Chapter 5: X-Plane Menus
From X-Plane Wiki
X-Plane has perhaps the most flexible and powerful interface of any flight simulator. The key to mastering it is learning to poke around the various menus and windows to discover all the things that the user can change. This chapter is a sort of “guided tour” through those options.
The About Menu
The About menu is accessed as in the following screenshot:
Clicking About X-Plane will open the Version and Updates window, seen in the following screenshot.
Here, the text in white gives the version of the software on your computer, and the text in green below this gives the most recent version of X-Plane available. This is important because X-Plane is always being updated, either to fix or improve old features or to add new ones. When things go wrong, it is important to let customer service know which version of X-Plane they're working with.
The button in the bottom left of the window will open X-Plane.com, where more information on the latest updates can be found, and the button in the bottom right, Update X-Plane (highlighted in the previous image), will download and launch the latest updater.
In order to keep X-Plane up to date, open this window from time to time to see what the latest version is and to upgrade as desired.
See Chapter 2 for more information on updating X-Plane.
The Instructions window provides basic in-sim instructions for (listed in the order of the tabs across the top of the window):
- Using flight controls
- Controlling objects in the cockpit
- Using keyboard shortcuts
- Working with the simulated air traffic control
- Getting technical support
A.I. Selects Your Aircraft
Clicking this control will cause X-Plane to load a new aircraft at its “discretion”-—that is, randomly. Note that even with this enabled, the user can still change aircraft manually. Additionally, the choice of craft isn’t especially “intelligent”-—the AI will sometimes load a glider and stick it on the nearest runway.
A.I. Flies Your Aircraft
This control is covered in depth in Chapter 4. Note that even with this enabled, user input will override AI control of the craft.
A.I. Controls Your Views
Selecting this control will cause X-Plane to periodically switch views, making for a much more interesting demo flight when AI is also flying. Note that even with this enabled, the user can still change views manually.
The File Menu
The File menu appears as shown in the following screenshot.
These buttons are used for storing and using situations—snapshots of the current conditions of the atmosphere, aircraft, etc. A situation stores the aircraft’s position in the air (or on the ground), its payload, the amount of fuel in the tanks, everything. This is especially useful for quickly loading and practicing a specific type of approach. These situations can even be sent to other X-Plane users by giving them the .sit file that is created.
The Situations folder is found in the Output folder, which itself is located in the X-Plane directory (by default found on the Desktop). For example, the default path in Windows would be:
C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Desktop\X-Plane 9\Output\situations
To transfer situation files from one computer to another, copy the .sit files located in this folder to the Situations folder of the other computer.
When the Save Replay control is selected, X-Plane saves a “movie” of the current flight from the time that the aircraft and scenery were loaded up to the point at which the Save button was clicked. This “movie” is actually just a large collection of data on the flight which X-Plane saves as a situation movie file (.smo).
These .smo files can be saved, emailed, shared, or reloaded later to evaluate or share a flight. In Windows, they are stored by default in the folder:
C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Desktop\X-Plane 9\Output\movies
Because the .smo file records so much information about the flight, the user is able to change views, look at instruments, stop and rewind, etc. while viewing the recorded movie. The raw data for the flight is what is recorded, so the viewing options are unlimited.
To save a replay movie:
- 1. Select Save Replay from the File menu. A dialog window will appear.
- 2. Type a name for the movie.
- 3. Select the location to which you would like to save the movie (by default this is the folder X-Plane 9\Output\movies).
- 4. Hit the Enter key on the keyboard to complete the process.
To load a replay movie:
- 1. Select Load Replay from the File menu. A dialog window will appear.
- 2. Browse for and open the folder that contains the movies you have previously saved by using the drop down menu at the top of the window. (By default, X-Plane will have saved your situation files to the folder X-Plane 9\Output\movies.)
- 3. To open the replay, double click on the movie file that you would like to load.
Quicktime Movie Specs
This window allows the user to modify the frame rate and resolution of a QuickTime movie created with X-Plane. Information on creating a QuickTime video can be found in the following section.
A QuickTime movie is not the same as a situation replay movie. A replay movie stores all the raw data that defines the flight, only to be used in X-Plane, whereas a QuickTime movie simply stores what is seen on the screen during flight. These movies may be viewed by anyone with QuickTime, whether they are running X-Plane or not.
QuickTime is an Apple video format that is now supported by almost every operating system, including Microsoft Windows. Windows users, however, may need to install a suitable QuickTime package in order to use these features! See the Quicktime Download page for more information.
The Toggle Movie control begins recording a QuickTime movie. When it is pressed once, red text will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen that reads “QuickTime Movie Recording…”. When it is pressed again, the text will disappear and a file named “X-Plane movie take-x.mov” will appear in the X-Plane 9 directory, where x is the number of the take.
Toggle Movie can also be used by pressing Ctrl + Space.
Load Flight Data Recorder File
X-Plane is sometimes used in accident investigation or re-creation, and in that case people need to be able to take the data from a black box and put it in a format that X-Plane can read. That format is the Flight Data Recorder (or .fdr) format. Unlike the SMO files, which are compressed binary, and the MOV files, which are for showing movies only, the FDR file is text. This means that users can make their own FDR files as easily as possible from whatever data they have and then re-create these flights in X-Plane. Look in the Instructions folder within the X-Plane directory for the file “Example FDR file.fdr.” This is a sample FDR file.
So, to summarize the above sections:
The SMO file is for Situation Movies, which anyone can use within X-Plane to replay a flight from any view or angle.
The MOV file is a QuickTime Movie, which anyone can view outside of X-Plane.
The FDR file is a text file which is made to be easy to create so that anyone can make a file to view a flight in X-Plane.
This creates an image of the entire X-Plane window when selected. To get an image without the menu bar in it, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + '.' (that is, the control key and the period key).
Each screenshot is saved in the X-Plane 9 folder as a PNG file named screenshot_x.png, where x is a sequential number starting at 0. The hard drive’s capacity is the only limit to the number of screenshots that can be taken (each screenshot at a resolution of 1024 x 768 is about 0.4 MB).
The Aircraft Menu
The Aircraft menu is accessed as in the following image.
This menu option is covered in depth in Chapter 4.
This control is used for selecting user-created paint schemes created for the aircraft.
Weight and Fuel
The Weight and Fuel menu option will open the Weight & Balance & Fuel window.
The Fuel/Payload Tab
In the first tab of the Weight & Balance & Fuel menu, the aircraft’s weight and its distribution can be modified. An airplane can typically stay in the air at very high weights, but it will have a hard time getting off the ground initially. Additionally, moving the center of gravity forward (left on the slider) makes the plane behave more like a dart, and moving the center of gravity aft (right on the slider) makes the plane un-flyable because the plane becomes unstable. Flying a plane with the center of gravity far aft is like shooting an arrow backwards—-it wants to flip around with the heavy end in the front and the fins in the back.
The fuel and payload can also be modified in this screen. Since X-Plane calculates in real time how the plane is “burning” fuel, and the engines need fuel to run, and the weight distribution of the fuel is considered in the simulation, the fuel put on board does indeed matter.
The Ordnance Tab
On aircraft that are equipped with internal or external stores (such as weapons or drop tank hard points), this tab allows various hardware to be equipped on the various hard points of the aircraft. Take an F-4 Phantom from the Fighters folder, for example. The Ordnance tab will show a number of weapons that can be put on a number of hard points, as seen in the following image.
Users can select weapons from the Weapons folder that is found inside the folder containing the aircraft, or from the Weapons folder directly inside the X-Plane 9 folder. The weight and mass distribution on aircraft inertia and moment of inertia, as well as aerodynamic forces of stores are all considered by X-Plane's flight model.
X-Plane can simulate countless aircraft systems failures. The Equipment Failures window, found in the Aircraft menu, lets the user experience what happens when important pieces of equipment don't do what they're supposed to in flight.
The World/MTBF tab of this window controls things outside of the airplane, such as bird strikes and airport equipment failures. Additionally, at the bottom of this window is the mean time between failure setting, as seen in the following screenshot.
When the use mean-time-between failures box is checked, the simulator will use the setting to the right to determine how often a piece of equipment will fail. For instance, if the MTBF is set to 1000 hours, X-Plane will decide that each piece of hardware in the plane has about a one in a thousand chance of breaking each hour. Since the airplane has a few hundred pieces of hardware, that means a failure might occur every 5 to 20 hours or so.
The other tabs in this window let the user set the frequency of such failures, or command specific failures, for hundreds of different aircraft systems.
The general failure categories are:
- Flying Surfaces
- G1000 (if you have a real G1000 attached to X-Plane)
- All Instruments, and
Aircraft & Situations
The Aircraft & Situations window, selected from the Aircraft menu, allows the user to configure the aircraft used in special situations and to load other (AI-controlled) aircraft.
The top pane of the window, labeled Situation Presets, controls which aircraft are used in the special situations (see above for information on loading situations). These situations are found as special buttons on the right side of the Load Situation window.
The center pane of the window, Other Aircraft Profiles, controls the speed, direction, and altitude of refuelers, carriers, and formation aircraft. The large circular controls operate the same way as the wind layer directional controls, described in Chapter 4.
Additionally, the bottom pane of the window is labeled Other Aircraft Selection. The most important control here is number of aircraft, highlighted in the image below.
The value set here will determine the number of aircraft that X-Plane will simulate at once. A value of 1 will simulate only the user’s own airplane. Higher values will simulate the user’s aircraft and a number of other aircraft in the region. Note that simulating more craft in flight requires more processing power from the computer. Also, as in reality, these airplanes will wander hither and yon, maneuvering in a way that makes sense to them.
Show Mouse-Click Regions
All X-Plane cockpit panels have clickable buttons, switches, or dials, which can be operated using the mouse (in addition to any keyboard keys or joystick buttons that may be assigned to them). Selecting Show Mouse-Click Regions from the Aircraft menu will cause a thin yellow square to appear around those controls in the cockpit which can be manipulated with the mouse.
Show Instrument Descriptions
Selecting Show Instrument Descriptions from the Aircraft menu will make X-Plane show a description of each instrument’s function whenever the mouse hovers motionless for a few moments over the instrument.
Toggle Puff Smoke
Selecting this option (which is also accessible using the ‘x’ key by default) will cause a smoke/condensation trail to follow the aircraft, even if the craft might not have this in reality.
Cycle 3-D Flight Path
This control is also assigned to the ‘o’ key by default. Clicking it once will cause three lines to “follow” the craft—-a black line from the port (left) wingtip of the craft, a white line from the starboard (right) wingtip of the craft, and a pink-and-black line from the center of the craft. These lines will extend all the way back to the runway from which the craft took off, as seen in the following image.
Pressing the Cycle 3-D Flight Path button again (or, of course, the ‘o’ key) will cause vertical pink and black lines extending to the ground to appear along the center line, as seen in the following image. This is useful for looking back on the flight and easily seeing the flight path.
Pressing it a third time will replace the vertical lines with a semi-transparent, vertical, black bar, as seen in the following screenshot.
Pressing the button once more will turn all the flight path lines off.
Reset 3-D Flight Path
Pressing the Reset 3-D Flight Path button when the flight path is visible will get rid of the flight path created previously and start fresh from that point. Pressing this button when the flight path is turned off will have no effect—-that is, if the flight path is later turned on, it will extend all the way back to the runway.
Each time an aircraft is flown in X-Plane, the program logs the flight time in the electronic Logbook. By default, X-Plane creates a text file called "X-Plane Pilot.txt" in the X-Plane 9\Output\logbooks folder. Inside this text file are details of previous flights, including:
- Dates of flights
- Tail numbers of aircraft
- Aircraft types
- Airports of departure and arrival
- Duration of flights
- Time spent flying cross-country, in IFR conditions, and at night
- Total time of flights
The Choose Pilot Logbook and New Pilot Logbook buttons allow the user to select a previously created logbook file or create a new one.
The Location Menu
The Location menu appears as in the following screenshot.
Select Global Airport
The aircraft can be relocated to anywhere on Earth using the Select Global Airport screen. This provides a listing of all the airports in the X-Plane database (currently more than 32,000), representing nearly every airport on the planet.
This screen is divided into three parts. In the top left (shown in the following image) is a listing of every airport name, arranged by city. Both this format and these names are the official standard for that local area (which, for US airports, is the FAA).
To the right of the list pane (shown in the following screenshot) is an overhead view of the currently selected airport’s layout.
The bottom half of the window (shown in the following image) displays rows of “quick start” buttons.
The buttons in the TAKEOFF column (on the far left) will transport the aircraft to the specified runway. To the right of these buttons are the FINAL APPROACH buttons, which will transport the aircraft to the specified distance away from the runway to the right of it. Finally, the RAMP START button will transport the aircraft to the specified ramp for takeoff.
To search the available airports, type either the city name or the airport ID into the white box below the list pane (labeled “Apt:”). For instance, in the image below, the user typed in “KLAX” to find Los Angeles International Airport. The same results could be obtained by typing “Los Angeles Intl,” or by simply typing “Los Angeles” and scrolling through the results.
Alternatively, use the up and down arrows on the keyboard to move through the full list. To travel to an airport, click on it once in the list pane to highlight it (causing a grey box to appear around it), then click the Go To This Airport button, as seen in the previous image.
Additionally, an explanation of airport IDs can be found in Chapter 4.
The Take Off Buttons
The buttons under the label TAKEOFF (highlighted below) in the Find Airport window are a quick way to choose a runway to fly from.
The Final Approach Buttons
The buttons under the FINAL APPROACH label (highlighted below) provide a quick way to practice runway approaches.
The buttons are labeled with a distance, which is measured from the end of the runway whose TAKEOFF button the FINAL APPROACH button is next to. For instance, in the image above, clicking the top left button under FINAL APPROACH will place the craft three nautical miles away from the end of runway 08 at the Innsbruck airport.
The Ramp Start Buttons
A ramp is effectively a parking space for aircraft. To begin a flight from the terminal and taxi the distance to the runway (as a real pilot would), choose to begin from a ramp (as highlighted below). Note that, in many cases, the default ramp is what is loaded when using the Go To This Airport button.
Selecting the Local Map menu option from the Location menu opens the Local Region window. This window is divided into five tabs—-Hi-Speed, Low Enroute, High Enroute, Sectional, and Textured. Please note that a discussion of the elements of these maps (the ILS, VOR, and NDB beacons) can be found in Chapter 6).
The Hi-Speed Tab
This map gives maximum speed. It is useful for scrolling around the map quickly, changing NAVAIDS quickly, or (if the Draw Cockpit on Second Monitor option is checked in the Rendering Options screen) using the map drawn on one monitor while flying in the cockpit drawn on the other. In this case, the fastest map available is desirable so that the simulation is not slowed down too much.
The Low Enroute Tab
The Low Enroute map view displays the aircraft’s general area, along with airports, airport and beacon frequencies, ILS indicators, and low level airways.
The High Enroute Tab
The High Enroute map view is essentially the same as the Low Enroute view, but it displays the medium and high level airways instead of low level ones.
The Sectional Tab
The Sectional map view is designed as a VFR sectional chart. It shows airports, airport and beacon frequencies, ILS indicators, roads, rivers and railway lines. It also uses a terrain shader to depict the ground types and elevations.
The Textured Tab
The textured map view displays airports, roads, rivers and railway lines. In addition, the terrain shader used on this map gives an overview of the landscape as it would be seen from the cockpit in X-Plane. This view uses the actual scenery installed in X-Plane as its basis.
At the top of the Local Region window is a row of check boxes (shown below) which are used to put the map in different “modes.”
The Instructor Operator Station (IOS) Box
This check box puts the map in Instructor Operator Station mode, causing this copy of X-Plane to run as an instructor's console. Once this box is checked, the left side of the Map window will show a number of buttons with which to control the flight. The instructor can enter an airport ID in the space in the upper left. With an ID entered, the aircraft can be placed at the airport or on an approach to it.
The Instructor's Console can be used either when drawing a two monitors from the same video card or in a multi-computer X-Plane setup. This is a great feature for flight training because the instructor can fail systems, set date and time, change the aircraft location, etc. for maximum training benefit. The buttons along the left of this window allow the instructor to perform all these tasks from one location, while maintaining a watch on the X-Plane pilot using the map view.
The Edit Box
The edit check box opens a number of buttons on the left side of the screen which are used to edit the various NAVAIDS on the map. Just click on a NAVAID to modify it, or to add a new one.
For a detailed description of the format used in the NAVAIDs on the Local Map, please see this PDF, available from the X-Plane Airport and Navigation Data website.
The Replay Box
This check box brings up a replay slider with which the flight may be replayed while viewing the map.
The Slope Box
Enabling this check box opens a vertical profile of the flight at the bottom of the map screen.
The Inst Box
The inst check box makes a few key flight instruments appear within the map screen in order to see what the plane is doing. By default, opening the map screen pauses the simulation, though, so in order to use the map (and thus these gauges) with receiving a continuously updated data, one of the following must be done:
- 1. Use the draw IOS on second monitor option in the Rendering Options screen if two monitors are available for use.
- 2. Check the address of master, this is IOS box in the Data Output screen’s Inet 2 tab (only applicable when using a second copy of X-Plane running on a different computer, with the other computer being used as the master machine and this one as the IOS).
The 3-D Box
Toggling the 3-D check box will shift the map into 3-D mode. When in 3-D view mode, the arrow keys can be used to rotate the view and the ‘+’ and ‘-’ keys to zoom in and out.
At the top right of the map window are controls to adjust the heading, altitude, and speed of the airplane by first clicking on the aircraft, then modifying the values by clicking on the up or down arrows. If X-Plane is configured to draw multiple planes, then the other panes can be dragged around and have their speed, heading, and altitude set as well.
Additionally, below the aircraft controls, carrier and frigate headings can be modified.
Finally, in the bottom right corner of the map window are viewing controls. The checkboxes control what is displayed on the map, such as navigational aids or the compass rose.
Below these checkboxes is a round button (as seen below) used to move the map view up, down, left, or right, depending on where along its edge the button is clicked.
The buttons below this each have two small triangles (seen below).
On the left is the “zoom out” button, and next to it (labeled with two larger triangles) is the “zoom in” button.
Below the zoom buttons is the center on acft button, which, when clicked to “on” (turning the button green), keeps the map view centered on the aircraft.
The Planet Map, selected from the Location menu, is used to visually choose a location to fly from by displaying the Earth in 3-D. The controls in the bottom right corner work just like in the Local Map window (see Viewing Controls above). Clicking a location on the map will transport the aircraft to the airport nearest where the map was clicked. To close the window without relocating the craft, click one of the Xs in the top corners or press the Enter key.
Set Planet to Earth or Mars
These two options, obviously mutually exclusive, select which planet the aircraft is on. While the laws of physics are the same on Mars as on Earth, the atmosphere there is thinner and there is considerably less gravity. These variances are modeled in X-Plane, so flying on Mars is just as realistic as flying on Earth. Chapter 8 explains how to fly on Mars (and what to fly there!) in more detail.
Get Me Lost
Selecting this option will cause X-Plane to teleport the aircraft to a random location anywhere in the area, allowing users to test their navigation skills.
The Environment Menu
The Weather window is covered in depth in Chapter 4.
Date & Time
Selecting this menu option will bring up a screen with two prominent sliders, seen in the following image.
Dragging the first changes the time, given as both local and Zulu time (that is, Greenwich Mean Time or UTC ). Changing the date, the second slider, will accurately track changes in the length of days and nights within X-Plane—-that is, there are fewer daylight hours in December than in June in North America, as in the real world.
The real-time offset from GMT control is used in places where the local time is not what X-Plane expects.
Additionally, the always track system date and time check box does as its name suggests.
The Settings Menu
The Settings menu, seen below, is the largest menu in X-Plane and is used to get “under the hood” of the program.
Data Input & Output
The Data Input & Output screen is used to view or save data about what X-Plane is doing, as well as to interface different copies of X-Plane running on different computers together.
This window can be used to output the simulator’s frame rate (a very common choice) or any of hundreds of other parameters as well.
This is by far one of the most powerful tools in X-Plane. It can be used to diagnose a variety of problems because it allows the user to see what X-Plane is “thinking” and determine why it may be doing something unexpected. This screen can also output a host of engineering conditions.
The Data Set Tab
Over one hundred different data sets (which can all be output) are visible in the Data Set tab. Next to each of the lines is a series of four checkboxes. The last line, number 128, has a key showing what each of the boxes do, as seen below.
The first checkbox (moving from left to right) outputs the selected data to the Internet. The second box outputs it to a file on the hard disk—be careful with this one, as it can quickly fill up the hard drive. The third box outputs the data to a graphing function within X-Plane, and the fourth outputs it to the flight screen. Each of these checkboxes is covered in depth on the following page.
Additionally, there are four special data sets (shown in the following image), found in the lower right corner, labeled detail, which can only be output to the screen while in flight.
These checkboxes provide a host of engineering data for the flying surfaces of the aircraft.
To understand why the Data Input & Output screen is so powerful, imagine for a moment that your “BRAKE” light is illuminated on the instrument panel, but you don't know why. You've tried to turn it off by clicking on it with the mouse and you've also tried to use the 'b' key (for 2/3 braking force) and the 'v' key (for maximum braking effort), but it is still illuminated. You have previously set up a set of rudder pedals to control the rudder and brakes but cannot find anything wrong with the way they were set up, and you are not pressing the brake pedals.
To find out what is causing X-Plane to engage the brakes, you could try checking the rightmost box on line 14 (labeled gear/brakes) in the Data Set tab. After closing the Data Input & Output window, note that a line of green text appears in the upper left corner of the screen. There are four data fields in it, showing a value of between 0 and 1 for:
- the landing gear status (1 is gear down, 0 is gear up)
- the wheel brakes (on both main gear evenly), and
- the left and right brakes (if you're using a set of pedals or have programmed the brakes to be activated by some other control)
For this example, suppose that the right brake was showing a value of 1.0. This indicates that that brake is locked. You remember that you had mapped individual brake controls to your rudder pedals. Perhaps the problem is there. Apparently, X-Plane thinks that you are commanding the right brake to be on. There may be a problem with the calibration of your equipment, so you go to the Settings menu and open the Joystick & Equipment page. There, in order to calibrate the joystick hardware, you move all of your control inputs through their full range of motion. This teaches X-Plane what kind of data the rudder pedals are sending out for the full range of brake applications. For the purposes of the example, you go back to the sim and the problem is solved.
The prior example shows the importance of the Data Input & Output screen in diagnosing problems that may occur—-the joystick ail/elv/rud option (line 08) for joystick problems, the frame rate option for “jumpiness,” and etc.
The Four Check Boxes in Depth
Broad descriptions of the check boxes’ functions were given above; here we will go into greater detail on where exactly the output is being sent to.
Internet via UDP (First Check Box)
Using this option, the selected data is sent via the UDP network protocol to the address assigned in the Inet 2 tab of the Net Connections window (see Net Connections below). This is useful if another copy of X-Plane is running on a computer with that IP address, and the data needs to be sent from one copy of X-Plane to another (for example, if one copy of X-Plane is a pilot's machine and the other is a copilot's). Users may also write their own programs to read X-Plane UDP data. The format is very easy, and is explained in the “UDP reference.html” file in the Instructions folder of X-Plane.
Disk File 'Data.txt' (Second Check Box)
Using this option, the selected data goes to a file located in the main X-Plane folder called data.txt. Once there, it can be opened with a word processor or spreadsheet application-—the data is saved as simple columns of text.
Graphical Display in 'Data-See' Tab (Third Check Box)
This option causes the selected data to be displayed in the Data See tab of the Data Input & Output window as a graphical display. Note that simulation is paused while in the Data Input & Output window, so it must be closed and reopened before any data will be displayed in the Data See tab.
Cockpit During Flight (Fourth Check Box)
Selecting this option causes the selected data to be displayed on the simulator screen while flying.
The Data See Tab
This tab displays a graphical representation of any data sets that were selected in the Data Set tab. This is useful primarily for seeing trends in flight characteristics or the computer’s performance.
The Net Connections window, selected from the Settings menu, is used to configure multiplayer simulations as well as multi-computer, single user simulations.
Note: Whenever problems are encountered when using the Net Connections window, the first thing to check is the computer’s firewall. If it is blocking X-Plane from connecting to the outside world, there is nothing the program can do. Blue Side Up Bob has written an excellent tutorial on configuring both the firewall and X-Plane for multiplayer. Covering both Mac OS and Windows XP, that tutorial can be found here.
This tab is used to setup a multiplayer session. Up to twenty X-Plane systems can be connected together in this way simply by assigning each system a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. These addresses can be either on a Local Area Network (LAN) or true Internet IP addresses. Note that IP addresses need to be on the same subnet. This makes it easy to set up a multiplayer gaming session on a LAN.
Checking the auto-set multiplayer IP addresses box (seen in the image below) will cause X-Plane to scan all 255 possible IP addresses on the subnet to try to find other copies of X-Plane.
When the scan of the IP addresses finds another copy of X-Plane, yellow text will appear near the top of the window with the computer’s IP address, as seen below.
Next, check one of the IP of other player boxes and enter the IP address that the scan found there.
When both copies of X-Plane have “agreed” to connect to one another, each screen will momentarily go black as one computer loads the other’s aircraft.
Additionally, the lower third of the Inet 1 screen is used to connect to other computers when setting up a multi-computer simulation. Only configure this in Inet 1 on the master machine when using other computers for visuals—-that is, use the Inet 2 tab to configure the copies of X-Plane running on the extra display systems, as well as to configure everything involving IOSs, map display systems, etc.
Upon entering the IP address of another copy of X-Plane in the IP of External Visual section of the window (as seen in the following screenshot), the copy running on that computer will automatically go into the external visual mode.
Opening up the Net Connections window on that second computer will display yellow text at the top that reads “Got a transmission from someone talking to an external monitor from IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx 0.0 seconds ago, sending SNAP.” This will also automatically configure the Inet 2 tab on the external visual machine to point to the master machine.
Remember when using an external visual to also set a lateral, vertical, and/or roll offset (all found in the Rendering Options window, described in Chapter 3) on the secondary displays.
More on advanced networks can be found in Chapter 8.
This tab is used to configure computers in a multi-computer X-Plane system. When using multiple computers, the user can use this tab to tell X-Plane which Internet Protocol (IP) addresses each computer is assigned to in the network. The user might, for example, have a master machine (the plane with the joysticks connected to it, which is always the one that runs the flight model and has the most detail on the instrument panel), a few external visuals (the machines that show the scenery out the window), a copilot's machine (more instruments, possibly on different pitot-static and electrical systems), and maybe an IOS (Instructor Operator’s Station, where an instructor can set weather or locations, fail systems, etc.).
Each of these stations would be composed of one computer, one monitor, and one copy of X-Plane, and each would have its own IP address. Keep in mind, though, that they should all have IP addresses that are the same for the first three numbers. Only the last number should be different between computers. For example, a setup with six computers and six copies of X-Plane could wisely be set up like as in the following chart:
Setup of Six Networked Computers IP Address Description 192.168.1.1 Master machine—joysticks plugged in here 192.168.1.2 Copilot's machine (.acf file with copilots instrument panel used here) 192.168.1.3 IOS (instructor’s station for initiating failures, setting weather, moving the plane, etc...) 192.168.1.4 External visual, left view 192.168.1.5 External visual, center view 192.168.1.6 External visual, right view
When setting up an IOS using this tab, check the appropriate box at the bottom of the screen (as in the following screenshot) on the master machine-—that is, the one that the “student” pilot will be flying.
Typing in the IP of the IOS machine here will cause the IOS machine to automatically configure itself, opening up the Local Map window. See the Local Map section of this chapter for more on using the IOS options in the Local Map window.
[[ Chapter 8 has more information on this tab, as well as a step-by-step guide to setting up a copilot's machine.
The Inet 3 tab is used primarily to set the IP to which data feeds (set in the Data Input & Output window) are sent. It can also be used to interface with computers running the EFIS-app (available at X-Plane.com) and with camera displays.
Joystick & Equipment
Information on the Rendering Options screen can be found in Chapter 3.
The Sound window, seen below, allows the user to configure the relative volumes of all sounds in X-Plane using the sliders on the right side of the window. On the left side, sounds can be turned off by category. By default, all sounds are enabled, with volumes set at 100% (sliders fully to the right).
The bottom of this window will also check the status of speech synthesis software. If the software is not installed, go here to download it.
The Quick Flight Setup dialog offers one convenient location in which to change a number of basic flight options.
Clouds are set in the upper left corner, with other basic weather settings below that. These are configured just as in the Weather window (see Setting Weather in Chapter 4).
In the upper center of the window, X-Plane’s airport database can be searched like in the Select Global Airport window (see Choosing an Airport in Chapter 4).
Below and to the left of the airport description is a single Open Aircraft button, used like the Open Aircraft Window (see Opening an Aircraft in Chapter 4).
Finally, at the bottom of the screen, the time can be set, as in the Date and Time section of this chapter.
Once a quick flight has been configured, click the Go To This Airport button to begin the flight. This flight setup can then be saved using the Save Situation menu option (see above), making it available for future use.
Operations & Warnings
The Operations & Warnings window lets the user specify a few little odds and ends about where the plane starts, how the flight model works with the aircraft, whether the sim breaks the airplane if it gets overstressed, what warnings the simulator gives if things are going wrong, and other little things like that.
The flight models per frame control (seen in the following image) is used to double sample the simulator’s calculations on the aircraft’s flight.
This is only needed when flying quick, light, small aircraft, which may accelerate beyond the rate at which X-Plane can keep up when running at a low frame rate.
When X-Plane is started or when a new aircraft is loaded, the Start each flight with engines running option (seen in the following image) will ensure that all engines and associated battery and control systems are running and ready to go.
If this option is not selected, the user will need to perform manual system and engine starts using the correct procedures for that particular aircraft before he or she can begin to taxi or take off.
With the warn of incomplete scenery installations box (seen in the following image) checked, X-Plane will open a quick dialog box for the user when a section of scenery is required that isn’t installed. This may be a useful reminder of why the world outside is only water.
With the warn of low frame-rate option (seen above) enabled, X-Plane will bring up a dialog box if the simulator’s frame rate drops below the value specified in the Rendering Options screen. Please see Setting Up X-Plane for Best Performance for instructions on configuring the simulator for maximum speed.
With the give various in-cockpit text warnings option (seen in the previous image) enabled, X-Plane will show text warnings such as those for airframe ice, carburetor ice, and blown landing gear tires on screen.
The remove flying surfaces in over-speed and remove flying surfaces in over-G (seen in the following image) cause X-Plane to remove flying surfaces (e.g. the wings) when too much stress is placed on the craft. As in real life, this is likely to have disastrous results.
Checking the remove flaps in over-Vfe box (seen above) will cause X-Plane to rip off flaps if the Vfe (Velocity flap extended) value is exceeded while they are down. Checking the remove gear doors in over-Vle box (seen above) will do the same for gear doors if the Vle (Velocity landing gear extended) value is exceeded while they are open.
When the reset on hard crash box (seen in the previous screenshot) is checked, X-Plane will reposition the aircraft at the nearest airport if it is crashed too hard.
When the dump net data to log.txt box (seen in the following image) is checked, X-Plane will save the data that it receives over the network in the UDP format to the log.txt file (found in the X-Plane 9 folder).
It will also save the data that it sends to the same file. This is useful for monitoring communication between computers in a multi-computer setup. If the computer is sending data to the X-Plane software on other computers, but the other computers are not responding correctly, then outputting this diagnostic data can help the user determine why the messages between computers are being rejected.
When the dump timer data to log.txt control (seen in the previous image) is enabled, X-Plane will save data to the log.txt file detailing how long X-Plane is spending on each of its critical processes. It allows the user to see which processes within X-Plane are consuming the most CPU time and may be useful in determining which settings should be turned down to get better performance.
The View Menu
The View menu (seen in the following screenshot) changes the user’s view of the aircraft. These options are much more easily seen than described, so for the purposes of this manual, it is suggested that the user simply experiment with the possible settings.
Note that the characters in brackets to the right side of each menu option are the keyboard shortcuts for each view. For example, to select the forward view, one would press the W key, and to select the left 45 degree view, one would press the Q key.
The Special Menu
The Special menu (shown below) lets the user configure a number of odd-ball things in the sim.
Show Flight Model
X-Plane models flight by breaking the plane down into a number of little pieces and finding the forces acting on each piece. By choosing the Show Flight Model option one or two times (or by hitting the '/' key a couple times) and moving to an outside view (e.g., by using the '|' key), the user can actually see all those forces. With some wind and turbulence turned on in the Weather screen, the user can even see the pseudo-random velocity vector flow field around the airplane. The velocity vectors seen are the actual vectors interacting with the plane, and the force vectors (the green lines coming off the plane) are the actual forces on the plane—-nothing is just for show here. This is the actual work that X-Plane is doing.
For example, in the following image, the Show Flight Model button has been pressed once, and the aircraft has been pulling into an upward climb.
The green bars extending from the wings indicate how much lift each section of the wing is generating; longer bars represent greater force.
In the next image, the Show Flight Model has been pressed a second time, making the flow field around the aircraft also visible.
Fun with the Flight Model
To really see the flight model shine, try turning off all the wind and turbulence and flying up close behind another airplane (use the Aircraft and Situations window from the Aircraft menu and the Local Map window from the Location menu as needed to help here). Watch the flow field around the airplane become chaotic as it enters the wake of the plane in front of it!
To take this to the extreme, select about ten other planes in the Aircraft and Situations window, all with equal performance (all airliners or all light planes). Set them all to be on the red team, and put your airplane on the blue team, for example. Then, put your plane on autopilot in flight and walk away from X-Plane for 30 minutes or so. Come back in half an hour and all the other planes should be on your tail, each one in the wake turbulence of all the planes in front it! This is the type of flight model math that X-Plane does.
Output Flight Model
This menu option will save the next cycle of calculations of the flight model directly to the file “Cycle Dump.txt” in the X-Plane 9 folder. From there, it can be viewed with any text editor.
Open/Toggle Text File for Viewing
This option allows the user to open and display a text file that was previously created and saved within the X-Plane 9 folder. This is useful for notes and information about aircraft, airports, or procedures—a sort of in-flight notepad. After the file has been opened, it can be toggled on or off using the toggle option selected from the menu.
An open text file is shown in the following screenshot.
Open/Toggle Checklist for Use
This option allows you to open a previously created text file saved in the X-Plane folder. It will display each line in the text file one by one, allowing the user to scroll forward and backwards using the buttons on the top left of the popup window. This is useful for going through user-created checklists in X-Plane. Once opened, the checklist can be toggled on or off using the menu.
An open checklist is shown in the following screenshot. Note that, unlike when this file was opened as a text file above, it now displays one line at a time.
Find Pitch/Yaw Stability Derivative
Use this setting to displace the aircraft nose by one degree in pitch or yaw for X-Plane to measure the acceleration back to level flight. This information can then be used to calculate the Pitch and Yaw Stability Derivatives. The results are placed in the text file ‘Cycle Dump.txt’ in the X-Plane folder on the hard disk. The quicker the nose pops back to level flight, the greater the static stability of the airplane. The quicker the resulting oscillations dampen out, the greater the dynamic stability of the airplane.
Set Environment Properties
This setting allows the user to change the virtual world's environmental, atmospheric, and gravitational properties. This can be used to experiment with some of the environmental factors that affect an aircraft in flight, including temperature, pressure, density, viscosity and gravity. Flight on other planets can also be simulated this way.
Set Artificial Stability, Autopilot, and FADEC constants
These constants are normally set in Plane-Maker, and their workings are explained in depth in Chapter 8 (specifically, in Tuning the Autopilot and Designing an Artificial Stability System. Adjusting these values changes the way the craft handles, though these changes cannot be saved within X-Plane. Instead, write down the settings and enter them into Plane-Maker to save them. If something gets changed too drastically and the airplane becomes unflyable, just reload the aircraft with the Open Aircraft window.
Show Control Deflections
This option was developed for the National Test Pilot School. It lets the user see a running graph of the control deflections in the bottom left corner of the screen as the craft is flown.
For instance, in the following image, the pilot is gently pulling up and to the left.
Show Weapon Guidance
Developed for a Military Simulation Contract, this option lets the user see how the guided missile flight controls are being deflected. It should be used to tune missile guidance algorithms. (The missile guidance algorithms are set in the Weapons screen in Plane-Maker.)
Show Sky Colors
Developed for Chief Artist Sergio Santagada, this option shows the user what images X-Plane is currently using to generate its sky colors.
Show Projector Test
The Show Projector Test option (enabled in the image below) will overlay the screen with a horizontal and vertical line grid, as in the following image. This is useful for finding wrinkles in the viewing screen when using X-Plane with a projector.
The Plugins Menu
The Plugins menu appears as in the screenshot below.
The X-Plane Plug-In Software Developers Kit is a combination of code, DLLs, and documentation that allows programmers to write additions that work inside X-Plane, without modifying X-Plane or having a copy of X-Plane's source code. The Plug-in Admin menu option provides a set of features to administer any installed plug-in software. By default, there are no plug-ins installed, but a number of them are available on the Internet. This menu can be used to enable or disable plug-ins, view information about installed plug-ins, and assign “hotkeys” so that the enable/disable actions can be easily performed from within the simulator.