Today’s Flight Plan
On this episode of AviatorCast I share my scariest moment as a pilot, with lessons learned, experience gained, and all the emotions that came with it.
Further, we’ll discuss the “7 Environment Addons for the Perfect Simulator Setup”. I’ll give you insight into how to make your simulator look absolutely stellar with my recommended addons that I use every time I fly a simulator.
My Scariest Pilot Moment
In this segment I talk about my scariest moment as a pilot. This is best illustrated by a video that you’ll find in the links. I’ll share with you WHAT happened, WHY it happened, and how as a pilot I plan to fix it. Additionally, I share things we can all learn from this experience.
If you want detailed text of this segment, see the transcript.
7 Environment Add-ons for the Perfect Setup
One of the biggest challenges we all face with setting up a simulator is obvious- simply making it look realistic!
Yes, we strive for more FPS, want the simulator to look smoother and cleaner, but do we have the base set of environmental addons that will make the simulator that most realistic it can be?
I’ve put together a short but essential list of addons that I think every flight simmer should have. These are the tools and addons that I’ve seen make the biggest impact in the simulator market.
I’ve broken these down into categories for Scenery, Weather and Utilities. Each category has several addons to consider.
- New Zealand
- UK- Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales.
FTX Global BASE
FTX Global BASE is essentially covers the entire earth with realistic looking scenery. Otherwise, you’re stuck with default FSX or P3D textures that are less than desirable, and often terribly unrealistic.
This version is best enhanced by what we’ll talk about in the next add-on, yet it still stands on it’s own as a powerful tool for quickly increasing the quality of your scenery ‘globally’.
This product was made to cover areas that weren’t otherwise available from the premier FTX area.
As a pilot and virtual aviator, this will allow you to navigate by use of an actual aviation map rather than dealing with scenery that is nearly unrecognizable.
This is a very large download package, but will definitely pay off as it covers the entire globe.
Checkout links to how to buy this package in the show notes. But keep in mind, that there are also demo areas available for this add-on, in addition to all FTX products.
FTX Vector takes things a step further with Global and adds much sharper shorelines, more realistic neighborhoods and cities, authentic vegetation, and overall makes what Global does even better.
The idea here is more definition. The guys over at FTX wanted to improve on what they did with Global, and that’s exactly what they did.
My best guest to why Vector was created, as to simple give different levels of quality that flight simmers are willing to pay for. Not everyone needs the highest definition possible, and simply need a one, ‘global’ improvement to FSX or P3D.
This, like the other products, has a demo and lots of information on their page. The screenshots and videos really speak for themselves.
REX, or Real Environment Xtreme, is one of the most essential addons when it comes to these simulators. It brings an immersive and realistic weather environment that will have you scratching your head wondering how it’s so real.
The biggest thing REX helps out with is ‘clouds, sky and water’. Now, that oversimplifies this product. But at the end of the day, that’s what it is- a super, super awesome upgrade to your clouds, skies and water.
Of course, all of this is customizable and can also be randomized. A large community behind the product also drives it to be better, with user submitted themes, just to name one feature.
This is the absolute only stop you should make when thinking ‘environment textures’. Don’t waste your time anywhere else.
Having a realistic weather environment, like the rest of the addons I’m talking about today, further envelopes you in a simulated world that is increasingly blurring the lines with reality.
If you’re serious about how your simulator looks, and you want things to look as close to real life as possible, you need this weather add-on.
REX is a download product. Now, this isn’t a small download! With awesome textures often comes a large file size. That is totally the case here.
However, ever megabyte of data is worth it. This program will not disappoint.
Where REX handles the realistic looking weather textures, ActiveSky handles the ‘science’ of weather. In other words, ActiveSky turns your current and exact location in time into a perfectly crafted replica in the virtual world.
To say that it’ll detect and simulate your local temperature, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, wind, and clouds layers is an understatement.
This goes way beyond that to bring you weather that is incredibly close to the real thing, with all of the challenges you’d expect from weather.
What’s more is that this newer version of ActiveSky has fixed a lot of the issues that plague simulators. Namely, transitioning from one area to the next.
So, no more harsh clouds transitions. If you’re in a cloud, it’ll look like a cloud. When you leave the cloud, it’ll transition to good visibility (rather than just jumping there).
Obviously increasing realism on the scientific level of the weather will only add to the believability of flight. Nothing screams realism like clouds that look and feel like the real thing, and weather that is exactly depicted for that area.
ActiveSkyNext comes with a free trial, which is actually a first! You can check it out at activeskynext.com. We’ll also leave a link in the show notes.
PFPX is a robust and realistic flight planner for flight simulator. This offers realistic route generation, stellar fuel planning, and an overall briefed flight package that is of particular use for the airliner simmers.
Dispatchers in a real airline environment handle most of the planning for the pilots. This plan is generally delivered to the pilots in their preflight duties, and is known as a ‘dispatch’ or simply ‘the paperwork’.
Because us flight simmers don’t have an airline we’re working for, or people as passionate about simulating being a dispatcher as they are about flying, it’s completely up to us to plan our own flights.
Flight simmers generally ‘guess’ by use of the FMC. This is incredibly unrealistic. Although there are some pilots that can use other methods for planning, and it’s certainly doable to fly without a dispatcher, flight simmers do not have the type of experience to determine all the accurate numbers needed to operate a simulated flight.
PFPX is packed with so many tools to assist the pilot in doing all of the planning accurately. Essentially what you end up with is the paperwork, which looks just like an airline crews paperwork for their flight.
This program is not necessarily an add-on to the simulator in the sense that the program operates from the simulator. Rather, it’s a desktop application that is installed like other Windows applications.
The process of going through and setting up flights is quite easy, and guided well by the user interface.
In addition, PFPX provides a lot of support material to help you get started.
EZDok Camera Addon or EZCA is one of the best ways to instantly improve the ‘feel’ of your virtual flights.
Have you ever been frustrated with how rigid and static a simulator looks on a desktop computer? A real aircraft knifes through the air, but doesn’t go through unscathed- there are bumps, even turbulence.
Things move around, too and fro, and it’s impossible to think that someone can keep perfect vision looking forward like we see as default in FSX and P3D.
EZCA will not only give you a realistic feel that the aircraft is moving and bumping around around you, but it’ll also allow you to control the virtual world easily with they use of shortcuts that essentially turn a 3D cockpit into a 2D cockpit.
You simple move from one view to the other, with your desired keyboard shortcuts, and this sets you up with a quick way to get to that view.
In other words, you’re no longer limited with that one view from the pilot seat that you’re used to.
This fixes a lot of the issues that come from being on a desktop simulator, and gives a much better feel for the aircraft.
If you land too hard, you will ‘see’ the bump. It simply gives you a feel that the aircraft is moving with the air around you, or the ground you’re taxiing on.
This leads to overall better skills with smoother flying techniques and a more immersive environment.
This program is really easy to download and purchase from Flight1, but there’s a catch. First of all, this product is sold in what is version 1.15. This version is the original version, and is several years old.
Only when upgrading to 1.17 will you get all the features you need, and a mostly bug free product.
Why Flight1 doesn’t simply update their download installer after all these years is beyond me, as it is incredibly confusing to customers trying to use the software.
Once you get a hold of the correct version, you’ve got to set it up correctly. We show you have to do this in several of our products, including AviatorPro.
Additionally, we provide specific camera sets for some of the aircraft we have training for, which can easily be imported into the program.
You can see a lot of other great setup videos on youtube as well.
Now, this certainly isn’t ALL of the great stuff out there that is available for a simulator. However, if I was going to sit you down today, and I could only get you a certain few addons, it would certainly be a mix of these.
I realize that we’ve left out environment addons completely. That wasn’t the point of these recommendations. These are merely environment addons.
If you haven’t received some of these already, I urge you to consider them. I wouldn’t lead you astray on this! These are the best of the best.
“My Scariest Pilot Moment” Useful Links
“7 Environment Add-ons for the Perfect Setup” Useful Links
- Checkout FTX Products Here
- Orbx – FTX: Global BASE
- Orbx – FTX: Global VECTOR
- More Info on REX 4
- REX – REX 4 | Texture Direct HD
- Buy or Try ActiveSkyNext
- PFPX Information
- EZDok Camera Addon
- !!!EZDOK Updates!!!
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Transcript[transcript] Ahh… the smell of jet-a in the morning. This is AviatorCast episode 4!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff! Here’s your host… Chris Palmer.
Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I’m the creator of this podcast. Although I’m an aviator first, a flight simmer second, I love IFR, general aviation, airliners, the smell of jet-a, landings, takeoffs. You name it, I love it all. Aviation is in my blood. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today.
AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that you and I have to continually practice and master. Flight for us is a gift and a treasure. Each episode of AviatorCast will have a real flight training and a flight simulation topic. Our desire and mission is not to only create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation.
On today’s episode of AviatorCast, I share my scariest moment as a pilot with lessons learned, experience gained and all the emotions that came with it. Further, we will discuss the seven environment add-ons for the perfect flight simulator set-up. I will give you insight into how to make your simulator look absolutely stellar with my recommended add-ons that I use every time I fly a simulator.
Let’s get right into the flight training segment…
And now, the flight training segment…
There is a saying that goes around the circles of aviation quite often. It’s this: “Flying is filled with hours of boredom, speckled with moments of sheer terror.” Of course none of us ever want to feel fear as we’re flying but it’s a dangerous world out there and we have to be on our constant defense. Eventually it will happen. It’s just one of those things.
One day, this quote became an exact reality for me. As I go through this story, I want to relate to you an experience that is personal and scary to me but one I feel can teach us all some lessons.
The morning of the event, I have spent time with my friends at the bowling factory. This was an incredible thing to see. We all just love aviation and this is our kickoff for a day full of jets being assembled and flying in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. But that day, we had more grandiose ideas if you will than just the bowling factory. We actually wanted to go experience what it was like to fly around in the Pacific Northwest with our friend who is from the area. He knew the area and knew a thing or two about the good airports there, the ATC workings, so on and so forth.
The three of us took off in a G36 Bonanza from Everett and started to hop our way to some beautiful sights. We had three stops planned for the day before our eventual return home. First stop, Orcas Island. This is a great and fun little airport with a runway that is about 2,700 feet long. We stopped and got out, had a look around and talked to some of the pilots there. This is a beautiful airport nestled between two large hills, somewhat considered them mountains. I guess it’s not a tiny, tiny island but the island is quite small in the grand scheme things with this picturesque runway paved right down the middle of it.
Our ultimate goal is an airfield called Mears, then another called Darrington, then back to Everett. These last two airfields are nestled just between inside the Cascade Range northeast of Everett. After the short stay at Orcas, we fired at the Bonanza and made a sharp right turn after takeoff for the flight eastbound. The flight there was short and of course the scenery was beautiful and we were looking forward to this unique airport, just something different than the big slabs of pavement that we are used to landing and taking off on. That trip, I had already gone into Portland and Everett and those were typically the type of airports I flew into, so it’s nice to do something different.
As we came over the trees to land on the runway at Mears, our speed wasn’t where it needed to be. We really have to get on the breaks to get the aircraft stopped but we were able to get it settled in. We taxied the parking with the intention of staying for a while, had a look around and decided we didn’t want to stop and get out, so we just continue onward to Darrington which was our second stop here in the mountainous region.
We noticed that the wind had changed. We needed to take off the opposite direction. We spun around in the parking area and it was empty at that time and then we headed for the threshold of Runway 25 on what was a 2600-foot runway. With camera rolling as we head periodically down throughout the day, we got ready for our takeoff.
After the fast landing, we were all still a bit excited from that event and simply ready to get out of Mears and head on to Darrington which was a similar airport. Because this was a short field and there was an obstacle at the end being trees, we would perform a short field takeoff as prescribed in what pilots learn initially in their training and in the POH which is the pilot’s operating handbook. Those are specific to each aircraft and usually each aircraft has specific procedures but often they are very similar as well.
Essentially what this procedure calls for means full power, release the breaks when the aircraft is run off, keep a good stickiness on the runway at forward pressure for the first part of your takeoff roll, and then rotate the aircraft at the correct speed and keep VX until obstacles are cleared. In addition, because this was a retractable gear aircraft being the Bonanza, we need to pull up the landing gear as well.
Here’s how it all went. We were lined up in the runway and ready to go. I pushed power forward while holding the breaks, got up to full power in the Bonanza which in this particular Bonanza is turbocharged so we it sure puts out a lot of power. Once we were nice and sustaining that power, I let go of the breaks. We rolled down the runway. I countered for just a slight crosswind with my ailerons and of course some forward pressure too to get that stickiness in the runway. Then we are quickly getting down the runway. At about the halfway point, it was the time for the aircraft to rotate or the aircraft to gone to a high knot speed or to its rotation speed so we could actually go flying. There are some safety speeds involved in there if you aren’t familiar with flying.
I got to that point and at that moment, everything kind of changed. I pulled the aircraft up and as soon as I did so, it didn’t really want to fly. It just kind of mushed along and we weren’t gaining altitude like I thought we should. I pulled out the landing gear and for all intents and purposes, we are headed straight for some trees and we just weren’t climbing like we needed to. Nothing looked right, nothing felt right but we were committed at this point and we are headed for the trees essentially. We veered off to the left a little bit. This was kind of a subconscious thing that I noticed afterward but we went right between some trees with the trees just literally just 10 feet or less below us and less than 20 feet off to the side. We went through this little corridor of trees.
None of these sounds like super scary, but there is a video of this entire event. I have that in the show notes. You can see exactly what it’s like. This was a really scary, intense moment because the aircraft just didn’t really want to fly, it didn’t want to climb, and getting over the trees just wasn’t looking realistic and I was riding my lowest airspeed I could, just hoping and praying that it was going to make it out. I had such an adrenaline rush at that time. People say that their lives flash before their eyes. That’s definitely the case for me too. I thought about my wife. I thought about the situation and what I was going to do and that adrenaline definitely helps your instincts and I was really pushing to make sure that we did what we were supposed to do.
In a matter of seconds, we were out of it. We were above the trees and we are climbing okay to get out of that airport and it was just such a scary, scary moment for me and one that I will absolutely never forget because I do consider it to be a near-death experience because a lot of it was just unexplained and unexpected and I really didn’t know what was going at that time. Thankfully, I had some training that helped me out that day but as you will learn in the rest of what we are about talk about or what I’m about to talk about is I didn’t exactly have the correct training in a lot of situations or the correct knowledge.
After we had taken off, our intention was obviously to go Darrington. We deliberated briefly and decided we would not continue to that airport. We had little idea why that takeoff as I said was such an issue. It was unexpected that it was even a problem, and we didn’t want to go to Darrington where the airport environment was much the same if not worse.
You can imagine after an event like that, we were all incredibly shaken up and scared out of our wits. In the video, you can hear my intense breathing as I focus and as the adrenaline rushed through my body. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life. I didn’t say the most exciting. I don’t want to make it sound like this was a thrill-seeking missionary thing. This was absolutely something that just made me sick to my stomach and I did not like this event at all.
This event was by far the scariest thing that had ever happened to me as a pilot. I really felt like we are going to hit those trees and thankfully, very thankfully we didn’t. After this had happened, I really didn’t want to tell my wife about this entire experience. It scared me so bad. I just didn’t want her to have to relive the fear of it all or be scared for me when I’m out there flying. When all this was happening, I was just thinking a lot about her. It’s just kind of interesting how that works.
Inevitably, I did tell her and I told others as well and I really just needed to share this experience and I needed to be supported I guess. The jitters and the adrenaline didn’t leave for quite a while especially during the duration of that flight. I was shaking for some minutes and hours after that and the fear still spilled into my heart every time I relive the events in my mind.
Things settled down and we stopped at another airport and eventually stayed the night there. It was also a time for us to eat some food and reflect, if not get some rest. We were generally confused about what had happened and why the takeoff was as unmanageable as it was. We shouldn’t have been in that position as everything was done by the book. This was the topic of conversation throughout the night and the coming days and even months honestly. It was something that I really, really talked about a lot and really tried to learn a lot from. There really just should’ve been no problem in this situation.
We watched the video over and over again and you are welcome to do so yourself as well and we looked for the clues why this actually happened. It started to unfold and some things started to make sense. These events pass by but now at that time, I had this video of something that was unimaginable to me, something unexpected and didn’t know what to do with it. I had something here that I really kind of just wanted to bury and get rid of and delete and leave behind.
At that time, Angle of Attack was in its infancy and we had a few good followers and people that were looking to become pilots or people that were already pilots, so maybe even against my better judgment, I decided against everything inside me to scream “no,” to share this video with the AOA community which essentially meant putting it online. I eventually talked myself into doing this for the mere fact that someone out there might learn from it and it could potentially help save their life. That’s the reason why I released this video at the end of the day instead of just burying it.
I was lucky and fortunate enough to have decent enough training and experience to get me through this particular event and I just don’t know how other pilots would have reacted to the same scenario so I thought maybe there was something there to learn as well. It was a really, really odd situation and I just felt like a lot of people could learn from it.
I released the video and it quickly went viral. It was shared a whole lot and comments started spilling in, traffic went through the roof and I suddenly felt like the whole aviation community had my under a microscope. It’s like when aviation accident videos go viral right? Everyone who is a pilot or wants to be a pilot sees that video. I won’t say that that’s how viral this video went but there were certainly a lot of people that saw even in the first 24 hours that it was released.
This isn’t good news. This isn’t some publicity stunt. This was a very trying and difficult time for me. Many people were supportive and appreciative of course for sharing this video while others were terrible and judgmental and downright disrespectful. You know how it goes. There was just a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on. The truth is, these people weren’t there. They didn’t experience it. A lot of the thoughts and ideas being thrown back and forth were pretty crazy, even people saying that I took off with a tailwind and a bunch of other ought to be.
Anyway, people evaluating the situation which to a certain extent is good but I just think a lot of it was unwarranted, but there was some really good stuff that came out of it. Anyway, what was an opportunity for most to learn became an opportunity for just a few to kind of pound their chest I guess. But that’s when the important comments started to spill in from very experienced aviators that were forthcoming on not only what was wrong with the published procedures that are thought to private pilots and what I had done wrong as a result, but also how this particular aircraft, the Bonanza, should have been handled in that particular situation.
Some of the things these guys were saying were almost as shocking as what the trolls were saying, only there was something to learn from these experienced aviators that were chiming in. At first I was very resistant to some of the things they were saying and I share more about what they said here in a few minutes. Yet, I started to see that there is a lot of truth in what was being shared and started to come to the realization that although I did what I did exactly how I had been trained and did it correctly as a result in my mind, I was actually trained incorrectly even though most of it was by the book if you will.
Now I’m going to go through and tell you exactly what happened in the chain of events on takeoff. Before I share what it was like at that time and what my experience was like in those initial moments without the filter of knowing now what happened, you can verify most of these claims simply by watching the video in the show notes.
The beginning of the takeoff was correct. Lining up, full power, keep the aircraft stuck well to the runway. All of that went well and was as planned. Around rotation is where the environment aircraft handling and technique in addition to the takeoff procedure should and could have been handled differently. Right around rotation, you’ll see that there is a big gap in the trees on the left. A wall of trees surrounded the airport but not in this one spot. What was once a steady headwind moving down the channel of trees along the runway making a headwind, suddenly switched to a left crosswind as the wind broke through that gap of trees. It was almost a 90-degree difference. It’s just almost straight on to suddenly a full crosswind right around that vulnerable position of rotation. This destroyed the lift that the aircraft was supposed to have right at that time of rotation.
The rotation technique itself was also incorrect and rigid. Instead of allowing the aircraft to smoothly lift off the ground, even if we lifted off later, I had rotated quickly and was now airborne in a speed that was just a tad too low. Although airborne, we would now march along having not gained enough airspeed especially with the changing wind condition. These all happened simultaneously. It happened within just a few seconds and you can kind of see how all that takes place. The rotation time and speed itself was incorrect as this was not how to take off a Bonanza short field over obstacles.
Now I want to go back to the suggestions of the guys that were giving me advice on how to actually do this procedure. I want to break here and talk about how it should have been done. As I was gaining all the feedback on my website, these guys started to chime in. They just had a lot of Bonanza time. Now, it is not a discredit to the Bonanza that this was a problem. These are incredible flying machines that do really, really well and they go fast. They can take a good amount of load. These are known as really great airplanes and this definitely not a ding on the Bonanza.
This is how they explained the procedure. The takeoff would be a full flaps takeoff. Yes, full flaps. This is something that really isn’t heard of that much. People hardly ever use full flops on a takeoff especially it’s not thought in flight school or at least not traditional flight schools. Rotation would be smooth but with full flaps. The aircraft should essentially just jump right off the runway.
Then the procedure calls for a climate 65 knots or VX which is an aggressive and steep climb and this is actually an airspeed that’s below the rotation speed, so you lift off the ground sooner, and you got to keep that airspeed. You can’t wiggle around with it. It’s got to be right on the money. During this climb over the obstacle, the gear remains down. That means no movement of the gear. This was really, really surprising to me, just something completely different from what I had learned.
To some of you old-timer guys out there, this may not seem crazy at all but when you’re like me and you learned a certain way in flight training, then to be told that it’s not the way you learn at all, it was just quite odd and I was pretty shocked. The particulars about the Bonanza are such that it climbs really well with full flaps at 65 knots with the gear down. Leaving the gear down is incredibly essential as this creates a particular airflow needed during the climb. Additionally, the gear moving to the opposition creates extra drag because it introduces a new door to the outside slip stream and in addition to some other things, it really degrades the performance if you try to pull the gear up.
With this procedure, one can theoretically take off from a 1500-grass strip in a fully loaded Bonanza and make it over a 50-foot obstacle. Yet the procedure that I use, taking off on a 2600-foot paved runway, I wasn’t able to make it through obstacles that were far from the end of the runway trees if you will. I didn’t believe any of these procedures when I heard them and had quite the back and forth with these guys, until one of them was able to share a video with me that introduced this for real, and I’ll show you that video in the show notes as well.
This video really just demonstrates from kind of an outside perspective of this kind of grass strip. He kind of get some speed around the corner and comes back toward the cameraman, goes right past the cameraman and takes off just past the cameraman. Much less than 1500 feet and you can see he just roars right out of there, no problem. Yet, I was unable to do this because my procedure was just incorrect. If you look at how this guy does it, he does do it prescribed like these guys have said.
When I finally come to the acceptance that my procedure was completely wrong, having been taught wrong, I asked, “Why was this never thought and where is the information and the POH, or where can we even find this information?” Essentially the answer I got was that it was in the original Bonanza POH but the lawyers over at Beach had decided that they didn’t want the liability for such a procedure and took it out of the manual. However, many decades later, I just about ran this Bonanza into a forest of trees. How unfortunate. This entire transition from ground roll, rotation and the flying portion was all done as I had been thought but it was terribly flawed, happened really fast, and didn’t put me in a favorable flying condition once I was actually in the air.
As you can see in the video from there, I did my best. You’ll see that I instinctively turned just a few degrees to the left as my subconscious noticed there was a lower gap in the trees. I don’t remember making that decision at all. It’s just something that I think I instinctively did and saw that gap in the trees. I also fought the urge to pull up and I didn’t want to stall the aircraft. I was just determined that I’d scrape some branches or hit some trees before I’d stall, and I just kept whatever airspeed I could have. For that saving grace, I am grateful and it was probably the one thing that saved our lives. I’m not patting myself in the back at all. I’m simply pointing out the fact that it was something that actually went well.
This whole thing happened, I learned a lot from the feedback that people gave me on the website and now I ask myself, what do we do in the future and how do we address this or how do we prevent this? I have a few points here that may help you out and things that I think you could consider so you can avoid a situation like this.
The first one is find an old fart mentor. Now I mean that as a term of endearment of course, but one of the biggest things that stand out to me in this entire event is that I could’ve known about this procedure somehow before time. I was incredibly humbled by the experience and patience of the guys that had thought me the correct procedure. I committed myself to greater humility as a pilot as a result. Truth is, I do not know at all and never will. I hardly know anything and especially when in a new place doing something slightly different with the same old airplane, there is something new to learn that will get me home safely and these guys with all this experience can certainly help out. I think we could all do better to reach out to those old time aviators that have an incredible amount of experience and learn from them. They are often eager to share, full of knowledge and wisdom and can certainly help us in our flying safely and effectively.
Next is know your aircraft better than the POH. It was also evident to me that although the procedures, numbers and charts in the POH are important, there is always this underlying knowledge base of aircraft types that are known only by those who have thousands of hours of experience on that airplane. I had learned this early on with this particular Bonanza as I went through a rigorous 10-day course of flight safety to qualify for insurance. There, they taught me things that weren’t published anywhere and things that certainly well in my time with that particular airplane especially in IFR. There is something that goes far beyond the manuals tell us and we needed to reach out to those who have flown those aircraft and learned the quirks and intricacies of how to fly them.
Next is take time to evaluate surroundings. There is no shame in stopping and slowing down and learning more and evaluating more your surroundings. What we could have done was stop the airplane and talk to the local pilots there about how to get out of the airport because it was obviously not as straightforward as we thought in hindsight, or how things change in phase in that area based on the winds and the trees and the river-bottom that was down below which I also think had something to do with the conditions.
I don’t necessarily think that you need to evaluate absolutely every airport. I don’t think you need to this for a flat airport that is relatively straightforward but if you’re in a different area like we were on this region with all the trees around and it’s definitely worth talking to someone if you’re unfamiliar and uncomfortable in any way. Even call ahead to the FBO or airport manager if needed and just kind of get the skinny on what’s going on there.
Next is fly with a larger cushion. Although all the numbers added up for us this day and this takeoff should have been no problem, it begs the question if we are simply flying too close to the numbers. Should we have had larger personal minimums for the takeoff run? Should we have or could we have done something differently even with our ignorance of the procedures? If we were cutting in too much to our personal minimums versus what the book said, then perhaps we would have decided not to go to that airport after all. That’s just kind of taking your own personal minimums beyond what the regulations are or what the manual says.
Another point and actually my last point is to let the aircraft fly. One big thing that stuck out to me on all of these was to simply let the aircraft fly. One mistake that I made was to get the aircraft off the ground too soon and although all the environmental changes kind of happened at that time during the rotation, it all just kind of went by too quickly. I’ve since changed my rotation technique, allowing the aircraft to fly when it’s ready. In another words, rotate doesn’t mean pop back the stick and get the wheels off the ground. It means ease back, get some lift under the wings and let the aircraft power through the rotation rather than simply just jump right off the ground. I believe there’s a huge difference in that and in this case, it was time to simply let the aircraft gain a few more knots during the ground roll and rotate to get past that drag curve. Obviously, there is the exception to the rule where you would want to pop the wheels when out the ground and in this particular case, that’s what I should’ve done.
In conclusion to this whole story and I know that you guys will have comments about this, we’ll certainly discuss it back and forth; that was the scariest moment I have had as a pilot. Of course there are other slightly scary things but this is by far the moment that sticks out to me the most by a long shot. This is just really, really intense. I consider myself a safe and conscientious pilot. I try and take my time with things. I get to know the aircraft, the numbers, the procedures, the weather all around me and quirks, and I try to be as efficient as possible. Sometimes, things just creep up on us and we get a good hard lesson. It’s another lesson that no matter how much we think we know, there is always more to learn. There are those around us eager to teach us what they know if we will be humble enough to listen. Then we can all sit around and talk about the wonderful experiences we’ve all had flying even though it’s filled with moments of fear.
If you guys have comments about this, I challenge you guys to share that on aviatorcast.com on this episode. I’d love to hear from you. We’d love to talk back and forth and of course, the video of this actual thing happening and also some of the other sources I mentioned will be in the show notes.
And now, the flight simulation segment…
One of the biggest challenges we all face with setting up a simulator is obvious: Simply making it look realistic. Yes, we strive for more FPS or fringe per second, want the simulator to look smoother and cleaner, but do we have the base set of environmental add-ons that will make the simulator the most realistic it can be? I’ve put together a short but essential list of add-ons that I think every flight simmer should have. These are tools and add-ons that I’ve seen make the biggest impact in the simulator market and if you are a real pilot looking to get a simulator, these will just a make the simulator look even more realistic and immersive.
I’ve broken these down into categories for scenery, weather and utilities. Each category has several add-ons to consider. Now I realize that this won’t completely cover all of the great add-ons within these categories but basically you just have to get these particular add-ons, if you’re going to get any of them. These are the ones that stand out and are the best.
We’re starting with scenery and again we have a couple of them in this category. One of the biggest companies out there for fantastic scenery and actually the only company we’re going to talk about when it comes to scenery is FTX and their website is fullterrain.com. Pretty easy to remember, pretty easy to get over there. These guys are the best of the best. They do it all. I’m going to go through and tell you a little bit what they do and how it can improve your simulator.
First of all is the base area sceneries that these guys have. These area sceneries cover specific geographic areas and are smaller areas essentially not continents but particular areas that just go and do absolutely everything. You get realistic shorelines. You get roadways depicted. The mountains look realistic. The riverways look realistic and everything around is essentially just as it would look on a VFR map, and you could use a VFR map or chart to actually navigate through this world with this type of scenery. You cannot do this with default scenery because it is not realistic. The Microsoft or whatever company you decide to go with and in this particular case, Full Terrain or FTX, is only for FSX or Prepar3d or P3D. It’s got to be that simulator. But whatever one you decide to go with, the default stuff is just terrible. It’s not as great as it could be. Obviously these guys are providing a great course simulator and that’s what we really need, and then we have these add-on companies that come in afterward and do great add-ons.
Some of the areas that FTX covers, they did an Australia package and they released each of the areas so that they do north, south, east and west and then they sell that entire thing as a package. That’s all of Australia. Recently, they added on New Zealand so now they kind of completed that area. I know that on top of that, also Tasmania is there, and a couple other smaller islands often around, so it’s not just the main body but they do include a lot of that in there. This is absolutely immersive and unbelievably realistic compared to that actual area. You could follow an actual VFR chart, get to your area of living if you will, and see where you are.
As I said, Australia and New Zealand are covered. From there, you can get into the USA. Now, it’s not all of the USA. Essentially it’s a lot of the stuff in the west, specifically the northwest. You get everything from the Northern Rocky Mountains which is essentially Idaho northbound up through the Canadian Rockies as well and through Montana. Then you get the Pacific Northwest, so you’re getting Oregon, Washington, Vancouver or British Columbia. Then you have another one from there which is kind of the connector between there and Alaska which gives you a lot of scenery through the inside passage of Alaska and in British Columbia. Then you get up into an Alaska package which is Southern Alaska and you get a lot of the famous cruise ship areas there if you will. Again, absolutely fantastic scenery. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about when you go to these websites.
A lot of Canada as a result is filled with these packages, so these packages aren’t just cut off at the border. When you get the Pacific Northwest package, you actually get some of Canada, and when you get the Northern Rocky Mountains package, you not only get Idaho and Montana but it goes north into Alberta as well and you get a lot of that. They are continually working on those so I’m not sure exactly what scenery FTX is working on now but eventually, obviously it’s their goal to cover everything for the USA as it would be a lucrative endeavor for them.
We mentioned all those kind of North America. Most recently, they’ve gotten into the UK. They’ve covered all of the United Kingdom now. It’s all complete. We’ve got Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales. All those are separate packages. I do believe they sell in one big package but this is the pinnacle of what Full Terrain or FTX or Orbx does, all kind on one company. This is the most detailed scenery they have and if you do fly on those areas often, I really push you to get that scenery. It’s really great. We tried to fly in it with our training videos as often as possible because it’s just so immersive and so realistic that often it’s hard to tell between that and the real world quite honestly.
When these guys do these very detailed packages, obviously it’s very hard to go in there and be that detailed and do that much work on just one particular geographic area which is why they haven’t covered the whole world and why we’re seeing that they’ve covered essentially the parts of the world that have the greatest flight sim demographic, that’s the UK and North America and Australia. Those are the top three with how many people are using flight simulators.
Now, I would imagine since Europe is a really big area that these guys go into there next. I don’t know exactly if that’s their plan but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where they focus their efforts on next, is mainland Europe. But anyway, those are really great areas. That’s kind of my first of the seven. It’s just these specific areas from FTX like Australia and New Zealand, USA, Canada, Alaska and the UK, and then second is another product from FTX which is called FTX Global Base.
Now, FTX Global Base is essentially it covers the entire Earth with realistic sceneries/textures. Otherwise, you’re stuck with default FSX or Prepar3D or P3D textures that are less than desirable, far less than desirable that you’ll be getting desert textures when you know it’s kind of a tropical area and they’re just terribly unrealistic. But FTX kind of comes in and fixes all that. This version is best enhanced by what we’ll talk about in the next add-on, yet it still kind of stands on its own as a powerful tool for quickly increasing the quality of your scenery globally. That’s what they call it FTX Global Base. This will improve everything else outside of those core other areas that you have, to look great. According to them, it should mesh realistically too. The border between one of the premier FTX areas and this FTX global should mold in really nicely and you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Why would you want this product? This product was made to cover areas that obviously weren’t otherwise available from the premier FTX areas. As a pilot and virtual aviator, this will allow you to navigate by use of an actual aviation map like I talked about before. Then dealing with scenery that is completely unrecognizable and you won’t even know the area you’re in even if you’re completely familiar with it. You may vaguely notice the shape of the shoreline or something but other than that, you wouldn’t know unless you had an add-on like FTX Global or if you are lucky enough to be in one of the premier areas in one of the premier packages.
This package, if you want to get it, is very large but it will definitely pay off as it covers everything and you don’t really need to be looking any other scenery package once you start doing with FTX stuff. It’s kind of made everything else obsolete to be completely honest. I’m not going to make friends by saying that but I’m just trying to point you into the direction in what I believe are the best packages and what gives you the bang for your buck. You can check out the links to how to buy these packages in the show notes but keep in mind that there are also demo areas available on fullterrain.com, so you kind of see what the scenery looks like. FTX does a really good job with that. You can usually get demos for all of the areas, so you’re really not risking seeing the quality. You can go and try that for yourself in other words.
That’s number two, FTX Global Base. That brings us to number three which is FTX Vector. FTX Vector builds on FTX Global Base and this takes things a step further, and adds much sharper shorelines, more realistic neighborhoods and cities, more authentic vegetation and overall makes what Global does even better. I’m not really sure it’s not just this one package, why it’s not just this really one-stop shop enhanced package but I guess it would just be cost-prohibitive for people to pay for both at once. I guess they’re just not forcing people to get both FTX Global Base and FTX Vector, but this allows you to choose if you want the high definition or if you want the lower cost, lower definition. That’s the idea here I guess with FTX Vector. It’s just higher definition.
They wanted to obviously improve what they did with FTX Global and just went a step further with it. Again, I just think the reason they kind of did this is to give people options and give them different levels of global improvement for FSX and Prepar3D. These products are available for both FSX and Prepar3D. Like the other product, you can download a sample of this. I think the sample for this is all of Iceland. I could be wrong, but I think if you download the sample of FTX Vector, it includes essentially the FTX Global Package and just gives you an overall look on how that scenery will look from the perspective of Iceland. For you Iceland guys out there, congratulations. I know there are some of you listening. Congratulations, your home country is free from FTX. Go check them out, fullterrain.com. But for the rest of you guys, again keep in mind, this just a sample of what you’ll see globally and will absolutely blow you away. That is number three and that wraps up scenery.
Now we get into weather. This is a big one. You’d be really surprised how much weather improves, or rather the looks and feel of your weather improves just how realistic your simulator is. Again, the reason we’re talking about all these is to make a really stellar environment for you. We’ve kind of taken care of the ground portion and we have good solid scenery there. Now, we need to talk about what happens when we are in the air and what we see above the horizon line.
First and foremost, this is big. We’re going to get REX 4. If you don’t have REX, shame, shame, shame. But really, you need to check this out. REX or Real Environment Extreme is one of the most essential add-ons when it comes to these simulators. It brings and immersive and realistic weather environment that will have you scratching your head, wondering how can it be so real? Honestly, go check out some of the screenshots in the show notes. We will put a link to their on the show notes rather. You will be blown away how realistic some of these shots look. Keep in mind, this isn’t just shots on their page. These aren’t marketing gimmicks. When you get in your simulator and you have this program round up and working which is not difficult to do, it’s set up very easily, you will find that suddenly those screenshots are in motion and you’re in an area where it looks like you have huge towering cumulus above you or a low stratus layer as you are flying via IFR. It will just look absolutely and stunningly, convincingly realistic.
The biggest thing REX helps out with is clouds, sky and water as I call it. Now, that definitely oversimplifies this product because there are some different things that adds like sounds and some ground textures and water textures, things like that, or rather some underlying I guess like wave animations that deals with two. The choppiness of the water, it will change, which is pretty amazing. You’d be surprised how much that can change the look and feel of your simulator, make it look more realistic. Although it does have some of those things, at the end of the day, that’s essentially what it is. It’s a super, super awesome of creating your clouds, sky and water. Of course, all of these is customizable and you can also have all of these randomized which is what I usually do. I usually go in and randomize my REX textures and just get what it gives me. There is also a large community behind the product which drives it to be better with user-submitted themes, and they just do a really, really great job. This is the absolute only stop you should have when thinking environment textures when it comes to sky. Don’t waste your time with anything else. REX is the name in the business. There’s no reason to go anywhere else.
Why? Why would you want to get realistic clouds, water. It’s kind of obvious, we’re going for realism here, but having a realistic weather environment like the rest of add-ons that we have been talking about today, just further envelopes you in a simulated world that is increasingly blurring the lines between reality and virtuality if you will. If you’re serious about how your simulator looks and you want things to look as close to real life as possible, you really need this add-on. REX is a download product and this isn’t a small download. It’s quite a big download. You can imagine with all these textures. It’s just they’re pretty large files but it is totally worth it. It’s worth every single megabyte that you have to download. This program will absolutely not disappoint. You will find out right away as soon as your start researching this if you haven’t heard already. For those of you who are already familiar with REX, you are agreeing with everything that I’ve already said. That’s just the way it is. This product is that good. I don’t work for these guys or anything. Honestly, I’ve tried to reach out to the head guys there a couple of times. Never talked to any of them personally. I just know that these guys are rock stars and their product is awesome. I’m not gaining anything from saying this except that I’m giving you guys the absolute place to go.
That’s our first weather add-on that you’re going to need. The second is Active Sky Next. Where REX handles the realistic-looking weather textures, Active Sky handles the science of the weather if you will. In other words, Active Sky turns your current and exact location and time into a perfectly-crafted replica in the virtual world. To say that it will detect and simulate your local temperature, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, wind and cloud layers is just a big understatement. It does way more than that. It goes way beyond that to bring you weather that is incredibly close to the real thing with all the challenges you would expect from weather. What’s more is that this newer version of Active Sky has fixed a lot of the issues that plague simulators, namely transitioning from one area to the next and one weather system to the next. Everything kind of blurs in between. You get no more harsh cloud transitions. If you are in a cloud, it will look like a cloud. When you leave the cloud, it will transition to good visibility rather than just jumping there, and also it transitions from kind of one area of clouds to an area where it might be clear. It looks realistic instead of just a straight line where the clouds decide that they’re kind of done. Anyway, much more realistic than ever with this new Active Sky Next which is their more recent version.
Why would you want to get Active Sky Next? Obviously increasing realism on the scientific level of the weather will only add to the believability of flight. Nothing screams realism like clouds that look and feel like the real thing and weather that is exactly depicted for that area. One of the cool new things in you getting Active Sky Next is that I believe for the first time, Active Sky has a free trial with this product, so that’s something new with this latest iteration of Active Sky, specifically Active Sky Next. You can check out Active Sky Next really simple, activeskynext.com, and we’ll also leave a link to that in the show notes. Active Sky Next I must mention works hand in hand with REX. REX will handle your textures and Active Sky Next will handle the depiction of your local weather or the weather in the area that you are deciding to fly, and that actual real-time weather. It will actually depict historical weather so if you want to fly two days ago at 2 p.m. in London, you can do that and it will accurately depict that weather.
I want to mention also that REX does have a very good and robust weather generation system. They come in second place for me, maybe it’s because I just have a lot more experience with Active Sky and I think they focus really well on the weather-generation part of it, whereas REX focuses really well on the texture part of it. Although REX can do both, it can do the weather generation as well and does a pretty great job of it, I still choose to use something like or use exactly Active Sky or in this particular case, Active Sky Next to actively depict my weather because it does such a great job. There are just two add-ons there in the weather portion of this which are again REX and Active Sky Next. That brings us to our final. We’ve done five already. We did the three original sceneries, we did the two weather, and now we have to two more with the utilities if you will.
The first utility I would definitely recommend to you guys especially since a lot of you guys are flying airliners is PFPX. PFPX or Professional Flight Planner X – I don’t know where this X has come from, maybe it extreme, maybe it’s extra cool, I don’t know, anyway it’s an X. It’s Professional Flight Planner X. It is a robust and realistic flight planner for flight simulator. This offers realistic route generations, stellar fuel planning, route planning, ETOPS planning, NATrack planning. Heck, it does everything and it offers an overall preflight package that is of particular use for again you airline simmers.
Why would you want this? Why would you want PFPX? This answers to a specific issue that comes in flight simulation. Dispatchers in a real airline environment handled most of the planning for the pilots. This plan is generally delivered to the pilots in their preflight duties and is known as a dispatch or simply the paperwork. Because us flight simmers don’t have an airline we’re working for or people as passionate about simulating being a dispatcher as they are about flying, it’s completely up to us to plan our own flights. In other words, we’re not going to have some guys sitting down and planning a dispatch flight and sending it to us. That just doesn’t sound that much fun. No one wants to be preparing paperwork for you, so we have to do it ourselves.
Generally what happens is flight simmers guess by use of the FMC. This is incredibly unrealistic. Although there are some pilots that can use other methods for planning and it is certainly doable to fly without a dispatcher in the real world, flight simmers do not have the type of experience to determine all of the accurate numbers needed to operate simulated flight like a real flight would be without a dispatcher. Real pilots are very professional. They have a lot of experience. They know what the aircraft can and can’t do. They have all the performance information there to help them do that and we just can’t possibly do that without a program like PFPX. PFPX is packed with so many tools to assist the pilot in doing all of the planning accurately. Essentially, what you end up with is the paperwork as I mentioned before which looks just like an airline crew’s paperwork for their flight.
How do you get this program? This program is not necessarily an add-on to the simulator in a sense that the program operates from within the simulator. Rather, it’s a desktop application that is installed like other Windows applications. The process of going through and setting up flights is quite easy or rather setting up and getting your paperwork is quite easy and it is well-guided with their user interface. They did a really good job with that. In addition, PFPX provides a lot of support material to help you get started with their program because there are a lot of great features to it and it is a very, very deep, deep program. But although it is a deep program, it is very easy to use which I like because I feel like a lot of these complicated programs can get a really complicated user interface which I don’t like.
But PFPX is a really great tool. It’s something that has really hit the flight simulation world and I have no doubt that the guy behind it, Christian who’s from Austria, has done incredibly well in these initial months of having it released. It’s just a really, really great program and we definitely recommend it. It’s just one of those great things that will assist you as a virtual airliner pilot to fly realistically and there is no other way that I know of that I know of that you can get the number as realistic as they come out with PFPX because of the guys behind it that are actual dispatchers that have created this and made it into what it is.
That is PFPX, the first utility. That brings us to our last utility and also our last recommended add-on. That add-on is EZdok Camera. EZdok Camera add-on or EZCA is one of the best ways to instantly improve the feel of your virtual flights. Ask yourself, have you ever been frustrated with how rigid and static a simulator looks on a computer desktop? A real aircraft knifes through the air but it doesn’t go through unscathed. There are the bumps and the turbulence and when you land on the ground, it kind of shakes a little bit and you’re taxing, and you’re bumping around on those bumps in the tarmac. You get all little bumps and movements when you’re in the air, so why don’t we get that in a simulator. Obviously things move around to and fro and it’s impossible to think that someone can keep perfect vision looking forward like we see as default in FSX or Prepar3D.
EZCA will not only give you a realistic feel that the aircraft is moving and bumping around you but it will also allow you to control the virtual world easily with the use of shortcuts that essentially turn a 3D cockpit into a 2D cockpit. What you do is you simply move from one view to the other with your desired keyboard shortcuts and this sets you up with a quick way to get to that particular view. Obviously you have your default pilot view but say that you want to set up a view that zooms in and looks at your aircraft lighting switches because that’s commonly something that’s hard for you and the simulator to bend down and look around, but if you have a quick keyboard shortcut to get there, flip a switch and get back within a split second, then it’s really easy to do.
Now that’s only one example. You can have multiple view setup where you’re jumping around and doing the different tasks that you need to do in the cockpit. I have one that looks at the engine instruments, one that kind of looks just above the glare shield out the front of the window for the taxi position. I have one that looks at the aircraft lighting, one that looks at the basic six, so a lot of different views that you can use. In other words, you are not limited to that one view that you would be with that default virtual cockpit view.
The question is why would you want to get this? This just fixes a lot of the issues that come from being on a desktop simulator and gives a much better feel for the aircraft. If you land too hard, you see that you really bumped and your head kind of goes in your lap if you will. It simply gives you a feel that the aircraft is moving with the air around you or the ground you’re taxing on. It just gives you that realistic feel. You got to see it to believe. It’s pretty easy if you want to go search EZCA or EZdok Camera add-on on Youtube. You’ll see some great examples of this and they also do a great job demonstrating it with their own product videos. I believe that by having this tool, it leads overall better skills with even smoother flying techniques and obviously a more immersive environment which is what we’re after here.
How do you get this program? This one is a little more difficult so let me explain. This program is really is easy to download and purchase from Flight One but there’s kind of a catch to that. First of all, this product is sold in what is version 1.15. This version is the original version and it’s several years old. Only when upgrading to 1.17 which takes two upgrades will you get all the features that you need and a mostly bug-free product. Why Flight One doesn’t simply update their download installer after all these years when they are obviously selling a lot of this product each and every day because it’s so popular, it’s just really confusing. It’s really beyond me why they don’t change that. But anyway, once you get a hold of the correct version, you’ve got to set it up correctly.
We showed you how to do this in several or our products including Aviator Pro and we go through this with our 737 training as well. Additionally, we have provided specific camera sets for some of the aircraft we have trained for like the 737 and 777 and MD11, which can easily be imported into the program, and those are also available with those products. Anyway, you can see a lot of great setup videos as well for EZdok because it is very feature-packed. You can see a lot of those videos on Youtube that will explain that to you.
That is it for the seven recommended add-ons. Just in summary, we have the scenery stuff which is FTX, FTX Global, FTX Global Vector, that’s the three for scenery. Then we have the two for weather which is REX (Real Environment Extreme) and Active Sky. Then we have the final two utilities which are EZdok Camera add-on which we just talked about and we have PFPX. That completes the seven add-ons.
Now, this certainly isn’t all the great stuff out there that is available for the simulator like I said before when I first started this. However, if I was going to sit you down today and I can only get you to buy a certain few add-ons, it would certainly be a mix of these. I realized that we’ve left out aircraft add-ons completely and that wasn’t the point of these recommendations. These are merely environment add-ons. Maybe we’ll do an aircraft recommendation episode some other time but these are just environment add-ons. But, environment is far-reaching. It works with every single aircraft you do and definitely worth pursuing is these particular add-ons. If you haven’t received some of these already, I urge you to consider them. I wouldn’t lead you astray on this. These are the best of the best and you can again check out most of the information for these in the show notes. I’ll be sure to make good notes there so you can get to the links correctly.
That is it for the main body of content. I want to give some credit to the music for this episode which was provided by Atrasolis. You can download this aviation-theme album for free by liking Atrasolis on Facebook. I also want to give a big shout-out to the Angle of Attack crew for all they do behind the scenes to make everything possible with Angle of Attack and particularly with AviatorCast.
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Until next time, throttle on! [/transcript]