Saturday, May 30, 2009

Missed approach at Mactan

Just happened to look out the window at work last Friday May 29th and saw what looked like a missed approach to runway 22 at Mactan Airport. It was a heavy rainstorm so I couldn't make out the airline markings. The noise was what first alerted me as I glanced out the window I could see the passenger jet, a big one, possibly an A-330, veer off the approach and make a go around to maybe land at runway 04. Was there a wind direction change? Not sure what happened after that, I noticed they were using 22 in the morning as I went to work. All is well that ends well as no one got hurt!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Installing CumulusX! And Sim_probe In FSX

In a previous post I wrote that two add on modules for Microsoft Flight Simulator X can indeed make it a very decent full scale soaring simulator. I also mentioned that it was a little difficult to get both add ons up and running smoothly, and promised to write another blog post on how to do it. Well finally here it is!

Peter L├╝rkens and CumulusX!

CumulusX! creates thermal lift with appropriate clouds either on the fly, or every time you load a new environment, or glider with a wide variety of characteristics. Or you can choose from a custom-tailored list of thermals. Both allow joining in online sessions, with the guarantee of equal conditions for all participants. It adapts automatically and continuously to the FSX internal weather conditions even under real-weather-mode. Unlike regional static thermal generators, Cumulus X! Is dynamic and works the world over in FSX. Clouds are substituted for the "natural" or shall I say invisible birds circling in FSX.

It is a module which resides in your FSX folder and is activated either manually or with an autorun feature. Autorun is the way to go and necessary if you add the other companion module Simprobe.

Forster Lewis and sim_probe

Sim_probe is the other half of a realistic glider simulation in FSX. It adds slope lift in any suitable location. By setting wind velocity and direction in the FSX program sim_probe automatically provides realistic slope lift for your soaring pleasure. Using the FSX programmable API called simconnect, sim_probe can sample the terrain around the users aircraft and with the prevailing wind calculate the appropriate lift factor to apply to the user aircraft.

The end result is continuously variable highly detailed lift and sink affecting the user aircraft increasing the reality of the user experience. For ridge-soaring flights in gliders the sense of the lift within the flight simulator is almost tactile. For technical information and to down load both programs visit the following links.

Getting them both working can be a little difficult for the average guy or gal, and this is complicated by the fact that a few key bits of information are hidden or missing from the installation instructions. In one case there are three sample copies of an XML file to get the programs to autorun, all three are different, and one works if you edit it properly!

These programs are running on my computer with Windows XP service pack 3, service pack two is REQUIRED or neither will operate.

Install CumulusX! First.

Installation of CumulusX!

You need to be logged in as an administrator.

Important: Make backup
copies of the original "AirObjectVisuals.xml" in the Flight Simulator X root folder and the DG808S panel-
configuration file at SimObjects\Airplanes\DG808S\Panel\Panel.cfg.

If you have previous installations of the new cloud model, named cloud2z.bgl, cloud2t.bgl, or cloud2t1.bgl, please remove them from its scenery folder, since Flight Simulator X maybe confused otherwise.

The distribution archive contains a sub-tree "Modules", containing two other sub-folders "CumulusX!" and "SlopeDataBaseTool" with the components of the program, some settings files and the manuals. The sub-tree "SimObjects" contains modifications for the shipped DG808S. The root directory of the archive contains a new version of the file "AirObjectVisuals.xml". In addition, there is an "Addon-Scenery"-sub-tree, containing a cumulus cloud model, effective for Simulator X built-in thermals as well. In combination with the new file "AirObjectVisuals.xml" this shows a 3D-cumulus-cloud model instead of the default bird animations. In order to have this effective the Addon-Scenery folder has to be activated in the Flight Simulator X scenery manager.

Extract all files into the Flight Simulator X root directory. If you have made backup copies of the above-named files you can safely accept "Overwrite" for the files being replaced.

You need to activate the "Addon-Scenery" folder in Flight Simulator X if it is not yet active, in order to let the 3D cloud model appear. In addition, check that the "Thermal Visualizations" in Options/Settings/Display, Weather-tab are set to "Natural".

It is recommended to deactivate the built-in thermal engine in Flight Simulator X by renaming "ThermalDescriptions.xml" in root folder of Flight Simulator X for example to "_ThermalDescriptions.xml". Otherwise you will get a weird mixture of thermals from Flight Simulator X and CumulusX!.

After you do all of the above, which is by the way the instructions supplied on Lurkens help file, you have to go to the modules folder in FSX root directory, open it, open CumuusX!, and look for the readme files, and most importantly the following information:

Enabling AutoStart

Fig. 20: Enabling AutoStart

It is possible(desirable ed.) to use CumulusX! in AutoStart mode. This means that after start of the program, it automatically connects to Flight Simulator X and enable lift. This is particular useful, if you want to start CumulusX! through Flight Simulator X by means of an "EXE.xml"-file. A sample "EXE.xml"-file is given in the appendix.

ED. Note:Don't use this one,and don't try to initiate autostart at this time, wait...until AFTER you install sim_probe, there is yet another xml sample in the sim_probe readme .txt file with the script necessary for both CumulusX! and sim_probe. Use this one, and remember only edit the destination folder where you would like the igc files stored. What you say is the igc file? Well sim_probe auto logs igc files of every flight you make so you can use them with a data logger such as SeeYou or several other free ones available.

Remember to both insert the xml.exe file AND click the auto start button in the program window.

Then the program starts in minimized mode, so if you are not planning to change your settings, the main window of CumulusX! remains invisible throughout the entire session, but You can open it by clicking on the modules header in the task bar in windowed mode. By the way if you want to open CumulusX! and edit settings on the fly in FSX You will have to set FSX in windowed mode. In AutoStart mode CumulusX! will terminate with Flight Simulator X, in normal mode it will remain active(you will have to close it manually).

The next time you start, Flight Simulator X will ask you to start CumulusX!, and if you trust the source. If you click "Yes", the next time CumulusX! will start fully automatically. If you check "AutoStart" in the CumulusX!-tools menu, CumulusX! will from now on connect automatically and enable lift.

Don't activate the autorun feature until after CumulusX! is running ok in manual mode, then after installing sim_probe add the following xml.exe file here: C:\Documents and Settings\your user account name\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="Windows-1252"?>

<SimBase.Document Type="Launch" version="1,0">
















<CommandLine>log="C:\\Documents and Settings\\Ian\\My Documents\\fs\\igc_files\\"</CommandLine>



Change the line in red above to suit yourself any folder where you would like the igc files stored.

Install Sim_probe

(1) INSTALL THE VISUAL C++ 2008 RUNTIME LIBRARY (vcredist_x86.exe)

Download and install the file from Microsoft:

A copy of the file vcredist_x86.exe is included in this zip file if for some reason you have a problem

with the above link.


From the Windows 'start' menu, open "My Computer" and navigate through the folders to

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X"

Open the sim_probe zip file (i.e. the file containing this readme)

with Windows Explorer

drag the 'Modules' folder

into your base FSX program folder, i.e. you should end up with

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\Modules\sim_probe\sim_probe.exe"


From the zip file window,

drag the "SimObjects" folder

into your base FSX program folder, i.e. you should end up with

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Misc\SimProbe"



If you understand all the above and do it in the proper sequence, it should all work fine. If not back yourself out and start again.

Some notes:

The stock FSX DG 800 vario is erratic even with the new gauges supplied, better are the Cassiet gauges in Wolfgang Pipers sailplanes. Available at or try the SOAR modified DG800.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mentoring Aviation, Planting The Seed

Men and boys who follow aviation and are engulfed and addicted to many or all of its aspects generally can trace their interest to an adult in their early life. This is not meant to be a sexist remark that excludes women from aviation, I have met Patty Wagsstaff, and she would offer an argument. But aviation has traditionally been the bastion of men and boys for much of its history.

The Philippines is full of young aviation genius ready to be exploited and cultured by an interested adult. What I refer to is the talent even the youngest Filipino boy has for constructing a kite. I am continually amazed at the variety and ingenuity of these simple flying machines. Almost always made from discarded plastic bags and Tocino sticks they float above my Mactan home at every conceivable altitude. On occasion they are merely towed skillfully down a winding alley narrowly evading electric wires (sometimes). Others soar in the prevailing winds above the island. Gracefully hovering as stationary sentinals overlooking the barrios.

The makers are natural aerodynamicists, without formal education, let alone aerospace engineering. They fully understand fluid dynamics, strength to weight ratios, center of pressure, COG, and meteorology.

What boy in any culture can resist the lure of flight?
I sit at evening time making paper airplanes, they teach me kite making, I show them the joy of untethered flight. We connect. no language required. I guess it is the boy in all of us that drives us.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dauin Diving

Where and what is Dauin? Dauin is a remarkable dive destination within an hours flight from Manila. Both Cebu Pacific and PAL have daily flights to Dumaguete which is only 12 K north of Dauin. Located in Negros Oriental, it offers an unprecidented sample of rural Philippine life and culture.

Dauin is a low-profile tourist destination where scenic spots abound but has a sheltered laid back ambiance. This picturesque town near Dumaguete reveals a unique and mostly uncharted sea underworld. Dauin is a divers paradise.

A small and quiet place where big treasures are hidden underwater---this is what Dauin is to most tourists who have gone to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. Dauin is some 12 kilometers of coastal scenery south of Dumaguete. It is a dive-capital in Dumaguete due to its numerous and pristine dive resorts. Dauin's main highway snakes along the Negros coast, while inner roads go past the groves of palms leading to the hidden resorts. Perfect beaches of fine sand stretch on for miles through Dauin seaside terrain.

Dauin is reached through a plane from any nearby provinces going to Sibulan Airport which is in Dumaguete City. From the airport, public transportation is available nearby to Dauin. Straight from Manila, a tourist can take a plane to Cebu and a ferry ride from Cebu, enjoying a 3 and half hour sea trek. Better yet, a straight flight from Manila will only be an hour's travel.

Dauin may seem like another typical rural town near Dumaguete at first glance, but its true tourism value is hidden deep beneath---one has to literally delve and uncover the potential of Dauin. In fact, Dauin's treasure lies buried, not in depths of earth, but in the obscure recesses of Dauin waters. Dauin's most fabled exotic dive spots are the marine protected areas and the "Car Wrecks".

When we talk of Dauin, we talk of the Car Wrecks---the specific spot in Dumaguete where a plethora of sea wreckages abound, among them automobiles. Dauin's "Car Wrecks" is a highlight among other dive sites in the area that attracts the curiosity of dive tourists. Another enchanting site is the "Banca Wrecks". The rich coral reefs that have grown among the wrecks are also eye-catching and loaded with deep sea life.

Nearby Dauin is the fascinating Masaplod marine sanctuary. This spot is reserved as a habitat for exotic fish species like scorpionfish, batfish, snappers, sweetlips, and others. Dauin's scenic coasts are dotted with reefs that shelter marine wonders. These are considered among Asia's best.

Dumaguete is definitely excellent, but wait till Dauin's secrets are revealed. A wide-eyed dive tourist will certainly return to Dauin and its rich underwater sea treasures, considered in Dumaguete as one of Asia's best. Dauin is one more dive destination near Dumaguete worth the trouble to discover.