Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some random FS9 freeware planes, part 2

Here's a couple more interesting freeware offerings that I have recently tried. First, there is this really nice Grumman Ag-Cat, by Marcel du Plessis. This one has a lot to offer--a fun, unusual plane, offering a stunning virtual cockpit and a chance to work on a new skill. As I've said once or twice around here, I haven't had much time lately for simming; but if I did, I might try perfecting my cropdusting (or "top dressing") skills with this plane. On my test flight I did try zipping down into various fields and pulling up right before the trees, but I think it would take a lot of practice to get those tight turnarounds down.

Here's a couple of VC shots. Crisp, clean, convincing textures on the panel, and nice views all around. The plane handles nicely--quick and agile, but not too skittish. I was caught off guard a couple of times by the high power-on stall speed (OK, so I made a few craters), so I think it would pay to spend some time practicing maneuvers a few thousand feet up before heading to the farm.
My only slight gripe about this plane is that there is no pilot visible in the spot view, so it looks a little weird from the outside. It is possible there is a keystroke which will populate the plane (I only skimmed the documentation), if there is I would say this one is just about perfect.

Now for something a little different, the Demoiselle V2.0 created by Marcel & Marco Di Foggi. The real Demoiselle was built by Alberto Santos-Dumont. (Go ahead and look at the Wikipedia link, and you'll see these guys have modeled the hat very accurately!) This is one of the best early aircraft I've seen. I especially like to watch the wheels from the virtual "cockpit", as you can see them stop spinning after takeoff, the rev up on touchdown. It helps you appreciate the courage of those daring young men, when you see they had so little between them and terra firma.
The biggest weakness of this plane is how unconvincing is the human figure (apart from the excellent hat). Of course, this is an inherant weakness of FS graphics and no fault of the developers. But this kind of plane makes the contrast pretty jarring.
It is nice to see there is still a lot of newer stuff out there for FS9. I have not tried these in FSX, so I cannot comment on whether they would work well there.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Some random FS9 freeware planes part 1

For Father's day I decided to give my father a few new planes. He's an avid simmer, but doesn't have internet access. So I went to one of the popular sites and picked out a few of the most recent additions for FS9. A side benefit of this is that I had an excuse to take these out for a checkride. I am technically still on hiatus, as I really have no time for flightsimming these days. However, in the spirit of Summer I am letting myself have a few hours of fun.

Now, I've been out of the loop for a little while, so I don't know how new these really are-- they may be old news for most. Anyway, here's a couple for this post.

Here is a nice Tomahawk model by Adrian Fernandez Gomez (see http://alcala-sim.com.ar/). If you're a GA fanatic like me, you will like this alternative to the usual Cessnas. I can't get over how tiny the wings look from inside, as if you have a couple of rulers sticking out of the fuselage.

I enjoyed flying this one quite a bit. It looks great on the outside, and I enjoy the visibility from the cockpit. The VC is usable, but not perfect. The textures are pretty coarse, and there are some gaps, as you can see in the image below.

There's another major issue with this model, in that there is something mysterious going on with the landing gear. If you accidentally hit the retract gear button on your joystick, you will hear the sound of retracting landing gear. This is a fixed gear plane, of course. More surprisingly, if you have raised the fixed gear, you will get a belly landing.
I'm not sure if this is by design (simulate gear failure?), or if the sound and config files were simply borrowed from a plane with retractible gear, but it is curious. There's a nice documentation pdf included.


For a big chunky bipe you can't beat this Anatov AN2, by Vladimir A. Zhyhulskiy.This is a new update to a model which I believe has been around for a while. I have to admit I didn't even know what an AN2 was until I found one among the FlightGear add-ons. I love flying it in FlightGear, so I am glad to find a version for for MSFS.
This is a well-done model of a unique craft, and will probably become one of my favorites (if I ever have time to fly, that is)
The VC is fairly detailed. Zoom in, and you'll see the original Russian instruments (tip strips are in English!). There is good documentation for this one as well. In looking at the documentation this morning I realized there are some nifty exterior animations such as cargo loading, which I have not had a chance to fly. However, those sorts of things are really novelties--the important thing is that this one is nice for hand flying, and fascinating to look at in spot view.
Finally, it has a pretty decent cabin. I like to replay the flight and go back in the cabin and watch from the passenger's view. Not sure how comfortable those seats are, though!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Celebrating 100 posts

Ok, I admit I am dashing out a post mainly to push this blog past the 100-post mark. I don't have much new to say in this post, except to give quick mention to a couple of nice freeware FSX craft that I recently (i.e. last night) tried out.

First, there is the Waterman Aerobile or ArrowBile (are they the same plane? I can't figure it out) which is available from rarewings.com They also have the Taylor car plane, but that one is not free. The Waterman is a pretty nice visual model, however it is not clear to me how you control the rudders in the real plane. While your normal rudder controls will make the model's rudders turn, there are no visible rudder controls in the model, and there is not an automatic linkage with the steering wheel (as in an Ercoupe). It would have been really neat if they had provided a version in car configuration, but hey, don't look a gift horse...
Next, we have a very nice Pietenpol Air Camper "Pete" by Robert Kerr. This is clearly a labor of love, as Robert is modeling the plane completed by his father in the 80's. Bill Lyons had a nice Pietenpol model for FS2002 or maybe FS2004, but this one is FSX-native and is much more detailed. The detail does have a slight impact on framerates, but the hit is manageable, at least on my system. I wish I could say more about how this one flies, but I only had time to do one circuit. I did a bit of wobbling on the landing, but I think that is accurate given what looks to be a high center of gravity. I believe the Lyon's model was similarly touchy on the ground.

So, on to the second 100 posts!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dabbling again

I still don't have time for flightsimming, but I'm feeling the pull again quite strongly. So, I've been dipping my toes in the water here and there. Mostly I've been doing short flights (10 to 15 minutes) in the early morning while I have breakfast; I have time enough to do that now that the heat and the early sunrise make it easier to get out of bed.

Of course, any dedicated flightsimmer knows that to do it right, you need to carve out some fairly large chunks of time. The real satisfaction comes from doing longer flights and/or flying by the book. Just tooling around randomly is usually as unsatisfying as mindless channel surfing.

Being in this unsettled state, I have succumbed a bit to download-itis. Even if you don't have time to fly much, you can still download and install stuff while you are getting other work done. It's a way of doing the hobby without the necessity of sitting at the computer for any length of time!

The scenery in the first three screen shots are from the Snow Dog Tours series for FSX by "MoCat" (head over to The Old Hangar for details). This is a fun package which adds a lot of scenery goodies to dozens of airports, fields, and seaplane bases. This particular package covers Juneau, which readers of this blog know is one of my favorite places to fly. This is not as comprehensive as the Glacier Bay V2 package for FS9, but still very impressive considering it is , as far as I can tell, the work of one man.

Finally, here's a couple of nifty Polish inter-war taildraggers, recently released as freeware. These are native FSX planes, nicely done and fun to fly. I apologize for not giving names of either the planes or the teams responsible--I'm not at home now so I can't look them up right now. If you can't find them in the usual places, add a comment or send me a note and I will look it up when I get a chance.