Taking wing

After my recent outings by boat to the Blake Sea and further afield to Second Norway, I became intrigued by the idea of aviation in SL.

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 Terra Stingray

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).

Dawn take-off: awaiting ATC clearance to turn out onto runway 09L, Second Norway airport

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.

Ready to roll: opening the throttles

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.

Me and my Pitts S2B

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….

Yikes! Who put that there?! It can’t possibly be….
…it is!

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…

Flying high: the Pitts S2B is a frisky little plane

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.

From plane to boat: Stingray shows its versatility

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.

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Be a (Fishers’) Menace: drive a Neuspa!

I don’t really go in for vehicles in SL; I don’t live on the mainland, and private islands and estates don’t always look too kindly upon vehicles bouncing across them; plus, at the end of the day, the most convenient way of getting around SL over long or short distances is to teleport.

However, *years* ago, a friend (*waves to Itico*) took me for a spin on a wonderful little ATV-like vehicle that had me instantly hooked – I had to have one myself (and funnily enough, everyone I’ve ever introduced it to has invariably gone out and bought one). Even today, there are times when I cannot help but pull it out of inventory and go off for some silly fun.

I’m talking about the KR “Fishers’ Menace” Neuspa by Karsten Rutledge (of Greedy, Greedy fame), and I’m not sure there is a vehicle that is quite equal to it in terms of fun and cuteness anywhere in SL (and yes, I’m biased!).

All black: my usual Neuspa colour scheme

The Neuspa is a truly an amazing piece of SL creativity that brings together form and function in a little vehicle that packs-in a huge amount of features and which really is a lot of fun. Resembling a sleek ATV, all curves and aerodynamics, it is a “go anywhere” vehicle – literally.

Black and yellow: colour coordination is *everything*!

The range of options that come with the Neuspa are phenomenal, with over 100 button-driven menu options that allow to you to define just about everything about the vehicle, including: colour scheme (select a colour for the entire vehicle, or selected parts, the colour of the air jets, etc.), performance (gearbox options, acceleration, braking, turning radius, traction control, wheelies, etc), driver & passenger options (and set your own profiles), enable / disable a range of effects (engine sounds, dust kicked-up by the wheels, wake effects when on water, etc) – to list everything here would take the rest of this article… You can even set it to Group (based on your active tag) and rez copies for friends to scoot around on with you – or you can give a close friend (or two) a ride on the back!

The performance options are especially useful: find yourself encountering lag that in impacting on things like steering and acceleration to compensate for issues (such as finding your’s accelerating and hitting things before you have time to turn).

…on land…

Lag notwithstanding, the Neuspa’s performance is pretty amazing  – so much so that there is even a warning on the menu about using the “turbo” option:

WARNING: turbo in upper gears is EXTREMELY FAST and nearly impossible to control, not recommended for normal use.

So you have been warned! 🙂

That said, driving the Neuspa is simplicity itself – although mastering it takes time and you’ll likely need to fiddle with the various drive options to find the balance that best suits you. To start (assuming it is in Drive mode), simply jump on – if you have sound on, you’ll hear the engine start-up – movement is via the arrow / WASD keys, but be prepared to pull a wheelie or two. Braking or slowing the vehicle will have the brake lights working automatically, and steering includes a nice animation of turning the handlebars as well as the front wheels.

The performance options probably make this an ideal little vehicle for those into racing, as you can adjust a lot as mentioned above and generally fine-tune the Neuspa to suit the sim / track you’re on. When off-road, there is almost no terrain the Neuspa cannot handle, and getting airborne with it can be exhilarating.

Linden water isn’t an issue for the Neuspa; providing the vehicle is set to its “automatic” drive mode, simply drive into the water and watch the wheels rotate up to form floats that work with the streamlined hull, allowing you to skim across the water as fast as any jet ski – and with just as much manoeuvrability. When you reach the shore, the wheels fold back down and the Neuspa reverts to 4×4 mode.

…on water…

Nor is the Neuspa restricted to land and water – this is SL after all. Using the menu, you can toggle the vehicle’s mode to “air”. The will rotate the wheels once more and you’ll start hovering, use PAGE UP to increase your altitude and you can fly the Neuspa almost anywhere.

One thing to be wary of, however, is when crossing a sim boundary. Whether on land or sea or in the air, the Neuspa can shift. A consequence of this is, hit a sim boundary too hard and you can find yourself sitting in the middle of next week at 0,0,0 very quickly and often entirely sans Neuspa. However, the vehicle’s accessories include a crash helmet, should you feel you need some protection against sim-bouncing :).

…in the air…

Whether on your own or with a friend or two, the Neuspa can be a lot of fun, especially on land and/or water. When you’ve finished scooting around, there are even a couple of “relaxed” poses to go with it. And if you do feel the need to be protected wherever you go, there is even an “urban warfare” version, complete with a range of missile options and a retractable launcher!

Specifications

  • Product name: “K.R. Engineering Neuspa 4×4 Standard (Karoastoff)” and “K.R. Engineering Neuspa 4×4 Urban Warfare (Karoastoff)”
  • Permissions: COPY
  • Price: Standard model: L$1250; urban warfare version (with missiles): L$1550.
  • Available from: K.R. Engineering in-world.
Me an’ mah Neuspa – kicking back after a ride (with the optional crash helmet)…