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
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
I chose to use a full load of water ballast to boost performance in the breezy conditions of this task.
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.
Making a video of this, my 1st cross-country glider task using Condor2, was a rash choice, because it has been more than three years since I last flew in Condor. So you may as well say that I am a newbie with this sim. Thus my first cross-country flight was marred somewhat by my lack of experience with this simulator. I stopped using Condor because I found that the wealth of high quality add-ons for the ESP based sims (FSX and P3D) provided a more satisfying and immersive experience for cross-country soaring than could be achieved with Condor. I did purchase one good quality photo-realistic scenery add-on for CONDOR, but it was still not as well suited to low altitude flying as the Orbx FTX global and regional sceneries are in FSX and P3D.
Moreover, the sound effects in Condor have always been reminiscent of cheap arcade games in my opinion.
On the other hand, Condor has always excelled at glider flight modelling, soaring environment modelling, and provides multiplayer competition features for online events that are second to none. So it is not surprising that Condor is very popular with real-world glider pilots and virtual cross-country glider racing enthusiasts in general.
Since it has been such a long time since I last used Condor prior to the release of Condor2, I decided not to attempt to compare the two versions. Instead, I treated this as a new gliding simulator and any comparisons tend to be with the ESP based simulators (FSX and P3D) or X-Plane 11. Also, I did not attempt to test the multiplayer features in this initial look at the new release. Nor did I test the task creation features.
My test task was the default task with default Slovenia2 scenery. I decided to fly the Avionic Diana-2, a 15 m water ballasted racing sailplane. This is a flapped glider and I neglected to get hold of a flight manual for this glider, so I may not have been using the flaps correctly. Also, I was having major problems elevator trim range at typical cruise speeds and I could not find any range adjustment in the settings. This meant that I had a lot of trouble controlling my speed on this task, although the trim worked quite well at low speed when thermalling.
Out of the box, the default scenery is not overly bad, but I really expect something a little better from a product released in 2018. Also the ESP based simulators (FSX and P3D) and X-Plane 11 have the advantage of worldwide scenery coverage, whereas Condor2 only includes scenery for Slovenia out of the box. Obviously there will be other freeware or payware add-on scenery areas available, but I suspect that you can only load a single scenery area for any given flight. This could be a limiting factor when designing tasks.
You cannot directly import real-world weather into Condor2, although I was able to approximate some historical weather manually. The weather user interface is very crude in functionality and rather simplistic compared to other flight sims like FSX , P3D and X-Plane 11. Most annoying to me was that could enter settings such temperatures, wind speed and wind direction using the keyboard – I had to drag graphic objects to change the associated values, which is awkward and imprecise.
On the other hand there was a reasonable assortment of settings to control the characteristics of thermals. although you still could not use precise values. Also, you cannot define a detailed wind gradient in terms of speed and/or direction. There is one upper wind settings but this is mainly to set the amount of wave lift and presumably is locked in direction to your defined surface wind.
There is a setting for the height of a single inversion layer but this seems to be restricted to placement above the cloud base and controls the height of cloud tops and the width of cloud base. There is no prevision for an inversion below cloud base such as we have in the CumulusX! add-on for FSX.
The cloud texture in Condor2 looked quite reasonable and they dynamically adjust their textures to the cycles of the associated thermals. So I could watch clouds form at the top of new thermals and then fade away as the thermals reached the end of their life. In general, the modelling of thermals is the best I have seen in any simulator I have tried so far. I did not test the wave lift, nor the ridge lift in this task because the wind that I chose for this specific task was too light (only around six knots).
The flight model for the Diana-2 glider seemed convincing to me, although I have never flown a single seat high performance glider similar to this in real-world. On the other hand, I was troubled by the modelling of turbulence and stall vibration, which seemed too harsh and very hard on my eyes – I am not sure whether that is a limitation in my sim PC performance or not. Also the modelling of turbulence seemed too simplistic with not enough variability in amplitude and frequency.
I was not able to get the elevator trim axis to work with my Logitech Joystick slider – the trim ran out of range above about 60 knots, which made speed regulation on the cruise segments of the test task very difficult. Also, I could not get the elevator trim axis to recognise my GoFlight trim wheel, so I had to fall back on using the Logitech throttle axis as trim control. Thus, I have some more testing and work to do to sort this out. I might have to to revert to using indexed trim control using up and down buttons, which is not ideal for gliding.
There does not seem to be any support for the GoFlight LGT II gear lever. Condor2 seems to only provide a gear toggle option, which caused no end of trouble for me when I tried to map it to the 3 position gear lever on the GoFlight LGT II.
I have not seen any mention of VR support for Condor2, which is a big concern to me because I am intending to purchase a VR headset soon.
Overall, I think that Condor2 has a lot of potential for virtual gliding enthusiasts, and if I can work out some of the issues mentioned, then I will likely be using this simulator for some of my future gliding adventures.
MY CONDOR2 SETTINGS FOR THIS INITIAL TEST TASK:
Setup options are available from the “SETUP” button in the main menu:
I chose to use windowed mode but otherwise used the highest available graphics settings. I initially tried to use fullscreen mode, but my display monitor blanked the display and showed a configuration error. This error may be due to the fact that I feed the video signal through a pass-through on a video capture card – I will have to do some more testing to confirm this.
I left the sound settings at defaults. I hindsight I should have reduced the vario volume slightly because it was a bit too loud for video recording.
I do not have a force feedback stick, so I unchecked that. Also I added some non-linearity to my rudder pedals, based on experience with other simulators.
I think these settings are for multiplayer use, so I ignored them.
I set my units to “Australian” because I like to have speed in knots and height in feet. Also enabled the NMEA GPS output for future use with XCSoar or TopHat glide computers., but I did not attempt connect my XCSoar , nor the TopHat glide computers for this test task.
MY TASK CONFIGURATION:
I used the default task in Condor2, but I changed the date and time to: 5th August 2017 at 13:00 local time, because according the historical weather in Active Sky, this seemed to be a good day for thermal soaring.
The following screenshots show my weather settings, which were based on historical weather downloaded from Active Sky 2016:
My choice of aircraft was the Avionic Diana-2:
I decided fly without water ballast for this first test task because the task is quite short. Note that on my second attempt, I changed the C/G to be 3 cm forward towards the nose in an attempt to improve the elevator trim range (adjustment is not shown in this snapshot.)
I left these settings at default, except for Aerotow height, which I increased to 3,000 feet AGL.
This flight adventure was my attempt, using Prepar3D V4, to emulate a real-world gliding speed challenge. My P3D flight was inspired by one of Bruno Vassel’s excellent YouTube videos (see links below). In that video, Bruno broke the Utah 100 km triangle speed record of 95.2 mph set back in 2003 by flying an average 100.23 mph (162 km/h) in a Schleicher ASW 27b glider on the 5th August 2017 at Nephi, Utah (u14).
To emulate Bruno Vassel’s real-world speed challenge in a somewhat convincing way, I undertook the following actions and configuration settings:
Task replication: I replicated Bruno’s flight task by extracting the waypoint data from the IGC logfile captured on Bruno’s flight, and then converted the data to an FSX flight plan using a Python script that I had developed.
This is the resultant flight plan in Little Navmap:
Choice of glider model: The choice of glider model was easy. I used the ASW27b model from Wolfgang Piper’s collection of freeware gliders for FSX and P3D. This matches up nicely with Bruno’s glider, although there are likely some differences due to limitations in the simulator flight modelling.
Payload and ballast settings: To maximise my cruise speed performance, I set the payload and ballast in P3D to give the maximum take-off payload of 500 kg. I also set the pilot weight and ballast to bring the centre of gravity slightly forward of default to improve high speed trimming as shown in the following snapshot:
Weather settings: To approximate the weather conditions of Bruno’s flight, I initially explored the possibility of using Active Sky 2016 (AS16) to inject historical weather directly into the sim. The problem with that approach was that the AS16 add-on chose stratus clouds when the historical meta data left the lower cloud layer type unspecified and the soaring environment add-on (CumulusX!) will not produce thermals when stratus clouds are present in the lowest cloud layer.
To get around that problem, I tried using a snapshot of the historical weather in manual mode and then changed the cloud type to cumulus but then I ran into other problems. Firstly the upper level wind layers had enough wind shear to make thermalling in the simulator almost impossible. Also AS16 seemed to generate too many clouds for the specified cloud coverage, which did not look anything like the real-world conditions seen in Bruno’s video. Moreover, the extra clouds exacerbated performance issues that I have been experiencing lately in my simulator.
In the end, I decided to use the historical data from AS16 as a guide for manually creating a weather scenario using the advanced weather settings in Prepar3D. I tried to copy the AS16 reported weather conditions as closely as possible but I did modify the upper wind layers a little to reduce the wind shear to more modest levels. I also reduced the reported visibility to better match the cloud haze visible in Bruno’s video because this visibility issue had not been reported in the AS16 historical weather data. Plus I elliminated the lower level cloud layer completely, relying instead on clouds generated by the CumulusX! add-on in ‘Unblue’ mode. I added a high-level cirrus cloud layer for purely cosmetic reasons.
Soaring environment configuration: To create a convincing soaring environment (thermals) consistent with the conditions evident in Bruno’s flight video, I configured CumulusX! as shown in the following snapshot. Note also, that I was using ‘blue’ thermals (i.e. no cumulus cloud layer in P3D) and I had the ’Unblue’ option in the CumulusX! Help menu ticked. This was done, partly because my P3D installation did not seem to represent a 2/8 or less cloud coverage accurately, and also because reducing the cloud coverage helped with some performance issues that I have been experiencing lately. Unfortunately, the CumulusX! cloud textures looked awful.
Link to CumulusX! competition soaring environment add-on:
While I fell well short of the Utah 100 km speed record (only 95.88 mph as against 100.23 mph) in my attempt, I nevertheless enjoyed this speed challenge immensely. I felt pressured all the way around the set course, trying to balance minimum arrival height against the need to achieve a task average speed greater than 100 mph. I am convinced that a speed challenge, such as this, can be equally entertaining as any race against other gliders in a multiplayer event.