Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Did I really need this? Yes! (Dash 7 by Milton Shupe)

You know, I'm really trying to buckle down and focus my flightsimming activities, but along comes another freeware Must Have. I've hardly had time to absorb the great Cessna 150, Glacier Bay v.2, or the new-to-me freeware Maule for FS2004. This is getting to be a problem, I have too much flightsim stuff to do, and not enough time. I guess this is a good problem to have (from a real-world perspective, having any flightsim problem is a good problem, because the prerequisite for having such a problem is a certain amount of free time and material resources.)

Anyway, the real subject of this post is the Dash 7 upgrade from Milton Shupe and his team.
This release came as a complete suprise to me. I flew the first updated version of this plane quite a bit, and really enjoyed it even though I missed having a virtual cockpit. Then, I heard that they were working on an update with a VC, and was watching progress reports on this project with great interest. But about a year ago Milton announced that he was retiring from modelling, and would have to leave this project unfinished.

I won't attempt a review of this plane other than to say it is a fantastic model of a really fun plane. Andrew Herd wrote a very informative review of this plane when it was released for FS2002, and it is still worth reading.

This update includes a very well done VC as well as a fully-appointed cabin. The latter is nice if you want to replay a flight, and go back and sit with the passengers. That's what I did for my last picture here, on final into Skagway.

As if this wasn't enough, Milton says on one of the forums that this is not the final version, and a much-improved version will be available in 6 to 8 weeks!

Tonight is Flying Night, so I plan to devote the better part of it to mastering this plane. I can usually land it where I want, but often with a rollercoaster approach path. I haven't flown turboprops very much at all, so I need to get used to the delay between throttle changes and the effect on the descent rate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

FS9 keeps getting better

I'm a real Johnny-Come-Lately on this one, but I've finally installed the freeware Maule package for FS9, designed by M.Maliniemi, K.Virtanen, I.Grant, R.Horelli, A.Swindle, S.Grant, T.Foosnes. This package was recognized as one of the best when released, and has remained on many 'must-have' lists. However, I put off downloading it becuase it is a rather large file, and I didn't strictly have a need for it. I took Glacier Bay v.2 as a suitable excuse and finally tried it. (Tip: for a quicker download go to and search for

This package is incredible, all the more so considering it was released in 2003. I've flown the default Maule in FSX a bit, and this freeware model holds up quite well against that one. The textures aren't quite up to FSX levels, but they're really not too far behind. Considering you get 6 variations (I mean different configurations, not just paints), its tempting to install this in FSX. If nothing else, it fits the niche for a smaller amphibian.

By the way, if you find the Maule intriguing, go visit the official manufacturers site. It's got some neat photos and still shots from some of the movies its been featured in.

I anticipate weeks of fun exploring the GB scenery in this plane.The more time I spend in Glacier Bay, the more I am fascinated by it, and the more I appreciate its beauaty. It's kind of scary how much the Glacier Bay scenery designers seemed to anticipate the kind of flying I like to do. For example, last summer, after studying my sectional, I dreamed up a mission to visit the tiny Sisters Island, just East of Hoonah, to service a VOR transmitter located on the island. The results are documented in this post on the screenshot forum. Well, wouldn't you know it, the designers of GB v.2 have actually put a grass airstrip (unleveled) on this island!

So, if you don't already have them, go get this scenery, this plane, a sectional chart (prefereably one on paper) and go lose yourself in Alaska!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Feels like Christmas

Because there are so many new things to play with. I'm building up a huge to-do list for flightsimming. I'm most excited now about the new Alaska scenery I mentioned in the last post, and I'm going to spend tonight (flying night!) exploring this region. I'm going to try to stay focused, and not hop from one thing to the next. Otherwise, I may get that bleary-eyed Christmas morning overloaded feeling.

To whet my appetited, this morning for my breakfast flight (screenshot is above) I took a quick spin around Atlin, in British Columbia. I flew there last year as part of my Alaska journey, but this a whole new experience because the Glacier Bay version 2 freeware scenery package has done major work with this area.

I'm pretty certain I had GB version 1 installed the last time, and in that version Atlin was untouched (correct me if I'm wrong). I remember the generic airport design, and nothing resembing a town. This time around, I find custom buildings, cars, GA traffic, lots of trees, and birds (!). It's amazing how much it helps to have cars around. We've been conditioned to overlook this, but if you think about it, most FS landscapes look as if aliens abducted all the ground transportation. Anyway, perhaps the best thing about this scenery the local town is there, including a road connecting the town to the airport. That level of detail makes it feel like a real place. I checked Google maps, and everything--town, airport, roads, docks--looks authentically located.

What exactly is Atlin? Its a small town in BC that I'd never heard of, but I flew there last year because it was a nice destination for a shortish flight from Skagway. I'm delighted that the GB team put so much effort into this town and airport, because it is a beautiful location to fly around. You can read about Atlin here.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

FS9 Renaissance?

First, it was the Cessna 150, and now Glacier Bay version 1.
Actually, this scenery package has been out since March, but it came in under my radar, and probably the radars of many others who were wrapped up in tweaking FSX. Of course all the attention paid to FSX SP1 threatens to make this the best kept secret in FS9 freeware. It only came to my attention because of a post on the screenshot forum.

I spent a lot of time with the first version of this freeware scenery package back in the days before FSX. I have thought about going back there since, but have been too busy trying other things in FSX. FSX default does an OK job with Alaska, certainly much better than FS9, but this package really stands out. There is obviously a lot of careful attention paid not only to the 'major attractions' but also lesser airfields and seaports. And of course that is most of the fun of exploring this kind of scenery--finding the little hideaways.

It's really nice to see that FS9 is not yet forgotten. I have made my peace with FSX but many folks are still struggling to make it work on their hardware. With packages like this available, one can look forward to many months of great flying experiences in FS9.

I'd like to say more about this great package, but its Saturday and I have Things To Do. But you can go get it yourself (on the usual sites) and find them out for yourself.

Monday, June 04, 2007

That nifty 150

A note to those readers who may have found this blog through the FlightGear review on Welcome! I've been writing this for almost a year now. I try to do at least one post a week, so please come back again! Many of these posts are "dashed off tripe", to quote one of my favorite bloggers, but occasionally I'll spend a little more time to develope a theme with more care. Also, I try to put pretty screenshots in as many posts as I can.

Anyway, I'm still having a lot of fun with the Cessna 150 model mentioned in the last post. After more extensive flying, I'm finding I love this bird even more. The look and feel of this plane is absolutely first rate.

One thing I missed when I wrote the last post is that there is a pop-up options tool that lets you do things like open the doors and the oil flap, but more importantly, hide the instructor! You can also chose to hide the wheelpants, which I do becuase for some reason most of the 150's I see around here do not have the pants.

Also, I should say that with all the detail it is a slight frame rate hog. This should only be a concern if you're running an older rig.

I have also found that this works pretty well in FSX, but there are a few things that don't work quite right. For example, in the options tool the checkmarks do not show up (but the options cna be changed). Little stuff like that. A little less trivial is that a couple of times it made my computer reboot! Once it rebooted after I crashed the plane, which in spite of the annoyance made me laugh. It is almost as if they were saying "You crash my plane, I'll crash your computer". I'm not complaining, becuase this it is not advertised to work in FSX, and when I'm not trying to do something unusual it is trouble free. I encourage you to try it in FSX; you may not have the same problem.

Happy landings!