“One of my greatest ambitions in life was to follow in my Dad’s footsteps as an Air Force pilot. Dad was a WWII bomber pilot, having completed 30 missions in a B-24 with the mighty Eighth Air Force over Europe. He was shot down on one of those missions and managed to land his aircraft with one engine running, more than 300 holes from flack hits, and not a single scratch on any of the ten member crew. His crew liked to tease him about it later, saying they thought it was one of his better landings. He later went on to instruct in the B-29 toward the end of the war, prior to leaving active duty.
Photo of the Merle Lee One after being shot down over France and making it across the English Channel to crash land at the British fighter base at Hawkinge, Kent, UK. Merle was my Mother’s name, and Lee was the wife of Dad’s copilot. The most incredible aspect of this crash landing is that the crew of the Merle Lee did what was aeronautically impossible for a B-24. Flying at an ordered altitude of only 10,000’, two engines were shot out over the target, the third was lost shortly thereafter, and yet they flew some 65 miles across the channel to belly land their severely crippled aircraft at a friendly base.
I was introduced to flying at age 10, when Dad took me up in Piper-Stinson belonging to a business associate. That had to be the ugliest maroon colored airplane in the world, but it was beautiful to me and I’ve been hooked on flying ever since. Becoming an Air Force pilot wasn’t to be, however, as my vision kept me from flying for the military. It didn’t keep me out of the cockpit as a civilian and I went on to enjoy many happy hours as a private pilot.
One of my best flying buddies turned out to be Dad’s older brother, a career Air Force pilot. He was also the flight instructor who taught me more about aviation than I knew existed. Uncle Roy owned a Beechcraft Musketeer 3 that he kept at Houston Hobby, KHOU. All he had to do was hold up the keys when I visited, and we were off on another air adventure.
Later in life, my work did not allow me to maintain proficiency and I became interested in simulators. I’ve owned all of the most popular simulator software for both PC and Mac, and enjoyed the simulator experience with each one. But there was always something missing. When I got my first copy of X-Plane, however, I knew this was what I had been looking for- a home simulator experience that simulated actual flying. Incredible!
Today I run the most current beta version of X-Plane on a 27” 4 GHz core i7 retina 5K iMac, with the AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Depending on settings, I can get frame rates that are close to 100 fps, and sometimes over. Even with the settings cranked up I can get 40 to 60 fps with an HD rendered aircraft. This is amazing performance without the expense of going to the much more expensive Mac Pro.
While my design ability isn’t anywhere near that of the pro’s, I have been able to use Planemaker, AC3D, and the various scenery software components to turn out some pretty respectable stuff. Back when there were no B-24 models available for X-Plane, I was able to build a model of my Dad’s B-24. Though I have sat in the cockpit of an actual B-24 with my Dad, I was not able to fly it with him. Flying a model of the B-24 in X-Plane was the next best thing, and a thrill for me to experience some of what these amazing Eighth Air Force pilots went through. X-Plane did that for me!
I enjoy simulator flying in many different types of aircraft, and in a variety of locations and situations. As a former resident of Hawaii, flying the islands is an especially enjoyable experience in X-Plane. My hanger includes a number of purchased HD aircraft models from GA to heavy and military. I’ve downloaded many free models designed by users and have always been amazed at the quality of these models, as well as those that ship with X-Plane.
The two aircraft I enjoy flying the most are the Cessna Citation X+, and the Boeing 787. My Citation X+ is a modification of the free download, Citation X. This is the fastest civilian jet in the air today, at mach .935, and just one beautiful airplane to fly. While I have many Airbus models, every available Boeing airliner, and a number of others from regional to biz jets, the 787 is by far my favorite to fly. The experience of flying the 787 in the simulator is aptly named. It is a “Dreamliner” of an experience.
At age 71, I have made a decision that I will not retire, and I’m more actively engaged in business ventures than at any point in my lifetime. My favorite time to fly is on Sunday afternoons after church. I’m very careful to make sure my wife doesn’t become a “simulator widow.” The great thing about simulator flying is that I can sneak in a brief flight or two during the week, but never at the expense of enjoying the company of my wonderful wife. While it will never replace the thrill of sailing through the air, the cost is incredibly low, I can walk away from a mistake, I get to experience many aircraft I would never have the opportunity to fly in real life, and approached in the right way, is almost as thrilling as actually being in the cockpit.”
— Malcolm Crosland