A Switch In Platforms

I made the decision earlier this week to do my IFR training in this SR-20. I had a flight in it last month, and another this week, and while it is more expensive per hour than the other airplanes I’ve been flying I believe it’s the right platform for me long term. As I’ve done more research on Cirrus I’ve been particularly impressed with the focus on safety and the very strong pilot community, embodied by COPA, the association for Cirrus pilots and owners. I’ve joined it, and have already learned a lot about general aviation just from reading its forums. I also very much like the tone of that community: everyone uses their real names, the disagreements are extremely civil, and folks are beyond helpful.

COPA also runs a series of proficiency programs, called CPPP’s, several times a year that include flight and ground schools and can count as FAA Wings training credit. There’s one in Lakeland, FL next weekend and I’ve enrolled in the ground school. I’m really looking forward to it.

Finally, I’ve configured the sim to model an SR-20 using Jason Chandler’s Cirrus package. I find the flight model excellent, and you get both SR-20s and SR-22s in the package. I tried the vFlyte SR-20 but it was difficult to remove cockpit objects so they weren’t visible in my monitors. That vFlyte package would be better for VR use, though. Air Manager for iPad has a basic Avidyne panel (which the SR-20 I’ll be flying uses) that I can run in the sim. It works well, but lacks a lot of the data the real thing presents, so this weekend I’ll be looking into building my own via the Air Manager desktop app. I’ll keep you posted on that experiment.

A Very Different Reality With X-Plane 11.32 Beta

I wrote a few days back about my struggles with the 11.3 beta series of X-Plane, with the primary issue being repeated crashes and inconsistent device (e.g. FIPs via SPAD.neXt) performance. Since that time I updated the power plan of my PC (which for some reason had reset to a default setting) and updated X-Plane to the 11.32 release candidate, and suddenly, to my great surprise, I am experiencing simulation bliss. Performance is good — 30 to 60 fps using a frame-limiting plugin (not 3jFPS but another one which slips my mind at the moment) — smooth, and more important, no crashes and no wonky device performance. SPAD.neXt is working great, Air Manager is working great, the Flight Illusion stack is working great, and the RealSimGear 430 is working great. It’s blissful. More important, with PilotEdge I have now had two very helpful simulated-IFR training flights to augment my real-world IFR training. I’m happy as can be. I don’t know what did the trick, perhaps it was the release of 11.32, but I’m not asking why. I’m just enjoying the sim.

Also, for those who have asked about my preference of VR vs. the physical sim cockpit, my thinking is as I had suspected it would be a few months back: while VR feels much more like flying and is a much better experience in terms of sight pictures, the fluidity of being airborne, etc., I have no doubt that I will be using the physical cockpit as my first choice for IFR training at home. Being able to use the GNS 430 (just as in the real-world), manage charts, etc. is, at least so far, a better training experience for me and just more like what I do in the real airplane. I’ll post more about this as my training continues and my thinking evolves, but so far that’s how it’s shaping up.

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 …

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! ->

An Update To Facebook Users

I have the blog and YouTube set to auto-post on the On The Glideslope Facebook page, but I should probably note that I don’t visit Facebook often, if at all. If you have a question or comment, consider posting it here as I’ll be more likely to see it. Thanks.

Rebuilt Panel Video Tour

A few weeks back I rebuilt the sim panel (this is now version three of the panel). Here’s a video review of the finished product.

Note that at the time I shot this video I had not yet updated the firmware for the RealSimGear GNS units. They work great now after that update.