Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Canyon Run

Yes I know, I've been out of EVE a lot lately. Like it always has, missioning does get to me and I have to stop doing it for a while, even if the ISK is good now. But this time I didn't get away from it by doing PvP or doing something else in EVE. I needed to get away from mouse-click space flight altogether, and turned back to flying real-life simulated aircraft through real-life simulated terrain. And when I say through, I really mean through:

I mentioned a few times before that I was a VWE Red Planet master pilot, and since that game is either dead or impossible to play (the closest Tesla pod to Montreal must be about 2000 miles away) the only way I could get the same kind of challenge was in flight simulators. The idea to go Ludicrous Speed at river level from Grand Canyon West airport to Page Municipal airport, with an obligatory victory roll over Glen Canyon Dam of course, came to me as I was reading some Flight Sim forums and some guy was posting shots of low flying in the canyon to show off some nice textures he had added along with a near perfect terrain mesh. All this was nice but he was flying something safe and carebearish like a Piper Cub or a Cessna 172 or something. Well shit... maybe I didn't have the fancy looking terrain but I decided that it sure wouldn't matter if I was whizzing by at Mach 1.2 in something a bit more ballsy than a prop plane.

The first part of the "canyon learning" process was to find the right aircraft for the job. This being a simulation I stayed away from safer and slower aircraft so I could get the feel of canyon wall evasion right away. The first plane that went down there was the Avro CF-105 Arrow; again, may John Diefenbaker roast in a nasty part of Hell for killing this plane in the egg. But as beautiful and powerful as the Arrow is, it is just too powerful for some of the more technical parts of the canyon; going over Mach 2 is way too easy in this plane and slowing down with precision with rock walls 100 feet away was almost impossible. I had to "chicken out" a few times and climb out of the canyon, and of course had a few nasty slams (for the record, the only unrealistic thing about my flying is fuel consumption... simulation is awesome!). I tried many other aircraft: the MiG-31 Firefox from the movie of the same name had potential, but I wanted something from Real Life so I ruled it out, as well as some Star Wars and BSG fighters. As I expected, the really fast aircraft such as MiGs 21 and 25, the F-104 Starfighter, the F-15 and F-22 had a fat turning radius and because I wanted to hug the river those couldn't work. The smaller jets pointed the right way though: my first successful complete run was in a BAE Hawk, but this plane is not supersonic. My first run with supersonic stretches was done in a Northrop F-5B but I couldn't stay over Mach 1 very long and had to slow way down for the tight meanders west of Grand Canyon Intl airport. but I was on to something.

At that point I knew the "road" so to speak and had narrowed down the choice of aircraft to 3 models: the F-16 Falcon, the experimental YF-23, and the EFA Typhoon. The Falcon was the first step into Ludicrous territory, but it was very tricky to fly; if I had to do a quick correction to avoid a crash I could send the plane into an unrecoverable wobble which would end in either a crash or a pull-out. The YF-23 showed a lot of promise but something is messed up with the freeware aircraft file; after a few hard maneuvers the engines go nuts and even when you cut the throttle the plane goes over Mach 4... ya, not gonna work. If I ever find a better modeled YF-23 I will give it another shot. But the Typhoon though... ZOMG! Having nothing in common with its far-future Minmatar namesake, the Real Life 'Phoon is sleek and agile, maneuverable yet controllable, and all the time blinding fast. The best part: this plane is a dream to fly. High-speed corrections do not turn the plane into a death trap, and it shines even in slow flight as it's super easy to land where other fighter jets have to be almost run into the ground (the Arrow also had that feature. Keep burning Johnny...).

And today, it all came together. I've done many runs both successful and not before today but this one was worth writing about. Hell, some parts of it will be worth Fraps-ing. It will take time to do the video editing job but I saved the flight in FS Recorder so I have all the time in the world. Some stats about the flight: the recorded time is 1375 seconds (just over 22 minutes) and that includes the take-off from Grand Canyon West to landing and taxiing at Page Municipal, a 252.46 mile trip from the point where I dive into the canyon to the Glen Canyon Dam. Yes, I'm forever a nanofag! The slowest part of the trip was around 550 KIAS (knots, indicated air speed), and the screenshot above is on the fastest leg, where I was able to reach and hold Mach 1.5. I came close to hitting the ground or the Colorado river a few times but never did; I'd like to see the effect of the sonic shock wave though :)

So if you're like me and are into Flight Sims and speed, do yourself a favor and try this. It's the only way to fly!

Fly most unsafe


Edit: This post had to be done three times... I don't know what did to break the posting of pictures but it sucks the bags.


Cyberin said...

What sim do you use? I need to get my sim reinstalled one of the days if I can find the damn thing...

Benoit CozmikR5 Gauthier said...

I use Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (aka FS9), some add-ons to make the sky, ground and water look better, and slew of freeware aircraft from sites like, simviation, avsim, etc.

As for the controller I use Saitek's X52 flight control system.

Jesse said...

I'm looking to get into doing flight sims, any chance you could recommend a cheaper controller that would be sufficient to learn with?

Benoit CozmikR5 Gauthier said...

You can check out the lower end Saitek joysticks. I used to have the Cyborg Evo and it did the job perfectly. The idea is to have an integrated throttle controller and as many buttons as possible. But believe me, once you try a true FCS you'll never go back :)