Back here in the real world, I’d like to thank the Flight Simulator Team at Microsoft, for inventing the universe we all enjoy flying in so much; and to William Ortis of Lionheart Creations Ltd., for designing a vehicle that squeezes all the performance possible out of the physics of that universe.
The F-136B Orbital Interceptor became available at both AVSIM and FlightSim (as file “f136.zip”) in November 2004. An update (“f136updt.zip”) was issued a few days later that is a must. It makes the vehicle much more fun to fly and established the configuration used for the flight. A far more comprehensive update by Matt Stryker with enhanced performance (“f136_02-07-06.zip”) was just released in February 2006, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet.
William Ortis mentions on his web site that a more advanced version of the F-136 (in NASA markings) is under development. I’m looking forward to trying it out.
The actual flight was flown entirely online on the VATSIM Network on Saturday, April 15th. Since it was flown in real time, starting at 10 PM Eastern on a Saturday night, there was very little traffic and no operating ATC. Still, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
The reason the puffy clouds look so nice and the thunderstorm clouds so threatening is that I use ActiveSky. It is available here.
If you’re interested in flying the mission yourself, here’s a link to my MSFS Flight Planner file of the flight. Monitor that autopilot! This flight is right on the ragged edge of what the built-in FS autopilot can handle. For the flight model, it’s easy. But the FS team never intended their autopilot to handle anything this high and this fast. Get high and fast as quickly as possible. Cycle the scramjets as described in the story. Even without complications you will be fuel critical by the end of the flight — but that’s part of the fun.
And lastly I’ll ask William Ortis to excuse the liberties I’ve taken with the F-136B backstory in the service of explaining how the ship came to exist, and the mission was flown. Hopefully we’ll have a spaceplane like the F-136B some day, because, right now, as we all know, it can’t exist… right? Right?
– Jim “Woxof” Hart
- Intel Pentium 4 3.4GHz processor
- Intel P875PBZ motherboard
- ATI 9800 video card
- Creative Audigy 2 sound card
- Western-Digital Raptor SATA harddrive
- CH Products USB HOTAS and pedals
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