The Flying Bit
The Condor web site describes an advanced flight dynamics model giving an “amazing” feeling of flight within the sim. I concur; whatever they have done flight model-wise it works. There is smoothness and grace to the physics of flying in this product that totally enhances the sim pilot’s suspension of disbelief. It does actually move and feel like you are flying the thing.
Trying to describe the feel is difficult. It was designed with force feedback in mind. Much of glider flying is done by feel (and no I don’t mean flying around with your eyes closed) but the feel of the stick is very important and control inputs are very subtle. This is reflected in the joystick experience. In the set-up screen various aspects can be adjusted simply by use of sliders on bars. Naturally, each user will have to “feel” this one out if you will forgive the pun. Regardless, if you will take it from me it’s not unlike the TrackIR thing; you have to give it a go to see what I mean. Force feedback was at the forefront of the designers’ mind if their web site is to be believed; it does work.
As for glide ratios and turn circles I will have to bow out to the experts on this one. I feel that these guys will not have scrimped on getting the data right and that any holes in their figures would have been long ago announced on the support forums which boast many a real life glider rider.
To get airborne you can either select an in the air start or launch using one of two methods: winch or aerotow. The launch is unlike any other sim I’ve experienced. FS2004 always gave you the problem of getting an un-powered aircraft into the air without resorting to slewing. In Condor the Skylaunch winch will hurl you into the blue. Should you ever get a chance to have a go at winch launching in a real glider, I highly recommend it. 1000+ feet in 10-15 seconds is a heck of ride; amply demonstrated in the cockpit of you virtual glider.
The icing on the launch cake, however, is the aerotow. A Piper Cub or Pawnee (a random choice will appear when you enter the field) will taxi over to your glider, the tow rope will hitch on and away you go!
Be aware of prop wash; if you sit in the wrong spot you will feel the benefit of the tugs propeller. So sit high or low of the tug, as in the real world, and follow it around. At a preset height the tug will waggle his wings and break away. It’s a tiny part of the experience but it is visually very effective. I cannot over emphasize the flying experience, in my humble opinion, is second to none.
How Does It Look?
OK, so it’s not ground breaking in the graphics department, but the view from the office is very effective.
Track IR support is generic and of all the sims I’ve tried it in, this one could justify TIR on its own. You need a good look out in a glider and with your clear canopy all around you the views for real are wonderful; this is reflected in Condor. There is an option for those of you who do not have tracking hardware to set the view to pan in the direction of your turn, which is equally a curse and blessing. It does lead your head to bob around which actually gave me a feeling of slight nausea! Screen shots pretty much speak for themselves.
Many glider pilots have stiff necks! (Well, this one does.) For the simple reason that of all aviation related activities, gliding is perhaps the most dependent on weather conditions. So, should you indulge, you spend a lot of time looking up at the skies; clouds especially. They are well represented individually in Condor though there is no weather system activity per se. You can adjust wind strength and direction and the level of conditions from poor to “booming”. Although the lack of fronts and identifiable changes in the weather are missing, it doesn’t detract from the experience too much. Thermals and ridge lift are available to extend your ride and these are well represented and reflect wind direction and the type of day you have dialed in.
Much of the art of real soaring depends on the pilot’s ability to identify lift, move his machine into it, and maintain position in what is effectively a snaking column of air. It’s tricky in real life and to be honest I’m just getting the hang of it. However, Condor to the rescue! With the stroke of a key you can get a visual indication of rising air and its potency. Red through pink stacks of “cotton wool” appears and pinpoints the nature of the lift. Blue columns indicate sink!
Condor is a tremendous and simple training tool and has helped me to no end in judging my turns and searching the real skies. A similar keystroke will indicate turn point columns should you be racing. These appear as 10,000 foot high candy striped poles dotted across the countryside (the visual range can be adjusted just to give you the “not actually cheating” feeling).