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Next-Level Flying

19th October 2022

Following my recent gaming PC build, I moved the flight simulator from the X-Box to the PC. The X-Box, while being a great platform, was very restricted in what can be done to enhance the flight experience. I wanted access to the massive array of add-on scenery packs, upgraded airports, plane liveries and so much more.

Flight sim on the PC is proving to be much smoother and more detailed graphically – the PC has far higher processing power so the detail and quality sliders in the app can be turned way up from the lower X-Box settings.

The next leap on my improvement journey was to try virtual reality or VR as it’s known. I’ve never tried this before so had high expectations, although fast-moving in development terms, VR has been around for some years now and the most affordable and high quality choice is currently the HP Reverb G2 headset.

The HP Reverb G2 Headset

The Reverb G2 was easy to set up, pretty much plug-and-play as it is designed to integrate with Windows 10 & 11. It features stunning built-in audio with fully adjustable off-ear speakers, is fairly comfortable in use and features twin 2160 x 2160 LCD displays. The only major downsides I have found are the very small sweet-spot for your eyes – you really must keep your eyes fixed front and centre, moving your head to gain the required view instead, and the slightly poor night-scene results caused mostly by the use of Fresnel lenses to focus the image.

Putting the few negatives aside, the 3D visual effect is nothing short of totally mind-blowing, it’s extremely lifelike, you really do feel like you are sitting in the cockpit of your plane. It was pretty much nothing short of stunning! I wanted to touch the levers and knobs in the cockpit, of course there is nothing there when you do, but you still sit there with arms outstretched trying to do it, usually ending up whacking the desk in front of you 🙂

After spending some time looking around the new 3D world – you can actually look behind you into the planes’ cabin area, I tried some test flights. The next biggest shock I had was when the plane started taxiing – it’s nothing at all like flying on the 2D monitor. You really do get the idea you are moving, the first time the plane left the runway, my stomach gave a bit of churn, not quite vomit inducing but its heady stuff for sure.

Flying is much easier in 3D, my landings have improved a whole lot – having virtual depth of field means you can really judge when to pull back on the yoke to flare or ‘translate’ before touchdown. Flying at lower altitudes (below the clouds) you can actually lean out of the cockpit window and look down, it’s amazing. For an even bigger thrill, flip the autopilot on and switch to ‘outside’ view – you are now following your plane and have nothing around or beneath you at all – just look down and watch the scenery go by.

“VR motion sickness” has not been an issue yet but I’m taking it steady; short flights and no sudden moves. I find it very unsettling if you bank left and right a lot and it can leave you feeling a little queasy.