Fanboy Friday: Engine Roar, Flying the Curves, and Retail Hell
What a way to start a Friday! I was walking my dogs this cloudy morning when I heard the unmistakable drone of old radial engines. Instinctively, I scanned the sky for the culprit, hoping to catch a glimpse of what I figured was probably a DC-3. A shadowy form emerged from a bank of clouds, bearing not two but four engines… a B-17. The dogs must have thought I was nuts, ’cause I just stood there transfixed with a big, stupid grin until the bomber vanished into the haze.
Here’s what’s on my mind today:
A2A Simulations’ P-51D
Speaking of engine sound, I have to take a moment to comment on the work they’re doing over at A2A Simulations. I got their new P51-D w/Accusim a few days ago, and even though I’m not a warbird fanatic, I can’t stop flying it. The word is overused, but I can’t help thinking it… it’s just so immersive. Sure, they modeled it beautifully, with all the visual cues to help suspend disbelief, and yes it flies like a dream (or a nightmare, for someone with my piloting “skills”), but what brings it all together and really puts me right into the real thing is their deft use of sound.
Anybody who has one of their recent Accusim releases knows what I’m talking about. It seems like nearly everything you touch in the cockpit has its own distinctive audio personality, from switch clicks and the squeaking groan of the rudder pedals in motion to the thunk of the stick hitting its stops. I swear, starting the engine actually raises my blood pressure. There’s just such a feeling of massive power coming from the front end; it simultaneously dares you to pour on the throttle and warns you of how badly things can go sideways if you don’t respect it. I’ve enjoyed other aircraft audio environments before, but this bird is in a class by itself.
FSUIPC Changed My Life
I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ve got a whole bunch of little annoyances in life that I just put up with. A squeaky door hinge, a hot water heater that isn’t quite hot enough, just little things that aren’t bad enough to warrant fixing, but bug me none the less. For years, one of these quirks has been that I just couldn’t dial in my FS aircraft controls so they wouldn’t be overly twitchy. With nearly every plane I had, it just seemed like the ailerons and elevator were too sensitive. I tried tweaking the response curves in Pete Dowson’s FSUIPC utility, hoping to restore some stability, but it never seemed to do much good. That is, until I discovered the real problem: I’m a dork.
Above is how I thought I should be setting up my controls to minimize “twitchiness”. Somehow I convinced myself that the horizontal axis of the curve graph represented controller movement, and the vertical axis indicated the sensitivity of the response. Under those rules, setting the curve so that it was gentle in the beginning and only picked up sensitivity with greater degress of motion would be the way to make sure a slight flick of the wrist didn’t send me into a wing-over.
Logical? Yes. It’s also completely wrong.
Had I bothered to read Pete’s extensive documentation for this part of FSUIPC, I’d have known that positive numbers dampen sensitivity, while negative numbers heighten it. So all these years I’ve thought I was dialing down the twitch, and what I’ve actually been doing is increasing it. Arrrgh. Now that I’ve managed to get my head on straight, I’m finding that planes I used to think were just too much hassle to keep in the sky are actually a dream to fly. It’s like having a whole new hangar full of toys! Pete’s work never ceases to amaze me, and now that I’ve finally learned how to read, I can appreciate it even more.
Strip Mall Hell
In spite of occasionally having lug nuts for brains, I have been managing to do a lot of scenery work this past week. The subject of my furious modeling and texturing has been the retail wonderland of Jantzen Beach, Oregon. It’s situated on Hayden Island, the strip of land that anchors the I-5 bridge, which is just south of Pearson airfield. It’s not charming or quaint, but it’s a prominent feature as you’re approaching Pearson so in it goes. As you can see from the shot, there are a few buildings left to texture, but it’s mostly there. I’ve never put so much effort into the extended environment around an airport before.
Anyway, have a great weekend.