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Twelve years of flight simming

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This new blog feature is interesting, isn't it? Suddenly you're faced with some of the problems professional writers have, which is to find something interesting to say. I thought I'd start at the beginning, which for me, was in the spring of 1996. I'd bought a used PC from a friend, paid another friend to modify it, as it would not run the original Need For Speed as it was. I also got online as soon as possible. My first attempt at downloading an aircraft for Flight Simulator, and it was FS5.1 I had at the time, was through a BBS, and it was a abject failure. The download was in ASCII, or something like that, if I recall correctly, and I had no idea whatsoever what to do with it.

It wasn't too much later that I discovered While it is worth noting that I certainly have found most of the world's flightsim sights that have downloads, it was Flightsim that I found first. I was amazed by what I could get. One of the most memorable panels I downloaded was for the Airbus A320. I'd never seen the new glass panel cockpits before, and found it amazing. The same for the reasonably accurate sounds for a Boeing 777.

The other thing I did was join a virtual airline. I started my virtual career as a airline pilot at Noble Air's Philadelphia hub (it went away years ago, alas). Getting a type rating was at the time important, at least at that hub, and done here by flying a round robin with each aircraft you intended to fly. I made that route in plenty of aircraft, including some, like the L-1011, which Noble Air no longer uses. I recall using one of the payware adventure compilers, with an interesting result. I was flying KPHL-KDEN-KSLC-KSFO, and was descending into KSLC, and the weather kept changing. When a mountain loomed out of the clouds rather too suddenly, I diverted elsewhere. In this case, that was KLAS. More about my Noble Air career later. I also recall that we had a 767 that had a drinking problem. A flight from Philly to Vancouver involved a stop in Minneapolis due to the fact that I was running out of fuel quickly, and that was on a full tank.

I passed on FSFW 95, as it took a while for me to go from 3.11 for Workgroups to Windows 98. At the time, my PC was a Pentium 100, I can't recall how much RAM was involved, but my latest cell phone probably has more. And I now have thumb drives that have more space than the 1.2 gig hard drive on that computer. Needless to say, it ran FS98 only so well. As time went on, other things changed. A tour of duty in Korea also involved a change of hubs, as I wanted something nearer to where I actually was, so I moved to the Singapore hub (also no longer there). I recall that flying into Jakarta was a bit of a roll of the dice. The scenery was nicely detailed, and combine that with a A320 and custom panel, and the result was like using a series of postcards to fly the approach. I've tended to joke that the Need For Speed series had that name for no reason that has to do with cars and fast driving. However, over the years, it ranks second to Flight Simulator for demanding faster computers with more memory and hard drive space.

A bit of comedy here, though. While I was in Korea, I'd bought some computer parts at a show while I was on mid-tour leave. Having brought them back to install, I had a friend in one of the other barracks install them. As he left, he joked,"Now these aren't supposed to go up in smoke until 30 seconds after I leave." They went up in smoke in fifteen seconds, and I re-installed the old stuff, thus permanently eliminating any fear I had of working on computer systems. The computer I'm writing this on is the third I've built myself.

I bought FS2K, but used it little. The system I had just had built was finally running FS98 with decent frame rates, and it crashed much less frequently. I'd used FS2002 a lot until I finally got a computer to run FS9 decently. It's funny, but as time goes on, in some ways I have less interesting stories to tell, as many of them were frankly related to a computer malfunction. For example, while flying the run to Bangkok, something ignorant happened to my computer, and I ended up sending in the report only on the first leg, meaning from Singapore to Bangkok. I never did get why I got so many sly winks on that particular one.

As I've had better systems, it's been more an experience of downloading new stuff, and sometimes forgetting about it until much later. For example, I'd added the airport at Sacramento, and forgotten about it until I had some reason to fly there. And if you download enough from these sites, you'll end up with AI traffic that you have no idea where it came from. For example, I recently tried out the Goldenbird III business jet by flying it from Freeport to Miami(nice plane, BTW). When I landed at Miami, I found a DC-4 on the ramp, and as I moved around it to park, I found it was in Pan American colors, of the style used on the jets.

As for my Noble Air career, I continued as a virtual ex-pat for a while. I'd left Singapore for Russia, and when my hub captain ran off (screaming, I presume), I took a shot at filling his shoes. That I didn't have time to attend to things properly is why we no longer have a Russian hub. My apologies to the pilots who must have been thinking "Who the **** was that, anyway?". Your patience is appreciated. From DFW, I can return there anytime I want, anyway, though. It's been an experience I can recommend, even if I haven't been quite the most social of our pilots.

I'd add that I've enjoyed much of the efforts others have put into aircraft, panels, sounds, and scenery. I tend to appreciate realism, like the incredibly real scenery of Norfolk by Matthew Perry. Or David Maltby's aircraft, especially the Comet 4. That ranks as one of my all time favorites, especially now that I have a computer that does well with the VC. One thought running through my mind is that I do need to contribute something myself. I could do many of these things if I put my mind to it, and I have FSDS3.51 and some interesting projects in mind. Lockheed SST, anyone?

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  1. xxmikexx's Avatar
    Anybody who calls himself MaxLegroom has my kind of sense of humor. (Of course maybe you meant M axLe Groom, or even Max LeGroom (Flemish) in which case I can't help you.)

    Now ... There should never be any shortage of interesting things to write about as long as you deal with things that interest YOU, as you did above. For example, I could get myself interested in writing about the white pages telephone book and get people to go with the flow of my enthusiasm. In fact, I think I’ll blog about that very subject tonight. (Serous artists must take risks, after all. )

    I remember Noble Air though at that time I had no interest in virtual airlines. Maybe you’ll be kind enough to tell the rest of us what Noble was like and why you enjoyed belong to it. Are there other VAs today that you’re interested in? Do you fly online these days? Inquiring minds want to know, or at least I do. (… … Hm-m-m-m-m. In the immortal words of Gilda Radner, “Never mind.” You answered my questions later on, at least some of them.)

    Yes, I’ll be happy to beta test your Lockheed SST when you get to it. In the meantime you have found a fellow panel freak (me) and a fellow fan of Dave Maltby’s work. Are you familiar with Paul Golding’s stuff? Lonny Payne? Eric Ernst? Lou Betti?


    Okay ... The first time I flew supersonic in FS was in the the seminal Graham Waterfield SR-71. Being a lazy guy I took off from Denver and turned to a dead reckoning heading of 215, my goal being to see how close I would come to LAX. Well, I accelerated to Mach 3+? and came in somewhere around 40? miles north (Point Mugu?), not bad. However ...

    I figured I'd better start my slowdown and descent somewhere around Las Vegas, which I was able to identify from the air, Vegas being about 250 miles from Los Angeles, which I knew from various road trips. Trouble was, 250 miles wasn't enough. By the time I got the aircraft slowed down for descent I was deity-knows-where, and when I crossed the coastline I was still at perhaps 15,000 feet and 500 knots.

    Still, it was fun. I did a U-turn out over the ocean and I think it only took me 80 miles offshore. But what kinds of aids to navigation will you include in the SST?
    Updated 08-23-2008 at 03:19 PM by xxmikexx
  2. MaxLegroom990's Avatar
    The MaxLegroom name was at one time the Photon alias I used when I figured that I was going to get completely beat down in a particular game. As a result, my highest score was with this name. Photon, if you don't recall, was a laser tag game played in a maze like arena. This was in the '80s, by the way. I knew people who played in the last Photon game a dozen years ago.

    I've actually heard of all the panel designers you've mentioned, though I know I've probably never flown a plane with one of Lou Betti's panels. Eric Ernst's, for certain, definitely the 767 panel. I plan to talk about panels at great length later, when I manage to gather my thoughts into some sort of order.

    Your SR-71 experience reminds me of a recent XB-70 flight I did. I took off from Langley with only so much fuel on board. Got it up to Mach 3 and FL690, ran out of fuel somewhere over Georgia, did a dead stick landing at Eglin AFB.
  3. xxmikexx's Avatar
    Deadstick landing ...

    Did you know that John Travolta once had to deadstick a Gulfstream bizjet into DCA? Total electrical failure.
  4. Ranie Smith's Avatar
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