FlightSimExpo is a lot of fun.
We meet a crazy amount of flight simmers, pilots and enthusiasts, developers of some of our favorite add-ons, and manufacturers of some of our favorite pieces of hardware. We talk to them, exchange ideas, and thank them for their hard work.
FlightSimExpo 2023 was held at the Lone Star Museum in Houston and the event had almost 2,000 attendees. The museum is quite nice and having the event surrounded by real aviation, and historical aviation, just makes sense.
The first day, which was a Friday, was split between some group activities, such as visits to the Houston Space Center, for example, and the announcements that started at around 1 pm. Those announcements were streamed live and you can watch them here. You will be able to see what Thrustmaster, FastCow Productions, Kitbash Model Club, Allied Cockpit Equipment, A2A Simulations, Navigraph, Honeycomb Aeronautical, and Microsoft Flight Simulator had to show us all.
The rest of the content was only streamed for paying viewers, but you can also still catch it here.
The obvious newcomer
That is, of course, Microsoft. The company was present at the event for the very first time with Microsoft Flight Simulator. As with pretty much all the other booths, there was always someone hanging around and checking what Microsoft was showing – Microsoft Flight Simulator, of course.
The booth was also well-manned with staff that included Jayne, which you have probably seen in the Twitch streams, Jorg Neumann, and Sebastian Wloch. Jorg and Neumann were quite busy with interviews but the rest of the staff was around and willing to help.
Some of the cool stuff
Not that Microsoft wasn’t cool, mind you. Honestly, it was hard NOT to find something cool at every booth and it felt like there was not enough time for everything I wanted to check out or do.
VIRPIL was there (fortunately, I managed to help them grab a slot almost at the last minute). The company brought a bunch of pedals, joysticks, and panels and had a cockpit setup so that people could try it with a sim.
This allowed folks to check out the products they usually only see online and make sure the quality was as they were hoping to be.
Pimax was showing off their Crystal, with Microsoft Flight Simulator. I managed to try it out for a while, and I have to say the clarity is there, but I was not impressed with the FOV and some blurriness around the edges. Unfortunately, I was not able to do any proper testing, so I am not sure if there was something wrong.
Pro Flight Trainer (PFT) was at the X-Plane 12 booth, with their Puma X and a Puma X2. The X2, which is the model I have – including the toe brakes – caught my eye as there was something there that my kit doesn’t have: a brand-new Airbus-type cyclic grip that PFT has shown publicly for the first time. I will let you know more about it as soon as PFT is ready to release more information.
PFT also had a collective assembled onto a seat, at the Blackbird Studio booth, which is not something we see every day. The company has been hinting it may be possible to purchase just the collective in the future, but they haven’t released any official information yet.
I could also try the Varjo XR-3 which was quite nice, but my VR experience was not to be the best here either as the laptop being used was having issues with maintaining the framerate. Quite a shame since the PFT booth was one of the few that had a helicopter setup!
SimFab was also at the event, and I was quite impressed with their gear. It looked quite sturdy and of high quality and the price seemed quite interesting. I gave it a try, flying a helicopter around, as they had a hybrid (fixed wing/helicopter) set to try. It was quite comfortable, and I adjusted to it easily.
The company intends to provide its products as an integrator, between users and manufacturers, allowing for the setup of cockpits with the several parts positioned at the right distance, height, etc. The end game is for the user to select a cyclic/joystick, cyclic, and pedals, for example, from one manufacturer or several, tell SimFab what they have, and the company would then supply with their solution that would make it all work.
As I said, there was a lot of cool stuff all over the event, but these were the ones that caught my eye, especially since they were more helicopter centric.
All the love
I usually say that developers and manufacturers get all the hate and toxicity online, but it’s offline, at events like FlightSimExpo that they get all the love. For real.
I think that the fear of coming face to face with the “online haters” or trolls is what makes a lot of companies think twice about being at these events. This is a shame, not only because it’s there that they get all the love I mentioned, but also because their customers get to meet the humans behind the brand. So, not being present at these is a loss – to everyone.
And I know, for a fact, that brands and companies need to feel the love. As you know, I deal with a lot of companies at HeliSimmer.com and I know what happens behind the scenes (and also publicly) with people bashing, insulting, and complaining.
At FlightSimExpo? Not really. It’s exactly the opposite!
Another fantastic part of FlightSimExpo doesn’t have to do with the event but what happens after the day ends. Impromptu gatherings of simmers having dinner, hanging out, enjoying themselves, and sharing their love for the community. And it happens quite often and in several locations.
This allows everyone to bond a bit more, get to know the faces behind the screens a bit more, and learn more with and about each other. Just like the event itself, you’ll have to be there to feel the atmosphere and absorb all that. It’s a fantastic experience.
I already told you about my experience on this, but I also want to add what is like to be not only part of the attendees, as a simmer, but also as a content creator for the community.
Checking all the cool stuff is amazing, but FlightSimExpo is gold for me, on so many levels.
First of all, the obvious: I get a lot of information and material to share with you all, such as SoFly’s new product (although we had received a press release a few days earlier, it was announced there), Thrustmaster’s new product and the interview with Jorg (Microsoft) and Sebastian (Asobo).
Granted, I could not write much about the product, but I did get to be invited to an exclusive event where I talked to their team about it, and that kicked off a new relationship with a company with whom I didn’t have one yet.
And not just Thrustmaster. Meeting face-to-face, with people that I only know by email or social media, helped strengthen that relationship and create new ones. Those relationships will help me to either get more and better news for all of you but that will also allow me to work with them in developing or improving their products, just like I already do with a few companies – including VIRPIL and Microsoft, for example.
I get to help shape those products and get feedback from you to them as well.
And, of course, then there are the lectures. It was the second time I was able to talk about an audience of helicopter fans or just folks curious about these machines. That allowed me to help them have a better experience with helicopters in sims, enjoy themselves a bit more and even get them to start flying helicopters in the virtual world – something they probably never thought about doing seriously before.
I feel lucky as I get to experience things from two different sides. I get to enjoy FlightSimExpo as a simmer and geek out about everything that’s there, but I also get to get content for you, establish relationships and partnerships with companies that are bringing us the products we want and need and help folks that may be having a hard time flying helicopters in sims.
For me, it’s a win-win-win situation but even without the work I do with HeliSimmer.com, I can tell you, very honestly, that I would try to hit FlightSimExpo every single time because I definitely wouldn’t find that atmosphere and such an amazing group of liked-minded cool individuals for me to geek out with and share my passion.