After Action Review: FlightSimExpo 2019

The biggest flight simulation show took place last weekend (June 7-9) at Orlando. Being a visitor, a Media Partner and a speaker allowed to take a look at the event from several angles.

FlightSimExpo 2019

Add the fact that it was my first time at the event, and you might say I was curious, excited and even a little worried. Why worried? Because I REALLY wanted it to live up to my absurdly high expectations.

As people that are very passionate about our hobby, we obviously get seriously hyped about these types of events. It’s a great opportunity to try the type of hardware we usually don’t get to try, talk to developers, see those folks we usually see on their YouTubes and Twitches and spend some time with like-minded people.

It’s a flightsim overdose, in a good sense. One that we crave for and spend a lot of time thinking about it since we first know we’re attending.

So, did FlightSimExpo 2019 deliver it?

Exhibitors

FlightSimExpo 2019

The big “front-and-center” of FlightSimExpo is, of course the exhibition all and the companies that are present with their products.

All the major players are there (curiously, Microsoft was not as they have announced the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator in the same weekend FSE took place) so you’ll get the chance to talk to those persons that are behind most of your favorite products.

It’s the obvious place to check out and try some software and hardware, as well as get in direct contact with the brains behind it, ask them questions and provide your feedback. Regardless of all the online tools we have nowadays, it’s completely different to send someone an email or “submitting a suggestion” on some form rather than actually talking to the person.

You will find all sorts of different booths; some bigger, some smaller, some more appealing than others, but one thing is for sure: all of them will be filled with the passion for flight simming. And you will, most certainly, find something interesting or even new to you. It’s not everyday you get to try a full-scale airliner cockpit or get to experiment Varjo’s 6.000 Euro VR headset (expect a review soon).

Panels and seminars

The second core aspect of the Expo is, of course, the panels and seminars. And FSE is packed with those as well.

As opposed to other events, these are not only for companies to sell their products. FlightSimExpo brings speakers from several layers of our community. You can watch Laminar Research presenting their advances in Vulkan, but you can also hear some folks talking about how they built their home-made cockpits. Or perhaps even someone blab about helicopters – yeah that actually happened, go figure.

FlightSimExpo’s panels and seminars bring us a wealth of knowledge and enough different subjects for us to find something we will be interested on – and not just from the big companies.

Because of that, I think it ends up being a much more community-targeted and community-driven event.

Parallel to the event

FlightSimExpo 2019 - Sergio Costa and Bel Geode

There’s a third aspect of FlightSimExpo that I loved as well: the stuff that happens parallel to it. And it ended up being actually one of the most important ones.

Outside the walls of FSE, a lot because of the location of the event and the size of the hotel it was held at, it was very easy to see small groups of simmers gather up and have a great time talking about the subject. And, more often than not, you’d see folks from companies that were present as exhibitors join those groups and just have a great time with the rest of the folks there.

Networking, bringing people together and help establish a relationship with others that help foster an environment where new projects can come to live, it’s a big part of FlightSimExpo and you feel it. Not only feel it: you get to experience it.

The Rotorhead Lounge

FlightSimExpo 2019 - The Rotorhead Lounge

One of those parallel events was something that was baptized as the “Rotorhead Lounge”. Fred Naar, the creator of HTR and Airland was present at the event and got a large room.

We gathered a small group of guys (most of them belonging to our Facebook group) and Fred has shown them a very early build of Airland, which they then got to try it. We end up hanging out for most of the weekend and having everybody’s help and support was absolutely stunning.

A great example of how the community organically gets together and makes the Expo much more than just the official event.

Lots of information (and even savings) – even prior to the event

Information about the event was always clear and present on-site and through the application FSE is using for it: Whova.

But even before the event took place, the organization team sent us all emails with lots and lots of information about the event but not only: how to get there, what to expect and they even managed to get us some discounts!

Between the flight fare, hotel room and shuttle service, FlightSimExpo saved me, personally, over $200!

Everything checked out and I couldn’t find any issues at all. Flawless. At least for me.

Room to improve

FlightSimExpo 2019

Is there room to improve? Perhaps there is.

I can’t say I am unhappy with anything about the event. I was a bit surprised and disappointed that the second day (actually, the third, since the event started Friday, but the “real” expo only started on Saturday) was a bit of a letdown.

There was a lot less people there and the panels and seminars got a bit more deserted. The expo got into “let’s wrap this up and just leave” mode. Perhaps spreading the seminars and presentations for the big companies among the two days could help more people engage over the course of the full weekend.

Sunday really, feels like everyone’s leaving, right as it starts.

My conclusions

Was I disappointed about it after having such high expectations?

No.

Quite the opposite.

FlightSim Expo is one of those events that everyone that’s into flight simulation should attend. The sheer experience is marvelous. If you are coming for the “news” or to get “the latest scoop” you might get disappointed as it doesn’t happen everyday but what you will get – especially if you are staying over – is an amazing piece of community wonder; a chance to get to know a bit more of the persons behind the industry that feeds our hobby.

Talking face to face still has a big impact and gets a lot done. And FlightSimExpo is a great place to do it.

Next year? Las Vegas. And I’ll do my best to be there for sure.

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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