Now, truth be told, I have owned an SL helicopter (rarely used) and I did recently pick up the wonderful Lepidoptera (which I still think is pretty amazing), and I love to occasionally zap around on my little Neuspa. However, I’ve never really tried my hand at piloting an aeroplane in SL (much to my shame, given my father actually does fly RL, and has had me at the controls of his ‘plane).
So, spurred on by the number of aircraft flying around Blake Sea, I decided to give things a go. Again, I’ll be honest here. I wasn’t sure how I’d take to things, so I too a cautious approach, and perused the SL Marketplace, visited a few in-world stores and saw what was available. I didn’t want anything “high performance”; I just wanted something to enjoy, and perhaps share with a friend or two. While I did find a couple of attractive light aircraft, I decided that, initially, I’d wet my feet (so to speak) with a couple of freebie offerings, and then if I liked things, would up the stakes from there.
I ended up getting two aircraft: a Terra Stingray and the Pitts S2C – and the proved to be very, very different in handling!
The Stingray is from Steve “Cubey” Cavers of Abbot’s Aerodrome fame. He’s actually single-handedly responsible for getting me into SL skydiving waaay back in 2007, and which I still enjoy today; Ziki Questi and I were going to try to do a “Felix” and make an almighty freefall jump in SL… but I digress.
The Stingray is a jet aircraft with land and sea capabilities. It comes packed with features, including colour and decal changing, a flight HUD, menu system, and – in typical SL fashion – also coverts itself into a speedboat or submarine!
I started my flight in the Stingray from Ey Ren’s awesome new airport at Second Norway. This in itself is a magnificent build making prime use of the available space (departure area, complete with signage, check-in desks, security, etc., all neatly tucked under the runways, taxiways and airport apron).
Flying the Stingray is a pleasure. Simply attach the HUD, rez the plane (it’ll sense whether it is on land or water and either deploy the landing gear or not) and climb in. The throttle is controlled via PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN, and the HUD provides your fuel and throttle settings, among other necessary data. Pitch and turn are controlled via the arrow keys.
The Stingray is beautifully responsive, and I really enjoyed flying it. Once airborne I could raise the gear and just enjoy myself. Water landings were a simple affair: come down to around 20m, retarding your throttles back to about 40% along the way, then ease back gently, hold the nose steady and gently pitch the nose up before touching the water. Once your speed is down low enough (10%-ish), retract the wings and cruise boat-like to the pier / ramp.
Landing on a runway was equally easy, and helped with the visual references from the VASI lights.
The Pitts S2C is by Michie Yoksuka is an altogether different plane. It comes in three variants: the Mk1 (which is a tad blocky) and the updated Mark 2 with either wheels or floats. There’s no HUD and climbing into the Pitts starts the engine, otherwise controls are pretty much as for the Stingray. As I was flying over Blake Sea, I opted for the seaplane version and started my journey from Half Hitch. The build is a little blockier than the Stingray, but it does capture the essence of the Pitts very nicely.
Like its namesake, the Pitts S2C is fast and very friskly. The RL Pitts is designed for aerobatics, and in no time at all, I was barrel-rolling with wing tips just clearing the waves, and pulling impressive climbs which should have resulted in some pretty hard stall turns….
I wasn’t actually intending to do either, but as I said, the Pitts 2B is very frisky!
I opted to fly the Pitts from Half Hitch, out in the middle of Blake Sea. I’m glad I did as I encountered an unexpected visitor sailing through….
One thing with flying a plane which did take some getting used to was the speed – particularly in the Pitts, where I was zipping through regions at a stunning rate at times. The Stingray was slightly more sedate, especially when eased back on the throttle, and as a result tended to handle region crossings with more panache – several times in the Pitts I ended up being booted to 0,0,0, and sometimes I could TP home, other times I simply crashed. That said, there were a couple of times in the Stingray when a region crossing left my camera wedged in the engine air intake behind the cockpit…
Of the two aircraft I used, I have to say the Stingray perhaps offered the better experience for me as novice. The controls felt smoother and left me feeling more in control. The Pitts tended to respond to everything so fast, I was wibbling about all over the sky (and probably scaring the pants of those sailing by below me at times). But again, that’s perhaps how it should be: learning to fly in a racy plane like the Pitts isn’t perhaps the brightest way to go about things… I also have to confess I like the fact that the Stingray can also turn itself into a natty speedboat.
As to flying in SL, I have mixed feelings. It’s a great way to get to see more of the major areas of Second Life – particularly if you can up your draw distance a little to see beyond the next region as you fly. Landing a plane in SL isn’t always easy – it’s hard to make a good approach without making at least one region crossing, and this did throw me the first few times.
Region crossings are, inevitably problematic, and I did find myself getting frustrated when I wound-up at 0,0,0 on a number of occasions, as mentioned. Certainly, the problem hasn’t put me off flying in SL, so I’ll doubtless be back for more – and I still have my eye on one light aircraft on sale both on the Marketplace and in-world in particular.