A lot has gone on today at Flight Sim Expo including the big announcement of X-Plane 12 and Thrustmaster’s new Boeing TCA. There was also great talks from the folks at Turtlebeach, Jon Coughlin taught us how to build your own DIY flight sim gear, X-Craft’s revealed their new E-Series and Major Kinsley “TRIGGER” Jordan talked to us about how the USAF is innovating with flight sims.
The day started with a welcome from Flight Sim Expo’s organizers including co-founder Evan Reiter. A video of the welcome is available to watch right here and it featurse some in person housekeeping as well as some welcome messages from folks around the community (I recorded one but I don’t think I made the cut).
X-Craft’s E-Jets Family reveal trailer
Leading the welcome at the FSExpo conference was X-Craft’s and a big reveal trailer with an announcement that they are rebuilding their E-Jet family of aircraft from the ground up for X-Plane. They are intending to bring the E-170, E-175, E190, E195 and Lineage 1000 to life.
According to the website, X-Craft are starting from scratch and rebuilding the popular Embraer E-Jet’s from scratch. Existing customers can, however, expect some sort of discount if they already own the E175 v2.5 and E195 v2.5.
Thrustmaster TCA Boeing reveal
Thrustmaster has revealed that they have entered into a license with Boeing to created a licensed yoke system for flight simulator fans. Similar to their Airbus line and their TCA Captain Pack Airbus Edition, they are now introducing a TCA Boeing edition.
Thrustmaster says that their system is going to have metal components and that the yoke system will use a pendular technology (similar to their high end pedals) which sounds like it will make Thrustmaster’s system unique. More will be revealed on November 9 so for now we’ve got a teaser and these two images from the presentation. No price has been announced and a release date is also pending.
Also, check out BluGames and Jeff Favignano who have both shown off what the unit is like on the show floor at FSExpo.
Simulation with military pilot training
I listened in to the segment by Major Kinsley “TRIGGER” Jordan who is the Chief of Innovation at the USAF. He’s a pilot and pilot trainer and presented on what the power of flight simulation offers to him and his trainee pilots.
Developing pilots through simulation sounds like a very useful exercise as pilots. Operational challenges have forced the USAF to look at new options and created a “Sim to learn, fly to confirm” mindset.
Major Jordan’s experience seems to indicate that the sim is extremely valuable for them to work with. No sortie is ever perfect or ever goes entirely to plan and so the sim gives experiences to their trainee pilots that prepare them to make decisions. And I think that’s a really interesting thing that I often muse about with all of our combined sim experiences. We aren’t necessarily going to be pilots because of our hours of sim flying but we are training ourselves to solve problems dynamically.
The Major talks about culture and how simulation can be built into the training culture enabling students to make mistakes and learn.
It was an interesting presentation and it ended on a really good note that the actual sim that you’re using, the “widget” doesn’t matter. It’s what it can learn and teach you as part of the process that matters.
Baby’s First DIY Home Cockpit Component
My friend Jon Coughlin hosted a session called “Baby’s First DIY Home Cockpit Component” and it’s all about building a FLOLS style meatball that you could hook up to your flight sim experience. Jon used is own Roger Meatball sim as an example but it could theoretically be adapted to other sim experiences too.
In the presentation, Jon references using an Arduino Nano and a light bar plus a little scripting to make a homemade meatball. At a low cost and a relatively low barrier to entry when it comes to expertise with electronics.
Turtlebeach Velocity One
Turtlebeach’s CEO Juergen Stark took to the stage in Sand Diego with some commentary beamed in by the designer of the product Andrew Young. Andrew, notably, was formerly of Saitek and then Madcatz and designed the original Saitek yoke system and several of their joysticks and so has quite a bit of experience and expertise. He brought his old team together to Turtlebeach to build this new system.
Juergen explained that the new hardware comes with a wide range of audiences with both PC and Xbox support and with all of the necessary controls including rudder and two styles of throttle integrated into the unit. The price of $379 USD seems aimed at a middle ground of pricing for something with all of these features.
There are some notable features such as hall effect sensors for key components, an integrated screen, an integrated stand for temporary setups, and modularity so that the throttle quadrant can be detached. The screen is an interesting feature and there’s a Windows app that can be used to update the product and update the screen for future functionality.
Andrew Young also teased us that Turtlebeach is not a one product company and that there are other products in the pipeline that will be announced “soon.” There was even a peek at a follow-up product that looks like a set of rudder pedals so look forward to more. which sounds like we’re going to be hearing a lot more about Turtlebeach in the future!
X-Plane 12 is on its way
The team behind X-Plane promised that they would take the wrapper off of their next gen X-Plane product at FSExpo and that’s what they did. X-Plane next generation is formally X-Plane 12. It seemed like the obvious next step and I’m a bit mystified why they weren’t saying that it was 12 from the start of their preview videos but here we are and the future is 12.
There were several segments of their presentation with the first piece showing off a new default aircraft – the F-14 Tomcat. An odd choice given X-Plane’s mostly civilian focus but it was nice to see. On the upsides, the aircraft looks very good and the cockpit mostly impresses (still not Heatblur level – is anyone Heatblur level?). The sounds and animation are outstanding too from what we saw. The afterburner and flare effects on the other hand need serious attention to be taken seriously in 2021.
There was a segment about the new clouds and weather technology and here X-Plane 12 looks set to impress. X-Plane 12 won’t just use METAR information but will also feed in worldwide weather modeling from NOAA. Water will be fully 3D in the new sim as well with variable wave height and small lakes and rivers behaving differently from large lakes and oceans.
Rain and raindrops on windscreens is finally a core feature that has been brought into the sim and is fully interacting with the flight model too which sound lead to some good looking effects. Ponding and reflective textures from rain on runways (in particular) will also add to the overall look of the sim.
There was also a really trippy piece involving Austin Meyers head floating through the screen at one point when he was explaining the weather system.
Environmental sounds are in and will be based on areas in the sim. Wind sounds in the trees for example will vary with sound depending on wind speed. Cities and towns will have their own sound sets and vehicles will have their own sounds too including airport vehicles.
Airports themselves have had some upgrades too with new default objects, new moving jet bridges and service vehicles that can be called from a ground menu, and quite a few new air traffic control towers built into the sim for the scenery gateway. Most of this looked great although some service vehicles still seem to be sporting old blurry textures.
ATC updates are also coming with a whole new menu system and even a HOTAS based simulated push-to-talk feature.
Seasonal data is in including winter and snow. Data will be used to put snow and determine when seasonal changes will take effect.
New aircraft are also planned although the full list of aircraft is not yet available. A Cirrus SR22 will be in together with a Cessna Citation X and the previously mentioned A330. A helicopter is being done by the X-Plane team as well but the specific type has not been mentioned yet.
There’s more that I hope to cover in a complete feature and reaction piece coming up soon. Suffice to say, X-Plane 12 will be packed with some new and much needed features to keep it competitive. It’ll be exciting to see it work its way towards an early access release.
Pricing and exact timing is not yet available so watch for that soon.
Many more sessions
Attending a show virtually can be a bit more distracting than attending it in person so I admit that I haven’t been able to attend every presentation. I’m also definitely missing out on the good things happening on the show floor. That said, FSExpo has been great today with some great reveals and lots of things to talk about. From the do it yourself to the big reveal from Laminar Research and Thrustmaster, this show has a wide range of experiences for sim pilots.
A slightly smaller number of sessions are coming up tomorrow so be sure to check that out on the FSExpo website.