Getting CumulusX! to work in Prepar3D V4

 

In a comment on my YouTube channel, I was asked how I was able to make CumulusX! work in P3D V4.  CumulusX.exe is a 32 bit application for FSX and not supported in P3D. Because my answer was somewhat complicated, I thought it would be easier to explain in my blog rather than in a YouTube comment. Also, as a blog post it might be useful to a broader audience.

Note that I have FSX Steam Edition installed on my P3D flight sim PC, so my experience might be different to yours if you do not have FSX installed.  In particular, you may find it difficult get the CumulusX! smart tow feature working without first configuring it in FSX – but more on that later.

BTW: The partner application WinchX! works fine with P3D V4, although I had to manually add the code to load it automatically in my exe.xml file.

I installed CumulusX! manually into P3DV4 and  I am very happy so far with the way that it is working, both standalone and in multiplayer flight sessions.  However, I did not keep any notes on the installation procedure that I used, so I am relying on my memory to describe the steps taken. If you plan to follow my steps on your system, do so at your own risk and make backups of everything that you modify.

Step 1.  I copied the “CumulusX!” sub-folder and its contents from the “Modules” sub-folder in the CumulusX! installation package into my P3D “Modules” sub-folder.  Note that CumulusXDLL.dll library is 32 bit and will not work with P3DV4 but my experience suggests that this dll is not required.  So I do not bother trying to load it with P3D V4. In FSX and 32 bit versions of P3D you would normally load it with an entry in your DLL.xml file. The 32 bit CumulusX!.exe file is a standalone application and works fine with P3D V4. Since there is no installer for P3D, I manually added the required code to my Prepar3D exe.xml file – this is covered in step 3 below.

Step 2. I copied the “SimObjects” sub-folder and its contents from the “SimObjects” sub-folder in the CumulusX! installation package and merged it into my P3D “SimObjects” sub-folder. These new miscellaneous SimObjects are needed to create the CumulusX! thermal clouds.

Step 3. I manually added the following lines to:  C:\Users\jfall\AppData\Roaming\Lockheed Martin\Prepar3D v4\exe.xml after making a backup.  Note that I set the “ManualLoad” option to True so that I am prompted and can choose to load CumulusX!, or not, each time that I start a P3D session. You may choose to set this option to “False” if you want CumulusX! to automatically start with every flight. You can always shut the application down later if you don’t need it.  I only use CumulusX! for glider flights because I don’t like the CumulusX! cloud textures, although I can to some degree conceal them among the standard P3D cumulus cloud textures. Also, for powered GA flights I usually prefer to use Active Sky lift and sink features instead of CumulusX!.  On the other hand, when I want to use Active Sky with CumulusX! for a glider flight, I set the lift and sink values in Active Sky wind settings to zero so that they do not conflict with CumulusX! lift and sink.

Note that you can also manually start CumulusX! after starting the sim by double clicking on the CumulusX!.exe file if you don’t want to modify your exe.xml file.

You will find exe.xml in:

C:\Users\<your login name>\AppData\Roaming\Lockheed Martin\Prepar3D V4

Here are the lines added to my exe.xml file, but you must change the path statement to match your own system:

<Launch.Addon>
<Disabled>False</Disabled>
<ManualLoad>True</ManualLoad>
<Name>CumulusX!</Name>
<Path>P:\Prepar3D v4\Modules\CumulusX!\CumulusX.exe</Path>
<CommandLine>
</CommandLine>
<NewConsole>True</NewConsole>
</Launch.Addon>

 

Step 4. We must prevent the creation of the default P3DV4  thermals, which will conflict with the CumulusX! thermals. To do this I made a backup copy of the ThermalDescriptions.xml file in C:\ProgramData\Lockheed Martin\Prepar3D v4.  I then replaced the ThermalDescriptions.xml file with the following content:

<?xml version=”1.0″?>
<SimBase.Document Type=”AceXML” version=”1,0″ id=”AirObjectVisuals”>
<Descr>AceXML Document</Descr>
<Filename>ThermalsDescriptions.XML</Filename>
<SimMission.ThermalDescriptions>

<!– Thermal Types –>
<!– 00 Null thermal – For non-thermal areas –>
<!– 01 Damp Green Areas – Medium-large diameter short slow non-tubulent –>
<!– 02 Isolated Rock – Smallish Sharp fast turbulant high –>
<!– 03 Large Hot Area – desert, dense urban Large rough turbulant fast and high –>
<!– 04 Small Hot Area – dirt fields, small urban – Slightly smaller for rural area –>
<!– 05 Grassy Areas – Wide medium strength medium turbulance and semi-low –>
<!– 06 Cool Forests – Small to large, slow to fast, low to medium –>
<!– 07 Warm Forests – medium to large, medium to fast, medium to high –>
<!– 08 Semi-Arid – Wide and medium to fast and high –>
<!– 09 Big Mountain – Fast rowdy high for mountain air –>
<!– 10 Wetlands and Lakes – Mild Sink Large flat smooth slowly sinking air. –>

<!– 00 Null Thermal  –>
<ThermalDescription id=”{4f5e0000-1e81-11db-9897-001372201444}”>
<RadiusMin>0</RadiusMin>
</ThermalDescription>
</SimMission.ThermalDescriptions>
</SimBase.Document>

Note that you cannot simply delete or rename the ThermalDescriptions.xml file because P3D V4 will replace it on startup.

Step 5. The Smart Tow Plane configuration menu in CumulusX! does not seem to work properly with P3D. I think it tries to update the FSX.cfg file instead of Prepar3D.cfg. To get the smart tow feature configured the way I like it with the aircraft model of my choice, I configured it first in FSX first then copied the “[SIM]” configuration lines from FSX.cfg to Prepar3D.cfg.  Naturally, I had to install the same tow plane model in both sims. I am fairly sure that I was able to configure the tow plane speed in P3D itself but if I am wrong then the default speed is working OK.  These are the SIM config  lines that I added to my Prepa3D.cfg file – yours may be different:

[SIM]
TowPlaneTitle=PA36 Pawnee Brave 375 N55128 (Without Dispersal Equipment)
TowPlaneClimbPitch=-11

I suppose that if you do not have FSX installed, you could try and  change, or add,  the [SIM]  entry shown above into your Prepar3D.cfg file and change the TowPlaneTitle to your tow plane of choice, and  see if that works. You could then use trial and error to find a suitable TowPlanePitch value – note that it is a negative value.

Do not forget that you can ask for help and advice from Peter Lürkens and other CumulusX! users on the Aerosoft forums, although keep in mind that CumulusX! is not supported in P3D and you will need sign up if you do not already have an Aerosoft forums account. Here is the link to the CumulusX! topic:

http://forum.aerosoft.com/index.php?/forum/230-cumulusx/

Also help and advice is available for CumulusX! and virtual gliding issues in general on the UK Virtual Gliding Association  forum (membership of the association is free, although donations are welcome.) Our members mainly use FSX but many have experience with P3D, X-Plane and Condor.

CumulusX! has an excellent and detailed manual. You can find it online or in the Manual sub-folder in the CumulusX! folder. I recommend that you read it at least five times if you want to get the most out of this outstanding add-on. CumulusX! also comes with some example configuration files (.cmx), so try them out. In particular, if you are just getting started with CumulusX!, try the Beginner.cmx configuration.

Condor2 – My first cross-country task with wave lift

This is a follow on from my previous post with its associated YouTube video, which documented the creation of a wave lift task in Condor2. This post and associated video covers my attempt to fly that task. The video is much longer than originally intended and I did consider editing it down to just the highlights but that would have required a lot more work and the production of this video was already an ordeal for me, as discussed below.

Here is the link to the recorded video of the task in YouTube:

This project tested my resolve to continue with this hobby in a number of ways.  It was an ordeal to fly the task, it was an ordeal to record the task and it was an ordeal to edit and produce the video. Moreover, it took much longer to fly the task than expected, and thus I had difficulty getting such a long video uploaded to YouTube. Most of this pain and frustration was my own fault. I had attempted this project on the back of major upgrades to my flight sim systems. Also, my worsening health situation was not conducive to a long and tedious task such as this, nor was it helpful in dealing with the long and frustrating trouble shooting required to record and edit the video with new and unfamiliar recording applications.

Nevertheless, in one sense it was a success. I did get to experience some wave lift in a gliding simulator for the first time  – at least I am pretty certain that it was wave lift because I was able to climb above the typical thermal and ridge lift height that you would expect from a task such as this. However, the manifestation of wave lift that I encountered in this task was not what I was expecting.  I was expecting something a bit more substantial – maybe easily climbing well above thermal heights without having to circle or turn frequently.  I was expecting to encounter long bands of lift running parallel to the mountain ridge lines – lift that I should be able to easily climb to spectacular height without little or no requirement to keep circling. In contrast to my expectations, what I got from this task was more like small irregular shaped thermals that required a great deal of tedious turning to climb to a mediocre height above the typical thermals and ridge lift in this task scenario.  So I am not sure if this is the typical way that wave lift is manifested in Condor2, or whether I did something wrong with either my choice of terrain or the weather scenario that I used. Or maybe I was just unlucky and missed encounters with those longer bands of wave lift.  The long bands of clouds produced by the wave lift in my task did suggest that there should have been better wave lift available.

So the takeaway question for me now is this: Is my experience with this specific task typical of how wave lift is implemented and manifested by Condor2?   I guess that only time and more experience with Condor2 will answer that. However, I am not inclined to dive into more testing of wave lift with Condor2 unless there is a substantial break in my current worsening health situation.  Perhaps someone else can provide the answer.

My next YouTube project, if there is to be one, will most likely be a much shorter video taking advantage of what I have learned with the new recording applications used in this production. I haven’t decided yet if it will based on Condor2, Prepa3D V4 or X-Plane 11.

Condor2 – Creating a cross-country gliding task with wave lift

After an extensive and time-consuming upgrade of my flight sim system,  I decided that it was time to take the plunge and try some wave lift in Condor2.

I created a small (< 62 nautical miles) triangular task at Lesce Bled, Slovenia.  The first leg of my task crossed some parallel ridges, over which I intended to blow enough wind to hopefully generate some useful wave lift. I had in mind a notion to use either thermal lift or ridge lift to climb high enough to engage with the wave lift.  Then, using the wave lift,  I hoped to climb above final glide to complete the task. However, as I have repeatedly said, every cross-country gliding is an adventure and it remains to be seen if my plan works or not.

I captured my task design and configuration in the following YouTube video.  I plan to make another video of my attempt to fly this task in Condor.  The final production of that second video may take some weeks given the fact that I am currently rebuilding my editing system.  I have not decided yet whether the task flight video will be a full flight video or just edited highlights.

VIDEO (PART 1): Creating a cross-country task with wave lift in Condor2

Following are some key screenshots with comments of the task development.

TASK FLIGHT PLAN

Flight Plan

 

SURFACE WIND CONFIGURATION:

I set the surface wind direction and speed to create some ridge lift over the ridge lines at the north-western corner of my task triangle. I assume that this surface level wind setting also governs the wind direction for the upper-level winds, which should hopefully create some useful wave lift in conjunction with subsequent wave lift configuration settings.

Wind

 

CLOUD THERMAL CONFIGURATION:

I tried to create some typical summer thermal conditions to help me get started on this cross-country task.  I also set the “streeting” effect to moderate because my chosen surface-wind strength is 30 kph, which I believe should be conducive to thermal “streeting”.

Thermals

 

WAVE LIFT CONFIGURATION:

Here, I simply adjusted the upper-wind speed setting to generate what looked like reasonable wave lift in the wave-lift display window.  Then I adjusted the airmass moisture to create lenticular clouds for strong to medium lift bands.

Waves

 

HIGH CLOUD (CIRRUS) CONFIGURATION:

I set upper-level cloud coverage to zero to avoid any possibility of confusing these cirrus clouds with the lenticular clouds generated by the wave lift. I wanted to be able to use the lenticular clouds to help me locate potential areas of wave lift.

Cirrus clouds

 

GLIDER SELECTION:

For this task, I chose to use the add-on LS8neo glider model, which I had recently purchased. This is a 15 metre standard class glider with reasonable performance, which can carry water ballast but is not equipped with flaps.

Aircraft

 

GLIDER CONFIGURATION:

I chose to use a full load of water ballast to boost performance in the breezy conditions of this task.

Ballast

 

NOTAM SETTINGS:

The only thing I changed from defaults here was the start height. I increased it to approximately 3000 feet AGL to lessen the time spent scratching about for lift to get to a decent task start height.

NOTAMs