Friday, 21 September 2012

It's all in the little things.

Today I managed to squeeze in not one but two flying sessions.  The first was inspired by a friend of mine who's currently posted with 'Er Majesties Armed Forces to the wonderful country of Kenya, for the purposes of training other soldiers how best to not get ganked by short angry men.  I asked my friend for the names of any airports, bases or fields in his general area and he gave me a couple of names.  They turned out to be only 12 miles from eachother, so I did a couple of quick ferry runs back and forth with the DC3 (good landing and takeoff practice) then did another slightly longer and slower flight in a microlight.

This afternoon I found myself with an hour to spare, so I fired up FSX again with the DC3, this time starting at my home base of EGCC Manchester.  I decided to try the run I used practice in the CRJ-700, down to EGNX East Midlands Airport.  With weather conditions pretty poor and lots of low level cloud, it took a bit more "proper" flying to keep to the VFR rules, and finding EMA at the end of the flight was harder than you'd expect.  But a slightly bumpy landing later I found myself taxiing to the parking area.

Now, in the DC3 I've taken to turning off the Multi Crew Experience copilot and only using it for talking to ATC, a task for which it works well.  Talking directly to ATC, rather than pushing buttons and hearing my strange, American accented voice talking to them, just feels a whole lot more natural and... I hate to use the word realistic but... it feels more like I'm captaining a vehicle than playing a computer game.  Does that make sense?  It's only a tiny little difference, but I think it's the tiny little differences like this that build up to make a good sim experience.

With that in mind, this week I picked up Ground Services X, an add-on which gives you things like baggage carts, passenger stairs and catering vans while on the ground, as well as a greatly improved push-back service.  This is nicely supported by MCE, at least at the departure end of the journey, so I can request all these services by voice.  Now on the surface this is an absurd thing to spend your flightsimming budget on.  Having a bus pull up alongside your parked plane for a few minutes before departing for the terminal building, does absolutely nothing to enhance the act of simulated flying.

In reality... well frankly I was surprised.  Somehow that extra act of passenger deboarding at the end of the flight makes for a really nice closure to a flight session.  I found myself watching the DC3 sitting on the tarmac while the bus disappeared into the distance gave a strange sense of... completion I suppose.

At this point, I can't really afford the BIG changes that would have a BIG impact on the simming experience, like switching from a joystick to a yoke, quadrant and pedals... or even moving to a proper sim cockpit rather than a tricked out computer desk.  So little things like this are helping the sim experience to grow and evolve.

Next on the agenda - On the one hand I really want to make the transition from the Bombardier CRJ700 to a "proper" airliner i.e. Boeing or Airbus.  On the other, I'm growing quite fond of doing "semi-bush" flying VFR in the DC3 and would like to scope out some new routes with interesting scenery.  I've said it before and I'll say it again... it's great that flight simming offers so many different aspects within the one hobby.  With such variety, if things grow stale there's always something new to try.

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