Three situations in X-Plane you shouldn’t miss

Hi! It’s Randy Witt again, from This is the third email in the course on getting the most out of X-Plane. A couple days ago, I showed you how to fly an approach in X-Plane like a CFI, and before that, we talked about finding a virtual version of your favorite aircraft on the Web so you could fly it in X-Plane.

Today I’m going to show you 3 “special situations” in X-Plane that are my absolute favorite to fly.

1. Performing carrier operations

X-Plane 10's F-4 Phantom II taking off from a carrier
Taking off from a carrier is a bit of a challenge—it requires perfect timing at each step to make sure your plane is up to speed when you shoot off the deck. Landing on a carrier, though… That is one of the most difficult challenges a pilot can face.

For a complete breakdown of the process of taking off and landing on a carrier, check out the guide I’ve written in the manual, in the section “Performing Carrier Operations”. The short version goes like this:

  1. Select your aircraft, and select an airport near some body of water (by moving the mouse to the top of the screen, clicking File, then Quick Flight Setup).
  2. Open the Aircraft & Situations dialog (by moving the mouse to the top of the screen, clicking Aircraft, then Aircraft & Situations).
  3. In the Aircraft & Situations dialog, click either the Carrier Catshot or Aircraft Carrier Approach buttons to set up a catapult launch from a carrier or a final approach to one, respectively.

Again, for details on the techniques used to take off and land, check out my writeup in the user manual.

2. Gliding through the skies

Gliding in the Rubik R-26S Gobe trainer

Soaring through the skies of the X-Plane world—especially in mountainous areas—is just incredibly beautiful. It’s one of my favorite flights to simulate. To load a glider and have X-Plane tow you aloft, do the following:

  1. Open the Quick Flight Setup dialog (by moving your mouse to the top of the screen, clicking File, then clicking Quick Flight Setup) and choose a glider. By default, the only glider included with X-Plane is the ASK 21, but the glider in the image above, the Rubik R-26S Góbé Glider Trainer is a free download, and it makes a great plane to start your gliding adventures in!
  2. Open the Aircraft & Situations dialog by moving your mouse to the top of the screen, clicking File, then clicking Aircraft & Situations.
  3. In the Aircraft & Situations dialog, click the Glider Tow button. X-Plane will load another aircraft (the Stinson L-5) and attach your glider to it.
  4. Press the ‘b‘ key on the keyboard to release the glider’s brakes and command the towplane to take off.

For a complete guide to the techniques used when being towed and when soaring, check out my writeup in the user manual.

3. Re-entering the atmosphere in the Space Shuttle

Flying the re-entry in the Space Shuttle Orbiter

Q: What’s the difference between a run-of-the-mill glider and the the Space Shuttle Orbiter on re-entry?

A: A couple hundred thousand pounds, and about 15,000 miles per hour!

Seriously, though… By the time the Space Shuttle re-entered the atmosphere, it had already burned off its last bit of fuel. It was, for all intents, a 200,000 pound glider moving at a bit over 15,000 miles per hour.

In reality, the Space Shuttle re-entry was almost always flown by the craft’s autopilot. That isn’t near as fun, though, as flying it by hand in X-Plane! If you’re up for a heck of a challenge, you can open the Aircraft & Situations dialog (by moving your mouse to the top of the screen, clicking Aircraft, then clicking Aircraft & Situations) and click the Space Shuttle: Full Re-entry button (or, for a much shorter flight, use the Space Shuttle: Full Approach button). By following the glideslope and path instructions on the electronic flight display, you’ll go from about 450,000 feet above ground down to the runway strip at Edwards Air Force Base. For all the details on the technique, see the “Flying the Space Shuttle” section of the user manual.

Wrapping up

If you’ve had fun with the situations above, you’re probably ready to get rid of the time restriction on the demo (and get scenery for the rest of the world!). By ordering X-Plane 10 Global from our web site, you’ll be able to take your glider over the best scenery the world has to offer—like the Grand Canyon (try starting at airport identifier KGCN) or the Alps (try starting at airport identifier LOWI). You’ll also be able to fly the full (30 minute) re-entry in the Space Shuttle!

As usual, if you had trouble with this guide, send me an email at [email protected] and tell me where I can improve it.

Until next time,

– Randy
X-Plane Customer Support