X-Plane 11 today and beyond: an interview with X-Plane creator Austin Meyer

X-Plane 11 final is finally out and we wanted to know about the process behind it and its future with Mr. X-Plane himself: Austin Meyer.

Austin Meyer and his aircraft N844X

Before anything else, Austin, I’d like to thank you so much for taking a bit of your amazingly busy schedule to answer to our questions. It’s really nice of you to do this for us and the community.

You have obviously been working on this new version for quite some time. It takes a lot of effort for a piece of software this big to come to live. What did you leave out? What was that one thing that you really wanted X-Plane 11 to be released with and you couldn’t do it?

I wanted us to be FASTER. Faster to load. Faster to run. Running with ZERO pauses. I wanted us to be faster. I wanted X-Plane to FEEL like a tiny, light App.

We could not do that and make it stable and pretty darn bug-free in the time available.

BUUUUUUT, it is NOT the end of the world!

We just hired TWO new full-time coders, and one of them is exclusively hired to optimize us for SPEED. Not just to give us higher speed, but also to eliminate all micro-stutters. We know what is causing them (loading of pixel shaders and a few other things) and we will solve them. It just isn’t for 11.00 is all. These are things we will roll in through the 11.xx run.

What about the thing you and the team and the proudest of and you think no one else’s appreciating. I mean: in software development, there’s always those things that we spend an amazing amount of time trying to solve and come out with ingenious solutions but, in the end, the user looks at it and goes “meh, OK that’s cool”. You must have a few of those achievements but what’s that one that you are really proud of?

The PT-6 engine model is now really amazing. From my blog, this is what I coded, and it makes the PT-6 in X-Plane FEEL like the real engine. and PT-6’s REALLY have a feel to them. Read on!

And what’s that general thing that you guys think you actually hit the nail? The feature that, no matter how hard or easy it was, you believe it’s the cherry on top of XP11?

Oh user interface by Tyler Young for sure, no question at all.

And also the new fog and lighting Ben Supnik did. Those things are great, and well-noticed.

Let’s now go to the really interesting thing about X-Plane 11: helicopters (laughs). You have removed the Bell 206 that shipped with the previous versions and replaced with the S-76. Is there any reason why you did that? Is there anything you want to show specifically with this model? Will we see the return of the 206 in the future?

I actually am not the one that decided that… Ben sort of picks the planes he wants to bundle into the release since he packages the whole thing. He nuked the 206 cause it just seemed to not be up the latest standards.. and the S-76 is an amazing bird so we ship that one instead, which our artists did quite well.

Throughout the development of X-Plane 11 we have seen that you’ve tweaked the flight model for helicopters as well (which we highly appreciate and thank you). Are there plans for further development specifically for this kind of aircraft? What do you think it’s really missing in the helicopter flight engine that you’ll need to add in a near future? It looks like Vortex Ring State is not fully modeled, for example.

I have VRS, but perhaps it is not modeled as well as it could be. I have surely tested and seen it work perfectly though. Here are my notes on that:

ROTOR model:

This is a modest upgrade to the rotor model for helos. We have some small internal re-organization, and significant tuning, to really nail the performance in:

->Climb and cruise,

->Effective Translational Lift,

->Setting with power,

->Settling WITHOUT power

->mast-bumping, with mast-bumping limits in disc tilt set in the Plane-Maker window where you enter your cyclic deflections.

These tweaks really dial in the rotor performance to another level of refinement, which has been really fun to flight-test in the sim, for sure!

Now, you mention that VRS does not seem to be there.

But I think it is.

SO, for 11.10, (NOT 11.01!) I have new data output that SHOWS the VRS ratio according to the flight model.

AND, I have carefully documented my CODE to tell me when VRS happens, and why.

SO, if anyone does NOT see VRS in 11.10 they can email me and I will have them turn on same data output diagnostics and we will see what X-Plane is doing and why and get all in sync on this.

I didn’t realize that X-Plane 10 (and also 11) came with the ability to perform sling operations, although in a very basic form (I have to thank you for pointing that out to me). Do you have plans to expand it in such a way that we can actually fly somewhere, lift some cargo and drop it somewhere else? Is it something you have on your bucket list?

Might be fun.. i put it on my to-do-list actually… but it may be some time before I get to that on the list.

Will we ever see tiltrotors again in X-Plane? Do you plan on providing better support for this kind of aircraft?

OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH so funny you asked that.

If I could tell you the meeting I had this afternoon up here in New York about getting tilt-rotors, your head would simply EXPLODE… I am still reeling from that meeting.

BUUUUUT, I am not 100% sure that I am allowed to discuss that yet, so I won’t name names or companies or exact missions, but:

1: It is nobody you have heard of, so don’t waste my time guessing.

2: It is everything we we imagined when we watched Blade Runner and saw the spinners flying around the city. I have seen the first glimpse of how that will be REAL, and I will surely share it with the world when the time is right, since X-Plane and Xavion will be in the development matrix for this aircraft.. and as always I will try to share the results with everyone, not just the people hiring me.

I have to ask you this: I’ve recently seen, in an interview you’ve given, that you are working on VR which is, of course, very good news for everyone that has been waiting for native support. How committed are you to VR? I mean: is it something that you guys are going full throttle to provide the best experience possible? What’s the plan?

Oh yah we are doing VR for sure. No question. We plan to demo it at the flight-sim convention in Hartford this summer.

Final question: what’s next? Where do you see X-Plane going from now? We’ll have about 5 more years of this cycle but where do you see X-Plane in 10, 15, 20 years?

Massively-multiplayer persistent online virtual-reality networked world where every airplane and air traffic controller is a realm X-Plane user, forming a second-life of the aviation world with aircraft, air traffic controllers, and real weather all at once… with a very healthy dose of chaos and  randomness and humor thrown in.

Austin, let me thank you once again for taking some time off what I believe should be an insane schedule. I really appreciate it and, I’m sure, our readers do as well.

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

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