Getting back into X-Plane

Revisiting an old hobby of mine

For some reason, I've always been interested in aviation since a young age. Every once in a while my parents would bring me to KPDK (Dekalb-Peachtree Airport) to watch the planes take off and land. As young as 4 or 5 years old, you could find me in my dad's office, watching him practice takeoffs and landings in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (not sure that I was any help at that age). Since then, we've used various versions of MSFS and X-Plane, and I've recently been taking X-Plane more seriously than ever before.

The joystick I grew up on, the CH Products FlightStick
The joystick I grew up on, the CH Products FlightStick

Props to my dad's 2011 27-inch iMac for handling X-Plane 9 like a champ. That machine was definitely thermal throttling for hours on end while I screwed around in the Piaggio Avanti, SR22, and Vision Jet. Eventually, the HD6970M in that iMac died, so I took the CPU and RAM out, repurposed them, and recycled the machine. We were grounded, at least for now.

When I was 13, I built my first desktop. It was nothing special — an AMD A6-6400K, Radeon HD 7750, and the cheapest 8GB DDR3 kit you could find. All in, it was about $500. Of course, I had to have the case with red LEDs that looked the most "gamer-y". Eventually I turned the CPU into a keychain and still have it, somewhere.

The tower in all her glory
The tower in all her glory

Having spent my entire budget on the desktop, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and a copy of Farming Simulator (the simulator obsession starts young), I plugged it in to the family TV and got to work. I spent a few hours in FSX here and there, though I never took it too seriously because the joystick I had laying around had massive stick drift. (Not to mention that the physics in FSX were practically a joke, and this PC could barely run it anyways on low settings.)

A few years later this PC started to show its age and I had managed to save up a good bit of money since I built the first one. I also had a desk and a monitor by now, so I could justify having a proper desktop at this point. I ended up with a Core i7-6700k, GeForce GTX 1070, and 16GB of RAM. I used this PC for a while before eventually downloading the X-Plane 10 Demo. Wow, what a difference this version made. Flight simulation realism had taken a huge leap. I managed to pick up the Saitek Yoke, Pedals, Switch Panel, and Autopilot Panel a couple months later. I even signed up for PilotEdge, a virtual Air Traffic Control network. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just kept flying the pattern at KSBP in my Carenado Cessna 206. Eventually I got bored of not knowing what I was doing, probably busy with work and school as well, so I put simming on the back-burner.

Fast forward a few years, I'm in my last year of college and been spending a lot of time looking at aviation content. I intend to work towards getting my PPL after I graduate. Sometimes I head over near the airport and use my handheld radio that supports the airband to listen to the Ground and Approach frequencies to see what's going on. KROC isn't terribly busy, but there's usually something I can catch if I hang around for a few minutes.

A few weeks ago I installed X-Plane 12 on my Windows desktop. I have this powerful computer lying around that really sees no use, so I'm happy to use it for X-Plane. I ordered the Logitech Attack 3D Pro joystick, since I don't have room for my full yoke setup at the moment. I signed up for Navigraph for about $10 a month and started learning about IFR flight plans, SIDs, STARs, Departures, Approaches, and how to operate the FMC in the 737. It's a ton of fun and after a few practice flights, I've got the hang of the whole procedure. Finally, I actually understand what I'm doing (for the most part), and have many more opportunities to learn in the sim.

I'm finally taking the time to learn the deeper stuff available in flight simulation, and it's a ton of fun. On Sunday, I took off from KSLC in the Zibo 737-800, turned on the autopilot so I could watch the Eagles barely beat the Cowboys, and then got back in the simulator when it was time to descend into KJFK. I took the plane from cold and dark to ready for pushback, flew the departure at the correct speeds and altitudes, got the plane up to cruise at 35,000 feet, descended when it was time, and stuck a halfway decent landing at JFK. All in all, I'm really excited to see where I can take this. I've been reading a lot about other people's home cockpits, and while I don't have the space for anything serious at the moment, I'm considering making an FMC or MCP over winter break for something to do.

I'm excited to be working on something that I care about like this again. It's easy to forget about certain hobbies when life gets busy, but this one can be so rewarding that I've been spending most of my free time on it lately. One thing that I want to make a few posts about is configuring certain mods in X-Plane 12. There's not a ton of content about certain plugins and how to get them to work, so I'd love to help anyone out that needs it. Let's see where this goes in the next few months :)

Simulators over the years:

  • MSFS 2004
  • MSFS X
  • X-Plane 9
  • X-Plane 10
  • X-Plane 11
  • X-Plane 12

Hardware over the years:

  • Original PC: A6-6400k, HD7750, 8GB DDR3
  • Second PC: i7-6700k, GTX170, 16B DDR4
  • Current PC: i9-9900k, GTX1080TI, 32GB DDR4
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, check back at a later date for more new content. If you're interested in how I built this blog, check out the post about it here.
"When they say it can't be done, that's when I get started." - A.P.S.
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