Taking place in the amazing RAF museum in Cosford, the place couldn’t be a better salute to aviation, its history, challenges and progress.
I was lucky to have managed to visit the museum the day before the event and, even in a bit of a hurry, since I had little time until its closure, I could not be but amazed by how well the museum is organized and the fabulous pieces that are part of it.
One of the things that I found interesting is the fact that, unlike the Portuguese Air Museum, for example, which displays pretty much only aircraft used by Portugal (both military and civilian), the RAF Museum in Cosford has aircraft from other countries as well – like the almighty CH-53 Stallion in US colors – so you might find some great gems in the museum.
If you ever manage to attend the event, do yourself a favor and try to arrive a day early or departure a day later. You’ll want to visit the museum.
FlightSim Show is a veteran show in the flight simulation scene and it shows. It’s very well organized and everything just works.
The venue is fantastic and, despite being quite crowded – especially during the morning – you would walk around easily.
Since the whole museum is open you can visit the exhibition, do some shopping at the museum shop and use other facilities such as the cafeteria and rest rooms (both in hangar 1, where the event takes place, and the other hangars as well).
We also had a couple of food trailers outside where you could eat or drink something hot (much needed in my case).
Nothing to do with the organization, of course, but the British weather might not be of great help (queueing at the rain seems to be a British thing) so, be ready to some weird weather changes. Bring a mix of light and warm clothing. You’ll need both. Oh, and an umbrella, of course.
Meeting the community
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Cosford was because it was an easy (and quite cheapest) way to have a first contact with the community – be it simmers or companies. That was a big part of my interest in going to Cosford.
I honestly didn’t expect any major news since we usually get those at the events in the US. Cosford is usually the place for releases that one could consider “minor” when you compare it with big announcements such a new X-Plane version or a big aircraft project and where companies talk about any advances or updates on those said announcements.
That’s pretty much what happened, except for ORBX, which has shown us their TrueEarth Great Britain scenery, to be released later this month.
Despite this lack of huge announcements (again, with the proper exception), the show was a place to meet your fellow simmers, get in touch with the community and exchange ideas and knowledge.
Meeting both readers and companies and feeling like part of the ecosystem was very interesting and rewarding. I’ve met folks that were very eager to tell about their experiences or ask about some specific problems they had.
Being able to talk to people about their problems, ideas or just about their experience as simmers and with helicopter sims, it’s an invaluable one and I believe it only strengthens our community even more.
If you never thought about coming to these events, you should. It’s not just a place to “see the products”. It’s a place to get in touch with the real people behind the monitors and that’s something you will never beat.
Of course, that you could always find some interesting little gems at the event. Some of them were in plain sight, some you must dig a bit for (or, like my good old friend Bel Geode – I mention him a lot, don’t I??? – says, do some “professional nagging” about).
Here are the ones that I found more interesting or noteworthy for us, helicopter fans.
Deadstick – bush flight simulator
Nope, folks. Deadstick does not come with helicopters.
When I first heard about Deadstick and realized it was a bush flight simulator (just like the name indicates) I immediately contacted Remex and asked them if they were planning on adding them.
Chris Cheetham told me, at the time, that they might look at and, after we exchanged ideas for a bit, he ended up telling me that they were adding it to their backlog – meaning it’s a planned feature but not for the near future.
Deadstick is a complex flight simulator. Well, flight simulators are already complex by nature, right? But Deadstick adds quite a few more layers of complexity on top of something that’s already not exactly a walk in the park to build.
Remex is building the sim around the concept of not only flying aircraft but taking care of them and managing other aspects of flight.
In Deadstick, you can fly missions and you’ll need to load your aircraft before heading out to fly them. And, when I say, “load your aircraft”, I mean picking up your cargo and putting it inside your aircraft.
Beware, though: if you’re not careful with the distribution of your cargo regarding the center of gravity, or if you overload your aircraft, you WILL get in trouble.
You’ll also be able to walk around the aircraft and checking parts such as elevators, flaps and even checking your fuel for water.
You can look into the engine and see if there’s anything wrong. If you find any issues, you can then fix them (provided you have the funds to do that).
You can customize your aircraft, buy new parts and components (both in the cockpit and the actual airframe) and, if you are not careful, you can damage your aircraft. Not just rip a wing off but you can have actual dents.
Actual. Dents. And those will affect the aerodynamics of your aircraft.
Right now, Deadstick is a “cargo transport” flight simulator but Deadstick plans to add other stuff such as crop dusting or perhaps even firefighting.
With helicopters, they might add longlining to the list and perhaps search and rescue operations as well. That’s the plan.
So, as you can see, although Deadstick is a fixed-wing aircraft simulator right now, Remex is targeting us, rotorheads, as well in the future. Seeing how the sim evolves is going to be exciting since we will be watching the development of a product that will bring us something cool as well. We’ll just have to be patient and wait until it gets there.
For more information about Deadstick, please visit the official website.
Wait! What about VR?
Check! That’s coming on as well. Right now, Remex can use VR while in flight and they will be working on everything else (like walking around and loading the aircraft).
Aviotek Simulation Software
Fun story: as I was walking around, Vittorio Greco (CEO and founder of Aviotek) came out to me and said “Sérgio, we are releasing our Dubai scenery and we made the helipad on the Burj Al Arab landable because of you. Would you like to come over later and give it a try?”.
And so, I did.
The scenery looks very nice and is focused on Dubai International and Skydive airports, with portions of the city added. You read it right: “portions”. The city is not fully rendered, and some important buildings are missing but Aviotek told me they will keep on working on the scenery and update it as they go.
Apart from the Burj Al Arab, there’s not a lot to do that it’s specific to helicopters but, let’s be honest: it’s the Burj. We all want to land on the Burj.
ORBX’s announcement was probably the highlight of the event. The company has shown us TrueEarth Great Britain which shall be released later this month.
Both the movie shown and the screenshots at the official site (you can find them in our news item) and you can see the amount of detail ORBX has been working on for this scenery.
This has turned a lot of simmers’ heads and I heard comments (I read some on social media as well) that indicated people would look at X-Plane more seriously or even fully migrate to this sim.
Like a lot of folks in the community predicted, ORBX’s entering X-Plane is turning to be the final push a lot of folks out there needed to consider the sim as a valid choice for their hobby.
Nothing new on this front, except the fact that 11.30 should be out this week.
With it, some minor adjustments to helicopters are coming. Well, one at least, according to the leaked changelog: “Now we find ground effect for each BIT of the helo rotor! This phases in the ground effect from front to back as we approach a tall helipad!”
What this means is that when you are approaching a helipad, for example, on the side of a mountain, you will get IGE (In-Ground-Effect) partially as you get the helicopter on top of the said pad.
This will present a bigger challenge for all of us when using these places to land. It’s on 11.30 and, again, it should be out this week.
“OMG, SÉRGIO, REALLY? A MOBILE SIM?”
Yes. Believe it or not, some folks like to play with their helos on their mobile devices as they commute or are away from their computers for some reason.
And, before you go running to get Infinite Flight: no, it does NOT have helicopters. Not yet, at least.
I spent some time talking with Philippe Rollin, one of the co-founders of Flying Development Studio, the company behind Infinite Flight.
As I approached Philippe I told him I knew they had no helicopters but that I would like to talk for a bit about it with him. He was very receptive, made a few questions and ended up asking me which helicopter could be a good first addition to the fleet?
He also told me that they are not happy about how the terrain looks like now and that they don’t believe it has enough quality for VFR, which would not present a good experience for anyone flying low.
This, together with the challenge of adding helicopter systems and physics, is quite a bit endeavor, yet one the team seems ready to take on at a later stage.
When I left their booth, it seemed like there was a genuine interest in taking a good look at this part of simulation.
These folks have been working on very high-quality hardware for flight simulation – usually for the professional market – and they had a prototype for a set of helicopter controls on one corner of their booth. Literally: it was put to the side and it had no computer attached so we couldn’t try it in a sim. But it was possible to sit down and give it a try.
It IS a prototype and it feels like a prototype. It has its quirks and Pete Holder and I talked about some issues with the damping system which the company's working on solving.
There’s no price set or is possible to predict it right now as, again, it was a prototype, but it was starting to shape up nicely and it might be a great solution for students or even flight schools to have in an initial approach to controls and how helicopters operate.
I’ll be trying to keep a close look at it.
My biggest disappointment: Komodo Simulations' absency
Komodo was supposed to be at the event but they couldn’t make it which is a real shame and I was genuinely disappointed. I have been wanting to try their gear for a long time and this was the perfect chance to finally do it.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t, which is a shame as they would be the only ones there with production-ready helicopter flight controls.
There was even a visitor asking me for them as he wanted to buy a collective on the spot! And a few more also wanted to try the controls.
Perhaps next time?
Cut to the chase: where are my helicopters?
Ah, yes… The mystery of the missing helicopters.
Here is the thing: companies are starting to get more aware of our community and what we do. Scenery developers, literally, come to me and tell me that they are working on helipads or adding anything that we may find interesting.
But we still don’t have the helicopter, or the hardware developers present. I can understand why. Travelling, lodging, bringing your gear, none if this gets cheap and helicopter-related companies don’t make that much money.
There are some event organizations already trying to make it easier for them, though, and I am trying to work with these organizations and the companies so that we can try to have a bigger presence.
Or perhaps hardware and software manufacturers could get together. A scenery developer could group with an aircraft and hardware developer and have a joint-booth. They would be demonstrating this amazing scenery, with this amazing helicopter and you could fly it using this amazing hardware. The combination of high-quality products could raise the awareness of potential clients.
One of the things that I noticed when people asked me about hardware was the fact that they wanted to try it. Kind of a “try-before-you-buy”. It’s understandable as we are not talking about a $100 or even a $300 joystick but rather at something that, usually, costs, at least around $1200.
One thing is for sure, though, and I got out of Cosford with this impression: we are living some great times in our hobby and people (especially companies) are getting more and more aware of our presence as helicopter fans and as a community with specific needs.
In time, I believe this awareness will grow even more and adding things for helicopters will not be something “different” or just to cater a small niche, but something that developers will see as default. Just like adding a runway to an airport.
As far as having companies in these events, it’s a tough challenge for sure but, with some imagination and the support of event organizers, this is something that we can perhaps solve in the future, as a community.
So, in a nutshell?
If you never attended the event, you should. It's very well organized, you will find a ton of great people, put some actual faces behind the names on your screen and, generally, spend a gorgeous day in this amazing venue.
I can't wait to go again, next year!
A big shout out to our patrons
I am lucky enough to have a group of people willing to help and support our efforts in spreading the word and trying to get developers and the flight simulation community more aware of our presence.
Our patrons, to whom I wish to thank, helped make this trip possible and allowed me to talk to developers, meet community members and bond with hobbyists, fans and companies.
To all of you, thank you.
If you are interested in finding out more about how you can also help us, please visit our Patreon page.
I have both to credit and thank Dorothy Hawley for her amazing friendship and dedication to help me during the weekend. All the photos you see here (with the obvious exception of the Infinite Flight image) are hers. You were absolutely brilliant, Dorothy. I can not thank you enough.