Thursday, September 18, 2008

Albatros Progress Update...

Well despite all the video work (and a last minute road trip to Banff) it's been a busy month for the L-39. I've been jamming some insane hours (mostly those evil dark ones where birds chirp outside) into the flight dynamics and they are now 99.9% complete. It flies just as an L-39C should, on the numbers at all altitudes and speeds I'm quite proud to say, and feels just like my ride in Tyson's jet. Pitch and roll rates, acceleration, G-loading and limits, drag, takeoff and landing rolls, stability and such are all about as accurate as I can make them. It can even sideslip nicely on crosswind approaches now, no small trick to set up let me tell you.

I also discovered a solution for what seems to be one of the great flight modeling mysteries concerning jet engines in FSX, especially lower power ones like the L-39's AI-25TL, and that's properly modeled thrust at both low and high altitudes. Generally, getting a jet to perform properly speed wise at low altitude means screwing up its high altitude performance, and tweaking for the upper flight levels normally results in a very overpowered ride down low, something you're all familiar with I'm sure. That is not the case with this jet! From sea level up to her service ceiling of 37000 feet, and at any altitude in between, she pulls off the speeds and climb rates the real thing is capable of, no more, no less. A realistic increase in thrust from intake compression is also modeled. The L-39 is fairly underpowered when stationary or at low speed and relying solely on its engine's compressor stages. Fly faster and you have more net thrust available, up to a point. :)

So, the remaining 0.1 percent?: Spins. Can't quite get her to do them yet, and I think that's something I'll be fighting with until the very end. ;) There is definitely some dark voodoo involved in that, but with time she'll get there. Both my love and my hatred of the FSX .air file format have grown in equal portions over the past few weeks, haha, but the effort was worth it.

The external model has been given a lot of subtle fixes and tweaks as well, mostly in the cockpit and inlets, both areas were just grossly oversized and misshapen. A lot of the really fine curves on this plane I simply couldn't determine from photos, and so I must thank Tyson hugely again for the chance to crawl into and all over the real deal. It helped immensely. The pilots have also been increased in size to more realistic non-hobbit proportions. 'Gary', as you'll see in the pictures below, has also rejoined 'Ace' in the office at last. ;) A great number of shading and smoothing issues have also been fixed, and very few remain. Tyson's L-39's paint job has been done as well, and while it's by far the easiest paint I've ever made (rearrange a few parts and spam blue haha) it's also one of the coolest I think. She oozes menace. ;)

Also, much to my delight, Christoffer Petersen of Turbine Sound Studios has agreed to take on the formidable job of creating a full sound set for the plane, something I am simply not equipped or trained to do. My expertise ends at the pixel level. ;) By all accounts there are none better at this kind of work than Chris, and 'the best' is what I'm interested in here. :) The sound set should arrive sometime around December. AI sounds were also specifically on my shopping list, so, unlike most other addon jets, this thing will *not* sound like the default Lear 45 in multiplayer.

So with the external complete, except for a few minor non-critical tweaks, I will be doing the grand 'slice' tomorrow, a moment filled with joy and dread for me. The external and VC will become completely separate projects at that point and I'll be working full time now in XML 3D gauge land. This is the point in the project where vigilance for inconsistencies becomes truly important. Wish me luck, ugh!

Oh, and my sincere thanks to the sixty two people who responded to my flight dynamics/user preferences poll awhile back. That's a lot more feedback than I expected! I really appreciate your input and I have made my choices accordingly:

The L-39's handling properties are now designed for and will reward the hardcore fliers among us first. The slow engine spool up and unique 'coffin corners' in her flight model are all present. For example, if you forget to watch your airspeed and end up too slow on a shallow approach with low engine RPM, then all you have left to make up your mind about is which patch of ground you're going to put a virtual crater in. Any hope for recovery in that situation below about 500 feet AGL is marginal at best. The ground handling is fairly tricky now as well without nosewheel steering, relying solely on differential brakes. There might be an optional 'easy' mode config, we'll see. ;) If you don't have rudder pedals with differential braking ability, and desire to drive her around 'Top Gear' style, then I'd recommend getting a set at some point haha. I recommend CH Pro Pedals, they're virtually indestructible. My first set survived nearly twelve years of hard abuse.

Some piccies!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hired Gunnery...

Over the past couple months I've been working on a clutch of videos for Sim Giants' new series of Canary Islands airports for FSX, and just wrapped up the last of them this week. While I would never agree to do a true 'wingviewer' video (yes I've been asked, ugh) I figured doing some airport promos would be an interesting little challenge. Actually, despite the fact that I don't need to chase an airport around at 500 knots in multiplayer to capture it, it's quite a bit more difficult than I first thought to showcase one properly.

Anyway, if you're curious to see the high res versions, head on over to, or check out their Youtube page: SimGiants on Youtube.

As for the airports themselves, they're really very good, and, most importantly, framerate friendly. While I'm admittedly not much of an airport guy myself, since I spend as little time as possible on the ground, haha, having watched these sceneries evolve over the past few months I really respect the amount of love they've put into them. Good stuff.

Here's my favourite of the four vids I made for them, and definitely my favourite airport among their creations.

I'll get to meet the makers in a couple of weeks when I visit Israel as well. :)

Oh, I probably forgot to mention... I'm going to Israel on Oct 6. Part of my "Dotting the 'i's" year I guess, aka visiting countries that I didn't really see properly last time I was in them. :)

"What was the question?... I was looking at the big sky." - Kate Bush


Monday, September 15, 2008

Just so wrong...

X-Plane = ehhhh...

iPhone = rubbish. (just like every other apple product ever made)

X-Plane on the iPhone?




Sunday, September 14, 2008

The future of aviation?

While browsing on TED Talks, something I do often, I ran across this talk given by Burt Rutan, the designer of Space Ship One and Voyager (among dozens of other high performance planes) where he discusses his views on the future of aviation and spaceflight. It's a truly interesting 20 minutes. I also can't disagree with his opinion on the greatest aircraft ever made. You get one guess as to what that is. ;)

He also talks about something that's bothered me for many years now, the fact that the past decade was the first time in modern humanity's history (discounting the dark ages) where we've allowed some incredible technologies to lapse with no superior replacements on the horizon.

By the way, if you haven't been to before I highly recommend setting aside a few hours to spend there one day. It's a video record of a conference that is held every year in Monterey, where some of the best and brightest gather to exchange ideas on how to shape humanity's future into something amazing. Some heady and hope inspiring stuff. Given the state of the world I always find the talks on this site immensely uplifting, and occasionally feel as if I'm witnessing the formation of a real world Galt's Gulch. ;)