Saturday, 8 June 2013

Flight Simulator 2

Microsoft have reintroduced their Flight Simulator.  You get one aeroplane free- and Icon A5 Amphibian, and one landscape- the island of Hawaii.  The beauty of Hawaii is that it has everything a pilot needs for learning to fly well.
 The Icon is easily manageable on the sea and has a good cockpit view.  With a small piston engine, it is low on power, but able to perform well at low level.  It will not climb to the highest peaks on the island as it struggles to reach 10,000 feet and the peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are above 13,000 feet.
 This simulator allows the pilot to look around whilst flying.  It also has an overhead view, a chase view and a flypast view.  The landscape is of variable quality from basic bumps to High definition images, depending upon the control settings and the power of the computer you are using.  You can also fly in real time and seasonal settings, so dawn dusk and night flying are options.
 Being an amphibian, the icon can land on runways - you must remember to put the wheels down, and some of the airstrips are just that.  This is the approach to Mountain View airstrip.  This is the only airstrip that has been moved in location for the simulator.  The other airstrips are real places, you can find them on Google Earth
 Some of the remote airstrips are difficult, having trees and buildings very close to the runway.  Puu Wea Wea needs some practise and Manna is a definite no-go area for this aircraft as it is a short uphill landing.  There is also another airstrip where the Icon can land, but the runway is too short for a sensible take off when carrying passengers and a full fuel tank.  Yes, the simulator behaves like the real world!
The main airports are no problem and at Hilo and also Kona International, you will only need a bit of the runway.  It is easier to land on the taxiway, making it a shorter distance to taxi to the parking.  Watch the fuel gauge - if you forget to refuel every few hours, you will fall out of the sky.  The Icon carries enough fuel to almost fly around the island.

If you register with Microsoft, you can have a second aircraft for free- a Steerman biplane trainer.  This is a little more complex than the Icon to fly, but it is more fun.
 The engine gets in the way of forward vision, so landing and taxiing takes more skill.  With this aeroplane you have fuel mixture and propeller pitch control and independently controllable wheel brakes.  It will also land and take off from all of the landing strips and airports.  Take care at Bradshaw Air Base as the altitude does have a serious effect on engine power on takeoff.
This simulator is by far the best value free offer on the web.  There are more landscapes and aircraft to acquire.  The whole of the Hawaiian islands will cost $30 and the best of the aircraft to choose will cost at least $15 each.  Many of the purchased aircraft have navigation systems and communication options.  Take care as some of them lack a cockpit view option.

I am still exploring Hawaii in the Steerman.  I have looked on Google Earth and identified more landing strips.  The ones I have found are on the simulator and I have landed on them all.

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