Bringing it back home

The mechanics in the hangars are getting to know me pretty well these days, and that’s not really a good thing.

Granted, most of the time I’m able to fly my crates back from a sortie to the airfield. I’ve been blessed the war hasn’t claimed me as a casualty yet. And on that return flight, I usually take note of what damage will need to be on the after-action reports. Often, it’s the usual damage: bullet holes in the fuselage, perhaps a small hole in the wing or some cracks in the canopy. Once, it was smoke and oil spewing from the engine cowling.

It’s the landing that adds to my damage report. Substantially. As in, double or triple.

I’m not coming in particularly hot. At least, I don’t think so. I’m just coming in hard — like rip off the landing gear, jam guns 2 and 3, “I think I just lost a filling and a crown” kind of hard. It’s more than just embarrassing; it’s painful.

The flight instructors never really covered much of the landings in flight school. It’s likely they didn’t expect us to live long enough to really need that much training. And practicing doesn’t really do much if I keep practicing the same errors. Though if I keep going at my current rate, the Allies aren’t going to have many more crates with which I’m allowed to “practice.”

Take my last sortie, for example. Took off from a grass strip in a LaGG-3 after a Focke Wulf 189 bomber sighted near the field. Racing ahead of my squad mate, that for some reason couldn’t keep up, I unloaded rounds directly into its port-side engine and blew the crew back to Hell. On the return flight, we encountered a pair of Junkers 87s. My mate took down one, and I scored the other. I was so fortunate as to have not been hit once the entire flight.

Damn if I was going to meet my Maker landing in the “safety” of my own airspace with nary a Nazi for 30 klicks in any direction.

So instead of returning the plane back to our grass strip, I flew another 12 klicks south to land on the only Allied-occupied concrete tarmac airfield. My commander was furious, but better him being mad at me than me digging a 400-meter trench into the Motherland trying to land my plane on a bumpy, grass pasture that’s been mowed to give the appearance of a runway. Much better than tearing the plane to shrapnel. And far better than killing myself.

So myself and my plane returned safely from the Nazi encounters, save for the lashing of my commander.

Technorati claim


Blowing off the dust

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the cockpit.

In fact, it’s been more than just “a while.” The years of flight training are thankfully still stored, and the muscle memory helped somewhat. But knowing my combat edge had softened since I last wrapped my hands around a flight stick and throttle, I felt it best to have the Captain run me through a few refresher runs.

I climbed into the Spitfire and ran through some basic maneuvers for the Captain, to assure him I still remembered the difference between an aileron and the elevator. Then I flew over to the designated firing area to practice on dummy balloon zeppelins. Orders then came over the radio to help dispatch a group of Nazi bombers that had clumsily found their way too close to Allied airspace. The bombers put up little resistance, and even less defensive maneuvering, and quickly succumbed to our fire.

Back down on the tarmac afterwards, I felt a bit better about once again being in a cockpit. Still not knowing where I wanted to be reassigned for the war, I asked the Captain if I could run a sortie with the nearby USSR crews having trouble with encroaching Nazi fighters. After a short train ride and a few cups of coffee, I was climbing into a Russian kitted P40 in a frozen field with little more than ice for a runway.

I managed to get the P40 airborne without killing myself or my compatriots in the process along the ice-laiden “tarmac”. We climbed to 3500m and followed our sweeping patrol of the countryside. A little over halfway through the patrol, my squadmates found and engaged several Messerschmitts. I engaged as well, though only lightly wounding one aircraft. With only one enemy actually downed, all parties were forced to disengage after the ammo wells ran dry.

Suffering mostly cosmetic damage to my P40, I followed my squad back to the airfield – field being the most appropriate term. One poor sap crashed on landing; I still have not heard if it was due to equipment failure from the engagement. On approach, my flaps jammed for one reason or another – perhaps the law of Murphy. I touched down with little other incident, and thanked God for my return once again.

Upon reporting back to the Captain, I noted to him my decision was to remain in the European theatre of operations and requested to be reassigned here. The thought of at least having dry land when ditching a plane was more comforting to me than bailing out over the Pacific ocean.

You want my opinion?

Before I start rolling with the real meat and potatoes of this blog (i.e. the “fan fiction” of IL-2 and Wings of Prey), I need to address a query from a friend of mine.

“What’s your opinion of Wings of Prey?”

This friend is a very dear friend, for starters. So, I take his questions seriously. Further background illuminates that we are both very tech-savvy (I work in marketing, managing and editing a 350+ page corporate web site and all its email blasts single-handedly; he’s an I.T. director). We both love our PC gaming time. We generally have the same taste in music, movies and gaming genres. We play EvE Online together (plug for my blog about Eve Online here!) We also happen to work for the same company.

So when he asks me “what’s your opinion of Wings of Prey,” I’m not going to knee-jerk respond with “It’s great. Go buy it.” He trusts my judgement, and he trusts me to relay the good, bad and ugly. He knows I used to be a newspaper editor, so he knows I have the skillset to be unbiased (as much as any carbon-based life form with emotions can be).

He also knows $50 is a lot of knuckle-busting at work for disposable income. We both appreciate the value of a dollar in any circumstance, not just when the economy is on the down-side of a cycle. When he mentions he’s considering cancelling his preorder of Star Trek Online to purchase Wings of Prey, if it’s any good, I know he’s looking for a straight answer.

So, what is my opinion?

My first response was that he needed to buy IL-2 Sturmovik 1946. “Need,” not “should.” He and I own every Microsoft Flight Simulator to date, and I know he would get lost for hours (or is that months?) on end in IL-2. And, at a paltry $10 on Steam it’s a very easy recommendation. That, and it’s the greatest combat flight sim evah. But more to the point of WoP…

The graphics are beautiful. I was blown away by the graphics. Still am, in fact. It’s not just the best-looking flight sim I’ve seen in a while, it’s one of the best-looking games I’ve seen in a while.

Gaijin Entertainment uses a good bit of code from Oleg and IL-2 to power WoP, so my expectation of the physics obviously leans to sim versus arcade styles. The devs are very active in their community and forums (the recent patch to allow swastikas in legal countries for free is one example). The campaign is non-dynamic, and while we already have our first DLC in the form of one plane I have concerns about only a promise of a mission editor from the devs currently.

So my opinion, or rather verdict, is still outstanding. I’ve not had enough flight time, nor gotten a chance to prowl multiplayer, to make a determination of its value versus $50. Community support (which can only really happen with a mission editor) will really define the longevity of this game to me.

Filling the void

In anticipation (and trying to decide if I should purchase) the new Wings of Prey combat flight sim for PC, I spent considerable time searching Google. IL-2 Sturmovik is near and dear to me (I own FB as well as the Aces exp, and Pacific Fighters, and no less than three licensed copies of 1946). In all my searching, I was a bit surprised as to the lack of IL-2 blogs. To be sure, there are a number of very good combat flight sim sites. There are also several good squadron sites for various combat sims (IL-2, Aces High, Warbirds, etc.). But, I was having a hard time finding a good blog to add to my Google Reader about IL-2, or specifically chronicles of adventures and missions within IL-2 (or WoP, for that matter).

I wanted some fan fiction (or fan alternate history, if you prefer).

Now, I’m not suggesting they don’t exist. I thoroughly believe they’re out there. I’m just saying I’m having a bear of a time finding them. So, that’s where this blog will come in. Chronicles of a WWII pilot (my online and offline WWII persona) through IL-2, WoP, and maybe even MS Combat Flight Simulator 3 (if I dig it out from the archives) or WarBirds 2009. We still have some planning to do in terms of my pilot’s campaign, scope, non-air mission assignments and the like. Until then, safe skies and be sure to check six!

And yes, I did end up purchasing Wings of Prey.


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