Hi Luís. Thank you for agreeing on doing this interview.
It’s a pleasure to join someone that, just like Tigers, shares the love for virtual aviation.
Let’s start with the history of the 509th Wild Tigers. How did it all started?
It all begun in May 2009 when me and Joao Melin met at an official IVAO mission that had to be fulfilled by 2-pilot formations. From then on we kept on this course in military flight simulation with over 180 international missions in which we were joined by a lot of pilots from different countries.
How many members do you have nowadays? Are you accepting new people into the roster?
Our doors are always open for those that have a special interest, respect and admiration for military personnel and wants to learn more. Right now we have nearly 60 members in our roster.
Do you have any geographic constraints? Do you only accept people from Europe or are you open to anyone, anywhere?
We only require our pilots to be interested in learning more about military aviation and being willing to participate in simulated missions.
We believe the mother-tongue and the values associated to ones’ nationality are factors that help people understand each other and learn better. As such, we have bases in several countries of the world, ready to accommodate pilots from different nationalities.
So that means you can have people from around the globe. How do you organize yourselves in terms of scheduling?
In each Military Base there’s a commanding officer with the ability to, within his own roster, organize missions. Besides, in international context, we always try to cope with everyone’s schedules as much as possible.
What do you offer your members? What kind of missions do you usually fly? You are mainly military, right?
We are. We mostly fly missions that are not quite suitable for civilian aviation such as air transportation, search and rescue, air refueling, firefighting, medevac, organ transport, recon, interception, air policing, visual identification…
How often do you fly together?
As much as possible. Our pilots have the option to simulate solo missions or fly with other pilots, be it in training or official missions.
Is multiplayer sim mandatory for your members? Some people don’t like to fly in a multiplayer environment.
It’s not mandatory, but in our field of simulation, multiplayer missions provide you with something extra to your simming experience. Anyone can fly missions by themselves, without other pilots, though.
That means there’s plenty for helicopter pilots as well, right? Do you have a lot of helicopter pilots on the roster? Do you use helicopters a lot?
I believe helicopters are used in a very moderate way, as well as other types of aircraft. The truth is that being a helicopter pilot demands a unique set of skills that put you apart from the fixed-wing pilots. We have a fleet that is not limited in any way and goes against the needs of our pilots. It can grow anytime, in any direction.
What would you say is the best part of belonging to the 509th?
Being a Tiger is much more than just being a simmer. Besides our virtual missions, we also do a lot of activities that go well beyond a simulator.
We organize visits to Air Force Bases that are exclusive to our members and relatives, we participate in Air Force events, RC events, we visit air shows and do spotting as well as organize simming events. We also have 2 projects that aim to support humanitarian causes and the valorization of school success.
We also have a technological development project, which is something that always goes along with the simming community. We are accepting and helping pioneer projects of high technological value that allow for new breakthroughs and testing in this area.
I know that you guys are forming some solid partnerships. Thrustmaster is one of your partners right now, right? Tell me a bit about it.
We have had the cooperation of Thrustmaster since 2011 and, recently, we started having their Support in a much more amazing and direct way. This allows us to test and evaluate hardware from this manufacturer such as the brand new T16000 HOTAS, which, in our opinion, is an absolutely brilliant joystick.
Being a virtual squad is not easy and you folks must be very much embedded in the Portuguese sim community. How is it over there? How are squadrons like the Tigers looked upon by the community? Do you feel there’s a respect for what you guys do?
We have been fortunate enough that our work has been recognized not just by the simmer community in Portugal but also abroad. I think that has to do with our will and interest to participate in events but also to learn and do better.
So, what lies ahead? What’s next for the 509th Tigers? Where do you guys want to go?
Our next steps will certainly be towards a consolidation of our projects and the search for technological partners. It would be amazing to have companies that are related to computers/hardware but also visual areas such as monitors and VR sets. We will also keep on evolving our knowledge base for our members as well as provide them contact with technical experts that can help the Tiger community.
Luís, once again, thank you so much for your time. Any last words?
I’d like to thank you specially for the opportunity to present the Tigers, our projects and missions.
I’d also like to invite all the helicopter pilots to join us. Not everyone can fly those birds. The 509th Tigers have their doors open to all of you.
Visit the 509th Wild Tigers
You can visit the 509th Wild Tigers here.