My name is James Allen and I live in Canberra Australia. As you may have guessed from my blog title, my hobby is flight simulation – in particular I enjoy the virtual sport of competitive cross-country soaring. What might surprise you is that I prefer to use Microsoft Flight Simulator (FSX), all jazzed up with some amazing add-ons. Many other virtual soaring enthusiasts prefer to use the Condor Soaring Simulator. I also use the Condor competition soaring simulator, which admittedly has some advantages over FSX in regards to managing on-line competition tasks, but from my perspective it is a less convincing soaring experience than what can be achieved by enhancing FSX with add-ons like CumulusX!, WinchX! and various superb glider models such as the Discus X from Aerosoft or the many freeware models available from Wolfgang Piper’s website (http://www.fsglider.de/).
Virtual soaring enthusiasts have been described by one representative of a prominent flight simulation developer company as a “niche within a niche” – meaning that there are not a lot of us out there. Thus virtual soaring doesn’t appear as prominently on the radar of developers as other flight simulation specialties. Nevertheless, there are some good resources available.
Active clubs for FSX based virtual soaring are currently a bit scarce so I should mention that I am a member of the UK Virtual Gliding Association (http://www.ukvga.org). This club is a valuable resource and meeting place for any virtual gliding enthusiast using FSX. The UKVGA operates on a similar basis to a typical real-world glider club. The club members fly together on-line twice weekly. These events are known as Association Group Launches or AGLs. Competition racing and vintage tasks similar to, and sometimes based on, real-world tasks are featured at these AGLs, although members are welcome to attend the AGLs regardless of whether they are flying the scheduled task or not. The competitive racing aspects of these AGL events tend to be relatively low key in our club mainly because our members prefer to keep the AGL events focused on providing some real-time social contact for members. Moreover, gliding tasks are as much about the challenges involved and strategies employed as they are about finishing a task faster than someone else.
On the technical side of things the standout “game changer” for virtual soaring in FSX has to be CumulusX! by Peter Lürkens (http://www.luerkens.homepage.t-online.de/peter/). You only need the free version to fly with the UKVGA but I was so impressed with the free version that I happily purchased the registered version, and not just because of the extra features the registered version provides, but as a vote of thanks to the developer Peter Lürkens. The nice thing about virtual soaring in FSX with CumulusX! is that you can apply most of the techniques and strategies of real-world soaring.
So will my blog be exclusively limited to virtual soaring?
My blog will will not necessarily be limited to virtual soaring topics because I am keenly interested in many other aspects of flight simulation and I also enjoy car racing simulation activities. However most of these are very well covered by other people elsewhere.
My real-world flying experience is very limited, consisting of one air experience flight and one training introductory flight with the Mount Beauty Gliding Club in an ISG28 and 22 training flights in Puchacz gliders with the Canberra Gliding Club. I have never flown solo and never flown any real-world cross-country tasks.
I have a YouTube channel featuring virtual soaring videos related to my blog posts here.
And did I mention that I am an enthusiastic member of the UK Virtual Gliding Association?