Modifying an Aircraft’s Properties
From X-Plane Wiki
Some properties of an aircraft do not fit into the category of its systems, its body, and so on. Examples of these include the aircraft’s tail number, the location of its lights, its weight and balance, and the sounds the aircraft produces.
Setting the Identification Information
An aircraft’s identification information is set using the Viewpoint window, located in Plane Maker’s Standard menu. There, the Default tab is used to set the aircraft’s unique tail number, found in the upper left of the window. To the right of the tail number is the name of the aircraft file’s author and a description of the aircraft being modeled.
Beneath the aircraft’s description is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) code for the aircraft. Note that the ICAO designator for a particular model aircraft may be found using the ICAO Aircraft Type Designator search. Finally, to the right of the ICAO code is the aircraft’s call sign for use by air traffic control. If this is left blank, the aircraft’s tail number will be used.
Customizing the Aircraft’s Sounds
By default, X-Plane uses a set of sounds which vary depending on the engine type and the type of aircraft. Note that the aircraft type is specified in the Viewpoint window. There, near the bottom of the window in the Default tab is the “cockpit” drop-down menu. Selecting “Airliner” there will cause X-Plane to use sounds for a large jet, whereas selecting “General Aviation” there will cause it to use sounds appropriate to a small, propeller-driven airplane, and so on.
The simplest means of customizing an aircraft’s sounds, then, is to simply select a different cockpit type in the Viewpoint window. However, you might have recordings of your specific aircraft which you would like to use. In this case, you would need to create a folder called “sounds” (without quotes, of course) and place it inside your aircraft’s folder. Then, you need only create a folder structure in your aircraft’s sounds folder which mirrors the structure found in the default sounds folder.
First, then, one must understand the structure of the default sounds directory. The default sounds are located in the folder:
- X-Plane 9\Resources\sounds
In this folder are the following subfolders:
- “alert," which contains sounds for altitude warnings, system failures, and navigation alerts, among other things.
- “contact,” which contains sounds for crashing into the ground, and touching down on the water, as well as for the rolling and skidding wheels on pavement.
- “engine,” which contains sounds for the many different kinds of engines modeled in X-Plane.
- “radio chatter,” which contains communications between aircraft and ATC. Note that this is the only set of sounds which apply globally and may not be customized by a particular aircraft.
- “systems,” which contains sounds for the humming of the APU and avionics, the moving of flaps and gears, and the firing of guns and flares.
- “weather,” which contains sounds for thunder, wind, and rain.
Each subfolder contains a number of WAV (uncompressed audio) files corresponding to the different sounds that would be heard in X-Plane.
To use custom sounds, then—that is, sounds which override the default ones—you would create a subfolder in your aircraft’s sounds folder to match the structure of the default sounds folder, then name your WAV files with your aircraft’s name as a prefix, like this:
- [.acf file name] [name of .wav file to replace].wav
For instance, if your aircraft file was called “MyCessna.acf” and you wanted to use a custom altitude alert sound for your aircraft, it would need to be located here:
- [Your aircraft folder]\sounds\alert\MyCessna altitude_alert.wav
Note that the sample rate of the WAV files you wish to use should be 22.050 kHz or 44.1 kHz. You can likely set your recording device to this sample rate before you begin capturing your sounds. Alternatively, an audio editor (such as the excellent, free, cross-platform Audacity) can be used to change the sample rate.
When using custom wind sounds (saved as [your aircraft directory]\sounds\weather\[.acf file name] wind.wav), X-Plane will scale the volume of the recorded sound depending on the speed at which your aircraft is flying. In order to do so, you must set the knots indicated airspeed at which the wind sound was recorded. This is located in the Engine Specs window’s SFC/Sound tab; in the bottom third of this window on the far left is the setting labeled “speed that wind sound was recorded at.”
Likewise, engine sounds (stored in [your aircraft directory]\sounds\engine\) are scaled in both volume and pitch based on the engine speed at which they were recorded. The bottom of the Engine Specs window’s SFC/Sound tab houses the settings for the RPM or N1 speed at which engine and propeller sounds were recorded.
Setting the View Properties
When flying in X-Plane, the pilot’s inside-the-cockpit view is fixed at some point on the aircraft. To set this point for your aircraft, open the Viewpoint window from the Standard menu. It will open to the Default tab. There, in the left-center of the window, are the “long,” “lat,” and “vert” arms of the pilot’s viewpoint. These are standard position controls, as discussed in the section “Fundamental Concepts” of Chapter 3. The pilot’s viewpoint, then, is set with respect to the aircraft’s reference point.
Configuring the Lights
An aircraft’s lighting consists of external lights (including navigation lights, landing lights, and rotating beacons) and internal lights (located in the cockpit, illuminating the instrument panel).
The Ext Lights tab, found in the Viewpoint window, is used to turn on and off the different types of external lights, and it also controls the location and intensity of those lights. Note that, in order to clearly see the location of your external lights when you add them, you may want to select the “Show with day/night textures” option from the Special menu, thus displaying the aircraft as it will be seen in night lighting.
The Int Lights tab, on the other hand, is used to set the color and intensity of the panel and cockpit lighting.
Configuring External Lights
In the Ext Lights tab of the Viewpoint window, the checkboxes found directly above the numeric input boxes control whether the aircraft has that light. An aircraft may have up to two landing lights (corresponding to the two check boxes labeled “landlight”), two rotating beacons (corresponding to the check boxes labeled “rotbeacon”), and so on. These check boxes are seen at the top of Figure 6.1.
Beneath each light’s check box are three boxes to set the light’s location, which comprise the standard position controls in Plane Maker (as discussed in the section “Fundamental Concepts” in Chapter 3). Normally, each light’s location is set relative to the aircraft’s reference point. The two landing lights or the taxi light, however, may have their position set relative to a landing gear (useful for lights which should be attached to the gear). Selecting a gear using the drop-down menu controls seen at the bottom of Figure 6.1 will cause the gear’s position to be set relative to that landing gear.
Near the bottom of the Ext Lights tab are a number of settings for the landing light, as seen in Figure 6.2. The light’s intensity is set as a ratio of the default using the “landing light power.” A power setting of 1.00 will give the default intensity, and a power setting of 2.00 will give a double-intensity light, and so on.
Beneath the intensity control is the landing light’s angular width setting. Here, a value of 20 degrees is a good default, but a thinner or wider beam may be used.
To the right of the landing light power setting is the light’s heading (its lateral angle, measured in degrees). Using a negative value here will point the light left, and using a positive value will point it right.
Finally, beneath the landing light’s heading control is the parameter determining its pitch (its vertical angle, in degrees). A negative value here will point the landing light down, whereas a positive value will point it up. A pitch of -5 degrees is a good default.
Configuring Internal Lights
Internal lights (the lights in the aircraft’s cockpit and on the panel) are configured using the Int Lights tab of the Viewpoint window. This tab is divided into two parts. The left part of the window sets the color of the various cabin lights in the 2-D cockpit view, while the right controls a number of features in the 3-D cockpit view.
In the left part of the screen, the color of the 2-D panel’s lights are set using RGB decimals. Thus, a value of 0, 0, 0 (red, green, blue) is full black, and a value of 1, 1, 1 is full white. The lights which may be configured here are as follows:
- the floodlight, the light broadly illuminating the whole of the instrument panel,
- the side view night lighting, and
- the three panel spotlights.
The 2-D panel’s flood light intensity can be modified using a panel overlay image. The floodlight is named using the 2-D panel image name plus the extension “-1”. For instance, the floodlight overlay in X-Plane 9’s default Boeing 777 is stored as:
- B777-200 British Airways\Cockpit\-PANELS-\ Panel_Airliner-1.png
This panel overlay image must be a gray-scale PNG with no alpha (transparency) channel of the same size as the main panel. The PNG must have its -1 shadow layer changed from RGB+alpha to gray-scale, no alpha. In this form, white indicates more shadow, while black indicates no shadow. Thus, if you wanted the flood light to brightly and evenly light the entire panel, you would use an all-black image.
Similarly to the floodlight, the panel spotlights are created using a spotlight overlay image. These overlays are stored in the standard panel directory and are named with your panel image’s name plus the extension “-2”, “-3”, or “-4”, for overlays 1, 2, and 3.
For instance, panel spotlight 2 in X-Plane 9’s default Boeing 777 is stored as:
- B777-200 British Airways\Cockpit\-PANELS-\ Panel_Airliner-3.png
In the case of both the spotlights and the floodlight, the actual color of the light is simply set using the Int Lights tab of the Viewpoint windows, using the controls seen in Figure 6.3.
In the right portion of the Int Lights tab are the 3-D cockpit lighting settings. A 3-D cockpit has 3 lights, each of which have a color, width, size, pitch, heading, and an associated dataref.
As in the case of the 2-D lights, the color of the 3-D panel’s lights are set using RGB decimal. The RGB controls for each of the three cockpit lights are located in the top left of the 3-D Cockpit Lighting box. Here, as in the 2-D panel, a value of 0, 0, 0 (red, green, blue) corresponds to full black, and a value of 1, 1, 1 is full white.
Once you set the lights’ colors, moving to wireframe view (by pressing the spacebar) will allow you to see the lights’ positions. Note that any light set to full black will be turned off again.
Beneath the color and location controls are the width, size, pitch, and heading controls. Setting a width of zero degrees makes a light omnidirectional; any other setting makes the light directional.
The size of the light is set as a ratio to the default. Past a given distance, the light shines at half brightness; increasing the size will increase the distance at which this occurs.
A light’s pitch is set relative to the aircraft’s nose. A pitch of zero degrees indicates the light is pointing directly forward, while a pitch of -90 degrees indicates it is pointing directly down. For the light’s heading, on the other hand, positive values indicate the light is pointing to starboard, while negative values indicate it is pointing to port.
Finally, the brightness of each cockpit light in the 3-D panel is linked to a dataref. The drop-down menu allows you to select from the most commonly used datarefs, such as the spotlights and floodlight, or you can select a custom dataref by typing it in the text box.
Note that the Misc Objects window (found in the Standard menu) is used to turn this internal 3-D lighting on and off. The cockpit object will have interior 3-D lighting applied when the “Cockpit object gets interior lighting” box is checked there. Other objects will have this lighting applied to them when their lighting mode is set to “inside” using the drop-down boxes on the right.
Setting the Weight and Balance
To set the aircraft’s weight and balance, open the Weight & Balance window from the Standard menu. There, you can set the center of gravity, the empty and maximum weights, as well as the positions of slung loads and fuel tanks.
Setting the Center of Gravity
The aircraft’s center of gravity (CG) is set using only the longitudinal and vertical parameters of the standard location controls; that is, it has only a distance behind and above the reference point. In X-Plane, the user may move the center of gravity forward or aft. In light of this, three longitudinal positions are defined for the center of gravity. The first, seen on the far left in Figure 6.5, is the forward limit (the farthest forward the CG may move). The middle value is the center of gravity’s default longitudinal position, and the value on the far right is the aft limit (the farthest back that the CG may move).
The vertical position of the center of gravity stays constant no matter how the CG is moved. Thus, there is only one “vert CG” value to set.
Setting the Weights
Most of the weight characteristics, located in the bottom left of the Weight & Balance window’s Weight tab, are self-explanatory.
The empty weight is the weight of the aircraft when empty of fuel or payload, but with oil and other fixed weight on board. The fuel load is the total weight of fuel that the aircraft can carry. The jet-assisted takeoff (JATO) weight is the weight added by the thrust-adding rockets.
The jettisonable load is the maximum weight that can be jettisoned from the aircraft. This may include bombs, water for forest fires, slung loads, cargo pushed out the back of a plane, and so on. When using a jettisonable load, check the appropriate boxes to the right, as seen in Figure 6.6, to indicate the nature of the jettisonable load. For more on using slung loads, see the section “Creating and Adding Weapons and Slung Loads” in Chapter 7.
Beneath the jettisonable load setting, the maximum weight value defines the weight above which the aircraft cannot take off (the maximum takeoff weight, or MTOW).
Next, the weight-shift weight is the amount of weight that can shift around based on control input, as in a hang glider. This portion of the aircraft’s total weight will be shifted in X-Plane. When using a nonzero weight shift, you will be able to set the distance, in feet, that the weight can move bot laterally and longitudinally using the Weight Shift box to the right.
The displaced weight value should be zero for airplanes, but it may be nonzero for blimps, zeppelins, or dirigibles. When using a nonzero displaced weight, you can adjust the portion of the total displaced weight that the buoyancy of the craft can scale across using the “displacement adjust ratio” value to the right. For instance, if the buoyancy control can scale from 80% to 120% of the displaced weight value, this would be 0.2. Additionally, you can set the distance above the reference point for the center of buoyancy using the “vertical center of displaced air” value.