed. But today we made it from virtual Portland to virtual Teri Cities and enjoyed some virtual IMC along the way. PilotEdge founder Keith Smith was also in the chat room most of the flight, and we discuss the merits of PE for instrument training at some length. As always, thanks for watching.
I came across a new X-Plane configuration utility yesterday: FlyAgi. There are now more than a few utilities that allow an X-Plane user to modify settings in the interest of visual preference and frame-rate performance. Most recently I have been using VMI-TwickVR, which for me was very helpful, but having read the reviews of FlyAgi I decided to give it a shot. I like it very much – the user interface is straight-forward, and its auto-level-of-detail and “fast clouds” functions, combined with being able to easily turn off X-Plane’s dynamic water effects, gave me excellent frame rate performance yesterday. You are also able to change shadow and atmospheric settings on-the-fly without reloading the sim. I’ll keep using it and you may want to check it out. Note that FlyWithLua Next Generation is required for this utility to work.
In other news …
Some of you may have seen that I tried to live stream a flight in the home cockpit both yesterday and the day before. Both streams ended with a system crash: X-Plane crashed in one, and my entire PC crashed yesterday. I would describe my reaction as “frustrated.” I was eager to get in some IFR practice yesterday, though, so I re-booted, took down the streaming software and cam, and tried again with excellent results. I can look at the Windows logs, but my initial believe is that the webcam driver is probably causing the problem. This makes streaming from the physical cockpit hit-and-miss, and while I appreciate that not everyone likes VR streams, it’s another argument for me streaming in VR. Perhaps I will stream in VR and go back to uploading physical cockpit videos if I’m unable to get the matter sorted. If you’re interested in seeing yesterday’s stream pre-crash it’s below (and unlisted on YouTube):
Finally, I did get into the virtual air with the new VirtualFly Yoko “The Yoke” PLUS yesterday. First reaction is: WOW, what a GREAT yoke. The resolution is amazing, and you can truly fly with your fingertips (as in the real world). I will post a thorough review after spending more time with it, but it’s a great piece of gear and an improvement on the already excellent original.