Ms. Santa left X-Plane version 5 under the tree for Dominic Smith in 2000. He recalls feeling like Christmas Past and was so excited. He said X-Plane came with no packaging and had a big blue printed menu.
“I think it was one of the flight simulator web sites where I found X-Plane. I did a little more research and found the forums, and from there I downloaded the demo. After trying it out I thought – WOW, this is really cool! I was sold.”
He was using Microsoft Flight Sim at the time and was amazed at the difference in flying the X-Plane demo. “MFS was jerky and X-Plane was so fluid, like the real airplane. The smoothly operating gauges were amazing!” He adds, “Once you’re all set up, X-Plane is incredibly easy to use. The file structure is leaps and bounds ahead of other simulators. X-Plane has them all beat”! This is when he put X-Plane at the top of his Christmas list.
A few of the many X-Plane features he appreciates include the versatility, the lack of activation fees, and the many free, standard extras which the consumer usually pays for with other simulator products. As a FlightSim.com writer for add-on promotions, Dom knows a lot about these products. He enjoys that FlightSim.com reaches all the various sim groups and he is dedicated to helping X-Plane grow.
Dominic currently flies X-Plane version 9.70 and 10.21. “I fly around 2 hours a day. My wife would like me to do less! When my allocated time has reached her limits, she will shake my chair calling out Turbulence, Turbulence!”
Having lived most of his life in Scotland he enjoys gloomy weather and uses the X-Plane weather and time features a fair amount. Dominic says, “If I see sunshine it confuses me!” He generally flies marginal VFR with minimal instruments. His ideal flight might be to Seattle or Vancouver with a ceiling of 5,000’ to 6,000’ overcast, just over the mountains. Dom describes his programming methods for clouds: “I like layers which helps with frame rates. Let visibility go past 30 miles and the frame rate disappears. Visibility at about 15 miles and the frame rate becomes very good.” What he says he enjoys most about X-Plane is the constant feeling of movement.
Dom uses X-Plane’s ability to install a second copy for beta testing. He enjoys working with X-Plane staff member Ben on beta releases for the latest updated enhancements. Dominic says, “I look for bugs and never beta test an earlier version over the current beta version. I have 3 installations: the normal, the beta, and then the photographic scenario.” He doesn’t use roads, cars, or auto gen freeing up video for a higher resolution on what he really wants to use. He adds, “Once I find that sweet spot I never want to lose it!”
As one might imagine, one of his favorite flights was with visibilities at 300’. He was set up for landing at Ketchikan (PAKT) after a long flight from Vancouver. As he explains, “I was flying the old fashion way, no GPS! Scary stuff but very rewarding. I was flying a Mooney, quite a fast airplane, and on Vancouver departure with VFR weather. Weather started to get cruddy over the mountain ranges. I followed the coast of Prince Rupert, which is fairly easy because of the islands. As the weather continued to deteriorate, I was flying in the soup and couldn’t see anything. I flew VORs and the NDB to Ketchikan. I monitored my DME counting down, and the last reference was Ketchikan – when I gave a huge sigh of relief as I started my descent. It’s amazing how X-Plane sucks you into reality. I slept well that night!” Dom says that the fog and visibility features in X-Plane are miles above other flight sim programs. “You can spend pounds and can’t match the default settings that come with X-Plane.”
He would add ambient sounds to the immersion factor, creating airport sounds ranging from country airports with dogs barking and birds chirping, to the larger airports with jet engines whining and trucks moving around
Dominic concludes, “Since 2002 I have emailed Austin and Ben. They always answer with friendly responses. I couldn’t say the same for Microsoft! With X-Plane it’s a personal journey we are all on together.”