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VOR to VOR Navigation
An in-depth look from the pages of Computer Pilot.

That's the Spirit!
A customer who practiced in Flight Sim flies a rare airplane and writes to tell us about it.

Old-Fashioned Navigation
Before GPS, pilots relied on landmarks, maps, speed calculations, and the compass for guidance.

Join Us in Oshkosh!
(For real, or virtually...)

Importing Aircraft into FSX
A two part series outlining the nuts and bolts of adding more aircraft to your virtual hangar.

Latest Free Flight Posts

Volunteers Wanted!

My friends at Flight Ontario, a freeware scenery design group based in you-can-guess-which-Province in Canada, are working on a project I'm personally very excited about: they're going to be doing scenery add-ons that recreate all of the World War II training bases in Canada that were part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).

The BCATP was the largest aviation training program in history, graduating more than 167,000 aircrew from countries all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and the United States, to name a few. Pilots were trained largely in Canadian-built DH-82C Tiger Moths, which is where my interest truly began. (Click the picture of the Moth at right to see why.)

Anyway, the Flight Ontario team needs help, and I'm more than happy to pass along their request. These bases, as you'd expect, were covered with row after row of airplanes - Moths, Finches, Cranes, Ansons, etc. To get the scenery just right, then, they'll need as many of these different types of aircraft as possible modeled as low-poly static scenery objects, and, hopefully, some models that can be used for AI. They don't have an aircraft modeler on staff, however, so they're looking for volunteers.

Are you an experienced Flight Simulator aircraft modeler that can help?

If so, drop my friend Al a line at:

Tell him I sent you ... and thanks in advance!

Of Jetpacks and Autogiros

I love things that fly; that should come as no surprise to anyone visiting this particular neck of the Internet woods. If you read the FSInsider newsletter, you'll have seen in our July issue that I'm an aviation movie collector, and if you read my blog, you'll see that I have a soft spot for the "future as it used to be." With all that established, I was especially intrigued to have seen a video clip on the AirVenture website that included a clip from one of my favorite films, The Rocketeer.

The clip is called The Flying Man? and the most exciting thing about it is what you don't see: a new commercially available personal jetpack with a 30 minute flying time (a nice improvement over the 25-35 seconds or so attainable with current models) which will be unveiled at AirVenture on Tuesday morning, July 29th. You can bet I'll be there, taking pictures and then impatiently emailing the good people at Things To Come with helpful messages like "Have you updated your fantastic JetPakNG add-on for FSX yet? How about now?" Click the images below to watch The Flying Man? and its companion video, Jetpack World Premiere Preview:

The Flying Man? Jetpack World Premiere Preview

A much older but equally unusual aircraft that is also slated to fly at AirVenture is Jack and Kate Tiffany's beautifully restored 1932 Pitcairn PA-18 Autogiro. Looking like a cross between a Fleet biplane and a helicopter, the Pitcairn and Cierva autogiros of the 30's were wonderful innovations that eventually gave birth to and were eclipsed by the modern helicopter. The overall design idea—combining forward thrust and an unpowered rotor - saw a resurgence in the 1960's with the Bensen gyrocopters and the Wallis Meteorite, made famous onscreen as James Bond's "Little Nellie" in the film You Only Live Twice. Gyros, to sloppily lump them all together, have been right on the cusp of a second renaissance for the past decade or so, thanks to companies like Carter Copter, Groen Brothers Aviation, and the Butterfly LLC, makers of another retro-futurist dream, a flying motorcycle!

All of them owe something to Harold Pitcairn and his designs - the chance to see this PA-18, one of only two original Pitcairn autogiros that are known to be flyable, simply can't be missed—I can't wait! Click on the picture for details.

Respect Your Elders

Flight simulation has been around a long time; even the Wright brothers were using a motion-based simulator called the "balancer" as early as 1912.

Some of the most famous (and, ahem, second-most widely used) flight simulators in history are the Link Trainer series, produced and sold from the 1930s through the 1950s. There were a number of different models, but most of them were enclosed cockpits on motion platforms with fully functional panels and no external display. There are a number of surviving examples, and it's common to see them set up in museums (the picture at right is from the Hiller Museum in San Carlos, CA.)

What's considerably less common, however, is the chance to actually try one. Well, if you're a student in North Carolina, you can have that chance and even log the time, thanks to Ed Frye, the chair of Guilford Technical Community College's Transportation Systems Technology division. Have a look at the article - Training Next Generation of Flying Aces - from (the "only official website of The Rhinoceros Times newspaper.")

Museum of Women Pilots Open House

I got this note a while back from reader Jim Dhaenens who'd set up a Flight Simulator display at a recent event, and thought it was too good not to share. Jim writes:

Hi Hal,

I'm not a Community Evangelist, but I played one yesterday at the Museum of Women Pilots during their open house here in Oklahoma City. They had the usual stuff I guess: helicopters landing on the lawn, pilots of all ilk, male and female wandering about telling stories. The Museum has some pretty cool stuff on women in aviation but as with most world changing applications of physics, the differences are overshadowed by the subject matter.

I went at he behest of the Oklahoma Chapter Chairman of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots, Liz Lundin. She also happens to be the Executive Director of Curtiss-Wright Wiley Post Hanger, Inc., the folks I intended to benefit from my Wiley Post Airport scenery. I presented the scenery and invited everyone to my table to try it for themselves.

Being a relatively recent convert to Flight Simulator (I got my first copy 4 years ago) I thought that everyone knew what it was and what it did. Some folks said that they had it, but it was an older version. Some folks couldn't believe they could go out to the local Wal Mart or Circuit City and get it. Most older pilots would not try it ... at least in sight of other pilots. I happened on a strategy that worked every As kids would look around the Wiley Post Scenery, I would tell their parents/grandparents/adult escort about the simulator and scenery.

The conversations would go like this:

"That looks nice, do you have any Lear Jets little Tommy could fly? His grandad flies a Lear 60."

"Well, Ma'am, I have a Lear 45, will that do?"

"I suppose so, we have a Bonanza at Wiley Post," and invariably they would show me their hanger space at the airport.

I had a few challenges on the scenery...some of the folks that owned businesses at Wiley Post were there and challenged me to show their businesses and other sites at the airport. All went away satisfied if not amazed at the detail.

And I met a bunch of good folks, from people who remembered the Wiley Post Hanger when it was at its original location, to a young couple who have one of the most aviation.centric marriages I've seen: He is a Navy Pilot and flies EC-6's out of Tinker AFB and she flies for Southwest Airlines out of Will Rogers.

I felt like I should have had a Flight Simulator X banner over my table.

At any rate, I thought you might be interested.


My thanks to Jim for writing, and especially for supporting a worthy cause. If I had "Honorary Evangelist" badges, I'd send him one right away! Click the picture at the top of the post to learn more about the museum.

Add-On Developers Make Us Look Good ... Again!

Inarguably one of the best things about the Flight Simulator series (and, arguably, one of the best kept secrets) is its extensibility. Aircraft, scenery, missions, utilities, virtual airlines ... you name it, somebody has added it to Flight Simulator. A friend of mine refers to it as the only piece of software he owns that gets upgraded every single day. One group of people that always goes above and beyond in terms of expanding the hobby is a group of scenery designers called Flight Ontario. Specializing—as you've guessed—in the greater Ontario area, they do wonderfully detailed renditions of airports big and small.

But that's not all they do. They also pack up computers and people and joysticks and things and set up Flight Simulator demo stations at seemingly every aviation event north of the US and east of Manitoba. I'm humbled by their dedication, grateful for their contributions, and always a little embarrassed that we can't do more to help. Their most recent demo was at an open house at Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau, Quebec. VWOC is home to a beautiful collection of old airplanes that, like our local Flying Heritage Collection, are flown regularly. They've got a Mustang, a Spitfire, a Hurricane, and even a Fairey Swordfish, to name but a few. Check out the photos from the event here.

Our ongoing appreciation goes out to everyone at Flight Ontario for building great scenery and for bringing the world of flight simulation to so many people!

In Free Flight, we'll share news and stories about Flight Simulator and the people who use it.

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