Friday, December 30, 2005

TrackIR - WOW!

This has to be the single most immersive hardware enhancement for MS FS - I am floored at the incredible performance of the TrackIRTM 4 Pro. I am kicking myself for not joining the bandwagon sooner - but I'm glad that I waited for the latest model.

The sensor itself has a very tiny footprint atop my 20" CRT monitor (LCD's just aren't the best for graphic design). The only problem I see long term is that I'm going to have "hat head" as the trackclip requires use of a baseball-type hat to attach to. I'm believe the exaggerated motion of the brim helps in translating small movements of the head into large movements in the TrackIRTM software, so that's a decent trade-off - I do like to keep eyes on the screen while flying.

I was also delighted to see that Naturalpoint is based in Corvallis, Oregon. I worked there long ago in the summer of 1998 in HP's Inkjet business group as an intern. Awesome place!!

It appears this post has inspired others to take the TrackIR plunge!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

TrackIR is on the way!!

I am excited! Tomorrow, I should be visited by the FedEx man who will be delivering my brand-new TrackIRtm 4 Pro! There is an excellent review/comparison of the TrackIRtm 4 Pro and the unit it replaces, the TrackIRtm 3 Pro with Vector Expansion at SimHQ. Naturalpoint also has a page describing the differences between the new and old unit. Since this is my first TrackIRtm, I believe this was the best time to jump in and get one. It looks like the new unit is superior in many ways, and that was the suggestion of the reviewer.

Since I design for MS FS, I'm especially excited about the complete 6 degrees of freedom that is usable. Reading the review at SimHQ, there are many flight sims that do not - oh well - all the more reason to fly using MS FS!

Here's a great video showing what TrackIR looks like in FS.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Congratulations Roy - 100 Hours achieved!

As of today, Roy Wilbanks has surpassed 100 hours as PIC of his Twin Comanche!! I was lucky enough to have joined him on today's flight. He is (and has been for some time) working on getting his twin engine IFR and Commercial pilot ratings, and has invited me along on many of his sessions with his instructor. The flight today was comprised of two ILS approaches into Greenville Downtown and one at Donaldson Center (which, has a tower now - I didn't know that until today). Upon returning to the Greenwood area, we practiced a maneuver called "following the railroad" which was the most fun I've had in an airplane to date! I won't go into details, but it involved flying at extreme bank attitudes - some even at 90 degrees!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Great video - Harrison Ford: Just another pilot

While surfing around some of my favorite aviations sites, I happened to run across this great video with Harrison Ford, the current chairman of EAA's Young Eagles program. It's worth a look!

Saturday, December 17, 2005's best of 2005 - Vote for the Bell 206!

The German Flight Sim website has posted their ballot for voting on the very best enhancement of MS FS 2004 for this year. I was delighted to see that the freeware Bell 206B I released back in early spring has qualified for the voting. A vote for the 206B would be greatly appreciated!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

NakedMVP - Has moved!

Nick Whittome, also known as the "nakedmvp," kindly informed me of an address change of his blog's URL. It is now: and his RSS feed is: Update your RSS aggregators accordingly! That is all!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Going through the photo archives, I found...

click for larger old picture taken at EAA Oshkosh in 2001 when I met Hal Bryan for the first time. I believe (but don't quote me) the gentleman to Hal's right is Caleb Cha - at the time a member of the test team. His name is in the FS 2004 credits, so I'm confident in saying that he's still on the team - Hal, correct me if I'm wrong there!

I know the ACES team is very busy, as there has been little activity on each respective members' blogs for a couple of weeks. Hal was gracious to take some time and give a great post about an anniversary that is near and dear to his heart. For those who have been fortunate to have met Hal, whether it be at Oshkosh or AOPA, his passion is equally evident for the product he helps mold. Hat's off to you for being the passionate man you are!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

DreamFleet Partners with Flight Scenery!

Flight Scenery took the FS world by storm with their incredible Rhode Island scenery package in the spring of 2005. Finally, FS pilots could enjoy highly detailed and accurate scenery that was also very frame rate-friendly. "A miracle?" You ask. Not all all, just the talents of brothers Stéphane and Patrice, who know precisely how to create ultra-detailed scenery that does not cause a great performance decrease on your computer.

This outstanding work did not go unnoticed at DreamFleet, and after a recent meeting between DreamFleet's Lou Betti and these talented brothers, it was decided that the companies should work together in the future.

Does this mean that DreamFleet is getting into the "scenery business?" Well, we really cannot answer that right now. Let's just say that DreamFleet and Flight Scenery have some exciting things planned for the future.

To start, you will see Flight Scenery's products available for sale at the DreamFleet Web site, and also see DreamFleet aircraft for sale at the Flight Scenery web site. All products will utilize the convenient and reliable Flight 1 e-commerce wrapper, that allows for product download prior to purchase, and there will certainly be much more to follow in the future as our two companies embark on this exciting new venture!


My comments: I am very excited about this partnership, as I too was fortunate enough to meet with Stéphane and Patrice - these are very sharp individuals who are doing some remarkable work with scenery in FS. I'm looking forward to working closely with Stéphane as he is the man when it comes to modeling.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dreamfleet Baron awarded Gold Medal!

The Dreamfleet Beechcraft B58 Baron has been reviewed by AVSIM staff reviewer Bert Pieke and has been awarded 5 stars and has been given the gold medal for excellence in flightsim design! Congratulations to all of my colleagues who shaped this fantastic representation of the Baron.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Chandelles, Lazy 8s, & Eights on Pylons

Roy is studying for his commercial rating, and needed to practice chandelles, lazy 8s, and eights on pylons in a single engine, as these are not required maneuvers in a twin. He rented a Cessna 150 on Wednesday, and was kind enough to invite me along. Everything was going well until we got to the end of the taxi way for the engine run-up. While checking the magnetos, one of them was not affecting RPM at all. We radioed back to the FBO, and they suggested coming back in to have it checked out. It turned out that one of the magnetos was remaining "hot" at all times, as you could not cut the engine by switching to the off positon. That flight was grounded until it could be fixed. Since we were already at the airport - Roy invited me along with him for a short flight in the Twin - and off we went!

Roy called me again this morning, and said that there was a loose wire causing an improper grounding of the magneto, and it had been fixed. So, off I went to meet him at the airport. The 150 is certainly a different animal from the Twin Comanche. At one point, Roy wanted to see if the stall horn was working (which we eventually found it to not be so) and we were climbing at a grand total speed of 38 MPH - then the left wing dropped. For a moment there, it almost felt like we were in a helicopter! He did his practice maneuvers around a few water towers over the big city of Hodges and then headed back to the airport for a few touch-and-gos. It was great fun for sure!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Clark Griswold vs. Trans Siberian Orchestra

Okay - now that Thanksgiving has come and gone (for most of us, that is), I believe it is legal to post this. Why legal, you ask - well, according to Christy, Christmas decorations that go up before Thanksgiving should be illegal. That is worthy of a post in itself, but I won't bore you with that. Here is an absolutely incredible video showing what happens when Clark Griswold meets Trans Siberian Orchestra- ENJOY!

Edit: I found yet another video featuring another song - Jingle Bells! - and the music for the first video is from Trans Siberian Orchestra entitled "Wizard of Winter"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dreamfleet Beech A36 Updated to Version 3!

The popular Beech A36 has now been updated to version 3 ("R3"). With this update the A36 receives a single Virtual Cockpit section for smoother running gauges in the VC. It also receives Reality XP's smooth running "Flight Line T" Bendix King KI256 ADI, along with additional flight dynamics tweaks, and all previous updates provided for the A36. With this Update the A36 will now go to "press", and will soon be released on CD-ROM.

Due to the complexity of this Update it is available only in a full-product download. Thus, if you desire this update you will need to do the following:

1. Download the complete Beech A36 product from here.

2. Uninstall your original Beech A36 product.

3. Install the new Beech A36 that you just downloaded using your original key and 4-digit code.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What I'm up to, FS-wise...

Lou Betti, founder of Dreamfleet LLC, visited South Carolina this past weekend, grabbing MANY photos of not one, but two future project aircraft. I say future, but I'm already well established on the first one - Roy Wilbanks' Twin Comanche. Lou was kind enough to summarize his trip in this forum thread, including a couple of pictures showing us with each respective owner and aircraft.

The second aircraft, a PA32-300 Cherokee Six, is owned by Peyton McCool of Greenville. He's a very nice gentleman, and I look forward to working with him closely when I get the TC in "ship shape." :-) I didn't get an opportunity to go up in her just yet, but being inside during the engine run-ups for sound recordings - boy, those 300 horses really want to make that plane go!

Nike G-V Incident - Part 2

I just received an email from a good friend, Mike Boone, linking me to a very cool animation showing the flight progress of the Nike Gulfstream V incident I wrote about yesterday. Such an erratic flight sure would have made the most seasoned flyer a bit "airsick."

This animation is courtesy of a great website, It provides real-time tracking of pretty much any published IFR flight across the country. Check it out, it's free!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sharing the passion - convincingly?

A very good post by Brian Hunt, AKA Habibi, describes how his colleague, Mike Singer (who needs a blog of his own, IMHO) takes someone from absolutely no knowledge of MS FS to an interest level enough to want to keep flying within the sim.

I have to admit, as a developer for enhancement aircraft add-ons, the simulator is a very familiar environment and is not intimidating at all. I have used MS FS almost every day since the FS 98 days. That's a long time to have experience with a quite consistent GUI. Bringing new "blood" to the helm of MS FS can be quite overwhelming - there are an awful lot of things that can be done within MS FS - the possibilities at times seem endless. I know that - alone - the MANY different keystrokes that can be used in MS FS are enough to scare away the most timid individual. That's why I was glad to see MS put the keystroke shortcuts on the F10 - kneeboard. That way, users have access to those keystrokes while the sim is running (even I, at times, have to be reminded of a few rarely used ones).

Something else that can be quite intimidating is the whole "sand box" environment to MS FS. Aside from the lessons and the few adventure flights included, MS FS is pretty much a "make your own fun" kind of environment. I hope that future versions will give a bit more structure and purpose to those who want that sort of thing. Some people just aren't creative enough to take an aircraft up and, for example, shoot a VOR approach into runway 27 at KGRD or file an IFR flight plan. Or not so much having the creativity behind it - some people just aren't aware of such things related to aviation. Many only get exposure to aviation at airshows, expo's, or air races. Breaking people over into the wonderful world of MS FS can be a challenge - I hope we are prepared to do it convincingly!

Gear - to be down or not to be down, that is the question

I, along with many, was glued to the the TV early this afternoon watching live coverage of a Nike Corporation Gulfstream V aircraft having landing gear problems in Oregon. They later managed to get the gear to properly descend after consultation with Gulfstream engineers.

Over the weekend, there was also a Beechcraft King Air 200 which had gear problems at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field, resulting in a belly landing. I thought it was rather impressive how quickly those props shut-down after he made the runway.

There sure have been a lot of gear-related stories lately. So, in words from my good friend Roy - do your GUMPS (Gas, Undercarriage, Mixture, Power, Seatbelts) check!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Noise over on Hilton Head Island

I am native to the state of South Carolina, currently living in Greenwood. I read over at Aero-News that there is a huge debate over noise from KHXD - the airport on Hilton Head island. The residents are all up-in-arms against the pilots who use the airport, and have threatened to come after them legally - how preposterous is that? Personally, I wouldn't mind the noise - I would welcome it (I love jet noise)! But I'm sure many of the residents who live at HHI are retired northern couples who want peace and quiet. There are noise abatement procedures available, but aren't well publicized. They say a study is being done ... not really sure what that's going to prove. Living anywhere near an airfield is always subject to noise. Anyway, I thought it was interesting that little 'ole Hilton Head is making such a "fuss." Sounds like the residents are making more noise than the aircraft to me. What kind of noise abatement procedures are there for "noisy" people? :-)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Summary of what's going on ...

There have been quite a few interesting blog entries lately that I've been following, and I thought I'd summarize a few, in no particular order:

Mike Gilbert comments on if you are missing out or not...

Jason Waskey has been sick earlier this week, yet is still hanging around with some sharks...

Hal Bryan revisits his blog not once, but twice this week with almost a month absence ;-) (welcome back, Kotter!)...

Mike Zyskowski, Community lead PM for ACES joins us...

Steve Lacey is hunting for a new digital camera...

Nora Hogoboom joins this week with an interesting quote...

Brian Hunt comments on Elders, Egypt, something called UX, and his job...

Susan thinks she's some comedian or something :-) ...

Tim Gregson is fed up with Sony/BMG (me too!) ...

Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg - lots of good stuff for weekend reading if you haven't already been following. Speaking of the weekend - it's about time mine got started!

Until next time!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mike Z adds himself to the fun!

By reading Hal's latest post, I welcome Mike Z aka "Skyhawk" to the list of ACES team members who have joined the craze of blogging. Hmmm... who's next? I'll be sure to post as soon as another joins!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Some of my favorite FS9.cfg tweaks

Mike Gilbert, one of the PM's on the ACES Flight Simulator team, has posted this article about some "undocumented" tweaks that have been placed at the FSinsider website. He adds the PAN_RATE tweak, one of my favorites. I currently use a PAN_RATE of 900.

For those who find text editing files such as the FS9.cfg file cumbersome, I highly recommend Ken Salter's FS9 Configurator (I use it).

Here is one other tweak that I find useful:

In the [DISPLAY] section, by adding these lines, you are able to control the size of runway lights(default values are 1.0, but I use .5 as shown below):

RUNWAY_LIGHTS_SURFACE_SCALAR=0.5 //scales edge, center,end,touchdown,runways


RUNWAY_LIGHTS_APPROACH_SCALAR=0.5 // scales approach light bars


Monday, October 31, 2005

What was he thinking!!?? Part 2

A buddy of mine at work mentioned an aircraft trying to take off on a roadway in Louisiana, and I just had to see it. Here it is for your enjoyment. Anyone trying to pull a stunt like this #1) shouldn't have run out of fuel and #2) should have made sure the road was completely clear of obstructions, *especially* a semi truck and ambulance. Speaking of the ambulance, good thing it was there, as I'm sure the pilot had a few bumps and bruises after that "ride." Unbelievable...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Autodesk has heard our voices!

Borrowing a bit from Steve Lacey's blog, There is good news (for now) for Gmax, as the deadline to download and activate the program has been extended beyond the proposed November 1 date.

We have heard your feedback and are formulating a revised transitional plan – in the interim we are again pleased to announce that we will continue to availability of Gmax for current active users.

This is certainly great news! I'm *hoping* that they are even going as far as developing a *new and improved* version of Gmax that will be able to run on Windows Vista. We're all in a "wait-and-see" mode for now...

Monday, October 24, 2005

A future "must-have" utility for FS 2004 ... you heard it here first!

While browsing the many FS forums this evening, one forum thread at AVSIM caught my attention. A gentleman named Matthias has publicly released a beta of a new recorder/replay module for FS 2004. WOW!! I gave this beta a go mere moments ago, and I am floored at the smoothness of playback (recorded at 1/4 sec) and best of all, inclusion of animations!! AI aircraft are also visible as well, adding to the whole experience. I managed to record a 5 minute video, flying a default 172 around Chicago, and the total file size was less than 100 kb!

I invite anyone to give Matthias' beta a trial run ... I'm willing to bet it will give the same results to you!

Bravo! Bravo!


Friday, October 21, 2005

Always check your tie-downs...

I found this interesting story this morning at Aero-News.Net:

Pilot Hurt By Runaway Plane
Fri, 21 Oct '05
He Was Hand-Propping The Luscombe

It's a danger we all face anytime we try to hand-prop an aircraft -- but this time, the danger was very real for a Paradise, CA, pilot whose plane got away from him.

The 1946 Luscombe was tied down Thursday when pilot Gilbert Ferrera tried to start it by cranking the prop by hand. The plane started alright -- then broke free of one tie-down and started to move in a circle, according to witnesses. Ferrera grabbed the wing, but wasn't able to hang on. He then tried to grab the plane's tail and was knocked to the ground as the Luscombe continued to rotate around the one tied-down wing.

Friend and fellow pilot Dave Harmacek was trying to help. He, too, was knocked flat as he tried to hold onto the runaway plane's wing.

"We was out cold," he told the Chico Enterprise-Record. The Luscombe's other wing broke free of its tie and the aircraft sped over an embankment and down an incline, flipping over in the process. A crane was dispatched late Thursday to retrieve the aircraft.

Ferrera was rushed to a local hospital where he was treated and released. Damage to the classic single-engine aircraft was described as "moderate."


Guess that goes to show even an old '46 aircraft can be strong enough to break a damaged tie-down. Whodathunkit?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My current "shuffle"

Borrowing from a clever post I saw, I thought I'd give a small dose of the songs I'm currently shuffling with my Windows Media Player, in no particular order:

Photograph by Nickelback
Lucky Man by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
Livin' Thing, Do Ya, & Turn to Stone by ELO
Ride My See-Saw by The Moody Blues
Dreamweaver & Love is Alive by Gary Wright
No Promises, Hey Little Girl, Great Southern Land, & Street Cafe by Icehouse
Abacab, Keep it Dark, & Another Record by Genesis (all on the Abacab album)

There are many more, but that's a small snapshot. Most wouldn't think that a 31-yr old would enjoy listening to a bunch of "older" songs. Now looking at the list .. Nickelback is the only recent release .. haha. More to come later!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

- Boshears Fly-In -

N204WT at KDNL

The sky was Carolina Blue and the air crisp. Roy and I departed KGRD around 10am or so and headed due south to KDNL, Daniel Field. It's only about a 20 minute flight (when you're cruising at 165 kts) so we contacted Augusta Approach about 5 miles out from the field for traffic and advisories. They informed us of several inbound aircraft for Daniel, and we quickly started panning the sky for them. Once we had the field in sight, we called approach and they cancelled radar service. There were about 4 inbound aircraft that we saw, one of which was a old Bell Huey (which we later found to be giving rides). Two were ultralights, and one was a Cessna 150. We quickly outran the 150 in the pattern, passing it on the downwind leg for runway 23. Roy's Twin Comanche takes a pretty good roll out to get slowed down, as we usually set her down around 90 kts.

We taxied into a parking spot as directed by a bunch of volunteers wearing day-glow orange hats. After securing the aircraft, we decided to do some walking around before the crowds appeared. There were surprisingly a lot of general aviation aircraft on static display, and I even saw a Cessna Skylane with a G1000 avionics package. Very impressive!

The airshow began around 1pm or so, with parachutists dropping with the American Flag and the singing of the National Anthem. We saw a lot of good performers: Gary Ward, Firebirds, Gene Soucy, and Manfred Radius. For most of the show, Roy and I stuck pretty close to N204WT, as Roy was often bombarded with statements such as ... "you won my aircraft!" ... or " did you win that!?" It's a one-of-a-kind aircraft, for sure!

The show was over around 4:45pm and the police quickly began hearding the crowds toward the exit (I've never seen this before at an airshow). It was a nice thing, though, because it made it really easy for us to get out of there and not worry about hitting anyone. Around 7 aircraft were all lined up to depart the field, and we were last. It didn't take very long though, as they launched one aircraft every minute or so, giving us just enough time to do a proper run up.

The flight back was uneventful, aside from the glaring sun staring at us when we were making our approach into runway 27. Thirty minutes later, the aircraft was refueled, towed, and stored back in it's home in hangar 49 ... whew!

Thanks for allowing me to tag along, Roy! It was a great day!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

What does it take?

What does it take to create an aircraft from scratch to being something simulated within Flight Simulator? A tremendous amount of patience!! A lot of people ask me often how I do what I do ... so I thought I would outline a bit of the workings of my favorite thing in the world, creating aircraft for MSFS.

First and foremost, an aircraft has to be selected ... duh. That sometimes isn't as easy as a task as one would think. There are many things to consider: Do I have access to this particular aircraft? Will the owner(s) be agreeable to the idea of having the aircraft picked apart and recreated? Will the buying public find it to be a worthy addition to their virtual hangars?

Okay, next is approaching the individual with the aircraft and explaining what you want to do with their aircraft. I consider this a fun challenge. I usually show him/her several screens of what a project looks like in Gmax to help explain how 3-D models are made. Often I'm asked if I work directly with Microsoft (I wish), but I quickly let them know that I'm working with Dreamfleet that does Add-On enhancement aircraft for Microsoft's shelf product.

Okay, so the owner is gung-ho on the idea ... great! Now, time to start picking apart the aircraft. No, not literally, but almost. On a typical project, I'll photograph every detail imaginable, and I mean everything! On my current project, I know I have taken at least 750+ photographs. Everything from nuts and bolts, rivets, to every instrment gauge. It takes several hours, and several memory cards to accomplish this.

Another important aspect for starting a project is to obtain technical drawings. To create something 3-D from nothing, at best you need 3-views. These offer a "guide" to getting the basic shape done correctly. I say guide because they are often inaccurate in the finer details, such as window shapes, etc. That's why I carry a trusty tape measure! Yes, I crawl over the entire aircraft with a tape measure ... and you can't get more accurate than that!!

Data ... Data ... Data! You can never obtain too much on the aircraft. The single best source of this is the POH (or Pilot Operation Handbook). Guys who do flight model work drool when they get their hands on the POH, or a copy of it. I do my best to get this info into the right hands as early into the project as possible.

Actually building the aircraft ... It's done piece by piece, just as if it were done in the real factory. Simple geometric shapes are "reshaped" into fuselages, wings, elevators, you name it! I comare it to molding clay. Patience is required! I learned the patience for this by assembling plastic aircraft models when I was young.

Well, almost time to head down to Augusta.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What was he thinking??!!

If you haven't already heard earlier this week, a Cessna Citation VII disappeared from St. Augustine, Florida this past Saturday night, and appeared the next morning in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Well, a commercial-rated pilot has been arrested in connection with what they're calling a "joy ride."

Even more entertaining is the fact that he had 5 passengers along with him! Definately wins the "what was he thinking??" award for this week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Congrat's to Roy!

I just got a message from Roy stating that he passed his Commercial written exam!! Congratulations Roy! Everytime I have seen him the past month, he has been toting that sample exam book around ... and it appears that all of his studying has paid off!

Now all you have to do now Roy is pass that check ride!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Looking forward to the weekend

I just spoke to a good friend of mine, Roy Wilbanks, and he's going to be down at the Boshears airshow in Augusta, GA this weekend. If I can talk my wife into going, I plan on attending on Saturday. It looks like there should be some good flying demonstrations there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Inaugural post

The current trend of "blogging" has peaked my interest in the whole scheme of it. I've never been much of a "journal writer," dating back to the days in high school when it was a requirement of many English classes...blah!

But now, I think it can be a fun way of putting some history in print of events that I've had the pleasure (and will have the pleasure) of experiencing.

I am a chemist by trade, though I haven't touched the stuff much at all since leaving the University. I work 2nd shift at my company's private trucking terminal. I manage schedules and drivers, some twice my age. That is my day job ...

But my passion is creating advanced and highly detailed aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator. I have always had a love for aviation, ever since being knee-high to a grasshopper. My dad is a huge reason for this, as he always carried me to area airshows. His favorite aircraft of all time is the P-51D Mustang. I would have to agree that it is at the top of my list.

I am currently doing design work for Dreamfleet, led by Lou Betti, a very talented panel artist. Though I cannot go into details of my current project, I am very excited about it, and through the project, I have gained a very dear friend!

I shall try to be active at posting here as time permits...