Category Archives: Flying in the Real World

Fanboy Friday: Getting the Itch

I’m getting it bad, people. Maybe it’s the recent spate of good weather we’ve been having, or the release of a beautiful patch of FSX scenery that covers my own back yard. Hell, maybe I just have a perverse need to spend thousands of dollars on something fun but relatively useless. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Continue reading

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Fanboy Friday Gets Real

As real as it gets… that’s the simmer’s nirvana. We all have our varying ideas on what constitutes “real”, and often it’s hard to articulate what draws us into a simulated environment to the point where we forget that we’re watching a screen. All we know is, when that rare magic strikes, it puts a grin on our faces that lasts for days. Well, I’m still grinning from an experience I had last weekend that was just the opposite of that. Continue reading

Alaska Bush Flying At Its Best

For anyone who’s ever been tempted by the wide open spaces of Alaska by air, this blog entry is for you. The sight of those Cubs all parked side by side on a sandbar… it’s a bush flyer’s dream. I was especially tickled to see a pic of Petersburg, an airport I’ve modeled for FS previously, in the Tongass Fjords project. Enjoy! Thanks Simflight for bringing this post to my attention.

If it ain’t Boeing, I might consider going

My wife and I trekked up to Seattle this weekend to witness a friend’s graduation from college. We had a great time, celebrated a remarkable achievment, and enjoyed visiting with some friends we hadn’t seen in ages. After leaving Snohomish on Sunday, we decided to do some long-overdue touring in the area before heading back to Portland. High on my list of must-sees was the Boeing assembly plant tour in nearby Everett.

For aviation geeks like myself, it doesn’t get any more fascinating than seeing the birthplace of so many huge airliners — or so I thought. Approaching the “Future of Flight” building, where the tours start, is impressive. The aircraft assembly building is massive, a cavernous hulk dominating nearly 100 acres. My palms were sweaty as we turned into the parking lot.

My first clue that I was descending into a corporate self-lovefest was the short video presentation that begins the tour. It consisted of a montage of various planes, from the Monomail to the B-1 bomber, all streaking across the skies to soaring background music. There’s a handful of employees in the ’20’s, applying fabric to the wings – cut – there’s the space shuttle roaring from the launchpad – cut – there’s a B17 taking off from England to crush Hitler – cut – there’s a 747 floating into a sunset – cut – and on, and on, and on. Never was a word spoken, nor a single bit of information exchanged. It was a feel-good fluff piece that looked more like a commercial than the start of an informational tour.

Then we were herded onto buses and driven across the complex to the assembly building, all the while listening to the lightweight patter of a vaguely disinterested tourguide. She spun off wondrous facts like “The first Boeing airliner was the 707. Since then, the 7 codes have incremented until we finally see the newest product – the 787!” Fascinating. Also not quite true. She pointed to the hundred-foot-tall picture of the woman plastered on one of the massive hangar doors, staring skyward in anticipation. “That image was actually taken from a German cookie ad,” she droned. Okaaaaaay. And…?

You can’t help but be awed by the assembly lines themselves. We were lofted to a fourth-floor observation deck and given a quick rundown of which plane was made where, and how they moved through the assembly process. The rooms seem to stretch for miles. The gleaming silver fuselages below us were 777’s, tagged with their recipients (Air Canada and Emirates Air had dibs on these). Naturally, I wanted to get down closer and actually see how they were put together. As if anticipating my curiosity, our guide launched into a discussion of the heating and air conditioning systems built into the hangar (they have neither), and before we knew what was happening we were being prodded back onto the buses.

Dumped at the gift shop, we saw the first trace of excitement on our guide’s face as she watched us toddle off into the store. All in all, an unsatisfying, quick, and nearly informationless tour, that was surprisingly expensive, considering. Come on, Boeing… would it really hurt so much to inform a little, maybe educate? I was left shaking my head at yet another example of the corporate navel-gazing that’s sweeping the nation. Oh well, scratch one must-see off the list.

Massive Assembly Building Paint Hangars Boeing “Dreamlifter” Transport

Boys and Their Toys

Lest I come off like a sad sack for all my moaning about the weather in Hawaii, there were some definite highlights to the trip. One of them was being the guest of the Paradise Flyers, a radio-controlled aircraft club that fly on weekends at the Kaneohe Marine Base. I spent last Sunday morning with them, and was knocked out by the variety of aircraft on display, from WWII fighters to civilian aerobatics birds–even a brace of jets! That’s right, some of these fellas actually build and fly jet-powered RC fighters. I knew this technology existed, but hadn’t seen it in action before. They’re not small, and from the peek I had inside, they’re definitely complex beasts. But when they light the fires, oh baby… the smell of kerosene permeating the air, the roar of that miniature jet, the rush of hot wind as the nozzle turns your way. It’s magic! I’ve uploaded a vid of an F-16 in action.

By the way, if you start thinking about how much these things must cost, I’ll remind you that if you tally up the expense of buying and maintaining a bleeding-edge computer, along with all the software and add-ons required for a top-notch flight simulating experience, you’re probably already in league with these tiny jet drivers. It’s something to think about… just don’t let your wife know you’re thinking it.

Home Again

My better half and I got back into Portland on Tuesday night, the sand still in our toes even though we had to bundle up against the chilly Oregon night. All in all, we’ve had better trips than this foray into Hawaii, but the vacation had its high points. Flying-wise, it was pretty interesting. I took a drive up the north shore on Saturday, around to Dillingham airfield (PHDH), which I discovered was a charming little airport, full of local character. I was so enamored with it that I whipped out my camera and commenced to photographing every angle of it I could find, with the idea of perhaps creating versions for FS9 and FSX at some point soon.

Oceanic Flight 815One of the more interesting finds on the field was a fenced-off area with aircraft wreckage. Fans of TV’s “LOST” will immediately know where this came from. And yes, the Beech B18 that bore Mr. Eko’s brother out of Africa, the one that later crushed Boone, was also lying in a rusty heap in the same scrap pile. Fun stuff!

That Certain Something

Flight Simulators have taken enormous strides in the last few years towards the holy grail of immersion, that point where your brain can trick you into thinking you’re actually piloting a real aircraft. One of the the cul-de-sacs that the realism conversation can become mired in is the simulation of night lighting in the virtual cockpit.

I had the opportunity to take my first ever night flight a couple of days ago, and I came away from the experience with a newfound respect for after-hours aviating. My in-cockpit nighttime adventure featured one aspect I’d never encountered in a simulated aircraft — no night lighting at all! We thumped and jiggled on the various dome and instrument light switches during the preflight, and managed to get a weak glow to emanate from a couple of the instrument faces, but it was purely token lighting, and not particularly helpful.

Seeing as how we had the required exterior lighting, my instructor and I decided to go for it and do the flight anyway. Having another soul in the front office is a big help in this sort of situation, as she could work the penlight, shining it on the instruments while I did my best to keep us airborne and on course. You’ve not truly experienced a night landing until you’ve done one in a gusty unpredictable crosswind, yelling “airspeed, airspeed” to the person sitting next to you, who has become fixated on the threshold and let her flashlight arm droop.

Curiously, the more I fly, the more forgiving I am of simulated aircraft and their quirks. I’ve begun to understand that any aircraft over five years old seems to have its own personality, nasty habits included. Any oddness in the flight model (within reason) or lack of a feature, like, say, cockpit lighting, is more apt to be considered “just part of the plane’s charm” for me at this point. It’s all just part of that certain ‘something’ that brings the simulated world an inch or two closer to reality.