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(updated January 22, 2015)

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Spring Flight in A2A's Cessna 172 in NH's White Mountains near KHIE (my home airport).

latest journal news

January 22, 2015:

P3D v.2.5 Nearly Finished. "We are currently finishing development on the first update to Prepar3D v2 for 2015, Prepar3D v2.5. This version has several rendering and performance updates, a few general platform updates, and a pretty substantial update to SimDirector, Prepar3D’s intelligent tutor, virtual instructor, and scenario generation tool. . . . We will be sending a beta of v2.5 to our beta team this week, and once we are satisfied with v2.5 we will then release the update." More Details can be found on the News Section of the Prepar3D Website

October 11, 2014:

Version 2.4 of Prepar3d was released on 9/29/14. The full list of changes is post HERE.

Orbx FTX Base Update: version 1.30 was released on 10/02/14 (make sure that you also update to the latest Libraries). Download Link

Orbx FTX: new Libraries for P3Dv2 were released on 10/01/14 (version 140927). Download Link

Active Sky Next was updated to SP1 on 10/08/14, which is now the official (non-beta) SP1 for P3D. LINK

September 8, 2014:

Updated my P3D Tweaks page to include latest fixes for Prepar3D v.2.3 cloud cover FPS issues.

Orbx FTX: new Libraries for P3Dv2 were released on 9/07/14 (version 140901). Changes: New autogen description files; Multiple library files condensed; Re-done UK nature flow for P3Dv2 compatibility; New UK windsock; Reworked cranes (light effects issue in P3Dv2); Current ObjectFlow DLL for P3Dv2 included. Download Link

August 22, 2014:

P3D v.2.3 Patch coming soon: on August 19th, in This Thread, Beau posted: "We found the issue with terrain shadow casting. We changed some variable names in the terrain shader and missed a few entries. Looking at it now, I'm a bit surprised the shader compiled. It would best to keep terrain casting disabled until we can put out an update. Beau Hollis, Rendering System Lead - Prepar3D® Team"

Active Sky Next was updated to SP1 Open Beta on 8/18/14, which is a major update (you need this version to use with P3D v.2.3). LINK

August 16, 2014: Version 2.3 of Prepar3D was released on 8/11/14. The full list of changes is post HERE. Caution! Make sure that you follow the install instructions carefully. Also note that the current P3D Beta version of ASN will not run with v.2.3 (but an ASN compatible update is due out sometime early next week).

Expanded my Navigation Page, including a brand new section on Navigation Instruments. Also updated my P3D Tips page due to changes in version 2.3.

July 30, 2014: Added more to my Navigation Page, and updated the Prepar3D Default Aircraft page, so that it is now a separate page, and is now linked in the P3D menu bar, and completed my coverage of the default Piper Cub and Maule. Also updated this menu page.

Updated October 11, 2014:

Version 2.4 of Prepar3D was released on September 29, 2014.

I purchased Prepar3D version 2.0 on the day it was released and after my first flight, I knew that I had finally found the fightsim that I was ready to invest in. I am now using version 2.3 (their third update in less than 9 months) and Prepar3D has improved with every update.

BUT (because I don't want to mislead anyone here) Prepar3D is still far from perfect.

It does seem like every update has introduced a new set of bugs (as the previous bugs were fixed), but v.2.4 appears to be the first bug free updates. So P3D is finally stable and mostly bug free at the moment.

P3D2 was designed to be used with today's hardware so much of the graphic processing is now being done by the GPU. The biggest thing that is still holding P3D back from dominating flightsims, is performance . . . which is actually pretty good in v.2.4. The problem is that you need a pretty good system to be able to run P3D with all the enhanced graphics that it adds (over FSX). Eventually this will all get sorted out, as newer. more optimized updates are released, and as more users upgrade to more powerful computers.

Since moving to Prepar3D, I have purchased quite a bit of third party scenery (most during Orbx's annual sale), a complete weather engine, and a couple of new aircraft. I'm also using an older add-on aircraft that I purchased for FSX. along with some freeware P3D aircraft and scenery. These  have all greatly enhanced P3D, so I'll be covering these add-ons in detail in future updates.

Welcome to my Prepar3D Journal!

How my Prepar3D Journal is organized:
- Introduction (this page): Recent P3D news, background on P3D, how it became my main flightsim, an some of my screenshots.
- Aircraft: lists the 15 default aircraft, with details on some of the general aviation aircraft (the ones that I'm using the most)
- Add-Ons: Covering the third party add-ons that I've personally installed and used in Prepar3D, which are fully compatible and have worked very well for me.
- Tweaks:
- Navigation: This section is mainly for beginners, who are just getting started with navigating in Prepar3D.

Prepar3D version 2.0 was released on November 25, 2013, by Lockheed Martin. According to the official site: "Prepar3D (pronounced “prepared”) is a visual simulation platform that allows users to create training scenarios across aviation, maritime and ground domains. Users can train anywhere in the virtual world, from underwater to sub orbital space."

Prepar3D is NOT FSX . . . it is a different flightsim. It is currently very similar to FSX (since both are built on Microsoft's ESP simulation software),but there are some important differences. LM did not buy a license for FSX (which, according to MS, is a consumer retail game that is licensed for home entertainment use only). . . LM bought a license to use Microsoft's ESP (which is a commercial development platform). P3D has different default aircraft; is DirectX 11 only (improved lighting, shadows, and adds Tessellation); is better optimized to use current hardware (and shifts more processing to the GPU), and P3D is still being developed (and improved with every update). Full list of what P3D adds that FSX does not have.

Posted on Microsoft News Center, Nov. 30, 2009: Lockheed Martin and Microsoft Corp. entered into an intellectual property licensing agreement that allows Lockheed Martin to further develop the Microsoft ESP PC-based visual simulation software platform to better train warfighters for battle.

PC Requirements
  Minimum Recommended
Operating System MS Windows 7 (32-bit) MS Windows 7 (64-bit)
Computer Processor 2.0 GHz Quad Core 3.0 GHz (Per Core) +
Computer Memory 2 GB 4 GB +
Hard Drive Space 30 GB 30 GB
GPU RAM 1 GB 2 GB + (GDDR5 or better)
GPU Other Full DirectX 11 Support Full DirectX 11 Support
Minimum Resolution 1024x700 1024x700
Arwen Note: P3D runs great on Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Before becoming interested in Prepar3D, all I knew about Lockheed Martin was that it was a large defense contractor.

Here is an excerpt from their website: "Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 113,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services."

Video Links:

Lockheed Martin's history (their first 100 years).

Prepar3D Trailer (Are you Prepar3d?) [Note: this was published on May 18, 2012, so it shows an older version of P3D ( v. 1.4?)]

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My Journey to Prepar3D

Note: Most of us have used several the flightsims before we settle on one that we prefer (others use two of more sims for different types of flying). The flightsim that works best for me may not work so well for someone else, and I totally respect the choices of others. I'm not trying to win anyone over to Prepar3D, but just trying to explain why Prepar3D is the flightsim that works the best for me . . . along with a bit about my journey getting to this point.

Please understand that any comparisons to other flightsims are just my opinions, which are based on my personal feelings from using these sims. I am not bashing other sims, as they all have their strengths and weaknesses. In all my years of virtual flight, I have never found a flightsim that is perfect, so if you prefer another sim over Prepar3D, that is totally fine.

A2A Cessna ready for takeoff at Honolulu International Airport

From the day I first began beta testing Flight in early 2012, it remained my primary flightsim for nearly two years. It may be difficult for some to understand why I kept using Flight . . . after all, it had been canceled only a few months after release, and it lacked a lot of features found in the "more serious" flightsims. My reasons were pretty simple: my gaming computer was pretty outdated at that time, and I just loved the immersiveness of flying in Flight. If my previous PC had been able to run FSX a bit better, I probably would have stayed with that sim. But Flight ran very well on my older PC and, during that time period, it gave me the best FEELING of flying of any sim that I owned.

As much as I enjoyed the feeling of flying that Flight gave me, I had originally hoped that Flight would be the next FSX (FSXI?), but that was never going to happen. MS Flight was just missing too many things (like AI traffic, ATC, Flight Plans, Global Scenery, and Real World Weather) . . . and I missed all those things. So, in late August of 2013, after my new gaming computer arrived, I decided to make the move to a more advanced flightsim. I briefly considered installing my copy of FSX, but I knew that I would have to spend untold hours tweaking FSX, just to get it running somewhat ok . . . and I would have likely still been disappointed in the end (and just uninstall it). The other factor was that I was looking for a long-term flightsim and it just didn't make sense to invest in a what had become an outdated sim. (FSX was released in August 2006 and its last update, FSX: Acceleration was released in November 2007.) Plus it was pretty clear that Microsoft had no interest in releasing a sequel.

I also owned X-Plane 9, so I decided to purchase X-Plane 10, since is was viewed as a major upgrade (and supposedly fixed a lot of the things that I never like about their previous version). Unfortunately I was very disappointed with the new version as well. At some point X-Plane 10 may become the sim I was hoping it to be . . . but it is not there yet. For me, FSX was still a better sim, mostly because is a more complete product, and because there are so many addons available for it. Plus X-Plane 10's "plausible world" was more often than not, not-all-that-plausible for me (and there were still no seasonal scenery changes). X-Plane 10 had the best night lighting I had seen, and it had the best helicopter flight model, but I hated the flight model for its small aircraft (like it's default Cessna) . . which would blow around in a light wind like they were made out of paper.

I had also been following the development of another new flightsim . . . which was called Prepar3d (P3D). The problem was that from what I had read about P3D v.1.4 (the current version at that time), it didn't seem to be much better than FSX, and I was turned off by the way that P3D was being sold (where you have to purchase a license); and I could not afford to buy another flightsim so soon after blowing my budget on X-Plane 10. But, in late September, I learned that P3D v.2.0 was being beta tested, and that it would be released before the end of 2013. So I kept trying to like X-Plane 10, while I waited for the next major version release of P3D.

I purchased Prepar3D version 2.0 on the day it was released and I soon knew that this was the fightsim that I was ready to invest in. P3D2 has surpassed any other GA flightsim I have owned (including MS Flight, FSX and X-Plane 10). The feeling of flying in P3D was very close to that of MS Flight. Plus now I had all the things that Flight lacked . . . AI aircraft (and other traffic), ATC, a Flight Planner, and the ability to add 3rd party addons (like the Active Sky Next weather engine, FTX Global scenery, and A2A aircraft).

What Prepar3D v.2.2 has that FSX does not have (from AVSIM The Prepar3d General Forum):

HDR (not the same as Bloom)
Special effects distance
Water reflections user vehicle
Water reflections SimObjects
Water reflections Terrain
Water reflections Vegetation
Water reflections Buildings
Shadow Map Count
Terrain Shadow Cast Distance
Cloud Shadow Cast Distance
Object Shadow Cast Distance
Internal Vehicle Cast/Receive shadows (partial Aircraft cast only in FSX)
External Vehicle Cast/Receive shadows (partial Aircraft cast only in FSX)
SimObject Cast/Receive shadows
Vegetation Cast/Receive shadows
Buildings Cast/Receive shadows (partial Buildings Cast only in FSX)
NoShadow Flagged Content
FXAA support
MSAA specification
Texture Filtering specification (although bug requires setting in P3D or using NI to set anything above 16X)
Volumetric Fog
Wave animations adjust to conditions and wind direction
DX11 support
Updated SDK (with VS support and more recent versions of 3DMax for better modeling)
Integrated SimConnect (now a managed part of P3D not a separate install)
Continued development of the product

Another major difference is that P3D has different default aircraft (and many of them are high quality, created by third party developers).

What FSX has that Prepar3D v.2.2 does not have:
FSX currently has more third party add-ons.
"Live" Real World Weather (but it has issues). You must use an external weather engine if you want Live RW weather in P3D.
FSX is also less expensive (it was released on 10/17/06), and it does not require a GPU that is fully DX11 compatible (for users with older systems/GPUs).

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Prepar3D's Licensing Options

Ok, now for my biggest issue with Prepar3D . . . I really hate the way that P3D is being sold/licensed.

This has created more negative feelings about P3D than anything else.

So what license version you should you get? This can only be answered by yourself, since everyone seems to have their own interpretation of LM licenses. So read the information on the P3D site, and make up your own mind.

1.) P3D's licensing: LM's EULA (for End User Licensing Agreement) is rather vague and quite confusing, which has caused endless discussions/fights on some forums.

2.) Not for Entertainment: As stated on the official P3D site: "Lockheed Martin does not offer Prepar3D for entertainment, and we have no plans to enter the entertainment space. The EULAs explain that Prepar3D can be used for purposes other than personal/consumer entertainment."

- Note that "personal/consumer entertainment" does not mean that P3D cannot be used by consumers . . . we are just not permitted to be entertained while using it.

- LM also states that you can use P3D at home, so the fact that I have P3D installed on my home (gaming) computer is totally fine . . . and I do use it as a learning/training tool (as I have learned better flying techniques, procedures, and navigation). But every single time that I find myself enjoying a flight, that means that I am technically breaking the EULA.

More about the EULA: This topic is so virile that, on both AVSIM and the official P3D forums, you are not even permitted to discuss P3D's licensing. On the surface, the licensing options may appear to be fairly straight forward . . . until you read them closely. and it really didn't help when a member of the Prepar3D Team attempted to explain there two main user licensing options:

The following was posted on the official Prepar3D forums by Wes Bard (Software Manager - Prepar3D Team):

Topic: Who can use Prepar3D®?

Excerpt (see above link for full text):

Prepar3D is licensed for Simulation, Training and Learning.

Professionals – This license is intended for professional skills training. This group could include private pilots, commercial flight schools, military personnel, civil organizations such as firefighters/emergency response or students pursuing a technical degree or an advanced degree such as a masters or PhD.

Students – An academic license at a reduced price is available for educational purposes at the undergraduate college level and below (students in elementary, middle, high school or pursuing a bachelor’s degree). This is an extension of our philanthropic support for STEM education to engage the next generation of technologists and engineers.

If we take the above post literally, most users don't technically qualify for either license.
- Only Elementary through undergraduate students, actually qualify for the Academic License. This doesn't mean that a parent qualifies, just because they have a student at home. (I read the EULA very carefully, and it does not state nor does it imply that a parent of a student qualifies.)
- And the Professional License "is intended for professional skills training." The definition is: "the advancement of skills or expertise to succeed in a particular profession " The reality is that most of us are not actually professionals in this field. I'm not a private pilot; I don't run a commercial flight school; I'm not in the military; I'm not a firefighter or an emergency response personal; and I'm not a student pursuing a technical or advanced degree.
- What is very clear is that neither license allows you to use Prepar3D for the purpose of entertainment. So, not matter which license you bought, it you ever use Prepar3D for entertainment, you have broken the EULA. It just makes no sense at all for a developer to make a flightsim available to consumers (especially a sim that is essentially an updated/modern version of FSX) and then state that is cannot be used for entertainment.

LM is clearly leaving it up to each individual to determine which license is the appropriate one to purchase (which my anal/obsessive/literal brain HATES, but that's my issue). I would MUCH rather see a consumer/personal license and a corporate/military license (for commercial flight schools and the like), instead of the current, rather vague distinctions of professional and academic. If LM replaced the $59.95 "Academic" license with a $99.95 consumer/personal license, they would come out ahead financially (since most consumers are purchasing the Academic license . . . because it is the less expensive option . . . NOT because they are actually a K-12 or undergrad student). This would also eliminate most of the EULA confusion/issues.

Final comments on P3D licenses: I really struggled with this myself. My personal opinion now (which could be totally wrong) is that the Professional version is intended for those who are actually using P3D for real world training purposes, and that LM's licensing structure is mainly to cover any legal issues with their ESP license (which cannot be used for "entertainment"), while providing a more cost effective path for the casual/academic user. I just don't believe that LM was trying to exclude all non-students and non-pilots/professionals from using P3D.

Page Menu: | News | PC Requirements | Developer | Why Prepar3D? | Licenses | Screenshots | Links
Prepar3D Screenshots

All the screenshots on this page were taken during my actual P3D flights, and other than resizing and cropping, contain no edits. [Clicking on image, will open the full size image in a new screen.]

Cessna 172 near New Hampshire's White Mountains
[P3D v2.1; Addons: A2A C172 Trainer; Orbx FTX Global, Active Sky Next]

Cessna 172 after landing at Darrington Municipal, WA [1S2] with Whitehorse Mountain
[P3D v2.2; Addons: A2A C172 Trainer; Orbx PNW; FS Global 2010 ; Active Sky Next]

Cessna 172 approach to Miami International (KMIA)
[P3D v2.2; Addons: A2A C172 Trainer; Orbx FTX Global; Active Sky Next]

Cessna 172 in flight - Salome_Wilderness_AZ

[P3D v2.2; Addons: A2A C172 Trainer; Orbx FTX Global; Active Sky Next]

Page Menu: | News | PC Requirements | Developer | Why Prepar3D? | Licenses | Screenshots | Links
Prepar3D Links

Prepar3D Website: Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D website

Lockheed Martin - Prepar3D Forum: the developer's official forums

Next: Prepar3D Default Aircraft
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