Monday, December 8, 2008

F-14D Tomcat for FSX: update

Wing sweep animation is now tied to the airspeed variable

FSX:Acceleration carrier functionality and moving parts are 100% working

No bump mapping for now. I'll do it if I'll find the time.

Some more pictures to show you the progress of the external model. It is almost done... the only area that needs to be completed is the cockpit. Apart from that there are also some minor details still missing (like the refuel probe or the LANTIRN optics). I think the external model will be complete before Christmas.
As no work has been done on the virtual cockpit so far, I am considering a partial release (external model only)...I'm not sure it makes some sense, but chance is that the cockpit will be not ready before February...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

F-14D Tomcat progress

Time for a little Tomcat update...well, the external model is almost done. There are a lot of missing details, but all of the major modeling and texturing is done. Also, most of the animations are done and working. Some more worki is needed on the cokpit and weapons areas. The bad news is that not a single polygon of the internal model has been drawn yet... It is really hard to find the time to work on this, so I can't tell when it will be ready for release. It will be done when it will be done.

First carrier approach for the Tomcat!

Most of the animations are working correctly!

Climbing at full throttle over China Lake

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

F-14D Tomcat for FSX: first flight!

F-14D for FSX:Acceleration: first flight nearby China Lake NAWS

F-14D first flight: testing the moving parts....OK! Well....almost!

Above are two pictures of the first flight of my new Tomcat. There is a lot of work to be done - I think It will take one or two months before the project is ready for a Beta release. Still. I think it is looking good.
By the way, thanks to all the people that wrote me offering their help, support and appreciation. In particular, I wish to thank Stefano Napoli who sent me the F-14D Pilot's Manual - which will be really helpful!
If you're wondering which scenery I've used for the pictures...well it is a self-made scenery of China Lake NAWS I did with FS Earth Tile (and it is also my very first project with that software). FS Earth Tile, which, shame on me, I discovered just today, is an open source project lead by a guy known by his pseudonym "HB-100" (which I assume he used to avoid any legal annoyance for the "improper" usage of Google Earth / Virtual Earth imagery).
Basically, FS Earth Tile downloads the image database of Google Earth, Virtual Earth (or potentially any similar database) and converts it into Flight Simulator scenery. Unlike TileProxy, it DOES download the images to your HD(which violates the terms of usage of the aforementioned web sevices) and then compiles them into a permanent scenery. And unlike SBuilderX, as long as you do not want to add a water mask (i.e. FSX "water"), the process is fully automated.

Results will depend on the database itself (color consistency, detail, etc) - but if the database coverage is good, then the result is excellent. Italy, for example, is fully covered at 1m/pixel in Virtual Earth - with exception of blanked military areas. You can set the application, let it work overnight and have the full scenery of Northern Italy in few hours. That is what I'm going to do before going to bed. Long story short, if you like photosceneries, you MUST try FS Earth Tile.
PS As the starting location of FS Builder is Genova, Italy (my hometown), I assume the author is one of my fellow genoese citizens. If so: i miei piĆ¹ sentiti complimenti e grazie mille!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grumman F-14D (Super)Tomcat first images

Grumman F-14D Super Tomcat - test render

F-14D for FSX:Acceleration trial render

Above are the trial renderings of my new FSX project, a Grumman F-14D Tomcat for FSX:Acceleration.

Like the Goshawk, it will be a native FSX:Acceleration model in order to have properly working hook/lanchbar and HUD / MFDs, as well as the all the other FSX features. It will be an F-14D that is the last version of the 'cat (which basically has the same GE engines of the F-14B and completely new avionics, including a modernized cockpit). The external model is 70% done and working, while the cockpit and flight modeling have not been started yet.

The reason why I chose to (re)make the Tomcat is that it is simply one of the most fascinating flying machines ever. The reasons why I chosed the D version is that a lot of features can be reused from the Acceleration hornet, and I can also reuse some of the work I did on the Goshawk.

Following the increasing complexity of Flight Simulator X, developing a new aircraft has become a very time consuming hobby. As I am a full time mechanical engineer, and as I have many different interests and time-wasting activities, it is very hard to find the time to continue developing software for FSX. But the projects I'm working on are also looking so nice that it is also hard to stop designing.It is also hard to provide a release date. I'd like to finish it before Christmas, but I am doubtful I can deliver...

I have put MB-339 project in "stand by" for now. I simply do not have time to do both and the Tomcat is at a much more advanced stage. One thing I can tell you is that the new base mesh provided by Massimo Taccoli looks really good.

Last, a request for help: I am disperately seeking high res pictures of the F-14D pilot cockpit (I'm looking for details of the side consoles and the "display/tailhook panel"): If you can provide them please e-mail me at

Monday, October 20, 2008

T-45C Goshawk reviewed by PC-Pilot Magazine

T-45C for FSX:Acceleration (running on DX10)
I have just received a complimentary copy of the latest issue of PC Pilot, which features a one-page mini-review of the Goshawk. The review is generally very positive, and I wish to thank the PC Pilot staff for their interest and their appreciation.
However, I have to highlight one mistake: the Goshawk IS NOT Fs2004 compatible (as clearly stated by the readme file). Also, it requires Acceleration for full functionality. If you are not using FSX:Acceleration the package may not work correctly.

PC Pilot magazine issue featuring the Goshawk

As a side note, I have to confess it is the first time I got my hands on a "real" (i.e.made of actual paper) flight simulation magazine. Well, PC Pilot is good. Lots of useful information and interesting articles. Ok, the content is not much different from what you can find on several online sites, but it is really well presented - and I still think that paper is much more readable than a web page.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Proper scenery and repaints for the Goshawk!

NOTAM for T-45C Goshawk users:

Jim Dhaenens has released an FSX version of Meridian NAS, which is one of the two major real-life "homes" of the Goshawk (the other one being Kingville, TX).
The scenery is well detailed and has some excellent custom objects placed upon an 2meters per pixel aerial photo. Try it, it is much better than the spooky default FSX Meridian, and adds a lot to the Goshawk experience (by the way, Jim has released also other nice sceneries for vitual naval aviators, like Pensacola NAS). File name is available at (and elsewhere). Here is a picture:

FSX Meridian NAS by Jim (

Also, if you are looking for some non-fictional repaints, Russell R. Smith has released a set of four repaints which include Pensacola NAS and (much needed) USMC Goshawks. File name is

USMC Goshawk repaint by Russ

It is a real pleasure for me to see that so many people all around the world enjoy the Goshawk, and it is an even greater pleasure to see that there are people who develop their own additions.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

T-45C Goshawk v1.1 released

T-45C Goshawk for FSX:Acceleration v1.1

The updated version of the T-45C Goshawk for FSX has been uploaded to both and and will soon be available for download. The file name you should look for is
This is the complete list of changes that made their way to the final package:

Visual model:
-added two liveries: USN without sq.insignia, USN Training Wing 1
-added user-defined identification numbers (numbers can be changed in aircraft selection window)
-added pilot & instruction animations
-fixed instructor HUD shape
-fixed light position (some lights are now hardcoded in the mdl)
-fixed point of view position in spot views
-fixed minor flaw in flaps animation
-added few minor details

Interior model:
-Added MFD functionality: Power/BRT/CNt controls work as well as all keys; as the code is from Accelleration Hornet,incorrectly show 2 engines and working radar.
-Added some HUD functionality (altimeter mode; power/brt; azimut & elevation controls)
-Added functional radios (COM1/COM2/NAV1).Only active frequency selector work. FSX stock radio and GPS can be brought to screen by pressing SHIFT+2 & SHIFT+3.
-Replaced non-working TACAN with NDB (display only - knobs do'nt work)
-Following controls/switches now working: Flood/cabin light; Fire test; Warning test (incorrectly not all lights will light up while tested); Formation light; COM 1 / COM 2 / NAV1 audio selector
-Slightly moved and modified AoA indexed for readability
-Added blane profile to attitude indicator
-Fixed Vertical Velocity indicator bug (zero was not properly set).

Flight model:

- Slightly higher roll rate


- Update checklist to include new functionality

Some (minor) problems are still there. I hope they do not bother you too much....and since many are asking, these are thr projects I'm working on:

Grumman F-14 Tomcat: I've not yet decided which version, probably F-14D Supertomcat. I am rebuilding it from scratch (it will NOT be a port of the FS2004 version). I already did some work last year, and it is not bad, so there is a good chance that the external model will be ready in a month or so. If there will be a market opportunity, this may be my first payware release. I am sorry to ask money for what is basically a hobby, but the development efforts required to make a good FSX plane is huge.

Aermacchi MB-339PAN: I'm sure you know Massimo Taccoli, and his excellent work. Massimo was so kind to give me his 3D mesh of the 339 to work on it. I've already begun placing some textures, and it's looking good.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

T-45C Goshawk for FSX:Acceleration v1.1

T-45C Goshawk of VT7, Kingsville NAS

I'm working right now on a Goshawk update that will be released in a week or so. The improvements will be:

External model:
- "Point of view too far" issue solved
- Animated crew
- Added Minor details in the visual model
- Added Training Wing 1 texture set, and a texture set without markings
- Now you can change the identification number by typing it (like stock FSX planes)
- (not yet decided for sure) an additional model with practice bombs

Virtual cockpit:
- MFDs working and clickable (even if they show 2 engines and radar, as they are aliased from the Hornet)
- Radios working and clickable
- Tacan replaced with working NDB. IFF replaced with working Squawk
- Few more buttons working

Flight model:
- slight improvements

I'm sorry to make an update so soon, but there are cool functionalities I've just learned and implemented and really there is no point in keeping them only to in my hard disk.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How to fix/avoid the "point of view too far" (Scale) issue in FSX planes

I think the major defect of my Goshawk is that, in "free flight" selection screen and -much more important- in the spot views, the camera is very far away.

This is an issue related to the XtoMdl software (the one that processes the .X file and makes the .mdl), which, in certain conditions makes an incorrect estimation of the plane size and moves the camera away assuming your plane is much bigger than it is. This is caused by animated meshes that have a Uniform Scale applied to object level (e.g. small gear details that you may have drawn in much bigger scale and then you shrunk to right size)

At the moment, there is no workaround for the .mdl (hexediting will not work) - but something can be done in the source file. Most important, there are good practices to avoid it in future projects.

If you have done a model which has that issue, in 3D studio or gmax, you need to:
1) Open the source file and select the parts that may have been rescaled and apply the Reset Scale command (better do this in keyframe 0). You may need to selectively and temporarily delete part of the aircraft and compile them separately to see where the issue is. Important: if the model is not animated the issue will not appear.
2) You may end with deformed meshes or incorrect animations. In some cases it is easier to remake them rather than try to fix them
3) Compile the .mdl and see what happens. If you still see the camera is far away, there are other "guilty" parts. Go back to (1). If the camera position is OK (or close enough) then you're done.

If you are making a new model, in gmax or 3Ds you need to:
1) NEVER apply a scale command to an object as a whole. Always apply a "Edit mesh" modifier an manipulate vertex from there.
2) As soon as you have an animation in you model, export, compile and try what happens. If the model is not animated the issue will not appear.
3) See point (1)
4) Export often
5) Always remember point (1) when you model!!!!!

If you are an end user and have an aircraft with that issue, there is nothing you can do.
Yesterday I've tried to fix the Goshawk. The problem was found to be the front landing gear. The camera is much closer now, even if still slightly far. Maybe I've not found all the defective parts. The whole fixing process took no less than 5 hours :-(

How to animate the launch bar in FSX:Acceleration planes

One of the most trickiest points in modeling a carrier-capable FSX:Acceleration plane is to have an animated launch bar.
This feature is not properly documented in the FSX:Acceleration SDK and there is almost no way you can guess the missing information.
I've found the answer on this post:

Basically you need to:
- delete the "launch assistance" entries in the aircraft.cfg file if any. If they are present the bar will work but will not be animated.
- make the attachpt_Launch_Bar_Lug and attachpt_Launch_Bar_Pivot objects in the modeling tool. Note that their position shall influence the force application during launch. You may need to tweak them a little. In my case, if I put them in the "actual" place, the plane crashed into the deck during launch. I had to raise them a little.
- Assign empty attach attach points launch_bar_lug and launch_bar_pivot (pivot is where the bar connects to the gear, lug is where the bar connect to the catapult).
- Right click on those objects and edit the XML code and remove the suffix "_whatevernumber" - I'm not sure this step is really necessary
- Animate the launch bar keyframes 0 - 200 where: 0 is gear in, launch bar retracted; 100 is gear out, launch bar retracted; 200 is gear fully compressed, launch bar attached.
- Assign the animation launch_bar with Aces tools.

The procedure above should work on both 3D Studio and gmax. I'm sure the link above is much clearer than my description.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

FSX T-45C Gohsawk released!!!!

T-45C Goshawk Released!

I've just uploaded the final package to both and for in the file libraries in a day or two.
It's been a very long and complex project. I had a lot of fun and I hope I will find the time to keep the same quality level in future projects. Hope you'll like it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Goshawk Beta over - Preparing files for release

This is how the final exterior model looks...
...and this is the final interior model.

I've just finished making the changes and improvements driven by the feedback by the beta testers. I think the overall product quality is significantly improved.

Most relevant changes were:

- External model: better overall fuselage, more accurate nose shape and windshield details. New, more accurate flap design. Improved wing shape. Gear doors relax to open position when the engine is off. Animated launch bar.

- Virtual cockpit: added functionality, improved night lighting and warning lights. Fixed miscellaneous details and improved textures.

- Flight model: more accurate approach speeds, roll rate, aerobatic capability.

I'm making the final touches and will post to and in the next few days. It will be FREEWARE. While I think it is on par with professional add-ons, and while I spent a lot of time and efforts doing this, I wish to keep the hobbies separate from the businness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Goshawk (Beta) ready for takeoff!

Ready to takeoff!

Virtual cockpit - visually complete (working to get more functionality)

Yesterday night (well, properly it was today early morning) I've released a (sort of) beta version to volunteer test sim-pilots. Above it is how it looks...the outside model is almost unchanged, while the virtual cockpit is finally (visually) complete.

I think the cockpit is reasonably close to the original. As I could not make a working AoA needle, I 've replaced it with a G-meter. Also, many warning lights are inop and I've also moved some of them...but apart from these details, I think it is Ok. Well, most switches are inop right now...but I am trying to see what I can do to add functionality to the cockpit.

I am also trying to work out a checklist that is both as close as possible to the original but also manageable by the average sim (and the simmer).

The instructor virtual cockpit was dropped. It is doable, but would have made the 3D model even bigger (and it is already very heavy...) and would have been difficult to manage.

The only major thing that is undecided is the big question: payware or freeware? It started as a freeware project. I do not want my hobbies to become work as: 1) I already have a job 2) if you do these kind of things for profit you end up doing what the market ask, rather than what you would like to do.

On the other hand, the work on this project has been very time consuming. And time is money. And I may need some financial reasons to keep doing such big things for FSX. To be or not to be....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

FSX T-45C Goshawk - update

Below are a couple of screenshots of the work-in-progress T-45C Goshawk.
A couple of refinements were added to the the exterior model (some missing detail on the landing gear and tweaks to the fuselage and the cockpit) but it is 99.9% done and working. Except for the launch bar that it is not animated (can't tell why it is not working).
The model is fully SP2/Acceleration DX10 preview compliant, but while blooming is definitedly better in DX10 than in FX9c, some polygons appear to be uncorrectly shadowed. Well it is a "DX10 preview" so I guess it is OK that something is not working perfectly...

T-45C Goshawk approaching to a carrier (DX10)

Another Goshawk carrier landing in FSX:Acceleration!

As for the interior model...well, I did some progress. Now the main panel is done (except for the AoA indicators, clock and ADI which are not working as expected). All the instruments are dynamic 3d models (no 2D xml gauges, except for the displays which are aliased from the FSX:Acceleration Hornet). Do not expect a 100% working cockpit. It will be OK for carrier operations. This is a screenshot of the cockpit as it is now (a lot of switches missing, pedals yet to be done, more work needed on the canopy and seats).

T-45C Goshawk dynamic virtual cockpit

Flight model is ok, not great. Needs some tweaking. The plane behaviour is generally fine, and handiling is nice (but ailerons are not as effective as they should be). Carrier landing is relatively easy (and easier than the F/A-18 I think) but you need to fly 10-15 Kts faster than the real thing. I'm working on this too.

Ah, I may need the help of Beta test pilots. Not sure if I will do a proper Beta test, but if I do I may be looking for virtual pilots with some experience. Knowledge of carrier operations and ability to install add-ons manually is a must. If you are willing to help, drop me a line at (and specify T-45 in the subject).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

T-45C Goshawk for FSX update

Unfortunately I could not find the time to complete the Goshawk in July as I've planned... The external model has been slightly improved and it is now 100% done. Some more work is needed for the Virtual cockpit... I hope I will be able to release something in September. In the meantime, here are few screenshots.

T-45C Goshawk approaching a carrier

T-45C Goshawk in flight

T-45C Preparing to land on a carrier

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MB339PAN Work in Progress

In the past few months, I've received several appreciation e-mails for the Fs04 MB339 PAN "Frecce Tricolori" I've released several years ago.

Being Italian, this plane means much to me. I think that the Frecce Tricolori, our beloved national Aerobatic team, is one of those things that make us Italians feel proud of our country - like Ferrari cars - despite the problems our country is facing.
First, I'd like to say "thank you" to all those people who have downloaded and appreciated my efforts.

Second, I'd like to answer to the most recurrent question that is:"What about a FSX version?

Well, of course I've been working on it. Compliling an FSX version using gmax (the modeling tool I've used for the FS04 version) should be a relatively small task. Basically you need to create new FSX materials, assign them to the parts and tag the new animations. Not a big deal.

Still, gmax is an obsolete tool now. There are several reasons why you'd prefer to have the source files in 3D Studio Max, first one being the fact that .max can be converted to other file formats very easily (that means you can reuse your source on any new version of Flight Simulator - andlmost any other game that allows user-created models).

So I've decided to start a completely new project in 3D Studio Max. The base mesh for this project is Massimo Taccoli's excellent 3d mesh (thank you Massimo!) he built for FS2002 / 2004.

My intent is merge the best of my 339 with the best of Massimo's one and add completely new textures (highest possible definintion and with self shadowing and bump mapping).

As a side note, should anyone be interested, *IT IS* possible to convert gmax models to 3ds...well, at least partially. This is done using Quake 3d file format as interchange file format. Still, it is a long process as you have to split the model in small bits. While the textures coordinates are usually preserved, animations and materials are lost. And in most cases the geometry needs some manual fix.

These are a couple of screenshots of 3D Studio Max wip. I really cannot tell when I'll have the time to work on this. My first priority is complete the Goshawk. Then I'll switch to the 339.
3Ds Max Model - Work in progress

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

T-45C Goshawk FSX in-game screenshots

T-45C Goshawk apporaching a carrier

T-45C Goshawk flight testing near Patuxent River NAS

Showing the animated parts

Cockpit preview - some more work needed

All the screenshots above are taken directly from FSX with DX10 preview, with no editing except border cropping. The external model is complete, but the cockpit needs some more work (basically the main panel is done, but the rest is far from being complete). By the way, the plane wll feature only the virtual cockpit. 2D cockpit will be limited to HUD (as the Acceleration F/A-18) . Also, virtual cockpit will only have partial functionality: only the main instruments will be working. On the good side, everything will be in 3D, including the gauges.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

T-45C Goshawk for FSX Acceleration

Boeing T-45C Goshawk for FSX:Acceleration (1080p trial render)

Boeing T-45C Goshawk for FSX:Acceleration (1080p trial render)

Above are two renderings of the main project I'm working on in these days. It is a Boeing T-45C Goshawk model for Flight Simulator X Acceleration. The T-45C is a carrier capable version of the British Aerospace Hawk and it is currently employed by the U.S.Navy as jet trainer for strike fighter pilot candidates.

The main features of this project will be:

- FSX-compliant external model, including bloom, self shadowing and bump maps

- Full virtual cockpit, with 3D gauges, MFD and HUD. Due to several constraints the cockpit will only be partially functional. HUD and MFD will be aliased from FSX:Acceleration F/A-18

- Full FSX:Acceleration carrier CATOBAR compatibility

Actual screenshots and a preview of the cockpit will follow soon. I may need beta-test pilots in the near future, so, if you're interested to help, keep visiting this blog.
For those who may be interested, the model has 80.000 polygons. The images above took 40 minutes to render on a Athlon 64X2 6400, 8800GT, 4Gb RAM machine.

India India Alpha Foxt Echo

Hello world. My name is Dino Cattaneo and this is India-India-Alpha-Foxt-Echo, a blog about my flight simulator projects and flight simulation in general.

Some Flight Simulator users may remember my name from my previous freeware works. I began developing small projects (repaints and panels) for Flight Simulator 98 several years ago and then moved to full scale aircraft modeling for FS2000, FS2002 and FS2004 and now Flight Simulator X.
My most successful project to date is a freeware F-14 Tomcat for FS2004 which won the FlightSim Developer Award and, in its various versions, has been downloaded more than one hundred thousand times.

I am a 34 years old mechanical engineer working in Genoa, Italy, for a company that manufactures electrical components (some of which are also employed on actual civilian and military airplanes). I've always been an enthusiast of aviation, videogames, engineering, computer science and technology in general so it is obvious that flight simulation (and flight "games") always attracted my attention.
I still remeber myself playing a Boeing 737 "simulator" on Commodore 16 (my first computer), and then Flight Simulator II, Aces, Red Arrows, Solo Flight and F-15 Strike Eagle on Commodore 64, then F/A-18 Interceptor, Fighter Bomber and Stealth Fighter on Amiga and then Falcon 3, Flight Simulator 4, Flight Unlimited and F-14 Fleet Defender on my first PC (a 386DX 40Mhz with 40 Megabytes hard disk!). Lots of fun.

In 1995, thanks to the financial and moral support of parents, I was lucky enough to get a Private Pilot Licence (now expired) at the local aeroclub flying on Aviamilano P.19, Socata TB9 Tampico, SIAI-205 and Piper PA-28 Arrow. Lots of fun.
By the way India-India-Alpha-Foxt-Echo is the plane on which I earned my "wings".

Also, after my engineering graduation, I've served as desk-flying Airman in the 46th Air Brigade of the Italian Air Force (military service was still compulsive in Italy at that time). I cannot say it was lots of fun but it has not been a bad year either. And I had the chance to see a lot of planes which was great.

Well, here we go. In this blog I will show you the progress of my flight simulator projects and share my thoughts about flight simulation and flight games in general.