Related to this post are two YouTube videos. Part 1 shows the flight plan creation for a cross-country soaring task based at Aboyne in Scotland using Plan-G. It also includes the configuration of the weather and soaring environment using FSX and CumulusX! Part 2 shows my attempt at flying this task in the Aerosoft Discus X. The videos can be accessed at the end of this post
Aimlessly soaring about the virtual countryside in FSX might be one way to view some new scenery, to test a new glider model or to practice soaring skills, but it can become boring after a while. To avoid boredom I provide structure to my soaring flights by using a set task with some specific goals. In addition to specific goals, variety, new challenges and a good measure of adventure are all essential to maintaining continued interest in this virtual sport. I get a lot of satisfaction out of designing and flying my own cross-country tasks, but I also like flying the tasks designed and shared by others because the bigger the creative pool of designers is, the more variety there is.
Task designers generally strive to create soaring tasks that will be a challenging adventure with a level of difficulty that is neither too easy nor too difficult. The adventure aspect of cross-country task derives from the uncertainty of completing any task because you may may be forced to return to the airfield or landout out at an alternative airfield or in some field somewhere. A lot depends on your gliding skills and your tactical decisions but there is often an element of luck involved as well. The task will sometimes be designed for a specific class of glider (e.g. open, club or vintage). There is also the possibility of developing some virtual cross-country tasks based on real-world competition tasks. These real-world tasks, when combined with simulated real-world historical weather and virtual time and date matched to the real event provide an additional level of realism to the virtual soaring experience.
The UK Virtual Gliding Association (UKVGA) has many cross-country tasks available to members for download. The club encourages members interested in task development to contribute and share tasks. The caliber of task designers in this club is outstanding. Moreover, the UKVGA tasks are often augmented by the seemingly continuous output from the excellent airfield scenery designers in the club. The UKVGA organizes two multi-player events on VATSIM each week for members. The multi-player task packages include the FSX saved flight with the flight plan, the CumulusX! settings, the weather settings and the virtual time and date, and they are perfectly suited to on-line multi-player events but are also excellent for off-line use if desired.
So clearly we have a wonderful shared task resource for members of the UKVGA but the main purpose of this article and associated videos is to look at how we can create our own cross-country tasks. Also we want to create our tasks so that they are flyable but still challenging and interesting.
In this case study I have created a video split into two parts on my YouTube channel to show how I designed and configured a specific cross-country task for FSX. The task flight plan for this case study is in the form of a triangle starting and ending at Aboyne airfield in Scotland. Aboyne is the home of the Deeside Gliding Club and apparently this location is renowned for wave soaring. Unfortunately CumulusX! does not support wave soaring yet, so my task will use thermal soaring instead – and thus I won’t be needing an oxygen mask this time around.
In the Part 1 video I try to create a short but challenging cross-country task by:
1. creating a practical flight plan using Plan-G
2. configuring CumulusX! for realistic soaring conditions
3. creating some suitable soaring weather in FSX
4. setting an appropriate virtual date and time in FSX
This case study task is a simple goal based task and does not include all of the steps necessary for a multi-player event. The goal is to launch from Aboyne to 2000 feet AGL and then to fly around two real-world glider turnpoints, the first one over the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park at Braemar and the second turnpoint over Corgarff castle. Unfortunately, the Orbx EU Scotland scenery is mostly a facsimile of real-world scenery so the chosen landmarks are not visible in FSX. Therefore I used the flightplan loaded into the C4 competition computer fitted to the Aerosoft Discus X to navigate and validate the achievement of the turnpoints and the crossing of the start/finish line.
The real-world glider turnpoints for Plan-G were downloaded from the UKVGA, but you can create your own turnpoints in Plan-G by right-clicking anywhere on the map. You can also download real-world glider turnpoints from the Worldwide Soaring Turnpoint Exchange as a csv format file, which can be converted and imported into Plan-G, although the conversion is not necessarily trivial. The UKVGA website and forum are useful resources for obtaining Plan-G turn-points and for learning how to convert turnpoints.
In Part 2 of this case study I attempt to fly this task and this second video includes my pre-flight and post-flight analysis, although there are other options to carryout a more detailed flight analysis using the saved IGC logfile, which is beyond the scope of this article and the associated videos.