McKeenan Aviation BAe-146: Another Creation That Raises the Bar

Released on Friday February 3, the most recent creation by Mick McKeenan, the BAe-146, fills a void that has long existed in SL Passenger Aviation: a well built, reliable and fun to fly short to mid range commuter aircraft. While there are two other planes of similar size and class (Husky/Laminar CRJ-700 and EG ATX-72), these two craft never really reached the potential they should have due to multiple issues.

I was fortunate enough to be online when the release was announced and immediately headed over to Mick McKeenan’s Hangar at Delchdork Airport to collect one. It was clear from the moment I arrived that there were more than a dozen anxious pilots picking up their Release Day copy. As I write this article just four days later, I’ve observed that the BAe-146 has almost dominated the SL skies, not to mention the Passengers of SL group, with flight announcements.

Whether you are just starting out in SL piloting, or a seasoned passenger pilot, this plane, with its adjustable levels of difficulty in flight, has something for you.

McKeenan Aviation has struck SL gold with this one.

bae-146_001
Shown in Vulture Air colors with included push back tug and Shergood Aviation registry tag added.
crj-bae-atx_001
CRJ-700, BAe-146, ATX-72 Pictured Together

What You Get

The delivery folder includes all the basics needed to get started:

  • The airplane (of course)
  • A choice between two huds
  • Paint Script
  • Very well done User Manual
  • A welcome note from the creator
  • Notecard with a link to download texture templates in PSD form

In the plane

  • Rezzable pushback tug
  • Stairs for the front and rear left doors
  • 10 preset paint options

Basics

The plane has a very solid design and appearance. Owners of Mick’s first plane the 727, are aware that there were LOD issues with it. The BAe-146 does not have that issue. The doors degrade very slightly at the first LOD point, but it is barely noticeable and the shine actually masks it for the most part. The detail of the plane, both inside and out is excellent.

As with all planes that I review, the plane has a modifiable air frame.

All four doors on the plane open and close and stairs can be rezzed from the left side doors using a menu. Right side doors do not have rezzable stairs. In typical aircraft, right side doors are intended for service vehicles so this should not be a concern. Particularly since with most SL airplanes the right side doors don’t work.

The plane also features a rezzable pushback tug. This tug is not drive-able. It simply simulates push back when the plane is put into “reverse”.

Inside the plane, the seating is very high quality in both mesh design and texturing. The plane is filled with nicely detailed signage to add to the realistic appearance where it counts. Typically unused areas such as the galley have limited detail in clear deference to reduction of land impact.

One of the points where some people will criticize is on the flight deck console. This console was designed for usability rather than realism. There may be some disagreement on this, I will cover why I prefer the usability choice later in the article.

The plane was designed to allow for a co-pilot, however, this feature is currently broken. As Mick has a reputation for being very customer oriented, I am confident a fix will be forthcoming soon so this should not be a concern for long.

Getting Started

Once you have the plane rezzed, and  have read the very thorough user manual, youbae146-hud will most certainly want to get this plane flying. The first order of business in doing this is of course to attach the hud.

There are a few functions that only work from the menu. While the plane is rezzed and not in use, the owner can access the menu by clicking on the nose of the plane. However, once seated you need the HUD to get to the menu. Shown to the right is the smaller version of the hud. The only difference between the huds is the larger one has an inset where the mini map can be displayed as an overlay to save  screen space.

Note that the data displayed on the hud is based on the avatar orientation, not the airplane (as is the case with most airplane huds in SL unfortunately). The hud is designed to hide itself when the avatar enters mouselook mode. This can be disabled by hitting the “Set” button and selecting “Hide Off”. Although the hud is really not useful in mouselook mode, one might want to turn off hide because when exiting mouselook there is a noticeable delay before the hud becomes visible again.

Adjusting the Seat

Once you have the hud attached and are seated in the pilot seat, you may find you need to do some adjusting. This is particularly important if you have a tall avatar. Be very sure to check your ability to see out in mouselook mode. You may find yourself looking above the windshield. The pilot seat is adjustable from the menu.

However, I did discover that while the pilot does move with the seat while it is adjusting, the changed setting does not seem to stick after unseating. I’ve reported this issue as  a bug. The fix, if you encounter this, is to adjust your hover height from the quick preferences menu.The co-pilot seat is independently adjustable by clicking on it.

Flight Instruments

bae-146-instruments
Full View of Instrument Panel

This topic warrants special discussion. As indicated above, there are two things about this airplane that deviate from what some enthusiasts will refer to as realism, both related to flight instruments:

  • The dials on the panel are very large
  • They use SL measurements instead of a simulated “real flight” measure.

I put both of these items in the “positive” column. The enlarged instrument sizes make them very easy to read, which makes them actually functional. This is actually the first plane that I am 100% comfortable flying in mouselook mode because of the ease of reading the instruments. The below view illustrates what the captain will see while in mouselook mode. These are the most useful instruments of any plane I’ve seen in SL. In this case, functionality wins over realism and rightly so.

bae-146-instruments-mouselook
Captain’s View in Mouselook

The use of actual SL measurements for speed and altitude also make it much easier to know where you are at and where you are going. While it might sound cool to say we’re flying at 115 knots, the fact is if you tried to fly at 115 scale SL knots  you would not survive the first sim crossing. Typical airplanes in SL fly between 20 and 35 knots.  Anything above 40 is sim crossing suicide.  And when you are at 175 SL meters, thats what the instruments tell you.

The instruments may not be “realistic” but they are functional and useful because they give real information.

Flying the Plane

There are three different adjustments that can be made to the flight mode:

  • Auto-leveling
  • Turning
  • Realistic/Enhanced flight

The plane also features auto-configuration settings for Landing, Takeoff and Landing. These configuration settings are optional as all can be done manually as well.These features will likely be abandoned quickly by experienced pilots, but are helpful for beginners.

Upon takeoff, gears and flaps automatically retract. Experienced pilots may not be fond of this. But for the most part, it happens late enough in the process that it can also be done manually.

A couple quick recommendations:

  1. Always disable auto-leveling before take-off (AL Off on the HUD or command “ao”). Otherwise you will be fighting the auto-leveling all the way to altitude. Once you get to your desired altitude, level the plane and set the plane to Low AL (command “al”) (or High AL [command “ah”] if you like it better).
  2. If you like flying in mouselook mode, you should take some time to adjust the HUD’s built in Octocam settings #1 and #6.  These are the two most useful for most flight operations.  #1 puts your non-mouselook view inside the cockpit and only one mouse-wheel move away from mouselook mode when you need to drop out to adjust something. #6 puts you in arcade mode with your camera behind the plane. Both modes, however, will need adjusting to fit your liking. The modes are saved and stick as long as you attach the same version of the hud from inventory.
  3. I strongly recommend using the Airport Waypoint – HSI HUD created by Yetius (a.k.a. Kaliska) with this plane, especially for beginners. This will make the most challenging part of flying any plane (landing the plane) much easier for new pilots).

Flight Dynamics

In the real world, passenger planes are intended for as smooth a flight experience as can be achieved. This means limiting pitch and roll. Big jets have a wide turning radius and a smooth and usually fairly long descent rate. Mick has gone to great lengths to make this plane easy to fly smoothly for newer pilots, while allowing most of these flight controls to be turned off for pilots that are more experienced and want a challenge.

One very key difference in this plane vs others in SL is that beyond climb-out, vertical speed of the plane is designed to be controlled mostly with the throttle. Throttle down the plane, the speed slows and the plane begins to drop. Throttle down/slow down too much the plane will stall and eventually crash. Throttle up and the decent will slow to zero.

Extending flaps increases the lift and drag on the plane, allowing it to fly at slower speeds needed for landing. Contrary to the design of the most widely used passenger planes in SL, which begin to drop significantly when flaps are extended, this plane does what flaps are supposed to do, which is let it stay in the air at slower speeds to allow for a gradual descent and a safe stopping distance on the runway.

When landing this plane, if the automation features are in their default settings (enhanced steering, autolevel on), even a beginning pilot should have an easy time getting the plane safely on the ground. Get lined up with the runway, at about 80-100 meters above the runway from 2.5 to three sims out with gear and flaps extended, and you should be able to smoothly land the plane by controlling the throttle and watching the altitude with great ease. Using the Airport Waypoint – HSI HUD referred to above in combination with these guidelines, will make this plane a joy to fly and land.

Much of the automation can be disabled for more experienced pilots that crave the challenge. But be warned:  If you land the plane at a bad angle, it will “crash” which is to say it will derez out from under you leaving you and your passengers standing on an empty runway. Not a “feature” I am fond of. I suspect airport managers would prefer that to a more realistic crash and burn scenario. Pilots and emergency services RPers would probably prefer the latter, but in SL that probably would not work out well.

pilot-view_002
My Pilot View from Camera #1 or Mouselook

Notable Features

  • Pilot crash recovery. Plane detects a lack of input from the pilot for over 80 seconds and freezes, assuming the pilot crashes. It then sends a landmark to the pilot allowing them to return to the plane and regain control. Plane derezzes after 10 minutes if the pilot does not return.
  • Dynamic flight choices. Many options for how the plane perform are controllable from the hud.
  • Built in Octocam camera hud.  The airplane HUD includes a mini version of the Octocam hud, allowing several adjustments to be made to the pilot view, giving a wide choice for different flight deck views.
  • All cabin doors functional.
  • Fully readable instrument panel.
  • Use of Second Life speed and measurements, rather than attempted “realistic” scales.
  • 10 liveries selectable from the menu. In addition, there are already four pages of third party liveries on the marketplace.

Features Some Might Not Like

  • Uses owner say instead of whisper to communicate with the pilot. While this reduces chatter, it means the copilot does not receive the feedback.Further testing demonstrated this to be incorrect.
  • Auto retraction of gears and flaps cannot be disabled. You can usually get it done before the plane does it for you though.
  • Take off mode probably should activate landing light.
  • Doors and stairs cannot be controlled by chat command.
  • Cabin lighting only works with advanced lighting and is not really adequate even then. Admittedly though most pilots I know never bother with the cabin lights.
  • Camera view can’t be switched by command.
  • Switching control to and from copilot cannot be switched by command. Though the copilot feature is pretty much non-working, once it is fixed it should be command switchable by the pilot.
  • Plane is totally non-responsive to copilot unless control is switched. Lights and doors should be controllable by either crew member.

Most of the above items have been reported to Mick and as always he is extremely positive to feedback from his customers.

Issues

There are a few issues with the initial release. All have been reported and are in process of correction:

  • Copiloting the plane is currently not working as it should. While control can be given to a co-pilot, there are issues with the menu communication as well as lack of a hud that can be transferred to the copilot. Note: the latter is likely due to the incorporation of the Octocam in the hud, which Mick also sells as a separate hud. Most likely a transferable copilot hud will come out that does not include the octocam.
  • On occasion, a sound loop from either the door gong or the flap movement starts happening. Mick has indicated that this typically only happens in Firestorm. Others have reported this sporadically occurring in other planes as well when using Firestorm.
  • Seat adjustments.  Pilot and copilot seats feature adjustments for different avatar size. However the seating position of the pilot does not change. To work around this, you will need to set your hover height to a position that will compensate. For me, that position is -0.28. Expect this to be corrected.

Bottom Line

This is an extremely well done aircraft with top notch textures, a design that succeeds in balancing detail with land impact and a flight engine that has something for both novice and experienced pilots. It handles sim crossings better than most planes in SL.

It has high visibility, proving that it has quickly become popular among independent pilots and airlines alike. It fills the void of a short to mid-range commuter class aircraft.

The creator has a solid reputation in SL and has demonstrated reliable customer care and responsiveness.

Getting the Plane

The plane is currently not available on the Marketplace. To get one, head over to Mick McKeenan’s Hangar at Delchdork Airport and get one from Mick’s vendors. You can also get a demo version here.

Quick Access to Links in the Article

Mick McKeenan’s Hangar at Delchdork Airport
Release Day Photos from my flickr.com page
Airport Waypoint – HSI HUD
Octocam HUD

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Holiday Greeting and State of the Community

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, joyful season, whatever happy season greeting you prefer, I hope all are having some family time as this year comes to a close.

RL work and the crankiness that the Windows 10 anniversary update caused to my SL experience have hampered my ability to write here the last few months. Both problems are hopefully resolved and I have a plan for a couple of new topics coming up.

A couple of new passenger planes have been released although the only one I have recently purchased that qualifies for my review standards (must be modifiable and look and fly decently enough for me to actually want to buy it) is the DSA Pacehawk. There are a few others that have been in the works for a long time that are on my potential wish list (Laminar’s Falcon, Christi Charron’s Skylane, DSA’s Stratos Hawk and a couple others that I’m not at liberty to mention).

Modifiable Airframe Observation

As most of my readers are aware, I am very adamant about the importance of modifiable airframes for non-combat aircraft. After doing some looking through Marketplace, I’ve happily observed that the tide is turning. Of what I would call the “mainstream” aircraft designers, there are more in the modify column than the no modify, and two that have “dipped their toes” into modify waters. Aeon Voom now has one, the C-130 and Erick Gregan now has two, his flagship ATX-72 and the Cessna 421. I’m sure I have not covered them all but I know Dani, ABE&W and Shana Carpool still seem to remain firmly in the no-modify camp with no indicators of that changing.

My hope is that Aeon and Erick find that allowing modify on these airplanes did not cause their content to be stolen, or their airplanes to be turned into flying ugly sticks and roll out the modify flag to the rest of their legacy non-combat aircraft. This would go a long way in putting pressure on the few remaining holdouts.

Note: in prior articles I did not address the question of combat aircraft. For purposes of balance, there is good reason for combat aircraft to be no-modify. my discussions on modify relate to civilian aircraft primarily, and non-combatant military craft (freighters).

Calming of the Waters

SL Aviation group continues to have some occasional drama, but the changes made to management there have done wonders to soothe the old arguments. An innocent new member can inquire about one of the more controversial builders without getting their heads bit off. For the most part, they just get referred to the appropriate group and everyone goes on talking about more healthy aviation related topics. So great progress there.

With that, I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year!

Blue Skies!
Starbuckk

Security Orbs – Abuse or not Abuse?

So you are flying along peacefully with a plane load of enthusiastic passengers and next without warning you find yourself watching the virtual daisies growing in your front yard and your unsuspecting passengers are scattered about who knows where.  It’s probably happened to all pilots at one time or another and is a big reason that what few landlocked airports exist in SL are more museums than active airports.

Or maybe you received a 20 second warning, cranked up the juice and got out of there safely and continued on your merry way. Certainly 20-30 seconds is enough to escape anything other than a full sim parcel right?

So the question comes to mind, do you feel abused by the above? Certainly the second scenario at least gives you a chance to escape the wrath of the security orb and politely leave the parcel. The first one not so much.

So lets start with a few facts:

  1. Common ban lines, that is those that do not specify a named avatar, extend to a maximum of 50m above the land.
  2. A named avatar ban extends to the maximum rezzing height.
  3. A security orb has the option of kicking you off the parcel or forcing a teleport home.

Starting with point 1, common bans (group access and access list based restriction) was clearly designed to allow uninterrupted overflight. Were this not the case, these types of bans would be total (i.e. maximum height).

A ban on a specific person extends up to the maximum effective height. These types of bans are needed to deal with griefers and other specific unwelcome guests. Not at all intended to ban the general population from overflight.

This is where security orbs come in. A security orb has little value within 50m of the land since general population ban is effective at that level. The primary function of a security orb then is to build a gap between what Linden Labs intended by setting the maximum common ban to 50m vs what the land owner desires for privacy.

The overarching question here is, does this constitute abuse? On the surface, the answer seems to be a cut and dried “yes”.  But not so fast. A quick review of the knowledge base reveals a degree of tolerance for scripted tools for access management (a.k.a. “orbs”) (Ref: SL Knowledge Base: Managing Your Parcel:

Script Use

You can use scripted objects to enhance your land ownership tools. Generally, such scripts should:

  • Provide adequate warning to the undesired Resident.
  • Only work within the property lines (this includes projectiles that cannot operate beyond the parcel boundaries).
  • Not be excessive in the removal of the unwanted Resident. Pushing an avatar off the property or teleporting them home is generally acceptable; intentionally applying a script to disrupt someone’s Second Life connection or online status is not allowed.

Scripts or no scripts, you cannot use land ownership as a way to unfairly restrict another Second Life Resident’s personal freedoms.

Like or no like, this block in an official publication clearly condones the use of security orbs and does not restrict their use by height. So we are stuck with them.

However please note the first bullet point. This text clearly calls to “Provide adequate warning…”.  Combining this with the third point, while use of security orbs is acceptable, there is an expectation of reasonable usage without malicious intent.

That said, I submit that zero-warning security orbs ARE abusive. This clearly violates the intent of the above knowledge base article.  Anything short of sufficient time for the avatar to clear the airspace affected in a reasonable amount of time should constitute a reportable abuse and this entry in the knowledge base supports that.

There are of course two problems. First, obviously an actual abuse report isn’t likely to bring much attention in this case. Simply put, LL is a big company and you are a small fish. Should anyone decide to pursue this matter, be sure to have the above reference handy.

Second problem is, these orbs don’t exactly make it easy to identify the owner. Once they hit you, you cannot gain any insight to the land to find out the responsible person. The best workaround to that is to go back the next day to a nearby parcel and do a land view without entering the offending parcel. The thing is, most of these orbs set a timed ban of a couple of hours. This is to avoid filling up their ban list. Once that ban is cleared, you will be able to extract information on the parcel without actually entering the parcel and getting tossed again.

llTeleportHome

Unfortunately, the previously referenced knowledge base article specifically condones the use of llTeleportHome with security orbs. While this command has its place on private estates, it is and has been for years my opinion that this function should be disabled on mainland regions. Its use alone in my view violates the spirit of the opening line of bullet point three and the final paragraph of the knowledge reference.

On a private estate, there is simply no place to send an unwanted avatar except home. But for mainland, the powers of an orb to thoroughly disrupt someone’s activities and travels clearly conflicts with the spirit of the overall statement.

Summary

In closing, here are my conclusions for what they are worth:

  1. Security orbs with sufficient warning to clear the area are not abusive.
  2. Zero warning security orbs are abusive.
  3. Orbs that force teleport home are not abusive but should be.

Sadly security orbs are here to stay and there is no getting rid of them.  But it would be great if we could see the end of llTeleportHome.

Passengers: What Do You Want?

Up to this point, my column has been directed mostly toward pilots and crew in the aviation field. Today, I’m talking to the people that are one of the key reasons aviation gaming enthusiasts chose flying in Second Life over one of the many more realistic flight simulation systems:  you, the passenger.

As pilots, we know it is hardly arguable that we can get a more realistic flight experience on the flight deck of an FSX-Steam 737 or King Air 90 than a D-737 or a DSA King Air 90. So what is it that brings pilots that want to fly passenger planes to SL rather than FSX? For most pilots I know, it is the passenger interaction. With that missing, most SL pilots start wandering back to FSX and X-Plane because if they are going to fly an empty plane, it might as well be one in a more real feel environment than SL can offer.

So with this introduction, I’m opening the door to you, the potential passenger. What is it that you want? What excites you or would excite you about hopping on to the next announced flight in Passengers Of SL?

It stands to reason that after a while, just hopping a plane and sitting from point a to point b can lose its allure after a few times. Some pilots have taken to offering better information about specific destinations or connections to other services.

In my own flights I have experienced two in-flight emergencies which my passengers seemed to be thrilled with. They were not made up. One was due to a real loss of aircraft control due to a scripting bug and the other was a sim crossing where I lost the plane and one of my passengers TP’ed me back to the plane after it crashed on someone’s house. In both cases, emergency calls were sent to various coast guard organizations which resulted in emergency responses either at the airport, or an actual aerial rescue of stranded passengers.

This article is meant to generate discussion so the meat of the article is short. This is your chance to tell the pilots and airlines in SL what YOU want. Please feel free to comment below! Pilots and crew, please feel free to chime in with ideas and constructive responses.

As a final note to passengers, have you considered joining an airline? Most airlines would welcome new members. You do not have to be a pilot. Flight and ground crews are in short supply on almost all of the airlines. Don’t be afraid to ask your pilot or crew member about that if the interest is there.

Blue Skies as always

Starbuckk.

Shergood S92: Raising the Bar on Helicopters in SL

The S92 Executive Helicopter by Shergood Aviation has been out for a few months. Since its release, it has already had two updates, each adding new features that made it even better than the original. The best way to summarize the S92 is that it is a serious game changer for helicopter enthusiasts in SecondLife®. Having watched this craft evolve through its later beta stages, I can tell you it was a labor of love on Kelly Shergood’s part. The attention to detail that was put into building this craft continues to amaze everyone that sees or flies it.

S92 on the ground_001

What You Get

The package is a well put together pack containing everything you need to get started with flying the copter:

  • Five note cards of documentation and a link to the texture files
  • SA – KellyFuel. A refueling station designed for Shergood aircraft.
  • SA – S/H-92 HUD. A full hud that shows and can control the cyclic and collective and a panel that can be switched to one of four different display options
  • SA – S/H-92 MiniHUD. Similar to the above but without the extra display panel
  • SA – S92 Paint Applier
  • S92 Gestures.  A small gesture pack with the basics
  • SA – S92. The helicopter

The helicopter is delivered with a modifiable airframe. As most every reader of my column knows, I consider this a critical feature. I  no longer purchase or review aircraft that do not have modifiable airframes.

Features

The S92 is fully loaded with just about every feature you can imagine and a few you probably never imagined would show up in SL. The feature load is one of several reasons it has been out for so long before I felt I could write up a fair review.

Of course it has pretty much everything you would expect a helicopter to have. In that light, I’ll stick with just the major items, and the things that make the S92 stand out from the rest.

Flight Deck

S92 Overhead Dash_001 S92 Lower Dash_001

The S92 is a glass cockpit configuration. It include five changeable display panels. There are actually only four options for the panels. But as you can see from the picture, there are two intended for the pilot, two for the co-pilot and one centered. The buttons across the top of each glass panel are working selector buttons.

On the upper panel, pretty much every switch is movable. Not all of them have actual functions beyond RP. Hard core aviation enthusiasts will, however, appreciate the presence of things like de-icing systems.

Every switch can also be controlled with chat commands. So if you don’t want to cam around to find the switches but still want to run the procedures, you can set up gestures to control pretty much anything you want.

Much of what is on the lower panel is eye candy. But some of it also has function, such as the autopilot panel.

HUDs

S92 comes with two different HUDs. The mini-hud is a small panel that attaches in th lower right corner and shows the collective, cyclic and anti-torque setting, as well as the tail number and a sim crossing alert indicator.

The full hud also adds a display panel the shape of the displays in the flight deck. Like the ones on the flight deck, the display is selectable, but it’s assumed to be used for the gps display.

S92HUD S92 Minihud

Unique Tail Number

Shergood Aviation maintains an aircraft registry that builders can leverage to provide unique tail numbers to aircraft. The S-92 is a part of this system. When you first rez your S-92, it is assigned a unique tail number. The tail is maintained by aircraft owner and aircraft type so once the ship is registered, it will pick up the same tail number in subsequent rezzes. However, you can save a little script time on each rez if you take the initially rezzed version back into inventory for future use. Once saved, it does not to do a phone home to the server to get it’s registration number.

You can also request a more custom tail number, within certain rules. See documentation for more details.

Note: Please see the privacy section at the end of this article for some additional details about this.

Built in GPS

Included with the S92 is a built in version of the Shergood Aviation GPS system. When your craft is active and running, it registers with the GPS system and becomes visible on the Shergood Aviation Radar Map. You also get a display map on one of the panels that shows your current position as well as other nearby pilots using the system, and registered airports and waypoints within map range.

Note: Please see the privacy section at the end of this article for some additional details about this.

Passengers ARE Free to Move About the Cabin!

The S92 has a unique feature, allowing passengers to effectively move around the cabin. A passenger can click on a specific point in the cabin, or even another seat and their avatar will get up and move to that spot. If it is a seat (including the lavatory seat!), they will then sit in that position. If it is a spot on the floor, they will move to that spot and remain standing. The passenger technically is still seated in the original seat.

You CAN Crash and Burn

If you land too hard, or hit a nearby object, your copter WILL crash and burn. If you used the standard start up procedure, it will also sound a short alarm with the Shergood ELT system and a fire suppression system will activate and extinguish the flames quickly. This feature can be disabled through the admin menu.

Autopilot System

With release 1.2 of the S-92 came the same autopilot system that was added to the H-92, which is the Search and Rescue configuration.  For pilots that are flying without a flight attendant or copilot to interact with passengers.  When we talk about the flight dynamics, the reasons will become obvious.

Fine Detail

The attention to detail in the S92 is unbelievable. Some of these items are “little things” that in and of themselves might be thought of as “fluff”. But they bring together an amazing artistry that more than justifies anything fluffy about it. Examples:

  • Personalized airworthiness certificate
  • Working fuel caps and APU plug cover.
  • Moderate use of advanced lighting, with glow and bright effects for users that can’t benefit from advanced lighting model.
  • Significant attention to detail without compromising performance significnatly.

 

Flying the S92

Lets get one thing out of the way now. This is not a simple helicopter to fly.  All Shergood Aviation helicopters have the following warning posted clearly in the graphic:

WARNING: The flight system in this helicopter is designed for expert/advanced pilots seeking an ultra-realistic flight experience requiring practice and skill to master.

This is not an exaggeration.  Do not expect to hop in this copter and fly it like a pro. You will need to work with it. But if you like a challenge, it is a fun ship to fly with characteristics about as close to realism as can be reasonably achieved in SecondLife®.

Start up

There are two official ways to start up the S92:

  • Detailed start. This procedure is documented in detail on the display panel. To see it, however, you need to either turn the battery on, or use the full size HUD.
  • Quick Start.  This is a single command that runs through the startup checklist very quickly.  Just type in the command qstart.

I have chosen a third less official method by creating a multi-part gesture. This gesture basically runs all of the commands in the detailed start approach, but includes delays where appropriate to allow commands to take effect and present a more realistic appearance to passengers. The shutdown gesture is basically reversing the sequence.

Flight

The S92 is an advanced mode helicopter. Balancing the collective and anti-torque in this craft will take a considerable degree of skill and practice. It is challenging but very realistic. With some patience (and a good insurance policy) you should be able to get the hang of it. The sensitivity of the controls can be switched between normal and fine as needed for different flight situations.

Using normal flight mode, do not expect to be able to interact very much with passengers. The craft needs constant attention when flying manually.

Auto Pilot

Release 1.2 of the S92 added the auto-pilot system. For pretty much everything except landing auto pilot will work out well. The demo below shows a short flight from White Star Airfield using autopilot for take off, direction and approach, ending with a manual touchdown.

The auto pilot has one issue that is probably the only thing I’m not pleased with on this copter. In fairness this may be a personal preference. The altitude is presented in feet, while all measurements in SL are based on meters. This is most likely in deference to a desire for realism, the same way that many aircraft makers use a scaled figure for airspeed. I don’t care for it in either place. While deference to realism is cool for RP purposes, when it comes to flight controls, I prefer the actual numbers needed to control the aircraft. This is one of the reasons I created my own HUD for flying. Others may respectfully disagree. Please comment on this with your preferences (scaled for realism or actual, meters or feet, etc.).

Privacy

There are two things about the S92 you need to be aware of. First is the GPS referenced above. As indicated, when the S92 is powered up, it’s location is shown on the Shergood Aviation radar system. Currently this cannot be disabled. I do not see this as an issue. It is in fact more secure than having the purchased transponder attached to your avatar. When it is on the plane, then it only tracks the plane. The wearable GPS or transponder tracks you whenever you are wearing it. This is disclosed clearly in the documentation. But with the plane, once you leave the plane, you are not tracked.

Personally, I wish all pilots would use the transponder when flying. This would make for a much safer flying experience, particularly along the Bingo Strait and Coastal Waterways.

The second item to be aware of is the tail number database. Airplane tail numbers are recorded in a database which can be reviewed by registered members of the Shergood Aviation site. Once again, I and most pilots I’ve talked to see no issues with this. Other makers including Laminar use this system for tail number registration as well. If you do have issue with this, you can register on the Shergood site and change your profile to private. This removes it from visibility.
To register your account, go to Kelly’s Store at Cheerport. You will find a registration port there.

Summary

The S92 is a labor of love that Kelly Shergood has spent many hours planning and perfecting. The attention to detail in this craft is nearly unmatched in SL. While the copter does have a learning curve, it is worth it. And once you pass that curve, you may find it hard to “go back”.

You may want to consider the package with the S-92 as well as it’s sister ship, the H-92 (SAR model). They can be purchased as a discounted package if you want both.

As always, Blue Skies and Fair Winds.

Starbuckk.

 

Flying the ATX-72 by EG

The ATX-72 by Erick Gregan has been around for a while and has been talked about positively by several of my fellow pilots as far as flight dynamics is concerned. Until recently, I have not paid a lot of attention to this plane because of its lack of a modifiable airframe. The most recent release, however, made the version designed for end user painting to be modifiable. So, based on feedback from friends and a few other reasons I will cover shortly, I took to the skies with the airplane.

ATXFull_002c

ATXFullClosedc

What You Get

The package comes with two editions of the basic aircraft:

  • Painted version. No modify. Predefined single paint choice.
  • Unpainted version. Modifiable airframe.  Paint can be applied either by a menu with UUID’s of the textures,  a drop script.

Also included is a HUD, boarding pass that is copy/transfer, a transferable personal flotation device, a small model version that can be used as an aid for painting, and an accessory pack for crew members including a flight attendant cart.

Features

The plane includes a highly detailed flight deck with working switches and gauges. Here is a picture of the flight deck with the seats removed so you can see the entire control system.

ATXFullFlightDeck_001

The cabin is nicely done with more seating capacity than you would dare actually fill on an SL flight and expect to make it past the first sim crossing.

The plane has a self serving step door in the back for passengers and a working cargo compartment door. When the cargo door is opened the plane rezzes a baggage tractor/train and displays luggage in the compartment.

HUD

The hud is well done, and fully featured. It include all of the basic quick controls needed to operate the aircraft for those that prefer the easy operation mode where the plane does a lot of the “work” for you. It also includes a limited use version of the Shergood Aviation GPS/Waypoint system built into both the HUD and the flight deck display.

ATX hud

DOCUMENTATION

The plane comes with several note cards of documents in both English and French including:

  • Primary user manual
  • Painting manual
  • Shergood transponder manual
  • Boarding pass instructions

Where the manual leaves off, there are some videos on youtube that will help further demonstrate the general operation.

Note: Erick’s videos on this plane are not publicly listed so I will not share them. Please do not post them in the comments.  If Erick chooses to do so he is welcome to.

Flying the Plane

Pilots that like a lot of clicky procedures (yes many do) will love this plane. It’s basic start up procedure is actually a bit complicated. There are some functions that are essentially nothing but role play and have no actual effect on aircraft operation.  But I’m told that if you use the detailed start up procedure, you need to get it exactly right. The only source is the Youtube video.  This gets a slight negative because it means you have to write it down from a video.

The plane also has an auto-start procedure where you just type “start” and all the little gizmos click on automatically and the plane starts up and is left in a ready to taxi state.

There are four automatic configuration modes for the plane which essentially set all of the standard settings for the appropriate modes:

  • Takeoff
  • Cruise
  • Landing
  • Taxi

These are possibly helpful for beginners. Experienced pilots will probably prefer not to use them.

Flight Dynamics

The plane gives a nice powerful takeoff, smooth turns and about as good as any region crossing performance can be under normal circumstances. It has bank angle and stall alerts and in fact will stall if not operated correctly. Pilots I have talked with have not expressed issue with the overall performance of the plane.

Positive Differentiators

This topic are the things about this plane that make it stand out. Some have been mentioned earlier but they are unique features, or potentially superior implementations:

  • Fuel system. There is no need for airport based fuel systems. The airplane rezzes a very realistic set of fuel trucks on demand which fuel the airplane simulating ground fuel storage.
  • Baggage cart. Cargo door opens with baggage and a small baggage train. It is not movable but it has a nice look to it.
  • Wearable flight attendant cart with hud. A “seated” flight attendant wearing these items can “move” through the airplane with or without the cart visible.
  • Built in voice safety briefings (English and French).
  • “Water landing” (a.k.a. crashing in the water).  If you hit the water, the plane actually only partially sinks. Not so much an ongoing feature…but if you do have issues, and passengers it can allow for role playing out a bad water crash which can happen after a particularly rough region crossing. In fact, it also comes with a transferable personal flotation device you can give out.

Negative Differentiators

  • LOD issues.  The plane still has a few LOD issues.  Pulling the camera back very far causes the doors to decompose slightly. There are instructions on how most viewers can be tuned to work around this. But it would be better if it was fixed.
  • Boarding pass system. This is a mandatory system whereby you must give each passenger a “boarding pass”, which they must wear, in order to sit on the plane. While security at big airports like Hollywood and Second Norway are its goal, as an airline pilot I see this as a solution desperately in search of a problem. It is an overkill to a rarely encountered issue. The best recommendation I can make for this is to make it optional. Allow the owner to turn it off. A less intrusive approach that would have been an actual improvement over the eject method used by most airplanes would be to make the eject save the uuid of the ejected avatar and automatically re-eject the passenger if they sit again.

Bottom Line

First of all I applaud Erick for joining the newer generation of aircraft makers that have chosen to make their planes modifiable.

This is a great plane for just flying around SL.  It is not difficult to fly, despite the LOD issues it mostly looks great. It has some very neat role play features most specifically for flight attendants since they can more personally interact with passengers by the simulated “walk” through the aircraft. This in fact was one of my motivations for restoring this plane into active Vulture service.

For use in general passenger service, however, unless you have a co-pilot or flight attendant to guide passengers while doing flight preparation, the boarding pass system will cause significant distraction and breaking of character while trying to guide unfamiliar passengers to their seats.

Getting the Plane

If you are going to purchase the plane, I recommend getting the plane from Erick’s store rather than the marketplace.  Here is the Slurl:  KBEG Airport and Shop

As always, Blue Skies.

Starbuckk

ATX-72 Now Includes Modifiable Version

Fans of Erick Gregan’s popular ATX-72 are in for a pleasant surprise next time you bring out your airplane. The custom version of the airplane, named ATX CUSTOM EG Aircraft is now customer modifiable. According to the release notes, this and some “bug fixes” are the primary change in this 3.7 release.

One significant effect this may have is that you may start seeing more paint packages available for the ATX-72. Since the original version required the release of UUID’s to paint the plane it was difficult for painters to securely create paint packages. Now, a simple no-modify no transfer drop script can be used to apply paints securely.

The ATX-72 includes many highly innovative features in it. The addition of the ability to modify the plane itself by the customer will no doubt make it an even more popular craft.

As with any modifiable aircraft, if you choose to take advantage of this feature, you should expect to do so at your own risk. Make sure you keep an original in your inventory to fall back to. It is very easy to “break” any complicated build if certain cautions are not followed.  Above all, do not change the root prim. Here are some cautionary notes that apply to ANY plane you might modify:

  1. If you link new parts to the plane, make sure you select your objects first and the plane LAST.  That keeps the root prim as root.
  2. Name your own object in some unique way such as your initials so you don’t accidentally replicate the name of an object already inside the plane.
  3. Set the Physics Shape Type of any newly added prims to “None” (unless it needs to be physical for some reason).
  4. Don’t mess with any moving parts of the airplane.
  5. After linking new parts, take your plane back into inventory and re-rez it. Many scripts do an on-rez check of the prims by name to identify the link numbers.
  6. If it worked before you modified it, and doesn’t work after you modified it, what you did was probably a bad idea.  Undo it.

As anyone that reads my column knows, I strongly support modifiable content. But the ability to modify your toys must be taken with caution. When it goes wrong, there is no fault of the creator. SL Airplanes are delicate instruments, which is one of the reasons some makers remain hesitant to come home from the dark (no-modify) side.

To Erick, thank you for taking this leap of faith. I believe it will benefit both you and the fans of your fine airplane.

Why Modifiable Content is Important

Anyone that has read past articles on this blog knows that I have a strong fondness for planes, cars and boats with modifiable builds (scripts excepted). My recent experience in painting three aircraft, coupled with recent posturing by one prominent aircraft maker (not on this site and I will not identify them publicly), have given me reason to double down on this stance.

Note: I hope to have a review out soon instead of another “why” column. That will follow shortly after a particular aircraft is released.

 

Discovery

With the release of the Porter PC-6 by Carly, it fell upon me to paint the airplane with the Vulture Air colors. This being my first experience at painting an airplane, there were a few learning curves to tackle. One of those lessons was that with a modifiable airplane, I was able to leverage my dual monitors, with Firestorm on one and Paint Shop Pro on the other. With that, I could apply a local texture to the airplane, modify that texture in Paint Shop Pro, and the results were immediately visible on the plane.

Had that plane been no modify, every change I made would have to be uploaded (10L down the tubes each time), inserted in the aircraft maker’s applier tool, and applied as a separate step. So one pixel out of alignment and I’m down another 10 lindens and a good 30 minutes.  A small amount by itself, but after several iterations with multiple faces, it adds up fast. It also multiplies the time it takes to paint the plane by several factors.

This scenario has been repeated twice now with a release of another aircraft, and pending release of yet another one. And why if a non-modifiable aircraft is released, someone else will have to paint it. I won’t touch it. Or buy it.

Experiences and Anecdotes

Blocking modify ability assumes a one size fits all approach can work in our global environment. It cannot. You can create a cargo plane full of boxes and only freight haulers that need planes full of generic boxes will be interested. You can leave it empty and make the pilot wear a lame, laggy wearable to have the “cargo” appear on the plane, only to crash at a sim crossing and have that wearable still stuck to your avatar.

Or you can do like Carly did and click on that little box that says “Modify” and the buyer can put what they want in the plane. That is why my cargo configured, non-modifiable plane has been permanently mothballed in favor of the modifiable cargo version of the PC-6.

An Anecdote

I recently discovered the S&W 429 Executive did not have a spotlight. As I happened to have an AS365 that had one. It took nothing more than pulling it off the 365 and attaching it to the 429. Nothing stolen – I have the rights to both. The copter did not disintegrate in an explosive self destruction. I just made a simple change and had exactly what I needed. Most users probably did not even care about that little detail.

Now some of you might be saying “but that’s not fair because S&W didn’t sell it with a spotlight”. And I say, General Motors didn’t sell my truck with a spotlight either but if i want one I can go down to Pep Boys and buy one and attach it.

Another Example

Many RP regions need beacons, combat scripts or other specialized additions to their vehicles. No-modify craft are useless to them.

The Real Reasons for No-Modify

Most creators claim they are doing no modify because modifiable content can be easily stolen. That was true in the prim days. In the days of mesh, that is pure monkey dung. You cannot edit a build and copy the sizes to steal a mesh.

Some creators also think (inaccurately) that textures can be stolen via scripts. That was in fact possible several years ago. Then one day, Linden Labs discovered the loophole, shut down all script capability grid wide for several  hours in a panic while they closed that loophole. So that argument doesn’t work anymore either.If you run a script now to try to get the UUID of a texture, it returns all zeros unless that texture is in your inventory.

It is all about control. A plane maker can deny a painter access to their closed texturing system if they don’t like that person or their work. At least one I know of would probably come unglued at the concept that their creations are not absolutely perfect and need something as minor as a spotlight or a specialized combat script added.

Final Thoughts

As more modern thinking, customer oriented creators join the list of creators that understand this, the harder it will be for the dinosaurs that cling religiously to that empty Modify check box to survive. Virtually every new creator entering the aviation community is clicking on that Modify check box.

It is a positive trend. Please, to all buyers that value this, please let it be known in appreciation to those creators that started out with modifiable creations, and to those that have come home from the dark side.

Blue Skies!

P.S. If you reviewed the above linked list and there is a name missing from it, please let me know. I have recently added a couple names and will add more as they are identified to make it a complete list.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

In my previous article, a reader commented about the realism of SL aviation in general, and the point of concerning ourselves with aviation lighting or any other operating rule for that matter in Second Life. Indeed, SL aviation cannot be 100% realistic from a practical standpoint for several reasons:

  • The scaling is all wrong. It would take five sims to realistically launch a 737.
  • Realistic speed across region boundaries cannot be achieved.
  • Passenger loads appropriate for larger sized aircraft are not possible.
  • There are no penalties or consequences (other than possible reputation) for accidents.

So why do we bother?

This question goes beyond the limits of aviation in SL, and in fact goes to the very heart of SL itself. More examples:

Why does a large element of SL focus on virtual sex? After all, it’s just pixels on a screen. In the end any “real gratification” must be self motivated. Sometimes you don’t even know for sure if the person driving the avatar on the other end is the same gender as the avatar. Some don’t care. And if that’s all you want, why not just create another avatar and log them both in?

Why does HD make fire trucks and strive for realism at every aspect? Do they expect them to sit idle in an airport hangar or fire house and look pretty? Most of them probably do just that, but more on that later.

Why do plane makers like Tig, Carly, Kelly, DSA, Dani, Javatar, Erick, Cubey and many others do what they do, and make enough lindens to fill a virtual 747 doing so? And why do they strive so hard to make them realistic? Kelly Shergood even went so far as to create an airworthiness certificate for her new yet to be released Sikorsky helicopter. A small thing that adds an impressive touch.

Finally, why do many aviation enthusiasts choose the less than realistic SL model for aviation rather than the more realistic environment of FSX?

The answer to all of these questions rolls up into one word: interaction. SL would be a lonely place if you could not interact with others. Even Microsoft had to recognize that with Flight Simulator as aviation enthusiasts using FS developed their own ways of interacting with each other (VATSIM, IVAO, etc.).

At the end of the day, of course real aviation would trump pretend aviation, just as real sex feels better than the virtual kind, real food tastes better than the virtual kind and real fires burn more than the virtual kind. But not everyone can have the above. A virtual plane crash or fire doesn’t kill anyone. Virtual food doesn’t feed anyone and virtual sex doesn’t pass STDs or get women pregnant.

The previous comment pointed out that there is no responsibility to FAA or any other regulatory body. But there is no reason why there could NOT be a role played version of such operations, given players willing to participate. There is, after all, several virtual versions of Fire Departments, Coast Guards, Marines, Police, airlines, space aliens, talking animals and pretty much every other thing you can imagine.

The point is, the SL experience is whatever you wish it to be and choose to make it. No, you don’t have to turn on your strobe lights, or concern yourself with whether you get a 95 point landing score if you don’t want to. If you crash your plane, you don’t have to wait to be rescued. You can just derez it and teleport back to the airport and try again. That takes us to another point to ponder:

How real do YOU strive to make SL for fellow players?

Consider how enthused you would be about flying passenger planes, if there was no Passengers of SL group where you could announce flights and invite them to board your plane? How enthused would you be about flying combat planes if you didn’t have something to shoot at? And as mentioned above, how gratifying would the virtual sex be if that other avatar was just you running another SL client?

As players who rely on others to improve our experience, we must also consider doing so for others. Some ideas to consider:

  • If you crash your plane, you can certainly derez it and just head back to the airport. But could you also get on gridtalkie channel 16 and call for help? Of course you don’t really need any help. But in playing it out, you create an experience for someone else that at some point you rely on others to help create for you.
  • If your plane starts acting funny because of SL troubles, do you just derez it and go home, telling your passengers if you have any that it’s too rough to fly? Or might you declare a mayday and again call out for help.
  • And why NOT have an SL NTSB that would investigate that plane crash? I suspect there are players interested in doing so.

While I am not really proposing a lot of willful staged accidents, certainly when something real goes wrong, why not turn it into an opportunity. The borked plane scenario above actually happened to me with several passengers on board. I called out for help and limped the plane back to the airport where we were greeted by fire trucks. The passengers and the ground crew loved it and it was totally unstaged.

Much of what we do in Second Life involves some kind of role play. And role play is not done in a vacuum, alone. That is why we are here, instead of in FSX flying alone, or on Sims 4 “interacting” with computer controlled avatars.

Make it what you want it to be, as simple as you want it to be or as complex as suits you. But above all, enjoy it.

Blue Skies
Starbuckk

Light Up the World (or at least the Runway!)

An intriguing discussion started early this week in SL Aviation about aircraft lighting rules (yes an actual aviation topic!). The basis of the conversation was about proper use of lighting, such as when to use certain lights, and more importantly, when NOT to use certain lights. The overarching theme of this discussion demonstrated some disagreement even among many in the group with live aviation experience.

Now, I am not an aviation expert, nor do I play one on TV. But I do play one in SL and am much interested in getting it right. So thanks to the powers of Google, some pointing in the right direction by a couple of the members of the SL aviation community, and a desire to publish a new article this week while the topic was still fresh, I set out to find the answers as they are written. The sources of the information I am presenting is based primarily on FAA documentation and information about the runway collision of US Airways flight 1493 with Skywest flight 5569 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in February 1991 (NTSB communications and National Geographic special).

There were really two key points of confusion during the discussion:

  • Beacon Light
  • Strobe Lights

The key to the confusion likely resulted from a change of rules concerning aircraft lighting that was recommended (and in the case of strobe lights apparently implemented) as a result of the 1991 accident. The NTSB issued Air Safety Recommendation A-21-112 which reads as follows (emphasis added, typos not corrected):

THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: EVALUATE AND IMPLEMENT, AS APPROPRIATE, SUITABLE MEANS FOR ENCHANCING THE CONSPICUITY OF AIRCRAFT ON AIRPORT SURFACES DURING NIGHT OR PERIODS OF REDUCED VISIBILITY. INCLUDE IN THIS EFFORT MEASURES, SUCH AS THE DISPLACEMENT OF AN AIRCRAFT AWAY FROM THE RUNWAY CENTERLINE, WHERE APPLICABLE, AND THE USE OF CONSPICUITY ENHANCEMENTS, SUCH AS HIGH-INTENSITY STROBE LIGHTING AND LOGO LIGHTING BY AIRCRAFT ON ACTIVE RUNWAYS, AND ENCOURAGE OPERATORS OF AIRPLANES CERTIFICATED PRIOR TO SEPTEMBER 1, 1977, TO UPGRADE THEIR AIRPLANES TO THE PRESENT HIGHER INTENSITY STANDARDS FOR ANTICOLLISION LIGHT INSTALLATIONS.”

The only guidance from CFR I was able to locate was 14 CFR Section 91.209 which reads:

No person may: (b) Operate an aircraft that is equipped with an anticollision light system, unless it has lighted anticollision lights. However, the anticollision lights need not be lighted when the pilot-in-command determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to turn the lights off.

This seems to leave a lot of discretion to the pilot in command in most cases. The Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Appendix 1 -Runway Incursion Avoidance, along with the NTSB finding above, would seem to remove that discretion when it comes to the runway:

  • Crossing a runway—illuminate all external lights when crossing a runway. You should consider any possible adverse affects that illuminating the forward facing lights may have on the vision of other pilots or ground personnel during runway crossings.
  • “Line up and wait”—when entering the departure runway without takeoff clearance, turn on all exterior lights (except landing lights) to make your aircraft more conspicuous.

Below is a table from Appendix 1 which shows the recommended lighting usage. My take-away from the pilot discretion vs the NTSB finding is that in the table below, pilot discretion really only applies to taxiing. On the runway, turn on every external light you have except for the landing light. When cleared for takeoff, turn it on too.

AircraftLightUsage

The handbook contains bullet points following this table with more specifics. Will leave that to your perusal.

In summary, it appears much of the aircraft light usage rules are more guidance than codified law except for 14 CFR Section 91.209 which is quite brief. Guidance and common sense from the above information therefore seems to line up like this:

  1. Turn on the beacon before starting the engine.
  2. Turn on navigation lights, logo lights and taxi light if equipped before taxiing.
  3. Turn on everything but the landing light before entering the runway (including crossing runway).
  4. Turn on the landing light when cleared for departure.
  5. Keep all lights on below 10,000 feet unless poor weather conditions cause light issues.
  6. Strobes optional above 10,000 unless poor weather conditions make them a hazard.
  7. Turn strobes and landing light off as soon as you clear runway after landing.
  8. Keep beacon and navigation lights on until engine is shut down.

The final caveat to this is, that all of this is based on the standards set in the US, by the FAA and the NTSB.  Some of these “rules” differ under different jurisdictions. And “handbooks” don’t qualify as legal references.

What does this mean for SL Aviation?  Simple. Remember, in the end we are here to have fun. Don’t make it too complex. If you want to understand the guidelines and implement them for your flying in SL, check out the full Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. Until digging into this issue I was not aware of this. But it is a wealth of information.

For SL, of course you would need to translate things into SL equivalents. 10,000 feet for example might turn into “three or four sims out”, or 175 meters above the runway.

Above all…enjoy the experience.  Whether you just want to fly around, or you want to use realism to add to your experience, do what works for you. That’s what we’re here for.

References

NTSB Safety Recommendations – US Air 1493 vs Skywest 5549

NTSB Summary of Safety Recommendations related to US Airways 1493

FAR|AIM Educational Reference 4-3-23 Use of Aircraft Lights

Natl Geo Video: Air Crash Investigations – US Airways 1493 (Lights reference begins at 37:15)

14 CFR 91.209 – Aircraft lights

Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge – Appendix 1

FAA Aeronautical Informtation Manual