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MSFS, AS 33 Me, Kinect Assistant: the gliding trinity

Asobo and Microsoft promise gliders for 2022 and indicate that work has already started, but you don’t need to wait: with the AS 33Me and Kinect Assistant, either the free or commercial version, you have gliders NOW in MSFS!

MSFS/Asobo has officially started working on Gliders, but you’ll, have to wait until 2022 if you follow their plan. It’s good, but if you’re impatiently waiting, I’ve some good news for you: gliders are already flying in MSFS, thanks to the efforts from some people, many of them participating in the MS Flight Simulator Gliders group in Facebook. The available gliders are all free, some adapted from FSX version, others made for MSFS. Check Flightsim.to website, which now has a section with gliders. I’ve written before about one of them, the AS 33 Me, the first electric glider in MSFS.

This third article about gliders looks at another key element you’ll need to enjoy flying gliders in MSFS: Kinect Assistant. I’ve written, before, about the software created by Alex Marko, but this time I want to expand a bit on it, to clarify some questions, and explain why I believe, having acquired the commercial version of Kinect Assistant, that it makes complete sense, if you want to fly gliders to pay the less than € 7 the app costs.

Kinect Assistant, an external tool which uses SimConnect to “talk” with MSFS, is available from Touching Cloud website. As I wrote before, I firstly believed it would be too confusing to use, because it does so many things — a winch, a catapult to a tow plane and other functions — which I did not believe I needed. But I wanted thermals, which are missing — or not efficient — in MSFS, and Kinect Assistant, and Kinect Assistant offers them in two ways: you can create them in LittleNavMap — another free app that can be used with MSFS — or load them automatically from the web.

The Kinect Assistant panel and VR

Reading all the information about Kinect Assistant is, I believe, an important part of the entire process, especially if you want to use all its functions. It’s also important to understand the limitations, which are explained by the author. The software is available in two versions, one free, available from Touching Cloud, and one paid, available from SimMarket.com. Both offer the option to use different forms to take a glider up to the skies, and both offer the option to discover thermals, which was the key reason for me buy the commercial version, as I am flying the AS 33 Me, the first electric glider available in MSFS, which has its own engine, making it a good solution if you want to simulate taking off with your own glider.

Now, as I wrote before, Kinect Assistant has a panel for MSFS that shows you thermals as circles around your plane. The main panel has two sections, one with controls for the distinct functions and other info and a second panel that shows the area around your plane. It’s in this panel, on the right, that the circles representing the thermals appear. They go from a faint red to deep read as you enter them, a visual indication that you’re in the center area of the thermal. There is also a scale on the side of this panel that indicates the strength of the lift you’re riding.

The information from the right section of the panel also appears while in VR, through a panel that can be activated from the top row of control icons in MSFS. Although it would be nice to have the chance to control all functions related to Kinect Assistant while using VR, the panel showing where I have lift from thermals makes for a very immersive experience, once a flight is set, and you can keep soaring for long periods of time using both the ridge lift, either set by you or from real weather.

Kinect Assistant: the commercial version is GREAT!

Having used the free version of Kinect Assistant for a while since I first tried it, I decided this last week to buy the commercial version, which offers a few things more and one that was a key factor for me: distance covered. While the free version shows me thermals within a 5 Kilometer range, the commercial version reveals me everything in a 50 Km range. Suddenly, I jumped from 8 thermals at some places to 106…

Once I tried it was clear that the investment in Kinect Assistant rapidly pays itself, thanks to the extra info available, which allows for better planning of your flights. Having tried it at some of the places I’ve flown recently, I immediately saw the differences. Some of the images captured here, from around LOWI, show that flying in the area with a glider becomes much more exciting, as having control over the range displayed, up to 50Km, allows you to plan your flights and stay in the air for hours.

As I wrote in another article, the circles used by Kinect Assistant to represent the thermals may not be very realistic, but due to the limits of the simulation they are needed and make complete sense. Who knows, maybe in the future we will have cockpit instruments — in the real world — that show where thermals are? If someone told you, years ago, that glass cockpits would be the future, you would have laughed, probably…

Thermals in RL and MSFS: an ongoing discussion

So, here is a piece of advice if you want to try gliders in MSFS: buy the commercial version of Kinect Assistant. Try the free version of the app first, if you want to, but I am almost sure you’ll go for the commercial version once you’ve tested it. Even if only for the thermals, it’s a worthwhile investment! After all, MSFS will only have gliders and the rest in 2022.

Now, here is another note that’s important for those interested in the subject. When I published my last article, a conversation about the KA panels started at the MS Flight Simulator Gliders group in Facebook. Ian Lewis, one of the authors behind the AS 33 Me glider, asked me this: “Are those thermal strengths (8m/s, 11m/s) labelled in your screenshots auto-generated by Kinetic Assist? I think you could soar a plank in that weather!”

Alex Marko replied stating that those numbers represent the “theoretical airflow speed in the root of thermal, glider get half of it most of the time because of modifiers — distance to the top and center, wind velocity, time of the day” and in another post around the same discussion he noted that “11m/s indicated on thermals map is “strength value” which not equal to the final lift because of various modifiers — in the sim you suppose to get half of it best case.”

Effective lift for a thermal

As a journalist IRL, I am always eager to use the information available from various sources to better understand any subject I am trying to write about. After reading the posts mentioned above, I decided to compare the instrument readings in my cockpit and the info from the KA panel and as Alex Marko stated, the lift really achieved is inferior to the value indicated. In one image published here, the effective lift for a thermal marked as 9m/s is 1.9m/s, but there is always a variation depending on the conditions. I hope this helps others, as it has helped me.

One more note: you can follow the discussion about thermals, gliders and other aspects of this never-ending theme at the MS Flight Simulation Gliders group in Facebook. If this article picked your curiosity, “fly” there and participate. As the group grows and more people become aware of what gliding should really be and can be in MSFS, maybe a gliding experience “as real as it gets” will be built inside the sim in 2022. Until then, have fun with what is available. Believe me, it is already breathtaking!

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Jose Antunes

Jose Antunes

I am a writer and photographer based on the West coast of continental Europe, a place to see the Sun die on the Sea, every day.