Category Archives: Tutorials and demonstrations

Tutorials and practical demonstrations of how things do or do not work.

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

Connecting XCSoar to X-Plane 11 from a networked PC

 

I had a request in a comment on my previous post asking me to describe how I connect XCSoar to X-Plane from a networked PC. The following method is the one that I use, but there is at least one other way to do this using a freeware serial port emulation product called “HW VSP”. I have not tried the freeware option myself.   If you want to use the freeware “HW VSP” for virtual ports emulation then I suggest that you join the UK Virtual Gliding Association (also free) and ask for help on their forum. I believe that some of the UKVGA members use “HW VSP”.

I use the product called Virtual Serial Ports Emulator (VSPE) by Eterlogic.com. You have to purchase a license to use it on 64 bit MS Windows.   I believe it is free on 32 bit MS Windows. Because I am running it on two 64 bit PCs, I bought two licenses but I am not sure if that is necessary or not. I have used it successfully on both a wired LAN and WIFI.  There may be a simpler way to do this, but this works and I have not bothered to try any other methods.

1. Install VSPE on X-Plane 11 PC and configure as follows:

Create a COM1 Connector device using default settings (this is the port that we will send X-Plane GPS output to). If COM1 is already in use on your system, you can use a different COM number.

Create a Splitter device with COM5 as the virtual serial port and COM1 as the Data source serial port. This will connect the X-Plane GPS output via COM1 to the TCP network server created in the next step.

Create a TcpServer device with Local TCP port 5555 and Source serial port is COM5. This virtual device will send the serial data stream received from the Splitter across the network to any TcpClients created with VSPE.

Save the configuration.  To re-load a saved configuration, you may have to stop the emulation first.

Click on the green start icon below the menu bar to start the emulation. Below is a screenshot of how it should look when you have started the emulation. NOTE: The emulation probably needs to be started before X-Plane  (it definitely does for FSX).

VSPE on X-Plane PC

I set this configuration up years ago, so I am not sure, but I believe that I used default settings for the VSPE emulation devices.  I provide screen captures of my settings in VSPE just in case I am wrong:

X-Plane PC COM1 properties:

X-Plane COM1 port properties

X-Plane PC Splitter properties:

X-Plane Splitter properties

X-Plane PC Splitter settings:

X-Plane Splitter settings

X-Plane PC TCP Server properties:

X-Plane tcp server properties

X-Plane PC TCP Server settings:

X-Plane tcp server settings

 

2. Install VSPE on networked PC with XCSoar installed and configure VSPE as follows:

Create a COM2 Connector device using default settings. This is the port that that XCSoar will read the GPS serial data stream sent from your X-Plane PC.

Created a Splitter device with COM5 as the virtual serial port and COM2 as the Data source serial port. This will get the serial data stream from the TCP Client device created in the next step and output it via COM2.

Create a TcpClient device with Remote TCP port 5555, The Remote TCP host  is the IP address of your X-Plane PC.  The Source serial port is COM5. This virtual device will receive the serial data stream across the network from the specified VSPE server PC.

Save the configuration.  To re-load a saved configuration, you may have to stop the emulation first.

Below is a screenshot of how it should look when configured.  Click on the green start icon below the menu bar to start the emulation.

With VSPE emulations running on both the server and client PCs and a successful network connection the status for each emulation device should change to “OK”.

NOTE: You may need to open port 5555 through your firewall on both the server and client PCs for the VSPEmulator.exe application.

VSPE on XCSoar PC

XCSoar PC COM2 properties:

XCSoar COM2 properties

XCSoar PC Splitter properties:

XCSoar Splitter properties

XCSoar PC Splitter settings:

XCSoar Splitter settings

XCSoar TCP Client properties:

XCSoar tcp client properties

XCSoar TCP Client settings:

XCSoar tcp client settings

 

3. Start X-Plane 11 Go to Settings –> GPSHardware

Enable the moving map/NMEA COM port and set COM1 with 5 NMEA transmissions per second. You can experiment with the transmissions per second, but 5 per second seems to work OK for me.  (click on image to view larger size)

EDIT: I have carried out some testing of the transmission rate since this post and found that values less than 4 per second or greater than 5 per second impact frame rates and cause stutters.  So on my system, 4 to 5 per second works best.

X-Plane 11 GPS output setting

 

4. Start XCSoar on the networked PC.  Double click on map display to open menu buttons. Click on Config menu button, select Devices button and configure Device A to COM2 with Baud rate of 4800. The serial driver is optional, but I use the Condor Soaring Simulator driver, which seems to work OK.  There are an extensive range of drivers available in XCSoar. (click on image to view larger size)

XCSOAR Device config

WinchX! Tutorial and Demonstration Flight

After a long absence from flight simulation, I decided to practice some circuit patterns in Flight Simulator X (FSX) with one of my favourite glider models, the Aerosoft Discus X. I chose winch launching for these exercises because it positions the glider after launch release in a good location to begin the cross-wind leg of the circuit pattern. To winch launch my gliders in FSX, I use the WinchX! add-on by Peter Lürkens ( WinchX! website).

I took this opportunity to use one of these practice circuits to make a YouTube video to show how I configure and use WinchX! and then how I fly a left-hand circuit pattern in FSX.

Winch launches involve a power plant driving a cable drum that winds in a cable attached to the glider.  The cable is typically around a 1000 to 2500 meters long,


Example of a V8 petrol engine powered winch

The cable is attached to the glider nose or underneath the fuselage. The attachment point features a back-release mechanism to automatically release in case the manual release fails or the pilot inadvertently fails to release soon enough. Also a weak-link limiter is inserted in the cable at the glider end, which is designed to break if the force on the glider should exceed a specific maximum value. The weak links are typically colour coded based on the force required to break them to help the ground crew and pilot in charge to make certain that the correct one is inserted for the type of glider being launched.


Attaching the winch cable

The winch winds the cable in at suffient speed to safely launch the glider into the air, typically up to a height that is about half the cable length, although greater height can be achieved with a head wind.


Launching


Releasing the cable at top of launch

In the real-world, winch launches are popular with some clubs because they are much cheaper than aero towing, the frequency of launches are generally better than aero towing because running out the cable for the next launch is faster than waiting for the tow plane to return to the airfield and also clubs do not need to have qualified aero tow pilots on hand to operate a winch.

Winch launches are also popular in FSX because some users find that they are easier to master than aero tows and also it takes less time to get to launch height. Personally, I prefer aero-tows in most circumstances in FSX because WinchX! has random failures built in to test your cable break recovery skills, which can be a tad annoying sometimes, particularly when it holds up proceedings at a multiplayer event.

In the real-world, standard circuit patterns are typically used to train pilots. I use circuits in the simulator to practice my flying skills, to test new aircraft or to familiarise myself with airfields. For those that are not familiar with it, the left-hand circuit pattern consists of the following key elements: