Laminar Research is about to release X-Plane 11 during 2016 !!!

NEW VSKYLABS FREE RC Model of the DH.88 is available !!!
It can be found at the VSKYLABS RC Homeland project page. This model is a lower-definition version of the VSKYLABS Professional DH.88 Giant Scale RC Model.

The VSKYLABS Support Forum is on-the-air !!!
There is a responsive support forum for the VSKYLABS add-ons. It is called: The VSKYLABS Forum and can be found at

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

VSKYLABS 'Micro-Hopper'

VSKYLABS 'Micro-Hopper'
An Ultralight Bush-Plane Experimental Prototype add-on for X-Plane flight simulator


Project current version:
V10.45 2016-001

Development status:
The 'Micro-Hopper' ultralight bush-plane basic design consists a general layout of a flying wing coupled with a large vertical stabilizer with rudder control positioned aft to the wing by using a tail boom. The current configuration proved to have adequate control authority and stability in rough flying conditions, cross-wind and ground operations for up to 15 knots.

In the future, this project will have additional versions of the 'Micro-Hopper', for Snow and water operations.

The VSKYLABS 'Micro-Hopper' in detail:

As most of VSKYLABS projects, this is an evolving project, maybe a little research-type project also (or more of an education one).


This project's objective was to create a microlight/ultralight style of an aircraft with 'Bush-Plane' capabilities. 'Bush-Plane', by definition, is an aircraft used to provide passenger and freight services to remote and usually undeveloped areas, where ground transportation doesn't exist (or rarely exist). Such airplanes are also usually used for search and rescue operations in remote, hard-to-get areas.

Usually, a Bush-Plane would be a utility kind of an aircraft; very durable, tough, reliable and with an easy ways to convert its usage to different kinds of terrain, including water, snow, short take-of and landings etc...

By definition, there is some kind of a conflict between a microlight/ultralight aviation oriented aircraft and a utility type of an aircraft, especially in its inherent capability to carry multiple passengers and equipment. But, having a design of an ultralight aircraft that meets some of the utility-bush-plane aircraft specifications and requirements had me thinking....well...this would be quite a flexible, safe and durable piece of an ultralight aircraft to fly. 

Wing configuration:
During the pre-design phase, I've considered some basic layouts and configurations for such of an aircraft; wing types, undercarriage type, propulsion, handling and controls, ground operations and so forth...Making this report not too long, I will say that a flying-wing configuration was very tempting to try, and the starting point of this aircraft was that it should be based on a flying wing layout.

In theory (and practice...), the most challenging aspect of a pure flying wing aircraft is lateral stability. Without vertical surfaces, you will need other control methods to obtain lateral stability, such as the use of spoilers for yaw control. Flight envelope in terms of lateral stability will be narrow, and in complex artificial stability system will have to take part in controlling the aircraft.

Fixing vertical stabilizers and rudder to the pure-flying wing plane will help to achieve the needed lateral stability, but in case of a high-aspect ratio wing configuration, the adverse-yaw might induce some control issues that might not allow to fly the aircraft aggressively. The short distance of the vertical tail from the C.G. will not allow to gain the great amount of stabilizing moments that are needed to obtain stability in rough conditions...unless this proposed vertical tail/fins will have a massive surface area, but such huge stabilizers will bring more "trouble" to the design and to the airplane's handling characteristics in rough conditions.

Another disadvantage of using a pure flying wing configuration for a bush-plane design is its tolerance and performance in cross-winds conditions. A pilot flying an aircraft to a remote place, without any paved runways or runways at all will probably face a condition of landing and taking off in cross winds, even severe ones. The pure flying wing design will reduce the tolerance of the aircraft to such conditions, making rough-gusty-crosswinds landings almost impossible, and furthermore, ground operations will not be effective because you can't keep an aircraft in a desired direction in crosswinds, using only the steering wheel, especially in a tail-wheel configuration aircraft. The vertical stabilizer has major part in maintaining a needed direction during take-off and landing ground rolls, in all speed ranges. Fixing vertical stabilizers into a pure flying wing aircraft will help a bit, but because of being relatively close to the CG, the moment of these tail/s will not be enough to withstand moderate cross-winds.

Some of the tail configurations that have been tested:


The VSKYLABS 'Micro-Hopper' - in general:
So the baseline configuration was a pure flying wing. Although not the best starting point to a bush-plane design, I wanted to play with this challenge, to see where it will take me...

I new from the beginning that the design will not remain a pure-flying wing because of the reasons described above. Any kind of a bush-plane design (ultralight or not) will have to allow sufficient lateral stability and control authority to withstand aggressive flying and weather, including cross-winds and gusts. So I've set a vertical stabilizer that is positioned behind the wing, using a tail-boom. The vertical stabilizer size and position were determined so the pilot will have enough ground and airborne control authority operating the aircraft in crosswinds of 15 - 20 knots, as well as allowing an aggressive style of flying without losing lateral stability.

Ground Operations:
I've designed the 'Micro-Hopper' as a tail-dragger aircraft, to allow easy operations on rough fields, and I didn't want a nose-wheel to break while going through ground holes or bumps in the terrain. Another suppoting reasons are flexibility in ground operations, and...coolness ;)

The 'Micro-Hopper' is equipped with wing-tip flexible skids. These skids are for protecting the wing tips during cross-wind landings or aggressively made ground maneuvers. Such devices will not absorb too-much punish, and will probably endure wearing and tearing...but as a concept, it was worth trying.

The wheels geometric layout and contact points with the ground, including the wing-tip skids are designed to minimize the chances of turning over with the aircraft during an unexpected ground-loop, or aggressive ground maneuvers. In such cases, the wing-tips are solid contact point and pivots, preventing a possible turn-over.

Wing-tip flexible skids
(click pictures to enlarge) 

Cockpit configuration:
I have designed a simple, yet useful cockpit instrument panel to serve as a "serial-production" item for some of my ultralight aircraft designs. One of the reasons of making use of the same component over various models is that its concept and function features are getting matured over time, and the process of developing it based on being operated in several models for a period of time is very useful. This panel (with some instances) can be found in some of my other models, and will soon to be upgraded, based on having some "operational" experience with it...

The 'Micro-Hopper' cockpit is very simple. Besides the basic instrumentation, there are two additional electronic devices:

  1. Smart-Phone.
  2. X-Plane's GPS.  
Clicking on the Smartphone will toggle the Field-of-View, between 65 and 105 degrees. Click it to adjust your desired FOV. Suggested settings would be to have a narrower FOV for take-off/landings, and a wider FOV to get more of a panoramic perspective.

X-Plane's GPS:
Clicking on the GPS screen will pop-up a high resolution GPS window. You can drag this window to wherever you like, for your convenience. If the GPS window is blocking your sight, so you cannot see the GPS screen to click it again in order to hide it...just drag it so you could see the GPS that's on the cockpit itself, and click it.

Oh...that sound...especially with engine being shut-down during flight...I have nothing more to say about it, only that I'm very proud of the result, and it will keep getting better and better ;)

A few words before you take it to the air:
This is a VSKYLABS experimental prototype. It will is being further developed as you are reading these lines. "Feel free" to stretch the limits of the design with rough flying, stalling, crosswind operations, ground operations etc...

Some demonstrations:
Here are three short videos, showing a fraction of the intensive phase of the aircraft performance and handling evaluation process that is being done during its development. Shown in these videos are some aspects of the ground handling and performance of the Micro-Hopper - the new VSKYLABS ultralight bush-plane aircraft.

* The videos were taken during development, as the model kept evolving to the present (3D modeling, textures etc...).

First video: is a bit of "Tearing up" the 'Micro-Hopper' with some aggressive maneuvers on the ground and in the air, in several weather conditions, to test its overall performance in some extreme situations, including situations that intentionally and practically will make it crash. 

Second video: is showing the 'Micro-Hopper' from the pilot's point of view; The upper-wing configuration is allowing best view for navigation and ground cover during takeoffs and landings (avoiding obstacles or maintaining ground related flight path). At 00:50:00 seconds, the power is set to off, and the 'Micro-Hopper' is taken into a forced landing. In this project, great detail was taken into sound creation, especially the wind blowing sound while the engine is off.

Third video: is showing the 'Micro-Hopper' landing in 15-20 knots crosswind (5 knots gusts).

Fly safe!

JetManHuss :)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

X-Plane 11 news flash

Hi there :)

VSKYLABS models and X-Plane 11:

Laminar Research are going to release X-Plane 11 during this year's holiday season. What a great news! 

VSKYLABS Updates for X-Plane 11:
Well, it is time to say that all of the VSKYLABS Payware models are scheduled to be updated to be fully compatible with the upcoming X-Plane 11, and at the same time there will continue to be updates and upgrades for the X-Plane 10 models.

When ready, these VSKYLABS - XP11 aircraft updates will be sent to all of the buyers as a FREE update (like any other free update that is being sent when ready). Each XP11-updated package will contain, if needed, two sets of the aircraft: one for XP10 and the other for XP11. don't need to do anything as the updates will find you automatically.

X-Plane 10 will still be around (!):
Reason for keeping the XP10 "line" working at VSKYLABS is that I see XP10 usable for many users, for at least a year from now. Other reason is that VSKYLABS is producing it's professional projects (that are not being published in the WWW.VSKYLABS.COM website), using both XP10 and the upcoming XP11, and this means that XP10 will still be running here at full-power, at least in the visible future.

Make no mistake; I'm going to use X-Plane 11 extensively. X-Plane 11 is the future...or should I say now...the present ;) it is obvious that the leap towards it will be done immediately and without any hesitations.

"Keep it stupid and simple":
I've always designed my add-on models to meet with X-Plane's out-of-the-box specifications, which means that you don't need to use plugins or other external/3rd party applications and dependencies to make it work. This particular approach is some kind of a "guarantee" that a model will work with almost any reasonable X-Plane future update made by Laminar Research, and was found very useful in several occasions in the past.

The VSKYLABS Professional Services & Simulation Lab are usually do make use of in-house plugins to enhance some of the features of both the sim and the planes, but I can cope with extreme X-Plane updates "fluctuations" and build the needed update, which usually consumes a great amount of efforts and time. I can schedule my internal updates with almost 100% of flexibility. In the other hand, a common X-Plane user who had purchased an aircraft and suddenly finds himself unable to use it, is another story. Therefore, all of my published VSKYLABS add-ons are not making use of external applications to get them working. It's a trade-off that I can live the path of VSKYLABS in the add-on development world.

Update mechanism in general:
Some X-Plane version updates involves flight-model changes in the core of the sim, and it is usually a predictable task to adjust an existing model to the new changes and make it fly with the right handling characteristics. This goes, for example, to airfoils updates, internal calculations (hopefully better), systems re-arrangements, changes that affect C.G, supersonic flight, stall behavior etc...This kind of updates will usually be my 1st priority to have, because it can cause a certain model not to be flyable. 

Other X-Plane updates may involve new features for both the 3D models and the flight models, as well as new or additional functions. In this case, a VSKYLABS aircraft will usually be usable, although might not making use of all of the new features. These kind of updates are less predictable, but after an in-depth inspection and learning period, it should be a straight forward task...


So, more to come on this matter soon,

Until the next time,

JetManHuss ;).


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