Spring Update

We are rapidly approaching our “soft-launch” date of April 11 and “drop-dead” date of May 9. I haven’t had a moment to spare until today to update everyone on our progress!

First and foremost – our first Groupon campaign is live!


In the interest of rapid development of new missions we started construction of an Adaptive Scenario Engine or ASE.  It uses a basic XML scripting language to cue different bus commands (starting engines, closing the door, visual help, and more) as well as waiting for conditions (button presses, stable flight) and step-by-step aural instructions. Here is a snippet:

xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>

<Scenario players=”2″ assistLevel=”10″ recommendedAges=”8-12″ minimumExperience=”0″ allottedMinutes=”10″

description=”Introductory flight from one platform to another. Starts with a drop and then we give them a choice of going through rough weather or dealing with a TCAS RA.
Ends with an approach and landing.”>

<Step name=”WelcomeAboard”>
<Command name=”Read” vmu=”You are about to experience:” />
<Command name=”Read” vmu=”Weather or Not” />
<Command name=”CloseDoorRequest”></Command>
Dropship. Brought to you today by…” />
<Command name=”Read” vmu=”Jake’s Birthday Party” />

 The Flight Director “command bars” are now overlaid on the Artificial Horizon as part of the Attitude Indicator. This will provide simple guidance for players based on real aviation technology.


The Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS or “jip-wiz”) module is wired up.  Although CFIT will never be an issue, there are many features GPWS such as bank angle, altitude loss after departure, and obstacle detection features that will be connected in short order.


Units of Measure


Aviation is a hodge-podge of English, metric, dimensionless, and nautical units of measurement.

  • Distance (nautical miles, nautical)
  • Altitude (feet, English, and FL which is in 100’s of feet instead of thousands, very English)
  • Airspeed (knots, nautical, and Mach, dimensionless related to the speed of sound)
  • Temperature (centigrade, metric)
  • Pressure (inches of mercury, English, and millibars, metric)
  • Visibility (statute miles, English, and RVR in feet, English)
  • Fuel quantity (pounds, English)

Our operational regime is initially 35 km above Venus to 60 km above Venus. Each kilometer would make for a good “flight level” and Aliens (the movie) made reference to “clicks” which is slang for kilometers.

However, as a former airline pilot, I like flying with knots indicated speed… and I am used to nautical miles for distance. So when I sat down to port over the altimeter, I took a pause… what units should it be in?  Feet is unwieldy at 35 kilometers (114,829 feet aka FL 1148, whatever).  Why not measure distance vertically the same that we measure it horizontally?  35 km is 18.8985 NM (60 km is 32.3974 NM) … and it gives us better resolution (the separation at tenths of NM is less than 1000 feet) so we could do a FL-type system (FL 188 to FL 324).

Doing a little research, I found that the retired space shuttle could display altitude in feet up to 400,000 depending on the phase and was also capable of showing altitude in miles from 40 to 165 (always based on static pressure).

Then again, our universe framework is metric based – it allows for faster and more accurate conversions between scales (i.e. meters to kilometers).  Similarly, Rise was metric: Rise used meters and kilometers for everything – indicated speed, vertical speed, altitude, and distance.

Primary Flight Display

Here is a little blast from the past for you Rise: TVP players…


I started porting over the code for the speed and altitude tapes as well as the attitude indicator and I just had to laugh. The resolution was so low and the display area so small (137×137 pixels) it is amazing we had as much information as we did.

Below is the overlay I am working with for the avionics suite. It is inspired by the EMB-195 and I am sure that the colors and spacing will change but the amount of information being added is going to blow you away!


Flight Tests

So in addition to calculating the IAS incorrectly in Rise, the V-speeds that we were using for stall warnings, etc. were based on TAS instead of IAS!  Now that I got the spreadsheet straightened out, I was able to flight prove the Vs1 and Vc speeds at both 35km and 60km.

We don’t have flaps, so there is no published Vs0 speed. We also don’t have to worry about Vr since we have no wheels, but it is interesting to note that the Vmc is so high it will likely still come into play when transitioning from VTOL.

We also have a Va speed, which I always knew as a pilot to reduce to when turbulent air penetration was anticipated – but did you know that means the wing will stall before we can exceed our positive G load limit? Genius!

So I wanted to see what would happen if I failed a flight control (neutral position). If it is either of the upper tail controls, there is some adverse yaw apparent but otherwise flies quite nice. Losing one of the lower tail controls, however, is a lot of work! You basically have to reduce the opposite engine thrust and you can then steer with pitch. Not a great situation but since we are VTOL we could reduce the airspeed quite a bit and rely on vectored thrust to steer.

However, lose an engine and we can no longer VTOL. Contrary to the Dropship from Aliens, we won’t be able to continue VTOL operations on a single engine.