A NASA plane?!?!?! Your friends are really cool then
I’ve decided this is my goal (both in real life and in building a home sim cockpit). Gonna be a long way off, but that’s what I’m aiming for!
This is the aircraft that cockpit belongs to:
Ran across this online series from Pilot Workshops, a well-regarded education site for real-world pilots. Although most – if not all – the information contained in it is available without cost by digging through the various online flight sim resources (forums, web sites, &c.), the value of this course is that it’s all in one place, well-organized and presented. I’ve watched a couple of sections (about 20 videos) so far, and I’m very pleased with it:
JOYSTICK - Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS
Made my first flight in X-Plane in 10 years yesterday, and it was a success (landed safely back on the runway) despite having been forced to control the aircraft with this:
Let’s just say a 3D mouse designed for Maya, 3ds Max, etc. is NOT a good flight sim controller
That leads me to hardware purchase #2, which is this Thrustmaster joystick:
This is the one highly recommended by both instructors in the course I linked to above. Their reasons made tons of sense to me:
- it’s extremely reliable and precise, because it uses Hall-effect sensors to detect deflection of the stick from the neutral position: no noisy potentiometers!
- it can be used to control yaw by twisting the stick, so you can fly without rudder pedals if you prefer
- it can be set up for left or right hand use (I fly with my left hand, even with a yoke, because from the left seat, the throttle quadrant is on the right as are the radios)
- it’s much less expensive ( < $100 US) than a quality yoke ( > $800 US)
- it’s easy to move out of the way so you can use your computer for something other than flying
More details here: https://www.thrustmaster.com/en_US/products/t16000m-fcs
Wow, flight sims have come a LOOOOOONG way in 10 years!
Here, I’ve got the T.16000M connected and configured, and I’ve also got the sim connected to Garmin Pilot software running on my iPad – here, it’s showing the position of my aircraft in the sim on the appropriate sectional chart! Omg, I can’t even believe what’s possible these days!
Aside: My flying was done before moving maps in the cockpit were routine. Now, anyone with an iPad can have a high resolution moving map display in even the most basic training aircraft – what an amazing thing! It would have made my early flight training sooooo much less stressful – no more worrying about being lost after crossing the Chesapeake Bay!
Aside #2: In the image above, I’m on the ground at Virginia Highlands Airport in southwest Virginia, an airport I’ve flown to many, many times. For a small airport in an out-of-the-way area, it’s remarkably accurately modeled!
As is usual with me, I’ve been overcome with enthusiasm and have done something rash – I bought an airplane
Here, I’m on the ramp at Tri-Cities Regional – I’ve got to figure out how to set the sim to use a different start point at this airport, because this is the passenger terminal, not the general aviation parking area
Also in the image above, I’ve got the sim connected to ForeFlight on my iPad – ForeFlight is what’s known as “electronic flight bag” software: it not only functions as a moving map display but it can also pull up airport information, weather, various aeronautical charts, live traffic, &c., and it lets you plan a flight in great detail before you ever step onto the ramp. Really amazing stuff. (It’s similar to the Garmin Pilot software I linked to up above. However, ForeFlight has more features and works a little better with X-Plane, so I’ll probably end up using it instead of Pilot, even though it’s more expensive.)
Spent some time this morning setting up my StreamDeck to function as a switch panel for the DA62. It works so well that I ordered the larger StreamDeck XL (currently $50 off at Amazon!) so I can add even more functions without having to switch pages on the StreamDeck!
The image above shows the StreamDeck buttons reflecting the state of the corresponding switches on the DA62 panel in the sim. So cool, and much easier than trying to remember keyboard shortcuts! My goal is to get the keyboard out of the way altogether when I’m flying – after all, there’s not one in the real aircraft!
You seen to really like aircraft. I would love to know about them too, if I have the money to buy real one
Where do you live, if you don’t mind my asking?
I somehow missed the latest Insider Update from Microsoft’s Flight Simulator development team:
All I can say is …
The visual fidelity of this sim is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. If the flight models are as good as the imagery (and the dev team are apparently fanatically determined that the simulated aircraft will fly as closely as possible to the real planes) … WOW.
PLUGIN - PilotEdge
One of the major shortcomings of sim flying is that you are usually flying alone. I don’t just mean that you’re alone in the airplane – you’re alone in the entire (simulated) world. Sims like X-Plane do provide some computer-controlled aircraft to try to mitigate that feeling of having the skies (and the airports) to yourself, but there are usually few of them, and they behave rather stupidly. (MD80s trying to land on tiny uncontrolled airfields, for example.) Worse, there is little or no radio traffic, and there is no air traffic control at all.
This is nothing like flying in the real world, as anyone who’s ever listened to a busy air traffic control frequency can attest: the radio is constantly alive with calls to and from controllers and other aircraft, and you have to follow certain specific procedures while you’re flying “in the system” – even if you’re flying under Visual Flight Rules and not under the direct control of ATC.
How to reproduce this environment in a sim, then?
To do so, you need to join a cooperative network that connects sim pilots (so that the skies are no longer empty!) and adds actual air traffic control services (just like in the real world, when the sky starts to get crowded, you need someone to direct traffic). One popular service is VATSIM, which provides service worldwide but whose hours and coverage are limited. PilotEdge is another network which takes a different approach: their service area is concentrated around KLAX (Los Angeles International), but ATC service is guaranteed to network members during operating hours (0800-2300 PT, 363 days/yr).
I installed PilotEdge this morning, and when the network came online, I gave it a quick trial run:
Here, I’m sitting on the ramp at Oceano Airport (KL52) in Southern California, preparing to take off for a short trip to San Luis Obispo (KSBP). I’ve obtained the weather at KSBP by listening to the ATIS (PilotEdge provides a very realistic ATIS broadcast at every airport in their service area which has ATIS in the real world.), and because I’m connected to the PilotEdge network, my iPad is showing all the traffic within 20 nm of my airplane:
Another really neat feature of PilotEdge is that it redirects the audio from X-Plane’s radios to your headset, but other sounds continue to play through your computer’s speakers. That adds tremendously to the realism!
Depending on the coverage area you choose, PilotEdge costs $20-35/month (with discounts if you prepay annually). When my trial runs out, I will definitely be continuing my subscription.
Have you tried Logitech ones?
I have a driving sim setup at home and am looking for flight one since we getting close on next MS flight sim release (?).
Sad that it’s freaking hard to find thrust master ones in India.
I’ve used an inexpensive Logitech one in the past, but I found it to be kind of difficult to control the aircraft with it, so I abandoned it in favor of a yoke (CH Products flight yoke), which had its own problems and which I would not recommend.
The Thrustmaster joystick, on the other hand, is an absolute joy to use – extremely sensitive and precise, without any of the flakiness of my old joystick. I’m certain that the difference is due to the use of Hall effect sensors in the Thrustmaster.
There are loads of people using Logitech joysticks for flying, however, so if you can’t find the Thrustmaster, you should be fine with a Logitech.
Flew my first flight on PilotEdge this evening – great success! I flew a short 47 nm route between two non-towered airports (L52 and L88) in Southern California. Although visibility wasn’t great, it was still quite scenic, as it took me over part of the Santa Ynez mountains:
PilotEdge has a cool training program to help sim pilots become comfortable with the airspace, communications, and ATC procedures within the PE service area. (All of these mimic their real-world counterparts VERY closely, so the training can even help real world pilots who are looking to improve their skills for operating in the system!)
I earned my CAT-1 rating with this flight! I got to see my name appear on the PilotEdge home page twice: when I completed my flight and then again a few minutes later when my rating was awarded.
Yep, I’m hooked.
I was a little nervous about making this flight, believe it or not! Sharp eyed observers may notice that I made a few mistakes (through not following my checklists – I left the landing and taxi lights on for the whole flight, and I forgot to activate my transponder before takeoff. Also, I am flying a bit to the left of my planned course, but I did get back on course a few minutes after I took this screenshot.
I love the DA62, but one thing that kind of bothers me about the various paint schemes included with the model is that the registration numbers don’t match the one I’m using when flying the sim. (Incidentally, I have actually reserved that registration number with the FAA, so it’s MINE! Muahahaha!)
I decided to try creating a new livery for the DA62, and it turns out that while tedious, it’s not too difficult to create a basic paint scheme. Here’s a quick look at my progress so far:
For comparison, this is the default scheme included with the aircraft model:
Sightseeing in Ohio this afternoon! In the top image, I’ve just taken off from Clermont County Airport (I69), home of Eastern Cincinnati Aviation and the location of my very first flight lessons many years ago!
The scenery looks realistic because I’ve installed new scenery textures based on orthographic photos, which are overlaid on the terrain. (It makes things look SOOOO much better, plus it’s easier for a VFR pilot like me to find the airports! ) The upgraded scenery doesn’t affect frame rate, but it sure does consume disk space! (Over 400 GB for just California and the Mid-Atlantic states!!!)
Over 400GB??? That’s a lot, I don’t know a video game can take that much disk space
That’s for this photorealistic scenery, which is entirely optional.
Some images from a couple of today’s flights through scenic Southern California. I keep meaning to take some screenshots on approach to the airport, but I get kind of busy with preparing for landing and I keep forgetting! (It’s exactly like flying in the real world in that respect!!!)
Yes, that’s Ruby’s emblem on the tail
Showed my daughter the sim this morning, and we went for a quick flight around SoCal to the northwest of LA. The weather was gorgeous for sightseeing because I set it that way
Decided to take a sunset flight down to LA tonight. Here, I’m following the coast below Santa Barbara. The brightly light airport off the right wing, adjacent to the ocean, is Naval Air Station Point Mugu.
Just coming into the Los Angeles basin, with Santa Monica in front of me and the brilliant lights of LAX in the distance on the right. (The lighting in the sim is a little odd, as the airport is visible much farther away than the city.)
On final for Runway 6R at LAX. I’m a little to the left of the centerline, but worse, I’m above the glideslope, as indicated by the four white lights immediately to the left of the runway lights. (If I were on the proper glidepath, they would show two red and two white lights.) Of course, the runway is nearly 11,000 feet long, so getting on the ground wasn’t a problem – even though the landing was kind of awkward.