A no-nonsense hovercraft in Second Life

The Foilborne MW47L HoneyBadger

Ape Piaggio is a keen builder of assorted vehicles in Second Life – and I admit to being rather partial to several of them (see my pieces on the FoilStream, Little Bee and Orion). Her latest, which she asked me to test prior to its release on May 26th, 2018, combines the fun of several of her earlier designs with the utilitarian nature of a number of others.

The MW47L “HoneyBadger” (named for the ferocious Mellivora capensis, or ratel,  made famous in a 2011 viral YouTube video) is a cargo carrying hovercraft that incorporates Get The Freight Out! capabilities, can carry up to six avatars and – despite its workman-like looks – can offer a lot of fun.

Marketed under Ape’s Foilborne Industries brand, the MW47L is delivered in Ape’s familiar “toy box” approach: a neatly boxed miniature of the vehicle, visible through a clear plastic screen in the box. It also has an unusual approach to unpacking. On rezzing the box, you’ll be greeted with a number of local chat comments, one of which will ask you to wait for the “Ready” notice. When this is displayed in chat, touch the box to display a menu with the options to PLAY or UNPACK. If you’re only interested in getting to the hovercraft, click UNPACK; however, if you want to have a little fun, click PLAY and then try the follow-up menu.

The Foilborne MW47L HoneyBadger

When unpacked, the box delivers the hovercraft itself, an instruction manual, driver’s HUD, a customer paint applier,  and an “extras” box (of which more anon). Note that if you unpack the box by the usual means, you’ll also end up with an animation and three scripts in the hovercraft’s folder. These can all be safely deleted.

On rezzing, the MW47L is quite a sizeable vehicle – not surprising, given it is intended to carry cargo. However, it can be manually resized (with a couple of caveats: the refuelling animation is best disabled after resizing; resetting the scripts will result in the vehicle reverting to its default size) for those who might wish to do so.

The controls are simple enough, with chat commands and a vehicle menu for additional / alternate options. To get started, right-click and sit on the MW47L, this will position you in the driving “seat”. Type “s” or “start” to start the diesel motor (“s” or “stop” will stop the engine). This drives both the big vertical fan that propels the hovercraft and the two horizontal fans that draw air down into the vehicle’s skirt to form the pocket of air on which it rides. As the fans spin-up, the skirt will inflate. You can then use the UP / DOWN keys to advance / retard the throttle and the LEFT / RIGHT keys to operate the two rudders aft of the vertical fan to turn left or right.

The Foilborne MW47L HoneyBadger at rest

Note that once in motion, the MW47L becomes more responsive with speed. As such, it can be a little sluggish in turning at low speeds – but at higher rates of knots, it can be quite entertaining, offering lots of opportunities for turning, slewing, and generally having fun. It’s also compatible with the Foilborne wakeboard Ape also sells and with tube rides, if you fancy having fun towing friends around. Hovertext displayed over the rear fan will keep you appraised of your throttle setting, speed, skirt inflation and remaining fuel.

A point of note here is that the HoneyBadger can be operated with or without the additional HUD or in Mouselook mode. In the latter regard, I’d suggest driving with the HUD first – the switches re not clearly labelled on the dashboard, so using the HUD will help familiarise you with the dashboard buttons (although note the HUD has an additional button for displaying the menu).

The forward ramp can be lowered / raised using the chat command “ramp”  or using the lower / extreme right button on the HUD / dashboard. Note you can pause the ramp at any time by typing “ramp” again or clicking the button. This allows it to be correctly angled when taking freight aboard from a pier or other raised surface, for example.

The Foilborne MW47L HoneyBadger – fully GTFO! compatible

Which brings me to Get The Freight Out! (GTFO) and freight carriage. The HoneyBadger is fully GTFO! compatible, and a menu option will allow you to display a “pre-loaded” cargo crate. You can also carry other GTFO! cargo with the hovercraft as well.  Nor is that all. The “extras” box supplied with the HoneyBadger includes the MW47L HoneyBadger Payload Plugin script and a configuration note card.

The script and the note card can be used with modifiable goods / vehicles you might wish to transport using the hovercraft. Full instructions are provided in the HoneyBadger’s manual, and I strongly advise that you follow the recommendation that when carrying goods in this way, you hold the hovercraft’s speed down. It might also be worth having someone (an Alt account?) sit on the object to further help it maintain its position relative to the hovercraft. Both the script and the note card or transferable, and so can be given to friends for you to transport their goods.

The Foilborne MW47L HoneyBadger – you can carry your own suitably prepared cargo and goods

Handling on land is very similar to on water, although rough terrain can be a little awkward, and getting up some banks from water to land can require additional power (some might equally be too steep / high to climb). Other options include the custom paint capability (PSD, etc., files are available via a download link in the instruction manual), the aforementioned options for towing wakeboarders, etc., and a wide range of additional settings options (including a parkcam for mooring and a race mode).

At L$800 (at the time of writing), With the ability to let others drive it, the MW47L HoneyBadger offers a rich mix of opportunities for vehicle enthusiasts – and this review barely scratches the surface. So, if you are looking for a vehicle this is that little bit different and which has GTFO! capabilities, the MW47L might be just the ticket. Like its namesake, it’s a no-nonsense vehicle, pretty much up for anything.

Now, if I can only get Ape to finish her long-awaited take on the Icon A5 …

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A nifty Bandit at sea in Second Life

The Bandit SRV 210, finished in my own “Serenity” paint scheme and with the tower and Bimini sun shade visible

So I’m a bit of a boating enthusiast, as I’ve covered in various articles in this blog. When it comes to powered boating, I’ve been especially partial to boats by Ape Piaggio. However, I recently added a third speed boat to my modest collection – the Bandit SRV 210; and it is a truly delightful little vessel.

Designed and built by Analyse Dean under her Bandit brand, the SR/210 is, as the manual notes, modelled after the fibreglass-hulled sports boats of the 1970s / 80s. with a deep V-shaped hull (which gave boats of this type a “super-V” designation) boats of this kind can cut through the water at speed and offer a high degree of manoeuvrability. This is certainly true in the case of the Bandit SRV 210.

Trying one of the boat’s animations with the full Bimini canopy erected over the boat

Costing (at the time of writing) L$2,500, the boat’s package comprises the SRV-210 itself, a towable, rideable inner tube, a trailer, note card manual, a note card of boating tips, and two texture packs. One of these contains a set of pre-made textures in .PNG format ready for application to the boat (and which can be used as templates for creating your own colour schemes), the other a set of flag textures for the boat’s (rather large) stern flag (and which I eventually scaled down somewhat).

Seating up to six people, the boat at first may appear little boxy in shape – but don’t let that put you off; it really does have a lot to offer. The controls follow the usual for a boat: LEFT / RIGHT for turning, UP / DOWN for the throttle. In addition, PAGE UP will open the throttles all the way to the stops – useful for a fast pick-up if racing or when towing someone on the supplied inner tube. Alternatively, pressing PAGE DOWN from idle will push the boat into full reverse and PAGE UP will drop the engine to idle. In addition there are chat commands – “start” to start the engine, “stop” to turn it off; “fenders” to deploy for mooring fenders and so on.

With the throttle open to the stops, the SRV 210 reaches around 24 knots. At this speed, it handles region crossings pretty well (when they are behaving!)

Key among these are the command to deploy the boat’s “extras”: the light tower, the Bimini cover, an a Get the Freight Out duffel bag. The tower can be used when towing someone on the inner tube or a wakeboard (the latter is not supplied with the boat, but can be purchased from Ape Piaggio for L$400 via her shop at Dutch Harbor, close to the SRV 210’s vendor). the Bimini cover has three options: sunshade; sunshade with over-the-windscreen spray deflector, and full cover. Each option and be displayed / hidden in turn with the “bimini” command via chat. Those who like speed / heading info can call the hovertext HUD via the “hud” command – the information will appear when the engine is started.

Initial handling can take a little getting used to; after starting the engine it is necessary to press and hold the UP arrow key to get the throttle to engage and get you moving (or you can use PAGE UP to go to full throttle, as noted). Once in motion, the throttle can be advanced or retarded via individual key presses.

The trailer is unscripted and static, but offers a nice out-of-water storage for the SRV 210. Remember to raise the propeller unit on the boat (“lift” in chat) to avoid damaging it!

One thing to get used to with this boat is it is very “physical”: it really will bounce through waves; as a consequence, you can suffer a fair amount of camera juddering. This can be lessened by using the mouse scroll wheel to push your camera back a little from the boat. And talking of the camera – the boat includes a reset option for those times when the camera skews and locks at a weird option on a region crossing. It may not always work – such is the nature of SL; but if you find your camera off-angle, type “cam” in chat.

Using the inner tube for someone to ride on is a matter of sitting in the boat, and saying “tube” in chat to ready the boat to attach the inner tube. Rez the tube close behind the boat and it should automatically connect via a particle line, with the boat acknowledging it is attached. The manual recommends doing this with the tower rezzed on the boat, but it’s not vital. Once the tube is attached, the person riding it can jump on and you can set off. Keep an eye out (if you can) for the tube rider’s animation when crossing regions 🙂 .

Caitlyn tries the inner tube

Using an optional Piaggio wakeboard is pretty much the same, other than the command is “wakeboard”; you might also want the tower deployed as well for this. In addition, the Bandit SRV 210 manual explains how to have someone else pilot the boat if you want to try the tube or a wakeboard for yourself.

For those who like first-person driving, the SRV 210 is again ideal – the dashboard is fully working, and the boat can be perfectly handled from mouselook. When at rest on the water, there are a range of animations and poses to choose from – including diving off the boat’s fantail platform and treading water close by. All of these add to the boat’s sense of fun – but do be warned that some of the couples animations can get explicit, so careful where you use them! The built-in media system may offer music to relax by as well.

Taking a back flip off of the SRV 210’s fantail platform

I did find the “press and hold” to get the throttle initially open on start-up a little awkward if in a confined space with the boat, but practice makes perfect. Those who have the Piaggio / Foilborne AD25H Little Bee (see here for a review) might see little advantage in also owning the SRV 210 as the two offer a lot of very similar options, with the Little Bee offering wakeboard and parasail options “built-in”. However, for the enthusiast, the very different styling of both make them attractive: the Little Bee harks back to the days of classic tender-style speedboats, and the SRV 210 has the equally classic look and feel of boats from the 1980s, while there are more than enough options unique to each to keep people happy.

With its supplied options, handling, ease of painting and its overall looks, the SRV 210 is a great boat to have, and very suitable for everyone from beginners through to keen SL boating enthusiasts. In addition, the Get The Freight Out duffel bag potentially adds a little twist of running contraband for role-play enthusiasts.

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Plane sailing in Second Life: the ReneMarine Ask 13

Topping a loop over Holly Kai Park in my ReneMarine Ask 13

Courtesy of someone crashing on a neighbour’s island I recently discovered the ReneMarine Ask 13 sailplane, a newcomer to Second Life (released at the end of March 2018), and built by Rene Underby, creator of ReneMarine yachts. The model brought back fond memories for me of taking sailplane lessons when in my 20s, initially in the physical world Schleicher ASK 13, so it became something of an impulse buy for me.

The Ask 13 costs L$1000. For that, you get the glider, instructions, thermal HUD, and a box of texture scripts with pre-set colours and registrations and a set of texture 1024×1024 textures – one for the airframe, one for the seats and interior and one AO.

Overall, the design is true to early versions of the Schleicher ASK 13, with the single non-retractable wheel and nose skid (later models of the Schleicter were fitting with a small nose wheel). There are a couple of minor glitches around the tail of the airframe, but neither is generally visible unless specifically looking. The supplied scripted colour schemes are provide a degree of choice in look and easily applied – just drop a script into the sailplane either directly when rezzed or via the Build floater Contents tab (recommended), then touch the airframe to apply.

Easing my Ask 13 with initial (and now updated!) colour scheme into position ready for an aerotow, using the built-in “push” animation

Those who want something a little more personal can use the supplied airframe texture to create their own colour scheme / registration. I knocked-up a basic design (which I’ll likely enhance) in about 10 minutes. Just select the individual airframe faces on the model and  apply the texture via the Texture tab in the Build floater (use local textures to test before uploading).

So how does it fly? Well, first a little pre-amble.

The first thing to note about the ReneMarine Ask 13 is that it is designed for Mouselook flying (although 3rd person flying is obviously also possible). There’s no instrument HUD, no over-the-tail hover text; it’s just you and the instruments in front of you. Commands are given via chat (so make sure you have the viewer UI enabled when in Mouselook), and the WASD / arrow keys for up/down pitch and left / right banking. PAGE DOWN deploys the wing spoilers (up to three taps), PAGE UP retracts them. Note you should also have local sounds enabled, as these are part of the ReneMarine flight experience.

The ReneMarine Ask 13 includes a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” to tow it into the air.

Sailplanes stay aloft via the lift provided from  thermals – columns of rising air, created by the uneven heating of Earth’s surface by solar radiation. SL also has its own thermals, and this is where the thermal HUD supplied with the ReneMarine Ask 13 comes in. Essentially a regional mini-map, it highlights local thermals using a red dot and shows the position of your glider via a yellow marker and allows you to navigate to, and circle around thermals to gain altitude. Do keep in mind that thermals occur far more frequently over land than open water (where temperatures tend to even-out a lot more).

Once close to a thermal, you’ll also get an audio tone from the vario averager, indicating you have a positive vertical airspeed (that is, you’re gaining altitude). The stronger, faster the beeping, the faster you are gaining altitude. When you have a negative vertical airspeed (i.e. your are descending), the vairo will fall silent. Thus, you can use the instrument and an audio indicator of your ability to remain within the influence of a thermal.

Turning over Isla Pey and admiring the view

When you’re ready to get started, attach the thermal HUD, rez your Ask-13 and jump in. Type “tow” and your aerotow – a vintage Curtiss JN-4 – will appear, and start pulling you down the airstrip – control both the sailplane and the “Jenny” via your movement keys.

When you’re ready to take full control, type “off” for the aerotow and cable to vanish. You’re now free to seek out thermals and glide gently over the countryside – and I do mean gently. The ReneMarine offers one of the smoothest region crossing experiences I’ve ever had in SL. As well as playing navigate-by-thermal (and offering a superb low-speed view of the landscape and islands of SL), the ReneMarine Ask 13 is capable of aerobatics – although some care is needed. You need to watch your airspeed: go too fast, and you’ll hear the wings start to flutter – an indication that they are about to fail, and you should reduce your speed.

Spoilers fully deployed (visible on the wing tops) and coming in at Foliage airstrip

Landing a sailplane takes a little practice. You don’t have engine or a throttle to play with, only the spoilers. Located in the wings, these can be deployed to three positions to disrupt the airflow over the wings, causing a loss of lift. This takes a lot of practice, particularly when knowing when to fully deploy the spoilers – and you will need them fully deployed for landing – but practice makes perfect. Use “sit” to bring the Ask 13 to a stop at the end of your roll-out as there are no brakes.

With flight controls easily interchangeable between front and rear seats (“swap” in chat) and a racing mode, the ReneMarine Ask 13 is a really nicely rounded-out product delivered in a package that can make a nice (if largish) display piece for those with the room. I’ve not tried other SL sailplanes for a direct comparison, but having flown the Schleicher ASK 13 in the physical world, I can say this is quite possibly the closest anyone will get to the “real thing” in SL, and at just L$1,000, it’s more than worth the price. An absolute delight.

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Clouds and windlight skies by Stevie Davros

Saturn over Holly Kai Park, via the Cosmic Skies clouds set by Stevie Davros

During the Friday, January 26th TPV Developer meeting, mentioned was made of cloud texture sets produced by Australian photographer Stevie Davros, which he offers for sale through the Marketplace. Curious, I decided to go and take a look and have a play.

In all, Stevie is offering five sets of cloud textures at prices ranging from L$99 through to L$599. These are essentially collections of .TGA files designed to replace the cloud texture found in the viewer, and a selection of associated windlight sky .XML files specifically designed to work with the cloud textures, together with comprehensive set of installations instructions and links to his installation videos. To help people understand how they work, Stevie provides a sixth demonstration set for free.

As delivered from the marketplace, each set comprises a note card providing a general introduction to the sets, and a set of links, as follows:

  • A link to a Dropbox file location where the actual files for installation can be downloaded.
  • A link to a YouTube slide show of the various cloud textures.
  • A link to his set of Flickr albums showings the cloud images.
  • Assorted links to windlight tutorials.
The JuilaSet clouds and ~Clouds_JulietSet_Blue_Day windlight .XML by Stevie Davros (Sci-Fi and Fantasy clouds)

On receipt of a note card (delivered to your Received Items in its own folder), simply copy / paste the Dropbox link into your web browser to display a preview of the download ZIP contents (thumbnails of the folders and instruction files), and click the Download button, top right of the web page – don’t download the individual files.

I’m not going to run through the installation process here, as Stevie provides a comprehensive guide in both .PDF and .RTF formats, and links to his installation videos. Some file manipulation is required, but providing you are comfortable navigating a folder / directory hierarchy via your computer’s file manager / explorer, and with renaming files and copy / pasting files, you shouldn’t find the installation that taxing. Suffice it to say that the downloaded ZIP contains:

  • A choice of folders with the cloud .TGA files – one for PC, one for Mac OSX. These are intended to replace the default cloud texture provided in the viewer.
  • A folder of .XML windlight files that can be used with the cloud textures. Copy the contents of this folder to your viewer’s user windlight skies folder, rather than the viewer’s main windlight skies folder.
  • Installation instructions in .PDF and .RTF.
  • Two images used in the installation instructions.
The JuilaSet clouds used with Annan Adored’s Morning Dream windlight

For most viewers, using the different cloud textures requires renaming the texture you wish to use via your computer’s file manager, and restarting their viewer. Again, Stevie’s installation instructions explain what is required.

If you use Firestorm, you can simply copy all of the cloud textures to the viewer’s windlight\cloud folder and select your required cloud texture from the Preferences > Windlight > Cloud Texture drop-down, although a viewer restart will still generally be required to apply the change.

Note: when re-logging after selecting a custom cloud TGA, you may see no change in your sky if you are in a region using the default sky settings, or things might look initially messy. If this happens simply switch to a suitable windlight setting – see below.

There are a wide variety of ways to access windlight .XML files depending on the viewer you are using. Within the official viewer, windlights are access via the World menu > Environment Editor and then using either the Environment Settings panel or Sky Presets > Edit Preset floater, using the drop-down on each to select your preferred windlight setting (see below).

Selecting windlight pre-sets from the World menu in the official viewer – click for full size, if required

When applying the cloud textures and windlights supplied by Stevie, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:

  • Some of the cloud textures have recommended or specific sky .XML presets for use with them. For example, in the Cosmic Skies set:
    • The JuliaSet clouds have set of associated .XML files with the prefix ~Clouds_JuilaSet_[name]).
    • The Saturn cloud texture requires the ~Clouds_Saturn windlight sky in order to display correctly (the planet will display with some other windlights, but generally appears distorted)
  • Some of the cloud textures can look rough – faint rings may appear in the sky, the texture repeats might have a definable edge, etc. These issues can generally be corrected by adjusting the amount of cloud cover using the appropriate slider (e.g.  World menu > Environment Editor > Sky Presets > Edit Preset … > Cloud tab) and use the coverage slider to adjust as required.

FCirrus v2 Windlight: Pinky Yellow, by Stevie Davros, on FlickrCirrus v2 Windlight: Pinky Yellow, by Stevie Davros on Flickr

Feedback

Given there are a lot of windlight .XML sets freely available to users, charging for them might at first seem odd – but remember, with these sets, it is not the .XMLs you are paying for, but the .TGA cloud files. How useful then might be to the individual depend on your Second Life use. Photographers will potentially find the sets to be of the most use; however, there are some points to be noted:

  • The cloud .TGA files are copyrighted by Stevie Davros. As such, although they are supplied outside of Second Life, they should be regarded as supplied under the following permissions: Copy, Modify, No Transfer, and so should not be passed to other users.
  • These sets are intended to be applied on the viewer side only (the cloud .TGA files can only be applied on the viewer-side), so only you will see them in operation when applied (those with their own region / with EM rights, might apply the windlight .XML files to their region).

It is perhaps also worthwhile pointing out that Rider Linden is working on the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) – read this overview about the project for more. The point of this is that some might prefer to see how this project is implemented – testing is due to start on Aditi very soon – before purchasing sets of clouds.

Flying the CLSA Fairey Gannet in Second Life

The CLSA Fairey Gannet over Blake Sea Half Hitch

I’m not that into military aviation outside of airshows, and in SL, all my flying is restricted to civilian light aircraft with the exception of a Supermarine Spitfire, which was a thank you gift from its creator, Eric Gregan, and a civilian version of the PBY6A Catalina. So I’m a little surprised to be writing about a veteran military ‘plane, the Fairey Gannet.

I confess to having known next to nothing about the Gannet prior to obtaining this particular model – but wikipedia was once again my friend, helping me fill-in the blanks about this post-World War Two Royal Navy aircraft. I came across the model in question after learning through Whirly Fizzle that CLS Aviation, owned by CaithLynnSayes were being sold at L$10 per aircraft on an unsupported basis. At the time, I picked up a couple (see here for more). A subsequent chat about the CLSA range with friend Jodi Serenity led me to an impulse buy of CLSA’s Fairey Gannet – it’s not as if L$10 is going to break anyone’s bank!

The CLSA Fairey Gannet on rezzing

The first thing that struck me is that it is a comparatively big aeroplane (by the standards of the aircraft I generally fly, at least!). It is also something a very faithful reproduction by Helijah Bailey (sold under a licence agreement by CLSA) with a lot packed into it – more, it would seem, then the instruction manual explains. The complete package comprises the aircraft, a minimal but acceptable flight HUD for those who like them, a pilot’s headset and two manuals. By default, the aircraft rezzes with wings folded – these can be deployed when sat in the pilot’s cockpit by typing w(ing) or wings in chat. They unfold quite satisfactorily, and the twin turboprop engines can be started at the same time via the Engine button on the HUD if you use it, or by typing s(tart) or engine in chat – note chat commands are not case-sensitive.

Starting the engines will also do a couple of other things – activate the Gannet’s strobe and nav lights, and cause the other two crew members pop-up in their respective cockpits (the plane is a single avatar seater).  With the exhausts under the rearmost cockpit spewing fumes and heat, the ‘plane is ready to fly. This is achieved by releasing the parking brake (p) and then using the conventional controls: PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN for the throttle (5% increments or nX – where X is a number between 1 and 100, for quickly setting), UP / DOWN for nose pitch, LEFT / RIGHT for banking.

The CLSA Fairey Gannet: the two observers appear when the engines are started

In flight, the Gannet handles well – I’d rate it the best of the CLSA aircraft I’ve flown to date.  Being a beast, it does require constant pressure on the controls with banking or it’ll simply try to rapidly straighten out, but this adds a level of realism in flying. Airspeeds are given in metres per second, and when landing, you’ll need around 8-15 m/s to both avoid stalling on approach or coming in too fast and having to force it onto the ground.

As noted the ‘plane comes with plenty of features: the aforementioned folding / unfolding wings; a deplyable radar dome for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the Gannet’s primary role in this variant and an extensible arrestor hook for deck landings (would that there were a Royal Navy carrier steaming around Blake Sea!). There are no fewer than 10 default camera positions and 11 preset paint schemes (5 Royal Navy Air Squadrons, one Royal Australian Navy Air Squadron (albeit it with UK roundels), one Indonesian Navy Aviation Squadron, 3 Marineflieger (German Navy) options, and one simply labelled “FAA” (Fleet Air Arm). There is also a custom option. There’s also a fuel system, a sliding pilot’s cockpit canopy, and a park / unpark mode (only use the latter with the wings folded, as it includes the stays to hold the wings in that position).

The CLSA Fairey Gannet: weapons bay doors open – flying in a region with rezzing rights will drop a torpedo

The Gannet is also fully VICE enabled for combat operations – although this is missing from the flight manual. I’m not into combat flying and so blindly fiddled around until some things worked. Enabling VICE via the menu prims the weapons bay, and typing b in flight will open the bay doors and drop a torpedo (providing you have rezzing rights in the region you’re flying through). There is a cycle delay limiting the frequency at which torpedoes can be released. There are also weapons hard points under the wings with depth charges (I assume) and missiles attached. These are alpha’d by default, and appear to be unscripted. I’ve no idea if they can be accessed by this particular variant of the Gannet, or if they an hold-over from another design, and confess I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure them out.

Overall, I found this a nice aircraft to fly – and one that is certainly nippy at high throttle settings, which offers some fun in flying. While it is not something I’d use with any frequency – only curiosity and the price caused my to buy it, as noted -, for those who like their military aircraft, it potentially offers a pretty good value for money, particularly given the preset finishes.

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CLS Aviation on the Marketplace

CLSA: flying in Second Life at L$10 a plane

Flying over the home island in the CLS Aviation P2010

Whirly Fizzle pointed me in the direction of CLS Aviation on the Marketplace after owner CaithLynnSayes introduced an across-the-board price drop for all aircraft in this modest collection to just L$10 per vehicle – the catch being that the aircraft are now sold completely unsupported. As such, they make a bargain basement opportunity for those curious about SL flying to kick-start their exposure.

There are only nine aircraft in the CLSA range, and these form a mix of vintage and light aircraft. The models are built by Helijah Bailey and scripted by Reconx86, the scripts being based on those originally developed by Cubey Terra.

Both the P2010 (shown) and the P92 have acceptable default paint options (in theory changeable via the menu), and support custom finishes. Each features touch-to-open doors

I have previously flown the Firestorm limited edition of the CLSA Ryan Navion and found it acceptable, if not exceptional. For this test, I grabbed the “Tec-N” (aka Tecnam of Italy) P92 and the P2010 on the basis I haven’t got any high-wing monoplanes in my collection. Each aircraft is supplied with at least one variant of the plane itself (the P92 has a version with fixed wheel undercarriage, suffixed “T”, and a version with floats, suffixed “W”), a detailed manual, a quick start guide, a basic HUD, and a set of set of basic texture templates for creating custom paint finishes.

The flight system is the same for both aircraft, offering the usual control options: PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN for the throttle, UP / DOWN; arrow keys for pitching the nose down / up; the LEFT / RIGHT keys for banking (or WASD, if you use them). Other control surfaces (flaps, air brakes) are accessed via text. The HUD for each is fairly basic, and includes a button option for accessing the menu system (also accessible via chat command when sitting in the aircraft).

The P92-W(ater) version flying past a familiar (to this blog!) landmark

As with all CLSA aircraft, both models reflect their physical namesakes with reasonable accuracy. Each comes with a number of menu-accessible paint finishes, and slots within the menu for adding custom paint finishes (instructions for use in the user manual) – or that’s the theory. Both aircraft are also Shergood Aviation N-Number Registration compatible, meaning that when first rezzed, it will have a unique N (United States) registration number, which is also registered at the Shergood Aviation Aircraft Database.

Handling-wise I found the P92 and P2010 acceptable, although the P92 suffered the same issue I had with the CLSA Ryan Navion: banking tends to be flat, with the first part feeling like the aircraft is slewing into a turn. The P2010 felt a lot more responsive by comparison, rolling rather tightly in turns, but having the feel of a small, well-powered aircraft, and was definitely a lot more fun to fly. Airspeed is measured in metres per second, and it’s advisable to read the manual to get things like rotation and stall speeds fixed in your head.

The P92 float and wheeled variants, showing off two of the supplied pain finishes

I did have some issues with each plane – the aforementioned lack of initial banking when turning the P92, for example, together with a visual niggle that the main struts supporting the floats don’t actually meet the fuselage. There’s also no means to retract the wheels on the floats, giving the ‘plane an odd look when landing on water with wheels extended before and under the floats. As with the Ryan Navion, both the P92 and the P2010 will happily land on Linden water, taxi on it and take-off again, even when sans floats – which is a trifle odd, and possibly part of their Cubey Terra scripted heritage – as I noted in my review of the Ryan Navion, there is a degree of similarity in the handling of the Navion / P92 and Cubey’s Stingray in particular. However, these are relatively minor niggles.

A more annoying issue lies with the P2010. For me, this repeatedly gave a scripted texture call error when first sitting in the aircraft and on making region crossings, becoming quite the distraction at times. The menu option to access the paint controls was also non-functional, even after a full reset of scripts. However, I don’t believe the latter prevents the manual application of textures, if handled with care.

All CLSA aircraft seem to share the common trait of being able to operate on Linden water, regardless of whether they have floats! This is the P2010 “parked” on Blake Sea following a successful landing

If I’m totally honest, a CLSA ‘plane is unlikely to become a favourite with me; I’m simply too attached to my DSA aircraft (although the camera management on CLSA planes during regions crossings is admittedly far better than DSA). However, even allowing for the issues and niggles mentioned above, at L$10 per ‘plane, they really cannot be sneezed at for those wishing to join the world of SL aviation flying a fairly reasonable aircraft with a decent flight control system, and are a far better introduction to SL flying than many of the low-cost / freebie alternatives to be found on the MP.

Additional Links

CLS Aviation on the Marketplace