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MSFS Flight Model Bending - The Graf Zeppelin (II)

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unitedkingdom
Having played MSFS 2020 I wondered the extent to which the game could be customized, particularly with regard to flight models. It is however of great sadness that the flight model appears to be (and for the purposes of backwards compatibility) not changed a great deal, with emphasis on the structure of interface, through CFG files. The rigid constraints are overly limiting and mean that unless your are building an airplane you won't have much luck. The lack of flexibility is evident by the lack of helicopters, gliders, blimps, exotics etc. It would be great if Asobo could consider how they could facilitate these

A lockdown project of mine from last year was some research into the design of the Graf Zeppelin with eye to building a detailed 3D model. The largest airship ever built, and fractionally bigger than her older sister the Hindenburg, she was the last of the great airships to fly. Having painstaking constructed this model I loaded it from blender into MSFS2020. It is clear to see that an airship would be such a wonderful way to view the very well constructed virtual world. I am going to explore the possibilities of using simconnect to create a vertical behavior mod to allow the ship to fly, though there are many variables to consider.

Anyone have any thoughts?

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Helis can indeed be used in MSFS, with some editing. My team's H-135 uses a module that runs alongside it that simulates the helicopter-specific flight variables, and it works like a charm! I think that a blimp could be even more realistic in flight, as the inputs are slow, perfect for the low polling rate issues that we are encountering.
 
Awesome....! LZ130, Graff II. Goodness, this is a huge undertaking.

I would love to get my Haunebu flying. We definitely need VTOL flight models for MSFS.

Bill Lyons would be loving this. He made some awesome airships back in the day. One, I think the Macon, airborn carrier, was also in the AI flights and now and then, I found it flying past, making a large, low rumble from its engines.
 
Awesome....! LZ130, Graff II. Goodness, this is a huge undertaking.

I would love to get my Haunebu flying. We definitely need VTOL flight models for MSFS.

Bill Lyons would be loving this. He made some awesome airships back in the day. One, I think the Macon, airborn carrier, was also in the AI flights and now and then, I found it flying past, making a large, low rumble from its engines.

Oh I can remember Bill's LZ127 back in the FS2004 days, that was a well designed addon which worked as good as it could for the time. It would be nice though to be able to replicate some of the systems that the LZ130 had which were myriad, with a semblance of accuracy rather than old school bodging, however well finessed they were. Here is some more images from my development process when I was constructing my model. Textures are merely tests out of curiosity.

LZ130_16.JPG

Experimenting with texture channels to create the hull fabric covering wrinkles

LZ130BB.JPG

Ballast Board

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Bridge Order Engine Telegraph
 
Helis can indeed be used in MSFS, with some editing. My team's H-135 uses a module that runs alongside it that simulates the helicopter-specific flight variables, and it works like a charm! I think that a blimp could be even more realistic in flight, as the inputs are slow, perfect for the low polling rate issues that we are encountering.
I will have a look at this, as I have seen your H-135 generating quite the buzz in recent days among the FS community. Thanks
 
Helis can indeed be used in MSFS, with some editing. My team's H-135 uses a module that runs alongside it that simulates the helicopter-specific flight variables, and it works like a charm! I think that a blimp could be even more realistic in flight, as the inputs are slow, perfect for the low polling rate issues that we are encountering.
I've had a play with simconnect's C++ framework for receiving and pushing sim variables, a bit jittery if you push too many variables at once, but does provide a stable possibility of making a blimp, or for that matter any flight dynamic, provided enough time/mathematical ability. Does your helicopter rely solely on its own flight model standalone, making MSFS'20 redundant?
 
I've had a play with simconnect's C++ framework for receiving and pushing sim variables, a bit jittery if you push too many variables at once, but does provide a stable possibility of making a blimp, or for that matter any flight dynamic, provided enough time/mathematical ability. Does your helicopter rely solely on its own flight model standalone, making MSFS'20 redundant?
Right now, for flight under 60-or-so kts, our module nearly replaces the MSFS model, and over that it is intertwined. Even under 60kts, there still is some presence of the "default" model, as it is impossible to completely rid of it. I am pretty sure that is what that other Payware dev is doing, there does not seem to be any other way.
 
Project Update:

Not been able to do much work on it in the last few days due to starting a new job. However have made progress, using a skeleton model to plot aircraft masses, and work on the MSFS flight model to make flight characteristics as docile as possible. On the C++ front (nice to be able to use a proper language again), building out the flight model classes, starting with simulating accurate hydrogen lift capacities based on climatic conditions. Next step is to work on ballast dumping/gas venting to allow for controlled, ascent/descent, as right now just testing the FM in level flight to work out rudder/roll issues. Still need to work out how best to implement dynamic lift, I see this as the project's biggest single challenge. Modelling work on hold while I flesh out the FM operation.

LZ130_26.JPG


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Adding ballast bags, fuel tanks and cargo holds. Ballast tanks not shown
 
Minor Update:

Managed to finally test the lift system in MSFS, SimConnect seems to have a pain handling numbers over a certain precision. Anyway, problem solved. This allowed me to test the ship fully laden and see how static lift would work, annoyingly though, I couldn't directly feed MSFS Acceleration Body variables for some reason, so I had to aggregate the velocity variables instead, this shouldn't be an issue though, since it is recalculated multiple times per second (and acceleration is a function of changing velocity) it will therefore be negligible while I test as the window between changing values is so small.

In test, there were some worthy items of note. A large appreciation can be noted for how the climatic conditions affect the airship, a small swing in temps/pressures leads to significantly reduced payloads. This will also allow for the depiction of the airship bobbing up and down in different temperature/pressure regions, another challenge for any pilot. That has caused an interesting problem, that is that the cells themselves will not be at the same temperature/pressure as ambient temperature, due to the outer cover abating radiant heating, so a way of mitigating this I'll need to come up with. I will consider however creating an automatic flight engineer to manage these systems, that if all goes well from here on out lol. My test flights so far have consisted of loading up the ship fully laden, beginning the flight model scripts and then gradually leaning off the weight to allow the ship to rise, which will slow as the hydrogen loses net lift due to being in a lower pressure environment. I still need to work out how to simulate each cell individually, as this will allow for the addition of angular moments on the ship for further realism, as well as the simulation of cell pressure differentials, as a result of hydrogen expanding within, (and subsequent vents to manage these). This is of significance as no airship takes off with its cells filled to burst, as this would result in a venting of a large amount of gas for now obvious gain (helium airships especially), a deficiency with my current system as this is not accounted for and cells are assumed to be fully filled regardless of the conditions, another interesting problem to solve.

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Who knew that 210,000 kg could fly without wings ;)

LZ130_31.JPG

Interior is sparse atm
 
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Just curious, which plane template did you go with to get her flying?
No it certainly isn't easy, started with just the simple aircraft template, and writing a C++ program to handle the Simconnect flight model, fixed the gas cells issue, but encountering other issues regarding stuttering when static in the air, as calculating lift from the climatic conditions isn't based on smooth data. Have a few ideas for work arounds but not sure where to go with this. A bit perplexed by how to get around the FS2020 flight model as well, this has caused constant stalls, pitching and rapid spins. I may have to result to a fully custom flight model to fix this, as the aircraft will just run away with the speed forwards and rearwards. Will try different things tho, and in the meantime work on other areas of the project to avoid the boredom of trying to solve problems in one go.

I'm determined to make this work that being said, as the results will be too satisfying. I'm going to go to great lengths with the systems on this project, why not? When the ship was stable enough in flight I snapped these, what can I say lol :)

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Awesome.... Lovely work.
Makes me think of the movie Hindenburg, from back in my childhood days. I must have watched it 10 times in the theaters..
 
This week was one characterised by a computer going kaput. No worries though, I recovered all the data from my drives. In the meantime whilst I couldn't access MSFS, I decided to try and do some textures for some further experimentation out of curiosity. Outer cover is a bit shiny but I'm very pleased with how this looks so far. Nice to have glass in the windows.

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Looking very ripply

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For another test I had a go at the girders, I chose the original blue colour (the colour of the protective lacquer), these girders in the control car were however painted over in gray on the real ships. They look cool for test though

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Ship needs a name.
 
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Update, amongst the mess of an update that WU4 became for the mod community I decided to spend some more time on the model. I've realised that I will need it to be 100% or near enough before I can do all of the systems, so have been reworking the whole aircraft, starting with the engine pods, doing the interiors completely and adding the 2*2 blade Hindenburg propellors (which the Graf Zeppelin 2 flew with on 3/4 of its engines). I've also optimised the fins, control rods, main hull windows, rope flaps, The biggest internal change is the sealing of the main cabin, which looks a damn sight better than before. Not an awful lot left on the exterior, as for the control car, I've added instrument surfaces and several gauge needles etc. Thats my main area of focus now. Once the model is done I can lock down the aircraft for textures, animations, etc. Hopefully Asobo sorts this mess out by then :rolleyes:😂

LZ130_49.JPG
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This week was one characterised by a computer going kaput. No worries though, I recovered all the data from my drives. In the meantime whilst I couldn't access MSFS, I decided to try and do some textures for some further experimentation out of curiosity. Outer cover is a bit shiny but I'm very pleased with how this looks so far. Nice to have glass in the windows.

View attachment 71916
Looking very ripply

View attachment 71917
For another test I had a go at the girders, I chose the original blue colour (the colour of the protective lacquer), these girders in the control car were however painted over in gray on the real ships. They look cool for test though

View attachment 71918
Ship needs a name
 
Hi Darren,

Thanks

Not sure at the moment, work has been stepping up and as such I haven't spent much time on this project recently. Hit a bit of a wall trying to subdue the in game flight model, it's decidedly annoying. Have a few ideas for work arounds but will have to see. In time I guess

So in answer to you question I don't know yet, I don't want fudge this project as I'd rather something that is quite compelling.
 
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