Just Flight, a popular add-on developer, has recently begun developing aircraft for X-Plane! Just Flight is well known in the simulation community for hosting events like the annual Flight Sim Show in Cosford, England, hosting a marketplace for add-on developers and developing a line of their own high-quality add-ons. So far they have released three stellar aircraft models for X-Plane 11 and we are excited to see what they have coming up! We had the opportunity to sit down with several members of the Just Flight team to discuss this new project.
“Just Flight is a developer and publisher of Flight Sim add-ons, serving the community for the past 23 years. Quality is our watchword at Just Flight, right through from quality of the products all the way to the quality of our customer service and after sale support. The past few years has seen us shift more towards in-house development by increasing the size of the development team and also we’re happy to be working with some reputable third parties to help create the content via the coding or the art. Along with these products that get published via our own website we’re also open to taking other products to simply resell on our website. With an ever-growing number of Just Flight subscribers (around 80k) currently and many followers on Social Media Platforms (over half a million FB followers) we believe we’re the ideal outlet for both publishing our own and reselling other people’s titles. We also organise and host on an annual basis the world’s biggest Flight Sim Show, Flight Sim 2018, this year on Saturday 6th October at RAF Cosford Museum. This has gained in popularity from year to year, with over 30 exhibitors and around 1600 show visitors in attendance.”
Flight Sim Show 2017
“It varies depending on the project but there are an average of six people working on an aircraft, specialising in areas such as animation and PBR material creation, to sound design and flight dynamics. In addition to the development team, we also have a couple of people working on the comprehensive manuals that we supply with every aircraft (which include systems and panel guides and a full flight tutorial). We are continuing to grow our development team in order to meet the exciting opportunities and growing demands offered by the X-Plane 11 platform.”
In the year since we started developing for X-Plane 11 we have focused on converting our range of GA aircraft, and the PA-28R Arrow III (our first release) has been the most popular GA aircraft so far. It’s the perfect aircraft for training or touring and offers a good step up in complexity from simpler aircraft like our C152. Our current favourite is probably the PA-28R Turbo Arrow III/IV as it has superior performance and the T-tail configuration just looks great, but our upcoming Hawk T1/A will be hard to beat in terms of performance, handling characteristics and pure enjoyment – especially when flown in VR at low-level!
Does the Just Flight team have access to the aircraft that it develops in real life to fly and study them?
Yes we do, and that is a critical element in allowing us to develop aircraft that look and behave realistically. The ability to access a real-world example of the aircraft is an important consideration when we are identifying new aircraft to develop and that can sometimes be very challenging when looking at commercial airliners and in-service military aircraft. Once we have found an aircraft, we take hundreds of photos covering every part of the exterior and cockpit, and record sounds, speak to aircrew and ground crew and generally collect as much reference material as possible. The reference photos are vital in recreating an exact copy of the real-world aircraft, right down to specific scratches and dirt.
X-Plane’s attention to reality manifests itself in its use of PBR (for materials), HDR (for dynamic lighting), Blade Element Theory (for real-time CFD-like flight dynamics), FMOD as its audio infrastructure, integrated VR support, and a very powerful plugin architecture, just to name a few. Each of these categories is fully taken advantage of by Just Flight’s X-Plane development team.
PBR materials are authored right into the product through a development stage we call ‘materialisation’. Here, we use cutting edge software to paint the plane in 3D, according to its material characteristics. So, for example, diffusion and reflection characteristics are linked to the material’s roughness, and thus, there will be no unrealistic discrepancies between how the material reflects the environment and how it reflects light, as they are correlated according to laws of physics. HDR allows us to create lights that dynamically illuminate the aircraft. So for instance, you can create a gimballed light, which, when moved in its socket, will illuminate different parts of the plane’s interior dynamically. FMOD allows for extremely flexible audio authoring, so we’ll use the FMOD sound engine to enhance the overall auditory experience. So, for example, we make sounds emanate from particular positions in 3D space, or use side slip angles to affect the volume and direction of the wind noise, or allow for outside sounds to spill in through the windows and doors as they’re opened.
Plugins are a key part of the realism of our aircraft. They allow us to add a significant amount of functionality, above and beyond the features available by the simulator alone. This adds depth and realism, allows us to create instruments that would otherwise not be available in the sim, simulate events such as spark plug fouling or vapour lock condition, and even allows for end-users to edit configuration files to set, for example, their own strobe light pattern, or which elements should be off by default when starting the plane from cold and dark, or set weight and balance in a more visually intuitive manner via a custom pop-up window, or a dynamic checklist.
The Hawk T1/A Advanced Trainer was just released, it is our first non-GA product for X-Plane 11 so we are excited to see the feedback from the community (there has been plenty of excitement so far). The next aircraft will probably be the PA-28-181 Archer III which will be the final variant in our range of PA-28 aircraft. The Archer III is based on a privately-owned aircraft with modern and capable IFR avionics, so it offers something a bit different from the previous PA-28s. Following that will be the Duchess Model 76, our first twin-engine aircraft, which should be the perfect step up from an aircraft like the Arrow III in terms of complexity. We intend to bring as many of our in-house aircraft across to X-Plane as possible so you should see a variety of types in the future, from vintage military jets to airliners.