Tag Archives: Flight Simulator

Fanboy Friday: Small Airports Rule!

The AOPA is fond of saying it: of all the flights logged each day in the USA, the vast majority are small GA aircraft. And I’d be willing to bet good money that the bulk of those flights begin and end at small airports. So what do you know about your local aerodromes? Continue reading

Ground Polygon Design Tutorial on SimPilotNet

ground-poly-layersHeads up, anyone interested in scenery design: Christian Stock has just published a tutorial I wrote for him on how I designed the runway ground polys for Plum Island. It’s a little wonky, but for anyone who’s ever been interested in how flightsim airports are made, this is a peek behind the curtain. You can see it here.

Papa needs a trophy

They say it’s an honor just to be nominated. If so, then I’m truly honored, for Plum Island has been nominated for a SimFlight award this year!

Here’s a little confession: Since I was a little Bill, I’ve lusted after my very own gleaming golden statue. Maybe it was exposure to the Oscars at too young an age. Because I didn’t play sports in school, never joined the debate team, and was never the kid who went three years without missing a day, somehow I made it to 44 without once picking up a statuette of any sort (unless you count that bowling trophy I bought at a yard sale).

Here’s my plea to you: if you have Plum Island, if you enjoyed the screenshots of the project I posted here, even if you just like the way Plum Island sounds, go visit SimFlight and cast your vote today. I’m about on screen 6 of the voting process, under Scenery: Airport. If you don’t have add-ons in the other categories, you can always vote “Not voting in this category”, but do me a solid and put your check mark next to FSAddon Plum Island in the airport scenery section.

How often do you have the power to make a childhood dream come true?

Download Plum Island Here

One of the changes we’ve made at FSAddon is to sell products via mutiple channels, and in multiple currencies. Before, you used to have to buy in Euros at SimMarket, or not at all. Starting with Plum Island, we also are offering the scenery via the Flight1 wrapper, with pricing in US Dollars.

Download Plum Island (approx. 275Mb) and purchase for $15 (US).

If you’re looking for a new home base, this is one you won’t want to miss!

Plum Island: so close, you can taste the salt air.

We’re oh so close to release now! The first (dare I dream, last?) version with the manual and the complete installer went to the beta team only hours ago. I don’t mind saying I think the final result came out just fine. Huge thanks to Nick for all the great screenshots lately, and to the intrepid team of beta testers for finding the bugaboos and helping me tame them.

I even got a call from a reporter at the Newburyport, Mass. newspaper today. He heard about the scenery and wanted to write a story about it. How cool is that?

Anyway, the next thing you hear from me will hopefully be the release announcement. Until then, I leave you with a pair of comparison shots of the airport, before and after the “Hundred Dollar Burger” series came to town. Can you guess which is default and which is ours?

Plum Island Goes Beta

The time has come for a little testing. After about six weeks of modeling, I assembled a small (but surprisingly elite!) team of testers, who are busily whacking away at the scenery as I type this. It took about five minutes for the first report to come in — a new personal best for me. Turns out I had left in some strange and somewhat idiotic things. I guess that’s what testing is all about!

While the pit crew takes apart the the scenery and reassembles it, here are some more of the details that made it into beta 1:

While I was busy snapping pics at Plum Island, my wife was chatting up the airport manager at the closer picnic table. The farther one had just gotten a new coat of varnish and was a little sticky. I did Steve a favor and varnished the other one, too.

Some visitors have happened by for a little morning flying. Each of these vehicles has a story…

…especially this one, my 1996 Ford Ranger. Yep, it made it all the way from Portland to Plum Island for the shoot.

What’s up this weekend? The bulletin board says there’s an airshow scheduled. Now I’m picturing the Blue Angels trying to take off from that craggy tarmac. Not a pretty thought.

I’ll probably have one or two more posts while the testers do their thing, then it’s off to the market shelves!

Plum Island Details

It’s getting depressing numbering the days I’ve been working on this. Such a small airport, I told myself… shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks. When will I learn? My appetite for getting the project completed and out into the world is once again eclipsed by my need to shoehorn in a few more details.

I’ve spent the last couple of days adding signage, which is always my favorite part of a project. Somehow the rules, regs, and warnings make it seem so much more real, you know? So anyway, here’s the latest round of pics.

Remember the discussion about the guy who’s essentially squatting on the last 400′ of runway? I added the house down on that end yesterday. Helldiver has taken some pics, at great risk to life and limb, so that I can add the junk cluttering up the end of the runway as well.

And last, but definitely not least, this new series of airports has a name. I’m calling it the “100 Dollar Burger” series, in honor of those intrepid GA fliers who put their credit cards on the line every day to punch holes in the sky. The way avgas prices are climbing, pretty soon it’ll have to change to the “500 dollar burger”. Here’s the result of last night’s logo design session:

North Shore – Days 32-34

Life reared its insistent little head this past weekend and took me away from the project for a couple of days. Once I got back, it was clear what had to happen next – the runways needed to be finished. I had been putting this part off because I knew it’d require some experimentation and a lot of pixel pushing and many FS reloads before I got it right. The runway at Plum Island is, to put it mildly, distressed. Winters are tough in Massachusetts, and the cycle of freeze/thaw/freeze wreaks havoc on the asphalt. As a result, the surface is a maze of patches and cracks. It gives it character, no doubt about that, but it makes it tough to model convincingly in the simulator. The final surface is composed of four layers; a base asphalt that has the close-up detailing baked in, a semi-transparent overlay from the actual aerial photo to give the color and tone shifts along the pavement, a layer of markings such as rwy designators and centerlines, and a layer of cracks and patches. Here’s what you get for all that:

Looking down on the field from the air, it’s easy to tell where you are…

Okay, this is one of my favorite details because of the story that goes with it. Apparently, the previous owner of the airfield got into a property dispute with the current owner (I’m hazy on the details), and as a result, he claims the last 400′ of the runway as his property. Look beyond the runway 28 designator, and you’ll see a fence cutting across the runway. Beyond the fence is obviously not usable runway, and in the final version you’ll see RV’s parked right on the tarmac, just daring some hapless pilot to clip ’em.

This parking lot beyond the fence used to be the end of the runway, and you can still make out the old 28 designator, now faded with age, at the far end.

Major modeling is complete, and I’m off on a host of tiny details now. Look for a notice soon that beta testing has begun!

North Shore – Days 29-31

Details, details. They make small airport scenery great, and they can really bog down development. An entire day (okay, several hours) swirled down the drain while I added the old-fashioned reel mower attachments for the Ford tractors. I probably made them at least three times until I finally settled on a shape that looked right to me.

There’s a smaller mower as well; a Simplicity lawn tractor that’s used for touch-up jobs. Again, say sayonara to another day.

And then this morning, I created the airport sign and added it and the tractors into the sim. That’s always the fun part, placing the objects and seeing them in their natural habitat, as it were.

Now there’s no excuse for the grass not being cut, or for folks not knowing what airport they’re gawking at! As near as I can tell, this concludes the major modeling. Now I’ll get to work on the myriad of even smaller details, and a smidgen of off-airport building as well. Yep, flash you saw was a tiny light at the end of the tunnel.

North Shore – Day 28

It’s been a lunar month since I first sat down to build this scenery. As usual, I underestimated how long it would take to complete—I think I said something like three weeks to myself. Hah! Anyway, it’s getting pretty close to done. Today’s to-do item was creating a model of the Ford N-series tractors that keep the runway grass short enough to land on. It was an exercise in low-poly modeling to create an illusion of high detail. Mostly, I leaned on the textures to do the detailing, counting on the equipment being viewed from a modest distance.

Here you see it in Max with the edge highliting turned on. It’s definitely a fairly low-poly model. In the game, it carries through with the illusion fairly well:

I’ve got to create the mowing attachment, which is essentially a set of old-fashioned reel mowers on steroids, all linked together. It oughtn’t to be too tough.

Of course, that’s coming from the guy who estimated three weeks to completion.