In their first broadcast of 2021, the FlyByWire Simulations team have once again taken to YouTube to update simulator enthusiasts on their continuous progress of the popular Airbus A320Neo, and to share their hopes for the A380 which is in the early stages of development. Their ‘In The Hanger’ broadcast also gives viewers the opportunity to ask questions, which they endeavor to give answers to.
FlyByWire Simulations is a group of developers working on an open-source A32NX modification improving the default aircraft in the Microsoft Flight Simulator as well as on the recently announced study-level freeware Airbus A380 for the same simulator.
Summary of Progress
Hosted by Kiwi, with Andreas, David, Iceman, and Tyler answering questions, the broadcast began by updating progress on various systems, additions and improvements.
First off, Iceman, was asked about progress with the eagerly anticipated EFB. His answer was accompanied with a short video that showed just how interactive the EFB will be, from flight planning (imported from SimBrief), fuel loads and cargo, and gaining weather and airport information. It is hoped they will have this out soon.
David then talked about the APU, which while being a smaller part of the whole electrical system, improvements were being made to the various parameters that offer more realism to the simulator.
Finally, in this section, Andreas was asked about the Autopilot and the Autoland function (see video below), which as been improved to work correctly. Feedback for this has been very positive. The video shows a recent landing challenge done with Autoland with remarkable results.
Q & A
The broadcast then turned to questions posted through their Discord and Facebook channels as well as live questions during the broadcast.
Q: Are you working with Asobo, and if yes, how is that going? WHAT Feedback has been received from them?
They have been super helpful, and this has helped in breaking through the engine models, they have have helped out with some of the parameters we didn’t know about. They’ve been helpful with the SDK too. It’s definitely beneficial to us that they have been doing amazing work.
Q: FSlabs have taken years to get where they are. can the flybywire mod get to the point where it is a similar study level aircraft? what do you have to say to those who say freeware will never be as good as Payware?
FSLabs do have a great product but we operate differently because all choose what they want to do rather than being told what to do. Though you may not see a lot being done, much is done in the background. It does take a lot of time and because it is open source, it means no one person is committed to it, some leave and some new ones join the project, put the plan is to eventually have a high fidelity aircraft. But if you enjoy what you are doing, you put in your best work.
Q: In terms of reAlism, are the developers able to adjust the aircraft’s physics model or is this something only asobo can do at the moment?
There is a file called flightmodel.cfg that allows us to tweak the flight models that are exposed by the base sim, so most things can be adjusted. However, some things are missing, for example we can’t tweak ground friction. Normally the A320 can taxi in idle thrust in most conditions, so because of the ground friction we can’t alter anything to taxi on idle in wet conditions.
Q: In terms of the autopilot, in 2021, what steps have you taken to implement a working autopilot and protection system?
First of all I needed to learn all the variables, and I’ve had to learn how all that works, through research and reading, and all this has helped, but the basics are always the same, whether a Boeing or whatever aircraft.
Q: What plans, if any do you have for adding failures?
What we are doing with the system programming will help us add failures at a later date, for example, in the electrical system, we are modeling to let electricity flow around the systems, buses etc, so you could add a contact or bus failing, but in these initial stages we want to focus on normal operations. We will take failures into account, once normal stuff is completed.
Q: Do you think you may use the EFB for bringing in failures?
The EFB will probably be the most appropriate place to put them, so the EFB will be used to offload those things you don’t want to put in the MCDU. It would be nice to configure that not only is a failure coming in the next hour, but also to configure that failures would come from wear and tear.
Q: What does it take, both on your’s and asobo’s part to be able to implement the EFB?
Firstly, we had to get the EFB model into the cockpit. But we did not need anything from Asobo to do that.
Q: Will the efb be on both sides of the cockpit?
Right now its on the captains side only, but the plan would be to have a mirrored EFB on the co-pilots side too.
Q: is the EFB software based on anything you have used in real life or is it totally made up?
It is completely original.
Q: In terms of performance, when are our users to expect better performance?
Q: are there signs of implementing functions to stop stalling, banking and overspeed, as there is in real life?
These are planned of course, but not yet implemented. However, over-banking is implemented but overspeed protection and stall protection are not, but what are missing are all the functions for alternate law and direct law, but that’s coming at a later stage.
Q: Are there any plans to make the cockpit windows operable?
We do want to do that at some point but we are waiting for the Exporter to be finished. It is more complex than just adding a EFB.
Q: On that note, what is the status of the exporter?
It is being worked on, we are pretty close.
Q: In terms of the exporter, what is the status of the cabin at the moment? What do you have planned and what restrictions have you met?
Based on the scripts already written, we could put in the cabin already, but there is going to be some clashes, so we have to wait for the Blender exporter/importer for that. But we are a while off.
Q: Is it recommended to turn on the AI co-pilot mode or should we keep that off when flying the A32NX?
I have no idea, I’ve not used it, but don’t carry passengers in case something goes wrong.
Q: Is there a performance calculator function planned, and if so, when?
Assuming by performance you mean take off and landing calculations, and v speed calculations, these are planned and will be put in the EFB. We do need to get more accurate figures for take off, and it will require a lot of data, but as opposed to older aircraft, its not easy acquiring such data for the A320neo so we base the data on the original A320 and make alterations with the present engines.
Q: What is the progress on the A380?
The overhead panel has been modelled, and the pedestal with decals has been done though it’s not textured as yet. The screens are just a static image at the moment. Engine switches are missing but these will be added. All the images below show the progress we are making. With the landing gear, we’ve been working hard on these. We do have a lot more hard work to do in the background
Q: What is the status OF the TCAS?
Q: Back to the A380, what is the plan as to how you are going to release the A380?
The plan with the A380 is to release it similar to how the A32NX was released. It will be workable but always in development. Many functions can be ported over from the A320 because they share similar properties and computer systems.
Q: And will it be released on the installer similar to the A320?
Those who use the new installers will have noticed the A380 tab but it is not available yet. It may be clickable by the end of the year, maybe.
Q: Will the A380 have Physics Based Rendering?
Its pretty obvious that Microsoft use these textures, so yes,
Q: Given that there will be a difference in the flight dynamics between the A320 and the A380, how easy will it be to change from one to another?
It will definitely be a challenge because there is less data for the A380. Once COVID is done we plan to take a trip to a A380 simulator to gather more experience and data.
Q: And will there be an operational manual available for the A380?
As development is changing all the time, we need to wait until all is stable, but yes there will be a manual, but for flight sim purposes.
Q: How does the team capture the requirements for development, for example does the team rely on photographs, open source content, or conversations with engineers.
All of those actually, we do rely on the expertise of real life engineers and pilots. We are always looking for anyone who has knowledge of the aircraft we are working on. On that note if anyone has a picture of a cold and dark state of the A380, then please get in touch through our Discord channel.