The covid-19 lockdown of most glider flying throughout the world created a flush of interest and activity in Condor for flight instruction, practicing skills, and multi-player racing. Starting kind of in the middle by entering contests I found I needed to solve a series of problems I hadn’t confronted while I was using Condor solely for practice.
Flying Faster: The first problem that came to light was that I was much slower than the other people flying, like half the average speed of the leaders. Part of this was my initial failure to load water and choose the proper glider before starting the flight. I did find help online: The soaring economist has good advice. Clemens Ceipek says most online Condor races are won with full water. Other than water ballast I’ve yet to figure out what I’m doing wrong. It is clear I’m not climbing as well as the others, but it’s also clear they are taking fewer climbs and somehow cruising faster than me.
Keeping Track of Other Gliders: Other gliders are shown as 3D text flying around until they get pretty close. I have yet to figure out how to keep track, and that includes telling if they are coming towards me or going away, and which direction they are circling. One thing that seems to be a convention for the GNZ races is to make left turns prior to the start. There is a FLARM-like function in the PDA. The Condor PDA is often next to impossible to see, at least with my screen and room lighting, even when zoomed in with the “Y” key. The bottom line is I’ve stopped flying the competitions and prior to that decision I hung back away everyone at the start because I did not want to have a collision while I cannot keep track of the other gliders.
Flight track analysis: Condor flight analysis isn’t very helpful because the scale of the map view seems to be fixed, and it’s unclear to me how to navigate to various positions in a track. It could be there are ways to deal with this, but I have not found them, so I’ve looked at the flight tracks of myself and race winners in SeeYou. To do this I’ve been having Condor export flight tracks as IGC files. For a while SeeYou was not automatically using “QNE” mode for these imported files so the flights were shown below the terrain, which was obvious in 3D views. Going to flight properties in SeeYou and setting QNE sometimes worked immediately and sometimes didn’t. This issue was also present in some of my IGC files from real life when played back on SeeYou. This seems crazy to me because there isn’t altimeter setting in IGC files and altitudes are supposed to be based on standard pressure. That said, 3D now seems to be working, though I don’t know what has changed to make it so or if it will revert to being difficult.
Ghost gliders: Condor has the ability to have “ghost” tracks loaded into a flight via the NOTAMs tab in the flight plan area, and I thought surely this would help me see what the better pilots were doing to fly so fast; but, to date I have not had success keeping a ghost in sight or otherwise keeping track of them using the FLARM-like function of the Condor PDA. There seems to be a time offset created depending on when I start the game. I’ve played around a little with offsetting the start time in my flight plan based on the competition, but haven’t been methodical enough to figure out what is going on.
XCSoar on my 2016 Samsung Galaxy Tab A: I figured out I can mount the suction cup RAM mount to a small plate that is nice and stable yet can be moved around the table. XCSoar is somewhat of a help and not much problem to set up. The Bluetooth connection to the laptop is not reliably initiated though. Generally this is fixed by cycling Bluetooth on the Samsung. Up to now I’ve been unable to figure out how to know if Windows 10 is actually communicating with a paired device, which is pretty frustrating. For a while I was using a generic driver interface from within XCSoar, so I was only getting position data, and once I changed to the Condor interface I started getting a couple other things and the Config->Devices screen shows “GPS, Airspeed, Baro, Vario” for that device when things are working correctly.
Converting Condor fpl Tasks to XCSoar (tsk): I found a site that shows how to do it by hand, which isn’t that hard, but for me is time consuming and error prone. Condor flight plan printouts show Lat/Lon in DD.MM.mmm format, but XCSoar uses decimal degrees in its .tsk format (which is XML). Condor flight plans are human readable but the Lat/Lon is not there and X/Y coordinates are. Apparently Condor uses raster coordinates from the current landscape internally. I found a program that converts Condor fpl to XCSoar tsk format called CoTaCo.exe. CoTaCo uses a dll provided by UBSoft, which apparently owns Condor!!
Calibrating the Force Feedback Joystick: I don’t know if this was going on forever, but I became aware that the joystick I have in Nelson kept commanding Condor to bank right. I think I was able to fix this by using the Windows 10 Game Device Calibration app: while doing the Axis Calibration, check “Display Raw Data” and center the joystick at 0,0 before moving to the next screen “Verify Center Point” and continuing without moving the joystick. I also turned down force feedback in the Condor setup options. It is much easier to fly when the glider will generally go straight on its own and you’re not fighting force feedback.
Using a Track Ball: I got a Kensington track ball to work with my left hand which makes look-out somewhat quicker and easier. I still have the joystick trigger set to snap the view forward, but with the ball it’s pretty easy to look back over my shoulders and up above my head, and toward the target when in the pattern.
Here is an XCSoar tsk file for one of the GNC Tour of New Zealand tasks:
<Task fai_finish="0" finish_min_height_ref="MSL" finish_min_height="0" start_max_height_ref="MSL" start_max_height="10000" start_max_speed="0" start_requires_arm="0" aat_min_time="0" type="RT"> <Point type="Start"> <Waypoint altitude="157" comment="" id="0" name="Roxburgh"> <Location latitude="-45.51020" longitude="169.31660"/> </Waypoint> <ObservationZone length="6000" type="Line"/> </Point> <Point type="Turn"> <Waypoint altitude="693" comment="" id="0" name="L502 SOx 400"> <Location latitude="-45.30950" longitude="168.25099"/> </Waypoint> <ObservationZone radius="500" type="Cylinder"/> </Point> <Point type="Turn"> <Waypoint altitude="419" comment="" id="0" name="L521 SxOl450"> <Location latitude="-45.12833" longitude="168.50833"/> </Waypoint> <ObservationZone radius="500" type="Cylinder"/> </Point> <Point type="Turn"> <Waypoint altitude="408" comment="" id="0" name="TP 3"> <Location latitude="-45.27760" longitude="168.76926"/> </Waypoint> <ObservationZone radius="500" type="Cylinder"/> </Point> <Point type="Finish"> <Waypoint altitude="359" comment="" id="0" name="Queenstown"> <Location latitude="-45.01810" longitude="168.74490"/> </Waypoint> <ObservationZone length="6000" type="Line"/> </Point> </Task> <!-- created by CoTaCo V 188.8.131.52 -->