First Impression: World of Aircraft: Glider Simulator
"For novice pilots the concept of energy management is often hard to understand, for a novice glider pilot it is vital to understand."
I never thought I'd open an article with a quote from a manual, but page six, paragraph one of the World of Aircraft: Glider Simulator manual, just changed that.
For big-name flight simulators that focus on civilian aviation, their most significant appeal is usually the sheer amount of aircraft available and massive gobs of terrain that can be traversed. There is a somewhat expected roster of single-engine, multi-engine, turboprop, and jet aircraft that are expected within their rosters. These aircraft are flown between the capital cities of the world, picture-perfect postcard landscapes, and other faraway lands simulator pilots dream of visiting. But along the way, even with all of that, there can be areas lacking within the flight models or the overall representation of aircraft that are just accepted as a compromise. This is why something more specialized like the simulator I'm discussing today piqued my interest.
World of Aircraft: Glider Simulator is the first entry in a new flight simulator series published by Aerosoft, developed by the World of Aircraft Team. There are two notable things to discuss before talking about the actual flying.
About World of Aircraft
First is the scope and intention of the World of Aircraft (WoA) series. This is explained very clearly in a forum post not included on the sales page. As stated by Mathjis Kok, Head of Support and Community Manager for Aerosoft, WoA is a series of standalone casual flight simulators. These low-cost releases do not require bleeding edge PC specs to run smoothly and aren't built to try and challenge established large-scale flight simulators. Instead of eye-watering visuals taking the lead, the priority is on highly accurate simulation of specific flight models. Each WoA release will come with one or two detailed airports or airfields with a broad terrain area of a minimum of 2500 km². The set of aircraft included with each release will follow some sort of specific subject. This entry focuses on gliders, but agricultural aviation, arctic aviation, para jumping, and floatplanes were also mentioned as ideas. I've got nothing against the big sims like X-Plane, Prepar3D, or Microsoft Flight Simulator, but Aerosoft could be on the inside track of developing small flight simulation experiences that would be perfect for beginners.
The second notable item is the aforementioned manual for this sim. The way it is written is a prime example of how to simplify accurate information while providing enough detail for experienced fliers to still find useful. Alongside the standard explanations of its settings and control profiles are concise explanations of aircraft control surfaces, energy management for aircraft with or without an engine, an important section on thermals, and what I would call "practical" descriptions for each aircraft. These descriptions not being an encyclopedic record full of historical and development data but user-friendly information that describes flight characteristics, lists of approved aerobatic maneuvers, towing procedures, general aircraft characteristics, and exact numbers for performance limitations. All while maintaining a casual tone.
World of Aircraft: Glider Simulator can be played with keyboard-mouse, gamepads, flight sticks, or Hands-On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) configurations. While there are pre-mapped configurations available, I chose the Dev Mode setting to custom map everything in my own way. I was unable to use TrackIR or other forms of headtracking and had a few problems with getting my rudder pedals working correctly, but ultimately this didn't detract from the experience too much. As always, remember to check keybinds and assign control axis before flying. Binding keys for zoom and view onto a gamepad or flight stick still work out just fine.
Starting with the aircraft roster, there are six aircraft in total: one dedicated tow aircraft (Pzl-104 Wilga), two gliders (LET L-13 Blaník, ASK 21), and even motorized gliders (H36 Dimona, ASK 21 Mi). Each of them is easy to pick up and learn, thanks to the way training is handled. Useful overlays appear in the cockpits of each aircraft while players participate in three to four lessons per subject. As each lesson gradually removes assistance systems putting more control into the hands of the pilots in training, overlays of the controls indicate ideal settings, flight attitudes, and when to activate certain control surfaces by showing colors, numbers, and guiding arrows as visual aids.
While only the Wilga and Blaník are available in training mode and in multiplayer, all aircraft can be flown in single-player Free Flight. Generally, this is going to be the go-to mode for a majority of the flying being done around your personal 2500 km² map that recreates an area around Mannheim, Germany, with basic settings for wind speed, direction, and clouds. The available airports include Herrenteich Airfield (EDEH), a very nice grass airfield with multiple aircraft nearby.
The second is Speyer Regional Airport (EDRY), a modern airport that shares space with technology museum Technic Museum Speyer - look for the retired Lufthansa Boeing 747-200 and other aircraft among the buildings.
Thus far, I've primarily focused on piloting motorized and unmotorized gliders because of personal preference. Many years ago I logged hours in gliders as a part of an aviation program, and since then, I've always had a special feeling about them. The feel of gliders in World of Aircraft: Glider Simulator was familiar to me. The flight performance of the gliders did not feel too far off from reality.
There are few things you'll do in flight simulators that are similar to being towed into the sky. The shaking and rattling followed by immediately having to hold formation behind the tow aircraft from the moment the glider is airborne isn't something most flight simmers haven't done in their sims of choice. Coordinating towed flights with others in multiplayer servers further adds to this experience. Even near-perfect controlled landings feel eerily like low-speed crash landings because of how low profile the landing gear is.
The sound design of this sim is great. While in the air, humming propellers and whining jet engines are replaced with calm silence. The telltale sounds of varying wind speed and vibrations of the aircraft are just as important as the flight instruments. Because of how relatively slow gliders fly, efficiently flying with coordinated turns, realistic bank angles, and keeping track of your angle of attack is necessary to turn your short hops into long-term sightseeing flights or trying out aerobatic maneuvers. Every maneuver must be intentional to get the maximum performance out of each flight. Gaining altitude is accurately done through successful energy management and the all-important use of thermals.
For those that don't know, thermals are columns of rising air formed on the ground by the warming of the earth's surface by sunlight. Gliders can utilize thermals to gain altitude and extend their flight time. The representation of thermals was my biggest concern coming into this sim. More often than not, I'm used to thermals being presented as a type of reliably ever-present source of lift that never moves. This was not the case in WoA: Glider Simulator. The diameter, height, and strength of the thermals have all felt different. More than a few times did I find myself adjusting my turn radius in a bid to continue gaining altitude only for the thermal to unexpectedly dissipate. While circling birds flying in an area can indicate the presence of a thermal, it's no guaranteed ticket to rising thousands of feet into the air. I greatly appreciate this.
Whether you're trying to set a new personal altitude record, checking out the landscape full of driving cars and sailing ships, or performing surprisingly robust aerobatics, World of Aircraft: Glider Simulator feels like a good start to a new series. I look forward to the next entry in the WoA series. World of Aircraft could act as a gateway for newcomers to begin their journey into realistic flight simulation and for veterans of the genre to try more specialized types of aviation not prioritized in other simulators.
About the Author
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
The Director of Operations for Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |