Once upon a time, the skies of SL were filled with many pilots sporting planes with just a few different liveries. These liveries represented the virtual airlines (VA’s) that dominated SL for some time. They were a part of one or another group of people that were friends and companions that shared a love for flying, and friendship with each other.
The names of Vulture Air, Unity, Eagle, SLCS and a select few others were the leaders of the VA community. Pilots flew these labels with pride. Why? Besides the friendship and support of fellow pilots, you had the pride of having EARNED the label. No one just grabbed an airplane, slapped on a Vulture (or other) livery and started announcing flights. For most of the VA’s you had to prove yourself as an avid professional with a desire to be a part of something special.
A successful VA boasted the ability to host charters with fully crewed planes (pilot, copilot, flight attendant) and often even ground crews.
From observing the postings (or sometimes lack thereof) in Passengers of SL, the picture seems different today. While there are lots of liveries out there, it seems like the affiliation that made the virtual airlines great has been lost. Oh there are postings of flights. But any posting from most named “airlines” tends to be from the same pilot for a particular airline. In short, it appears that most want to do their own thing.
So What Happened?
Starting with the obvious, sometime near the end of 2017, flying in SL became almost as dangerous as space flight. It was almost even money whether a particular flight would make it from point A to point B. Further, it was a pretty safe bet that any flight with more than five passengers would lose at least one along the way (usually more). Region crossings became a throw of the dice.
Perhaps also, the fundamental makeup of SL has changed. Role play seems to be a dying practice. The things we enjoy as pilots mostly involve doing things that are not socially inviting. Sure we have some great organized flights, drives and cruises. But observe that these organized activities involve people together for a few moments at the start and then watch how many planes, boats and automobiles leave with only one occupant. In short, you’re still doing the activity alone.
Finally, as we all know, the first aircraft creator to really embrace the passenger community came with “baggage” that generated a grand split in the airline community. Of course that drama has mostly gone the way of the sopwith camel, but it took its toll, turned friends into enemies and overall made great entertainment for some of us “listening” to the lunacy that resulted in many of the aviation groups. Enough said about that.
But Star, Aren’t Region Crossing deaths the Biggest Cause?
Well I’d like to think so, except for one thing. For well over a year, even the once dreaded ATX-72 can now cross a region without breaking much of a sweat. The migration to AWS forced Linden Labs to finally acknowledge and fix the major bug that caused the death by crossing problem. In short, while region crossings still cause some hiccups, they are no longer the killer they once were. Flights can often end with the same number of avatars they started with. We don’t often get snapped back to the beginning as if we were caught in a reverse slingshot.
What Do We Want Now?
I’d love to see the VA’s once again dominate the skies. Anyone can hop in a plane and pretend to fly the thing with little regard to any semblance of order or realism. But hey you can do that in Flight Simulator.
The question to you, dear reader, is what would YOU like to see in your flying experience in SL? I’m sure many of you do indeed enjoy just the flying experience. And that is OK. SL is about doing what is fun for us. If you want more than that, please keep reading.
The Virtual Airline
What makes the difference between flying independently vs being a part of a VA? In just a couple of words, structure, association and a sense of purpose. Here are the finer points.
Energized/enthused participants. Of course the most important part are the people. They need:
An interest in aviation. More than just pilots, a VA needs flight attendants, ground crew and mechanics.
A desire to achieve some degree of realistic flight.
Willingness and desire to be a team player.
Flexibility. The reality of SL is sometimes you might need to support a flight by serving a different role than normal.
Structure. A well defined virtual airline will have several aspects of structure such as:
Flight manual with operating rules.
Professional looking liveries and uniforms.
Leaders AND front line staff.
Physical presence. Having counters at multiple airports not only gives legitimacy to the VA, it supports the airports that the VA actually needs to exist. You can’t have realistic flight without places to take off and land. And airports are not free.
Talented people to do the background work. That means content creators for logos, plane liveries and other in world content, web site designers if a web presence is desired, creative writers to design professional grade operating manuals and rosters.
The above shopping list may seem grandiose. But it is an ultimate goal. Effectively it is the creation of a semi-structured role play group that has the entire span of SL as their playground.
Passengers: The Key Element
Of course, what good is a virtual airline if we do not have passengers that want to fly. They are out there. Many just gave up for the same reasons many of us did. Region crossings, lack of reliability, name your reason. But I submit that if the virtual airlines reacquire their greatness, the passengers will return. I’ve seen more than one solicitation for charter flights in Passengers of SL.
We can have a lot of small “mom and pop” airlines, or a few dominant carriers with close friends and colleagues as what once made SL aviation a grand community. Share your thoughts.
Is it really possible? Did Linden Labs finally fix a problem that they have seemingly ignored for so many years? From where I sit, it seems so.
For countless years, it seems the nemesis of our existence in the aviation world (as well as road and watercraft) has been region crossings that were sluggish at best and crash traps at worst. Years of pleading by so many players failed to garner any real attention to this. So, as determined aviators, drivers and sailors, we endured. We tolerated often getting booted out of our seats. We accepted sometime landing with some attachments missing or sometimes even naked at the end of a flight. We screamed and stammered when that dreaded death sentence of finding ourselves stuck at a region corner unable to move without relogging.
As SecondLife® matured and the demands on performance and network traffic increased, the problem became worse by the month. Aviation, boating and driving fans started fading. Many have found other interests, as the frequency of failed crossings for some outnumbered successful ones. While some builders were able to minimize the damage, none completely eliminated it.
A Big Change
Now along comes the year 2020, which most of us will wish to forget more than any other year in our lifetimes from an RL perspective, comes a change in SL that may be the polar opposite of the painful real world we live in. That change is Linden Lab’s decision to migrate the SecondLife® grid to Amazon Web Services (AWS). In and of itself, this move should have been relatively transparent to us other than “some” performance improvement. For Linden Labs, it was to mean a significant reduction of their infrastructure and hardware costs, along with much more flexibility to expand and contract with market demand.
While there has been talk about this for some time, this talk was met with a huge amount of crickets chirping from anyone not familiar with cloud computing. From the enlightened in the cloud came some degree of excitement based on knowledge of the overall benefits of cloud. But no real expectations that our worst enemy, the dreaded region crossing, would be significantly expected. After all, a problem has to be recognized before it can be fixed.
What Actually Happened
As with all migrations like this, the move to AWS had to be done in steps. The first step was the Blake Sea regions. After some testing on Aditi (beta grid), these regions were brought live on the main grid. Immediately , reports started coming in that there were improvements in region crossings. As I recall, since all this was over the general aviation chatter, it was not “grid shattering” but definitely noticeable.
But the bad news was, crossing between a region still in the legacy data center and the cloud based regions became more deadly than before. So deadly in fact, that Linden Labs knew it would be an unacceptable situation during the transition. Lo and behold, the light dawns: something in region crossings is not quite right. Imagine that!
Testing Crossings and Tempting Fate
Having heard about the improved crossing performance in the transitioned regions but not yet warned of the danger of entering them from legacy regions, I decided to brave a test. To make it a real challenge, I chose the EG ATX-72 for a test flight from Half Moon Bay Airport (SLMB) to Second Norway Airport (SLSN). The ATX-72 has had a long standing reputation as being extremely painful for crossing regions.
Again, not knowing about the transition of data center problem, I made two attempts to complete this flight, resulting in a hard crash in the same region both times, just a few regions out from SLMB.
I then attempted the same flight using a McKeenan BAE-146, which for me is probably the most reliable plane in SL for crossing regions. Its performance was a bit sluggish at the same region, but after passing that previously deadly point, it was smooth all the way to SNO without a hitch, even managing a landing score of 92 despite being somewhat rusty from my hiatus from flying. Was it better? A bit hard to say given my historical good luck with the BAE-146. It did seem like there was improvement.
Linden Labs Wakes Up
The short version is, the near death experience people started encountering when crossing between legacy and AWS based regions forced Linden Labs to acknowledge the problem. They set out to fix it and found a problem so significant that they decided to roll out the fix grid wide without waiting for the cloud migration to complete. For the long version, please see April Linden’s article titled https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/entry/5560-whoosh-what’s-up-with-region-crossings/.
More Testing – This This Time Successful!
After seeing the above article, it was time for more testing. Again, again I decided to use the ATX-72. Back to SLMB and off I went. I would be happy if I could just say that the performance was “better”. In fact, the ATX-72 not only did well, it exceeded my wildest expectations. The entire flight from SLMB to SLSN was completed without a single glitch. The longest region crossing I encountered was maybe three seconds. No snap backs. No plane spinning out of control then recovering and most notable of all, no dreaded unseats (except when I accidentally “cornered” but more on that later). Just a smooth and uneventful flight and even another high score landing.
Since that test, I’ve done multiple additional tests from White Star Airfield (SLWS) to SLSN, using the ATX-72, the ZSK LJ-45XR and the BAE-146. All have been successful with similar results.
After gaining satisfaction with flight, a bit of driving was in order. So off I went to the roads of Heterocera. Until recently, very few cars really performed well at region crossings.
Over the past couple of days, I ran multiple tests with cars off my own lot, finding that they did indeed perform much better after the change. Additionally taking out a few cars from other creators, some of which I recall suffering from frequent “fly away” syndrome as well as diving into the ground similar results were encountered. All now cross smoothly with little or no delays. Even cranking them up to speeds I’d never dared try when crossing a region boundary, significant improvement was gained and no incidents encountered.
Don’t Get Cornered
Region corners still carry some risk so should not be attempted at higher speeds. They are not impossibly dangerous like before. But unless you are driving where Linden’s original architects, in their infinite wisdom, decided to run a road through a region corner making them unavoidable, avoid them. They can still cause headaches. When driving try to stick to the small part of any corner crossing that is not directly over the corner and take it a little slower. When flying, just…don’t.
Quick Tip for Firestorm Users – Movement
Some time back, Firestorm currently called Region Crossing Movement Prediction with two options. The legacy options were Predict and Stop. Now, having been modified somewhat, they are called “Unlimited” and “Stop when error gets too large”. Basically the first choice mirrors the SL viewer while the second one effectively dampens the crossing to make the crossing happen less painfully. Working with IAPS (Institute of Aviation Passenger Safety), we conducted a study that concluded that for flying, the legacy mode was the most desirable mode, while for driving and sailing, “Stop” mode performed better.
My tests this week seemed to prove that is still the case, although the difference is now is not significantly noticeable unless you are watching for it. In the past, it was really not safe to use Stop mode while flying because when hitting a badly lagged region, the airplane was typically not able to recover whereas hitting the same region in Predict/Unlimited mode it was more of a 50/50 chance.
Quite often, including during some of this testing, I am using Advanced Lighting. Past recommendations have been to turn off advanced lighting for flight and maybe driving. However modern vehicles in SL quite often utilize advanced lighting for effect. Your mileage may vary with this, but for me I noticed very little if any degradation between on/off. This will depend mostly on the power of your graphics card. It may or may not affect a successful region crossing.
For my experience, this long overdue update has made flying enjoyable again. With that in mind, I really hope to see a lot more of both pilots and passengers taking to the skies again. As a pilot for one of the older airlines in SecondLife®, I look forward to seeing you all back in the air!
So it has been over a year since my last post. Early last year I decided to embark on car sales. This goal took me away from aviation for quite a while, as all my aircraft remained in the hangar. With a determined goal in mind, I set out to do something that was not just another assembled car, but something that took the best of all available components and pull them together with my own touch to make something that stood out. Perhaps more on that in another article on why it took so long and why I was determined not to release anything until I could stand behind it with pride. Now, having accomplished that with three cars, plus one that has an available emergency services edition, I can happily say I met my goal.
So now the time has come to dust off the site and get back into the (second) world again. With that in mind and fingers at the keyboard, lets get started!
Modifiable Content Update
The last article published was about progress that has been made in SecondLife® with regard to modifiable content (specifically planes, trains, boats and cars). I am very happy to say that this has been phenomenal! From what I can see, there is only one major player left in civilian aircraft manufacturing that has not (and most likely will not) allow their customers to customize their planes as desired. Thanks to many open minded builders, there is now at least one or more more airplanes available in every class of civilian aviation craft, from small two seat planes to jumbos like the 757, and almost every imaginable type of helicopter, that are modifiable and superior quality aircraft. Modifiable is now the standard rather than the exception.
Watercraft still have a few holdouts, but really the boat makers caught on early because of the demand to be able to apply custom names and paints. My first Trudeau was modifiable back in 2007.
Ground vehicles lagged behind a bit because the two dominant builders held out for a long time. But the crack in that dam started with pressure to make one particular trailer modifiable, along with pressure from the vast number of cars being cranked out with ACS scripts being release modifiable. As of now, only one of what I would call the “major players” in the car world has clung to the no modify flag with a passion. The dam has burst. So like with planes, you can now purchase just about any class of car with some expectation of high quality, and have it modifiable to fit your needs.
One subclass of ground vehicles, specifically fire trucks, is still is dominated by no-modify. But a new entrant into that subclass that has started with a pretty respectable modifiable alternative, may soon give them a run for their lindens.
With apologies to some I probably missed, below are a few recent modifiable aircraft releases from the major players. Most likely I’ll take one of these for a review soon.
We are in a world temporarily gone mad. The light is at the end of the tunnel and it is NOT an oncoming train! Stay safe my friends. SecondLife® is a great salvation from the real world need for social distancing. Its OK to dance here. I hope you dance!
While there will always be a few stubborn holdouts, it appears that for boating and aviation, the battle for modifiable content has been essentially won. There are a couple of remaining creators that cling to leaving that Modify checkbox empty. But virtually all new entries into the market being pro-modify. And most legacy creators have been updating their mesh models to modify. The remaining creators will soon fade into irrelevance over a short time. For me, as far as aircraft and boats are concerned, victory can be declared.
The remaining battleground now is on ground vehicles. Until recently, the hope for cars from the major creators becoming modifiable looked dismal. While there are many modifiable ground vehicles available, until recently virtually all of them used the antiquated and apparently no longer supported ACS scripts. Most (not all) of these cars suffer from poor performance such as turning in place and difficulty to control. This is not so much due to the scripts themselves, but due to creators not effectively tuning the vehicle for proper performance.
But there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. As with boats and aircraft, it just took one of the major creator in ground vehicle manufacture to begin the move, along with a new creator in the market starting out with modify enabled. Prompted mostly by GTFO and continued market pressure, there are now several options for modifiable ground vehicles. Hopefully more will follow with new creators joining the market as well as more legacy creators accepting the fact that their creations will not self destruct in a great ball of fire if they go modify.
Below is a list of the recent releases that I am aware of for modifiable ground vehicles. I am sure more exist and will update this list as they are provided. Please note two things:
Only creators that are using proprietary scripts will be included.
This is not an endorsement of quality of the vehicle. Some of these I have not evaluated.
* The Wolf Tactics Wrecker is not a new release but it otherwise meets the criteria for this list, so it is listed for honorable mention.
This may not be a comprehensive list. Please feel free to comment with information about other vehicles that are modifiable, use proprietary scripts and have quality LOD and builds worthy of mention. Going forward this list will be limited to three vehicles per creator as I hope we will see many more options for modifiable vehicles. Also, please remember that scripts are usually never modifiable and with good reason. So modify only applies to the build itself.
Note About ACS Scripts
Again I do acknowledge that there are many creators out there making cars with ACS scripts. Some may be fairly well done. But the reality of ACS is its latest version has been considered a “beta” since 2014 and therefore it should be viewed as unsupported.
If someone has an ACS based vehicle that they are determined is of the quality that meets the par of the above creators I would be happy to give it a test ride and consider a review.
What Makes A Vehicle High Quality?
Sadly, some SL limitations prevent any car or truck perfect in SL. For example, I have yet to find any car or truck in SL that is easy to get aligned to a straight road. The arrow control just does not seem to have the sensitivity for that. Further, region crossings seem to be much more painful on cars than they do on planes. That seems counter intuitive. But it seems to be an unfortunate reality. So some criteria are relative to what appears to be technically possible.
It will not turn left or right when it is not moving forward or backward. Way too many lower end cars do that in SL.
When moving forward, it will turn realistically. Not either take an entire road to turn, or turn at a sudden 90 degree move.
Realistic engine sounds.
It will remain solid when pulling back the camera view. So many cars in SL start seriously decomposing two mouse wheel clicks back from the default view.
Easy to control settings both through gestures and hud.
Quality UV mapping for easy painting, along with release of UV maps in PSD format.
Extra points: Retains miles traveled, adjustable steering sensitivity, reverse camera view when backing up, edit mode to make sure added prims don’t mess up the build.
Please don’t bother with “increase your LOD setting”. Nope. Not going to do it. There are plenty of vehicles that are built correctly using all four LOD model settings such that they do not turn into triangles at the first level of detail transition. So there should be no reason for customers to have to increase their lag to accommodate creators not making a proper mesh.
The presence of Lusch Motors and Jupiter AG on the above list marks special significance. As part of the NTBI Group, they are really the first of the major creators of cars and trucks to start moving toward modifiable content. While they have not released modifiable updates of their legacy vehicles still being marketed, perhaps as they begin to roll out improvements this will be considered. And with any luck the remaining NTBI Group members will follow suit.
Don’t underestimate the effort. It is easy to just flip on the modify flag. But these two creators took the extra step to add protective measures to help making added prims less likely to break the vehicles. This demonstrates a special care for a quality experience but it is an extra effort that shows great concern for customer satisfaction. That said, even if a creator is not willing to go through that, I’d prefer they all flip on the modify flag. But making this kind of effort to not only provide what most customers want and going to the extra effort to make it even easier is even more laudable.
A big shout out of thanks to Owen Lusch and Lyte Rae for taking this brave step. This is a win-win for these creators and the market.
If you are looking for quality built cars or trucks, please consider these creators. They have taken the steps to give the one thing that almost everyone in SL that uses moving vehicles has been shouting for over the years. Lets make sure to let them know their efforts are worthy of our rewards!
Until next time, blue skies, fair winds and safe roads!
The most recent release of the Firestorm viewer brings a new experimental feature for region crossings. Located in your preferences page at Move & View, Movement tab, is this new option, called Movement at Region Crossing:
As seen in the illustration, you have two choices:
Predict (classic behavior)
Stop (new behavior)
When Stop is selected, region crossing behavior changes from what we are used to. Instead of your client trying to predict the continued path of you or your vehicle (most often resulting in “rubber banding” back to the border once the hand off is complete), you actually will stop at the region crossing until the hand off is completed. While this usually brief pause can be a bit annoying, the theory is it is less impactful than the rather painful spin and sometimes very experience damaging rubber band effect.
This type of feature was coded directly into the Portland Trolley created Bibian and it worked quite well. So with this in mind, I chose three moving objects to test this feature:
ATX-72 Commercial Airplane
GEMC – Baiern Alpenjager Automobile
Bandit Destino Cabin Cruiser
ATX-72 Commercial Airplane
As most people that have used this plane are aware, the ATX-72 has a very strong rubber band effect with most region crossings under normal conditions. I made two attempts to fly this plane from White Star Airfield to Delchdork Airport using Stop mode. The good news is that for at least 25 crossings, this plane handled totally smooth. The normal very painful snap back that plagues the ATX-72 did not occur.
The bad news is that during both flights, I was unseated from the plane between Venrigalli and Wolsing, which is the west side of Cheerport Airfield. Since both incidents occurred at the same crossing, this might point to a region crossing. Given the time required to reach that point a third time, I chose not to repeat this test in Predict mode during the test. But more on the basic issue later.
GEMC – Baiern Alpenjager Automobile
This car was chosen for no particular reason. I have found that of the professional grade auto makers, all of them seem to have similar experience with region crossings. Which is to say, not so great. With this car, I started out at Smugglers Port and began a run through the roads of the Heterocera Atoll. Number of region crossings in this case I can’t even estimate.
The trip was about 1/2 hour. No issues were encountered other than a little wild driving. Region crossings were totally smooth excepting the expected delay with the Stop mode. Essentially, it was a successful test and I found the delay at each crossing to be less painful than the rubber banding that frequently throws me off course when driving.
Bandit Destino Cabin Cruiser
This is where things became interesting. I had just purchased the Destino, so decided this was a good test run for it. Like with virtually all Bandits I have sailed or motored, the Destino performs admirably at region crossings with very little rubber banding. A fine boat it is. I motored out from the southwest corner of Nautilus near Half Moon Bay Airport eastbound through the Bingo Strait and down into the Sailors Cove sims.
All region crossings were smooth using stop mode, until I got to the crossing from Mumford Cove to Fanci Deep SW. At this crossing, as with the ATX-72, I and my passenger were both unseated. Since Mumford Cove is an open rez area, I decided to try the crossing again. Same result. Third time, same result.
So next test was to rez the boat and change mode to Predict (classic behavior) and try the crossing again. In Predict mode, I managed to pass the crossing and stay seated. However, immediately upon entry, it was clear the region was not up to par. The boat was sluggish at best, difficult to control and non-constant in speed. Clearly the region was having issues (note: while typing this article I was hovering in the region and it went down, which also supports this theory).
After finishing with Fanci Deep SW, I motored up the Coastal Waterway toward White Star, in predict mode, with no issues.
Summing It All Up
The above results, summarized to me, show that while Stop mode will help considerably with objects that have consistently bad region crossings, it seems highly vulnerable to entries into poorly performing regions. To summarize:
Rubber banding of varying degrees depending on the craft being used.
Less chance of losing the trip on an unstable region.
Tolerate the guaranteed brief stop at each region crossing.
Less able to withstand a crossing into a poorly performing region.
What is your choice?
For me, the answer is that for craft that do not have a bad rubber banding effect to begin with, Predict is probably the better choice. Why solve a problem that does not exist?
For craft that are susceptible to heavy rubber banding effect, accept the risk that you may lose the trip if you hit a bad region and use Stop mode.
As with all things SL, your mileage may vary.
Happy flying, driving, railing, sailing or whatever!
On the secondary topic, wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2018 in both worlds. It has been a great year and am wishing an even greater next year!
On the primary topic, this is a bit late to the party but as many know by now, a few popular legacy planes have now been released with modifiable air frames that were previously no-modify. And some of these planes are currently on sale too, though I suspect that sale may end today or tomorrow so if you’re interested, now is the time to buy!
I speculate that there are three motivations for the decision to release these planes modifiable:
Custom tail number registry from Kelly Shergood
Whatever the motivation, thanks VERY MUCH to Aeon Voom and Erick Gregan for recognizing the importance of modifiable content to the market. Here are the planes I know of that are now modifiable:
From Aeon Voom:
C130 (this was originally released modifiable)
From Erick Gregan:
ATX-72 (this was updated to modifiable last year)
Planes that were not originally designed to be modifiable may have some particular issues with adding and deleting prims. If the prim numbers inside the plane change, it could damage or break moving parts of planes. Above all, NEVER mess with the root prim! Virtually all moving parts on a plane depend on their local position relative to the root prim. Mess with that and you break it.
I have been told specifically that the Cessna 421 has this issue. I am not aware of the others. However, for adding prims, there is a tool designed to help with this which is intended to add new prims in such a way that the original prim numbers will not change. I have not tested it but have had some reports of it being successful. Here is the link:
Using this tool should allow new prims to be added without breaking things. It will not help with deleting prims. You can pretty much expect to break things if you delete prims if the object depends on prim numbers.
Another caution is that whenever adding prims, ALWAYS take the object back into inventory and re-rez it before doing ANYTHING including moving any of the parts (doors, flaps, etc.). This is true for all objects, even those with named prims. Even these, in the end rely on prim numbers because that’s how they adjust. But there is usually an on-rez script that rechecks all the prims to get their current number.
All of the above aircraft have been added to both GTFO and Kelly Shergood’s custom tail number registry. GTFO does not require any add-ons but the Shergood system does if you want a HOBBS meter or visible tail number without having to add it to your textures.
B757 by Mick McKeenan
The main focus of this article is legacy planes that were originally no-modify but have been updated to be modifiable. However, I can’t publish an article about modifiable planes and GTFO without mentioning Mick McKeenan’s jewel of the air, the 757. This plane was just released a short time ago and is also both GTFO and custom tail number compatible. Like ALL McKeenan Aviation aircraft, not only is it modifiable, the owner likes to know what people are doing with his planes.
The 757 by Mick McKeenan and the DC10 by Aeon are probably the two most “profitable” airplanes in the skies for GTFO.
A word of caution on the DC10: Do not attach the GTFO hud until you are seated. And when you are ready to deliver, you will probably have to detach and reattach it. This is due to the distance of the root prim from the seated position of the pilot. It is not a bug but caused by a security “feature” imposed by Linden Labs related to protection of privacy on private parcels. This also existed on the original release of the 757, but an update was released to correct it
Here are the SLURL’s to the three plane maker’s vendors mentioned in this article:
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.
What You Get
The delivery folder includes all the basics needed to get started:
The airplane (of course)
A choice between two huds
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
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.
Once you have the plane rezzed, and have read the very thorough user manual, you 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.
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.
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:
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:
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).
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
Common ban lines, that is those that do not specify a named avatar, extend to a maximum of 50m above the land.
A named avatar ban extends to the maximum rezzing height.
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:
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.
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.
In closing, here are my conclusions for what they are worth:
Security orbs with sufficient warning to clear the area are not abusive.
Zero warning security orbs are abusive.
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.
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.