I recorded this cross-country gliding task on New Year’s eve 2016. The intention of the task was to get some ridge soaring experience with the Aerosoft ASK21 training glider in preparation for some upcoming UK Virtual Gliding online events to be based in the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest.
During this practice flight I wanted to try out some new payload weight distribution (i.e. centre of gravity adjustment) in the Aerosoft ASK21 and find out how that would affect trim and speed control at higher speeds. In my experience, the ASK21 tends to run out of nose down trim adjustment at speeds that are too low for typical glider racing tasks but on the other hand it seems to have more than enough nose up trim for slow speed thermalling. To try and counteract that, I have set the centre of gravity further forward than with the default weight distribution. This can be achieved without exceeding the maximum weight restriction by reducing the pilot and passenger weights and then offsetting that weight reduction by adding some trim weight in the aircraft payload settings. These are my changes to the default payload settings:
I also wanted to test the most recent beta version of the A2A Accu-Feel add-on with the “Land” effects disabled to make sure that an intermittent bug that causes excessive lift in violent turbulence and wind gusts has been cured. I am not usually keen on using beta versions of software but I am desperate to overcome this bug and still enjoy the benefits of Accu-Feel. I know from previous test flights that this beta version reduces the frequency of the problem dramatically but does not seem to completely eliminate it, that. that is to say that I have seen one instance of this bug since installing the latest beta version from the A2A forums several weeks prior to this flight. The forums suggest that disabling the “Land” effects in the setup dialog fixes the problem in the production version of Accu-Feel, so I am hoping that this fix might also eliminate this bug from the beta version. Sacrificing the “Land” effects is a reasonable compromise if it works and I can still have the in-flight effects – otherwise I will have to disable Accu-Feel altogether when flying gliders.
I opted to use manual FSX weather settings for this task instead of real world weather with the intention of exercising what I thought would be more control over the ridge soaring conditions. I set a wind gradient and direction that I hoped would create sufficient lift for a high speed ridge run along the eastern side of the long valley running northwards from Bonners Ferry, Idaho to Kaslo, British Columbia. Since it was a training flight, the flight plan was a direct path between airports of approximately 75 nautical miles (139 kilometers) without any waypoints.
My FSX weather settings were as follows, although I also created a high level cirrus layer, not shown in the settings below, of 6/8 coverage at around 40,000 feet for purely visual effect.
Cumulus cloud layer settings (a cumulus layer is required for random auto-generated thermals in CumulusX!):
Ground wind (set low enough to provide relatively safe launching and landing):
Upper layer wind (to create an increasing wind strength gradient with increasing height):
Pressure, temperature and dewpoint settings (dew point consistent with my cumulus base level setting):
Visibility settings (set high to enjoy the scenery):
As always, I used CumulusX! for the soaring environment because it produces the most realistic ridge soaring and thermalling conditions in FSX. For this task I used the default settings as follows:
As is often the case, this cross-country glider flight tuned into a different adventure than expected with more challenges and less speed than anticipated. The ridge lift was patchy and surprisingly weak in places where I expected more. Also I had to leave the ridge to find some thermals, and even backtrack at one stage, to keep this task alive. In retrospect, I believe that I set the wind strength a little too low. Also I underestimated the ‘jaggy’ nature of the ridge line and the effect of the numerous gaps in the ridge line when assessing the terrain map. I chose a wind direction that I thought would be close to ideal but even that surprised me with the lack of efficacy in producing ridge lift on some of those ridge lines. Also my cumulus cloud base setting made climbing to and staying on station in the best lift zone on top of the ridge difficult at times, but that was intentional. Although I struggled in the early part of this task, the situation improved as I got further north into Canada. In the latter part of the flight, between Crawford Bay and Kaslo, I managed to maintain some good speed, although not getting as close to Vne as I had hoped for.
Within minutes of tow rope release, I became totally immersed in the challenges of reaching my destination airfield and forgot about my original intentions for this practice task. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I did not see any evidence of the A2A Accu-Feel intermittent bug that typically manifests itself as excessive lift in strong turbulence and wind gusts. So my latest attempts to fix that bug may be working, although one test flight is not enough to check an intermittent bug like this. Also, as far as I can recall, I did not notice any necessity to use excessive pressure to hold the stick forward to maintain speed when required, so I assume that my changes in centre of gravity may have been beneficial. More testing will be required before I am fully convinced that these changes have been successful.
The REX soft clouds are excellent, but the view of clouds in general is spoiled somewhat by the low resolution CumulusX! clouds. There are times though when the CumulusX! clouds blend in quite well.
I am also trialling new water textures and wave effects using a combination of the REX 3 Essential Plus OD application with the FS Water Configurator application. Specifically I toned down the wave effects to avoid the otherwise exaggerated waves, particularly on inland water features, that I have seen in some previous flights. In general, I am much happier with my new settings but would like to see more white caps in wind conditions such as I had in this task. As always the wave direction does not match the wind direction in FSX,
As always the Orbx regional scenery for this region transforms FSX into a far more convincing experience than the FSX designers originally achieved. Moreover, when I think back to how FSX was with default aircraft, scenery and mesh, I realise how much the many wonderful add-ons that are now available have transformed this otherwise ageing and bland simulator into such an absorbing and entertainment experience. 2017 may be the year for emerging new flight simulators but I am nervous and sceptical about the likelihood of these new products ever providing the same, or better, virtual gliding experience that that which I now enjoy with FSX optioned up with some excellent add-ons.