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

Carly’s PC-6 STOL Airplane

If you are looking for a great versatile bush plane that can handles passengers and cargo as well as handle runways with short and difficult approaches, the PC-6 by Carly (carollynn85) is your answer. Released on December 26, this plane is a refreshing addition to the flying community.

First, a little history of the PC-6. The real world PC-6 is, as far as I can determine, the only commercial grade taildragger still in production. The plane has become quite an icon thanks to a popular series called Worst Place to be a Pilot found on Youtube. This series features pilots flying for Susi Air in Indonesia, often to places and strips that have no business being called “runways”. The series features the two primary aircraft flown by Susi Air, the PC-6 and the Cessna Grand Caravan.  The most dangerous and difficult airstrips are places where only the PC-6 can get to.  In these types of landing areas, a tail dragger simply outperforms the conventional tricycle gear configuration in both durability and STOL (Short Take Off and Landing).


One word of caution:  Once you look at this plane both the RL and SL version, you will realize you are not looking at a plane that was designed to be sleek and pretty. The PC-6 is a workhorse. It looks like one in the real world. Carly’s implementation of this plane is very accurate to the true form of the airplane.

PC6 Dashboard_002

This photo is the airline configured PC-6 using generic blue colors. As delivered, you get several livery options:

  • Air America
  • US Army
  • RAAF
  • Generic

The generic version has nine different color options.  As of this writing, the PSD files for designing your own liveries have not yet been released. Carly’s business partner, Vetron, has indicated that the PSD’s will be available soon. The plane has a land impact of 86 for the airline configuration.

The airframe of this plane is also fully modifiable. As one of the more recent entrants into the plane building community, Carly understands the importance of making a plane that customers can adapt to their needs. This is even more important for the cargo version of the aircraft because it means you can attach cargo to the plane rather than be stuck with “wearable cargo” as you are forced to do with no-modify cargo planes incapable of actually carrying cargo not provided by the builder.

What You Get

The PC-6 package includes five different plane configurations:

  1. Airline configuration. Six forward facing passenger seats with relatively decent cushions, designed for as close to economy passenger comfort as a PC-6 can get.
  2. Charter configuration. Nine forward facing passenger seats. Designed to carry a larger load trading off some comfort to allow for larger groups.
  3. Executive configuration. Four passenger seats, two forward facing and two rear facing, with a small carry on cargo compartment in the back for small personal carry on bags.
  4. Cargo configuration. No passenger seating. Open back for cargo.
  5. Medevac.  One attendant seat and two bunk style patient beds.

 

Features

Pilots that prefer flying in mouselook will appreciate the fully working and mostly readable gauges. Larger avatars however may find the fuel guage blocked by their hand while in mouselook.

PC6 Dashboard_001

In addition to the usual gauges is a GPS that provides a real time map of the current sim the plane is flying in. While this feature is starting to become more commonplace, it is still not universal, so it adds a very nice touch to the dashboard.

Seasoned pilots (and most European pilots) may not be comfortable with the speed being reported in scaled miles per hour instead of knots (real or scaled). This, however, is as much preference as anything else. Some are likely to prefer this. At the end of this article I’ll present a chart that gives approximate figures for the key values of the plane (scale mps) as stated in the documentation, real m/ps (approximated from information in document) and knots (also approximated). If the mph and/or m/ps reporting is uncomfortable, you might consider a generic hud that reports speed in knots.

HUD

While most SL aircraft provide huds intended to emulate dashboard instruments, the hud provided with the PC-6 is designed more for conservation of space. It is totally digital and takes up a very small space at the bottom of the screen. This will be preferred by some pilots, disliked by others. It is a matter of preference. Vetron HUD

Unfortunately the HUD shares the same issue that almost all airplane huds in SL have in that it is connected with the avatar camera rather than the aircraft. The heading, pitch and roll information respond to the direction you are looking in rather than the orientation of the aircraft.

The airplane also has a simple fuel system. It is not tied to any of the specific fuel systems in SL. Typing “refuel” will replenish the fuel supply.

 

Flight Controls

Pilots accustomed to DSA planes will have an easy time adapting to the flight controls of the PC-6. The base commands are very similar with regard to lighting, flaps and engine controls. If you have gestures set up for DSA’s planes, most will work with the PC-6.

A couple of things to highlight on this plane:

1. The plane as delivered does not whisper the throttle settings. If you use the hud, it is reported on the hud. If you choose to use alternate huds, you will want to use the “chat” command to activate the chatted throttle speed. This command will stick, so if you prefer to keep it this way, you’ll want to take the plane back into inventory after typing it.

2. When the engine is running, the tail displays floating text to show airspeed and throttle. Use “text” command if you wish to turn this off. This preference does not stick so you will need to use this command each time the engine is started.

For new pilots, or pilots using other craft, the package includes a set of function key based gestures to help you get started. The function keys will control all the most critical flight systems.

The PC-6 has two features rare in Second Life aircraft:

  • Independent Rudder option
  • Trim

I do not use the independent rudder but pilots that prefer a more realistic experience will likely appreciate this feature.

Trim control does not appear in most SL airplanes because it is not required based on their scripting. In the next section on flight dynamics, you will see that it is definitely needed in the PC-6.

The plane includes independent navigation lights, strobes, beacon, cabin lighting and landing light. No taxi light.

The throttle control is a bit unusual. It does not operate in a fixed increment. When increasing the throttle, the steps seem to rotate between two and three steps for awhile but then at 18% the steps change. I was originally also going to comment negatively on the small increments of the throttle as I’ve heard some feedback from pilots uncomfortable with this. However, after some experimenting with this plane, the reason becomes clear. As a bush plane, it is subject to fly into some very tight spots.  A more fine tuned throttle can be invaluable in this situation.

One other distinction of this plane is the prop pitch reverser. While other planes actually use the throttle for this, dropping to zero then into the negatives, the PC-6 requires you to use a separate control to reverse direction with prop pitch. This distinction might seem confusing but it is realistic. Engines don’t go backwards. Control surfaces are used to reverse airplanes that are capable of backing up. The PC-6 does this correctly. This also prevents you from accidentally going into reverse.

Flight Dynamics

This is the area where the PC-6 leaves every other plane I’ve flown in SL behind. There is simply no comparison. This is where the propeller meets the sky.

Though not part of flight, I’ll start with taxi. The plane is a bit touchy on the ground and may be tricky getting straight on center lines. However, it may be realistic. I’ve been told that this is a characteristic of tail draggers.

The first thing you will notice is on your takeoff roll. The tail wheel will very quickly lift off the ground as expected. The plane shortly thereafter will want to lift off the ground and a quick tap on the down arrow and up you go. The plane performs as a tail dragger is expected to perform.

Where you are in for your first surprise is when you start your first turn. Most SL airplanes will hold altitude during a turn. The PC-6 will not. A turn causes reduced lift, so the PC-6,as it should be, will lose altitude unless you also pull back on the stick when turning.

The second surprise you will find, is that the airplane will probably be wobbling a little as it flies. That is not SL Lag, your machine acting funny, or the Long Island Ice Tea you drank before takeoff. Yes, the plane is emulating turbulence. Your course will remain fairly steady, but the wobble is a design of realism.

The third surprise has already been spoiled above. The airplane has a trim control. And you will find that you need to use it. Depending on the speed you are flying, the plane will want to nose or nose up.  Trim will need to be applied to keep from having to continue tapping the up or down arrow and maintain a smooth straight and level flight.

The plane has a very low vertical attraction time. This means it will bank steeper than most SL passenger planes, and will not right itself as quickly. You will need to react quicker and do most of the return to level control yourself. Again, this is also as a real plane would function.

Finally as the saying goes, take off is optional, landing is mandatory. The PC-6 both in the real world and in SL, is a true bush plane. In the real world, the tail dragger design with extra reinforced gear struts, allows the plane to handle some very rough runways and landing conditions. In both worlds, the plane is a true STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) craft. As an example you can land this plane at St Martin field with runway to spare by using the prop pitch reverser on touchdown. The Corsica continent has several airfields that have been built as particularly challenging airstrips, specifically meant for STOL aircraft.

Summary

The PC-6 by Carly gets thumbs up for form, realism and performance. Here, summarized is my list of pros and cons:

Likes Dislikes
Modifiable Airframe Scaled MPH speed reporting
Excellent Flight Dynamics
Multiple Configurations in single package
Independent Rudder Option
Trim Control

The plane is not currently available on the Marketplace. You can purchase one at Yeager Field.

Speed Conversion Table

Value MPH* m/ps knots
Top speed 150 21 41
Cruise Speed 115 18 35
Takeoff speed no flaps 59 9 17
Takeoff speed 10% flaps 48 8 15
Stall speed no flaps 59 9 17
Stall Speed full flaps 45 7 13

* Scaled speed

DSA King Air 90 – Modifying Flight Controls

In the previous article, I pointed out that one of the benefits of Drusilla Saunders aircraft is that in addition to the airframe being modifiable, DSA has exposed certain critical flight characteristics of their airplanes by way of a note card. With all DSA aircraft, you can modify many of the characteristics of the aircraft to fit more with your liking. In this article, I will discuss changes I made to the King Air 90.

VultureKingAir_001To follow along, please rez an aircraft from DSA and open the note card named “Custom Parameters Notecard – User MOD”. This notecard contains all of the critical flight settings that can be adjusted.You should save a copy of the original notecard for future reference.

In this article I will only discuss the values that I have changed. There are many changes that can be made. Also, the note card does not contain all of the possible changes. To see a full list of changable values, please see the instructions located at DSA General Mesh Instructions.

Many of the changes below can also be set on demand. This will allow you to experiment with the settings to find the values that best fit your preferences.

Throttle Increment

The first change I made was the throttle increment. As delivered, the King Air is set to change throttle settings by 2.5% increments. I am more accustomed to a 5% increment. The following line allows this change:

Old Value throttleincrement .25
New Value throttleincrement .5

Vertical Attraction Timescale

This value controls how quickly an airplane in a roll wants to return to full upright position. For small airplanes, as well as stunt planes many pilots prefer a small plane to have less stability. In this case, the higher the number, the longer the plane will remain in its roll before returning to an upright position. A value of 360 per LSL documentation shuts off the vertical attractor.  A value of zero prevents the object from rolling at all.

You can adjust this value in flight with the command “vvat x” where x is the value you want to test. The King Air defaults to 2. My preference is to have the plane return to upright as quickly as possible so I changed this to 1.

Old Value vvat 2
New Value vvat 1

Thrust

While the real world version of the King Air has a pretty strong thrust level, we need to make allowances for the limitations of SL.  As a matter of practice, I do not fly planes faster than about 35 knots. This is about as fast as it is safe to fly and minimize passenger loss. And this is in a large jet such as a D-318.  So for a smaller craft like the King Air, I prefer to slow it down a bit so that it flys in a slower scale based on the speed of faster airplanes.  As with other commands, you can experiment with this setting in flight to find what works best for you. The command is the same as the notecard parameter.

Old Value thrust 3.05
New Value thrust 2.5

In making this change, two additional parameters that are not in the original note card were needed:

Stall Speed

As this implies this is the speed at which the airplane begins to stall. To set this value, you need to understand DSA’s scale speed formula. For example, the cruise speed is set by default to 115. However, DSA uses a scale speed (set to 5.25) to have the instruments reflect speed values that are more in line with what the plane’s performance should be in the real world. Thus a cruise speed setting of 115 is really a setting of (115 / 5.25), or 21 knots in SL.

To select a stall speed, I took the total drag at full flaps and gear down (40%) and set the value just below that: 115 – (115*.4) – 1 = 68. This calculates out to an SL speed of approximately 13 knots.

Stall Effect

This activates a nose down effect when the airplane falls below stall speed. DSA documentation suggests a value of 5 for this if you choose to use it. I choose to do so :).

stallspeed 68
stalleffect 5

Tight/Wide Yoke

With DSA planes you have the ability to change the pitch, yaw, roll and taxi responsiveness of the airplane based on your preferences, which may be different between in-flight and on the ground, or perhaps on final approach where less control sensitivity might be desired. I found the tight yoke to be my preference for normal taxi and flight but had a preference to up the numbers a bit. As with other parameters, these can be adjusted in flight for testing purposes using the line value as a chat command. You should experiment with each to find the best fit for you.

Setting Old New
tpitch 1 3
troll 1 3
ttaxi 0.20 0.32

Final Step

I recommend making these changes in increments. Some parameters will have effects on others. If the plane does something unexpected, it might be tricky finding which change caused the issue.

Once completed, you should save the note card in your inventory, rez a fresh plane to insert the modified note card, and save that as your in-use version.

In Conclusion

If you have modified your DSA planes in this way, please feel free to share your experience in the comments.

The ability to change aircraft performance settings is, as far as I know, unique to DSA airplanes. Along with modifiable airframes, this provides a great way to meet the needs of a very wide range of SL Pilots.

Thanks to all creators that make the airplanes we fly, and especially those that provide them modifiable to allow their customers flexibility.

Blue Skies!
Starbuckk

Thanks to Creators of Modifiable Planes!

CL

Have you ever wished you could make some either major or minor modification to something you purchased in SL but are really unable to because of the lack of modify permission? You are not alone! So this post is a small tribute to the makers of planes that have seen fit to make their creations modifiable. This small extra step is a simple courtesy by creators that respect the fact that one size indeed does NOT fit all.

Adding of scripts to allow painting is a good step and even should be available on modifiable craft. But it is not enough. Everyone has their special needs.  So please take a moment and give special thanks to those that create modifiable craft. Below is a list of aviation content creators that have this form of respect for their customers.

Of the creators listed, one special highlight goes to Drusilla Saunders. DSA Aircraft takes the ability to modify to a new level. As scripts mostly cannot be released modifable due to proprietary information that has to be protected, Drusilla has taken the extra step of putting key flight parameters in a notecard that allows users to adjust their plane performance to their own liking.

With that said, here is my current list:

Drusilla Saunders Christi Charron Mick McKeenan
Javatar Mocha tania Lacombe (TBM) kev Barony (Laminar)
Carollynn85 Kelly Shergood Tig Spikers (S&W)
Cubey Terra  wilderskies  caithlynnsayes (CLS Aviation)

There are many arguments why some folks continue to insist that their products cannot be modifiable, I have heard dozens of arguments and none of them fly (no pun intended). Here are a few:

1. “I don’t want my textures stolen”. The loophole that allowed textures to be stolen with dropped scripts was closed many years ago. UUID’s cannot be pulled with a script unless you own the texture.

2. “Someone might break my creation” So? Tell them to rez a new one or get a redelivery.

3. “My creations are perfect the way they are and no one should be messing with my creations”. This is probably the only real honest answer. It speaks for itself.

Please everyone, consider thanking and giving preferences to the builders that respect our differences and turn on that modify flag for the airframes. Again, this does not apply to scripts. Open source scripts are great, but must often be protected.

Blue Skies!
Starbuckk

P.S. Please let me know others that belong on this list and I will update it.

Update: Wilderskies added to the list.

Updates: Added caithlynnsayes.  Added company names where I know them.