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 dino_cattaneo@libero.it

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.