Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


AS I NOTED BACK IN OCTOBER 2015, “I admired the pugnacious lines of the Curtiss-Wright T-32… an aircraft that some judged already obsolete when it was designed.” 

Well, years later I’ve finally got around to rendering a GMax model of the craft, even to its sleeper accommodations, quite the thing in 1932. Here are tidbits about the Condor, “The World’s First Complete Sleeper-Plane.” 

This and following images are of my GMax rendering of the Condor for Microsoft Flight Simulator, FS9.

Its Official Name. I chose to model the craft in this sleeper configuration. In the 1930s, American termed itself both “Airlines” and “Airways.” It proudly carried U.S. Airmail as well.

On takeoff.

The Condor had a range of more than 800 miles, with a cruising speed of 190 mph at 8000 ft. As I noted in 2015, “A typical itinerary between Dallas and Los Angeles was anything but non-stop. It touched down in Abilene, Big Spring and El Paso, still in Texas, then Douglas, Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, before finally reaching Los Angeles.”

Above, the cabin from the left. Below, from the right. 

Accommodations for 12 were in three sets of facing seats per side, each pair of which made up into an upper and lower berth. The “hostess” served coffee, tea, and cigarettes; she also arranged bridge games and the sleeping berths. 

But wait! Is this a “speakeasy flight” or is it after December 5, 1933?

A GMax Quandary: People or Engines? In modeling the Condor, I began with the aircraft including its Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radials. 

Things continued just fine, even to the cabin accommodations. Then came populating the model: Pilot first, and, just for fun, my pal Viola in one of the berths. The Hostess was added—and the model failed to compile.

I had hit what appears to be a GMax limit of complexity only a few times before. I recall both Blériots, the de la Meurthe Limousine and the 125 airliner, required tradeoffs of details.

Shutters to the Rescue. In deciding what to omit, the Wright Cyclones’ temperature-management components proved helpful. Each engine nacelle had adjustable shutters to control air coolingof the 9-cylinder radial. 

Image from Scale Airplane Drawings, Vol. 1, by Paul R. Matt, Aviation Heritage, 1991.

By simplifying these shutters (having them shut!) gave me modeling justification to ditch a multiplicity of engine pieces, leaving only those visible around the shutters. 

This proved sufficient to trade full Cyclones for the mustached gent and his lady friend occupying 3R and 4R. 

Virtual Vision Limits Too. In final form, I encountered a puzzle with instrumentation: Though the full panel was visible in Spot Plane views, several of the instruments failed to appear in Virtual Cockpit view. 

A problem in coding the instruments’ location? Another obscure parts limitation in VC rendering? 

No. Purely fooling around, I discovered it was related to the VC Point of View. Inexplicably, coordinates of (18.3, -1.25, -1.5) worked fine in longitudinal/lateral/vertical distance of the pilot’s eye point from the craft’s center of gravity. A tad closer to the instrument panel, (18.4, -1.25, -1.5), and some instruments disappeared.

Above, the pilot on the flightdeck. Below, the Condor’s Virtual Cockpit.  

I’ll never tire of learning more about GMax. I’m choosing my next project now. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023  


  1. Jonathan
    May 13, 2023

    I spent a long time studying Matt’s drawings of the Condor. Something about this aircraft intrigues. There is a chapter about the Condor in Gann’s Band of Brothers, but the original story and art is here:
    Hope the link works.

    • simanaitissays
      May 13, 2023

      Very interesting. Thanks for the link. As you say, an intriguing airplane.

  2. Bob Storck
    May 13, 2023

    In my flying career, I’ve had four occasions when an element of my flight controls failed/disconnected. On one occasion I had a guy in back who took over, and alone in a Cessna Bobcat when the pilot’s yoke disconnected, I was able to change seats and continue.
    I find this scheme with both yokes linked to a common point scary … not likely to be approved by today’s FAA.

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