After-action review: AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019

Mar 19, 2019 | by Sérgio Costa

The AirSim Meeting is, currently, the largest (and, as far as I know) only flight simulation event in Spain.

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019

The event was born in Barcelona in 2012 but it has moved to Madrid in 2016, making the 2019 edition the 8th 7th [edit: there was no 2018 edition] one in its history, which was held on March, 16th.

I didn’t know about the event until a few months ago and I was very curious about it. I assumed it was a recent, small and unknown event. I was partially right. But mostly wrong.

When we look at some of the sponsors, organizers and entities that cooperate to make it a reality, you will notice names like Aerosoft and Airbus, some government entities (such as the Air Force and the Army) and Laminar Research, which was present at this year’s edition for the first time.

The event is organized by a university (the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), IVAO Spain and, Aerocultura (an association dedicated to aeronautics), and a couple of flying clubs.

There are a few other supporters, sponsors and companies involved, which you can check out here.

The AirSim Meeting didn’t seem to be nothing recent nor as low profile as I thought.

But could it still be a good event to attend? I still had some concerns.

The language barrier. Or lack thereof.

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019 - ATC

Something that got me worried since the start was the language barrier.

As a Portuguese, it’s somewhat easy for me to understand Spanish (or Castellano) since our languages are quite similar. But I wanted to understand what the event could be on an international level, not just in an Iberian level (Portugal and Spain are part of the Iberian Peninsula, so we usually mention the two countries together as Iberian).

Even with Spain being a big country, making it an international event will allow it to grow further, which will certainly help its longevity.

It’s easy to imagine how everything unfolds in the US or UK language-wise. English is the international language and you are in countries where that language is the official one as well. Attendees are native-speakers (most of them, anyway) and you somewhat expect exhibitors to follow suit.

That’s harder to do on a country with a different language (even if it’s one of the most spoken ones in the world).

Thankfully, just like I saw in Portugal last year (where we had the first international company present, SimWorks Studios), these barriers can easily be surpassed.

I managed to make a fool out of myself switching from English to what we amusingly call “Portuñol” (a mix between Portuguese and Español which seems to work somehow). I am not comfortable at all trying to speak Spanish, so I only tried it when absolutely necessary and, fortunately, that didn’t happen a lot.

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019

Exhibitors tried hard to accommodate to English when I had to do it myself (my Portuñol is limited). Yes, there are still a few barriers now and then, but we can go past them. Considering the hobby and that English is the international, official language for aviation, we end up managing to understand each other.

What about Laminar Research, for example? Marty and Thomson were at the event and they don’t speak Spanish at all. I spent some time observing how the interaction with users would be and, again, I found no problems whatsoever. People came in, talked to them, tried X-Plane and off they went on their merry way, very often impressed at what they had experienced.

My main concerned had vanished: the AirSim Meeting in Madrid can work for international visitors and exhibitors. Our community makes it work.

The space

The AirSim Meeting Madrid takes place at a university – the “Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Aeronáutica y del Espacio” (Superior Technical School of Aeronautics and Space Engineering). The campus is quite big, but the event is limited to a couple of corridors, the University entry hall, a room on the first floor, a small area with a photo exhibition and the ATC in the basement (2 levels down), away from all the noise and very well organized.

We also had access to the campus cafeteria for lunch and there were a few vending machines around. There was no need to leave the premises.

Now, it’s not like things were far from each other but I wonder if there’s any room for the event to grow in size in the future (if that’s on the plans of the organization, of course).

Having Aerosoft and Laminar Research present could attract other companies in the future. I saw a Thrustmaster rep there as well, visiting. Perhaps could be interested in being present for the next iteration?

Yes, there’s room for a few more companies, but everything seemed a bit isolated. The folks on the corridor to the left couldn’t see what was happening on the corridor to the right. The up and downstairs layers could not see each other, obviously.

While this may not be too important for visitors, my experience as an exhibitor tells me that we feel more integrated when we are all around the same room and in line of sight of each other. Perhaps we even see something interesting unfolding on another booth that could be of importance or interest for us.

Being able to see what’s happening on other booths is also a big part of these events and what helps it be interesting for companies. In my opinion, it’s not just about “selling your company” to the attendees. Commercial (and even personal) relationships can come out of these events and it’s important that the space where they are held allows just that.

The exhibitors

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019

My other concern was the presence of exhibitors and what would they be bringing.

Both Aerosoft and Laminar Research where there which is, obviously, fantastic, but two companies don’t make an event. Well, they could, but not one like this in which variety is required by those attending.

Nonetheless, I was blown away. Yes, you’ll have the same kind of companies and products you find on other events, but there were a few other exhibitors that put something really interesting on the table.

It was the first time I saw an aerial refuel simulation. No, not DCS-style. I’m not talking about refueling your aircraft on a tanker but rather the opposite: you are a boom controller and it’s your job to get the fuel pumping.

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019 - Aerosoft

There were also 2 helicopter sims (well, almost sims) there, which is something you don’t usually see. Granted: no helicopter controls and the sims are not exactly sims. The Spanish Army was present with a couple of computers in which we could take a ride in VBS2 (ARMA’s professional sibling) which they mainly use for infantry training but they allowed folks to give it a try on some helicopters that seemed like a simple version of the Tiger.

They also had a movie rolling on a screen that showed the imagery on the real helicopter sims the Spanish Army has (more on that on a later article).

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019 - VBS2AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019 - Spanish Army simulator

The lectures

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019 - schedule

When I saw the program, I could not believe it: over 20 conferences happened on a single day, about the most various subjects: maintenance, simulation, real aviation and even one about helicopter flight simulation in the Spanish Army.

Guess which one I attended? I found it quite interesting (mostly from a technical and professional standpoint) so expect an article about it soon.

It was pretty hard not to have a full day with all the booths and conferences going on. I only attended one of the conferences but, trust me, the amount of people I’ve talked to (and, let me tell you, I was impressed so many of our Spanish friends knew HeliSimmer and had heard my name – I honestly thought no one knew about the website).

Any news?

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019 - full-scale sim

So, what’s new?

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that nothing is really new. Well, for me, a lot of what was there is new. Some of the sims (such the aerial refuel one) is something I’ve never seen but for our community, nothing was presented that could be of major interest for us.

There might be some news from a developer soon, but nothing official just yet.

Above everything, this event was a great way to connect with the Spanish community, meet with some developers (especially Laminar Research, which I’ll see again later this year for sure) and get the pulse of the event.

The thing is that this is not a huge event, with a large international projection in which companies bet to bring their newest creations. That’s usually something that happens at FlightSim Expo, being the major US event.

There’s where companies decide to bring their breakthroughs and new products. We would all love to see new products coming with each sim event, but the truth is that is not always possible.

Laminar Research was there! WHERE’S MY VULKAN?

AirSim Meeting Madrid 2019

No Vulkan yet.

Laminar Research wasn’t there to demo anything new and the build they have for the shows is the same you and I are using right now. Yes, I asked. Jokingly (we had a good laugh at that), but I asked.

And, once again, folks: Vulkan will not be a silver bullet. I talked with Marty and Thomson about it and we pretty much repeated ourselves during that conversation as both Laminar Research and a lot of community members (me included) have said it repeatedly.

It’s not like we want to burst anyone’s bubble, but we are trying to keep you all in the real world. Vulkan WILL help but not even Laminar knows how much it will help. But they are sure it won’t be a magic solution for your problems.

If you’re having 10FPS, chances are you will not be able to double that with the same settings and hardware, for example. You may gain a few frames but it I doubt you’ll be able to double it. Unless you’re getting 1FPS. Chances are you will manage to reach 2FPS. Or perhaps not.

The thing is: we’ll have to wait as Laminar’s really hard at work to make it happen. Don’t expect any miracles and be patient. It will come.

All right, be honest: is it worth it?

I fell that, more than getting “news” or any “scoops”, what really is good about these events it that people manage to meet with these developers since travelling to the US or other countries might not be possible for them.

I’ve seen a lot of folks trying VR in X-Plane for the first time and getting mind-blown by it, for example.

It’s a chance for companies to interact with a different market and for the users to get to know the people behind the companies.

Call me old-fashioned but, in a time where we are all behind screens and talking to people from all over the world, the human contact, the facetime, the real conversation between two humans is still unreplaceable.

I feel like I can get through people a lot more when talking to them and that I get a better understanding of developers, their problems, their issues and their struggles when I am face-to-face with them.

The facial expressions, the body language, the fact that we are all on the same level, enjoying our hobby, having a good time, shaking hands, discovering what we love together is a great experience.

Be it in the US, UK, Portugal, Spain, Australia or in any other country.

Me? I wish I could go to all the events around the world. I always think it’s worth it.

The AirSim Meeting in Madrid is a small event in size but a bit one in terms of organization and presence of great companies, exhibitors and conferences.

I left Madrid wanting to return next year, which I probably will, and I hope I manage to do something else there. If not having a booth, at least doing a presentation and perhaps even helping an exhibitor.

Maybe we can get a helicopter hardware manufacturer to attend next year? I throw you the ball, folks.

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

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